Sep 252013
Image: Leica Camera AG

Image: Leica Camera AG

The new Leica C (Typ 112) was unveiled a short time ago. It will be available in October and be priced around € 600,-. It might well be a sufficiently nice compact camera, but since I cannot see much of a difference to the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LF1, I do not feel a great urge to go into any detail about this Leica offspring. If I decide to do a full review at all, I will write about the Panasonic later. I always prefer the original.

By the way – the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LF1 can be had for around € 450,-. Of course there are differences (e.g. Leica adding a free Lightroom license) – but all in all this Leica compact does not thrill me much. IMO this is another Leica product that simply does not quite hit the mark. But there may be enough amateur photographers that are willing to pay the premium and simply love that shiny red Leica logo. Leica is a luxury brand after all and of course it is quite legit to try and scoop up some of the dough folks wish to depart with.

So the Leica C is not the real Leica “Mini M” I was anticipating but IMHO rather what I feared “…might turn out to be just another point and shoot Panasonic clone.” You can read my wish list for a new Leica “Mini M” here. So it did not turn out to be the camera some Leica fans (myself included) hoped for. Neither did the Leica X Vario (Typ 107) which was promoted as Leica “Mini M” and initially raised quite false hopes (see my article on that here). I am sure both camera models will be sought after and guarantee good returns for Leica nonetheless.

But as it goes, I have now given up waiting for a new Leica Interchangeable Lens Camera (ILC) with AF and some other features that are clearly missing in previous versions of M-mount cameras. Sony will probably deliver the goods for those that think likewise. Maybe those Leica Lenses can be put to good use on one of the future full-frame Sony NEX cameras that are rumored to be shown off in the next month or so. That might be worth writing about…



Jun 202013


Are you happy with the strap that came with your camera? Whenever I get a new camera I never seem to be. These often underestimated accessories tend to be either too small, too difficult to put on and off, feel uncomfortable around your neck or simply look horrid. I tried to remidy this by buying third party straps and have gone through several types and makes. Recently I got some nice ones from Lance Camera Straps.

This is a family business based in Virginia, USA, offering fully customizable polyester cord camera straps online. They claim their products are not only stylish and very durable but also very affordable.


Safe to carry – durable – customizable

I usually carry my cameras with the strap pulled over neck and one shoulder. But often I use a shoulder bag and only want something to assure myself I won`t be dropping my camera by accident when I pull it out and carry it in hand only. So I like to swap camera straps depending on the specific shooting conditions.

That is why I decided to get a string loop version of both the neck strap and wrist strap cords. This gives me the convenience I need by being able to quickly detach the side clips and put on the second strap whenever I feel like it – switching from neck strap to wrist strap (or the other way round) in seconds.




If you feel uncomfortable using detachable plastic clips to secure your gear, you might want to opt for 16mm split rings (rather than string loops) that fit nicely on any camera lug mount – even on very small cameras (e.g. Fuji X20). There also is a new very durable looking metal quick connect version that might be the best of both worlds – fast release and safe to carry.
And secure and durable enough it all seems to be. I have used these straps on several different cameras – entrusting my  heavy  Nikon DSLR and even my new Leica M Typ 240 to these polyester cords. I never had any cause for concern. I believe the clips can withstand a lot of pressure when pulled and with the cords (that are spliced for better durability) you could probably tow a car. For most applications this should be sufficient. Check out the durability test on the company site. It would be nice if they gave some more detailed information on just how much pressure these clips can take though.

The camera straps are also very comfortable to wear. IMO the round cords are much nicer than commonly used flat straps that frequently get caught on clothing or chafe the skin.

I quite like the wrist strap too. But I decided to push the rubber stop ring to the inside of the wrist cord loop because I did not like the cord coming too tight. This way you can choose a fix size of the wrist loop rather than let it pull close. Additional information: I just heard from Lance that the new version of the wrist strap now comes equipped with another O-Ring Strap Bumper on the loop of the strap. This will have solved the problem I encountered with my earlier version.



Wrist strap fits any size and is easily adjustable


The straps are available in seven different colors, with even more ring and thread colors to choose from. I opted for flashy red (because I never had one in red before 🙂 ) and the more conservative dark blue cord color. The colors on mine did not fade over time at all. The straps seem to be very resistant to sunlight and generally very robust (no fraying, no odors – absolutely spotless).

Best of all, these straps are customizable not only in color but also in length. I am quite tall, so I chose the neck strap in 61“. Now I can carry my cam closer to the hip and it does not hang from the neck right in front of my chest. The custom sizes come at no extra cost.



The Lance Camera Straps are quite affordable. They can be had from $24 to $68 and all products come with free standard shipping within the USA (if you order for $30 or more). International customers have to pay an extra $12 for that.


Compared to similar products

If you are into round cord straps at all, there are other alternatives of course. I have tried the Artisan Artist ACAM-301 cord camera strap that comes equipped with metal split rings. This is made of very nice woven silk and is very smooth to the touch. Since it was only available in a length of 37“ (approx. 94cm) it did not suit my purposes though. I prefer longer lengths to be able to carry the camera across one shoulder and neck with the cam dangling from the side. The Artisan Artist strap also features a premium price tag (around $189). The Lance neck strap comes in at about a third of the price.

The Street Strap made of black round nylon weave is also a little softer to the touch and a little thinner than the Lance Camera Strap I got – again featuring split rings for more permanent attachment to the camera. Here it is possible to get a triangular ring version, that might be of use for some types of camera. Priced at $79.99 (MSRP) the Street Strap it is a direct competitor. But again, you can not customize length (46“/approx. 117mm size for all) or color.


Bottom line

The string loop straps from Lance Camera Straps are thicker than most other straps I have tried, but they are still very comfortable to use. Meanwhile they also have a new line of Classic Non-adjust and Classic Quick Connect straps on offer. These are not spliced and therefore maintain an 8mm cord diameter which makes them thinner than the spliced version I got some time ago.

I prefer the loop version because they are easily detachable but others might like the more sturdy looking split rings. For $2 extra there are O-Ring Strap Bumpers available that protect the camera from split ring to body contact. Why not try one of these straps? I think you won`t be disappointed. The only problem you will face is choosing the colors you like best 🙂 .

Lupico_130611__DSF2406More information available at Lance Camera Straps.

Lupico`s Take
Quality       ★★★★★
Usability       ★★★★★
Price       ★★★★
Recommendation       ★★★★★
Jun 052013

Lupico_130604__DSF2364-3“Perhaps the most versatile M lens.“ This is a quote straight from the Leica site. And that about sums it up. The Leica Summilux-M 35mm f/1.4 ASPH FLE was designed to be even “more compact” with even “higher performance” than its predecessor, which did not feature the floating element and was available from 1994 to 2010.

I have not yet had the opportunity to try the previous model but I have had the newer version on loan from Leica for a couple of weeks and want to share some of my findings.

For the past few years I have been using the Leica Summicron-M 35mm f/2 ASPH with my M9 and only recently with the Leica M Typ 240. I was always glad to strap on the Cron, really appreciating the contrasty, sharp and overall nice results that lens could achieve. I did not think I would ever need f/1.4 on a moderate wide-angle at all. I usually do not tend to shoot too much in extemely low light and could not care less for more shallow depth of field with this focal length. That is what I thought…

But now, after trying the Leica Summilux-M 35mm f/1.4 ASPH FLE on the new M, I am almost tempted to spend some extra cash and trade in the trusted Summicron. The new Summilux is simply amazing and I had great fun putting it to use in the little time I had with it. Trouble was, the weather happened to be so appalling most of the time, I hardly had any opportunity to shoot it in good daylight – most of the time it was overcast and either pouring cats & dogs or drizzling with temperatures closer to winter rather than late spring. Good thing I had f/1.4 after all 😉 .

Basic Lens Specifications

Lupico_130529_PDF Leica 1 35 Lux

More details on this lens including a PDF with all the relevant technical data following this link to Leica Camera AG

Build Quality and Ergonomics

This is what Leica lenses in general excel at and this Leica Summilux-M 35mm f/1.4 ASPH FLE certainly is no exception. The lens feels just right, with nice weight and size and that unique precision tool feeling you can only get from Leica products. It has great ergonomics right down to the all-metal hood that can be screwed on and off with ease. This hood is the same as used with the Leica M 21mm f/3.4 ASPH, which happens to be my all time favorite super-wide. Look out for a review on that lens soon.

The older version of the Leica Summilux-M 35mm f/1.4 ASPH as well as the newest Leica Summicron-M 35mm f/2 ASPH do not have this special screw-on hood. They both only feature a plastic clip-on version which makes the handling a little less fun. They also have strange wishy-washy lens caps or rather slack push-on covers whereas the new Leica Summilux-M 35mm f/1.4 ASPH FLE has a very much nicer slip-on kind of cap – albeit still made of cheap rubber.

I have found myself cursing the clumsy Summicron clip-on hood solution and fiddly rubber cover more than a few times. After loosing the first one or two caps you can get quite annoyed. They cost around €25 or $35 which is a lot for such a simple thing (probably not even a dime in production). But that is not a problem to be discussed with the new Leica Summilux-M 35mm f/1.4 ASPH FLE.

Leica Summilux-M 1.4 ASPH FLE with hood and cap

Leica Summilux-M 1.4 ASPH FLE with metal hood and rubber cap

Summicron-M f/2 ASPH with hood and cap

Leica Summicron-M f/2 ASPH with plastic hood and rubber cap

Only a very small part of the rangefinder viewing window is obstructed by the lens with the hood mounted. The cut-out on the upper left of the hood is sufficient for precise framing. If you leave the hood off and put on the supplied special metal screw-on protection ring (that is supposed to protect the male thread for the lens hood), you can even use the also supplied E46 lens cap instead. This way there will be no finder blockage whatsoever.

Did I mention this lens is really quite small? Just look at the comparison with the latest version of the Leica Summicron-M 35mm f/2 ASPH below. There is not too much of a difference. The Summicron is only 11.5mm smaller to be precise (compared without hoods). This does not really make any difference in actual use.

Lupico_130528__DSF2342-Bearbeitet-3 Lupico_130528__DSF2346-Bearbeitet-3 Lupico_130528__DSF2312-Bearbeitet-3

I even found the Lux to be a little easier to handle due to its slightly bigger size. The focus ring is a lot stiffer than on my 35mm Cron. Some might prefer a buttery smooth focus ring though. The new Lux has a nicely engraved DOF (depth of field) scale which may come in handy for zone focusing. The half stop detents for adjusting the f-stops feel like they are oozing quality as well.

The previous version of the Summilux was said to have the tendency to focus shift. The new FLE version seems to have this problem sorted out. At least my copy did not show any shift whatsoever. All in all there is absolutely nothing to complain about when it comes to build quality and ergonomics with this very special lens.

Image Quality

In one word: superb. My Summicron may be a great lens but this 35mm Lux ups the ante. Colors look vibrant, contrast is perfect in my view and the lens is bitingly sharp from edge to edge. You can check for differences in sharpness in comparison with the latest Summicron looking at the images below (click file for large view). You will see the Lux is quite the better (especially when comparing corners) but not overwhelmingly so. I did the comparison using one and the same camera mounted on a tripod changing lenses within minutes (repeating the procedure a couple of times to be sure everything was set identical including the point of focus in the centre of the frame). This naturally does not take into account possible sample variations that might occur when testing several copies of each lens, nor was this done in a sterile laboratory environment.

Leica Summicron-M ASPH @ f/2 (OOC RAW to JPG / no changes to original file)

Leica Summicron-M ASPH @ f/2 (OOC RAW to JPG / no changes to original file)

Leica Summilux-M ASPH FLE @ f/2 (OOC RAW to JPG / no changes to original file)

Leica Summilux-M ASPH FLE @ f/2 (OOC RAW to JPG / no changes to original file)

It would not be fair to do too much of a comparison between a Summicron and a Summilux. They serve different photographic needs and the Lux is almost twice the price. I just wanted to show in real life, there is quite a difference – but the Cron is no deadbeat either.

Back to the Lux: even wide open this lens performs tremendously. I could hardly see any differences going from f1.4 to f2.0 and even above that differences in image quality are only marginal – except for when looking at DOF (depth of field) of course.

And DOF is something I want to discuss a little further. It is a widespread belief, that wide-angle lenses cannot really put anything much out of focus even when used wide open and the results then would look quite mediocre. This may be true to some extent. But with the Leica Summilux-M 35mm f/1.4 ASPH FLE you can get quite nice results. Shot at f/1.4 this lens can show a good smooth and shallow depth of field and give a nice enough bokeh. For portraits or subjects where bokeh is of higher significance, I would still prefer the rendering of the Leica Summilux 50mm f/1.4 ASPH though. Below are some examples shot with the 35 Lux @ f/1.4. Please keep in mind, these are not meant to have any artistic value and are just to show what f/1.4 can be like with this lens in different shooting situations. Images have not been tweaked in post at all (OOC DNG converted to JPG via LR 4.4).



Searching my files I could not find any that showed substantial chromatic aberration (CA). It seems to be no great issue with this lens. Vignetting is the only thing that might make you think twice about using the widest aperture. It can be quite pronounced – at least on the Leica M Typ 240. In some situations it might be wiser to stop down a bit – unless you like to add some darker boundaries to your images (e.g. when shooting portraits).

Other than that this lens is great fun to use under almost any conditions. The lens shows little tendency to flare and after using it with the M Typ 240, I was very impressed with the dynamic range. There are some general sample images below with slight editing applied in LR 4.4 and Silver Efex Pro II (for B&W). Again no artsy aspirations.

Lupico_130518_L1000165-Bearbeitet Lupico_130518_L1000130Lupico_130518_L1000222-Bearbeitet-2

Lupico_130525_L1000318 Lupico_130525_L1000293 Lupico_130525_L1000315


Ouch! That`s the part where anyone in a solid state of mind would have to start flinching. € 4.200 or about $ 5.150 is way more than most people would want to spend for a single lens. Even for a Leica this is big money.

But consider this: if you were to choose this beauty of a lens to make up a single lens kit alongside the Leica M camera of your choice, you might not need any other lens – ever again.

Of course, if you are a 50mm kind of guy you would probably rather have a Leica Summilux-M 50mm f/1.4 ASPH (or maybe even a Noctilux or the new crazy expensive Leica APO-Summicron-M 50 f/2 ASPH) to serve as your standard lens. And many of us frequently like to swap focal lengths anyway.

Is it worth it?

For every photographer who appreciates the field of view 35mm lenses offer – it simply cannot get any better than this for full-frame digital or analog 35mm photography. IMO the Leica Summilux-M 35mm f/1.4 ASPH FLE is worth every cent. But if you can live with a very slight difference in image quality and do not need a faster aperture, the latest 35mm Summicron still is a great choice. This is why I can only give the Lux three stars out of five for price (i.e. value for money). Your mileage may vary on this though.

I currently own the Leica Summicron-M 35mm f/2 ASPH but I would not mind keeping the Leica Summilux-M 35mm f/1.4 ASPH FLE for myself. Pity I have to return it to Leica. At least now I know what I am missing…


Lupico`s Take

Build Quality/Ergonomics ★★★★★
Image Quality ★★★★★
Price ★★★☆☆
Recommendation ★★★★



May 172013

cover_Leica_myself_300This lovely little “picture-book” shows last year`s Leica self-portrait initiative on Flickr was very well received. Any Leica photographer who hoped to have his or her likeness published in a special jubilee book could follow the Leica call via Flickr to “submit self-portraits featuring any model of a Leica Camera in the image“.

With only limited space available in the book, Leica decided to have more than 250 pictures printed that show the “complete variety of self-portraits from the public“ (Alfred Schopf, CEO of Leica Camera AG, in an interview with THE LEICA CAMERA BLOG).

Just today I received my own copy of this book. Before that I was only able to get a quick glimpse at the cover when I last visited Leica in Solms. So I did not know quite what to expect. Some sort of promotional material with some boring stuff from egotistic amateurs proudly presenting their expensive toys, maybe? But when I flicked through the pages I was simply beguiled by the sheer emotional impact of the pictures. Not all necessarily technically perfect samples of digital or analog photography – but uncanny art with lots of expression.

Most of the images have been put on double pages with an accompanying quote or personal statement (in English) from the photographer in question. Some of the spreads are quite funny, others simply fascinating. You can see some of the unconventional work below.


Copyright: ©99pages

Copyright: ©99pages

Copyright: ©99pages

Copyright: ©99pages

Copyright: ©99pages

Copyright: ©99pages

Copyright: ©99pages

Copyright: ©99pages

Copyright: ©99pages

Copyright: ©99pages

Copyright: ©99pages

Copyright: ©99pages


I think €20 for this DESIGNARTBOOK published by the trendy and quite innovative German publishing house 99pages is money well spent. It will most likely put a smile on your face, even if you have never held a Leica camera to your eye before. It might even make you jump to your mirror or try to shoot a punchy portrait yourself. But a little burst of creativity would not hurt, would it?

Available on demand at Leica Stores worldwide. You can also order it at your local book store or straight from the publisher 99pages.


Leica Myself
Verlag 99pages

Edited by Till Schaffarczyk and Rainer Schillings
Softcover (22.5 x 20 cm)
280 pages
270 images
€20 (Germany)
ISBN 978-3-942518-36-9



May 082013

Nikon Coolpix A (photo: Nikon Corp.)

I have been looking for a nice little cam to serve as backup when I am out and about carrying my DSLR equipment or my Leica M gear. I usually do not have much space in my bag, so I am in need of a very compact solution. Of course sometimes I do not want to carry anything big at all (let alone a camera bag) and only wish for a reliable and capable small cam to slip into my back pocket. Well, could this be it, the Nikon Coolpix A?

The specs sound impressive for such a small package:

  • 16.2 MP CMOS sensor (DX-format)
  • 18.5mm (28mm equivalent) f/2.8 retractable lens with manual focus ring
  • 3.0“ (7.5 cm) 921k-dot LCD monitor
  • aluminum alloy body (top surface covered by magnesium alloy)
  • mode dial for manual exposure control (PASM) and U1/U2 personalized settings
  • RAW shooting mode
  • approx. 4 frames per second continuous shooting
  • optional optical viewfinder and wireless mobile adapter
  • 1920 x 1080/30p Full HD video recording
  • current price around € 950 / $ 1.100

The new fixed lens compact camera Nikon Coolpix A shows that Nikon is capable of putting an APS-C size sensor into a very compact camera body. Especially in black it looks quite sleek and straight forward and comes with nearly all the bells and whistles serious shooters demand. Previous Nikon users will feel right at home with the GUI i.e. the menu settings, which look much like the ones on Nikon DSLRs. The mode dial makes selecting your favorite settings easy, even incorporating the special user settings U1/U2, which come in handy when you do not want to fumble with controls all day and just want to reset to your own preferences.

Nikon Coolpix A mode dial (photo: Nikon Corp.)

Nikon Coolpix A screen (photo: Nikon Corp.)

Image quality is also much like what you would achieve with the latest 16 MP Nikon DSLRs. But of course being a compact, it is using a fixed 18,5mm lens (which is the equivalent of 28mm). This focal length is quite demanding and may not be suited for everyone. A 35mm lens would have been more mainstream.

Some of the photo blogging luminaries have begun putting the „A“ through its paces and have written extensive reviews. You can have a look at some of the mostly favorable opinions following my link pick to Ming Thein and Steve Huff.

So, this little Nikon should not be a bad camera at all. In fact it would be quite terrific for my use – if it had an electronic viewfinder (EVF) and interchangeable lenses to go with it. But of course it has not. Instead Nikon is trying to enthuse with a very compact camera featuring a comparably large sized sensor. But it is not the only fish in the pond. The recently announced Ricoh GR will have almost the same features, same size sensor and be priced a little lower (about € 200 / $ 300 less). Of course there are numerous others to consider. If I wanted to spend a lot of money (around €/$ 2.800), I would go for the Sony RX1. It not only has a nice and bright f/2.0 Zeiss 35mm lens but also packs a whopping 24 MP full frame sensor. Then again, this would not be quite as compact anymore.

These cameras all have one thing in common. They are trying to lure customers with compact dimensions, good optics and big sensors, aiming at enthusiasts and pros that do not want to carry heavy equipment all the time. They are all very capable when it comes to image quality but it seems like all camera makers are desperately trying to avoid competing with DSLRs.

All except Fuji. They never looked back when they quit the DSLR business a couple of years ago and they are now putting all their efforts into products that really appeal to customers. Next to the X-Pro 1 and the XE-1 the popular Fuji X100/X100s really nailed it IMHO. While still keeping to compact dimensions, the Fuji features the EVF most of us are desperate for and also offers a superb APS-C size sensor with great color output and low-light performance. They are selling like hot cakes – and rightly so.

The XE-1 is my go-to camera at the moment and I am quite happy using it as a backup to my DSLR or Leica M. But when it comes to choosing a pocketable alternative, I am still undecided. If the Nikon A had that darned EVF instead of a clumsy optional add-on thingy, I would buy one in a heartbeat. But as it goes, I am still on the fence.

Nikon Coolpix A with optical viewfinder (photo: Nikon Corp.)


If Nikon were to introduce such a camera and maybe even throw in some interchangeable lenses, they would probably have to build another factory to meet demand.

So, what is Nikon waiting for? Are they only testing the water with the new Nikon Coolpix A? Will there be a „serious“ compact ILC (Interchangeable Lens Camera) soon?

We shall see … 🙂

Apr 302013

The plastic screen of the old M9 was quite prone to scratches, so it was wise to cover it with an additional screen cover. Lucky owners of the new M can now put all their trust in the special tough Corning®Gorilla®Glass that comes with the camera (which in most cases will probably suffice to save it from damage) or may choose to show their screen that extra bit of care by applying additional covers.

ACMAXX for Leica M

ACMAXX for Leica M


Let us take a look at the choices usually available:

Protective Foils

Widely available are special foils with silicone adhesive layers that can easily be applied but usually do not last very long and have to be replaced frequently. A single foil can cost up to €/$ 10. This seems steep considering the material is dead cheap in production.

Glass Screen Protectors

Alternatively you can stick on additional protectors made of tempered glass. Good ones (e.g. by GGS or Giotto) can cost way up to €/$ 20 a piece. They provide great protection against scratching and usually do not significantly reduce the screen clarity. Higher end protectors claim more than 98% of light transmittance using various different layers of coating. Alas, in very rare cases they can break if they are thumped hard enough and this could result in damages to the LCD screen that was to be protected in the first place.

Nevertheless these glass covers are very popular. I would have bought one myself but I simply have not been able to find one for the new M yet. The screen sizes just do not match even if they have the stated 3 inches. This is because the new Leica M screen shows a little more glass on the right side of the screen than is actually used for the color display. Manufacturers do seem to take a while in accommodating to these new camera models with varying screen sizes.

Plastic Screen Protectors

Stick-on screen protectors made of poly-carbonate offer a third option. They can offer good screen protection with the added benefit of not breaking easily and can quickly be removed if necessary. They are more resistant to glare than glass but naturally not as tough when it comes to scratching. But isn`t it better to have scratches on the protective cover than the camera screen itself?

ACMAXX mounted on the M  - round corners

ACMAXX mounted on the M – only low reflection


I did a quick test of the only cover I could dig up that fits the new M / Typ 240. It is called the ACMAXX LCD ARMOR. You can find out more about the material used and the places to buy via this link (but watch out, the cover for the new M is not yet listed on the site). I bought mine for about € 22 including shipping via eBay and it was sent to Germany within a couple of days straight from California.

The ACMAXX LCD ARMOR offers good protection, showing good colors with quite enough contrast and the low-reflection coating seems to work just fine, also offering UV protection. In comparison to my glass screens used on other makes it does have a tendency to attract a little more dust to the surface but this can easily be blown off or wiped away.

Applied to the new M - rounded corners

For the new M – with rounded corners


Considering the foils and even most glass covers are quite thin, the ACMAXX LCD ARMOR is of much thicker material (0.8mm). The corners of the cover are rounded whereas the corners of the new Leica M screen are not. Thus the fit is good but not 100% perfect. Most people will probably never notice this. IMO this screen protector is the best you can get for the new Leica M today – unless you prefer foils or want to wait until glass protectors for the new M become available.

Lupico`s Take
Quality       ★★★★
Usability       ★★★☆☆
Price       ★★★☆☆
Recommendation       ★★★☆☆


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