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Leica Introduces the “Leica M-D”, the Purists Digital Rangefinder

Image via Leica
Image via Leica

Leica has announced it’s latest addition to the digital “M” rangefinder line in the “Leica M-D” (Typ 262). The luxury camera maker has quieted the bells and whistles on it’s new¬†M-D by omitting such pesky features as a rear display and menu system of any type. The resulting no frills body is a clean design that looks much more like the film M’s of the past then any modern variant.

Image via Leica
Image via Leica

According to Leica – “no other camera manufacturer is dedicated to focusing on ‘Das Wesentliche’ – the sheer essentials of photography. As a result, Leica has developed the Leica M-D: a camera that delivers photography in the most consistent way. A camera that offers no more and no less than the most important features, and represents a state-of-the-art digital rangefinder”

Controlling the camera is straightforward. There is a thumb-wheel for shutterspeed and aperture is selected¬†manually as on all “M”¬†systems. ISO selection occupies the space typically reserved for the rear display and the ISO dial’s design harkens back to the Leica film M’s ISO/ ASA selector. The top-plate does include a hotshoe and the front of the camera spots a self-timer typical of those found on classic film bodies.

Image via Leica
Image via Leica

Photographers interested in shooting some occasional video will need to look elsewhere. In typical “M” fashion there is no video capture to speak of unless shooting stop-motion at a blazing 3¬†fps in your thing.

Leica has distilled it’s latest cameras form to such a degree that it’s even left off it’s signature circular red script “Leica” badge from the front of the black on black shooter with the goal of an “unobtrusive appearance”.

Inside the handcrafted body you’ll find Leica’s 24mp full-frame CMOS sensor and¬†Leica Maestro image processor. The image files created by the combo are DNG RAW only, presumably because offering jpegs as an option would require a menu of some sort.

Image via Leica
Image via Leica

So I know what your thinking. With every modern convenience and feature gutted from this new camera, the M-D is going to be the first interchangeable lens, German made digital M to be affordable for the masses………. well, not so much. Pricing for the body only Leica M-D is listed at $5,995 usd via authorized dealers. The good news is that it’s available now.

If you’re interested in handling the new Leica M-D you can find a list of authorized dealers via Leica’s website at us.leica-camera.com

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Zeiss Announces the Batis 18mm f2.8 Distagon

The¬†lensmakers at Zeiss¬†have announced a new addition to their premium full-frame line of autofocus lenses for Sony E-Mount. The all-new Batis 18mm f2.8 aims to build on the success of it’s predecessors, the Batis 85mm f1.8 and 25mm f2. The reception of this new line from Zeiss has been quite positive placing¬†the lenses on what seems to be a perpetual back-order.

Image courtesy of Zeiss
Image courtesy of Zeiss

The Batis 18mm f2.8 is crafted using a variation their classic Distagon design. The optical formula employs 11 elements in 10 groups and touts the ability to resolve the fine details that modern sensors hunger for. The body of the lens is metal and is dust / weather sealed. It’s focusing ring is rubberized like it’s siblings. Autofocus duties are handled by a near silent drive unit with linear motors.

Image courtesy of Zeiss
Image courtesy of Zeiss

Another design cue consistent with previous Batis offerings is the innovative OLED display that resides on the lens barrel. This serves as a highly visible focus scale and depth of field preview. While some critics have been quick to claim gimmick, I personally appreciate Zeiss pushing the limits of what photographers should expect in a premium lens design.

Image courtesy of Zeiss
Image courtesy of Zeiss

The resolving abilities of the Batis 18mm f2.8 aside, the sculpted metal body of this lens is a sight onto itself. It’s body trumpets toward the¬†front element and when fitted with it’s lens hood appears to be one solid, contiguous bit of goodness. Well done Zeiss.

Image courtesy of Zeiss
Image courtesy of Zeiss

Zeiss isn’t shy about referring to it’s Batis line as being designed for professionals and it has priced them accordingly. The Batis 18mm f2.8 will be released with a $1500.00 usd/euro price tag. Availability is slated for May 2016 but if previous models stocking levels are any indication, I’d suggest a pre-order to stake your claim. Sample images are available below.

Image courtesy of Zeiss
Image courtesy of Zeiss
Image courtesy of Zeiss
Image courtesy of Zeiss
Image courtesy of Zeiss
Image courtesy of Zeiss
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The Lensbaby “Twist 60” Takes Bokeh for a Spin

Lensbaby (www.lensbaby.com) has announced that it will be adding to it’s portfolio of quirky yet functional lenses. Labeled the Twist 60, this 60mm f2.5 full-frame optic is built with one trait¬†in mind, swirly bokeh.

Image Courtesy of Lensbaby
Image Courtesy of Lensbaby

The lens formula is that of the historic Petzval, crafted in the 19th century. It features a large center area of focus that transitions into a distinct and somewhat hard vignette with it’s out of focus areas churning in a dreamy swirl. Considered an optical flaw by modern lens design standards, this distinct¬†bokeh has gained a somewhat cult following in recent years.

Image Courtesy of Lensbaby
Image Courtesy of Lensbaby

It will be interesting to see if Lensbaby’s¬†12 aperture bladed optical funnel cloud will have what it takes to bring swirly bokeh to the masses. It’s worth mentioning that the Twist 60 isn’t the sole option available with this unique character. Lenses like the Lomography Petzval create a similar effect but cost more than twice as much at $600. A more budget friendly choice is the¬†Helios 44-2 58mm f2. It can take your images for a spin at¬†less that $100 (used) but requires an¬†adapter for¬†modern systems and often needs to be imported from a Russian eBay seller.¬†Quality can be a gamble considering they’re roughly 40 years old.

Image Courtesy of Lensbaby
Image Courtesy of Lensbaby

Lensbaby says that the Twist 60 will start shipping on May 5th and will be available in full-frame Canon EF, Nikon F and Sony E mounts at a cost of $280. Investors in Lensbaby’s Optic Swap system can purchase a Twist 60 module for $180.

Image Courtesy of Lensbaby
Image Courtesy of Lensbaby

All things considered the Twist 60 looks to be priced right with it’s metal body and selection of native mounts. The sample images that Lensbaby has provided via their website speak volumes about how this classic Petzval design can set an image apart from the crowd.

Image Courtesy of Lensbaby
Image Courtesy of Lensbaby
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Sony RX10 III 4K Super-Zoom, 50mm f1.8 & 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6

Sony announced today that it’s FE mount lens offering will be growing by two. First, the 50mm f/1.8 prime ($250) will be available¬†May 2016.

This non-stabilized standard offering comes in at about one quarter the price of it’s big brother, the Carl Zeiss co-branded FE 55mm f1.8. While I wouldn’t go calling it a thrifty-fifty (it’s about twice the price of the Canon 50mm¬†f/1.8),¬†it’s price should go down a bit more smoothly than some of the other 1st party offerings in the Sony catalog.

Fans of the system will no doubt be very curious about the resolving power of the new 50mm; we’ll test it as soon as we get our hands on it. We’ve been happy with our¬†Sony-Zeiss 55mm f1.8, but at 1/4 the price, this new lens will certainly not be as sharp.

Sony FE 50mm f/1.8
Sony FE 50mm f/1.8

Next up is the new¬†70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 G OSS. This stabilized zoom comes in at about $1,200 USD¬†and is also slated for a May release. This is Sony’s longest reaching telephoto lens, and it features class leading close-up performance with a minimum focusing distance (MFD) of less than 3 ft. That kind of MFD makes the FE¬†70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 a nice option for tele-macro shooting. The new zoom is also dust and moisture resistant.

Sony FE 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 G OSS
Sony FE 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 G OSS

Lastly, the torrent of ever fresh Sony cameras continues with the latest revision of the RX10, the RX10 III. The RX10 III features an optically stabilized 35mm equivalent 24-600mm f/6.5-f/11 super-zoom lens with optics branded and co-designed by¬†Carl Zeiss. Sony’s marketing the lens as a 24-600mm f/2.4-f/4, but that’s because they’re converting the focal lengths to 35mm equivalent without converting the f/stops.

Sony RX10 III
Sony RX10 III

The RX10 III uses one of Sony’s acclaimed 1-inch sensors paired with a BIONZ X image processor. The pair¬†is capable of blazing stills burst rates of 14 fps with minimal blackout as well as super slow-motion video at up to a blistering 960 fps. As with other recent Sony offerings 4k video is on tap and just to make the competition nervous the RX10 III does it with full pixel readout and no pixel binning. In fact, Sony states that the RX10 III captures approximately 1.7x more information than is required for 4K footage. Showoff.

RX10 III Internals
RX10 III Internals

The new RX10 III is slated for a May release with U.S. pricing looking to come in at $1,500.

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Irix 15mm f2.4 Ultra-wide Rectilinear Lens Announced

Swiss newcomers Irix look to leave a wide wake with their first entry into the 3rd party manual lens market.

The Photography Show 2016 in Birmingham,

Swiss lensmaker Irix have just announced their 15mm f2.4 ultra-wide manual focus rectilinear lens. Produced for Canon EF, Nikon F, and Pentak K Full-Frame mounts (look at you Pentax!) the new Irix 15mm f2.4 aims to capitalize on photographers desires for a high-resolution capable ultra-wide premium lens offering.

Photo courtesy of www.irixlens.com
Irix Blackstone / Photo courtesy of www.irixlens.com

The new 15mm looks to set itself apart by packing in a list of dream features for fans of landscape, architecture and astrophotography. Most notably a good deal of attention was paid to precision manual focusing. The Irix 15mm f2.4 features a focus lock that can be selected at all focusing distances as well as a click-lock at infinity; the distance the lens will often live¬†at. That’s right astrophotographers, no more pre-focusing in the daylight then taping down your focus ring and hoping for the best. Speaking of shooting at night, the hyper-focal scale and other lens markings are said to glow in low light.

Photo courtesy of www.irix.com
Photo courtesy of www.irix.com

Minimum focusing distance is a very short .25 meters or .82 feet. Along with it’s f2.4 aperture this combo could make for some interesting out of focus effects as long as you’re willing and able to get very close to your subject. Should you need to stop the lens down it’s aperture design features 9 blades and a minimum f-stop of f22.¬†Irix_9_rounded_aperture_blades

Another nice touch not seen in other 3rd party options is that front filters are able to be screwed onto the massive 95mm filter thread¬†while maintaining the use of the lens hood. As if that weren’t enough there is also a slot for gel filters to be slid into place behind the rear element.

Photo courtesy of www.irix.com
Front 95mm filter mount / Photo courtesy of www.irix.com
Photo courtesy of www.irix.com
Rear filter mount / Photo courtesy of www.irix.com

The 15mm f2.4’s¬†optical design utilizes¬†15 elements in 11 groups. With all of the modern corrective optics present Irix claims their lens will be capable of resolving the best of what modern 50+ megapixel sensors can capture. Elements feature a neutrino coating to help produce¬†an image free of outside coloration and maximize image contrast.

Photo courtesy of www.irix.com
Photo courtesy of www.irix.com

Because jumping into the market with a feature rich ultra-wide manual lens wasn’t challenging enough, Irix has decided to do so with two variations of the lens each aimed at shooters with different needs. First up is the Blackstone which lives in an¬†aluminium and magnesium body engineered to handle the environment with weather-sealing and splash resistance. Next is the Firefly designed for the more mobile photographer. It’s body is lighter and it’s focusing ring has a more knurled texture.

Photo courtesy of www.irix.com
Irix Firefly / Photo courtesy of www.irix.com

Irix says that it’s ultra-wide 15mm f2.4 will be available in the spring 2016 so we won’t have to wait long to see if the optics can match the body’s ambitious design. Pricing has¬†yet to be announced for this Korean assembled lens but expect it to fall between the Full-Frame offerings from Samyang/Rokinon/Bower and 1st party auto-focusing lenses.

Stay up-to-date and check out additional images and specifications at www.irixlens.com

 

Check out Tony’s review of¬†the a6300 here. And you can see Andy’s past posts here.