Nikon FT1 Mount Adapter

Nikon has just announced the FT1 mount adapter which allows NIKKOR F mount lenses to be used with Nikon 1 cameras equipped with a Nikon 1 mount. The angle of view of an F mount lens mounted on the FT1 is equivalent to that of a 35mm format lens with a focal length about 2.7 x longer.

This new adapter can be used with more than 60 Nikkor lenses, and supports autoexposure, autofocus and vibration reduction in the AF-S line of lenses.

The New Leica V-Lux 3

We now have in stock the new Leica V-Lux 3, a 12.1-megapixel camera with a Leica DC Vario-Elmarit 4.5 – 108 mm f/2.8 – 5.2 ASPH.lens (25–600 mm in 35 mm format). One of the fastest consecutive shooting cameras in its class, the V-Lux 3 incorporates a high-speed burst-shooting capability: bursts of 12 frames per second at full resolution, or 60 frames per second at a resolution of 3.5 MP.

The Leica V-Lux 3 also features a very impressive range of video functions, capturing full-HD video in AVCHD format with 1920 × 1080 pixels and 60 full frames per second with an integrated stereo microphone with an electronic wind noise filter to help record a crystal-clear soundtrack.

Stop by Camera West and see this exceptional camera.

The Fine Art of Manual Focus

The Zeiss manual focus 50mm f1.4 Planar T* ZE has a long focus throw, helpful when shooting video.

Those of you who were shooters before auto focus or those of you who currently shoot with any of the Leica M series cameras or other older film cameras know what it is like to manually focus. It’s difficult and if you are like me and got spoiled by today’s auto focusing digital cameras, it’s frustrating to manually focus quickly on moving subjects, especially at wide open apertures.

I used to be good with my hand/eye coordination before autofocus technology came along. When shooting sports with long lenses at wide open apertures, you had to be good – or frustrated and out of focus all of the time. All that has changed however because we’ve been spoiled by the lightning fast, extremely accurate auto focus capability of today’s cameras. Who needs to manual focus when autofocus is so much better?  Well, if you like to shoot video like I do with a DSLR, you’ll need to learn the lost art of manual focus.

Although it’s true that some DSLRs will allow you to auto focus while in video mode, it’s never very good and is easily fooled. Pros never use auto focus because you can’t risk the chance that your auto focus will get fooled especially for those scenes where you get only one take. You need to focus manually, which takes a lot of practice. And to make it even worse, you can’t look through the viewfinder but rather, need to focus off the lcd in live view mode which presents a number of additional challenges.

How do you work with these challenges? I’ve already mentioned practice. On top of that, it helps to have some focusing aides. A magnifying loupe to place over your lcd helps, as does a follow focus, an external monitor or an electronic viewfinder. I use all of these and they all help you get sharp. Also using non-auto focusing lenses will make obtaining focus easier. Why? Longer focus throws. Today’s auto focusing lenses have a very short focus throw. Makes sense that the shorter the throw, the quicker the lens can lock focus. That short focus throw however makes manual focusing difficult. A short 1/4 inch turn of the lens barrel can shift focus 30 feet with some lenses. Try manually focusing a fast moving subject with such a short focus throw – you’ll see it’s next to impossible.

With my background in photojournalism and sports photography, I have a great assortment of auto focus zoom lenses. They are the perfect tools for fast moving scenes however for video, not so great. I’m now looking to manual focus primes for video work. Zeiss and Leica R primes have crisp optics and long focus throws. Zeiss lenses will also communicate distance and aperture values with the camera which can be helpful. Some budget minded DSLR video shooters are using old Nikon manual focus glass again for the long focus throws. Even Canon shooters are using the Nikon glass with a converter although I don’t really recommend this since the focus pull is opposite of Canon.

Here is a comparison of the focus throws of various 50mm f1.4 lenses.
3 Feet to Infinity Focus Throw Distance :
Zeiss 50mm f1.4 Planar T* ZE : 2.25 “
Nikon 50mm f1.4 AI : 2.0″
Canon EF 50mm f1.4 USM : 5/8 “

Now go out with your gear and practice, practice, practice!

A Hike with the Leica X1

It’s been said that the best camera is the one that is in your hands when you want to capture a fleeting image. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a wonderful moment and had no camera with me to capture it. Very frustrating…but that’s where the compact camera shines. It’s small enough to put in your coat pocket or small bag, always ready when you need it.

I had the opportunity recently to take the Leica X1 out for one of my hikes along my favorite beach. I have to admit up front that I’m not a huge fan of compact cameras mostly because of their small sensors and lack of quick auto focusing. I’m spoiled shooting DSLRs with their lightning fast auto focus and 8-10 photos per second frame rates, not to mention their large sensors. But, do I carry one everywhere I go? No way.

The Leica X1 is small enough to carry at all times and with it’s APS-C size sensor, produces beautiful images. The auto focus is also much improved over many past point and shoots I’ve used. Not DSLR fast, but getting better.

The beauty of the X1 is it’s large sensor in such a small package. Combine that with Leica’s legendary optics and you have a great compact camera.

The X1 comes with a true Leica lens. An Elmarit 24mm f2.8 ASPH lens. I’m not a fan of fixed focal length cameras, however if I were to choose just one focal length, it would be a 35mm field of view and that’s what the X1 gives you.

The camera is a joy to just look at. It is beautifully designed with all metal construction, clean lines and a leather trim. It fits well in my hand and most of the functions I want are exactly where I would expect them. And those that are accessed through the menu system are easy to find. The menu system of the X1 is by far the easiest I’ve ever navigated. It’s flow is very intuitive making getting to various functions quick and easy.

The X1 has an optional optical viewfinder and handgrip. I highly recommend both. Shooting outdoors and composing an image on an lcd is difficult no matter what camera is in your hands. Using the optical viewfinder is the way to go to precisely frame your shot and Leica was clever enough to have an LED light up close to your eye to let you know when the camera has locked focus. The optional hand grip just makes the camera feel more secure in your hands.

The X1 has been out for 2 years now and hopefully we’ll be seeing some added features and improvements soon in the next version. What I’d like to see is a 2-3 X zoom without sacrificing the compact size, a closer macro capability and quicker auto focus. Give me those three improvements and this camera will be my go to compact camera.

So, here are a few X1 photos from my hike on Limantour Beach at Point Reyes National Seashore.

It was good practice for me to leave behind all my gear for this hike along the beach. Keeping it simple using one fine camera with one very fine lens.

The 35mm field of view is how I see the world. If I were stuck with just one lens, 35mm would be my choice.
I was pleased to see that the Elmarit 24mm f2.8 ASPH lens could handle the subtle detail in the sand drift. 
Although I wish the X1 had better macro capability, all I had to do is crop into this image and with the large sensor, I was able to get closer without sacrificing much in quality.

Leica X1 Key Features
Compact lightweight body with analogue features
Fixed 24mm f2.8 lens (angle of view equivalent to 35mm lens on a full frame)
12.2 MP APS-C CMOS sensor
Full range of manual controls along with program, shutter and aperture priority exposure modes
DNG raw format recording

The Leica X1 is available in silver (shown above) and in all black. Stop by at Camera West and check out this classic camera.

A Leica Lens Compendium

You can now download the 2005 version of the Leica Lens Compendium by Erwin Puts for free. This 223 page pdf document does not contain any images but it’s available here as a free download with the permission of the author. Erwin Puts released a new version of this book recently, available for purchase at Camera West.