Test Drive #YouAndLeicaM - Final Thoughts

Here are my final thoughts about the Leica M240 after testing the camera for nearly a week. First of all I wanna thank the Leica Store in Munich for letting me test the M240 for a whole week.

I am a Leica user for a couple of years now  and always liked Leica for their craft-ship and tradition, the love for design & simplicity. It is always a joy to work with Leica cameras and so it was with the M240.

Handling.

The M240 brings it to the point. Leica has improved a lot the M which helps to make your workflow easier and faster. Everything feels right - at the right position - the new discreet shutter sound is fantastic. I loved the new manual shutter speed dial for the exposure settings. The new Live View modus felt a bit weird in the beginning with manual focusing. But it was helpful in certain situations and with a little bit of practice I was able to focus very well with it. 

The image quality.

The image quality is superb! The images are clear, sharp and detailed. For me personally they looked a tiny bit too clear, too perfect. Someone on the web compared the DNG files of the M240 and the M9 - it seems that the M240 lost a bit of sharpness compared to the M9.

The ISO - fantastic! The B&W conversation and filters - excellent! The color files are coming out a bit different with the M240 - but they are still looking good.

The images of the M240 feel just right - there is not much editing needed. This camera is a blast! 

Video.

...mmh, this is the only thing I didn't like. The results were to shaky. I guess for good results the usage of a tripod is necessary. Video is always nice to have - but honestly the quality on the M240 isn't good. My iphone will get a better result - but hey, this camera is for shooting pictures and not for filming the new Scorsese movie.

Final thoughts.

The M240 feels just right! The camera was overall a joy to use. A workhorse and nearly perfect for every situation. 

Would I buy a M240?

Paying 6.200 € for a camera body is not peanuts. You have to feel right to make such a big investment. I for myself can tell - I am looking for a camera which helps me to transform my vision. I want to express something with my images and the camera is the tool which helps me to bring my vision alive. I absolutely would buy the M240. This camera is versatile!  Fantastic for clean files for commissioned or personal work and awesome for artistic and experimental work.

The test drive of the M240 is still going till 31. October 2014. I highly recommend to get in touch with the M experience.

Here are a few shots I took last week with the M240.

You and Leica M

This week is a special one. A view weeks ago I got the newsletter from Leica with an invitation to take part on Leicas M Test Drive. For those who haven't heard of it, have a look on Leicas website, download your invitation and make an appointment at your Leica dealer.

I just came back home from my Leica dealer in Munich with the M and a 35mm Summarit.  The guys from the Munich team were so generous that I can test the M for a whole week! Thanks again for that oppertunity.

This week will be a testing week! I am very excited and made the plan to play tourist in my hometown Munich. This will be a huge challenge for me - as much I love Munich - as much I dislike it for street photography. Everything is beautiful & clean and sometimes it feels tough to find interesting sceneries and contrasts. But I will give my best!

A year ago I already had the chance to test the M for 30 minutes. It was just a quick get to know each other. I took a few frames and compared it with the files of the Fuji x-Pro1  and wrote a blog post "Back to old habits... Or looking forward..? Leica or Fuji?" This time I am having more time and I try to find an answer if I like the new CMOS sensor - or prefer the CCD sensor of the M8 / M9, have a detailed look on the B&W images and the colored ones - and try to compare the Fuji x-files with the M-files and figure out if the money is worth to invest.

From the first hours with the M I have to say the camera feels great in the hand. As a M user I already feel home.  There are a few new functions like Liveview, Video etc.. which I am looking forward to explore. 

I already took a few frames on my way back home. I used the camera with the settings I got, auto white balance and auto ISO set till max. 800. When I got back home I immediatly loaded the files into Lightroom and phew, what can I say HOLY Sh... this files are already blown me away. I didn't do much with the files or colors - just some straightening... The Image quality is superb. I am curious to compare the CMOS and CCD Image Quality. I think the M8/M9 produce a "natural kind of grain" in their files - which gives them a kind of soul. I know that the M files are much "cleaner" and I am curious if I can find also "a soul" in the M. I am very much looking forward to this week and can't wait to share my results with you. Please let me know if you have any questions about the testing or any wish what I should test.


Film Styles for Capture One

A week ago Alexander Svet, a Phase One Certified Professional, asked me to review their new Film Styles presets for Capture One. They contacted me through an older post of my blog, where I compared the x-file rendering in Aperture, Lightroom & Capture One. 

The film style presets is a set of 100 styles that can be applied to automatically processed images in Capture One photo editor. The set includes 58 color and 42 black and white styles and is available for download for 49,95$.

Each style is designed to make the most of Capture One's capabilities and to replicate the popular film effects including Kodak Portra, Ilford Delta, Kodak T-MAX, Agfa Scala, Polaroid and many more. 

Capture One.

In an earlier blog post I wrote that Capture One is in my opinion the best RAW converter on the market. They get most out of the images - highlights and details are not comparable with Lightroom or Aperture. It is an awesome software - but I have to admit - I use it just from time to time... Why? Well, I don't like the workflow - the GUI is too complex with all different editing areas & tools, the library system is a bit confusing etc and at the end it doesn't fit into my workflow. I like everything more minimal, easy and clearly structured. That is why 85% of the time I use Lightroom - for more detailed work I use Capture One and use the pro's of it. 

What about the film presets?

The installation and set up was easy.  I love that you can put the different styles in a B&W and color folder - that keeps everything simple and organized. 

What about the different styles?

I wanted to compare the C1 presets with the VSCO presets which I am using for a while now. But after installing and starting to compare both presets I have to admit, that I can't do a detailed comparison. Both softwares are too different in the look and usage. I attached some RAW images from my Fuji x-Pro1 with the same film preset styles of C1 and VSCO. I did no editing - I just removed the grain effect from the VSCO presets in Lightroom (Film Style presets for C1 can't show any grain rendering).

Capture One / Film styles

Lightroom / VSCO

My final thoughts on the Film styles for Capture One.

Well, first of all I have to say that it is nearly impossible to show the same result of a digital image to a film image. Film still has a unique texture and character - and it always will be. But, VSCO and Film Styles for Capture One did a really good job - both have their own character. 

For me a preset is always a starting point of my own vision. Presets help to start and go deeper into the editing process. But at the end of the day the photographer needs to feel that his images have the right look and feel.

Pros
+ clearly arranged
+ better details, highlights & shadows (...of Capture One)
+ fantastic B&W presets with more contrast than VSCO
+ good prize 

ConS 
- no grain simulation - which should always be in film simulation
- no extra toolkit for Auto WB, Fade, Grain, Contrast etc..

Would I buy the Film Styles?

Yes! There are still a few things missing but the price is fantastic and for Capture One users it's a fantastic opportunity to save some time on the workflow. VSCO & NIK Software is still not available for Capture One - so the Film Styles are an alternative for C1 users.

I really hope that the upcoming version of Capture One will be more improved. After the death of Aperture, Capture One has a huge possibility to get more customers if they improve their GUI & library by just making it more simple. C1 is the best RAW converter and helps to get out most of the pictures but if it is still too complicated and pricy - people wouldn't jump on the Capture One train. Then it will just be the Pro-Photographer tool, like it is now. 

I hope I could help a bit with my review - but the best is always to try things out. There is a free Capture One Test Version and 5 free Film Styles for C1. Enjoy your own test! 

Shooting Black & White with the Fuji x100s

I got so much feedback after my Barcelona Posting where people asked me how I process my B&W pictures. 

I have been in Dubai last week and used this trip to shoot some B&W images. It was my first trip to the Middle East and I loved it. I honestly have to admit that I didn't do lots of people street photography cause I wanted to respect the culture. Of course I could have asked - but I do prefer getting the most out of my picture - the real private moment. 

The x100s is a beautiful camera - especially for Black & White photography. Most of the time I shoot RAW & jpeg. The jpegs are great out of the x100s but the RAWs have more information and if I am having a "gold keeper" I want to get the best quality out of my picture. 

Here are my settings for the Black & White pictures with the x100s: 

ISO: 200 (sunny weather) - or ISO Auto 3200
WB: Auto
Filter: Black&White Yellow
H-Tone: +1
S-Tone:+1
Sharpness: 0

This setting work for me as the best to get the Black & White result I want to have. I love the punchy black and the great contrast of the Yellow filter. The Black & White jpeg outcome is awesome and so most of the time I don't need to do any editing. Sometimes I change a bit the curves or the exposure, it depends of the picture - but that's it.

Dubai was a great place - also for color shooting. For that I did use the Fn Button for the Filmsimulation. That made it easy and quick to change the settings for a color picture. Therefore I mostly used the Velvia Filter which made the pictures very punchy - which was perfect for the colourful Dubai.

I hope I could help you a bit with the x100s Black & White settings & editing. If you have any questions please feel free to contact me... 

Back to old habits... or looking foward...? Leica or Fuji?

I used to be a Leica photographer, loved my M8, X1 and still love my D-Lux 5. The image quality of the Leica DNG files is brilliant and the way to shoot with a rangefinder is fantastic. It slows down the whole photography process and you concentrate more on the composition of the pictures than shooting images like a machine gun.

But I got some eye problems, while shooting all day long with the rangefinder. So I started looking for another street camera and ended up with the Fujis. First I got the x100 and not long after the xPro1. I sold my Leicas and the Fuji journey began. 

On my 6 week roadtrip through the US I just had my x100 and xPro1 with me. I had so much fun shooting - the cameras are light and great to travel with. The only problem I had and still have was the RAW file processing. I mentioned this in my latest blog post. I got a bit frustrated about the editing process with the Fuji files. 

Last week I was passing by my Leica dealer in Munich. I told him that I switched to Fuji - but wasn't very happy with the RAW file management and miss the workflow I had with the M. Surprisingly he offered me to test the new Leica M 240!

 

Steve Huff, Eric Kim and others are thrilled with the new Leica and so I was curious how the new M is. Last year my Leica dealer and I were talking about the upcoming M - and he wasn't very optimistic about the new CMOS sensor, video tool etc. 

I hadn't had too much time to test the camera in detail. Just 30 minutes - but that was enough to get a first impression! I must say, the new M is the best digital camera Leica has ever done! It is a pleasure to have in my hands and the IQ is superb! Here are my pro & cons:

PRO: 
 + superb IQ  
 + white balance
 + superb color rendering
 + sound of the shutter release
 + improved ISO
 + handcrafted
 + Live View - it works well

CONS: 
 - heavier than the M9
 - expensive

The Leica M is fantastic to shoot with... Most of all I was impressed about the automatic white balance and the color rendering. The colors look 1:1 ! 

I had my xPro1 with me - and was curious how much different the files would look to the M. I did some test shots with ISO 200 in Aperture Mode but forgot that the automatic time settings are different with the cameras - so I cannot do an exactly 1:1 review.   

Here are 3 pictures I shot with the Leica M240 and 35mm Summicron. These are DNG files right away out of the camera - the weather was grey in grey. Please forgive for the picture selection - but there was nothing interesting around to capture :)

Pictures taken with the xPro1 & 18mm lens

My opinion is, that the xPro1 is doing a very good job but the M is a bit better. 

The question now is,  would I go back to Leica? 
Well, a though question - I still love the Leica feeling, the way to take pictures and the Leica look of the M - but after shooting for one hour with the rangefinder, my eye problem were back.

But, even if I wouldn't have the issues with my eye, I am not sure if I would purchase the new M. With a 35 mm lens the M costs around 8000€ - 9000€.  That is a lot of money!  

There was a customer at the Leica store who was asking me if the new M is worth it?
 
 If you have the money and you love shooting with Leica YES! Instead purchasing the new M getting a used M9 or M-E - NO! The M9 is having a great Image quality but you will get the much better package & deal with the Fujis! 

I will stick with Fuji! They make a brilliant job! Using the xpro1, x100 etc. is fun, it is light, fantastic lenses and the IQ is awesome and I don't have any eye problems! 

...so, what about the RAW workflow?
 
Last week I decided to give another try - to work just with the jpegs and change a bit my settings. But it seems that the RAW file issue is now solved!  Today Adobe released the new version of Lightroom. It includes now a correction to the demosaic algorithms for Fujifilm cameras with the X-Trans sensor. YEAH - problem solved! I just downloaded the new version and I am thrilled!  The files look awesome... I can get now the look I want and cant wait to start my editing process. My pictures are getting back their soul and that feels damn good! 

So, back to old habits?
No - I am looking forward to I stick with Fuji - for two reasons: First of all they make fantastic cameras and lenses and secondly they hear what customers say! They improved the X100 after getting feedback from Pro photographers and customers and worked together with Adobe to solve the RAW Processing problem. I just purchased the new x100S and I'm very curious to find out about the faster AF and improvements! 

 Is Fuji the new Leica?
In my opinion, NO - Leica will always be Leica. These are 2 different camera systems and brands... Owning a Leica is much more than owning a camera or a tool to take pictures with. You'll get a hand crafted camera with soul. It is a lifestyle and everyone who ever owned a Leica knows what I try to say. 

 

Aperture, Lightroom...Capture One! Finally the Odyssee ends.

It's been a while since I posted something on my blog. I needed a little break from photography and time to reflect last year!  

I have been on the road for more than 6 months lately. It was an exciting and fantastic year! I got a contract with a press agency, shot at the Olympics in London, the US-elections and switched my gear from Leica M to Fuji X-100 & Fuji X-Pro1. 

The x-Pro 1 is not a Leica - honestly I miss my Leica from time to time - but the xPro is a trusty partner in nearly all situations. But there is one thing that I don't like with the x-Pro - working with the RAW files!  

I used to work with Aperture. But till now they don't support the RAW files of the x-series of Fuji. I hope that this will change with the upcoming Aperture X ! There are so many rumors with Apple releasing the new Aperture X - but I finally came to the point that I am not willing to wait anymore! 

With the x-series, I switched from Aperture to Lightroom. I have never been a huge fan of Lightroom - I never liked the interface - but with every software there are pro's and con's. So I tried to make the best of the situation to get along. I have to admit - I have never spend so much time editing my files! Till now, after hours of editing I still don't get the look I want with Lightroom. It really sucks, cause usually I uploaded my Leica DNG files, edited a bit the curves and that was it. 

You can imagine that I was very excited when Capture One announced the support of the x-files! I downloaded the trial version and I tested C1 for a few weeks. All I have to say - it is such a relief! The RAF files are looking great! The colors, the details & skin tones of the pictures look amazing! 

Here is a comparison of 2 random shots from Venice Beach last year. RAF files straight out of the camera - not editing at all.

Fuji X-Pro  Lightroom 4.4 vs. Capture One 7

Fuji X-Pro Lightroom 4.4 vs. Capture One

In my opinion the Capture One files look much better - there are more details, the colors look nicer and the picture don't look flat as in Lightroom. 

I also checked a jpeg file in Lightroom, Aperture & Capture One of my new Nikon D600. Here a shot straight out of the camera of our foster dog, Mr. Bootsmann.

 

Nikon 600 Lightroom, Aperture, Capture One

The jpegs look great in Capture One, but I have to admit, that I do like the Aperture file a bit more.  

So finally after months and weeks I came to the decision that I will work with Capture one & Aperture! Capture One - because of the fantastic RAW Converter & Aperture for the interface, the file managing and the plug-In's (VSCO, Nik Software) I use.

I know that Capture One is not cheap at all and again I have to get used to another software - but at the end of the day I want to achieve the best result for a picture within a minimum of time. I know it will take a bit of time to get used to Capture One - but there are fantastic Online Tutorials on youTube and everything looks pretty easy so far. I also like that u can switch the interface & tools the way you prefer it.

For me - my Odyssee has ended and I feel pretty good with my decision. I hope I could help some of you who are in a similar position but at the end of the day it is a personal question of the preferred look and feel!