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Thread: Looking for Help - Monochrom M and Lenses

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    Looking for Help - Monochrom M and Lenses

    I"ve been a lurker on this forum for several years now. Recently I saw a B&W presentation by John Thawley ( a pro) about where the blues originated. He uses Leica gear. It was like an epiphany. My darkroom equipment 50+ years ago was all B&W. After much though, I have decided to buy a Leica system and pursue B&W again. Not an easy decision as it will cost me $28K plus, but I now remember what I like the most.

    Here is my thoughts:
    Leica Monochrom M camera and spare battery
    Leica Summicron-M 28mm f/2.0 Lens
    Leica 35mm f/1.4 Summilux-M ASPH
    Leica 50mm f/0.95 Noctilux-M
    A longer focal length later.

    I appreciate the Leica GetDPI.com forum and respect the members. You people are the best. I would appreciate anyone's view on my choices and moving ahead with my quest to return to my B&W roots. For me its all about the image and not the money. Your assistance would be greatly appreicated.

    Thank you in advance

    Jim

    An recommendation for dealers would be appreciated too.
    Last edited by Jim Trunck; 22nd January 2014 at 13:40. Reason: added text

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    Re: Looking for Help - Monochrom M and Lenses

    The Noctilux is a very impressive lens, but in many ways (distortion, sharpness and mostly weight and handling) the 50mm f/1.4 Summilux is even better at only 40% of the price. 50 Lux also has arguably the smoothest bokeh of any Leica 50.

    The Leica M Monochrom is so good at such high ISOs that f/0.95, while nice, is more for the narrower depth of field increased subject isolation than for any need for low light. Monochrom files stay clean at ISO 5000 and are usable at its maximum ISO 10,000 for moderate print sizes. I have 16"X20" prints from ISO 3200 files are about like what I used to get from Plus X back in my film days. Fast lenses were essential in the film days, important on the M8/M9, but only needed for creative use of depth of field on the M240 and M Monochrom.

    I find with Leica that less is more, and go for the smallest and lightest kit I can, knowing that the M Monochrom's high ISO abilities make up for any loss of speed in my lenses.

    My kit is as follows.

    M Monochrom with 3 batteries ($8000)
    Leica 24mm f/3.8 Elmar-M ASPH ($2500)
    Leica 35mm f/2.5 Summarit-M ($1800)
    Leica 50mm f/2 Summicron-M (non-APO) ($2300)
    Leica 90mm f/2.5 Summarit-M ($2000)
    Total cost for Leica outfit $16,600.

    Carl Zeiss 50mm f/1.5 C Sonnar ZM (and two vintage 50mm Sonnars as well)

    Each of my lenses except the 50 cron is either the smallest and lightest of its focal length, and the 50 cron is only a smidge larger and heavier than the 50mm f/2.5 Summarit. If you like 28mm, the 28mm f/2.8 Elmarit-M ASPH is incredibly sharp (equals the Summicron) and is also Leica's smallest and lightest M mount lens. It is my next purchase.

    With Leica, quality is always exceptional and doesn't get better with price.

    Whatever you end up with, enjoy it.
    "A fella, A quick fella, might have a weapon under there. I'd have to pin his head to the panel." The Gyro Captain
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    Re: Looking for Help - Monochrom M and Lenses

    My set-up:

    M Monochrome, with Really Right Stuff bottom plate that has ARCA mount grooves (for occasional monopod use and a bottom release mechanism that's easier, faster than the OEM one … am adding a ThumbsUp soon (makes using the M 50/0.95 easier).

    Three batteries, two chargers.

    M21/1.4 ASPH;

    M28/2 ASPH;

    M35/1.4ASPH (calibrated at f/2 so provides accurate focus from f/1.4 to f/5.6 with little to no focus shift),

    M50/0.95 Noctilux (Brilliant lens on the MM, need not be shot wide open all the time as it is fantastic at f/1.2. f/1.4, etc.);

    M75/2ASPH (also fantastic, a cross between a modern M and a M lens with a bit more character),

    M90/2.8 last version with built-in shade (unsung lens that is one of the better bargains i the M system, perfect portrait lens IMO).

    So, I have the three lenses you listed, and use them on the MM (which is now my only rangefinder).

    Also use the M21, 50, 75 and 90 on a Sony A7R for occasional color work (gets more use from these expensive lenses).

    - Marc

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    Re: Looking for Help - Monochrom M and Lenses

    Quote Originally Posted by fotografz View Post
    My set-up:

    M50/0.95 Noctilux (Brilliant lens on the MM, need not be shot wide open all the time as it is fantastic at f/1.2. f/1.4, etc.);


    - Marc
    So far my experience has been that EVERY lens I've tried on the MM has been brilliant. My personal favorite is an uncoated 1937 Carl Zeiss Jena Sonnar converted from Contax mount. Far from perfect, but the MM and Sonnar are magical together.
    "A fella, A quick fella, might have a weapon under there. I'd have to pin his head to the panel." The Gyro Captain
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    Re: Looking for Help - Monochrom M and Lenses

    similar bandwagon:
    MM, most used lens so far 75 cron, then 50 lux, also 28 cron
    thumbs up is great as is the baseplate from Luigi that allows direct access to battery and card and Luigi strap
    lenses depend on what you shoot and your style; for me it is people, usually full body, not just head shots, i like to see eye contact with the photographer (but not always) and not be in their face, so the 75 or 50 works. i find i get too much in the frame with the 28, (not close enough

    i keep #15 yellow filters on my lenses

    nocti is huge, by the way

    75 cron shot: i was maybe 30' away, would have been maybe 8' using the 28

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    Re: Looking for Help - Monochrom M and Lenses

    I recommend also looking at older lenses. I've been using a 50 Rigid Summicron f2 and love it's rendering, so much so that I just sold my 50 Lux. I also have a 35 Summaron f/2,8 and am selling my 35 Lux.

    An excellent Leica Dealer is Tamarkin Camera. He has a great assortment of used lenses in excellent condition. He also has been getting in used Monochrom's from time-to-time.

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    Re: Looking for Help - Monochrom M and Lenses

    oh, yeah i also changed my epson 4880 printer to piezography inks, all black and grey. a journey unto itself but ultimately worth it

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    Re: Looking for Help - Monochrom M and Lenses

    AsiaFish - thanks for the comments on the 0.95.

    Fotografx - thanks for all the lens comments. Especially thankful for comments on the 75mm and 90mm.

    JIm - thanks of rthe lens comments.

    All are helping me. Very much appreciated.

    Jim

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    Re: Looking for Help - Monochrom M and Lenses

    Jim,

    It seems like there is a tendency today to rush to a finish point. The process or the sense of being there is lost....

    We all prefer a perfectly complete system without reservations from the beginning...in doing so we miss that growth that allows the maturation of our understanding of the limitations of process and expression within a defined sphere.

    My point is that the Mono is such a revelatory device...you should explore those thousand points of light within a limited construct so that you can define the limits of the device...there is no one lens that defines the process or outcome with this camera. Even very flawed lenses are granted a wonderful presence as it draws in a way that defies our attempts to relegate outcomes to predefined categories of value.

    IMHO it may behoove you to spend a fair amount of time with the Monochrom and one lens...you choose....better yet pick a less than stellar lens...not a dog but not one of the elevated overly praised group...your vision and your ultimate view may be challenged in a good way. The camera is that revealing and the files that malleable.

    My choice was the 50 Summilux Asph initially ....couple of extra batteries and a RRS L Plate. Spend a year with it learning the intricacies of development and exposure with this camera and your RAW developer of choice. Wide lenses tend to be more forgiving of our compositional errors and the 50 M's are so direct so involving you will quickly find a groove with the camera and the software.

    Once you hit your stride all of the above mentioned lenses will sing...the process with the Monochrom is the key and all of the respondents have it...I would also suggest that Woody Campbell, Airfrogusmc, Downstairs and Xdayv have posts that are stellar.

    Great camera .... great choice for an expression of your vision and art.

    Dealers:

    Sean Cranor at
    www.Camerwest.com

    Dale Photo
    http://www.dalephotoanddigital.com

    Regards,

    Bob
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    Re: Looking for Help - Monochrom M and Lenses

    Actually I would recommend you look at the work of Element-M, who is probably the most in tune with the monochrome when it comes to post-processing and the final result. I dream of one day having tones like he routinely obtains.

    I also second Docmoore's advice regarding starting with one lens and learning it. I started with the 35 Summarit, learned it fairly well, then bought a cheap Russian Jupiter 3 for my first 50mm. The Summarit was so versatile and so well matched to what I want from a 35mm that I haven't yet purchased another, though I'm consider a 35 Summicron ASPH. The Jupiter 3 remains a delight, but I've since moved to the 50 Summicron as my primary 50 and two other Sonnars just because I like them. The 90 Summarit was more than adequate as I shoot very rarely with anything longer than 50mm and the bokeh is delicious. I've just recently bought the 24 Elmar, and the jury is out on whether or not this focal length works for me.

    One thing I've learned and did not expect was that I am at my best at 50mm. Strange because in my SLR days it was always either 35mm (hence my purchase of the 35mm lens first) and 135mm, rarely reaching for anything in between. Chalk it up to the different experience of using a rangefinder.
    "A fella, A quick fella, might have a weapon under there. I'd have to pin his head to the panel." The Gyro Captain
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    Re: Looking for Help - Monochrom M and Lenses

    It's difficult to say much without knowing your photographic experience and desires.
    However, and I have the MM and all the lenses you list, I would say the Noctilux/0.95 is both my most loved and most resented lens ; I love it for targeted use , but hate it as a everyday lens ( it's too large and heavy ). I prefer the noctilux wide open and in color with the M9 - I've rarely used it on the MM.

    With your budget, and a monochrome mindset, I would first buy 2 x MM , 35/1.4 and 75/2 ( absolutely top notch plus carrying too much and changing lenses sucks ).
    edit: and 1.25x magnifiers on the MMs.

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    Re: Looking for Help - Monochrom M and Lenses

    Quote Originally Posted by asiafish View Post
    Actually I would recommend you look at the work of Element-M...
    I hesitated in mentioning members' work as I did not want to leave anyone out or slight anyone's vision...was not a complete or definitive list...just a starting point.

    And I completely agree with the comments on Element-M and the tonality and scope of his work.

    Again, not saying that you need to learn to see or develop a sense with those lenses...rather that the Mono post process will keep you involved for a while...and
    dropping 28K to start may mean that you end up changing a few of your first choices if you buy everything at once.

    Regards,

    Bob

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    Re: Looking for Help - Monochrom M and Lenses

    You don't need to spend a barrel of cash to get good results. The Summarit line is very under-rated. I shot with a 50 Summarit for a while and the results are terrific. It also has very smooth bokeh. I see good results posted with the Zeiss 50's also. Personally I've never had much luck with the CV line.

    Today I use:
    24 3.8 Elmar-M ASPH
    50 Lux ASPH
    75 Summarit

    Good luck with your choices and enjoy the ride.

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    Re: Looking for Help - Monochrom M and Lenses

    I have owned 50/1.4asph, 50 Summicron and 50/0.95. I sold the Noctilux - very nice shallow DOF but in the end I found it too heavy for the M and you also can do a lot with f1.4 or f2.0.
    My fav 50 on the MM is now the Summicron, and 35mm I use both Summicron and 35FLE when I need the speed.
    For me I would spread the focal lengths a bit and probably if I could have "only" 3 lenses I would go 21SEM,35/1.4asph (Summicron and Summarit are excellent as well)
    and then 75 Summicron (or 50 Summicron).

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    Re: Looking for Help - Monochrom M and Lenses

    The good thing is, you cannot go wrong and it's actually fun to try out the different lenses. However, I would also advice to start out with one or two and then add others as you go. I have way too many but when I go out shooting, I normally only take one or two (max 3 lenses).

    When I started out with the M7 in 2005, I had 2 and very shortly thereafter 3 lenses: 35 cron ASPH; 50 cron; 90 elmarit. A great, light and very versatile combo, and probably not a bad starter kit for the MM. The 35 cron is still one of my big favorites because it's very sharp and extremely compact. The 50 cron I started using again a lot on the MM.

    The Nocti 0.95 is a wonderful beast, but also a beast. I am contemplating to sell because I somehow prefer the look of the 1.0 shot wide open. Another favorite is the 75 lux, big but draws beautifully. However, these are very special lenses, and when I use them, I go out shooting Nocti 1.0 or lux 75, i.e. look for shots where these lenses make sense and shine.

    In the end, it's all a matter of personal taste and style.

    Good luck with your decision and show us some shots!
    ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
    Georg
    My new website (under construction) at Zenfolio

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    Re: Looking for Help - Monochrom M and Lenses

    First, thank you for all of the responses up to this date. All of the responders have helped me fashion a course of action. Very much appreciated.

    I have run into a major problem; I had previously tried to use the rangefinder in an M9 to no avail. My eyes and glasses prohibit a good working relationship with the rangefinder. My current premise was that the Monochrom M could used the EVF2 Electronic Viewfinder. My mistake!!!! Accordingly, until Leica comes out with an update version of the Monochrom M I am out of luck for a Leica body. I do not want an M 240.

    I want Leica glass, so, I guess, I will investigate using my Sony A7 with a Novoflex adapter at this point, one or two lenses only at this time, desaturate the images, etc. Not the same, but a work around.

    To respond to some valid comments: I've been shooting for over 50 years. Mostly Nikon in my film days, Nikon and Canon digitally, and for the last several years, Nikon. Also, the MFT have caught my eye and I have, and love the OM-D E-M1. I shoot mostly landscapes, nature and wildlife and night photography.

    The comment about starting with one lens is an excellent one. The Noctilux is off of the table and I think my first lens of choice will be the 50mm Summilux but the 35mm Summilux is very tempting. Other options can wait now.

    Again, thanks for all the good comments and advice.

    Jim

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    Re: Looking for Help - Monochrom M and Lenses

    One thing with the A7(and r) is that they do fine with normal and telephoto lenses, but rangefinder wides can be hit and miss. Leica R series (or other high-end SLR) lenses may be a better match below 35mm.

    I played with a friend's A7(non-r) and found my 50 Summicron was outstanding, with no smearing or color fringe in the corners. The 35 Summarit was good, but there was some magenta shift.
    "A fella, A quick fella, might have a weapon under there. I'd have to pin his head to the panel." The Gyro Captain

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    Re: Looking for Help - Monochrom M and Lenses

    Less is definitely more. I prefer a full spread of 21 Ultron, 28 Cron, 50 Lux and 90 Elmarit, but can happily shoot with just the 28 and/or 50.

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    Re: Looking for Help - Monochrom M and Lenses

    Sorry to hear that you need the EVF as the Monochrom is a treat to use.

    I've run the gauntlet of lenses and discovered that my tastes changed over the last few years. I went from loving 35mm to loving 75mm! I have two 35mm and 3 50mm lenses at the moment and really enjoy each of them. I found that I'm using the 35mm at f/8 for street work. The MS Optical 35mm therefore gets a fair amount of use as its minimum aperture is 3.5 and it's barely larger than a lens cap! The lens cost 5 times less than the Summilux... I also have the 50mm Summilux and the 50mm Summarit. I took the Summarit on a trip over the holidays and it did not disappoint. I like its size and weight. And how it renders.

    I've also owned the 75mm Summarit but sold it in favor of the Summicron, solely due to the Summicron's closer focusing distance. I love the way the Summarit rendered, and that it was spot on with focusing. But it barely provided a tighter crop the 50mm Summilux due to its longer minimum focusing distance.

    I can't imagine finding a lens that I wouldn't like on the Monochrom though.

    Here are some shots from the holidays with the Summarit 50mm.




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    Re: Looking for Help - Monochrom M and Lenses

    Quote Originally Posted by segedi View Post
    Sorry to hear that you need the EVF as the Monochrom is a treat to use.
    I agree. I love the rangefinder shooting experience. Also really like my 35 lux FLE.

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    Re: Looking for Help - Monochrom M and Lenses

    bad eyes are the bane of the rangefinder; many have given it up for that reason, my self included.

    then i followed fotografz lead and had cataract surgery, now i'm goood to go.

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    Re: Looking for Help - Monochrom M and Lenses

    Quote Originally Posted by segedi View Post
    Sorry to hear that you need the EVF as the Monochrom is a treat to use.

    I've run the gauntlet of lenses and discovered that my tastes changed over the last few years. I went from loving 35mm to loving 75mm! I have two 35mm and 3 50mm lenses at the moment and really enjoy each of them. I found that I'm using the 35mm at f/8 for street work. The MS Optical 35mm therefore gets a fair amount of use as its minimum aperture is 3.5 and it's barely larger than a lens cap! The lens cost 5 times less than the Summilux... I also have the 50mm Summilux and the 50mm Summarit. I took the Summarit on a trip over the holidays and it did not disappoint. I like its size and weight. And how it renders.

    I've also owned the 75mm Summarit but sold it in favor of the Summicron, solely due to the Summicron's closer focusing distance. I love the way the Summarit rendered, and that it was spot on with focusing. But it barely provided a tighter crop the 50mm Summilux due to its longer minimum focusing distance.

    I can't imagine finding a lens that I wouldn't like on the Monochrom though.

    Here are some shots from the holidays with the Summarit 50mm.



    I agree on the Summarits, beautiful rendering. I have the 35 and 90 and wouldn't trade either of them.
    "A fella, A quick fella, might have a weapon under there. I'd have to pin his head to the panel." The Gyro Captain

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    Re: Looking for Help - Monochrom M and Lenses

    Quote Originally Posted by jlm View Post
    bad eyes are the bane of the rangefinder; many have given it up for that reason, my self included.

    then i followed fotografz lead and had cataract surgery, now i'm goood to go.
    hmm, how does one obtain elective cataract surgery?

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    Re: Looking for Help - Monochrom M and Lenses

    Quote Originally Posted by MCTuomey View Post
    hmm, how does one obtain elective cataract surgery?
    To paraphrase The Beatles...


    All you need is cash, wah wah wah wah wah, All you need is cash!
    "A fella, A quick fella, might have a weapon under there. I'd have to pin his head to the panel." The Gyro Captain

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    Re: Looking for Help - Monochrom M and Lenses

    If the condition imposes a limitation on one’s life it is not elective imo. Although an insurer might disagree.
    JAAP
    http://www.jaapvphotography.eu
    The colours of my generation are black and white.

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    Re: Looking for Help - Monochrom M and Lenses

    Many, many years ago a dealer suggested that a useful rule of thumb was to (roughly) double the focal length for a series of lenses. This doesn't work so well for wide angles.

    Are the 35mm and the 28mm a bit too close? Would a 24mm (or even a 21mm) be more appropriate than the 28mm? Or, is 35mm too close to 50mm?

    I don't have a firm view on this, it's just a few thoughts.
    Sláinte

    Robert.

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    Re: Looking for Help - Monochrom M and Lenses

    Quote Originally Posted by Robert Campbell View Post
    Are the 35mm and the 28mm a bit too close? Would a 24mm (or even a 21mm) be more appropriate than the 28mm? Or, is 35mm too close to 50mm?
    Standing in a field and flicking through the frame lines, I hope the preview lever is restored on the M.240-P , and the differences between lenses does not seem much; but walk around for a week with a 28mm then switch to a 35mm: then you will be backing into walls trying to get the perspective you pre-visualized based on the 28mm experience.

    Similarly with the 35/50 , 50/75 etc.

    For travel 28/50 35/75 etc. 2x focal length pairs make sense but also perhaps a 35/50 pair, where one is fast and the other compact ; there is no right or wrong answer.

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    Re: Looking for Help - Monochrom M and Lenses

    I used to go 28/50, but lately its 24/50 or 24/35/50. 50 remains by far my favorite focal length, with 35 a significant change in field of view and then 24 an even bigger jump from 35 than 35 was from 50. 28 for me always seems to stay in the pocket.
    "A fella, A quick fella, might have a weapon under there. I'd have to pin his head to the panel." The Gyro Captain

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    Re: Looking for Help - Monochrom M and Lenses

    first you gotta have the cataract...

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    Re: Looking for Help - Monochrom M and Lenses

    Lens choices change over time. Having shot for 20+ years with an M2 and 35 'cron, now its a 50 'cron and 21 SEM. With the monochrome, the 21 allows a whole host of new possibilities. Like above, start with 1 or 2, and then see where it takes you. The high ISO and high quality levels allow a very different kind of photog experience.

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    Re: Looking for Help - Monochrom M and Lenses

    My only lens now for my MM is the 35 lux FLE. I have been shooting with only that for over a year now. Love how freeing it can be. Heres a portfolio of street and stranger portraits the I've done and most were shot with the MM and 3 lux. Some weren't. The photograph of the nurse that been on the job for 50 years was shot wide open and vignette was added in post to help bring down the edges of the background.

    A portfolio of street & stranger portraits.














    O.R.Nurse with 50 years on the job . Wide open and vignette added in post.
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    Re: Looking for Help - Monochrom M and Lenses

    And just a few that were hyper focused from the street. All shot with the MM and 35 lux.







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    Re: Looking for Help - Monochrom M and Lenses

    air frog:

    you definitely make that 35 work. looks like you are pretty close in on some of those face shots. i like a bit more personal space myself

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    Re: Looking for Help - Monochrom M and Lenses

    Up close and personal is the way I really like to work. When shooting for the moment I usually don't engage the people, especially before I take the photograph but when doing more of a portrait type image I always ask and talk to the folks. If they have an address I usually will send a print.

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    Re: Looking for Help - Monochrom M and Lenses

    AIRFROGUSMC,

    Really like the image in the third row from the bottom, left side - man carrying child over shoulder. It is a fabulously strong image, with great contradictions in the subjects. Color would have made the image less appealing to me. Thanks for sharing it.

    And thanks to all the responders to date.

    Jim

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    Re: Looking for Help - Monochrom M and Lenses

    I also find the 35mm to be the most useful lens on the M cameras, but everyone has their favorites. I do think, however, that more time should be spent on thinking what kinds of perspectives one wants to photograph from, rather than on what particular models to buy. This is doubly true if you are a black and white only shooter -- things like chromatic aberration and APO performance become less important (though not totally unimportant!). It is also important to realize that a lot of the most expensive lenses are often highly specialized (21 and 24 summiliuxes, 50/.95 for example) and you may actually not find yourself in situations where you need or want their capabilities very often. I would highly recommend putting the most of your money into the more standard focal lengths (35-75mm) and fill in the gaps if you find yourself wanting more extreme perspectives.

    It's too bad that you will not be able to focus the MM, but if you do decide to go for another camera like the A7, I would say give the manufacturer's lenses a chance first. Lens design has come a long way, and the differences between a Leica lens on a body it is not designed for versus a non-Leica lens specifically designed to be used on a given camera might not be as large as you think. I am not talking about bad lenses, of course, but the best Sony or Zeiss lenses on an A7 will be much nicer to use on the body (AF, built-in lens corrections, auto aperture, and not to mention cheaper).

    If you are dead set on Leica lenses, a used S2 and 70mm are within your budget, and will significantly out-perform both the MM and the A7 in most image quality areas outside high ISO. The S lenses are even better than the M lenses, which is saying a lot! Obviously, it is a very different camera, so it may not suit your needs (it is much larger and heavier, for example).

    But, if you do get a A7, find the best native lenses for it and give them a chance. You may be surprised. Lenses are extremely important, but there is a lot to be said for ergonomics and ease of use -- if you are always fiddling around in magnified view or dealing with focus peaking, you might not be as successful and/or might not get as much enjoyment out of the process. Fighting your equipment is never fun.
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    Re: Looking for Help - Monochrom M and Lenses

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Trunck View Post
    Here is my thoughts:
    Leica Monochrom M camera and spare battery
    Leica Summicron-M 28mm f/2.0 Lens
    Leica 35mm f/1.4 Summilux-M ASPH
    Leica 50mm f/0.95 Noctilux-M
    .
    If you've used B&W before and enjoyed the qualities of grain and tone then I don't think you need a super fast lens, the MM is fine with the ISO turned up to 5000, it looks like film. You should go with the lenses that match the pictures in your head, the style of image you want to make. But if super narrow DOF isn't it (and which presents its own problems of focusing in dark places with people moving about), then slower lenses are both smaller and cheaper.

    Steve

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