Thursday, 29 November 2007

Future Vision . . . MP Digital (Revised)

As you can see, it is just another idea for a Digital Rangefinder concept. It is far from perfect. 
I have learnt that for most M8 users, RAW shooting is the only acceptable choice to utilize the image quality. From that logic, why not built a camera that records RAW files only. Hence there won't be any problem with the White Balance, poor JPEG conversion, and all those digital processor carrying out these tasks. System, thus, can be simplified to minimum components. Only the sensor, controller (Not DSP), buffer, and memory card are required to record images. Just like films but in digital form. 
The only obvious problem will be the large files. However, with exponential growth of memory capacity, this won't be a problem in years time. 

By doing that, the M heritage can be passed on to the digital age. A digital camera that work in exactly the same way as the film M. Elegant user interface combined with the convenience of digital processes that will give new life to the Rangefinder. 

The radical design of this concept is that the LCD display is totally removed. As a digital camera, that is almost unimaginable. But why not? I find much easier to view and select images on a computer with a reasonable large screen, this is what digital images all about. Some may say a display is useful to check the results. Yes, that's right, but for most M shooters, you will only have a chance once to make a particular image. Never the less, the option is still available as an accessory. 

As a system, other modules will contribute its function into the camera. Most importantly, as a business, accessories are good, it give people options to spend more on your products. 

Since the main body does not have a built in motor, so a Motor Drive would a straight forward solution if one like to take continuous shoots. It shares the same battery as the main body, and will be able to function as a battery pack if necessary. 

And finally, here comes a LCD screen. Not exactly, this is a key component in this concept. Many people have a separate data storage for their digital cameras. So what we doing here is to combine that into the system within the same footprint. And yes, it have a beautiful screen, just in case you can't wait to see your shoots before getting to a computer. It can be used independently for viewing and managing images, as well as attached to the main body. It will be able to record images directly. There are a few different configurations according to one's need. (more chances to make money!) Together with the camera, it will still more compact than today's smallest DSLR camera with a battery grip. 

Future Vision . . . Image Sensor

As new Types of image sensor are emerging. They will change the way digital images created. Here is one example of the new sensor technology (apparently by Nikon). Just like the Foveon X3 sensor, it record Blue, Green, and Red separately at each pixel. It uses a set of micro mirror system to separate colors in every light ray, just like a micro 3-CCD system. Amazing! 

The layout of the pixels are not known at this stage. However, from the existing information in the public domain, plus some imagination, it is not so hard to figure out the hexagonal layout (Honeycomb shaped) of the future image sensors. Naturally, the most efficient arrangement of photo-sites. Cool, isn't it? 

This is how it looks light for a 3000x2400 pixels full frame sensor. With a 12μm pixel pitch, it ensures a good collection of photons at each pixel. It has 7.2 million pixels. Is it enough? Well, I think so. With hexagonal layout and RGB at each pixel, it should produce similar detail as a 20 Million pixel Bayer CCD/COMS. 

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Future Vision . . . MP Digital

The most beautiful camera to any M shooter like me is undoubtedly the LHSA's special edition MP-3. I would very much like to have it as the Christmas present. Did you hear that, Santa? 
Well, everybody is allowed dreaming. Just imagine, how nice it is to have a Digital MP in that shape! Yes, a digital MP-3! 
In the meanwhile, the M8 is doing a good job to make Leica rich. I would think that it will have a 4-year production life before the next iteration. The 2010 model will be a full frame upgrade to the M8. No doubt, the forthcoming M9 will be a wonderful camera. Just like the MP addition to the M7 in 2003, let's hope there will be a Digital MP to accompany the M9 in the future. 
Here is my interpretation, also as an exercise to improve my rusty illustrator skills. First, a look from the back. A bigger screen, less bottoms. Well, for me, it's more than enough to perform all the required tasks. 
  1. The screen playback and manual could be activated by pressing the "Play" bottom. 
  2. The control wheel will be used to navigate through the settings and images. 
  3. And a single "Home" bottom to go back to the main manual. 
  4. "Info" bottom will bring up the right set of options at the given scene. When Camera is powered off, it will bring the "info display" to show that SD card space and Battery information. 

(Whoops, also the shutter release, just in case some one doesn't know where to press to make the photo. )
Also shown above is the M-Motor, a concept from the film Ms. Let us not make it a history, it is simply so sexy, isn't it? The Motor M is a Leicavit shaped battery powered motor drive for cocking the shutter and also provide speeds for continuous exposures up to 5fps. It is powered by the same battery as for the main body. As an alternative, a similar shaped Battery Pack with two additional batteries could be used in the same way. 
View from the top, the design is essentially identical to the current M bodies. Since it is already perfect with over 50 years continuous improvements, why bother changing it. 
  1. The shutter speed dial is same as on the M7/8. 
  2. A frame line dial on the left instead of the film rewind on the MP. It gives option for any focus length between 24 to 100, as well as a "A" mode to activate lens detection. The allows accurate framing with any 3rd party M lens, which are sometimes at a different focus length, and they are very good too. 
  3. A ISO dial replaces the film counter on the M2/MP-3, with a lock bottom. What's new is a "A" mode for auto ISO. The machine will choose the right sensitivity as the detected EV in conjunction with the AE to give the best result. 
  4. A info display window at the original M3/4/6/7 film counter display. 
The most importantly, the "Advance Lever", let's keep it! Not only because of that It is simply the sexist part any M cameras. It cock the shutter with out a build in motor, which will reduce noise and increase battery life (won't be much, I guess). The idea here is that when the lever is advanced, it automatically wake up the camera and ready to shoot. It is the "On" bottom. 
However, the camera is always on! 
Effectively the main system is only "On" from a shoot is taken to the file been recorded onto the memory card. Individual systems can function independently, such as when shutter release half pressed while cocked to take the exposure reading, or when rear screen is accessed to change settings or manage images. It does not draw any power if it is not doing any thing, i.e. stand by. 
Is it possible? Yes, digital electronic design is getting better and better, and more widely available. In 3 years time, it is almost certain that such technology is mature. But will Leica take this design approach? That, I'm not sure. 
Last but not least, this is what I hope it will turn out in the front. A M3! Yes, the most classic expression under the modern technology. I think this is what M style photographing is about. 

Monday, 12 November 2007

Contax, from Dream to Reality

I has been nearly a year since I fell into the Contax world. It has been a 'nerve-twisting' experience with the camera and its lenses, which made me believe that some thing belong to dream and something works in reality. So what are they:

Planar 85mm F1.4

I bought this lens first, before every thing else branded 'Contax' while I still had a canon 5D. Yes, I bought it for the full frame digital SLR.
When I was purchasing this lens, I had 2 options, a Leica R summilux 80/1.4 and this planar. I did so many test shoots with both of them. You know what, I can see the difference in the image quality between these two. Even today, surfing though my image library, I still find it difficult to tell which are the ones shoot with the Leica and the ones with Zeiss. So the decision was tough, but realistic, price! It was a lot cheaper than the Leica. Well, that pretty much tells how good it is, and we all know it.

I still want to mention this, the Bokeh is Beautiful, I don't understand why the 35mm 7element was crowned the Bokeh-king (Which I also have). In my opinion, the Planar should be the King-of-
Bokeh, and the little 7-element can be the Queen.

However, every hero has its dark sides, so does the Planar. Wide open, it is 'horrible', especially on film when you have now control over the image characteristics, I still can live with that. What was really the filler to this lens is the focusing, it was so difficult! which make all the ferry tale of this lens meaningless. Yeap, it is a lens belong in dreams to me, not in reality.

Distagon 35mm F1.4

The second Contax lens I bought. It is in the class of its own, the world's first incorporated aspherical elements and flouting element designs, the result is simply a Legend! Many say "You either crazy about it, or you are crazy not to like it". In my opinion, this is as good as you can get in 135 world. Don't need any more words for it.

Well, something feels too good to be true, it is most the time too good to be true. This is the lens just like that, yes, I'm crazy, and I don't like it, it's personal.


After I got those two beasts, I decided that a Contax body would be a nice backup body to the 5D. I guess my unfaithfulness to the DSLR was beginning much earlier than I thought, or may be it is because of the RTS' "sexy" body, that lead to the oblivion the poor Canon.

RTS II Quartz, what a beautiful camera! A second iteration in 1982 of the 'Real Time System' which was introduced in the 70s. Crafted by famed Porsche Industrial Design Group, the first RTS was already excellent, but its successor is even better. This camera is truly a masterpiece combining Japanese efficiency and German skills.

Planar 50mm F1.4

I have very mixed feelings about this lens. Planar was certainly a milestone in the lens design. It is capable of rendering sharp images that out resolved my film scanner! However, at wide open, it is a bit soft, poor color. Still, looking though the viewfinder on the RTSII hooked up with this lens was such a joy. Focusing was fast. It reminds me someone's comment on this lens: the water is too deep, be careful. Meaning there is a lot about this lens need exploring, I'm just getting started.

Distagon 25mm F2.8

I bought this lens to accompany the Planar 50/1.4 on the trip to Europe. It turns out that this lens alone make the trip worth remembering. There is so much more to this piece of glass than I previously expected. The color was so rich, the field of view was more than excellent to capture street scene, people, buildings... you name it! Some time, you have to learn to get use to 'what'd f**k!'.

This is how my Contax dream ends, back to reality, the journey is just getting started with the RTSII and the little 25/2.8 and the 50/1.4.

Veni, Vidi, Vici

Veni, Vidi, Vici which translates to "I came, I saw, I conquered."

When it come to taking a photo, my own
philosophy inspired by the above phrase is this:
  1. Be there (at the scene)
  2. Be there with a camera
  3. Be there with a camera that works
So this pretty much summarizes my view about photography and priorities when come to choosing the right equipment. In other words, travel or explore as much as you can; while traveling or exploring, always keep a camera on you, and make sure it works to your standard.

The conclusion is simple, find a camera that you can keep on your as often as possible. Which means it has to be compact! ohm... A Leica Rangefinder does exactly that, and that is why I choose a Leica M, I guess.

Friday, 9 November 2007

My Choice . . . 75mm F2

As my last post discussed about the short telephoto lens, after months consideration and research, I have put my one and half ground on the APO Summicron 75mm ASPH. It's coming tomorrow, really excited. And we will see why it is the champion.

Here are some thoughts on why I made my decision on this particular lens:
  1. As a practical reason, since I have already got the Leica M system, it is sensible to put most of the tasks on to my integrated system.
  2. It is compact, though still heavy. With a flouting element design, it is expected to perform better than Summicron 90AA and Summilux 80/75 at close focus. This is important for the portrait use.
  3. last but not least, it render image smoothly from the in focus areas to the background. We will see how well it will perform.
Let's wait and see.

Friday, 31 August 2007

The ‘perfect’ portrait lens (Leica vs Zeiss)

Focus lengths between 75mm to 100mm are the sweet spots for most portrait use. It is a combination of facts that 135 format and the DOF produced by the apertures available at these focus lengths gives the right image style for the portrait photography.

So what will be the 'perfect' portrait lens? Yes, 'perfect', we all know there is not a thing which is perfect. What I mean here is what we can think of the best possible.

Leica M 75mm F/1.4, a legendary lens that famous of its amazing bokeh and sharp focus, it render color beautifully. The pictures taken by this lens has a painting look. The problem is the size. It is not big at all compare to the SLR lenses at this range, in fact rather compact. But when it is attached on to a M body, it looked very unbalanced. That may be why Leica introduced a new 75mm, but a F/2 version with APO correction and ASPH element, 75 APO-SUMMICRON-M. A great lens for Leica M, balanced really well on M bodies. It gives the classic M cameras a younger and much more elegant look. Of course the image quality is out of question, it offers anything you could imagine from a modern Leica optics. This lens together with a 35 summicron makes a great travel kit on M bodies.

Compare to the range finders, in my opinion SLR are much more suitable for the portrait use. The APO-SUMMICRON-R 90 mm f/2 ASPH, is a perfect example of what leica is offering in this era. The R80/1.4 is a re-design M75/1.4 in the SLR form, it transformed the range finder legend to a SLR classic portrait lens.

Zeiss Planar 85/1.4 is a legandary opponent to the Leica R80/1.4, many regard it to be the best portrait lens. Well, certainly one of the best from Zeiss. It is a lens with character. The ability of creating smooth and creamy rendering at large apertures and supper sharp images stoped down makes it a difficult creature to master. Never the less, it is one of my favourate Zeiss optics.

However, the new Makro-Planar T* 2/100 is a very different animal. It is very much like the R90AA, at F2, the resolution power is fully obtained. Both have F/2, and both offers crisp sharp images wide open with great color. Some may believe that the R90AA may have slight edge on the image quality. but the close up performance of the Makro-Planar is certainly a killer. I find it very useful to have the freedom to work as close as you want to the subject. Having said that, R90 is not bad at all in this respect, it focus down to 0.7m offering 1:6 reproduction, very impressive as a non-macro lens. Comparing to 1m minimum focus distance of Planar 85/1.4, it is a big advantage. The ability to go even further with the Zeiss Makro-Planar, 1:2 reproduction enables a complete different usage of a portrait lens, as it allows you to dig into ppl's eyes!

What about the F1.2 ones? Surely, they are tempting. But the size and weight of those beasts really put me off. It is another trend of portrait from what we have been discussing here. Here, I am after a lens with balanced features including: image quality, functionality, mobility, and handling.

Finally, how do they look? Not the images created by these lenses, but their physical appearance. It may not be that important to many, but certainly it is one of my priorities. The down side of the Zeiss Makro-Planar is that the lens does extend to quite a length when it focuses down.

The conclusion is: if some one make a lens 85-100mm, F2, Macro to 1:2, AF with internal focus, surely that is too good to be true, there is always too much to ask for.

Wednesday, 25 July 2007

P&S Camera Design V.1, part 2

I think a good camera for man is just like a good handbag for women. Since they have so many options (brands) to choose from, why don't do the same. It was quite simple, I applied a few skins onto the camera. Don't you think that it gives really different character to every single design.

Well, I had to admit that the design was heavily influences by the classic Leica M and girl's leather handbags. There is nothing stops girls like them too.

P&S Camera Design V.1, part 1

It was raining badly again this afternoon. That was the ultimate excuse for not doing any proper work. Well, there it was, I spent the whole afternoon on illustrator, first time using this software seriously. I Had to say, it was a lot more difficult than I thought. Eventually, the result was acceptable.

Here it is. A new design of a Point & Shoot Camera.

The idea was pretty simple, a Leica CM sized fixed focus length (lens) digital camera. This machine is purely a fantasy. However the goal was to design an exterior of such a camera and its UI (User Interface).

Main features:
  • 1.33x Foveon X3 sensor, 2000 x 3000 in 3 layers
  • ISO 50(low) to 3200(high), the large pixel size ensures good performance at high ISOs
  • 30mm lens, giving 40mm equivalent in 135 format
  • Aperture F=2.0, allows just enough control over the DOF
  • Auto Focus with full time manual over write with Focus-by-wire focus ring
  • Focus from 10cm to infinity
  • LED ring flash, shadow-less photography
The electronics design was not part of this design study. Having the technologies available today, it was a sensible judgment that such design is feasible. The 120x70x35mm form factor provide reasonable space for descent complexity of the integrated electronic system. Considering removal of the range finder mechanism from an M8, it could end up in similar package. The Sigma DP1 is just another example of this kind.

Sunday, 8 July 2007


This is the separate Blog for every thing about Photography, from my daily Blog: Dream To Death

Ever since high school, I was a big fan of photography. It was rather an interesting experience through these years. Like most amateurs, I did too fall in to the 'Great Camera Gear' trap. I was lucky to realize after few 'revolutions': it is not all about cameras. 

I started with a Leica M6 and a 50 years old Rigid Chrome without knowing much about photography. Some may say: spoiled boy! True. But it was the best thing ever happened to me. 

Like many, I joined the DSLR fleet at the golden age of the digital photography. From a Canon 20D to a 5D, it was rather a race in the 'war of gears'. I became more frustrating than enjoying these 'Weapons of Mass Destruction'. Well, there is only one thing i could do, and I did. Damped all the digital gear. 

Today, I'm back where I started with. Enjoying the original form of photography, films.