Guest Blog: Two and a Half Years, 13 Countries, 1 Camera: The Leica M Review by Sebastiaan de With

It was early in 2014, long enough after the introduction of the Leica M (also known as the ‘Typ 240’, or ‘M10’) when I finally bit the bullet and decided to sell my trusty Leica M-E for this newest, rather different digital rangefinder camera from the German niche camera maker.


I always vowed I’d write a thorough review on it, much like I’d done for the Bessaflex TM. I do always feel, however, that a truly great review puts a product through its paces. It frustrates me when a journalist only gets to use a product for a short amount of time to deliver a rushed impression to an inquisitive reader. I didn’t want to be that guy. So, I ditched a few drafts in the last two and a half years.

Until now

To read from our guest blogger Sebastiaan de With check out the link below.

Two and a half years, 13 countries, 1 camera: The Leica M Review

Sebastiaan’s personal website can be found here and his Instagram page is . The website for the review and his ongoing project of world travel by motorcycle is Ride Earth -

Thank you Sebastiaan for the in-depth review of the Leica M.

A Visit to the Brewery: Shot Exclusively on the Leica D-Lux 109

The D-Lux 109

It is so easy for us photographers and filmmakers to get carried away with the tools we use rather than getting carried away with the subject matter we are pursuing. I used to regularly shoot Canon DSLRs, Sony cine type cameras and the occasionally RED camera. Sometimes I still use those tools. Are they amazing tools? ABSOLUTELY, but they can slow things down, require extensive rigging, and more times than not they can dampen the aura of a moment. In the work I typically do I am shooting on the fly and trying to capture moments that are not staged. When I point a camera at a person, and they see me I don’t want to disturb them. I also have to get shots while remaining unnoticed, which requires minimal rigging.

I have never encountered a camera that was so capable at taking amazing pictures, and filming than the Leica D-Lux 109.  Per square inch the D-lux 109 packs more power than any other camera. The D-Lux is phenomenal!

My recent visit to the Coachella Valley Brewing Company presented the perfect opportunity to get some spectacular black and whites. I recently visited there, and the only camera I had on me was the D-Lux 109. So, I immediately got to shooting some shots around the brewery and then switched to free handing some 4k shots on the fly. The ability to pull a camera out like that and start shooting some really incredible material was extremely liberating!! 

Not only is the D-Lux inconspicuous, and readily available, but it is also has a GREAT lens. I Love the f1.7 @24mm and the macro mode. The lens is sharp at all focal lengths and apertures. 

Honestly the 4k out of the camera is just outstanding. Below is a frame I pulled out of the video once I had finished grading. Again, this not a photograph, this is one frame of video! I could make a nice print of this frame if I wanted to.

4k frame

The video has low compression at 100mbps @4k 24fps, and since this is a Leica camera (yes, I know they aren’t made in Wetzlar) the color is lovely.  Now, I don’t appreciate 4k for the immense amount of resolution it gives me, but rather for increase in bit rate, grading opportunities as well as reframing capabilities. The D-Lux’s settings do require some tweaking to shoot serious video. I messed with the Gamma curves to get a in camera flat-ish profile, and there are a few other oddities that are required to get the camera from being a “stills” camera to being somewhat of a cine camera. Below is a piece I shot in about 10-15 minutes, all by hand with nothing but my D-Lux 109.

I plan to use the D-Lux 109 for a lot more than just personal projects in the near future. I plan to use it in a couple up coming documentary films I will be heading up. The D-Lux will not simply be used as a B or C camera but as my primary camera. The 4k is absolutely lovely out of this camera and so is the color. Convenience, and great color when paired with a outstanding lens, and nice 4k for 1080 or 2k downscaling makes for the right tool for the job.


About the Author: Ben Carpenter is a photographer and filmmaker originally from the Midwest. Ben now resides in the Coachella Valley where he works as a sales representative at Camera West Rancho Mirage. Ben shoots a variety of films ranging from wedding and commercial films to documentary films in the southern California region. He also enjoys leading a variety of workshops at our Rancho Mirage store.

Leica Taifun, My First Few Days with the New Leica T

I was very fortunate to have received an evaluation sample of the new Leica T, code named “Taifun”. After signing my life away with the non disclosure agreement, I received the new camera, complete with 18-56mm3.5-5.6 zoom lens, Visoflex electronic finder and M lens adapter. Upon opening the box, I had a great smile on my face, getting the new camera in my hands. I had heard that the body was machined out of a solid block of aluminum, but it is hard to anticipate that visceral reaction when you place something of inherent quality of construction in your hands. It really feels good. The body is machined from a 2.2# block of metal down to a piece that weighs only a few ounces.  The feel is unlike anything available on the market today.

The camera size is smaller than an M and about the same as the X Vario body. The lens mounting is similar to the S or the R system, in that the lens release is mounted in a familiar place, about 7 o’clock on the lens mount. The new lenses are auto focus, which will be very nice for most users. The lenses are lighter than M lenses, but mount to the body with the same feeling of precision.  After charging the battery fully, I immediately mounted the Visoflex finder. The first thing that I noticed, is that the finder automatically activates when the finder is placed to your eye. The finder resolution is very high. I did not have an opportunity to do a direct comparison with other finders from Sony, Fuji and Olympus, but my initial impression was that it was at least as good as anything that I have seen or used recently, with good color, contrast and sharpness. The finder has the typical diopter adjustment and it also tilts through 90 degrees, which is really nice for tripod use.

The user interface is typical Leica in concept. Very simple and intuitive, especially if you own a modern smart phone. The hard controls consist of a shutter release and power switch, video start/stop button and two dials.  The rest is controlled from the large touch screen interface.  There are three primary touch screen buttons. One is exposure mode selection, the second is for the menu and the third controls how information is displayed on the screen. The screen is very bright and has high resolution and adjusts automatically to ambient brightness. In use, I had no problem seeing the screen in full sunlight.

I proceeded to learn and set up the menu on the T. The main menu consists of your most important settings, while the settings menu has all of the available settings. You can customize the layout of the menu by simply dragging and dropping each menu icon. I was able to configure the main menu with my most relevant settings, in the order that I preferred them to appear. This was simply a nice feature at first, that with use, I came to really love. Now that I have returned my advance copy to Leica, and am using my M again, I find that I really miss that touch screen menu.

My advance copy Taifun, did not come with a manual, so it took me a quick telephone call to figure out how to play back my images. I was looking for a playback button as my mind was not totally immersed in the touch screen user interface yet. I learned that playback is accessed by touching and dragging your finger down across the back of the screen.  After that, the rest was easy. Touch and swipe to flip between images, pinch to reduce the image or to show a checkerboard of multiple images and spread your fingers to increase the image size. You can go to full magnification with a double tap on the screen. Very quick and intuitive. For auto focus, I like center spot AF, so I immediately turned off the multi point AF. AF is quick and precise. I made a few test shots. Just enough to familiarize myself with the camera. The next morning, with tripod in hand, I was off to a local wind farm to do a few more serious test shots. I found the color to be what I typically expect from Leica, which is very pleasing. The resolution was really fantastic. This is an APS-C sensor size, like the X-Vario, which I also own. I have not done a direct comparison yet, but the ISO range seems similar to the X2 and X-Vario. As good as the X-Vario lens is, this lens somehow seemed better.

On my second outing with the T, I used the M adapter with my 50mm1.4 Asph. This camera does not have contrast focusing, so I was not sure how easy it would be to use the M lenses with the EVF Visoflex. The control dials allow you to adjust F-Stop and shutter speed in manual mode, but since the aperture control is on the lens, the the other control defaults to manual focus assist, by magnifying the image either 3x or 6x. I used the 3x most of the time, but eventually found myself not using any magnification as the finder has enough resolution to do so. I did a lot of shooting with the M lens and had no problem dialing in focus at f1.4, even at minimum focus distance. After using up about 30 minutes of nice, late afternoon light, I decided to try the 18-56mm lens for some informal lens comparisons. Upon viewing the files later that evening, it was apparent to me that the zoom lens, at the 50mm setting, was performing at a level very similar to my M Summilux lens! We have some more formal lens test that we are also publishing, which directly compare the zoom to the M 50mm1.4 Asph, so you will definitely want to check out our results.

Test Raw (DNG) images from Leica T using the 50mm 1.4 Summilux ASPH and 18-56 3/5-5.6 T (Photos provided by Gary Faye: Distinguished Professional Photographer, Camera West Sales Associate)

50mm 1.4 Summilux ASPH @ F5.6

50mm 1.4 Summilux ASPH @ F8

50mm 1.4 Summilux ASPH @ F11

18-56mm 3/5-5.6 T @ F5.6

18-56mm 3/5-5.6 T @ F8

18-56mm 3/5-5.6 T @ F11

Other Sample Images shot with Leica T and 18-56mm T Lens:

 Windmills (Original DNG)

Under the Bridge (Original DNG)

Rails (Original DNG)

The Leica T concept is a collaboration with their partner Audi Design. The camera has several really nice features that are new to this type of camera platform. Other than the materials and construction, the strap system is quite unique in that the strap has pins on each end, which click into the body. This makes changing or removing the strap a breeze.  The strap lugs pivot and swivel and the system is quite intelligent. Also, the battery removes as it does in the S system, so it does not fall out when the battery release lever is actuated. The battery pops out about 4mm and stops. You have to push the battery slightly, until you hear and feel a click, then the battery can be removed.  Another great feature is that the camera has built in WiFi. I have this one set to RAW (DNG) and small JPEG. The small JPEG images transfer nicely to my smartphone camera roll and are perfect for email or further uploading to your favorite web site. This camera also has 16gb of internal storage, so while it does take a standard SD card, it is not necessary.

In conclusion, I think that many, if not most M users will enjoy owning this camera. The camera is placed between the X and the M lines. I feel that it is an excellent balance of workmanship and features, so this camera will appeal to anyone who wishes to own a high performance, interchangeable lens Leica, that does not have the desire to manually focus all of their shots. I only had the camera for about four and a half days and I overwhelmingly want to use the camera more. On Thursday, the day that this article is live, I will be receiving the 23mm 2.0 Summicron lens. I look forward to exploring the performance of that lens as well as other lenses of my M system. Keep an eye on our Blog in the coming weeks for more information on this beautiful new addition to the Leica lineup!


Review by Sean Cranor – President and CEO of Camera West Stores

Craftsmanship,Design, Elegance: The Leica M9-P Hermès

Crafted in Paris, Hermès bags are among the finest and most fashionable leather hand bags today. So, what happens with you combine Hermès’ fine parisian leather and a Leica M9-P? Well, you get a statue of fine craftsmanship, beautiful design and stunning elegance.

The Leica M9-P Hermès comes as the third special edition Leica after the Leica MP and M7. To quote Leica’s website the M9-P Hermès “represents the quintessence of a long-standing tradition of master craftsmanship at both Leica and Hermès.”

The design of this camera varies slightly from the original M9-P. Designer Walter de’Silva helped Leica restyle the M9-P Hermès to make it a one of a kind camera. The finish of the M9-P consists of silver chrome on the body, anodized silver on the lens, and of course the M9-P is wrapped in Hermès crafted leather.

Beauty, elegance, and craftsmanship are all characteristics that describe the Leica M9-P Hermès Edition. We currently have the Leica M9-P Hermès Limited edition Set 1 in stock. This includes the M9-P body, Special Edition Summilux 50mm lens, and leather strap. Not only is this a distinguished camera by its craftsmanship and design, but Leica only handcrafted 300 of these special cameras, and ours is unopened in the original box straight from the Leica factory. If you would like to learn more about our M9-P Hermès Edition feel free to contact us.



Keeping It Dry

Pouring down rain outside the windows of Camera West in Walnut Creek right now. Need to shoot in these conditions? Read on…

Two worst things for a digital camera : impact and water. Drop your camera on a hard surface and your camera (and your day) is most likely ruined – same with water. One drop inside where the circuitry resides and it’s off to the repair facility for a very expensive fix.

You all know how to avoid dropping your camera so we won’t go there but I thought I’d pass on some tips for keeping your equipment dry while shooting in the rain.

Believe me I learned this first hand one day many years ago when I had to explain to my boss how my (actually the SF Chronicle’s) $15,000. Canon EOS D2000 got wet and died during a rain-soaked 49er game. It really wasn’t my fault, because I did my best to keep it dry, but the camera according to the Canon repair techs was unrepairable – a complete loss due to water in the circuitry. An expensive lesson learned!

During my career as a shooter for the San Francisco Chronicle, I had countless shoots outside in the pouring rain. Keeping myself dry was never a problem, however the camera equipment was another matter and sometimes using an umbrella was not an option. Umbrellas on the sidelines of a 49er game was definitely frowned upon by the NFL.

So, before ThinkTank came up with their Hydrophobia series of excellent rain covers, I used a very simple, low tech solution…a grocery store plastic bag. Camera and lens was placed inside the bag, with the opening of the bag wrapped around the front of the lens and secured tightly with rubber bands. With this, I was able to work all the controls of the camera and still see through the viewfinder and check my images on the LCD. Worked well, even in the heaviest downpours. Only drawbacks were: a camera strap could not be used and you still had to be careful to not get water on the exposed front element. I always carried a small, soft chamois cloth in the pocket of my my gore-tex rain jacket just for this purpose. It worked perfectly for absorbing all the water drops that collected on the front element, and when the chamois cloth got soaked, it was a simple matter of just wringing it out. A standard microfiber cloth once soaked is worthless, but a chamois keeps on working. Covered many rainy 49er games this way, wiping the raindrops off the huge front element of my 400mm f2.8.

Since I found myself shooting often in the rain, I eventually made a custom waterproof camera cover out of a gore-tex stuff sack I picked up at REI. With a bungy-cord replacement of the draw string, a square hole cut in the bottom of the sack for the eyepiece, and a slit along the side for the monopod and my hand, I had the perfect cover for my camera with a 400mm f2.8. This served me well until ThinkTank came up with the perfect solution : the Hydrophobia 300-600mm cover.

Of course you could forget all the above and just buy the Canon 1DX. A Canon rep once told me you could place this camera with an “L” lens under the shower and let the water run for hours without damaging the camera or lens, but would you do this to your own camera, even if it was a 1DX? I think not.

Have peace of mind and get the ThinkTank Hydrophobia for your next shoot in the rain. Order yours today at Camera West.

Key Features (aside from peace of mind) :
• Built in camera strap and lens mounting system (70-200 and 70-200 Flash models only)
• Full view rear and top windows
• Built-in front element cover
• Storage for eye piece • Mesh storage bag included • Easy access to controls, lens and tripod mounts