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Saturday, 03 July 2010


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Aww shucks, my camera squeaks when I squeeze it. But I will.not.buy.another until I have reached its potential. Ditto for the kit lens, heh.

"And there's nothing at all that says a camera can't give you all "the satisfaction of owning and using a high quality mechanical and optical device" just because it's digital."

This is exactly how I feel about the Leica M8/M9. They're beautifully finished high-precision photographical instruments, that are aimed at getting the job done - taking pictures. Paired with one of those exceptional Leica lenses, they're unbeatable imho. But a film M has easily as much appeal - be it a modern MP or a classic M3.

That said, I don't think there's any other DIGITAL camera that's as nicely and meticulously built and that simple and effective to use as a Leica M. Insofar, it might indeed be some sort of "film vs. digital" thing ...

in this era of digital rot the leica m9 gives me the feeling that i could use it for at least 10-15 years..if not more..just like a m7.i mean why not?it's built like a tank.it has a 18 mp ccd sensor that will give me all the resolution and sharpness i would ever need from it,decent iso it has an open raw format..i am just waiting for the m9.2 which will have a bigger buffer an mp laquer finish and a saphire screen..well hopefully

I'm no fanboy either.

But, I think the Leica M perfectly illustrates why this is not a film versus digital issue. My M8.2 has every bit of the tactile stimulation...for me...that existed with my M6 and M7, with the exception of the manual shutter advance. (If Leica ever offers manual advance on a digital M as an option, I'm there.) Otherwise, the LCD can be shut off and my shooting experience remains intact. Oh, and the lenses are the same.

Critics are easy to ignore while I'm out loving the picture making process.

I just hope I do not see and hold and try an S2 any time soon. I know I would have to get one and, since I just bought a house, I have to control myself for a while. I know the feeling as I have a 21mm Distagon T* 2.8 modified for Canon mount and it is a distinct pleasure to just focus! Maybe next year. Besides, my 5DMKII already is a better camera than I am a photographer - and it doesn't creak!

I creak, even without being squeezed!

Thanks for your views on the S2. Having read Mark Dubovoy's comments over on LL, I was interested to hear your take. It is comforting to know that some current cameras are really elegantly done, even if I can't afford them.

The snap of Jack has a nasty looking scab on the lower eyelid, a spot where rodent ulcers can readily develop. If there is no obvious reason for it or if it does not heal pronto a visit to an ophthalmologist would be desirable.

I have owned only one camera that I feel was truly a fine instrument. A Hass 501 with the "kit" 80 mm lens. Sadly the friend I bought it from decided he wanted it back. I have a standing deal with friends I buy equipment from. If they want it back, (I have felt the pain of selling and later wishing I had it again) same price as I paid for it and they have it back.
As you say, it is not a digital vs. film issue, but rather the feel in hand and the controls. And let's not forget the look of it at rest. There is something about finely crafted instruments that transcends most debates on equipment.
I am warming up to the Canon 5D MKI an small gathering of L lenses I have. For a digital body the buttons/choices are just about right for me.

Next time, photograph into the mirror please.
Yes, you owe my wife a much better picture.
And for all the doctors who have told you I have a skin cancer below my eye, I am seeing a skin doctor Thursday. Hey, maybe TOP saves lives.

For the readers, the building in the background is the location of Mike's favorite Japanese restaurant.

Oh, and when you use the S2 again, please remind me to smile.

I agree about the feel of the S2. My dealer tried to sell me one recently. It produced the same feeling in me as my first 5 series Hasselblad, a feeling of competence and solidity.

Having said that, I then remembered what I consider the 3 fatal flaws:
1. No dedicated software to get the best out of the image
2. USB not firewire
3. 24x36

Until they get number 1 fixed, the rest is academic.

Ah, this is fantastic. Someone gave me (more like, abandoned on my office chair) a Canon A2e recently. It is delightfully tacky. This week I bought it 4 rolls of drug store color print film for use as a walk-around camera. I could put a good lens on it, but that would be cheating! It would also be cheating to shoot black & white or slides because I'd have to take the enterprise too seriously.

I'm going to get the rolls developed and printed plus scanned. The scans are to stifle my inner whiny voice about digital noise.

I wonder if Salgado is switching from his Pentax 645?

S2 ... definitely out of my league. And I say that as an M8 owner. Heck, as an M8 owner the M9 is out of my league! Actually, the M8 became out of my league when they raised the price on it, but I already had one by then!

But yes, I agree with those who say the no-nonsense nature and solidity of the digital Ms makes them feel like they're going to last forever. They won't, of course, but they may outlast the wonderplastik. And the photographic experience is so very "M." I don't use the M8 for work, mostly because I don't have a backup (for the reason implied above), but I use it a heck of a lot for personal stuff.

For lotsa pixels I'd love an S2, but since that's not going to happen I'm casting longing glances at the new Pentax 645D for some personal landscape work I want to do. It won't have the streamlined functionality and IQ of the S2, but it'll get the job done, and I might even recover financially in time to buy whatever comes along next!

At twenty three thousand bucks it should be telling me how great I feel to hold and squeeze. I don't even want to see one in the flesh.

But if this guy is making enough from selling prints to buy such a thing then I'd like to know more about him.

I read some where that Salgado switched to digital some time ago, actually.

Well, to me it's about controlling three things: Focus, shutter and aperture. How elegantly and simply a camera does that, is what makes it. When a camera abstracts those three basic ingredients and buries them in an endless sea of menus or random buttons, it loses the very essence of what picture taking is. It used to be that you had two of those controls on the lens barrel and one on the camera. We've lost that, and in the process, some of the joy of picture taking has been lost with them.

"But if this guy is making enough from selling prints to buy such a thing then I'd like to know more about him."

Yeah, me too.

M8 is a bit too thick, compared with the M3. Both used about 1 year before I sold them. I missed M3 but not M8. (But the M3 scratch my spectacle, which is more expensive than its second hand price!)

For S2, the same design (weather sealed plus sensors) seems same as Pentax 645D which also now in the wild and much cheaper. I still hope someone is doing a review here.

Still, all these are sensor integrated with the camera. Might be digital back is a better solution and one continue use Hassey 500 C/M or 203FE for that. Same old box design since 1950s.

Yes I look back at the cameras which were a pleasure to old as objects of mechanical excellence, solid reliable, inspiring.. Leica M2/3/4,P,6,9
Rollie, Hasselblad, Nikon F2,Fm2, RZ 6x7,MPP, Cosina Voigtlander and on. There are far many more from the period which were the antithesis of tactility and functionality.
I have no real desire to look at or hold an S2 as I get all the tactile feelings I want, as wells great images from my A900, PENS and GF1 and I have read the S2 has many shortcomings which rule it out for my needs (Just like the R series).
It is an old chestnut but 4 x A900s plus a kit of 4 Zeiss lenses and still enough change from the S2 for a short holiday and some good food.

It seems most things human or objects which manage the utter confidence to go right to the important elements well, ignoring all the rest to the extent of sometimes appearing simple are those who are confident and stand above the crowd. They become the most memorable and enjoyable experience in our life. It could be a car, racing bike, camera, painting, print, guitar, song, amplifier, novel, celebrity, politician, visionary, friend, anything or anyone who ignores the superfluous and goes to work at what they know they excel at best.

Interesting that the debate about the tactile impressions of mechanical cameras and computer-based cameras isn't a film versus digital debate, yet I really disliked the plasticky film cameras and very much derive pleasure from handling Nikon DSLRs. If Nikon DSLRs were actually film cameras I don't believe that I would enjoy them as much, or at all. I'm not sure exactly why this is but it seems that maybe the amazing capabilities of quality DSLR cameras contributes to the pleasure of handling them. So it seems that, for me, in a significant way, it is a film versus digital contrast, as incongruous and contrary as that may sound.

The M9 (or the X1) are not up to the standards set by the S2. Not at all.

Look at the M9 digital side interface: 10 buttons and a wheel. The back of the camera is full of controls. You barely can grab it and not pressing a button. All that mess for controlling a basic menu with a few operations (formatting, image size, etc). The only two additional direct controls needed are those for exposure compensation and ISO. They are well resolved in the M9, but you don't need that absurd collection of buttons for that. The buttons in the M9 are small, punchy, not recessed and the camera hasn't basic seals.

The X1 is even worse: an additional wheel and modal buttons everywhere!

The S2 is a great design. It is a real point of reference for future Leica cameras.

Gets the basics right? I dunno.

Try setting exposure compensation in Aperture priority mode without looking away from the viewfinder. Something that every dual-wheel 35mm format or 645 SLR gets right today and the S2 doesn't.

Leica got lots right with the S2, but the choice of a shutter speed dial over a control wheel on a camera with no aperture ring is UI fail unless you expect the shooter to use manual or shutter priority modes near-exclusively.

@Kent: Don't bet on the 645D not having the IQ of the S2. The sensor in the 645D's at least as good as the S2's and Pentax's 645 series lenses are superb. The overall UI on the Pentax may be more complex, but it allows you to set basic shooting functions like exposure compensation without using the menu which the S2 does not. Like it or not, AE and AF bring a certain amount of required complexity to a UI and Pentax has been evolving its ergonomics for a couple decades and has managed to strike a good balance between simplicity and controlability.

The results I'm seeing from the S2 are excellent but not any better than what's coming from the other players in the MF digital market at similar pixel countsand not as good as the best Hasselblad or PhaseOne backs, but those have 10-20MP advantage over the S2.

The S2's real claim to fame is its size and sealing, making it the MF choice for adverse weather and portability, at least until there's more than one sealed Pentax lens out there (the 645D being the only other weather-sealed MF SLR)

I think semilog really nailed it, and Mike, you put together one more piece of the puzzle when you point to the S2. It's not that film cameras as a class had better aesthetics*, it's that we all can afford examples of nicely built film cameras now.

Especially if we don't need them to work particularly well. There are countless rangefinders, folders, TLRs, mechanical-era SLRs, and even press cameras that are well thought through, heft nicely in the hand, and interpose little between the photographer and the subject. I don't think we should be fooled: much of that elegant simplicity is due to the fact that we can't change WB, or toggle IS on a film camera.** We'd bitterly resent any digital camera that didn't allow us easy access to the countless variables that come with the format.

Though I am surprised that there isn't an Apple-equivalent in the camera industry. I suppose really brilliant industrial designers might not be that expensive, but visionary and effective leadership might be. I'd bet on Pentax figuring it out first, should they ever decide to target design and marketing outside of Japan.

*or ergonomics, or haptics, or heft, or real chrome instead of fake.

If this film v. digital rubbish doesn't die down, might I suggest that all who haven't done so already purchase a cheap, well-built, no-frills 35mm workhorse (Nikkormat FT3, Nikon FM, Pentax MX, Olympus OM1, etc) to offer an alternative hallway pick-up to their DSLR. That way, everyone can be his (women very rarely bother with this c**p) very own old fart and/or techno fanboy, and leave the 'debate' where it belongs - dying, unloved, alone.

To Jeff Grant:

It is interesting that your dealer tried to sell you an S2 with a 24x36 sensor. The ones they sell over here in Europe have 35x40 from what I've heard... :)

To Bill Mitchell:

From what one can read online, Salgado has mentioned several times that he is very interested in the S2. If that really means he'll ever use it, I have no idea. But at least he always had a very good relationship with Leica.

Jeff, what do you mean by your point #3? The Leica S2 has a 30x45mm sensor in it.

It reminds me of the old days of some leading Japanese stereos. To fool people into thinking they were purchasing a quality piece of gear the manufacturer would add heavy plates of metal to the bottom. They would also spend more money on the "feel" of the knobs than the circuit boards inside.

For a purely orgasmic experience while fondling a camera nothing beats my old Rollei TLR, closely followed by the Nikon F2. My Leica M5 is almost there.

However I must say I am warming up to my D700, but I know if I fall in love with this camera it will only break my heart in the long run. The Rollei will probably out last it and will certainly outlast me.

What I meant was a 2:3 ratio not an exact size. I have a particular dislike of 2:3 as a ratio. It's always too narrow and too tall for my work.

apologies for the confusion.

I've said it before, I'll say it again. Most digital SLRs do have a lot of menus, but they are NOT for the basic settings.

Almost all of the the better SLRs provide you with exactly 3 controls to set focus, aperture and shutter speed. There is an autofocus button (or focus ring on the lens) and then front and back dials that are easy to reach for the other two. These dials, in fact, tend to be easier to use than the top deck shutter speed dials on older cameras. You just stick your thumb up there and turn.

As for plastic cameras not being "robust" enough... this is my favorite story about that.


See the comment on that page by Joe Courtney.

Jeff, thanks for the explanation. That makes perfect sense.

That Joe Courtney comment is great! I love stuff like that.


Capture One does not support raws converted to DNG, only "native" DNG files like from the S2 and M9, and maybe Pentax DSLRs too? I would have thought an "open format" wouldn't have suffered from such a limitation.

If Capture One supports DNGs, then it supports DNGs, right? Apparently not.

This I discovered when I downloaded the C1 trial and found all my converted DNGs are useless on it! Fortunately I have the original raws still!

Is this an Adobe issue, or a PhaseOne issue?

re the comments about S2 software - here's a link to an article on Leica's site.


The last paragraph is the relevant one.

**Caution: some brief nudity - may not be safe for work.

@Sam Murphy: Capture One supports DNG-converted RAWs just fine as of version 5, what it doesn't support is Linear DNG's, only DNG's which are still in Bayer Matrix form.

I regularly have done conversions in C1 5 of DNG's made from my Panasonic G1's RW2 files. As long as there was no lens correction applied (IE no m43 lens used, only 4/3rds or adapted lenses) it worked just fine. Corrections weren't supported as that requires conversion to a linear DNG when doing the DNG conversion.

Re: comment above regarding open source DNG. I wish DNG was supported in windows 7.

The software issue still remains that Leica pass their raw files over to a third party who may or may not do the best job on them. I don't know Capture One or Phase, but I do know that the Hasselblad images processed with Phocus produce the best conversion. They also have all the corrections applied that can only be done by Phocus.

It is possible to export Hasselblad images to DNG but they lose the corrections, and Lightroom or ACR do not do the same job as Phocus, corrections or not.

In my mind, one of the strengths of Hasselblad is end to end workflow. This is what is needed in the digital age. We aren't dealing with film anymore. Leica is abrogating responsibly for what happens after the shot, just as all manufacturers did in the days of film, but it just doesn't work like that anymore.


Thanks for that clarification, it was in fact files from my G1 with the 14-45mm kit lens which I was looking at! Converted DNGs from other cameras are fine. I didn't realise there was more than one type of DNG conversion.

Still thought C1 doesn't support all converted DNGs.

Dear Jeff,

First, two questions out of genuine curiosity

1) What kind of work are you doing where it makes a difference whether you're getting FW or USB out of the camera?

I do know FW400's modestly faster and more reliable-- I'd never stick a USB external hard drive on one of my computers (I try not to buy below FW800 these days). But for out-of-camera transfer? If throughput were my issue, I'd be looking at an external FW800 reader like this:


Pricey for a card reader, but pocket change if you're buying into an S2 system. So, why does camera I/O matter?

2) What does pro camera insurance run per year when you're insuring circa $40K worth of field gear? If you're even considering buying one of those puppies, I imagine you know this. Me, I have no idea. I'm curious because it's the only way I could ever imagine owning something like this-- I could imagine, at the unlikely limits of probability, some time be able to do this as a once-in-a-lifetime purchase. But I'd never be able to replace something if I broke it!

Now, I'd like to comment on your other two points. I can really empathize with the format feelings. One of the factors that had me buy into the Pentax 67 over the Rollei or Hasselblad (loooong ago when they all cost about the same) was that square's my least favorite format, and I hated the idea of routinely throwing away precious square centimeters of film image.

But... folks need to keep that in perspective. If, for example, one prefers 'ideal' format over 3:2 (like me), then it's best thinking of the Leica as a 30x38mm, 31 MPx camera. One is only throwing away 17% of the area/pixels, and that just isn't enough to matter. Pixel count differences below 25% should simply be ignored! You can't see the difference in real-world photographs, even with hyper-critical eyes like yours and mine. In the lab with proper test targets, yeah; not outside of it.

Remember that resolution goes as the square root of the pixel count, for the same print area. Cropping Leica down to ideal would cost me 8% of my resolution. Unobservable!

It'd probably still rankle me, for irrational numerical reasons, but I'd learn to stifle that.

('Course, if square's what someone loves, then the Leica's a big fail.)

Last point, and this is the important one. You're making a huge, unwarranted assumption in demanding a camera-manufacturer supplied conversion program. Sometimes, indeed, they're better than third party. Often (I strongly suspect most usually, but I can't really defend that with data) they are worse. It's a very bad thing to assume that having one is a win and not having one is a loss. Me, if I were thinking about dropping $20K, I'd first do a test set of photos, take the memory card home, run it through my preferred RAW converters (and maybe one or two I hadn't tried before) and pixel peep like mad. I wouldn't assume anything. You shouldn't, either (especially, as I suspect you're going to be on the wrong side of the assumptions).

Not trying to talk you into spending a car's worth of money on a camera, honestly! Just raising two arguments that you've probably already pondered, but most readers won't have.

Thanks for letting me bend your ear and answering a few of my questions.

pax / Ctein

Dear Ctein,

The USB vs FW is not a major issue for me personally as I rarely shoot tethered, but my experience with tethered USB was not pleasant. Hasselblads have a FW800 port. My limited experience with it has been much better.

I'm in Australia so the insurance costs are probably different. From memory, it's a couple of dollars per $1k so it is a lump of cash each year.

I put the 24x36 comment last, as it is a personal taste thing. I crop most of my 645 shots to square. You do get used to throwing it away as I almost always find a square lurking in there.

My experience is mainly with Hasselblad Phocus. It contains all sorts of data about every lense, converter or whatever is in the chain from the front of the camera to the PC. It automatically corrects for whatever the lense produces. The 28mm lense relies on Phocus to compliment its design. Hasselblad supplies Phocus as part of the entry fee for for buying into the system. To my simple mind, Phocus is as important as any other component, and it certainly produces a better result than would be possible from a non-Hasselblad product.

I'm sure that David Grover of Hasselblad would be happy to expand on my limited knowledge. He is active on both GetDPI and LuLa.



There's a thread that's been running at GetDPI that covers some of the ground discussed here: http://forum.getdpi.com/forum/showthread.php?t=17637

As usual the price tag gets in my way long before any "bells, whistles, flashing lights".

In defense of the Canon A2(and I recall you weren't so sure of it when it came out, even if it did make the 25 best list in one of the mags you edited), the camera worked like a beast. I never had the command dial issue, which was a design failure, but mine ran through more film in worse places than any other camera I've had - and for all the bells and whistles the critical controls were always right at finger. It was the first camera below a 1 series EOS that had a useful vertical grip - every control duplicated in the vertical, and included the all-important third strap lug to carry the camera in the vertical position, so it just FIT when carrying on one shoulder.

Granting that workflow is the name of the game -- that, to me, is the strongest reason to abominate proprietary conversion programs. One might be forced to put up with one, if nobody else makes a credible competitor, but I view this as a bad thing, a disadvantage that would weigh heavily in choice of camera.

A new proprietary software package for each camera (or brand of camera) I use is a learning curve issue as well as a workflow issue. And if I have 1500 photos from three cameras covering an event, it's a disastrous workflow issue.

In theory, the camera manufacturer might know things about how their camera works that would let them do a better job. In practice, that blends all too easily into "deliberately obscuring things to hamper the competition", which I consider to be actively evil behavior.

My personal experience with proprietary RAW conversion so far is abominable (I'm looking at you, Fuji! And Panasonic!).

"A new proprietary software package for each camera (or brand of camera) I use is a learning curve issue as well as a workflow issue."

So true, so true! The learning-curve issue is what gets me.


Dear Jeff,

Thanks for answering my questions. An insurance premium in the 1-2% range would not be onerous. Given how I tend to treat my gear, heck it would be a bargain [g].

Now all I need is something like $40K in discretionary income that I cannot come up with a better use for. Piece'o'cake!

Are you running CS5, yet? The newest version of ACR adds even more auto-lens-correction components to the RAW conversion. If you have it, I'd be curious to hear how it stands up against Phocus with your photos?

I'm still on CS4 (that'll change soon) and I ain't gotta Blad, so I can't test this myself, but I'm always interested in learning more.

Minorly amusing sidenote. ACR in CS4 dos a good enough job of automatically correcting the aberrations in the lenses for my Olympus Pen EP-1 that I honestly didn't realize they did have substantial geometric (and modest chromatic) aberrations. One of the readers here had to point it out to me-- the correction was good enough it didn't leave any "fingerprints."

I love software that makes my life easier!

pax / Ctein

Dear Ctein,

You can test it for yourself, and I think that would be a much better way to go. Hasselblad files are in 3FR format in the camera and get converted to FFF files by Phocus on import. My understanding is that ACR supports 3FR files only. I can send you a 3FR file and you can download Phocus from the Hasselblad site for free.

I think that would be a smarter way to go. My ACR skills have not seen much use in years as I use iPhoto for happy snaps and Phocus for everything else.



Dear Jeff,

OK, that sound like fun. My email address is [email protected].

I've got no Phocus skllz at all, but from what you've written, it doesn't sound like I should need any.

pax / Ctein

To all the doctors who told me to check out the skin cancer below my eye, I thank you.

It was not skin cancer, but a blood blister.

However, the skin doctor did find a skin cancer on my arm, which was not visible in the photo.

I just got around to reading the short article on the S2. The thing is so expensive, I don't think of it as real (it's the "Tooth Fairy" of cameras to me) so I didn't read the article when originally posted. I love the comments on the Canon A2. But I have to say, I also love the Canon A2--I still have two of them. Both had the Command Dial break but I had them repaired and they performed beautifully for many years. They converted me into accepting electronic cameras. Prior to them, I had been a Nikon F2 guy. I absolutely HATED the F3 and all subsequent Nikons due to the electronics. But the A2s--actually mine are A2E models with the useless "eye control". I decided that if those plastic cameras with all the electronic gizmos inside could work that well, then automatic cameras couldn't be so bad after all. And they aren't. Other than using a couple of Leica M6 cameras, everything I've used since has been automatic film and now digital bodies.

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