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Leica the only compact quality digital?

snaggs

New member
I'm happy to see the M8 is coming out.. I've been suprised that none of major manufacturers have taken advantage of the clean slate and designed a small quality Digital with interchangeable lenses.

I have a 5D, but the lenses are just too big to lug around much of the time. Lets hope the Leica M8 can live up to even 50% of expectations.

Anyone else here who would gladly give up LCD's and gizmo's for small quality camera?

Daniel.
 

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
snaggs said:
I'm happy to see the M8 is coming out.. I've been suprised that none of major manufacturers have taken advantage of the clean slate and designed a small quality Digital with interchangeable lenses.

I have a 5D, but the lenses are just too big to lug around much of the time. Lets hope the Leica M8 can live up to even 50% of expectations.

Anyone else here who would gladly give up LCD's and gizmo's for small quality camera?

Daniel.
I'd say that there are plenty of quality small cameras. The new 4/3 Pentax is light and small and high quality. The Epson RD is pretty good too. Even many f the small digicams are really great, except by what standard?

Wide open?

Well, to shoot perfectly wide open then you want the new Leica with the new Zeiss lenses! Then you'll have the best!

Asher
 

James Masi

New member
snaggs said:
I'm happy to see the M8 is coming out.. I've been suprised that none of major manufacturers have taken advantage of the clean slate and designed a small quality Digital with interchangeable lenses.
I'm not sure the M8 would really qualify as "compact". "Normal" size, perhaps -- it is probably around the same size as most DLSR's, excluding, of course, the big honking, rapid shooting, high spped, multi-function pro ones.
 

jmr063

New member
I think if the M8 retains any of the things I love about my M6, I might be tempted to sell my 5D to finance it.
 

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
jmr063 said:
I think if the M8 retains any of the things I love about my M6, I might be tempted to sell my 5D to finance it.
The one thing that sets the digital rangefinders apart, is the superior optics. Nothing matches the price points/ quality of the existing used or new lenses.

Asher
 

James Masi

New member
Asher Kelman said:
The one thing that sets the digital rangefinders apart, is the superior optics. Nothing matches the price points/ quality of the existing used or new lenses.
Provided, of course, that those lenses are compatible with those digital sensors. The superior lenses are mostly in the wide angle catagory and these are precisely the lenses that won't work effectively with digital sensors (they send light at too obtuse an angle to the sensor as they are too close to it). Leica with their Digital M is coming out with new wide angle lens designs. Once re-designed (presumably pushing the rear element away from the sensor) will they still be better than a (Leica) SLR lens? I guess we will have to wait and see.
 

Ben Rubinstein

pro member
Although James has a point which hopefully some revolution in digital sensors will correct (If they could then how about mirrorless retrofocus DSLR's at half the size and double the WA sharpness with next generation EVF, wouldn't that be revolutionary!) I would still happily sell my 5D and canon equipment for a FF digital Contax G2, or even a 1.3 crop of it.
 

James Masi

New member
What I wouldn't do for a FF digital Contax G2!! Actually, use the designed, and sitting on a Kyocera shelf, Contax G3 and make it digital would be even better (would improve some of the AF peculularities of the camera). We can dream, can't we? But it would take a major advance in sensor technologies. Such an advance would not only help rangefinders lenses, but the performance of FF DSLR's as well.

Ben Rubinstein said:
Although James has a point which hopefully some revolution in digital sensors will correct (If they could then how about mirrorless retrofocus DSLR's at half the size and double the WA sharpness with next generation EVF, wouldn't that be revolutionary!) I would still happily sell my 5D and canon equipment for a FF digital Contax G2, or even a 1.3 crop of it.
 

Ben Lifson

New member
Let Me Introduce Myself

Ben Lifson here -- the Digital Rangefinder discussion moderator. Urgent family business, followed immediately by a long teaching project in Cape Town, South Africa, prevented me from assuming my moderator responsibilities when this discussion group began. (Thanks to Asher for sitting in for me.)

Those readers not familiar with me can find my resume on my own website, www.benlifson.com. (It needs updating: I'm now professor of photography at the Hartford Art School of the University of Hartford, Connecticut).

You can also see how I think/write about photography through the eleven articles posted so far in my column, "Making Pictures" on the Raw Work Flow website: www.rawworkflow.com. (Click on the icon at the top left of the home page. It looks like a lens and says "Making Pictures: Ben's Column").

James Masi's wondering if "the M8 would really qualify as 'compact', and Asher's mentioning the Epson R-D1 as a good smaller digital camera are right on the mark. ("Smaller", i.e. smaller than Digital SLRs, is probably the better word than "compact").

I've been using the R-D1 exclusively for my black and white work since December, 2004. (See my portfolio on Epson Europe's website: http://www.epsonrd1.co.uk/portfolio/lifson/page1.html?img=0) It's an exceptional camera whether you use used Leitz or new Voigtlander lenses, and the perfect instrument for serious photographic artists in the small camera tradition begun by Andre Kertesz, Erich Salamon, Henri Cartier-Bresson and others. Recently, it turned into an even better instrument as the R-D1S, whose improved firmware can be downloaded by R-D1 users and incorporated into their cameras.

As the R-D1S sells for a few thousand dollars less than the M8s predicted price, I seriously recommend that readers consider it before buying the Leica digital M body. For this reason, as well as for general things about small camera photography that might be of interest to all readers, I am working on a full appreciation of the R-D1, based on my experience with it. I hope to post it by Wednesday morning at the latest.

Also, if small-sensor small-body digital cameras (slip-into-a-shirt-pocket, carry-it-everywhere small) are what readers mean by "compact", I have been using Panasonic's Lumix DMC-LX1PP (Panasonic's version of Leica's D-Lux 2) since May 24. I photographed with it every day in South Africa and have been photographing with it every day here in Connecticut since my return. My Cape Town student used it for a morning, made 50-some very good photographs, one of which has a chance to last. She bought the D-Lux 2 a few days later. I can't recommend the camera too highly and so within the next week or so will post a report on its excellences.

I've seen and handled the small Ricoh wide angle (21 & 28mm) camera and think highly of it. But I haven't used it so can't comment on it. But I'll say more about it at the end of the Lumix posting.

I'm glad to join this discussion at last and look forward to your continuing participation.

Sincerely,

Ben Lifson
 
Welcome back, Ben!

I've missed seeing your articles on RawWorkflow since the long one on abstraction. With the little Panasonic, are you using its 16:9 format or did you glue on an external viewfinder and stick with 3:2 (cropped). Any thoughts on how the deep focus that comes with very short focal lengths and 28 mm-e viewing angle affects your seeing?

scott
 

Ben Lifson

New member
Epson R-d1: A User's Report

At present, Epson’s R-D1 and the improved version of it, the R-D1S, are the only digital rangefinder camera on the market.

I’ve been using the R-D1 since December, 2004 and am so impressed with it that I will now make an audacious statement.

The R-D1 is the best digital camera in existence for making photographs in the tradition of small camera photography that began in the late 1920s with the introduction of the Leica camera and which was spear-headed by the Leica work of Andre Kertesz and Henri Cartier Bresson. It might well be the only digital camera at present that is good enough to develop this tradition according to digital photography’s specific visual nature.

Therefore, I think it merits serious and thorough attention precisely at this time when readers interested in digital rangefinders are awaiting the release of the digital Leica and some are wondering how they will finance it.

What I have to say is from the perspective of an artist photographer who began photographing with a Leica IIIc in 1964 and has used M2s, M3s and M4s almost exclusively until the release of the R-D1. These are the cameras that supported my photojournalism with New York Magazine, Look, etc. in the 60s and produced the work that earned me two National Endowment for the Arts grants and a Guggenheim Fellowship in photography and led to my prints being exhibited and/or collected by museums across the country.

It’s a report, then, on how the R-D1 has behaved in my hands and how it has helped me pursue my artistic vision. It is necessarily, then, somewhat subjective. Also, it’s a working photographer’s report so some nomenclature might not be standard. I learn how to do things before I learn what the functions that do them are called.

For an objective, professional review please see the R-D1 articles on Sean Reid’s online newsletter, Reid Reviews (www.reidreviews.com) -- not because Sean is my friend but because he has given the R-D1 more attention than has any other serious professional camera reviewer.

MONOCHROME MODE I photograph in black and white. The Epson “monochrome” mode lets me see the pictures in black and white on the LCD. And the JPEGS created by Epson PhotoRaw software lets me edit in black and white before turning to Photo Shop.

IMAGE QUALITY I use the same lenses as with my M-series Leicas: Leitz 90mm f/2.8 Tele-Elmarit; Leitz 50mm f/2.0 Summicron; Leitz 35mm f/2.0 Summicron and a Canon screw mount f/2.8 28mm lens with an M-mount adapter. I also bought a Canon screw mount f/2.8 35mm lens, also with an adapter.

With all lenses the image quality is at least as good as anything I’ve achieved with the Leica Ms and Tri-X. With these five lenses the R-D1 sensor gives pictures having the same combination of sharpness and subtlety as has distinguished Leica photographs from the beginning--that combination of precise drawing and a sketch-like softness that gives Leica photography its immediacy and intimacy.

The gray tones I’m getting, delicate yet solidly there, and the gradations between them are superb; “elusive,” one photographer calls them.

If anything, the R-D1 is enabling me to get closer to the tones, forms and compositions that I’ve long been envisioning and striving to articulate than has any other camera I’ve used.

This vision seeks a kind of flatness that dangerously approaches a condition of much too little contrast yet stops just this side of it, with those precise but elusive gradations between tones.

Nonetheless, the tonal range of my R-D1 RAW files is such that a contrasty treatment of the same images, leading to pictures with an entirely different ambience and emotional content, seems equally obtainable.

WITH AUXILIARY OPTICAL FINDERS The R-D1s viewfinder frame lines accommodate only 28mm, 35mm and 50mm lenses. But with a Leitz 135mm auxiliary optical viewfinder mounted on the accessory hot shoe, and a lot of practice, I can frame quite accurately with the 90mm lens. Other photographers have achieved similar results with auxiliary optical finders for short focal length lenses whose fields of vision are not indicated by the R-D1 frame lines.

AUTOMATIC EXPOSURE When I select aperture priority, the exposures I’m getting so far are so accurate and even that very little Photo Shop operation is needed to complete the image. And recently, two RAW files were so well exposed that no Photo Shop operations were needed.

RANGEFINDER/VIEWFINDER SYSTEM So far I’ve experienced the same accuracy with the R-D1’s rangefinder as with Leica M rangefinders. The same is true of the parallax correction for the 28mm, 35mm, and 50mm lenses. The brightness is superb except in very low light.

It is the fact that the R-D1 is a rangefinder/viewfinder camera that makes it the excellent instrument – and perhaps the only serious digital one -- for serious small camera work.

With a rangefinder/viewfinder, one looks directly at one’s subject, as though through a window. And things seen through the R-D1’s 1:1 viewfinder are the same size as when seen by the unaided eye. Therefore, when the camera goes to the eye, it sustains the photographer’s concentration on, or his/her connection with his/her subject as he/she saw it when it moved him/her to photograph it.

The R-D1 sustains our engagement with the world, with life.

But the moment we put an SLR up to our eye we stop looking at our subject and begin to look at a picture projected by a lens, then a mirror, then a prism, onto the SLR’s ground glass. Our engagement with life is replaced by an engagement with an image.

As I said in the text to my pictures on Epson Europe’s website Gallery, “Ultimately, the subject is life. If one can’t experience life visually through the viewfinder as one experiences it with the unaided eye, one isn’t photographing life, one is photographing an idea.”

Furthermore, the R-D1 viewfinder shows more than is inside the frame. One sees around the frame. In an SLR one sees only what is in the picture. With the R-D1 one sees what one is including in the picture and what one is excluding from it.

Therefore, composition with a rangefinder/viewfinder camera with a viewfinder as excellent as the R-D1s is enormously quick and flexible and has extaordinarily wide scope.

It is, in effect, like drawing itself, looking at the world and putting what shapes one wants onto the paper, where one wants them.

By comparison, composing with an SLR is like being handed a drawing and then making changes in it, but always having to look at the world through its rectangle.

COCKING THE SHUTTER Retaining this feature of film cameras in a 21st century digital camera was a stroke of genius on Epson’s part. This simple and highly familiar operation –for most photographers, like second nature—is part of what makes the R-D1 a true instrument. Thanks to this simple action, the R-D1 is, like the paint brush to the painter, an extension of the photographer’s hand, eye and artistic vision.

Because we have to cock the shutter before each exposure, we tell the R-D1 when it’s ready to shoot.

For that’s the crucial thing: for the camera to become part of, to be absorbed into the photographer’s rhythm and pace of moving through and relating to the world, not for the photographer to become an extension of the camera’s mechanism, which has no relation to the world.

IN THE HAND The R-D1 fits snugly into the hand. It feels heavy at first but within a couple weeks of carrying it every day the heaviness goes away and it obeys every action of arm, wrist and fingers fluidly. It swings up to the eye naturally. All operations of the right hand– focusing, cocking the shutter, changing shutter speed – are fluid. One can change shutter speed without looking away from the viewfinder, even in the dark.

True, it is a camera, but with the R-D1 “camera” is only a sub-category of the larger category, “instrument”.

With respect to the great tradition of 35mm photography, in my opinion the R-D1 is the closest thing we have to the Stradivarious of digital cameras.

OTHER ADVANTAGES The R-D1 is giving excellent results with Cossina Voigtlander and Zeiss lenses.

A DRAWBACK The R-D1 isn’t weather sealed; care is needed to protect it from sudden temperature changes, especially going from cold to warm, lest humidity condense on and damage the circuitry.

THE R-D1S

A few weeks ago Epson announced a new version of the R-D1 – the R-D1S. At present, Epson has no plans to release it in the US. But R-D1 owners can download the new firmware. The basic facts of the improvements as reported by Sean Reid, are listed below. For full details, see the “Epson R-D1 Long Term” article at www.reidreviews.com, as well as for drawbacks reported by long-term R-D1 users.

1. “The camera always releases the shutter at the first press.”

2. “The camera can be set to simultaneously record a RAW and a low-resolution JPEG file for each exposure”.

3. “The RAW buffer is…improved from two frames to three…

4. The reviewing system has been improved.

5. “There is now a hot pixel correction feature available via the menu.”
 
Last edited:

Ben Lifson

New member
Apologies to all readers who read the uncorrected version of my R-D1 article. New to the site, I didn't know all the steps for editing a post. Therefore, for the last day my section on AUTOMATIC EXPOSURE contained the error, "Whether I select aperture priority or shutter priority..." Shutter priority is, of course, impossible on the R-D1. I thought I'd edited and re-edited it many times but it was only this morning, when Sean Reid emailed me to say the error was still there, that I figured out the editing steps. Again, apologies to those who must have wondered if I were talking about the right camera.
 

Ben Rubinstein

pro member
Ben, how about cutting and pasting your report into a new thread as opposed to tagging it on the end of this one? I clicked on this post by mistake thinking there was nothing new but stuff like this deserves its own thread and seperate discussion.
 

Mark Adams

New member
Epson R-D1 Availability

Ben,
I'm feeling the passion. Your enthusiasm is contagious. Now I want to find an Epson and play with it. What is the story? It's not at B&H or Samys or Calumet, even out of stock at Epson.
Warm Regards, Mark Adams
 

Mark Adams

New member
Bruce
Thanks for the tip. I checked out Robert White and their price seems fair but I've decided on a Ricoh GR (FedEx tomorrow). I will also be checking out the Leica 8 when it's available.
 

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
"MONOCHROME MODE I photograph in black and white. The Epson “monochrome” mode lets me see the pictures in black and white on the LCD. And the JPEGS created by Epson PhotoRaw software lets me edit in black and white before turning to Photo Shop."

Ben,

Your experience is so energizing! I wonder about the relative benefits of shooting and processing via the Monochrome mode as opposed to using PS to distribute tonality according to color data as well as according to luminance.

Asher
 
I see the price is about $2450 after shipping and insurance are taken into account. That's a lot, but still below the quoted list. Has anyone had experience with this agent? I couldn't tell what the warranty covers. This is important since Sean Reid's long term usage report stresses that many of the RD-1's need a stay at the manufacturer's service center to get everything working right.

scott
 
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