Photo Plus Expo 2015: Tidbits from the Show

Wandered the PPE 2015 floor today at the Javitts Center in New York City, together with a multitude of other photography fans including all those bloggers and YouTubers we’ve grown accustomed to.

I’m getting a bit tired of gear news, as you might have noticed from the lack of it on this site recently, so I only focused on the stuff I’m personally interested in or intrigued by.

Before I share the stuff I can share, I must add that despite my sense that we’ve reached a plateau in the market, I’m still excited about some of the stuff that’s likely coming over the transom. But that was all eluded to off the record, so no specifics yet.

Here are the tidbits I can share:

  • the Zeiss Otus 28mm f/1.4 will tentatively be priced at around EUR4500, including VAT;
  • Zeiss will add a new Batis to its line in the spring of next year, no word yet on its focal length;
  • production of the Batis 25mm f/2 is expected to finally catch up with demand by the spring.

Moving to Olympus:

The upcoming 300mm f/4, which has a lot of people excited because it’s a 600mm f/4 equivalent in full frame, will apparently boost features that no other lens has. The rep refused to tell me anything more, leaving me as befuddled as you are what they could possibly be doing with this lens. All I hope for is that the OM-D E-M1 successor will be a camera to match the needs of the bird and wildlife photographers who would buy this lens.

To Sony:

The new Sony RX1R II is one sweet little camera. I’m not a fan of rangefinder style viewfinders, but the little pop-up EVF on the left side of the camera is a nice feature and altogether it’s one sweet package. A bit expensive. Also, the models they had on display were pre-production, so no sample images could be taken.

To Leica:

I had not yet made acquaintance with the Leica Q, the closest competitor to the above fixed-focal-lens Sony. In short, it’s another beautiful camera with a great lens, delivering crisp images. I prefer the Leica’s 28mm over the Sony’s 35mm and if it wasn’t for the price, the Q would be mine. I fear it never will be, though.

Then there’s the Leica SL, the new kid on the block. The camera by itself is large for a mirrorless camera, but not uncomfortably so. I found the grip to both look good and feel good, so while my initial impression was that form had trumped function, after holding it, I think the two mesh perfectly.

I can’t say the same thing about the first lens produced in this line, the 24-90mm f/2.8-4. It delivers great quality, but it’s one large piece of gear.

And handling the camera reminded me of stepping into an Ferrari Enzo at a car show some years ago. While I had driven cars since my late teens, that Ferrari left me dumbfounded with its Formula 1-style controls. Likewise, while I’ve handled cameras for even longer than I’ve driven cars, the SL left me utterly confused about how to change basic settings. Usually, I pick up a camera and can shoot with it at different settings. Here, a friendly Leica rep had to help me out every step of the way. In this case, form does seem to trump function.

Leica SL & 24-90mm Lens at 90mm f/4, 1/80s, ISO 2500, heavy crop, no other adjustments

I’m still not sure who Leica built the SL for. Their media materials emphasize it as a professional camera, which would take aim at the top Canon and Nikon bodies, but the Leica lenses aren’t there to make for a compelling case for a pro who usually would pick up a Canon 1D X and a few f/2.8 lenses. And while the SL shoots at 11 frames per second, that goes down to 7 fps if you use continuous focus. In short, while I think Canon and Nikon have a lot to worry about, this Leica ain’t it.

Punters say Leica is taking on the Sony A7-series, but if they did that, why would they build a so much better body than the A7-series but not offer a higher-megapixel sensor? And why price it at more than double of the most expensive Sony A7-series?

I’m sure true Leica aficionados with a range of R-lenses in the closet will like this camera, but I have no clue who else is going to buy this at $7,500. Hopefully Leica knows.

Finally, B&H is running a host of show specials. Some are worth real money, so check it out.

The show is on for two more days.

Should You Buy a Leica T ?

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Leica this morning announced its rumored Leica T. At the same time, several Leica beta-testers and Leica-oriented bloggers published their reviews.

Very quickly: the T is a 16-megapixel, APS-C mirrorless – but not a rangefinder – camera with AF, a new lens mount and two new lenses available at launch. It costs $1,850. The lenses are a 23mm f/2 prime (35mm equivalent) at $1,950 and a 16-56mm f3.5-5.6 at $1,750.

Being devoid of Leica – or any other brand – love and lacking an enormous audience, I have not seen or stroked this new masterpiece. What I have done, my dear reader, is read a bunch of those reviews and come to some quick conclusions. [Read more…]

Leica M Lenses on the Sony A7 & A7R – Confusion Galore

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When Sony first announced its 24 megapixel A7 and its 36mp A7R in full frame and with a NEX mount, poor Leicaphiles everywhere rejoiced and danced in the streets. I exaggerate a bit, but let me just state that many people who love and/or own Leica M mount lenses but were unable to or uncomfortable with shelling out $7,000 for the latest Leica M camera to put those lenses on, now saw light at the end of the tunnel and drooled over the possibility of putting those sweet lenses on a much cheaper full-frame camera. Okay, the drooling part might still be an exaggeration, but the rest is just about right.

But since the internet takes up more time for most photographers than actually taking pictures, it was not long before the second-guessing started. On the web, we can never be happy. Otherwise, we have nothing to talk about.

So, the questions emerged: Will these lenses actually perform up to their expensive standards on these Sony’s? Which adapter will be best? Is any adapter good enough? What about color shifts? How will the Sony sensors deal with wide angles, known for vignetting and distortion? Which camera is the better one for Leica lenses, the A7 or the A7R? Lots of sleepless nights, no doubt. [Read more…]

Leica Responds to Questions Lingering on the Web

This article should have a lead. I should write up the most interesting observation right here. But I won’t. Instead I tell you that this interview I had yesterday with Roland Wolff, vice president of marketing for Leica USA, covers the current questions floating about in the world – ever-wide and never-quiet – web concerning Leica. You take your pick. Choose your own lead. Go ahead:

Leica’s take on the new  Sony A7/A7r as an alternative body for Leica Lenses

“People have been trying to use our lenses on different camera systems before. There are adapters out there. We have never had a negative effect from it. In fact, we always have a positive effect. It broadened the market for us. People maybe are not ready to buy the Leica, so it’s not direct competition, but it might actually get them into the system because they might pick up a used lens or maybe even a new lens and a cheaper body. So, whenever  bodies came out in the past that accepted Leica lenses, it has always helped us.”

“It’s an interesting trend, when you look at the industry and you look at what other manufacturers do. I think Leica is being noticed at the moment, because we have been very successful with the products we have created recently. It’s interesting that even major players in the photo industry are specifically mentioning that you can do this.”

Do you agree with the notion that you can put a Leica lens on another body?

[Read more…]

That ‘New’ Leica Consumer Camera & Other PPE Tidbits

So, yes, Leica did announce a new camera at the PhotoPlus Expo today, as I wrote they would. But it turns out that the word ‘new’ in their communications to me was a bit of a misnomer.20131024-_DSF1623

What they did introduce today was an additional Leica D-Lux 6 in glossy black with a silver lens. And that’s it. Just a cosmetic makeover. Same camera otherwise.

Sony A7/A7r

I briefly handled the new Sony’s. Unlike so many others, I do think they look beautiful. They felt good in my medium-sized hands. They focused fast, but I couldn’t compare it with any other camera. They don’t feel as sturdy as the RX-1, even though they apparently are. A Sony rep said the RX-1 feels sturdier because the lens is an integral part of that camera, whereas on the A7/A7r the lenses are interchangeable.

[Read more…]