Friday Happy Hour – Ocelot Brewery and Leicas

Friday Happy Hour – Ocelot Brewery and Leicas

You know what I love about having happy hour with a group of friends that all happen to love photography? It turns into our own low key version of “Beers and Cameras” and today’s location was at Ocelot Brewery, located in the industrial park area of Dulles, Virginia.

With a venue chosen and gear packed, today in particular was a special day because some of us were introducing our new Leicas for the first time.

Ben recently picked up a second-hand Leica CL.

Asif picked up a second-hand Leica M5.

Yours truly picked up a second-hand Leica M9 with a 50mm Summicron f/2 V3 (1969-1979). There is a fantastic first-hand review about the legendary Leica M9 from someone that came from DSLRs: ShootTokyo

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Right away, one of the first things I’ve noticed while I ran these photos through Lightroom is the lovely color rendering and the contrast due to the combination of the Leica M9’s CCD sensor (developed by Kodak back in 2009) and the vintage Summicron from the ’70s.

The LCD Screen is Shit

The other thing that I have to get used to is not using the rear LCD screen to “chimp” after taking the shot. The LCD screen is considered “vintage” now in 2018 (think of the time when we all thought the original iPhone had “good screen” back in 2007-2010). The screen is so shitty that I don’t even bother using it to actually check the photo other than to check my exposure.

 

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ISO 800

Don’t even think about exceeding the ISO past 800. We’re talking about old sensor technology where ISO 800 was considered “high-tech” back in 2009. Shoot the Leica M9 like a digital-film camera: ignore the LCD screen, learn to use manual controls, and understand manipulating exposure/light both in and off camera.

 

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56K of Buffering

After you take a photo, give it about 10 seconds for the buffer to fully clear before your next shot. Due to the slower-than-2018 processor technology and the M9’s finicky nature with high-speed memory cards (use 16GB 40-45 MB/s cards only). Again, treat the M9 like an old-school digital-film camera.

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What is Sharpness?

Despite these quirks (it’s almost a decade old), the camera is capable of pulling some amazing images from the sensor thanks to the CCD sensor designed to simulate Kodachrome film stock. Paired with a Leica M lens (Summicron f/2.0 to a Summilux f/1.4), you will get that amazing micro-contrast “3D” pop effect known as the “Leica look” that no other camera on the planet can emulate.

I’ve been drunk with this stuff since my Leica Q and its excellent Summilux 28mm f/1.7. That lens is just stunning.

Remember – you can always sharpen photos in post, but you cannon create micro-contrast in post.

Is this worth the price of admission for a Leica lens? That depends on you.

What Leica does understand better than anyone else, is that absolute sharpness (resolving power) of the lens means little if the images don’t look great. Something I’ve also been guilty of chasing since my Sony A7 full-frame days with my Carl Zeiss and G Master lenses. I loved how sharp they looked, but the images looked cold and sterile in comparison.

Almost too clinical.

No soul.

No character.

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A Sincere Camera

Despite these drawbacks and limitations with the Leica M9, there is also something liberating about these limitations.

No AF – learn to take your time and learn to use zone focusing like a proper rangefinder camera. You will soon learn that this method is even faster than auto-focus (unless you use the Leica Q, just throw that guy in AF 99% of the time and you will get a lot of keepers).

No EVF – learn to expose and compose with your eyes prior to taking the shot.

Slow Buffer – you can’t run and gun with this camera. This will force you to be patient and compose properly.

No LIVE View – Use the viewfinder like you’re supposed to.

Shit LCD Screen – Don’t even bother checking your images.

Pretty much what this camera is trying to tell you is this: “it’s on you”

This camera will make you a better photographer.

no

It will force you into becoming a better photographer.

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Summicron-M 50mm f/2.0 V3

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Asif’s Leica M5
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Ben’s Leica CL
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My favorite photo of the night

 

Photo Comparison: Carl-Zeiss vs. Leica

Photo Comparison: Carl-Zeiss vs. Leica

As a former Sony APS-C (A6000) and full-frame (A7 II ) shooter, I’ve had my fair share of experiences using excellent Zeiss lenses like the legendary Sonnar 55mm f/1.8, Distagon 35mm f/1.4, and the Sonnar 35mm f/2.8. I loved the contrasty colors and the sharpness of the lens and I once you’re accustom to such excellent optics, you can’t go back to the lesser (I say with confidence) lenses by Sony’s own in-house optics (not to take anything away from Sony, but the Zeiss lenses were superior).

Since I’ve moved away from Sony to Micro 4/3 (Olympus) and a full-frame Leica (Leica Q), I’ve been searching for the Carl-Zeiss equivalent of optics technology and I’ve found it with the Panasonic-Leica lenses for Micro 4/3. Excellent color rendering and very sharp lenses that anyone with M43 should have in their camera bag.

The Leica Q and its SUMMILUX lens cranked my lens satisfaction to another level.

Instead of typing out the word to explain to you how Leica has won me over with their lenses, let me show you some examples from a DPReview forum discussion: https://www.dpreview.com/forums/thread/4139186

The comparison was between the Carl-Zeiss (Sony) FE PLANAR 50mm f/1.4 (top) and the Leica SUMMILUX 50mm f/1.4 (bottom)

The two photos were shot with the same exposure settings.

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Carl-Zeiss PLANAR 50mm f/1.4 (Sony FE)
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Leica SUMMILUX 50mm f/1.4

The differences should be immediately apparent (at least to me) and show that the Leica has more dynamic range and micro-contrast compared to the Zeiss optic. I’ve also noticed that the Leica (my particular Leica Q) was sharper across the frame, wide-open at f/1.7 compared to my excellent Zeiss 55mm f/1.8 (the Zeiss 35mm f/1.4 was soft on all corners and never really got sharp…at all, but it had amazing bokeh).

I’ve always thought that my photos with the Leica Q were more “3D” compared to my old Zeiss lenses and I can finally show tangible proof comparing the two lenses.

So when people talk about the “Leica look” in the digital world, you now know what to look for.

Read more: http://www.artphotoacademy.com/the-leica-look/

 

Date Night: Downtown Leesburg

Date Night: Downtown Leesburg
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Olympus PEN-F + Leica DG SUMMILUX 25 f/1.4

Amy and I decided to go out Friday night for date night in downtown Leesburg and I had one place in mind for drinks and food: Delerium.

The restaurant was surprisingly not packed and the lack of crowd in the bar was refreshing to see since the first time I have visited this spot was when they first opened a location in Leesburg and it was absolutely packed.

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We made some friends at the restaurant that also happened to be Penn State alumni. We’re 6-0 right now at the time of this writing so I’m looking forward to an amazing season.

Thing of note here: Try out their red vinegar fries and thank us later.

After dinner and drinks, Amy and I decided to go out for a stroll for some street photography.

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Despite being dark, the Leica DG 25 f/1.4 performed brilliantly with very little AF hunting
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The Olympus PEN-F’s Mono Profile #2 never fails to impress with its contrast

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In this same alleyway, I noticed some shadows on the brick wall and how the light played with the safety handles of a walkway.

I thought the lighting was very cool.

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After a couple of blocks, we stopped by a local bar that looked interesting.

They even had a live band playing.

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The bokeh is not the creamiest but the lens is sharp and rendering is fantastic

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Sneak shot by Amy

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This photo was taken by Amy – it looks pretty good no?

I’ll try to upload more photos as I go through them.

Virginia State Fair: Day Date with Amy

Virginia State Fair: Day Date with Amy

Recently I’ve been suffering from GAS with my penchant for fine glass(es) for my Olympus PEN-F and the currently flavor that I’ve been obsessing over are the Leica lenses that are available for the Micro 4/3 camera systems by Panasonic.

If you’ve read my previous blog post about the exotic Leica DG NOCTICRON 42.5 f/1.2, then my recent pick up of the Leica DG SUMMILUX 25mm f/1.4 should be no surprise for those of you looking for excellent image quality out of your Micro 4/3 system.

The lens itself is not cheap, which cost almost double over the excellent Olympus 25mm f/1.8, but the extra stops of light and better sharpness across the frame over the slower Olympus variant (albeit the Leica is softer at the corners wide open at f/1.4) make this an excellent choice for the prosumer/enthusiast photographer that know what they’re looking for.

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Minor editing in Lightroom
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boosted the exposure and lightly edited in Lightroom

The photos were lightly edited in Lightroom, but the JPEGs have impressed me and the RAWs were no exception. The sharp image quality and the micro contrasts that you get out of these lenses are worth a look.

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The photos you’ll see below were straight out of the camera JPEGs.

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f/2.2 | ISO 200 | ISO 1/160
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f/5.0 | ISO 200 | 1/800
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f/1.4 | ISO 250 | 1/8000
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f/1.4 | ISO 200 | 1/1250

As I’ve been searching for highly quality Micro 4/3 lenses similar to my Zeiss lenses on my Sony, I think I’ve found the answer with the Panasonic Leicas. The price premium over the basic Olympus/Panasonic lenses is worth it to me, if not for the Leica “look”, but for the extra sharpness and extra stops of light.

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f/1.6 | ISO 200 | 1/80

 

The “Kingslayer” – Panasonic Leica DG Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2 ASPH (Review in Progress)

The “Kingslayer” – Panasonic Leica DG Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2 ASPH (Review in Progress)

Every photography enthusiasts has a grail lens that they will inevitable buy if the opportunity presents itself and for most Micro 4/3 shooters, it would be the legendary Panasonic Leica DG Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2 ASPH, the absolute king of Micro 4/3 lenses.

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Recently, I’ve been on the hunt for a new Micro 4/3 lens for my Olympus PEN-F and I’ve narrowed it down to a couple of candidates:

  • Panasonic Leica DG Summilux 25mm f/1.4 ASPH
  • Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 25mm f/1.2 PRO
  • Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 75mm f/1.8
  • Panasonic Leica DG Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2 ASPH

If you noticed the trend by looking at my choices above, I’ve been on the hunt for a fast prime lens between the 50mm-100mm focal length.

With this shopping list in mind, I stopped by my favorite local camera store and browsed their inventory. As I was eye-balling their new and used inventory, I was notified by the shop owner that they had a used Nocticron on sale.

Of course I excitedly picked it up.

First Impressions

As a PEN-F owner, you’ll want to shoot in “Natural” color settings with no presets because the color and the contrast that come from this lens is stunning. This lens is the definition of shooting just in JPEG because it color rendering is just that good.

Is it as good as the legendary Sony FE 55 f/1.8 Zeiss? Too soon to tell, but the Nocticron definitely has more “character” compared to the Zeiss, but the Zeiss has more contrasty “pop” if that makes sense.

I’ll follow up with an update once I get outside to shoot more. Readers will have to forgive me since I’m extremely busy right now with work and full-time MBA.

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Leica DG Nocticron 42.5mm f/1.2 + Olympus PEN-F

Golf Day: A day out with the Sony FE 70-200 f/2.8 G Master

Golf Day: A day out with the Sony FE 70-200 f/2.8 G Master

 

God-Master

When Sony announced the G Master lineup last year (they’re Sony’s top of the line lenses – similar to Canon’s L II series lenses, but a little sharper), I knew I had to get them…but then I saw the price tags for each:

fe_gm

Sony FE 24-70 f/2.8 GM ($2,200)

Sony FE 85 f/1.4 GM ($1,800)

Sony FE 70-200 f/2.8 GM ($2,600)

If you felt a drip of sweat and caught yourself saying, “wow…” – you’re not alone.

These might be some of the sharpest and the most high tech lenses on the market today, but due to their price, they’re also out of reach for most amateur (even prosumers) photographers.

I eventually resigned them to “unobtanium” status like Leica cameras.

That changed however…out of sheer luck, when I happened to find an open-box 24-70 f/2.8 GM at my local Best Buy for a “mere” $1,500 ($1,400 if you include some discount codes I’ve been saving to use one day).

I was fucking ecstatic…

Telling you that I’ve seen the light (pun intended) would be an understatement. After a couple of months of using the 24-70 GM (Photos: Examples), I can easily say that this lens was worth every penny (especially at the price I got it for).

So the 24-70 GM was amazing, but what about the current topic in hand?

Sony FE 70-200 f/2.8 GM OSS

When the 70-200 GM was released, it was extremely hard to find in stock (even to rent) due to the complicated nature of building these lenses from the factory.

I’m not exaggerating when I say that these have been out of stock for over 6-8 months since their original release last year.

It was like trying to find the new killer toy coming out during the holiday season and the only way to get one was to stalk the shit out of your local and online stores.

It was that bad…

Not like I can afford it either, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t want to at least try it out.

Fast forward a year, I was finally able to rent one from the good people at LensRentals.com for a couple of days for my company’s charity golf tournament this past weekend.

Paired with my Sony A7II + the VGC2EM battery grip, I put the lens to work and pulled these images that day:

Photo by Tae Kim @ www.cosmotographer.com | https://cosmotographer.blog/
FE 70-200 f/2.8 GM
Photo by Tae Kim @ www.cosmotographer.com | https://cosmotographer.blog/
FE 24-70 f/2.8 GM
Photo by Tae Kim @ www.cosmotographer.com | https://cosmotographer.blog/
FE 70-200 f/2.8 GM
Photo by Tae Kim @ www.cosmotographer.com | https://cosmotographer.blog/
FE 70-200 f/2.8 GM
Photo by Tae Kim @ www.cosmotographer.com | https://cosmotographer.blog/
FE 24-70 f/2.8 GM
Photo by Tae Kim @ www.cosmotographer.com | https://cosmotographer.blog/
FE 70-200 f/2.8 GM
Photo by Tae Kim @ www.cosmotographer.com | https://cosmotographer.blog/
FE 70-200 f/2.8 GM
Photo by Tae Kim @ www.cosmotographer.com | https://cosmotographer.blog/
FE 70-200 f/2.8 GM
Photo by Tae Kim @ www.cosmotographer.com | https://cosmotographer.blog/
FE 70-200 f/2.8 GM

More Photos: Flickr

Enjoy the photos as I try to figure out how to buy this lens…

 

 

 

Photowalk: Revisiting the Oatlands Plantation

Photowalk: Revisiting the Oatlands Plantation

Photo by Tae Kim @ www.cosmotographer.com | https://cosmotographer.blog/

A few of us haven’t done a photowalk in a while so I thought it was a good idea to get together with the mirrorless team again today to take some pictures while the weather was on our side.

I didn’t exactly know what time we were planning on doing this since the idea kind of came up last night out of whim, but luckily I received a text about forty-five minutes ahead of the meeting time since I had just left the gym when I got the text.

Over some burgers and fries at our local Fuddruckers, we were deliberating on a location for the photowalk (like I said, this was planned all out of whim with no actual plan). The thought occurred to me during our planning that none of them had ever gone to the Oatlands Plantation in Leesburg.

So it was decided.

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Apparently there was a strawberry picking event paired with a hay ride, so after each of us paid the $10 fee to walk the premises, we thought, “sure…why not?”

Photo by Tae Kim @ www.cosmotographer.com | https://cosmotographer.blog/

Like how most of these things go, there were a lot of kids with their parents, stuffing their baskets with ripe strawberries (for a fee of course).

Photo by Tae Kim @ www.cosmotographer.com | https://cosmotographer.blog/Photo by Tae Kim @ www.cosmotographer.com | https://cosmotographer.blog/Photo by Tae Kim @ www.cosmotographer.com | https://cosmotographer.blog/

Photo by Tae Kim @ www.cosmotographer.com | https://cosmotographer.blog/
He was the host of the strawberry picking event
Photo by Tae Kim @ www.cosmotographer.com | https://cosmotographer.blog/
People stuffing their baskets and paying for it

There really wasn’t much to do for us since we weren’t interested in picking strawberries, so we rode the hay ride back to the main guest house and decided to explore the rest of the estate on foot.

Below are a mix of between my Sony A7II and the Olympus PEN-F.

Enjoy!

Photo by Tae Kim @ www.cosmotographer.com | https://cosmotographer.blog/Photo by Tae Kim @ www.cosmotographer.com | https://cosmotographer.blog/Photo by Tae Kim @ www.cosmotographer.com | https://cosmotographer.blog/Photo by Tae Kim @ www.cosmotographer.com | https://cosmotographer.blog/Photo by Tae Kim @ www.cosmotographer.com | https://cosmotographer.blog/Photo by Tae Kim @ www.cosmotographer.com | https://cosmotographer.blog/Photo by Tae Kim @ www.cosmotographer.com | https://cosmotographer.blog/Photo by Tae Kim @ www.cosmotographer.com | https://cosmotographer.blog/Photo by Tae Kim @ www.cosmotographer.com | https://cosmotographer.blog/Photo by Tae Kim @ www.cosmotographer.com | https://cosmotographer.blog/Photo by Tae Kim @ www.cosmotographer.com | https://cosmotographer.blog/Photo by Tae Kim @ www.cosmotographer.com | https://cosmotographer.blog/Photo by Tae Kim @ www.cosmotographer.com | https://cosmotographer.blog/Photo by Tae Kim @ www.cosmotographer.com | https://cosmotographer.blog/

A couple with the PEN-F:

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Below are some Ninja shots that Chris took of me with his PEN-F (all JPEGs):

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Of course, my trust PEN-F + Oly 17mm f/1.8

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Ben’s Flickr Page: Ben

Chris’ Flickr Page: Olymus Prime

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