Monthly Archives: January 2012

Snow (Cinematic).

Our hero in the opening scene of a story that will never be told.

(please click on the image to view)

↑Leica M9 and Leica 35mm Summilux FLE @ f/1.4.

Practical Photography – Teaching.

I added a Practical Photography – Teaching page to the website to highlight the two hour teaching sessions I offer for novice photographers (Note: Fees have also slightly increased by $25).

If you’re interested, please have a look here.

Thanks,

—Peter.

Q&A: What are apertures and f-numbers? [for novices]

[Note: This post is intended for novice, and not experienced, photographers.]

____________________________________

In photography, the aperture is the adjustable opening of a lens that determines the amount of light entering through it and onto a camera’s sensor, be it digital or film.  If the aperture is large, a large amount of light will pass through the lens and enter the camera; if the aperture is small, a small amount of light will enter the camera.

Simple, right?  But, it gets a little confusing…

The problem with using the entrance aperture size to communicate a lens’ light transmitting ability is the physical reality that a longer lens will require a larger aperture to achieve the same level of light transmission as a shorter lens.  In other words, if “x” is the amount of light we wish to reach a camera’s sensor, a 75mm lens will require a bigger “hole” (aperture) at the entrance than a 50mm lens to achieve “x”.

To avoid confusion, and to standardize notation across all lens types, f-numbers — instead of actual aperture sizes — are used to communicate the light-transmitting ability of all lenses.   An f-number (also known as an f-stop, or focal ratio) is defined as the focal length of a lens divided by the aperture diameter.

You’ll usually see f-numbers labelled on lenses as a sequence of fractions:

f/1, f/1.4, f/2, f/2.8, f/4, f/5.6, f/8, f/11, f/16, f/22, etc.

The important thing to remember is that because the f-number is a fraction, the smaller the denominator, the greater the light transmission.

(please click on the image to view LARGER)

Thus, when considering light transmission, f/1 > f/1.4 > f/2 > f/2.8 > f/4, etc.

In fact, for every step to the left in the sequence above, twice as much light is being transmitted as the preceding step.  Thus, f/1 allows for twice as much light to hit the sensor as f/1.4, and f/1.4 allows for twice as much light as f/2, etc.

Incidentally, lenses that are able to achieve maximum f-numbers of f/1, f/1.4, or f/2 (or even f/2.8) are often loosely referred to as “fast” lenses because they allow photographers, for a given amount of light, to shoot at faster shutter speeds than so-called “slower” lenses (exactly twice as fast for each step up in the f-number ladder).

It follows from the above, then, that large aperture/f-number lenses are useful in low-light situations:

↑Leica M9 and Konica Hexanon 60mm @ f/1.2.

The other main use for large aperture/f-number lenses is to achieve subject isolation.*

Thus a lens of a given focal length set to f/1.4 (for example) will create a greater background blur than when set to f/4.:

↑Leica M9 and Leica 75mm Summilux @ f/1.4

_

↑Leica M9 and Leica 75mm Summilux @ f/4.

_

I hope you found this useful,

—Peter.

______________________________________________

*The other way to achieve subject isolation is to shoot with a longer focal length.

Raymond – A portrait.

Raymond kindly obliged with a spontaneous street portrait.

(please click on the image to view)

↑Leica M9 and Leica 75mm Summarit @ f/2.5

The piano tuner, Part 2 of 3.

Classic.

(please click on the image to view)

↑Leica M9 and Leica 75mm Summilux @ f/1.4.

The piano tuner, Part 1 of 3.

Concentration of purpose.

(please click on the image to view)

↑Leica M9 and Leica 75mm Summilux @ f/1.4.

The Leica 75mm Summarit f/2.5 (short review).

[Disclaimer:  Similar to my Konica Hexanon 60mm f/1.2, and Voigtländer Nokton 40mm f/1.4 & 35mm f/1.2 write-ups, this is a only user report and is not intended to be a complete lens review.]



____________________________

Introduction.

The Leica 75mm Summarit f/2.5 is an optically excellent lens.

THE END.

:)

That’s really the bottom line, and if that’s all you wanted to know, you can stop reading here.

However, for those of you interested in learning more…

The 75mm Summarit was introduced by Leica in 2007, and — like the rest of the Leica Summarit “budget” line of lenses — was greeted by many Leicaphiles with a great deal of skepticism.  Some viewed it as a somewhat mechanically inferior fashioning from Solms, while others questioned whether its optical performance was commensurate with the highly revered Leica brand.

Were the criticisms fair?  Was it, in fact, a “dumbed-down” Leica lens?

Well… yes and no… or, maybe.

The answer, like most things in photography, is dependent upon whom you ask, and what their particular needs and wants are.

____________________________

Pride and prejudice.

I have this penchant for writing about underdog lenses, like the 75mm Summarit.

It seems strange to label any Leica lens an “underdog”, but as I wrote in my Voigtländer Nokton 40mm f/1.4 report, there’s a bit of “snobbery” at play when it comes to M mount optics.  Most Leica lens connoisseurs (Note: not necessarily Leica shooters) want nothing less than a Leica lens – of any focal length – that is a Summilux f/1.4 (or faster) with the latest optics.  For those individuals, any lens that is less than this sort of a fast, state-of-the-art lens, is an optic that has been built around a price point and not perfection.

On some level this is, of course, true.  On the other hand, my 75mm Summarit is small, weights 345 grams, balances nicely on my M9, and uses 46mm filters, while my 75mm Summilux is large, weighs 625 grams, tips my M9 forward, and uses 60mm filters.  You see, there’s always a price – beyond the monetary kind – to be paid when choosing a lens… there are multiple trade-offs for every choice made.

As a shooter, I know I prefer the portability and handling of my 75mm Summarit, while of course acknowledging my 75mm Summilux is the better choice for dark environments or for achieving maximum subject isolation.  The “perfect” lens, therefore, is a relative concept, depending on the task at hand.

____________________________

Before continuing…

As I wrote in my Hexanon 60/1.2 review, I’m always careful to represent my lens write-ups as brief user impressions (as opposed to comprehensive reviews) because I want to limit the discussion to issues with which I’ve had direct experience, or which interest me.  To do a proper review would require engaging in all sorts of tedious tests in which I have no interest.

In light of the above, you should be aware that I almost always shoot lenses at their widest aperture and normally photograph people, so bokeh, performance at close-to-mid distances, and central sharpness are important considerations.  On the other hand, I’m rarely concerned with lens performance at infinity or in the corners because I don’t often shoot landscapes.

The rest of this write-up, then, will concentrate on how the 75mm Summarit behaves within these very strict parameters.  In this way, I hope to reliably convey why I appreciate this lens.

____________________________

75mm frame lines, and Leica.

This is a bit of a diversion, but it’s an important one.

The 75mm focal length is an odd one for M rangefinders, because proper viewfinder frame lines for it don’t exist.  In fact, when you connect a 75mm lens to the camera, you get a partial connect-the-lines outline of a small box that sits inside the larger and much more visible 50mm frame line box.  In the image below, I’ve schematically overlaid the 50mm and 75mm “boxes” onto a sample image, to illustrate the point:

(please click on the image to view)

↑Schematic of viewfinder: 75mm (red) + 50mm (black) frame lines.

In this image, the lines which I’ve arbitrarily coloured red represent the 75mm “box” and the black lines correspond to the 50mm “box”.  Both of these “boxes” are seen in the viewfinder when you connect either a 50mm or 75mm lens to a Leica rangefinder.  The idea is to compose your photo with the correct frame lines and then press the shutter.

You can therefore see how easily it would be to unintentionally crop while photographing with a 75mm lens because your eye is more readily drawn to the outer, more solid 50mm box, and not the inner, more fragmented 75mm box.  For example, if I mounted a 75mm lens onto my M9 and took the shot above, as framed, I would end up cutting off the heads and feet of several people in the scene.

For many Leica rangefinder photographers then, the 75mm focal length is entirely avoided, in favour of either 50mm or 90mm (which brings up its own set of frame lines).

Why, then, am I interested in shooting with a 75mm lens?

I like to shoot portraits.  I sometimes find the 50mm focal length to be too short for individual head-and-shoulder shots, and the 90mm focal length to be a little long – even though longer lenses tend to flatter faces.  When shooting at 90mm, I need to be relatively far from my subjects to get the composition I desire, and this inhibits me from closely interacting with them (close interaction, I believe, is vital for coaxing a person’s personality into an image).  The 75mm focal length, then, serves as my “just right” perspective for shooting intimate portraits.

Also, a pairing of the 35/75mm focal lengths makes for a diminutive and very versatile lens travel kit, so a light-weight 75mm lens like the Summarit is a welcomed member of any travel lens arsenal.

____________________________

Central sharpness and bokeh.

I find 100% crop image comparisons to have little relevance to good photography.  Ultimately, I know that inspired shooting has less to do with lens sharpness, bokeh, or any of the other lens characteristics people obsess over (and yes, I’ve been guilty of obsessing over these too), and more to do with harnessing good light, capturing a special event, or evoking an emotional response.

However, I realize that lens comparisons are necessary when entering into an earnest discussion about, well… lenses.   To that end, I’ve included a small sample of 100% crops in this write-up.

Seeing as a 75mm lens should ideally be measured up against another 75mm lens, I have chosen to compare my 75mm Summarit (f/2.5) with my 75mm Summilux (f/1.4).  I don’t own, or have ever used, or have access to, the 75mm Summicron (f/2), so I haven’t included it here.

Since this is a big-budget website, I’ve spared no expense in setting up this demonstration.  I’ve hired a professional model, Rapunzel, and draped her over an exotic Subaru. ;)

Not very politically correct, I’m afraid.  All joking aside, here are the images…

_

DISCLAIMERThis is not intended to be an exhaustive analysis of these two lenses. Not even close!  I shot this small comparison for my own purposes and I’m simply posting the results for your viewing pleasure and/or interest.  You may choose to draw you own conclusions, but please don’t write to me that “this is not a valid comparison, because…“.  

I know it’s not a valid comparison.

_

In the images below, the 75mm Summarit and 75mm Summilux were shot on an M9 @ f/2.5 and f/2.4, respectively.  I also shot the 75mm Summilux wide open @ f/1.4.  No sharpening or post-processing was performed, other than converting the original file from DNG to JPG .  The M9 was shot fully in manual mode.  The focus was on my “model”, Rapunzel, and focus bracketing was employed to ensure that the sharpest image from each lens was used for the comparison.

So here is the overall scene:

(please click on the image to view)

↑Leica M9 and Leica 75mm Summarit @ f/2.5.

_

Now, here are are the 100% centre crops:

(please click on the image to view LARGE)

↑75mm Summarit @ f/2.5 + Summilux @ f/2.4 and f/1.4 (centre 100% crop, no sharpening)

When you click on the panel above, the one thing that strikes you immediately is that both lenses are extremely sharp (remember, these are unsharpened 100% crops — astounding, when you think about it).  And even @ f/1.4, the 75mm Summilux is almost maximally sharp, which is incredible, when you consider the advanced age of this optic.

The second thing to notice, which is more difficult to see and perhaps not visible at all unless you’re viewing these on a large screen, is that the 75mm Summarit @ f/2.5 is a tiny bit sharper than the 75mm Summilux @ f/2.4 (and @ f/1.4).  It’s a subtle but real finding.

The third, and perhaps most subtle finding, is that the background immediately behind the model’s head  — which in actuality represents the beginning of the bokeh — appears sharper (or some would say harsher) in the 75mm Summarit @ f/2.5 vs. the 75mm Summilux @ f/2.4.  Of course, the smoothest background is seen with the 75mm Summilux @ f/1.4.

Does this observation about bokeh hold up, the further back we go? 

Let’s look at a crop from the candle holder, on the right side of the frame.

Here are the right 100% crops:

(please click on the image to view LARGE)

↑75mm Summarit @ f/2.5 + Summilux @ f/2.4 and f/1.4 (right 100% crop, no sharpening)

Once more, the bokeh of the Summarit @ f/2.5 appears slightly sharper (harsher) than the Summilux @ f/2.4.  I’m splitting hairs here, but that’s what one does when viewing 100% crops.

Finally, let’s go back further and look at the bokeh where the spot of light is, near the top of the frame.

Here are the top 100% crops:

(please click on the image to view LARGE)

↑75mm Summarit @ f/2.5 + Summilux @ f/2.4 and f/1.4 (top 100% crop, no sharpening)

Yet again, the 75mm Summarit @ f/2.5 renders its bokeh in a slightly sharper/harsher fashion, as compared to the 75mm Summilux @ f/2.4. 

What’s  interesting in this shot, however, is that the shape of the out-of-focus light source is more pleasingly round in the 75mm Summarit @ f/2.5 as compared to the 10-sided  shape (decagon) we get with the 75mm Summilux @ f/2.4.  In contrast, the 75mm Summilux @ f/1.4 has a pleasing oval shape (and you will also note that the frame is a little darker because this lens vignettes @ f/1.4).

____________________________

Portraits.

So, there you have it.

Does the above matter for actual photography?  No, not at all.

For example, I’ve found the 75mm Summarit to be an excellent portrait lens:

(please click on the images to view)

Mike, the worker (75mm Summarit @ f2/.5).

↑Leica M9 and Leica 75mm Summarit @ f/2.5.

Autumn Chestnut

↑Leica M9 and Leica 75mm Summarit @ f/2.5.

↑Leica M9 and Leica 75mm Summarit @ f/2.5.

↑Leica M9 and Leica 75mm Summarit @ f/2.5.

Sisters

↑Leica M9 and Leica 75mm Summarit @ f/2.5.

2 Souls

↑Leica M9 and Leica 75mm Summarit @ f/2.5.

Occasionally, when the background is distracting, the bokeh can seem less than perfect (see the fence below), but this would be true of any lens at f/2.5 (meaning, you’d have to use an f/1.4 or wider aperture lens to overcome this sort of a background — and even then it would be a challenge):

(please click on the image to view)

↑Leica M9 and Leica 75mm Summarit @ f/2.5.

If there’s any criticism I have for the 75mm Summarit is that it is perhaps too sharp for certain kinds of portraits, where you don’t necessarily wish to see every wrinkle or skin blemish!

____________________________

Ergonomics and handling.

One of the most useful things about this lens is its short focus throw.  What this means, in practical terms, is that I can focus between the extremes of near and far with a short turn of the focus ring.  The “price” you pay for this is a loss of focus precision, but this is less of a problem when focusing a 75mm lens @ f/2.5  (the maximum aperture of the 75mm Summarit) vs. focusing @ f/1.4 (the maximum aperture of the 75mm Summilux — which, quite appropriately, has a long focus throw).

The 75mm Summarit’s short focus throw allowed me to easily photograph my kids’ soccer games last year, because I could manually focus near and far quickly, as the action developed both on and off the field:

(please click on the images to view)

↑Leica M9 and Leica 75mm Summarit @ f/2.5.

↑Leica M9 and Leica 75mm Summarit @ f/2.5.

The beautiful game - the Ecstasy

↑Leica M9 and Leica 75mm Summarit @ f/2.5.

Leader of the Pack

↑Leica M9 and Leica 75mm Summarit @ f/2.5.

↑Leica M9 and Leica 75mm Summarit @ f/2.5.

↑Leica M9 and Leica 75mm Summarit @ f/2.5.

↑Leica M9 and Leica 75mm Summarit @ f/2.5.

↑Leica M9 and Leica 75mm Summarit @ f/2.5.

↑Leica M9 and Leica 75mm Summarit @ f/2.5.

As for weight and size, I’ve already mentioned that this lens is very portable.  It doesn’t come with a built-in hood, however, which is a shame.

Another strike against the 75 Summarit is its minimum focus limit of 0.9 m, which is short of the 0.75 m limit of the 75mm Summilux (or the 0.7 m limit of the 75mm Summicron).  A difference of 15 or 20 cm may not seem like much, but it feels substantial when trying to get close to your subject.   As I mentioned earlier, the ability to get close when shooting portraits is of vital importance to me, so this is probably the biggest issue I have against the 75mm Summarit.  However, I also realize that the relatively long minimum focus limit was likely one of the compromises Leica made when designing this lens…so, once again, every decision represents a trade-off.

And what about build quality?

The two Summarit lenses I own (the 75mm and the 35mm) do not feel quite as substantial in the hand as their Summicron or Summilux brethren.  Now, I don’t know how much of that is secondary to the relative paucity of glass required for an f/2.5 optic vs. an f/2 or f/1.4, and how much of that is secondary to a difference in build quality, but that’s the impression.  That’s not to say that the Summarits feel cheap – far from it, they are of excellent build quality with precise aperture clicks and very smooth focusing rings.  And remember, having a lighter lens that is capable of top-notch optical performance is not such a bad thing.  In fact, one could say that it is very much in line with the original Leica philosophy :) .

____________________________

Conclusion.

The Leica 75mm Summarit (f/2.5) is capable of rendering with impressive sharpness and very pleasing bokeh.  It’s perhaps too sharp for some types of portraiture and its bokeh may be marginally less smooth as compared to some of Leica’s finest   A major shortcoming is its minimum focus limit of 0.9 m.  The only other limitation is its maximum f/2.5 aperture, which is only a problem if you require wider apertures — in which case, you shouldn’t be looking at an f/2.5 lens.  In the final analysis, however, the 75mm Summarit is an excellent optic in a small package that, in most applications, simply excels.

—Peter | Prosophos.

____________________________

-

If you would like to see more of my images with the Leica 75mm Summarit f/2.5, please click here.

-

_____________________________

Please show your appreciation for this site!

Please show your appreciation for this article!

If you’ve been helped by this article, or any of my other articles, please consider making a contribution to help me run this site.  Whether it’s $5, $10, or $15… it all helps.

Donate to this site (button)

This site is a labour of love, but any help I receive will help me devote more time to running it.

Thanks,

—Peter.

Tomorrow: The Leica 75mm Summarit (f/2.5) Write-Up!

I’ve been on a writing blitz the last 48 hrs, working non-stop on my Leica 75mm Summarit report.  I’ll be dedicating the rest of today to it too, so it should be ready for posting by tomorrow.

If you’re interested in reading it, please stay tuned.

—Peter.

(please click on the image to view)

↑Leica M9 and Leica 75mm Summarit @ f/2.5.


It’s her birthday.

I’m always amazed at the expressions on children’s faces when a cake enters the room.

You can’t fake it, it’s pure joy.

(please click on the image to view)

↑Leica M9 and Leica 35mm Summilux FLE @ f/1.4.

Q: Leica 75mm Summarit f/2.5 write-up?

I’ve been entertaining posting a brief write-up of this little lens, but thought I’d first ask whether there’s any interest out there.

If you think this is something you would want to see, please either comment directly on this post, or email me privately.

Thanks!

—Peter.

Looking up, poolside (Part II).

An infinitesimally small moment.

Part I can be found here.

(please click on the image to view)

↑Leica M9 and Leica 75mm Summilux @ f/1.4.

Blue eyes.

A liquid trembling blue, rimmed red with fatigue.

My previous Blue posts, can be found here, here and here.

(please click on the image to view)

↑Leica M9 and Leica 75mm Summilux @ f/1.4.

Winter wonderland, revisited.

Canadian winter footwear (and friendliness), in style.

(please click on both images to view)

↑Leica M9 and Leica 35mm Summilux FLE @ f/1.4

Snow.

Catching the streetcar, in a winter wonderland.

Normally, when I miss focus, I discard the shot.  But, I decided to keep this one.

(please click on the image to view)

↑Leica M9 and Leica 35mm Summilux FLE @ f/1.4.

Out of the fog.

And into the light.

(please click on the image to view)

↑Leica M9 and Leica 75mm Summilux @ f/1.4.

Looking up, poolside (Part I).

This is one of those moments that works.  The moment before and the moment after just didn’t measure up, despite having identical lighting, composition, and subject matter.

So, what’s the difference?  It’s her.  It’s her head tilt and accompanying expression… the spark that illuminated her face the moment the camera shutter was released.

It’s an example of what I’ve previously referred to as one of Life’s Little Moments.

(please click on the image to view)

↑Leica M9 and Leica 75mm Summilux @ f/1.4.

City Stars.

Taken under the Freedom Arches of Nathan Phillip’s Square, Toronto, on a cold January night.

(please click on the image to view)

↑Leica M9 and Leica 35mm Summilux FLE @ f/1.4.

Crashed.

You’re a precious stone
You’re out on your own
You know everyone in the world
But you feel alone

—U2, Daddy’s Gonna Pay For Your Crashed Car.

(please click on the image to view)

↑Leica M9 and Leica 35mm Summilux FLE @ f/1.4.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 659 other followers