Hasselblad vs Mamiya 6

Hasselblad 501C vs Mamiya 6

Matthew Osborne Photography / @MrLeicaCom

May 2016

 

Hasselblad 501C vs Mamiya 6

(Hasselblad 501C + 50mm, 60mm, 80mm, 120mm, 150mm lenses)
(Mamiya 6 + 75mm lens)

Intro

Firstly, sorry for the delay on this!  I know a few of you asked me about it weeks ago and I said then I’d share my thoughts soon.  At least waiting til after two trips overseas using the Mamiya 6 I can now give a fair writeup  versus my Hasselblad 501C.  As a quick recap I recently bought the Mamiya 6 to provide a smaller alternative to my 500 series Hasselblad for trips abroad (especially).  Both cameras are 6×6 medium format film cameras taking 120 film.  Both camera are roughly the same price with the Mamiya 6 probably costing slightly more here in the UK due to there being not many Mamiya 6 cameras on the market.  My Hasselblad 501C was my favourite camera before buying the Mamiya 6 so expectation was very high.  Both cameras seem to receive positive reviews from reading prior to my purchase so without further ado lets crack on.

Size Comparison – Hasselblad 501C vs Mamiya 6

I love the modular 500 series Hasselblad cameras but I only use mine with a prism viewfinder which unfortunately adds both size and weight.  I wish I could focus accurately without the prism finder but I really cannot see properly with Acute Matte non-spot screen glass.  It is perhaps my biggest disappointment with the Hasselblad as I love the waist level viewfinder view / experience on my Mamiya RZ67 Pro II camera.  The Hasselblad 80mm kit lens is the most compact followed by the 100mm from those I have owned.  My go to lenses are the 60mm Distagon (second shortest of my Zeiss lenses and gives a very usable field of view) and 120mm Makro-Planar for close up portraits and ultimate image quality (more on that to follow below).  The Hasselblad has the advantage of a removable film back so I can use two film backs and have colour film and black and white film running side by side without having to finish a roll.  My Mamiya 6 has the 75mm lens which is the smallest of the 50mm, 75mm and 150mm lens line up.  The Mamiya 6 design allows the lens to partially retract when not in use making the camera small enough to fit in my Leica M camera bag. The bag I use is a Billingham Hadley Digital and the Mamiya 6 will just fit with lens down into the bag.  The size benefit of the Mamiya 6 is not to be under estimated.

Ease of Use – Hasselblad 501C vs Mamiya 6

Being ‘Mr Leica’ is it perhaps no surprise that I love rangefinder style cameras.  The Mamiya 6 like the Leica M cameras is a rangefinder focus design and I love the fact that I have a definitive focus confirmation regardless of the F stop.  I am a little short sighted and wear prescription glasses for driving but not when using cameras.  As such I enjoy knowing that a subject is in focus with a rangefinder when the subject is further away.  That said my biggest complaint of rangefinder cameras is I cannot focus as close as I would like.  Leica M cameras are my bread and butter so it is just normal for me to not be able to focus at a distance closer than 0.7m.  If I then add a Hasselblad 501C to the mix you can imagine my joy when I can focus in really close, especially with the Zeiss 120mm Makro-Planar lens.  I love nothing more than viewing subject through the big bright Hasselblad viewfinder.  If I could see every day life with the same view the Hasselblad gives I think the world would be a more beautiful place!

The Mamiya 6 rangefinder design lets me work at slower shutter speeds / lower light levels at the same aperture as it has no mirror to flap inside causing vibration.  I have shot the Mamiya 6 at a shutter speed of 1/8-1/15 and got a decent photo handheld.  I tend to use the Hasselblad handheld too for ease and shoot normally at a shutter speed of 1/60-1/125 with the light levels I am in.  That said, if I am honest to myself I think I can get more and sharper photos if go back to using a monopod.  I plan to try using a monopod again to compare results. Sometimes I am not sure if I moved or the model moved when using a very shallow depth of field and the eyes are not as sharp as I want.  I find the Hasselblad tends to pull me in perhaps too close at times resulting in many close up portraits.  The Mamiya 6 on the other hand let me work easily at a distance giving images with a different style and lets me make better use of the location.

Image Sharpness – Hasselblad 501C vs Mamiya 6

The main section of this post and to me what it all boils down to is image quality and more specifically for me image sharpness.  The Hasselblad had set the bench mark very high so the Mamiya 6 had a lot to live up to.  When I read ‘film vs digital’ reviews online the film camera used is often a Mamiya 7 as perhaps the best example camera film can offer in terms of sharpness, say (excluding large format).  To my knowledge the image quality of Mamiya 6 and Mamiya 7 lenses is not noticeably different.  As such I expected very good results from the Mamiya 6.  To explain further and to cover myself, the Mamiya 6 photos / experience / review is based on the 75mm lenses I own.  The Hasselblad has an advantage as I have the Zeiss 50mm Distagon CF, 60mm Distagon CF, 80mm Planar CF, 120mm Makro-Planar CF and 150mm Sonnar CF lenses.  I have also owned the Zeiss 100mm Planar CF lens.  If I have to place these lenses in order of sharpness I would say 120mm first, 50mm/60mm/100mm about equal (without thorough testing), 150mm and lastly  the 80mm.  I am rarely happy with the results from my 80mm lenses.  The 150mm Sonnar gives a completely different look to the other lenses, a less fine more buttery smooth image.  My conclusions of the Hasselblad 501C performance is based on the 60mm/120mm lenses that I use most often.

So how does the  image sharpness compare between the Hasselblad and Mamiya 6.  The Mamiya 6 does produce fine grained (if I can describe it like that, regardless of film stock) sharp images with lots of detail captured, with the lens shot wide open or stopped down.  It is perhaps comparable to a sharp digital image in that the image is flat but sharp.  I find it good for further away subjects especially like full body shots.  The Hasselblad 501C and it’s Zeiss lenses produces a different sharpness.  The next few sentences may make some readers cringe as they have read it a 100 times but I cannot describe it any more accurately.  The Zeiss optics on the Hasselblad camera make an image ‘pop’.  There is a lot written online about the mystically Zeiss 3D pop look but it is just fact in this instance.  The Mamiya 6 photos are very flat and to me lack the wow factor.  They are documentary style photos accurately capturing the detail in the scene but they lack the zing.  I don’t take photos to capture ordinary.  I try to create the extra-ordinary as cheesy as that sounds!

Fluff aside, how do the Hasselblad photos differ and perhaps why?  It seems the Zeiss optics have greater micro-contrast which helps give the apparent additional sharpness.  The Zeiss optics focus closer which gives a shallower depth of field at the same given aperture helping to give the 3D look.  Focusing closer can increase image distortion with wider lenses which can also give a kind of 3D look to an image.  Focusing closer to a face naturally lets me see every eye lash and skin pore using the Hasselblad that I can’t see as closely with the Mamiya 6 as I am too far away.  As such the Hasselblad photos look sharper to my eyes.

With all the excuses aside, I am 99.99% sure that my Hasselblad photos are a bit or a lot sharper than the Mamiya 6 photos.  Some Hasselblad negatives need no additional sharpening after scanning whereas I think I always boost sharpness with the Mamiya 6 film scans.  I tend to process all my film scans to bring out the sharpness in a image regardless of the camera I use.  All the example photos below have been processed but it is worth noting that each photos is probably as sharp as I can get it without introducing additional grain / over doing it (too much)(to my eyes / taste).

Conclusion – Hasselblad 501C vs Mamiya 6

Based on the cameras and lenses I use and the resulting photos I would say the Hasselblad 501C camera images appear sharper that the Mamiya 6. I will also say the Hasselblad Zeiss optics render images in a much more pleasing way, to my eyes and taste.  I prefer the Hasselblad camera for close up portraits and when working within up to say 1.5m distance.  The Mamiya 6 for me is still a keeper due to it’s compact size, rangefinder focus system and being sharp enough for me to use happily.  It is not always possible to carry the Hasselblad with me when working with models overseas so the Mamiya 6 is my next best option.  If carrying gear was no option I would take both cameras to a shoot and use the Hasselblad for <1m photos and the Mamiya 6 for those at a greater distance.  I would perhaps get the Mamiya 6 50mm f4 G lenses for wide shots and have the 120mm Zeiss Makro-Planar on the Hasselblad.  This combination would also suit me well for film wedding photography for my style of working.

I am not interested by a Mamiya 7 as I prefer the 6×6 film format of the Mamiya 6 (versus 6×7) and the retractable lenses of the Mamiya 6.

Below are lots of example images using the Hasselblad and Mamiya 6 with different models, different film, different light so you can make up your own mind on what camera produces the ‘nicer’ images to your taste.  I have also included a sneak peek of a few images to come from my Poland and Ukraine trips as I didn’t have enough examples photos from the Mamiya 6 in the UK.

Thanks

Hasselblad 501C Portraits

Hasselblad Portrait
Hasselblad Film Portrait
Hasselblad vs Mamiya 6 !!
Hasselblad Fashion
Hasselblad 501C + Delta 100
Flashback
Hasselblad + Zeiss Sonnar 150
Hasselblad Double Exposure Fashion
Hasselblad 501C
Hasselblad 501C + Sonnar
120 Ilford Pan F 50
Hasselblad + Pan F 50
Haselblad 501C Portrait
Hasselblad + Fomapan 100
Hasselblad Studio Session
Pageant Girl
London Model Shoot
120 Ilford FP4+
Zeiss Planar 80mm

Mamiya 6 Portraits

Mamiya 6 + 75mm Lens
Mamiya 6 Sharpness
Mamiya 6 + 75 + Tri-X
Fomapan 100@800
Mamiya 6 Fashion
Summer Vibe
Mamiya 6 Rangefinder
The view from my hotel, Ukraine

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Lights & Light Modifiers Compared

Lights & Light Modifiers Compared

Matthew Osborne Photography / Mr Leica
March 2016

Lights & Light Modifiers Compared

Intro..

Lights

I have collected quite a few lights and light modifiers over the last 5 years or so.  I would say it is my biggest weakness when it comes to buying new gear.  Luckily for me my taste in lights is not yet as expensive as my choice of cameras (such as Leicas!).  I don’t have a Profoto B1 (though they are very nice) nor Elinchrom Quadra kit.  My first high power lights for location were Lencarta Safari 600W twin head kit.  They were powerful for sure.. so much so at the time that I found them too bright so sold them.  It sounds crazy – “too bright” but at the time I was shooting everything wide open at f1.4 on the Nikon D800 so even at the lowest power the Safari 600W were an overkill.  I then moved to using Yongnuo 560ii and 560iii speedlights and for inside I got some Lencarta 200W and 300W studio strobes. Next I think was a Godox AD-180, then a Godox TT850, then a smaller Neewer TT520 speedlight and more recently a Godox AD-360.  I also used to use an Arrilight 650W fresnel light in the studio but sold that also.

Light Modifiers

I love using additional light (where possible) to make my images hopefully look better than if the photo was taken with just flat light.  Additional light might be from a reflector, a continuous light or a strobe.  I soon realised how useful different light modifiers were and so started to build a collection.  As with my lights I don’t use high end brands such as a Boncolor Para or Westcott Rapid Box even though they are very nice.  I tend to invest in lenses and where possibly analogue film cameras (rather than digital) and then skimp on everything else.  I started with the basic white shoot through umbrella and the silver reflective umbrella and then moved to a softbox, umbrellabox, octabox, stripbox, beauty dish, reflectors with grids, gridded softbox, bigger octabox, very large umbrellas and then back the other way to small 20×20 and 40×40 softbox for portability.

Comparing different light modifiers

Yesterday I didn’t have a model so decided to compare the effect of different light modifiers side by side. It was a non-scientific experiment for purely my own entertainment but I thought others might find it of interest.  I setup a Godox AD-360 on a tripod at a distance of 2m from a white wall in the garden.  I then tried various light shapers / light modifiers to see the effect on the light spread and light power.  I wasn’t organised enough to record photos by each modifier sorry but I did write down the power output. I used a Sekonic L-758D spot meter to meter the light hitting the wall at the bright point.  The Godox AD360 was set to full power and the lightmeter at ISO 100.

Results

  • Bare Godox AD360 – f16.3 (base – to nearest 1 stop)
  • White shoot through umbrella  (shot through) – f16.3
  • White shoot through umbrella  (bounced) – f16.1
  • Silver reflective umbrella (bounced) – f22.3 (+1)
  • 40×40 softbox (+2 diffusion layers) – f16.2
  • 40×40 softbox (+1 diffusion layers) – f16.8
  • Godox 32″ softbox umbrella + diffusion layer – f16.9 (+1)
  • Godox 32″ softbox umbrella + beauty dish inner – f16
  • Godox 32″ softbox umbrella (bare) – f22.5 (+1)
  • Godox white dome  – f16.5
  • Silver beauty dish – f22.9 (+2)
  • Silver beauty dish + grid + diffuser – f8.9 (-1)
  • Small silver studio reflector – f32.5 (+2)
  • Large deep silver studio reflector – f45.5 (+3)
  • Godox kit reflector – f45.7 (+4)
  • Godox kit reflector + diffuser – f32.9 (+3)

I then tested the power of a few other lights..

  • Bare Neewer TT520 – f16.9
  • Bare 200W studio strobe – f16.9
  • Bare 200W studio strobe + white shoot through umbrella – f16.3
  • Bare 200W studio strobe + white shoot though umbrella (bounced) – f11
  • Bare Godox TT850 @ 105mm – f32
  • Bare Godox TT850 @ 28mm + white shoot through umbrella – f11

Conclusion

The effect of different light modifiers on the light power output

I found it really interesting to do this little experiment.  I’ve used all the above light modifiers and lights with my models but I normally just set the power for the exposure I desire at the time and shoot away.  The experiment clearly showed the impact of light shapers on the light power.  I was surprised at how little impact some modifiers had on the power output of a bare tube strobe.  Equally I was super impressed at how magnified the power output was using reflectors with bare tubes.  It makes perfect sense of course but it is nice to put a value to it.  To recap the Godox AD-360 was 4 stops brighter with the Godox kit reflector attached than if a bare tube.  Interestingly the cheap Neewer TT520 speedlight, the 200w studio strobe (bare) and the Godox AD-360 (bare) all had equal output at 2m distance.  Of course the speedlight light output is more concentrated to the area being metered whereas the other 2 lights light the wall the same brightness but over a much wider area.  I think the Godox TT850 speedlight at 50mm would have also been the same power output on full power as the previous 3 lights mentioned.  It would be interesting to have tested a Profoto B1 against the Godox AD-360.  The Profoto B1 light is recessed (not bare bulb) and similar looking to the Godox AD360 + reflector + diffuser layer.  The Godox in this setup metered at almost f45 which I think will be plenty bright enough for my current needs.

The effect of different light modifiers on the type of light emitted

In terms of how “nice” the light was coming from the various light modifiers I think the winner for me was the silver beauty dish for soft diffused light for portraits.  The Godox softbox umbrella performed well too and a simple cheap white shoot-through umbrella is probably impossible to beat in terms of value for money, small, lightweight and gives a super soft light output.  For magnifying the light output the reflectors are a must for a bare tube light but less useful for a speedlight with a zoom head function.  A softbox can help control the spread of light better than an umbrella and grids can be used to control the light even further.  The tighter the grid pattern the tighter the light output pattern.

Diagrams comparing different light modifiers

The are already plenty of similar light modifier comparisons online with diagrams as to the type and shape of light emitted.  You can easily find a diagram via Google of a softbox vs umbrella or beauty dish vs softbox if interested.  I was mainly interested in the light power for this test.

Real example images

I am planning to do some strobist location work at my next 1-2-1 workshop so I will get the results on Flickr (and eventually on here) when they are ready.  I will be using the Hasselblad 501C with it’s Zeiss leaf shutter lenses at up to 1/500 flash sync speed to control the ambient light.  Can’t wait!

Sorry for the lack of pretty pictures in this post.  I have another post to follow consisting of mostly attractive model photos 🙂

 

 

Hasselblad vs Mamiya RZ67

Hasselblad vs Mamiya RZ67 Pro II

Matthew Osborne Photography / Mr Leica
November 2015

I have owned my Mamiya RZ67 medium format film camera since summer 2013 but have only recently bought my Hasselblad 501C. Here is some more information on each camera system and then a few example images.

Mamiya RZ67 6×7 – Camera gear

Over the last two years I have done Mamiya RZ67 fashion photography, Mamiya RZ67 wedding photography and Mamiya RZ67 Polaroid photos. I have a selection of Mamiya Sekor lenses for the RZ; 65mm f4, 90mm f3.5, 110mm f2.8 (my favourite lens on the RZ) and the 180mm f4.5. I also bought different film backs for the Mamiya; RZ 645 film back, RZ 6×6 film back, standard 6×7 film backs and lastly a Polaroid film back. To focus the RZ67 I use the big and bright waist level viewfinder and until this experiment I have only shot the RZ handheld.

Hasselblad 501C 6×6 – Camera gear

If you have read my recent blog posts you will be aware of my Hasselblad v-system camera equipment but to recap I use the following Hasselblad lenses; Zeiss Distagon 50mm f4 CF, Zeiss Planar 80mm f2.8 CF, Zeiss Makro-Planar 120mm f4 CF, Zeiss Sonnar 150mm f4 CF and I use two 6×6 Hasselblad A12 film back. To focus I use a Hasselblad 45 degree prism finder and try to use the Hasselblad on a monopod for the sharpest possible photos. I have a waist level viewfinder but found it very difficult to focus with the acute matte screen (without split prism). In the last few months since purchase I have already done a Hasselblad wedding and Hasselblad fashion photography. I absolutely love the Hasselblad portraits with the 6×6 crop factor and can honestly say that I think the Hasselblad has had more beneficial impact on my photography than any other camera.

Mamiya RZ67 6×7 – User experience

I have always loved the big bright RZ viewfinder and 6×7 rotating film back. The 110mm f2.8 lens give both sharpness and a shallow depth of field. The size and weight of the Mamiya RZ has not deterred me but that said I have not used it a huge amount and it has never been overseas on model photography trips. I have always been happy with image sharpness and camera handling. One of the features I like the most on the RZ is the bellows focusing system as I can get as close as I want to my subject without the need of additional extension tubes. Perhaps my only complaint is the fact that the Mamiya RZ requires a battery. I found I used the RZ more without a battery and at the 1/400 fixed shutter speed. The Mamiya RZ is great for 6×6 Polaroid photos and I like how the image is captured in the centre of the film rather than being offset. I have used the Mamiya RZ with Polaroid back for events and the Polaroid photos produced are great. I always used the RZ handheld and never really thought to do any different despite the weight.

Hasselblad 501C 6×6 – User experience

From my recent blog posts and the rave reviews you may have noticed that I am a huge fan of the Hasselblad camera. I really struggled to focus with the original waist level viewfinder but now I am happy using the 45 degree prism finder. My favourite lens is the super sharp Zeiss Makro-Planar 120mm f4 CF lens as it lets me focus closer than the 80mm Planar kit lens and is incredibly sharp. As such I have hardly used the 80mm kit lens that most people seem to keep on their Hasselblad 500 series cameras. The Hasselblad is smaller (lighter and more compact) than the Mamiya RZ and as such it has already been overseas with me to Poland for model photography location shoots. The Hasselblad is 100% mechanical so requires no batteries which I love and the build quality is on a par with my Leica M3 film cameras (I think). It is a very rewarding camera to use!

Hasselblad vs Mamiya RZ67 Shoot Out

As I own both cameras I was interested to compare the Hasselblad 501C to the Mamiya RZ67 Pro II. Here are a few images from each camera from my shoot with Julie in the studio. All photos werer shot on expired 120 Ilford Delta 100 film and developed in Kodak Xtol developer. Film negatives were scanned with a Epson v800 scanner and finished in Photoshop. Both cameras were used on monopods to make it a fair test. I fitted the Mamiya RZ with a 6×6 film back so both cameras were 6×6 format.  Click on any photo to see the lens used and additional information.

Hasselblad Portraits

Hasselblad 50mm Distagon Portrait
Hasselblad Studio Shoot
Hasselblad High Contrast

Mamiya RZ67 Portraits

Mamiya RZ67 Studio Portrait
Mamiya RZ67 Headshot + 180mm f4.5
Mamiya RZ67 vs Hasselblad

Conclusion – Clear Winner?

Both the Hasselblad and Mamiya RZ67 camera systems are capable of producing very sharp images and I cannot call a clear winner here.  As such I think it comes down to what camera I enjoy using more.  The Hasselblad is smaller, lighter, arguably better built but also more expensive than the RZ.  If you are on a tight budget I would say you can capture equally good photos with a Mamiya RZ but if you want a camera system for life I would get a Hasselblad everytime.  The Hasselblad 501C will still be with me together with the Leica M3s for years to come where as I think the Mamiyas will come and go.  That is my rose tinted 2 cents worth anyway.

Related Links:

> Hasselblad Links:

> Mamiya RZ67 Links:

Sony A7R vs Leica M9

Sony A7R vs Leica M9

My thoughts only, sorry no example images

July 2015

Sony A7R vs Leica M9

I ran a model photography workshop in London on Saturday and the photographer brought along his full frame Sony A7R camera.  I often hear good reviews about the Sony and Fuji cameras from Leica photographers using these bodies as a backup body or as a more affordable alternative.  I have had photographers bring the Fuji XT1 and the Sony A7R to the workshops before but I have never really taken much interest as my heart in in film photography (and digital Leicas).

The photographer owning the Sony A7R was keen to see how I worked and also see my Leica cameras.  I had with me the digital Leica M9 and Leica M8 bodies and was using the Leica Summicron 50mm f2 v5 lens.  He had the Sony A7R with the Sony Zeiss FE 55mm f1.8 lens and also an old Leica Summicron 90mm f2 R lens with an Sony adapter.

We met the model and took similar photos side by side with our own cameras.  Over lunch we reviewed the Leica M8, Leica M9 and Sony AR7 images on a laptop full screen in Lightroom.  Small size the Sony A7R images look OK.  If i’m honest from a small size images I could not tell you what modern camera they were taken with, Fuji, Sony, Nikon.  (Canon photos usually have an orange pink tinge so are easier to identify!)  When we compared the Leica M9 colours to those from the Sony A7R the M9 colours were more natural looking with slightly better skin tones.  I was still not offended by the Sony images.

We then viewed the Sony A7R JPEG and RAW 100% zoomed in and I was shocked.  I am used to seeing the film like grain of the Leica M9 (and Leica M8) DNG and JPEG files when I zoom in.  It looks quite ‘real’ desite being an electronic image and reminds me more of film negative scans.  The Sony RAW and JPEG files however just looked like a mass of coloured noise with little structure.  It looked very artificial and computer generated.. of course it is but the Leica files look less so.  I have owned Nikon cameras for years, and before Leicas so am well aware how the Nikon NEF files look.  If I had to try to compare simply I would say the 18MP Leica M9 and 10MP Leica M8 DNG files are the most real looking, then followed by the 36MP Nikon D800 that gives a sharper and more modern look yet still the RAW files appear ‘real’ when viewed zoomed in, and lastly the Sony A7R files that look the least real.  For my taste the Sony images look too computer generated and not at all to my liking.  I like the look of film photography so it makes sense that the most filmic looking digital images are my favourites, from the Leica M9 and Leica M8.

Interestingly, we discussed the Sony A7R images and this very modern ‘over processed’ look and the photographer showed me some photos taken with an old Mamiya RZ lens on the Sony A7R via an adapter.  To me these images were far far better than the images produced with the Sony 55/1.8 lens.  They had more of a realness to them.  I think the problem is that when there is a Sony lens on the Sony A7R the in camera computer is doing so much manipulating of the files that it results in very over processed straight out the camera images.  When there in a non-Sony lens used with an adapter that doesn’t talk to the camera there is less in camera processing so the resulting image is nearer to what you can see with the naked eye.

In conclusion, if I had to have the high ISO ability and all the other mod cons of the Sony A7R or keep my old Leica M8 then M8 would win hands down despite it’s flaws.  For a more fair comparison, the Leica M9 vs Sony A7R, the M9 colours and rendering of the images is far more real and natural looking to my eye so I would never be tempted by the Sony.

(Only my opinion but I am glad I had the oppotunity to see the side by side comparison).

Sorry I do not have any Sony A7R images to share but there will be plenty to review on Flickr i’m sure.  For Leica M8 and Leica M9 example images you can find plenty of samples both on my blog and on Flickr.

Here are two examples from the workshop (more for the rendering than the colours!)

Leica M8 + Leica Summicron 50mm f2 v5 (DNG B&W conversion)

Leica M8 B&W

Leica M9 + Leica Summicron 50mm f2 v5 (DNG & colours made more satured in PP)

Leica M9  -  Is back!

(I’m sure many Sony users will disagree with our observations or point out that the colours of the Leica M9 image shared are far from natural but this blog is just my opinion based on my own experiences).

Size Matters – Voigtlander Nokton 35mm f1.4

Size Matters – Voigtlander Nokton 35mm f1.4 MC

Matthew Osborne Photography

As my photography ‘matures’ different things become important to me.  In the earlier years bigger was best.  I remember getting my first big lens, the Nikkor 80-200  f2.8 AF, and suddenly I felt like a ‘Pro’ when at family weddings as all ‘Pros’ have big cameras and big lenses don’t they?!  I then up’d my game and got myself a Nikkor 200mm f2 AI-s prime lens.  Now that is a proper lens and it makes you look more like the paparazzi than a wedding photographer.

All that was a few years back.  Now I use Leica M cameras (+ medium format / large format film) and the opposite mentality applies.  Smaller and more compact is best (for me).  I have touched on this before but I am finding I am turning into more and more of a purest, with regards to my Leica M film cameras especially.  I only want to use 50mm lenses on the Leica M3 (with it’s 50mm viewfinder) and I only ‘want’ to use 35mm lenses on the Leica M2 (with 35mm viewfinder).  That is all well and good but the chosen lens needs to meet my requirements too.  There is no point me having a small camera if I then hang a big lens on the front to imbalance it.  Similarly, there is no point me putting a tiny lens on the camera if it cannot produces images that I ‘demand’.  Therefore I need to find a happy medium / middle ground that ticks most of my boxes.

50mm (Leica M3) – My preferred lens is the 50mm Leica Summicron f2 v5 lens as it is  smaller than the Summilux ASPH.  I do use the Summilux if I need to work in low light and with colour film that I cannot push as easily. Black and white film is easier as I just develop as I need.

35mm (Leica M2) – I didn’t have a 35mm lens that I was 100% happy with.

35mm lens I have are:

  • Voigtlander Nokton 35mm f1.2 ASPH ii lens which is very capable (and to me very usable shot wide open for paying clients) BUT all that comes at a cost. It is big and heavy.  I think of it as my 35mm Noctilux with some slight similarities in certain conditions.
  • Voigtlander Color Skopar 35mm f2.5 Pii is perhaps my smallest lens but with an f2.5 widest aperture is not bright enough for many of my available light photoshoots.
  • Leica Summaron 35mm f3.5 – low contrast slow ‘fun’ lens. Not for serious work but great for personal work

New 35mm I considered:

  • Older Leica Summilux 35mm f1.4 Pre-ASPH
  • Older Leica Summicron 35mm f2 Pre-ASPH
  • Newer Leica Summilux 35mm f1.4 ASPH
  • Newer Leica Summicron 35mm f2 ASPH
  • Zeiss ZM Biogon 35mm f2 T
  • Zeiss ZM Distagon 35mm f1.4 T
  • Voigtlander Nokton Classic 35mm f1.4 SC
  • Voigtlander Nokton Classic 35mm f1.4 MC

I spent a fair bit of time reviewing images from the Leica lenses and Voigtlander lenses.  I was happy size wise with all the Leicas and the Noktons.  They are all tiny lenses and all built to a similar high standard.  I ruled the Zeiss ZM lenses out immediately due to their bigger size.  I already have sharp 35mm lenses if size is no issue.  I am not normally a pixel peeper but I read a few reviews of the Leicas vs the Voigtlanders and yes the new Leica lenses are sharper but I bet 99% of the population could not tell images from these lenses apart once they had received basic editing.  The little Voigtlander ‘Classic’ as it is called is not perfect by any means.  I know as I have a Voigtlander Nokton Classic 40mm f1.4 already that I got on my Voigtlander Bessa R3A (that has 40mm framelines).  Going back to the purest thing briefly, I could easily use the 40/1.4 on the M2 and I have done but I am not satisfied to guess between 35mm or 50mm framelines for the 40mm crop.  I can’t compose precisely on film if I am guessing the crop / composition.

Nokton 35mm f1.4v2

The Voigtlander Nokton Classic 35mm f1.4 MC is not perfect as it is less sharp wide open vs new Leica lenses (in tests done by others), has heavier vignetting at wider apertures, gives soft focus corners to images wide open, has distortion so a straight line becomes slightly curved in a photo, has ‘harsh’ bokeh with highlight edges to the circles, lacks the flare resistance of modern Leica lenses, and often has some focus shift issues (f2-f4 approx).  On the upside, the colours are better (more saturated) than the cooler colours of Leica glass, I like the harsh bokeh, I like vignetting, I like soft corners for portraits, I don’t mind a glow from slight flare and I plan to use it at f1.4 so am not worried about shift.  Better still you can buy a new Nokton Classic 35mm f1.4 for about half the price of an old Leica 35mm lens and about 4 times cheaper than a new 35mm Leica Summicron ASPH /Summilux ASPH.  I was tempted to buy Leica but the older lenses are at least as soft as the Nokton wide open (it seems) and the Nokton has character rather than being clinical like the new Leica lenses (like my 50mm Summilux ASPH).  To me the Voigtlander 35mm 1.4 is like a mini Noctilux in that it is the imperfections and low light ability that attract me most of all.  I have had some great results with the 40mm Nokton so that helped my decision to buy a 35mm Nokton.

I bought the MC (multi-coated) version rather than the SC (single coated) as it has slightly less flare and more contrast.  People often say SC is best for black and white film and MC for colour film.  As I develop my own B&W film I control the contrast when I develop the film so I can easily develop film to be less constrasty if I need to retain more shadow detail.  On the whole it is better for me to have high contrast and more apparent sharpness in camera from the lens so I chose the MC.  The Voigtlander Nokton Classic 35mm f1.4 MC will now spend it’s days on my Leica M2 for my ultimate travel companion and to pair with the Leica M3 + 50mm setup.

What triggered this purchase?

I was shooting in London yesterday and had my Leica M3, Leica M2 and Leica M9 cameras.  I had the 40mm Nokton on the M2 and it fit like a glove.  With the leather hand strap it was the perfect street photographer camera. Very minimal and HCB like!  I then decided to take the Summilux off the Leica M3 to ‘borrow’ it on the M2 as I knew it was sharper.  The size of the Summilux just ruined the whole feel of the camera and experience in general.  I got home and thought to myself, I need a low light 35mm lens that is as small as the 40mm Nokton.  I like the size of the 50mm Summicron but sometimes have to use the ‘Lux if low light.

I have also recently being tempted by 28mm lenses such as the Leica 28mm Summicron f2 or Leica Elmarit 28mm f2.8. I am most tempted buy the Elmarit for the M9 due to it’s compactness as the Leica M9 has 28mm framelines and I can adjust the ISO if need more light.  That would be perfect for a compact digital travel camera setup but for my usual work, portraits and low light weddings I needed a faster lens and not quite as wide. 50mm is still my go to focal length for portraits but 35mm is good for environmental portraits, wedding photography, street photography and when working in tighter spaces.

Here are a few sample images using the Voigtlander Nokton Classic 40mm f1.4 to give an idea of what images may look like

Leica M9 B&W Portrait

Leica M9 Fashion

Voigtlander Bessa R3A Portrait

Ukraine

Leica, Ukraine

Leica M2 + Nokton 40mm + B&W Film

Voigtlander Nokton 40mm f1.4

CV Nokton 40mm f1.4 Bokeh

Leica Portrait

Leica M9 Fashion

..As you may imagine I am not too concerned that the 35mm Nokton is not sharp enough or has a list of other failings.  It’s 40mm sibling seems to do OK 🙂

Leica M9 vs Fuji XT1!

Leica M9 vs Fuji XT1!

Matthew Osborne Photography

I was teaching in the studio today and the photographer brought his Fuji XT-1 along to use.  I know many Leica photographers use Fuji cameras as a backup camera or as a cheaper alternative but I have never really given them any thought to be honest.  I know they can take nice images but there has never actually been enough interest there for me read up on them.

Today I saw a Fuji camera up close in action and to be honest I was a bit surprised and less than impressed.  The Fuji XT1 camera seemed to have a million different menus that hindered the photographer from being able to do what you want to do with a camera and that is take a simple photo. I was teaching portrait photography using speedlights and in this instance his lens was stopped down to perhaps f5.6 or f8.  He mentioned it was difficult to compose photos accurately as there was no constant image on the LCD (other than a brief preview that flashed on and off).  This was crazy to me.  How can you use a camera when you can’t see what you are taking a photo of?  I realise in brighter conditions or with the lens at a wider aperture this issue would be resolved but they are many occasions when you might be shooting in low light.  At a wedding for example you really do need to have your photo composed ‘correctly’ and in focus so you need to be able to see. (Original paragraph reworded to avoid confusion).

New photographers have absolutely no hope of learning photography with a camera like this.  They just get bambozelled by the menus before they can even start.  I guess this goes for some DSLR cameras but I found Nikon cameras easy to use in the past.

It really highlighted to me how valuable it is to shoot with film caemeras if you want to actually learn photography and improve your skills.  An old film camera only has a few settings to control – shutter speed, aperture and film choice / ISO.  The next best thing after film to me and from my experience is using a Leica M8 or Leica M9.  They share much of the simplicity of film cameras yet they have a digital output.  Learning with only a film camera can be slow as you need to remember the conditions and settings used for each photo for when you get your film developed.  With digital cameras you can see instantly the effects of changing aperture, shutter speed and ISO and the different looks achieved using different lenses or lighting.

In a professional photographer’s hands i’m sure the Fuji XT1 can be a useful tool and I know it can produce good photos.  For beginners however or someone wanting to go beyond a point and shoot automatic camera I highly recommend you try a Leica M8 / Leica M9 or get yourself a cheap film camera to use along side your Fuji camera.  That way you can start to appreciate photography and as learn with the film camera you can then improve your photos with the digital camera too.

*This is only based on my own experiences but I really was not impressed.

Here is a Leica M9 shot from today with model Becca helping me

Leica M9 Studio Photography

Leica ASPH & APO lenses. Do we really need them?

Leica ASPH & APO lenses. Do we really need them?

Matthew Osborne Photography

Model shoot using vintage Leica pre-ASPH/ pre-APO and third party lenses

For the September 2014 London Photography Workshop model shoot I decided to take the oppotunity to pack the follow vintage camera lenses for the day.  I would be teaching flash photography and portraiture so I can do this with lenses from any era.  It’s great to shoot with one lens on the camera all day but sometimes I just want to go longer or wider so I decided on –

  • Leica M9 camera body
  • 35mm –   1953 Leica Summaron 35mm f3.5
  • 52mm – 1950s Russian Industar 26M 52mm f2.8 *
  • 90mm – 1973 Leica Summicron 90mm f2 pre-ASPH **

*I have a 1951 Leica Summarit 50mm f1.5 lenses but I prefer it in lower light.
** My 1960s Leica Elmar 135mm f4 is also a fantastic lens but I did’t want to carry two telephoto lenses.

Plus less vintage extras..

  • 1x Speedlight
  • 15mm Voigtlander Super Wide Heliar f4.5
  • Fuji GF670 Medium Format Film Camera

The workshop

Tom booked me for a day of 1-2-1 photography tuition and I invited Latvian model Lauma to join us as our model.  I have shot with Lauma once before but last time it was with available light only.  This time I was teaching off camera flash photography and portrait lighting so I was in my element. All photos were taken using a single bare speedlight without any light modifiers.

Portrait Photography Workshop

All a myth!

The workshop day proved two common photography theories wrong.

  • We don’t need the latest Leica lenses to get great pictures on a Leica M camera body
  • We don’t need fancy light modifiers and ETTL speedlights

Am I guilty of believing all the ‘hype’? Yes of course I am!

I own the Leica Summilux ASPH 50mm f1.4 (“Lux”) and the Leica Summicron 75mm f2 APO (“Cron”).  I bought the 50mm Lux as my first Leica 50mm lenses because of the glowing reviews but find I rarely use it as prefer other 50s.  I bought the 75mm Cron because of the magnification it could produce focusing at 0.7m rather than anything else. The 75f2 focal length has become one of my favourite portrait lenses and my go to detail lens for Leica weddings.
I write ‘hype’ as yes both ASPH and APO lenses are technically brilliant but you dont ‘need’ them as such to get a nice image.  I own both new and old Leica lenses but if I was someone trying to get into the Leica market I think potential buyers should not rule out the older glass.

Photos with vintage Leica M mount lenses

Here are some recent examples images using vintage lenses on a Leica M9 camera from flash photography portrait workshops both in London and at my Coventry studio.  Models are Gina, Roisin and Lauma.

1953 Leica Summaron 35mm f3.5

Leica Summaron 35mm f3.5

1951 Leica Summarit 50mm f1.5

Leica Summarit 50mm f1.5 Portrait

Leica Summarit 50mm

1950s Russian Industar 26M 52mm f2.8

Leica M9 + Industar 26M 52mm f2.8

Industar 26M 52mm f2.8

1973 Leica Summicron 90mm f2 pre-ASPH

Cigarette Break

Beauty and a Geek!

Leica M9 + Summicron 90

Leica M9 + Vintage Leica Summicron 90mm f2

Leica M9 Strobist

1960s Leica Elmar 135mm f4

Modern Classic

Black and White Fashion

Leica Elmar 135mm f4