Reviews

As part of the revision of the site in early-to-mid 2008, reviews (formerly paid, now free) and 'first looks' (free) were amalgamated, along with 'microtests'(very short reviews of products we use and like). Major tests are listed below pretty much in reverse date order: for a full alphabetical list including microtests , click here. Or go back to the home page.

Leica M8.2

Since its introduction in 1924, the Leica has undergone countless minor revisions, and at most half a dozen major ones. The changes from M8 to M8.2 are bigger than (for example) the difference between a Leica III and IIIa -- a IIIa is a III with a 1/1000 second top speed instead of 1/500 -- but still a lot smaller than the jump from the IIIf (screw-mount) to M3 (bayonet-mount), or of course from M7 (film) to M8 (digital). As ever, though, the changes have resulted in an even more desirable camera.

 

spectator

April 2009

The M8.2 is ideal for low-light (just like every other Leica) but the 'discreet' shutter makes it even better for plays and concerts.

Action Level

It's a short review, this one, but a bit more than a microtest. The Action Level is the cleverest levelling device we've ever seen, and the nigh-miraculous bit is that it actually works.

 

ac-01 leveling device

December 2008

The Action Level on a Leica M8. Top to bottom: level, slightly off level, well off level.

Leica Tri-Elmar 4/16-18-21

Generally known as the Wide-Angle Tri-Elmar or WATE, this is a truly astonishing lens, especially for those who use both digital (M8) and film, because at 16mm on the M8 it gives the same coverage as at 21 on a film camera.

Not so long ago, any 16mm lens was very unusual: the 15/16mm Zeiss Hologon was a fixed aperture f/8 lens that was inferior in performance to today's 15/4.5 Voigtländers at a fraction of the price. Today, we have not only the Voigtländers (15/4.5 and 12/5.6) and the Zeiss 15/2.8 and 18/4 but this remarkable, if costly, offering from Leica.

prehistoric music 2

Guy Thevenon, master of prehistoric music, photographed with the M8 by Roger at the Moncontour Green Music Festival in 2007.

Zeiss 4/18 Distagon 

We flatly disagree about this lens. Frances finds it the most useful general-application superwide she has ever used, the perfect focal length. Roger likes it very well, but does not see that its advantages over the 15mm and 21mm lenses that we already own are sufficient to justify buying it. Of course, if we did not already have 15mm and 21mm lensers, it might be a different story...

Its direct competitor, in our view, is the wide-angle Tri-Elmar (above) at something like three times the price, so we recommend that you read the two reviews one after the other.

buggy

Buggy, troglodyte village, Rochemenier. Frances used the Distagon on her Zeiss Ikon SW, shooting on Ilford HP5 Plus and printing on Ilford Multigrade Warmtone.

Leica 50mm f/1 Noctilux

This remarkable lens was discontinued in April 2008, after 41 years in production; it was introduced in 1967, at the same time as the M4.

Since then, it has attracted a great deal of publicity, both good and bad. Those who love it are wont to point to its speed, contrast and image quality, bur sometimes over-praise it. Often, it seems, they are trying to justify its purchase to themselves. Those who hate it complain that the price is too high, and that it is overrated. Often, it seems, the basic problem these people have is sour grapes. As ours was loaned by a kind friend, we hope we have avoided both extremes.

waiting to go on

April 2008

Spectacle de Danse, Moncontour Jazz Dance Association, 2007. We would be tempted to buy a Noctilux just for the pictures it gave Roger on that night, shooting with an M8.

Leica f/2.5 Summarits

The introduction of four new lenses in late 2007 was something as a landmark for Leica, as they seemed to move away from making only the best and highest-specified lenses possible, regardless of price, to making a 'second line' of lenses that still retained what others would regard as superlative quality, with modest speeds and more regard for cost. We received one of the first sets of these lenses, and were very impressed indeed. Somewhat to out own surprise there are well over 30 pictures in this module, all (except the picture of the lenses themselves) shot with the Leica M8.

signs & posts

December 2007

Signs and posts, taken by Roger on the M8 with the 50mm Summarit-M on the Sentier des Lavoirs in Moncontour.

 

 

Zeiss 50/1.5 Sonnar

Although we received this well before the Summarits, we had not thought of the 'First Look' feature at the time, so we had considerably more images to play with when the time came to write the piece. It went up simultaneously with the Summarit 'First Look' because we would hate Zeiss to think that we hold their lenses in low esteem. In fact, although Roger was never a fan of Sonnars before, the 50/1.5 has become his standard 50mm lens. There are almost two dozen shots, four shot on real film and the rest with the Leica M8.

sonnar sewing circle

December 2007

Frances belongs to a sewing circle and Roger took pictures of the group to accompany an exhibition of their work. Ilford HP5+ on Ilford Multigrade Warmtone

 

Leica M8

We'll be honest, Neither of us could get at all enthusiastic about digital cameras until we got the M8, which Roger loves. The Nikon D70 is incredibly useful, and we'd hate to be without it, but for sheer pleasure of use, the M8 is very nearly a 'real' Leica, and Roger uses it all the time. Even so, Frances still prefers film cameras -- and for black and white, so does Roger.

 

leica m8

 

Zeiss Ikon

Few new systems were as eagerly anticipated as the Zeiss Ikon, announced atphotokina 2004 and introduced piecemeal over the next 18 months or so. The long-base rangefinder, the elegant and extremely original design, and the new Zeiss lenses, two (the 15/2.8 and 85/2) made in Oberkochen and the rest (21/2.8, 25/2.8, 28/2.8, 35/2, 50/2) made in Japan under Zeiss quality control: it was a heady mixture.

 

 

zeiss ikon outfit

SEI Photometer

The S.E.I. (Salford Electrical Instruments) Photometer was the first commercially successful spot meter, and retains a cult following today for its extreme accuracy: the measuring spot is just half a degree.

The meter under test was bought as a conventional SEI and then converted by Huw Finney () to use a white light-emitting diode (LED) instead of the conventional bulb, which is no longer available and also suffers from the fact that the calibrating photoelectric meter may no longer be reliable.

 

sei-led

Exakta Varex VX IIa

This review sort of growed. It started out as 'let's have fun with an old [late 1950s] Exakta': four or five pictures of the camera and a few shots taken with it. It ended up with 26 pictures of the camera, detailing such things as the disengageable rewind dog, setting shutter speeds on both dials, and more. There are also six black and white pictures taken with the camera, though one is merely a detail from one of the other five.

 

exakta varex

Go to the unillustrated list of modules (in either alphabetical or date order)

or go to the illustrated list of modules

or go to the home page

 

© 2008 Roger W. Hicks