THE NEW LEICA S
Medium format redefined
Latest news from Germany (hopefully in Australia soon)
Introducing the new flagship model in the Leica S-System range. Offering a host of new features, in particular, the innovative Leica Max CMOS image sensor in Leica Pro Format and the Leica Maestro II image processor with a continuous shooting rate of up to 3.5 frames per second – the new Leica S sets a new record in the medium format category. Experience shooting speed and versatility that you won’t find in other medium format cameras. The body and monitor screen of the new Leica S are extremely resilient, and numerous seals provide all components with full protection against dust and moisture.
Also new in this model is an enhanced predictive autofocus system for dynamic photography, and medium format moving pictures in ‘cine-look’ with outstanding image quality. The entire 45 mm width of the sensor is used for video recording in full-HD resolution. Combined with the exceptional quality of the S-System lenses, this advanced camera delivers a particularly outstanding visual experience for cineasts! Discover the new Leica S and an entirely new dimension in medium format photography now.
Lens performance at its best
The unique combination of many years of experience and state-of-the-art production methods makes Leica the only manufacturer with the ability to produce large-diameter, aspherically ground lenses of the highest quality in series production. Leica S-Lenses deliver excellent imaging performance at all focusing distances and at all apertures. Most S-Lenses are available with an innovative central shutter to guarantee maximum flexibility when using additional light sources.
A review by Franz Scheurer
The Pentax WG-III GPS rugged pocket camera is available in various colour combinations, e.g. purple, orange, black, red and the one I tested: green. Let me say up front that I liked this camera so much I bought one.
It’s small (fits into your pocket, backpack, bag, etc. and you hardly notice it. You don’t need a pouch or a camera case as this has to be the most rugged camera on the market at present that is not in a dedicated housing, like the GoPros. It’s waterproof (to 45 feet), it’s crushproof (I can attest to that as I stepped on it by mistake) and of course it’s dustproof as well.
The camera is equipped with a 16 megapixel, backlit CMOS sensor and a new-generation imagine engine and that’s just as well as the model before this one had issues with resolution. The top sensitivity is ISO 6400 and at that it is fairly noisy, but a good noise reduction program like NIK’s Define will fix that mostly.
One of the things I found impossible with the earlier model was that there was no ‘anti shake’ technology and having such small buttons it was easy to move the camera downwards when you pressed the shutter release. This has now been fixed with a ‘sensor shift image stabilisation) and it makes a world of difference.
The camera does full 1080p30 HD video recording with h.264 compression, so that means widescreen, 1920×1080 and all that at 30 frames p/sec. An inbuilt micro-HDMI terminal in the camera lets you output video and sound simultaneously to external devices. Nice in theory but not much use when you’re filming the Attack of the Killer Yabby in 3 feet of water.
The camera is equipped with a 4x Optical Zoom (25-100mm in a 35mm camera) and the largest aperture is f2, which is really quite fast for this type of camera. The camera’s autofocus system works well and the ‘press and hold’ exposure memory works well, too. This model is also equipped with two more focus modes, ‘macro’ and ‘1cm macro’. It’s really easy to take good close up shots with the ‘macro’ mode and for the users who have the patience to do a ‘real’ close-up the camera is equipped with six LED macro lights, arranged in a circle around the lens, which lets you illuminate the subject evenly in the ‘1cm macro’ mode. A bright, anti-reflection, 3” high resolution (460,000 dots) offers a good view and re-view.
The results speak for themselves. This is a really impressive little ‘throw it in’ type of camera that doesn’t care if the going gets tough; this one keeps on going.
Price? Well with all those features you’d expect this to be quite expensive but surprise, surprise, this camera is VERY affordable.
I did (and would again) buy this camera from B&H Photo Video Pro Audio in New York where you’ll pay an astonishingly low $ 296.95 and they ship to Australia (you don’t pay any duties or customs as Australia has an agreement with the US for parcels up to $2000) and it will be yours in less than a week.
Review by Franz Scheurer
I lost my Sony RX1 and not having a pocket camera was not an option. Looking at the RX1R was irrelevant as it wasn’t available in Sydney anywhere, so I looked for an alternative. My requirements were simple:
– full size sensor
– top quality prime lens
The only one that matched all criteria was the Sony Alpha 7R and it was available.
So I bought it and here is what I found to differentiate it immediately from the RX1:
– interchangeable lenses
– 36.3 MP
Now I use this camera as a pocket camera so I don’t really want any other lenses and the 2.8/35mm Carl Zeiss is an amazingly sharp lens with great colour correction and it even comes with a lens hood. (The lens hood for the 35mm RX1 fixed lens was absurdly expensive). The viewfinder is superb and adds considerably to the usability of the camera, especially in really challenging light situations.
Lenses available in the new FE style are:
– 4/24-70mm Carl Zeiss OSS
– 3.5-5.6/28-70mm Sony OSS
– 4/70-200mm Sony G OSS
– 2.8/35mm Carl Zeiss and finally
– 1.8/55mm Carl Zeiss
The choice of two zooms in a similar range and no ultra wide angles seems a little odd, so is the omission of a macro lens, but no doubt they will hit the market soon. Please note that the Sony Alpha 7R has an E-mount but you will need the new FE lenses to take full advantage of the full-size sensor. There are a fair few APS-C lenses out there that will fit (and crop) and there are a number of A mount to E mount converters available. In reality, if you invest in an Sony Alpha 7R buy the FE lenses and although you can use other lenses on the camera, even Leica lenses, you won’t get the perfect quality/size balance and easy of use that you will get with the FE lenses.
The camera is available with the 24.3MP or the 36.3MP sensor and again, why settle for second best? The resolution and depth of detail that you get with the 36.2MP sensor are astounding. A friend of mine once likened the smaller as against the larger sensor as: chocolate cake versus chocolate mousse. He was bang on target.
A Bionz X sensor allows for more sophisticated processing over the previous one and it even offers ‘diffraction reduction’ lessening the diffraction softness you get when you stop down a lens. Of course the camera not only offers the standard aperture or shutter priority settings, program and panorama, but also a full manual override and manual focus with optional focus peaking etc. etc. I adore the ergonomics of the camera; whoever designed this really understood the way a photographer naturally works and every single control is exactly where you would expect it.
They do also offer an optional battery grip, a first for an E mount camera, and it will help with vertical shooting and holds an extra battery, but it also adds significantly to the bulk of the camera. Personally as I don’t use the Sony Alpha 7R as a system camera but as a pocket camera, I would not consider this. I’d rather just carry a spare battery.
I am impressed that all the new generation Sony cameras are chargeable via an USB cable; be that from a charger, from a computer, from the car, etc. It certainly expands usability tremendously.
Sony has certainly gone down just about every possible digital path with their cameras in the past, from dual autofocus to translucent mirror technology, to their NEX system but the Sony Alpha 7R is probably the single-most exciting release in years of our digital camera life.
The Sony Alpha 7R is not cheap; on the other hand it is superb value for money and in the end that is what counts.
For more information and pricing look up the Sony website. In Australia http://www.sony.com.au
By Franz Scheurer
Today’s rapidly moving technology can leave even experts confused and make it hard to choose a camera that can ‘do it all’. If you want a high level of control, a large range of lenses, good usability in bad light and the option of taking great pics and high definition movies, then you either lug a DSLR outfit along or you look at one of the new mirror-less cameras.
But if you also want a camera that is easy and fast to use and delivers amazing results set to fully automatic, then, in my opinion, your only choice is the Leica V-Lux 4.
This camera is light and ridiculously small for what it does. It delivers pin-sharp images throughout an enormous zoom range from 25mm to 600mm (35mm equivalent). An ISO range from 50 to 3200, which is set to ‘auto’ by default and a Leica first, and a zoom lens that maintains maximum aperture of 2.8 throughout the zoom range, guarantee good images in low light. Set it to multiple images (from 2 up to 60 per second) and you have a perfect safari camera, making it easy to capture those big cats or birds in flight plus giving you High Definition video. The auto-focus is quick, throughout the range, and much more accurate than most human eyes. The results with the whole camera set to automatic are unbelievably good; it’s like having your own professional photographer in your pocket.
The camera comes with an inbuilt, pop-up flash, full manual control if you so desire, a strap and a lens hood. The only thing I suggest you buy on top of what’s in the box is a UV filter to protect your lens. It’s a lot cheaper to buy a new filter should you scratch it than replace the camera.
It truly is a ‘Mouse that Roared’.
If you have a thirsty passion for photography, and happen to be looking for one of the best medium formats there is on the market right now, you could do a lot worse than the Leica S.
Leica’s reputation precedes them, like most producers of luxury goods. Naturally, upon entering the medium format market they are not in it to cut corners, neither with the body nor the lenses, but of all the challenges that lie in producing a successful system camera, getting photographers to change system is perhaps the most difficult.
Entrenched would be the accurate word – photographers, both professional or enthusiasts of the highest motivation, will likely have invested large sums of money in a range of lenses; familiarised and perhaps more importantly comfortable with the equipment chosen after careful consideration. A newcomer (the S) has to be better and, crucially, to be perceived as better. The Leica S not only lives up to this premise, but excels at it – in a field they have never entered before.
As a medium format, the Leica S’ technical difference comes from the huge sensor incorporated in the body; it does not use a digital back. There is no possibility for the sensor to be misaligned with the body, a real danger in other cameras that is more pronounced when subjected to the elements and wear and tear of travel.
Optimal image quality is guaranteed through the combination of large sensor, superior processing and a lightning fast autofocus system. The camera body itself is surprisingly small giving a pleasant experience when using the camera handheld. A 2GB buffer memory assists when continuously shooting – able to capture up to 32 consecutive raw images with lossless compression at a rate of 1.5 frames a second.
Fast, intuitive and offering all the mod-cons of a professional medium camera (even inbuilt GPS), the through-the-lens viewfinder is a stand-out feature; comfortably the largest in the camera world. The 3-inch display on the back of the camera, at 920,000 pixels, does the 16.7 million colours justice with a brightness and legibility that carries through even in unkind lighting conditions. The body boasts dual memory card support for simultaneous writing of data, DNG raw files and JPGs to separate cards.
The S lens range stretches from an astounding 24mm ultra wide angle to a 180mm telephoto, incorporating a 30-90x zoom and a superbly crisp 120mm macro. With the lens range expanding rapidly, the desired focal length is likely not far away. To the benefit of system-switchers and lens-aholics alike, Leica produce adapters that allow compatibility with Hasselblad and Contax lenses.
Proving its worth out of studio, the S range is splash proof. Situations in the rain or snow should pass without the worry that such a precious investment will suffer.
An exceptionally worthy choice at the top end of the medium format market, the Leica S has many tricks we feel make it worth getting to know a little better
By Franz Scheurer
Normally I shoot medium format and the Leica S is, in my opinion, unbeatable, but when you know your going to travel a lot then carrying 40kg of camera gear has it’s disadvantages; especially if it is meant to be a holiday and not work.
So I bought a SONY RX1
Why? It was the only camera I could find that satisfied all my requirements. Small, full control over all functions, a superb lens and most importantly, a full size sensor. The SONY RX1 has the same sensor ad the SONY A99 and it’s simply superb. Couple the sensor’s ability to capture a lot of data with the Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* f2 35mm lens’ ultimate sharpness, low distortion and fast aperture and have an incredible ISO range to boot, answers a photographer’s prayers.
This camera is not cheap, BUT it’s amazing value for you money and it’s a giant in a small body. It’s incredibly versatile with full manual control, aperture or shutter priority, long exposure capability and superb ergonomic controls… mostly. The one gripe I have is that the wheel that controls the exposure override, e.g from +3 to -3, is located in such a position that it is easily bumped. This does not matter if you use the camera on ‘Auto’ but I just about never do. The other thing I don’t like is the fact that the lens has two settings, one from 30cm to infinity and the other a ‘macro’ setting which allows fully open shots at 20cm (14cm in front of the lens). Trouble is, the setting does not reset itself and is manual, so it’s easily possible to take shots on the wrong setting. You get used to both of these quirks, of course.
The results are spectacular. The metering system is superb and the resolution, being 24 megapixels, combine with an ISO range from 100 to a staggering 25,600 basically makes it possible to shoot in just about any lighting condition. I’m also surprised how little noise this camera produces, it’s easily useable to 6,000 ISO without having to run it through a noise reduction program like NIK’s Define. The controls are firm, definite and user friendly. Love the dedicated aperture ring; just like the old times. The LCD is 1.23M dot RGBW, Whitemagic, and the camera is extremely adept at taking videos as well, at 1080p60 HD in AVCHD (50p on PAL region models).
The camera basically operates totally silently, but you can engage a sound effect if you want it to mimic an old-fashioned camera. Personally I love the totally silent operation as it helps with candid shots (and shots where you are not supposed to take them…) Self timer, multiple shots a second, etc. etc are all part of the parcel and of course you can shoot RAW (all I ever do).
I’m used to professional gear and use no case for the camera. I do have a lens hood on the camera permanently (frightfully expensive) and the lens cap fits snuggly inside that combo. Impressive. So I expect my cameras to get scratched but the finish on the RX1 is extremely sturdy and the camera feels weighty and substantial. I must admit that in the first six weeks of use I dropped it twice; once onto a cobble-stone street – damage: 1 split lens hood that had to be replaced, and once I knocked it off the table – damage: cosmetic only. In both cases the camera kept on working with no ill effects at all. Now that is commendable.
If I had to rate it, I’d give it a 9/10
Would I buy it again? YES
Would I recommend it to a friend: ABSOLUTELY
SONY has released a RXI r (r stands for resolution) where they have removed the low-pass filter or anti-aliasing filter, and increased the resolution by a smidgeon. This is rather fashionable at the moment and I question the value of this. BTW the RX1r sits alongside the RX1; it does not replace it.
Disclaimer: I have purchased the RX1 at full price direct from Sony and have no relationship with the company whatsoever. This is not a paid review but simply a report on how I find the RX1 in daily life.