Camera West New Store Location

Camera West Monterey Store RelocationAfter enjoying our ten years in the Professional Building of Monterey, we have relocated to a 3500 square foot space in Rancho Mirage. Our new location features floor to ceiling, North facing windows, convenient parking and a prominent location on Highway 111, in the Coachella Valley.

Our Southern California location provides convenient access not only from Riverside County, but also from Pasadena, Los Angeles, Orange County and San Diego and provides a nice geographic balance with our Walnut Creek location.

The new space has even more showcases, with expanded areas for Canon, Nikon, Hasselblad and Novoflex. We are presently adding a large format printer demo area, where our Leica, Hasselblad and other extreme digital products may be properly shown. We also have available private appointments by request.

We have also increased the space for our Leica Shop.

Opened in 2002, this was the first of the Leica authorized boutique stores in the Americas. Our clients have consistently stated that we have the largest inventory of Leica, displayed anywhere in North America.

If you are looking for a just introduced and hard to find lens or accessory or a unique addition to your museum quality collection, we are likely to be able to fulfill your wishes.

Camera West has always been known for their expert product knowledge and personalized customer service. If you happen to be in the San Francisco or Los Angeles areas, please stop by and discover what Camera West is known for!

Monterey Store Re-Location

After enjoying our ten years in the Professional Building of Monterey, Camera West will be leaving its 1750 square foot Franklin Street location to enjoy a new and vibrant 3500 square foot space. Regrettably, for our beloved Monterey friends and clients, the new location that we have chosen is in Rancho Mirage, near Palm Springs, in Southern California. Our fabulous Walnut Creek location has rightfully absorbed much of our Northern California business. We feel that it is necessary for our stores to be farther apart in order for both stores to thrive and continue to grow.

Our new Rancho Mirage location will mirror our more tasteful Walnut Creek store, both in size and amenities. The new location will feature floor to ceiling windows with North light, improved lighting and a larger service counter as we have in Walnut Creek. We will also have an expanded Leica Shop, a medium format digital and large format printer demo area, more display cases and a dedicated sales office for private appointments.

While we are saddened to leave the Monterey Bay and the friends that we have made, we do look forward to enjoying our new location!

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Leica X1 Prototype Review.

Just before Christmas, I received a pre-production X1, with the handgrip, for review.

This is the second prototype X1 that we have had for review. This one seems to have a near final version firmware installed, so I took it out for a test run.

My initial thoughts about the camera are that the controls are laid out nicely. The buttons on the back of the camera are similar to the M8/M9 and the D-Lux 4, so they will be familiar to many.

The size of the camera is not much larger than the D-Lux 4, but for this camera, I do like the grip. I have not yet seen or used the optical finder, but I think that I would enjoy using that with this camera as well. As the X1 has a fixed focal length lens, the optical finder seems like a perfect match. The little black dot on the rear of the top cover, below the accessory shoe, is a focus confirmation light. This can be seen in your peripheral view when using the finder.

The controls on the top cover are of solid aluminum and feel very nice. The layout will be familiar to most users. The flash is raised by simply depressing the top of the flash. I did some fill flash shots with manual exposure. In this regard, the camera operates the same as an SLR, which is awesome for a compact camera. For me, the idea of such a camera as this is to take it when you do not wish to carry your full sized camera, so all images in this article are hand held.

The flash is very balanced, but if you want a softer ratio, flash compensation is available. The metering is also very accurate. I used the camera in all metering modes and settled on the multi pattern metering as the overall best setting. The multi-point AF seems to work as it should, but I’m not a big fan of multi-point AF. I’ve used it with Canons and Nikons, and like the SLR’s, the X1 does not consistently predict where I want it to focus.

ISO performance is impressive. The camera is capable of operating to ISO 3200. Usually, images made at the ISO max do not tend to look very good. ISO 3200 on the X1 is, in my opinion, actually usable. The noise that you would expect looks like film grain, which is quite novel for a digital camera.

The noise at ISO 800 is generally not noticeable. I’d probably just set the camera at auto ISO to limit to 800 and leave it at that.

There is some color fringing present in some of the images that I made. This is easy to dial out in Lightroom or Photoshop and I suspect that it will be dealt with in the final firmware that the camera ships with.

This last set of images shows the difference in image quality when used at each of the ISO settings.

My overall impressions of the X1 are that is photographs much like a point and shoot M8. The fit and finish and overall quality of construction are what we come to expect from Leica and are what you would expect of a compact camera that has a tag of $1995.00. Currently, RAW images can only be made in tandem with a JPEG image. I anticipate that this will be changed before the camera ships. Below are a few more images made with the camera, Click on any of these images to open up full TIFF files and check out the image quality for yourself.

Leica Noctilux Comparison, 0.95 vs. 1.0

Due to the scarcity of M9, I’ve not yet been able to allocate one of these for myself. I was lucky enough to have one loaned to me for the weekend from Leica, via Tom Brichta, the representative from Northern California. I have been yearning to do a side by side comparison of these lenses for quite some time and last weekend was my opportunity. The results are as follows.

Reference: The lenses tested were the 50mm0.95 Asph #4085786, from Nov ’09 delivery and a 50mm1.0 Noctilux-M #3738627, which has been 6-Bit updated by Leica. All images were made with a tripod and self timer delayed activation. Critical focus was insured by the use of the 1.4x magnifier. The RAW files were converted to TIFF in Photoshop using “As Shot” white balance and “Default” settings.

For the first set of images, the point of focus was the highlight on the wire corner. Both lenses were tested at minimum focus distance of 40″ and at maximum aperture. The 50mm0.95 Asph is shown on the left and the 50mm1.0 is shown on the right.

Click the images to open full screen
Overall, the images look similar. Both lenses have comparable Bokeh. If you’ve not heard the term before, Bokeh refers to how the lens renders the out of focus areas. The Noctilux lenses are renowned for how much separation can be imparted by opening up the lens. From this and other images that I have seen, the traditional look of the Noctilux is maintained in the new lens, which should be a comforting note to current non-Asph Noctilux users.

The above images are shown at 100%. The 0.95 Asph is clearly sharper with better contrast. Upon secondary inspection of the images, I thought the the 50mm1.0 may have been slightly back focused. This was exceptionally perplexing as I was extremely careful focusing. Returning to the full screen images, you can note that the debris on the glass table is in the same plane of focus on both images, so I am concluding that this is simply a difference in how the two lenses resolve focus and also the difference between f0.95 and f1.0. If the comparison is as accurate as I believe it is, this is much more of a difference than I expected to see. Photographing with these lenses at maximum aperture and minimum focus distance definitely accentuates the subtle differences in the two lenses.

The next set of photos were made at infinity focus at f8.0 with lens detection enabled. I wanted to see what these looked like if you wanted to use it under more normal conditions. There is a slight difference in the auto metering as the 50mm0.95 image has more sky, but otherwise they look pretty similar.

Upon close inspection, you can see that there is a bit more contrast in the 50mm0.95.

This was a test to see how each lens compared with 6-Bit (Lens Detection) turned on and turned off. The first set is the 50mm0.95 Asph and the second set is the 50mm1.0. Both were taken at /250th sec at f8.0

As you can see, the 50mm0.95 has subtle vignetting, but the 50mm1.0 is much more pronounced. In some occasions, the vignetting is nice for black and white images and it would not at all be noticed if you were using this on an M8. In any case, if you have an earlier Noctilux that is not 6-Bit, I would have it converted. Leica also changes the lens mount which insures that it focuses properly on the digital M cameras.

The next test was to see if there was any perceivable depth of field or sharpness difference on the 50mm0.95 Asph lens from f0.95 to f1.0.

Here are images from the 50mm0.95 and the 50mm1.0, both are at maximum aperture.

Here are two more sets, comparing both lenses at f1.0 and f1.4.

Conclusion: To my eye, the new 50mm0.95 Asph retains the traditional Noctilux look, while having a slight increase in contrast and color saturation. The lens has substantially less vignetting and renders fine details more sharply at open apertures. Another nice feature of the new lens, which was not previously mentioned, is that the Asph has a shorter focus throw, so is it quicker to focus. The lens does seem to have better focusing accuracy, wide open, at minimum focus distance. While either lens would make a fine addition to any M system, the new lens is clearly an improvement. At $9995.00, the 50mm0.95 is definitely an investment, but certainly one which will be enjoyed!

Sean Cranor
President, Camera West

P.S. A few non test environment snapshots…

Leica X1, M9 and S2 System Preview

We are pleased to host Justin Stailey, Product Specialist from Leica Camera, at Monterey on Oct 12th and to Walnut Creek on Oct 13th. We will have on hand a prototype X1 camera, specially sent from Leica AG, for our event. We will also have a second version prototype S2 system for review as well as production version M9′s. This is a rare opportunity to see all of these cameras at one time, before their market release!

The evening presentation will be shown with Leica’s new Pradovit D-1200 digital projector. This will be busy event and evening space is limited, so RSVP will be greatly appreciated. We look forward to seeing you there!