My Summilux Adventure

So that escalated quickly…

It was not that long ago when I had acquired my Summicron-M 35mm from the good people at Leica Store Miami and took some photos with it in Ocean City over Labor Day weekend. I knew after that weekend that the Summicron 35mm had a place in my humble collection of Leica lenses and I planned to keep it for a long time.

Oh how things changed on a fateful visit to Ace Photo.

One of my favorite local camera shops in the Northern Virginia region had a pre-owned Leica Summilux-M 35mm f/1.4 ASPH (11874) for sale for an exorbitant price for a used lens, which they quickly corrected to match the used market value once I had corrected them. What I did not realize was that the lens was now significantly cheaper and a few hundred more than what I had bought the pre-owned Summicron 35mm for a few weeks back.

My poor and terrible GAS logic got the best of me and I picked up the Summilux for an excellent deal and the good folks at Leica Store Miami accepted the Summicron back for a refund, albeit I was hit with a minor restocking fee. This was completely fair considering I had the lens longer than the approved return window.

Impressions

The images that I was able to capture with the M9 was nothing short of stunning and at the same time, as expected from Leica. The images were sharp across the frame, albeit a bit soft on the corners. The color saturation was neutral, yet beautiful with the M9’s sensor. The bokeh, was just stunning without any weird shapes or “nervousness”.

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The lens turned out to be one of my favorite 35mm lenses of all time, even more so than my previous favorite: the Sony-Zeiss Distagon 35mm f/1.4 ZA.

While the body of this lens is what you would expect from Leica, with its brass inner construction with aluminum outer body, but the lens hood was something to be desired as it was made from hard ABS plastic (albeit very tough). Not something I expected from a lens that costs over $4,000 new, built between 1994-2010.

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Optically, the lens was close to perfect, yet it does suffer from minor focus shift between the median apertures. I personally don’t think this is a big deal because people buy this lens to shoot wide open at f/1.4, which is fantastic, and street photographers tend to shoot above f/8 anyways to open up their depth of field. Anything between f/4-f/5.6 is sort of immaterial for photographers that buy this lens, in my opinion.

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There is more to this story, however, but that will have to wait until the next update.

My EDC (or Apple device) Reflection - Fall 2018

I was inspired to write this short blog update as Apple’s 2018 Fall Keynote is just 24 hours away and I thought it was a good time to look at my current everyday carry (tech wise) to see which device require upgrading as I can’t afford to upgrade everything every year. That being said, I own the following Apple devices as of today:

  • Apple iPhone X

  • Apple Watch - 42mm (Series 2)

  • Apple iPad Pro 10.5 (2017)

  • Apple AirPods

  • Apple MacBook Pro - 13 inch (2017)

  • Apple MacBook Pro - 15 inch (2016)*

*work provided

It would be an understatement to say that my daily tech workflow (or carry flow?) is mostly dependent on Apple devices and some people may have a similar setup, but through other manufacturers, but the iOS/MacOS ecosystem works very well for me. The use of Apple’s continuity and streamlined workflow speak volumes to me and this alone make me very happy to be stuck in their ecosystem.

As September draws closer, it’s time for me to reflect on each device and think about whether or not it needs to be upgraded.

iPhone X

This is hands down my favorite Apple iPhone since my first iPhone back in 2012 with the iPhone 5 (yeah I’ve been a BlackBerry user since 2006) and it mostly has to do with the refinements that Apple done since the original iPhone. The iPhone X is a culmination of Apple’s best foot forward approach, such as industrial design, the state of the art A11 Bionic processor, and finally going bezel-less like the rest of the world. After a year of use, I never picked up the phone and thought to myself, “I need to upgrade.” This phone still outperforms most flagships out there in terms of real-world performance and with the upcoming launch of iOS 12, which was reported to make older devices even snappier, I don’t feel the need to upgrade this guy anytime soon.

However…

I’m in the Apple iPhone Upgrade program since last year, which allows me to call dibs on the latest iPhone every year, sort of like a lease program like you would through any other cellular provider, but doing it through Apple instead.

This alone is worth it to me.

Being able to avoid the useless reps at Verizon (or any other carrier) when something happens to your phone and working with Apple directly, is the the path of least resistance I’m willing to take. To top it off, Apple also includes two years of Apple Care + as part of your program.

Apple Watch

This is something I’m looking forward to upgrading.

I’ve been a sworn Apple Watch user since 2016 and it has easily become my favorite watch in terms of utility and my pragmatic lifestyle, more so than my beloved Omega Seamaster Professional.

The problem I have now with the watch is that it’s been noticeably slow when it came to heart rate monitoring during my workouts. Sometimes the watch would not read my heart rate (or read them incorrectly altogether) in the middle of my workout, which is a problem for me as I want to know what my heart rate is during my HIIT workouts. It was becoming such a nuisance that I’ve considered picking up a separate bluetooth chest strap to supplement the watch, which defeats the purpose of the built-in tracker. I’m hoping the new Apple Watch comes with a new processor and better heart rate monitoring algorithms, as I believe these improvements will be the main seller for me.

iPad Pro 10.5

Despite the convenience of having my iPhone on me everyday, the iPad Pro is easily my favorite device to use everyday. I was an early adopter of Apple’s tablet since the original iPad in April 2010 when I was probably the only person to buy one at the local BestBuy. Fast forward 8 years and several iPad iterations later (which I’ve owned most of them), I’m here with Apple’s simply overpowered 2017 iPad Pro.

This device is simply attached on me most of the time due to its utility. Whether its for watching Youtube, browsing the web, taking notes for school or work, the iPad Pro is a staple of my daily life that I can’t live without.

Rumor has it that the new iPad Pro (2018) models will be bezel-less, meaning the actual screen real estate will be larger for both the new 11 inch and 12.9 inch models, will implement Face-ID 2.0 and notchless. To add to this, the new design will now feature solid edges instead of continuing with the curved design that Apple had been using for the past few years. This is a smart move since going bezel-less will require some sort of extra girth to hold comfortably without your fingers getting in the way of the screen.

Upgrade?

I’m a tech junkie and I love having the latest toys, but due to the cost involved in upgrading to the latest and greatest every year, one has to be pragmatic about their reason for upgrading. That being said, I do plan on upgrading the three devices mentioned above as they’re a core asset to me that I use daily, but it also scratches the itch that I get every year during new tech season - at the exchange of a lighter wallet.

Labor Day Weekend

Amy and I took a weekend out of our busy schedule to spend some time with friends at Ocean City, where we had rented an Air BnB for the long weekend.

The weekend brought together friends that I have not seen since Mariah's wedding and it felt really good to get out and relax, or as much as I could afford to since I was still burdened with school work during the weekend. 

 SUMMICRON-M 35mm ASPH

SUMMICRON-M 35mm ASPH

I took my Leica M9 with my new to me SUMMICRON-M 35mm f/2 ASPH that I had picked up from the good folks at Leica Store Miami for what I consider to be a good deal. I've been looking for a good opportunity to use this lens and luckily I had found that chance with the sunny environment of Ocean City, MD.

 SUMMICRON-M 35mm ASPH

SUMMICRON-M 35mm ASPH

It's no surprise that the images that a SUMMICRON can produce is nothing short of stunning as even shooting wide open at f/2 bring out the resolving power out of the aging M9 with plenty of micro contrast for that pop that I love about Leica lenses.

However, the other lens that truly impressed me was the Voigtlander Nokton 50mm f/1.5 ASPH. The rendering out of that lens paired with the M9's CCD sensor gave the images a classical look without looking too clinical as other lenses I've seen where the race to have the sharpest lenses have gained favor over the lens' character in the modern digital photography world. 

Remember, raw sharpness is not everything

 SUMMICRON-M 35mm ASPH

SUMMICRON-M 35mm ASPH

 SUMMICRON-M 35mm ASPH

SUMMICRON-M 35mm ASPH

 SUMMICRON-M 35mm ASPH

SUMMICRON-M 35mm ASPH

With the sun at its peak, the light proved to be too overpowering for the Nokton at its widest aperture at f/1.5, which is unfortunate since most of the micro contrast magic truly pops at f/1.5. 

With the power of post-processing and Lightroom, I was able to save most of the highlights from shooting wide open and added some flavor to my liking to recover the contrast.

 Nokton 50mm f/1.5 ASPH

Nokton 50mm f/1.5 ASPH

 Nokton 50mm f/1.5 ASPH

Nokton 50mm f/1.5 ASPH

 Nokton 50mm f/1.5 ASPH

Nokton 50mm f/1.5 ASPH

 Nokton 50mm f/1.5 ASPH

Nokton 50mm f/1.5 ASPH

I forgot to add that I had also brought my venerable Leica Q with me on this trip, but I didn't have the urge to bring it out since I was having too much fun with both the SUMMICRON-M 35mm and the Nokton. Both of these lenses filled my needs for a wide-angle and long focal lengths, while at the same time, filling the speeds I needed for both wide depth of field and low light. 

 SUMMICRON-M 35mm ASPH

SUMMICRON-M 35mm ASPH

 Nokton 50mm f/1.5 ASPH

Nokton 50mm f/1.5 ASPH

 SUMMICRON-M 35mm ASPH

SUMMICRON-M 35mm ASPH

Picking up this SUMMICRON-M 35mm ASPH completes my dual 'cron setup paired with the legendary SUMMICRON-M 50mm f/2, while the Leica Q continues to fills my thirst for going wider with its gorgeous SUMMILUX-M 28mm f/1.7 ASPH, which is cheaper than purchasing the SUMMILUX-M 28mm f/1.4 ASPH by itself that costs over $6,000 for just the lens. If you're looking into getting your feed wet into the world of full-frame Leica cameras, I would wholeheartedly advise you to start with the Leica Q. My gateway drug into this club started from there and I have to say that I love every bit of it. 

You can view additional photos here and follow me on Instagram.


Voigtlander Nokton 50mm f/1.5 - Punching Above Its Weight

I've recently picked up a new lens from a friend of mine, the Voigtlander Nokton 50mm f/1.5 and I have to say that I've loving what Voigtlander lenses can render with the Leica M9's CCD sensor. The classical rendering from both the previous Nokton 35mm f/1.2 ASPH II (sold due to the size and heft) and this lens made me a big fan of how the images look with very little post-processing work.

 The microcontrast and fall off is spectacular

The microcontrast and fall off is spectacular

I was also looking at the Zeiss 50mm f/1.4 ZM as a contender to Leica's Summilux-M 50mm f/1.4, but the reviews I've read about the focus shift and rendering (I'm personally not a fan of contrasty images that the Zeiss renders), the Nokton rose to the top of the list and it has more and earned its right to stay in my camera bag. 

Amy Nokton 2