PHOTOOG Photography writings by Olivier Giroux

31Jul/097

Moving to Leica Soon

As you may know I have been watching Leica for a while. I have nothing but admiration for their optical designers and factory workers. Contrary to some, I think the company is really going somewhere now.

Lately a big part of my Leica-watching involved tracking the used-equipment market on FredMiranda and GetDPI forums. After 6 months of daily forum-scraping I could tell you which lenses come up most often, which are most rare, and what a ballpark asking price is for each of them. Which are rare? The 75mm APO-Summicron ASPH is up there on the list, with the 21mm Elmarit ASPH and 35mm Summilux ASPH not far behind. The 50mm Summilux ASPH is noteworthy in the trends, because it is both relatively common and yet its price premium holds because it’s also in high demand.

One of the big surprises for me was to see how heavily-discounted pre-owned Leica gear can be (overall) as compared to Nikon and Canon gear. You’re not going to find a current-model professional Nikkor lens for 50% less money than new (more like 20-30%, usually) but you will find several Leica-M lenses with that kind of discount. Particularly there is a cultural backlash against lenses that haven’t been updated with 6-bit coding from the factory, and so really good deals can be found for those lenses that are current and in good condition but not “factory fresh”.

It’s also the case that there are a few individuals in the Leica community who will try every single lens that Leica makes, through purchasing new or like-new lenses and then dumping them on the used market with very little wear. Some of these guys depreciate their lenses by 5% per week, so far as I can tell. If you hang around the right forums you can snatch up one of these gems for 30-45% less than they cost from the store, and most of them are even still under warranty.

The happy ending to this market observer’s story, is that now I have my first body and 2 lenses coming to me in the next 2 weeks. Which Leica lens made it to the top of my chart, to become my first Leica lens? You might be surprised. Stay tuned…

Not Really Leaving Nikon

Although I do think I’m “done” with Nikon for now, my D700 isn’t going anywhere. It’s a trusty sidearm that will not fail when the pressure is on and there’s only one chance to take the shot. I unloaded the heaviest and least used piece of my Nikon kit to make financial room for my Leica lens and I’m freezing spending on Nikon.

What could get me to spend again (if you’re listening Nikon)…

  • A 24-100mm f/4G VR zoom in a weather-sealed internal-zoom/focus metal barrel. For sure I’d buy this.
  • A 17-40mm f/4G zoom in a weather-sealed internal-zoom/focus metal barrel. There’s a good chance I’d buy this.
  • A good 70-200mm f/4G VR or 200mm f/2.8G VR or 300mm f/4G VR prime. Maybe I’d buy one of these.
  • A D700x with a 25+ MP sensor. I’ll only buy this if you have an upgrade/trade-in program from the D700.
  • An EVIL version of the D700x with a mount register not to exceed 2.5cm. I will beg on my knees so you’ll allow me to buy it from you.

Yep, I’m on record saying I could buy automagic zooms again. Believe it.

With the ZF lenses and upcoming ZM and Leica lenses… I’m getting close to being all-primed-out, and all-manual’ed-out. I’ll start taking some automation back eventually, for balance, sanity and other people’s comfort with my camera (which is going to hit bottom soon).

More to come...

- Olivier


Comments (7) Trackbacks (0)
  1. Leice huh? Good for you Oliver! Hope you will enjoy the stuff and I am very curious about what you actually bought.

    I went to my local shop a few months ago to buy a brand new M6TTL .85 leftover. I headed home with a Konica Hexar RF and 50/90 mm Konica lenses :-). Reason: I, wearing glasses, could not even see the M6’s 35mm frame. And as that lens gets 60% of all my shots I thought it good not to buy the camera.

    I have used my Hexar RF quite a lot since I bought it and I am in love with it. And, what’s more, I am also in love with the CRF principle.

    I do hope you will have the same love for the CRF and enjoy using the camera and its results. For me Leica glass is too expensive (although I am considering some summarit lenses now) but the Konica andd Voigtlander stuff I have does just fine.

    Keep up the blog!

  2. The Hexar is a fantastic camera. If they were still baing made (new) and supported by Sony (owner of Konica) then I might have chosen a Hexar RF for my camera. I often wish to myself that Sony would resurrect the Hexar RF in a digital form with an A900 sensor inside… that would seriously make waves.

    I too wear glasses, and I know that a .85 Leica is the opposite of what eyeglass wearers should use. A .58 Leica is a better fit, but a non-Leica camera is even better, I don’t know why Leica’s viewfinder is so damn small. The best options are either the Hexar as you chose, or the Zeiss Ikon. I chose the Zeiss, and that’s what’s coming for my new camera.

    For lenses… ah… well I’ll keep the suspense going a bit longer. All I will reveal is that one of them is a Zeiss ZM and the other is a Leica ASPH.

  3. There are just too many Leica M lenses to choose from! The range is pretty incredible for a small company. But I think the widest frame lines in the ZM viewfinder are for a 28 mm, so I’d guess you got one of those. The 28 mm Elmarit ASPH is attractively priced, but if buying used the 28 mm Summicron might be a good deal – at least if you take advantage of that cultural backlash you mention.

    Hmm. A 28 mm would go well with a 75 mm, perhaps, but the ZM doesn’t have 75 mm frame lines. The 85 mm Sonnar costs a fortune, but then, you’ve bought expensive lenses in the past. 😉

    However, in this case I think I’ll say you went with a classic fifty, but with a very modern twist: the Summilux ASPH, with its peerless performance. So the other lens must be the 28 mm Biogon.

    I have no idea of course. More clues needed! The 24 mm Elmar ASPH would tempt me, especially with a 50 mm and a future telephoto…

    Hope you’re stocking up on Kodachrome while you have the chance, and a brick of Provia 400X for some modern film magic.

    http://www.fujifilm.com/photokina2006/pdf/Provia_400X.pdf

  4. It is an amazing lens range, it’s hard to discredit any of those lenses.

    Some time ago I had laid out a proposal for my family to get comfortable with the idea of a Leica outfit. The kit was a 28mm Elmarit-M ASPH and 50mm Summarit-M. This pair I had chosen for their extreme compactness, comparitively low price and basically identical performance (making it easy to learn behavior and predict outcomes).

    In practice, I went a very different route.

    Some of my thoughts at the moment:
    – I don’t feel Leica Ms can beat SLRs at telephoto as much they can at the wide end. My D700 + 2/100 ZF is hard to beat. So I’m going to stay away from Leica M telephotos for now.
    – I think it’s unavoidable that I will eventually get the 50mm Summilux-M ASPH. I didn’t get it right away though. I will probably not get another 50mm until I can make a move on the Summilux, maybe next year (it’s the big 30 next year).

    Provia 400X is very tempting. :^)

    – Olivier

  5. What’s mount register? Would that specification allow you to mount Leica lenses on A D700x? Also, how did you acquire such a technical understanding of photography (like what you used in your CUDA based program)? Can you recommend any good technical books on photography, especially lens design? The only decent one I have found was Basic Photographic Materials and Processes.

    • Hi Nick,

      The Leica M mount is 27.95mm the Nikon F mount is 46.50mm. Adapters can only go one way, from F to M. You can’t put an M lens on a D700.

      The knowledge I used for my CUDA program is really just classical ray-tracing with more attention focused on the physics of refraction. (I have to admit that I stopped making progress on this program after I demonstrated basic functionality.)

      At this moment I’m not really interested in lens design as much as lens use / analysis. It’s like a wine connoisseur who enjoys tasting wine, and nurturs a skill for tasting delicate flavors, but isn’t really interested in making the wine himself. I enjoy a nice lens more this way.

      Cheers,

      Olivier

    • Hi Nick,

      If you want to know more about lens design then look at http://www.zeiss.com. There you can find a lot of information as well as guidance to read on if you want more…


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