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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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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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Panasonic Announces the Lumix GX85

Panasonic has just announced a new camera: the Lumix GX85, an interchangeable lens Micro Four Thirds (MFT) camera.

Spec’d to compete in the mid-range enthusiast market, the interchangeable lens shooter offers a heap of features considering it’s $800 USD price tag. Like most MFT cameras, it has a 16mp sensor. However,¬†the imager drops the anti-aliasing filter, which we’ve found increases sharpness by 15-25%. You’ll get sharper pictures but not¬†bigger files.

Available only as a kit with the Panasonic 12-32mm f3.5-5.6 zoom (24mm to 64mm 35mm equivalent focal range), this compact body sports not only 5-axis in-body stabilization but the ability to stabilize content shot in 4k at up to 30fps. That means you can use unstabilized lenses handheld, for either video or low-light stills. That’s not at all a common feat; you’d need to jump up to the $3,000 Sony a7S II to get 4k recording with in-body stabilization.

Not only is the GX85 4k capable, it also leverages those 4k files to offer an impressive suite of possibilities where still image pulls are concerned. Options like post focusing and aperture bracketing are present, which bring with them some interesting post-shoot correction possibilities. The post focus option is quite interesting and was a feature added via firmware update to previous Lumix cameras. That kind of after-the-sale attention to older models brings with it a level of trust in a brand.  

The GX85 ticks a lot of boxes outside of it‚Äôs cutting edge firmware, too. The MFT body sports an electronic viewfinder and a tilt screen with touch sensitivity. A pop-up flash is also on board. It’s design allows it to be bounced which is a welcomed touch. In-camera Wi-Fi rounds out a list of impressive features offered by the GX85.

Competition is stiff in this category, and $800 can buy you a good-quality APS-C¬†camera with a bigger sensor and better image quality,¬†such as the mirrorless¬†Sony a6000¬†or the Canon T6i DSLR.¬†Neither camera can match the GX85’s stabilized sensor or 4K video, however, and MFT shooters are passionate about the wide variety of¬†cross-branded lenses. Time will tell if stabilized sensors and a stable of lenses can beat back the allure of a larger sensor and it’s army of pixels.

The Panasonic Lumix GX85 is slated for a May release and is currently being offered as a kit only.