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Thread: S2 Impressions: A year later.

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    Super Duper
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    S2 Impressions: A year later.

    I am posting this because people asked me to ... not to convince anyone of anything, nor to justify anything. At my age justifications are worn out along with my knees

    About a year ago I test drove an S2 for about 200 shots. When Leica announced the S2 I divested myself of a lot of gear in prep for getting one ... but not without a test drive first. Guy and Jack's MFD Law Number One!

    I passed on it then because it wasn't ready for what I wanted and needed. Questionable AF, no wide lens, limited availability, questions about the character of the images against my personal "Leica" expectations.

    That was then, and this is now.

    First a personal explanation of my functional criteria, and how certain S2 attributes now serve them better:

    While I use a Leica M9 for a lot of work, I will not shoot weddings, events, fashion, commercial action or some environmental portrait work without an AF camera at the ready. I have used a M camera for 40 years, I know how to handle one in most any circumstance ... but I will not do paying work without an AF camera in the bag for certain aspects of my shooting style. I'd love to be a purist rangefinder dude, but I'm not. Not to mention that long lenses are not exactly rangefinder territory. 90mm is about it.

    I also use an AF MFD camera for some of this work, and do so for pure IQ. I switched from using a Contax 645 and digital back to a Hasselblad HD system almost solely on the merits of the Hassey's superior AF. MFD provides IQ ... but it's more than that ... it provides flexibility in size by default. I crop like an Art Director because I am an Art Director. MFD simply provides more RAW data to work with when post processing. More dynamic range, nicer tonal gradations, etc. most of which remain intact when manipulating, resizing and cropping.

    The closest amalgamation (read: compromise), of these attributes has been the higher end 35mm DSLRs ... of which I have explored every one in the search for what I wanted and needed to satisfy my eye. Add those system swap searches together, and more cash has flown out the door than buying two S2's. None ever satisfied me personally ... the closest being the Sony A900, which pales in comparison to the MFD results.

    So, it is not hard to see why the S2 was an exciting prospect for me. It just wasn't ready for me last year when I tested it. Disappointed.

    Now, the S2 AF is faster ... enough so to fit my requirements in most cases. Certainly not D3X fast, but now fast enough. I tried it at an outdoor Holiday event ... people, movement, close shots, inside and outside ... the whole 9 yards.

    One functional thing that the 1DsMKIII and Nikon D3X have that I really like are their dual card slots. Sony has it, but it doesn't shoot parallel files. The S2 has this feature, and it is a big deal for me and what I shoot. Shooting at my rate of capture, it isn't a matter of if a card will go bad, or I'll make some stupid transfer mistake, it is when. Murphy's Law clearly states that when it happens, it'll be a corrupted, irreplaceable image, or set of images. I prefer to error on the side of caution if possible.

    The S2 is pretty small. While the S lenses aren't all that much smaller/lighter than the other MFD lenses, the body is smaller, and the S35mm lens is slim, where the 28 and 35 HC lenses are not. It is much easier to carry the three lens S2 kit then it is to carry a three lens H kit. It is more an issue of proportional bulk than just weight/size.

    The last big hurdle was IQ. It is the most important hurdle. For almost the whole year I watched and waited. My criteria being the look of M9 files and those from of Hassey H. Don't know what changed, or how it changed, but to my eye it did. Maybe people just needed time to get it all down ... maybe advancements in the camera coupled with better software in LR3 ... don't know, don't care. However it still needed to be tested, for my eye, no one else's.

    So when the opportunity to grab the exact S2P system kit I wanted, at a package price that made it more palatable, I tried it again ... initial reaction is that it is the perfect companion for the M9 files ... only on steroids. Leica color and contrast ... ASPH and APO optics for sharp critical focus with excellent roll off to gorgeous OOF areas.

    BTW I do not have a big issue with the S2 ratio ... I frequently do perspective correction with post software, and extra side data helps with this.

    I also do not think this is a replacement for the H system ... I see it as the equivalent of 645 to 6X7 in the film days. I still need a really big gun for certain commercial applications, and I like the high sync speed of the H for certain applications ... but it now lessens my need for the H4D/40 which I will now sell ... along with most of the Sony kit save a body for back-up, and a few key lenses.

    caveats and criticisms:

    Even though I worked a deal for a whole package ... this kit is very expensive ... mostly because of the lenses. However, I'm pretty confident that the lenses will hold their value. But the body won't. Choose carefully based on your criteria, and don't sweat every advancement. I don't have that issue because I am retaining the big gun when it's needed. Otherwise 38 meg with a larger sensor capture area fits a good percentage of my needs. Hopefully, some advancements will be in the form of firmware ... thus enhancing the camera's value longer. Hassey has been pretty good at doing that. Leica would do well heeding that example.

    ISO performance isn't a huge concern, but the narrow selection of ISOs on the S2 is. Hopefully that can be addressed in future firmware upgrades. ISO 500, 800 and 1000 increments would be most helpful.

    A better solution than a hot folder Image Shuttle for tethered work would be most welcome ... although I probably wouldn't use it much since I use the H for that, I may in future and I'm sure many others could use it if the S2 is their only system.

    I cannot and will not comment on controls and shooting flow. I have the H down pat (well, sort of pat ) ... and it will take me more time to master the shooting rhythm with this new camera. It's promising is all I can say.

    Creative note:

    I shoot people. If I shoot a landscape it is with people in it ... otherwise it's a test shot for deleting. If I strictly shot landscapes I'd think through the S2 more deeply. I shoot portraits. Kids. Weddings. People's pets. Commercial and corporate stuff. And now Pro-Bono work needing high image standards. I sell nothing in the form of web images ... if that was the criteria, none of this would be necessary. No one needs this type gear to impress other web surfers. People pay me for prints, albums, framed wall images. Commercial clients use images in so many ways it's not even funny. Clients pick pictures on the web, based on content, but the final use is usually printed, and the expectations there are much, much higher. When I read about someone setting prints out from different formats and saying there is not much difference ... I say good for them ... you just dodged an expensive bullet. However, I also think to myself, you don't have my clients doing that selecting

    Now, I am semi-retiring, and it may be that this will be all I need unless they drag me back in (if the economy ever recovers enough). Not a bad way to phase myself out (pardon the pun) ... however, it isn't all beach lounging and fine wines ... when it comes to my personal work, I then face the hardest to please client in my entire career

    -Marc

    P.S, real pics to come ... I have a real world paying shoot on Dec. 29th. which will be the first true test of the S2 ... so I gotta get to practicing on deletables to get the handling down by then

    In the mean-time here are a few from my Holiday outing in 18 weather with just the 35mm ... and me with no gloves or scarf or S2 manual that I failed to read before leaving ... frozen fumble fingers at work But it was just enough to tell me that with some work and practice the S2 will cough up the kind of Leica punch I want (with bigger files to play with), without interfering with how I approach content, or how subjects react to me with this camera in hand.

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    Re: S2 Impressions: A year later.

    Marc, First, thank you for sharing your opinions on the S2.

    Like most people considering the S2, I have been following this camera for awhile as well. As of today, I still find the overall system unreliable in terms of consistent image quality, and Leica still has some engineering to do to get it right. There is much to like about this camera, especially its ergonomics and fast lenses, but in the end I have not seen an image that cannot be done equally as well (or better) with other cameras, and typically at less cost.

    So, as for dodging an expensive bullet, you are still not out of the woods with the S2. You should contact Lloyd Chambers to compare notes. He has tested several S2 kits and lenses, and has found consistent problems with things like backfocusing and purple fringing, and which Leica has actually confirmed these problems with him in person. You can read about some of these recent findings on his blog here: http://diglloyd.com/diglloyd/2010-12...eicaS2Focusing .

    Good luck with your retirement.

    David

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    Contributing Editor ustein's Avatar
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    Re: S2 Impressions: A year later.

    thanks for the story.
    Uwe Steinmueller
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    Editor&Owner of Digital Outback Photo
    http://www.outbackphoto.com

  4. #4
    Shelby Lewis
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    Re: S2 Impressions: A year later.

    Quote Originally Posted by fotografz View Post
    Don't know what changed, or how it changed, but to my eye it did.
    This is the one thing I've been most fascinated by with the S2 this year... and I agree 100%. I don't even care how/why it's changed, it just has IMO (and for the better).

    Processing? Firmware? Familiarity? Who knows...

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    Re: S2 Impressions: A year later.

    Have you tried the new firmware Marc? Supposed to help AF speed.
    I am not a painter, nor an artist. Therefore I can see straight, and that may be my undoing. - Alfred Stieglitz

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    Re: S2 Impressions: A year later.

    Quote Originally Posted by David Klepacki View Post
    Marc, First, thank you for sharing your opinions on the S2.

    Like most people considering the S2, I have been following this camera for awhile as well. As of today, I still find the overall system unreliable in terms of consistent image quality, and Leica still has some engineering to do to get it right. There is much to like about this camera, especially its ergonomics and fast lenses, but in the end I have not seen an image that cannot be done equally as well (or better) with other cameras, and typically at less cost.

    So, as for dodging an expensive bullet, you are still not out of the woods with the S2. You should contact Lloyd Chambers to compare notes. He has tested several S2 kits and lenses, and has found consistent problems with things like backfocusing and purple fringing, and which Leica has actually confirmed these problems with him in person. You can read about some of these recent findings on his blog here: http://diglloyd.com/diglloyd/2010-12...eicaS2Focusing .

    Good luck with your retirement.

    David
    Thank you for the link David. I've followed most every piece of input, opinion, and test ... and looked at every post I could find pro or con for almost a year now. I like to be aware of any warts when going into any system ... especially those like Lloyd encountered. I then pour over these various tests and try to replicate them with my own testing using my shooting criteria. Don't really care about what others have found other than as an alert system to review the camera and lenses I have in hand ... either a year ago, or now.

    I have a little bit of an advantage in doing this since I have used or currently use the other cameras in my own shooting conditions and am intimately aware of their over-all pluses and minuses as they relate to my image criteria and shooting requirements. So, I've already run controlled focus/color tests side-by-side against my H4D/40 using the superb HCD35-90 at 35mm and 70mm ... and the S180 verses the HC210/4. 100+ boring shots of X-Rite test charts later the S2 seems to be holding its own. However, all these have been done available light on locked down studio grade tripods. For me, the true test is real world shooting.

    Regarding images that "cannot be done equally well with other cameras" ... I am a firm believer that that is true when comparing MFD systems. MFD is a heck of a lot more competitive in terms of pure IQ ... and I stick with my belief that the differences between Leaf, Hassey and Phase One are minuscule, and a matter of subjective nano-opinion. At the lower meg end of the competition like the 40s, I'd now also add the S2 IQ with a few subjective caveats and pluses yet to be fully determined.

    However, the thing that all the other MFD choices share is the form factor and handling ... which makes them less of a replacement for higher end pro DSLRs. Frankly, after all these years, I am probably as fast and as good in handling the Hasselbald H camera as I'm going to get. The question then becomes will I get a smidgen faster or better with the S2 handling for certain shooting applications? Unfortunately, this camera is beautiful ... very seductive looking and feeling in hand, which clouds the rigid logic

    The other problem with all these rarified gear choices is that small increments of performance, handling, and/or IQ are disproportionally expensive ... and expensive is Leica's middle name

    I am also a realist regarding Leica's use of the word "perfection". I hardly found the $7,000. 21 and 24 ASPHs to be perfect in certain shooting conditions (back-lit purple fringing) ... but in the case of my 21/1.4 ASPH it is a lack of perfection I'm willing to occasionally endure for its other unique attributes. In short, nothing is perfect, and stating or implying that something is perfect is a lightening rod for criticism.

    More testing yet to go before I send my hard earned cash off to La-La-Leica Land

    -Marc

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    Re: S2 Impressions: A year later.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ben Rubinstein View Post
    Have you tried the new firmware Marc? Supposed to help AF speed.
    Yes Ben, thank you. I installed that update before taking photo #1. Which is why I mentioned that the AF was much better than the S2 camera that I shot with a year ago.

    -Marc

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    Re: S2 Impressions: A year later.

    Quote Originally Posted by fotografz View Post
    I[I][U]
    In the mean-time here are a few from my Holiday outing in 18 weather with just the 35mm ... and me with no gloves or scarf or S2 manual that I failed to read before leaving ... frozen fumble fingers at work But it was just enough to tell me that with some work and practice the S2 will cough up the kind of Leica punch I want (with bigger files to play with), without interfering with how I approach content, or how subjects react to me with this camera in hand.
    I'm puzzled by something -- how do you get such English-looking pictures in the suburbs of Detroit?

    scott

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    Re: S2 Impressions: A year later.

    Marc,

    my congratulations on your new S2 kit! I am sure this is the right decision.

    Myself fighting with similar thoughts and pretty much willing to replace my H and Nikon systems with the S2. Still not found the last step :-)

    Peter

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    Re: S2 Impressions: A year later.

    Quote Originally Posted by Shelby Lewis View Post
    This is the one thing I've been most fascinated by with the S2 this year... and I agree 100%. I don't even care how/why it's changed, it just has IMO (and for the better).

    Processing? Firmware? Familiarity? Who knows...
    What has been interesting Shelby, is that it seems pretty recent, and sort of all at once.

    The one thing I can be sure of is that after only a few days I don't know exactly the processing path for this camera myself. However, it is exactly the same as my initial experiences with the M9. I struggled for a while (especially with B&W conversions), and then other folks seemed to hit it, and that gave me reassurance. Now the M9 is my criteria for look and feel. It just takes time.

    The other thing that is sort of amusing is how different some cameras are when processing for web viewing. I still have difficulty processing any MFD file for web views compared to the Sony or even smaller formats. I actually admire how some folks actually manage to compress such huge files so well.

    Yet, go to print and the story does a flip-flop.

    -Marc

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    Re: S2 Impressions: A year later.

    Quote Originally Posted by scott kirkpatrick View Post
    I'm puzzled by something -- how do you get such English-looking pictures in the suburbs of Detroit?

    scott
    It is a simulation Scott ... Dickens type characterizations by the local troupe of actors which is done every year at Christmas time.

    Holly Michigan was a small town rail stop for the lumber industry in the 1800's and some lumber baron built the elegant old Holly Hotel as the town's center piece ... (B&W window interior shot)

    The town is mostly populated by antique stores now ... which is where the B&W close-up of the little boy was shot when I went in to thaw out. (Wind chill outside had to be 10 below ).

    -Marc

    Here's one of the Hotel (kinda flat lighting), and a snap of people more appropriately dressed than I was ... what was I thinking?

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    Re: S2 Impressions: A year later.

    Quote Originally Posted by ptomsu View Post
    Marc,

    my congratulations on your new S2 kit! I am sure this is the right decision.

    Myself fighting with similar thoughts and pretty much willing to replace my H and Nikon systems with the S2. Still not found the last step :-)

    Peter
    It ain't mine until I send the money Peter.

    Get one to shoot with. It's the only way to see if it works for you.

    It would be a lot less expensive to trade/upgrade your H kit to a H4D/60, and if you already have a H4D/60 this camera isn't going to match those monster files on its best day.

    But it depends on your shooting style, subject matter, and final image criteria.

    -Marc

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    Re: S2 Impressions: A year later.

    Marc are you processing in LR looks to me the same three issues I ran into. Just check the defaults since things may have changed. I remember the black point coming in at 5 which i backed off to 2 or 3, Also saturation was a touch high and also the default sharpening for the S2 was also too high which all leads to crunchy looking files. Now it's been a year so obviously things could have changed in the LR defaults. But do me a favor check and if the same you may want to try and back them down and get it to a less crunchy look. This was one of my issues with the S2 at the time with LR was there was nothing subtle about the files unless I made some adjustments.
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    Re: S2 Impressions: A year later.

    Here's something I just looked for ... potential CA or sensor bloom fringing ... especially with the 35mm.

    If it would show up, I'd suspect it in the attached image marked #2. which was one of the first shots I took after the battery was charged.

    Strong back light against hard edges of the stuff in the foreground. Whatdayathink?

    I also need to do more auto focus tests shots hand-held.

    -Marc

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    Re: S2 Impressions: A year later.

    I see some on the window frame for sure and some in the branches in the snow but not too too bad. Maybe run out in your PJ's and shoot through the trees. Oh joy Marc streaking his neighbors. LOL

    Video at 10
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    Re: S2 Impressions: A year later.

    Quote Originally Posted by Guy Mancuso View Post
    Marc are you processing in LR looks to me the same three issues I ran into. Just check the defaults since things may have changed. I remember the black point coming in at 5 which i backed off to 2 or 3, Also saturation was a touch high and also the default sharpening for the S2 was also too high which all leads to crunchy looking files. Now it's been a year so obviously things could have changed in the LR defaults. But do me a favor check and if the same you may want to try and back them down and get it to a less crunchy look. This was one of my issues with the S2 at the time with LR was there was nothing subtle about the files unless I made some adjustments.
    Good tips Guy. Thanks.

    I suspected as much. These lenses may have a different contrast and sharpness requirement than my other optics and I'm over-processing.

    The B&Ws were using one of the stock Presets in LR and I probably will have to make my own for this camera like I did for the M9.

    I had the same issue when shooting the Hassey back on the view camera ... the defaults were to high for the Rodenstock and Schneider Digital lenses.

    I'll keep that in mind as I keep testing this pup.

    The learning train is chugging up the hill

    -Marc

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    Re: S2 Impressions: A year later.

    Yea they look a little over processed reason I mentioned it. Obviously as we both know it takes some real time to get these system in check and get the absolute best from them and defaults in some of the raw converters are not dead on for sure. Also I know what your looking for and that is a more subtle look and you are looking for your happy spot with this. Otherwise looking good and thanks for going through this exercise with everyone. As many should know Marc is doing the here is what i am getting as he finds his way with this so we don't want to be too critical until he finds that happy spot. I been down this road so many times i hate to count but this stuff just takes time even from someone with Marcs vast experience. It's a process pure and simple
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    Re: S2 Impressions: A year later.

    Quote Originally Posted by Guy Mancuso View Post
    Yea they look a little over processed reason I mentioned it. Obviously as we both know it takes some real time to get these system in check and get the absolute best from them and defaults in some of the raw converters are not dead on for sure. Also I know what your looking for and that is a more subtle look and you are looking for your happy spot with this. Otherwise looking good and thanks for going through this exercise with everyone. As many should know Marc is doing the here is what i am getting as he finds his way with this so we don't want to be too critical until he finds that happy spot. I been down this road so many times i hate to count but this stuff just takes time even from someone with Marcs vast experience. It's a process pure and simple

    Or not, and I send it all back

    So far I don't mind the images as printed rather than web uploads. Probably need to back off the web sized images ... which I seem to always have trouble with getting right.

    Looking more for the look of shot with the people all bundled up.

    We'll see. Don't have a ton of time except early AM because of the Holiday duties with family ... which is a good thing

    -Marc

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    Re: S2 Impressions: A year later.

    I know that feeling party here today and Christmas here tomorrow. I'm forced into domestic role.LOL
    Photography is all about experimentation and without it you will never learn art.

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    Re: S2 Impressions: A year later.

    Good stuff Marc, and you've got some skilz with the English language to boot... "subjective nano-opinions" almost made me spill my coffee Look forward to hearing of your progress with the processing.

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    Re: S2 Impressions: A year later.

    It is fun to share your experience learning the S2. Thank you for posting. The S2 files take sharpening surprisingly well considering the contrasty nature of the lenses. A tip I picked up from another S2 user was to keep the Amount in the mid-to-low range (<50), bump the Radius to 0.9 or 1.0 and then don't be afraid to push the Detail into the high numbers (I usually don't more than 50 - 60, most files can go much higher).

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    Re: S2 Impressions: A year later.

    Marc,

    There seems to be three major areas where the S2 seems to have problems, and you should concentrate your testing on these.

    1. Autofocusing, especially at distance. The S2 is prone to backfocusing. This could mean that either their focusing sensor is out of spec/alignment, or it could mean that their focusing sensor is too large and just covers too much area. Backfocused images indicate that their focusing algorithm selects the farthest object detected within the depth of the focusing window. As long as your focused object is completely within the focusing window (e.g., like a 2D Xrite test chart), you will not see any backfocusing. However, if there is any object depth within the focus window, backfocusing will show up. While this is great for portrait shooting (since eyes will snap into focus instead of noses), it does not work in general for nature photography.

    2. Purple fringing. The Kodak sensor in the S2 is prone to blooming when its photosites are hit with "too much" light. This occurs mostly when shooting wide open in the presence of strong light sources and high contrast edges (e.g., metallic). I shoot with the P65+ wide open with fast lenses like the Hassy V 110/2 as well as the Schneider LS 55/2.8 and LS 110/2.8 lenses and do not see such purple fringing in my images.

    3. Noise. The noise in the S2 images above ISO 160 or 320 are disappointing. If you take an image with a 60+ megapixel back at the same high ISO as the S2, and then reduce its file size to that of the S2, you will get a cleaner higher IQ image than that of the S2 at its full resolution.

    Also, I know that you are not a Phase One shooter, but for those other folks who may be following this thread, here is an interesting comparison that I made between the Phase One 645DF camera and the Leica S2 in terms of size and weight:

    Phase 645DF, P65+, batteries, Schneider LS 110/2.8 lens without hood
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Total Weight = 2.5 kg
    Total Volume = 153mm x 128mm x 238mm

    Leica S2, batteries, CS 120/2.5 lens without hood
    -------------------------------------------------------
    Total Weight = 2.8 kg
    Total Volume = 160mm x 120mm x 231mm

    Similar size and weight occurs when comparing with other lenses as well. I am just trying to be fair as possible in terms of comparing lenses with leaf shutters that are closest in speed and focal length.

    I am not touting the Phase One 645DF camera here. My point is that the perceived "compactness" and handling of the S2 are really no different than alternative 645 cameras.

    David

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    Re: S2 Impressions: A year later.

    Before I picked my kit up from David at Dale Labs I told him I specifically wanted to test for backfocusing issues. I read the Digilloyd review too We found no AF backfocus with any of the three lenses. What we did find is that you could "force" AF backfocus by picking an object small enough so that it does not fill the inner circle. In this situation the AF seems to pick up the highest contrast object in the circle which may not be the precise point you wanted. Whether this is a limitation of the Leica system only I don't know as I haven't tested for the same thing with any of my other systems. As far as compactness and handling goes I can only speak for the systems I've had and handled. There's simply no comparison in the ergos between my Sinar/Hy6 (or Contax, or Hassy body) and the S2. The S2 feels and handles like my Nikon D3s. Hand held shooting... which is a major consideration for me... is much easier with the S2.

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    Re: S2 Impressions: A year later.

    Quote Originally Posted by David K View Post
    ....What we did find is that you could "force" AF backfocus by picking an object small enough so that it does not fill the inner circle. In this situation the AF seems to pick up the highest contrast object in the circle which may not be the precise point you wanted....
    This reminds me of the early Canon cameras (10D..) where the focus sensor area was to big causing these types of problems. Later models changed the design with smaller areas improving and almost eliminating the problems.

    This type of behavior will be exhibited with any camera.

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    Re: S2 Impressions: A year later.

    Hi Marc
    Interesting - thank you - I'll be following very carefully (and rather ruefully too!).

    all the best

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    Re: S2 Impressions: A year later.

    Quote Originally Posted by Valentin View Post
    This reminds me of the early Canon cameras (10D..) where the focus sensor area was to big causing these types of problems. Later models changed the design with smaller areas improving and almost eliminating the problems.
    Yes, this is exactly correct. Using smaller focusing sensors can vastly improve autofocus accuracy.

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    Re: S2 Impressions: A year later.

    Tons of good input here.

    Personally, I agree about the relative compactness of the S2 system compared to at least the H4D/40 with comparable lenses mounted. However, I would not presume to imply that it translates into superior handling characteristics. In the end it all comes down to ... did you get the pictures, and what percentage are usable? Don't care what form factor it is ... that is the criteria.

    People with a long history of using Pro 35mm DSLRs, and less with MFD, will find the S2 more familiar. For me that is not the case ... MFD is just as familiar if not more so due to a consistent use of H cameras as well as various Pro DSLRs for many years now.

    I just tried something I should have done immediately. I simply preset both the H4D/40 with HCD/35-70 set at 70mm, and the S2 with 70mm. I manually white balanced both cameras using a XRite Passport. (Speed of this WB set-up was not the issue at this time ... I'm sure the S2 has a short cut for doing this). The S2 was set to ISO640 and the H4D/40 @ 800

    I then shot both cameras on and off a mono pod.

    The idea was a simple shooting test of real subjects that are alive ... my poor long suffering wife and little doggy. Pics of the wifey in her PJs prepping Christmas Eve dinner will not be posted since I do not want a base-ball bat lump on my noggin for Christmas ... so you'll have to take my word for the following:

    Much higher percentage of in-focus keepers from the H4D/40 ... faster lock-on and shooting. The S2 wasn't bad at all ... just not as quick and more importantly, not as accurate as often. The H sounds clunkier, but that clunkiness doesn't translate into camera movement (as I've demonstrated many times before, the H can be shot hand-held at pretty low shutter speeds, and as long as the subject isn't dancing around the results are surprising).

    More than 50% of the wiggle worm doggy pics from the S2 were relatively unusable (7 out of 12). All but one of the H shots were good (9 out of 10 keepers). This warrants a LOT more investigation and testing of this type.

    Using LR3 direct imports, color from the H camera was more neutral, and had less of a yellowish tint ... and almost no subtile discolored shadings on white walls exhibited by the S2. However, the noise on the S2 was better controlled, more than the difference between 640 and 800 would warrant. But that was Lightroom ... not Phocus.

    Same H4D/40 file in Phocus made the ISO 800 noise better than the S2's 640 ... and the color was better than either file processed in LR3. This was a wake-up call to me to stop using LR for the Hassey photos ... for sure ISO 800 or 1600 files. Phocus absolutely rocks!

    Then came the kicker ... I used True Focus on the tiny pup's eye at the far side of the frame and then recomposed .... dead nuts focus even though I was almost at minimum focusing distance. Not so successful with the S2 doing the same thing.

    So the dilemma deepens. I need to shoot more real subjects, in real environments, in real shooting conditions ... keeping in mind all the hints and tips provided here. I do not need to do that with the H4D/40 ... it's has a proven track record that needs no stringent review for me.

    Jury is still out. Whew, this is exhausting

    -Marc

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    Re: S2 Impressions: A year later.

    Marc,

    I cannot comment on TF, as I used it only very little and I am - as you already know from me - thinking that there was also successful MF photography before TF, BUT I am pretty sure it is a real advancement in MF AF. So it is clear to me that the H4D is superior WRT TF compared to the normal AF of the S2.

    Now WRT LR vs. Phocus - this was always clear to me that for H files Phocus rocks. I have said that from the very beginning when I started to shoot my H3D39 (old sensor technology) that the colors coming out of this cam in combination with Phocus just rock. As do higher ISO performance etc. Phocus with 3FR or FFF files is in my eyes even superior compared to C1Pro and Phase TIFF files - please no religious debates here, but this is my opinion based on the results I have seen from both systems.

    So when one really decides to go Hasselblad then this should also mean using Phocus. There is no better way to fly in my opinion

    Anyway, thanks for all your comparison tests here, this really helps - maybe I can stay with Hasselblad and upgrade to H4D60

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    Re: S2 Impressions: A year later.

    Quote Originally Posted by fotografz View Post
    So the dilemma deepens. I need to shoot more real subjects, in real environments, in real shooting conditions ... keeping in mind all the hints and tips provided here. I do not need to do that with the H4D/40 ... it's has a proven track record that needs no stringent review for me.

    Jury is still out. Whew, this is exhausting

    -Marc
    I'm feeling better already - my solution was so much simpler!

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    Re: S2 Impressions: A year later.

    Quote Originally Posted by fotografz View Post
    ... I used True Focus on the tiny pup's eye at the far side of the frame and then recomposed ....

    -Marc

    Cute dog, but I think he's saying: "Drop the cha... camera".

    Valentin

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    Re: S2 Impressions: A year later.

    I think what one should keep in mind and maybe a good way to describe the S2 compared to H and P is your not going to see much difference in bulk and weight. But what you will see is a more user history ergos for the S2. What mean by history is almost all of us came from that SLR style so ergos are more user friendly. This is a plus for the S2 as more folks are more familiar with it. But honestly my Phase kit lens wise is far smaller and lighter. Where P and H users take the ding and HY6 is body style.
    Photography is all about experimentation and without it you will never learn art.

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    Re: S2 Impressions: A year later.

    Marc,
    Thanks for sharing, I too, want to add some less technical comments about my recent experience with the S2. I shoot with an H4D, but had the chance to play with the S2 in wet snow, here in the Northeast woods. 80% of my shooting is outdoor, I'm an adventurous landscape photographer that does portraits, so this seems like a perfect camera... First, it's easy to learn and use even with gloves on. It's simplistic nature is so intuitive that i'm reflective of nature when composing. The top OLED, is so cool until you need it, it really is useless in the day, cloudy or not. The AF was accurate only with nicely lit, close subjects, but nice colors and dynamic range right out of the camera. The "pull 80" ISO, also lacked dynamic range and was generally dull. Everyone comments on the lousy high ISO performance and no exceptions here. If there was better higher ISO performance, this would result in better low light handheld shots and thus, open it up to many more photographers. Shooting 1/3rd over exposure helps a little with noise in LR3, but not enough. This camera is fun to use and the option for CS or FP shutters are a must for faster action and/or high sync. I like to carry a camera around and this camera is perfect in any weather. This hybrid also has amazing batteries, unlike the dismal performance of the H4D. The aspect ratio is different and the thought of cropping out juicy pixels makes me cringe, but I can perhaps overlook this and shoot accordingly, because the camera is so capable in any weather environment. The blooming issues are also interesting. Why would the KAF 37.5 MP sensor, with it's 6 micron truesense technology differ so much with the H4D's KAF 40MP, with more or less the same technology?
    I would gladly join the Leica family if these issue's are addressed and just in case Leica might read this, can you lower the price too?

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    Re: S2 Impressions: A year later.

    so... for another 40 grand or so, you better get a hell of a lot better image quality, because I don't see any other advantage:
    compared to H4D-40
    no true focus, AF is not as good, higher ISO is noisier, no zoom, limited lens selection, no real size saving, no user history of more than a year, no body of rental gear available should a component fail, purple fringing

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    Re: S2 Impressions: A year later.

    Quote Originally Posted by johnnygoesdigital View Post
    Marc,
    Thanks for sharing, I too, want to add some less technical comments about my recent experience with the S2. I shoot with an H4D, but had the chance to play with the S2 in wet snow, here in the Northeast woods. 80% of my shooting is outdoor, I'm an adventurous landscape photographer that does portraits, so this seems like a perfect camera... First, it's easy to learn and use even with gloves on. It's simplistic nature is so intuitive that i'm reflective of nature when composing. The top OLED, is so cool until you need it, it really is useless in the day, cloudy or not. The AF was accurate only with nicely lit, close subjects, but nice colors and dynamic range right out of the camera. The "pull 80" ISO, also lacked dynamic range and was generally dull. Everyone comments on the lousy high ISO performance and no exceptions here. If there was better higher ISO performance, this would result in better low light handheld shots and thus, open it up to many more photographers. Shooting 1/3rd over exposure helps a little with noise in LR3, but not enough. This camera is fun to use and the option for CS or FP shutters are a must for faster action and/or high sync. I like to carry a camera around and this camera is perfect in any weather. This hybrid also has amazing batteries, unlike the dismal performance of the H4D. The aspect ratio is different and the thought of cropping out juicy pixels makes me cringe, but I can perhaps overlook this and shoot accordingly, because the camera is so capable in any weather environment. The blooming issues are also interesting. Why would the KAF 37.5 MP sensor, with it's 6 micron truesense technology differ so much with the H4D's KAF 40MP, with more or less the same technology?
    I would gladly join the Leica family if these issue's are addressed and just in case Leica might read this, can you lower the price too?
    Your comments on the AF accuracy are worrisome. To many people saying the same thing.

    I think the difference between Hassey and the S2 is the tuned proprietary software ... although the Hassey files aren't all that bad in LR, they're not as good as in Phocus.

    I can't comment on how easy it is to learn the S2 ... or operate with gloves.

    What's up with your Hassey batteries? Maybe they need the fuel gauge reset? I do know that if you don't follow Hassey's recommended way of initial conditioning, they don't last as long, even with a reset guage.

    -Marc

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    Re: S2 Impressions: A year later.

    Interesting test Marc and I'm not surprised that you're getting better results with the system you've been using. I'm sure you and Guy and a lot of other shooters have mastered your MF kits to the point where shooting them is second nature... as easy for you guys as a DSLR. Unfortunately for me... I'm not a member of that club. As good as my Sinar/Hy6 kit is IQ wise it's no speed demon... at least not in my hands. I am much more comfortable with the form factor of the Nikon/Canon/S2 body than any of the MF kits I've shot with. Pretty sure I'm part of the demographic that Leica was targeting for this camera. Others will have to decide for themselves.

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    Re: S2 Impressions: A year later.

    Quote Originally Posted by johnnygoesdigital View Post
    Marc,
    The top OLED, is so cool until you need it, it really is useless in the day, cloudy or not.
    Mine is useless too. I think there's an issue with these on the early release cameras that's been addressed by Leica. I plan on sending mine in for replacement before the warranty period expires (March, 2011 for me). I also plan on purchasing an additional year of warranty before mine expires. Not cheap at $1500 for another year but at least it's an available option.

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    Re: S2 Impressions: A year later.

    Fascinating, Marc began his second round with the S2 by saying how much better he felt AF was this go-around. Toward the end of the thread, there is an overall sense of AF angst amongst most posters. Not defending or accusing, I just find the 'focus shift' interesting.

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    Re: S2 Impressions: A year later.

    Quote Originally Posted by KurtKamka View Post
    Fascinating, Marc began his second round with the S2 by saying how much better he felt AF was this go-around. Toward the end of the thread, there is an overall sense of AF angst amongst most posters. Not defending or accusing, I just find the 'focus shift' interesting.
    My reference was about AF speed and aquiring the target ... but I think the comments are more concerning accuracy.

    The new firmware was just released right? So previous users may not have been using a camera with it installed.

    Also, how does one determine which firmware is installed in the lenses? I see there is also a firmware update for lenses.

    Need to do more testing on this,

    -Marc

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    Re: S2 Impressions: A year later.

    Jim,

    There are plenty of rental houses that have S2's, especially in your area. I think comparing IQ is a moot point because there all good. I wasn't interested in the S2 for that reason, compared to the H4D. Software and glass will ultimately, decide the best MFD for certain applications. I do, however, think that Leica is listening and have already made improvements based on some comments made here. In terms of comparing the H4D to the S2, I've tried that, but if it's raining or snowing outside, there's only one camera I can play with. Controlled testing of equipment is great as a reference, but with changing humidity levels, condensation, temperature fluctuations, things that can really effect performance or operation at all, well then your right, there's no comparison. The H4D is a fantastic camera, but for me, it's limited to where I can go or how fast I can shoot. The option of two shutters in the S2 is huge! I wouldn't be comfortable shooting a pod of whales off the side of a Boston Whaler going 40 mph with the H4D, but I can do that with an S2 and still use it for a fashion shoot tomorrow. Better yet, I'll put the model on the pod of whales and click away! There's a huge amount of interest in this camera and it only makes sense for Leica to adapt. Basically, there reputation for MFD depends on it. Again, these are my opinions and for me, this camera is the best of both MFD realms and if Leica can address these and other known issues then I'm in.

    Marc, I have followed the Hasselblad instructions for batteries, but still get a low shutter count, for me that's around 180/200. To save battery power, I have set the digital back to remain off and the brightness, contrast, and sounds are all turned off or down to see if this helps. I mostly use the DB to check bracketed exposures.

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    Re: S2 Impressions: A year later.

    Quote Originally Posted by David K View Post
    Interesting test Marc and I'm not surprised that you're getting better results with the system you've been using. I'm sure you and Guy and a lot of other shooters have mastered your MF kits to the point where shooting them is second nature... as easy for you guys as a DSLR. Unfortunately for me... I'm not a member of that club. As good as my Sinar/Hy6 kit is IQ wise it's no speed demon... at least not in my hands. I am much more comfortable with the form factor of the Nikon/Canon/S2 body than any of the MF kits I've shot with. Pretty sure I'm part of the demographic that Leica was targeting for this camera. Others will have to decide for themselves.
    Yeah, I think that is quite true. As I said, I still am interested in whether this form factor will bring a bit swifter shooting flow .... and I won't say one way or the other, because I don't care what it is, it takes time for anything to become second nature. Oddly, I'm actually faster with the H camera than my Sony A900 because of more experience and the way Hasselblad designed the control placements and programability of buttons to be direct functions.

    I like this camera a lot! The top LCD seemed fine so far ... but it is a newer camera. The rear LCD is light years ahead of the other guys. So, I need to play more and figure out the AF better ... and test it at various distances. I cannot hack missed focus with the work I do ... often one chance and that's it. Accuracy is preferable over speed ... which is why I liked the Sony A900. It wasn't the fastest, but deadly accurate. Now, with new firmware it is also fast without giving up any accuracy.

    Not worried that much about the S2 IQ since I see enough right away to know that with work I can zero in on what I want.

    Just need a little time.

    -Marc

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    Re: S2 Impressions: A year later.

    Man, you guys are killing me! I'm sitting here on Christmas day sipping a beer whishing I was able to play with such amazing gear as well. I was at work the other day and someone came in with an H4D-50. I asked them what they shoot with it. I'll just say that this person described a "take an M16 machine gun to a fist fight" scenario. For a while I begrudged them for owning it but then I relaxed - if it makes them happy or they enjoy using it, good on them! One day I hope to have one of these systems to work with too. I know from a few days with the S2 that it's IQ is exactly what I'm looking for. I felt the bottom of the grip was a bit big for my hands, but that was my only only real complaint. Beautiful camera and beautiful files. I'm sure the H4D series is great too. I hope this coming year I might be able to make the step the the H4D-31 or similar priced system. I hope you come to some clear decisions soon and put the chosen beast to work. Good luck and merry Christmas!

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    Re: S2 Impressions: A year later.

    Quote Originally Posted by tjv View Post
    Man, you guys are killing me! I'm sitting here on Christmas day sipping a beer whishing I was able to play with such amazing gear as well. I was at work the other day and someone came in with an H4D-50. I asked them what they shoot with it. I'll just say that this person described a "take an M16 machine gun to a fist fight" scenario. For a while I begrudged them for owning it but then I relaxed - if it makes them happy or they enjoy using it, good on them! One day I hope to have one of these systems to work with too. I know from a few days with the S2 that it's IQ is exactly what I'm looking for. I felt the bottom of the grip was a bit big for my hands, but that was my only only real complaint. Beautiful camera and beautiful files. I'm sure the H4D series is great too. I hope this coming year I might be able to make the step the the H4D-31 or similar priced system. I hope you come to some clear decisions soon and put the chosen beast to work. Good luck and merry Christmas!
    Decisions, decisions.

    Not only is it a slippery slope, this slippery slope is up a mile high. I just want to be sure the end of the slope isn't a cliff

    -Marc

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    Re: S2 Impressions: A year later.

    Quote Originally Posted by KurtKamka View Post
    Fascinating, Marc began his second round with the S2 by saying how much better he felt AF was this go-around. Toward the end of the thread, there is an overall sense of AF angst amongst most posters. Not defending or accusing, I just find the 'focus shift' interesting.
    Kurt,
    I thought exactly the same thing. I think the problem is that there are so many factors going into AF and even more into IQ (including AF) that it is just so difficult to make a clear judgement.
    I have tried to compare different systems and first you think there is some difference and afterwards you realize there were just so minor differences in focus which lead to a wrong conclusion.
    The fact that DOF is soo shallow with such systems I sometimes believe the more "gentle" transition from sharp to unsharp areas and the more forgiving "thickness of emulsion of film" were/are one major advantage of film over digital.
    I get really sick of focus and lens testing. Even more complicated if you have a new system and dont know how much comes from the camera and how much from the lens (and how much from you). It seems to be necesary to do it though when getting new gear. Its not easy to make conclusions from 1 or 2 tests - so only after using gear for some time one really knows if it works. But thats pretty difficult with a 30k system.

    Simplicity of a camera and user interface includes to be able to totally rely on a camera system IMO.

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    Re: S2 Impressions: A year later.

    Quote Originally Posted by David Klepacki View Post
    Marc, First, thank you for sharing your opinions on the S2.

    Like most people considering the S2, I have been following this camera for awhile as well. As of today, I still find the overall system unreliable in terms of consistent image quality, and Leica still has some engineering to do to get it right. There is much to like about this camera, especially its ergonomics and fast lenses, but in the end I have not seen an image that cannot be done equally as well (or better) with other cameras, and typically at less cost.

    So, as for dodging an expensive bullet, you are still not out of the woods with the S2. You should contact Lloyd Chambers to compare notes. He has tested several S2 kits and lenses, and has found consistent problems with things like backfocusing and purple fringing, and which Leica has actually confirmed these problems with him in person. You can read about some of these recent findings on his blog here: http://diglloyd.com/diglloyd/2010-12...eicaS2Focusing .

    Good luck with your retirement.

    David
    Update David.

    I have read Lloyd Chamber's blog comments and then subscribed to DAP ... which I admit I had not included in my research. My bad.

    It is interesting that he feels these are the best lenses made by anyone ever, but he is quite clear that the AF accuracy is faulty with the camera ... AND that includes use of the latest firmware which does not fix the issue. As Lloyd states, his multiple camera testing with all 4 available lenses directly challenges Mark Dubovoy's assertion on LL that the S2 features "perfect AF".

    It's enough to drive you nuts.

    However, Lloyd's assertion that the optics are good up to 80 meg sensors also somewhat confirms my notion that it is the lenses that one is investing in the long term.

    I will concentrate my testing of this specific new body at medium + distances since admittedly I was shooting most of my test shots at closer distances. This is important for all the focal lengths the way I tend to do environmental portraits and large sweeping wide angle shots of event interiors, but specifically important with the 180mm since that is obviously a primary purpose ... bringing far subject's closer.

    If confirmed, it is simply a deal breaker and the whole thing goes back. Obviously, Leica has had this info long enough to address it with firmware (if firmware can address it) ... and the latest firmware evidently doesn't address it.

    I've had quite enough of this type engineering sloppiness from other systems in past ... but it really slams home hard at these prices. While I'm sure the S optics are better than my Hassey ones, whether a little or a lot, it's a moot point if one cannot somewhat trust the AF of an AF camera ... which by experience I do with the Hasselblad Micro Adjust AF ... and now True Focus.


    Thanks,

    -Marc

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    Re: S2 Impressions: A year later.

    I know at least of one photographer who has replaced his DSLR with an S2 and seems very happy with it.
    I only emailed with him so far and need to talk to him more detailed.
    I know he had some issues in the beginning and spent one day at Leica-in the end he seems to have the system under control.
    He shoots reportage style photography and I saw some absolutly fascinating images he shot with th S2 in Afganisthan some weeks ago.
    I am looking forward to his detailed experience but there seem to be some people who get the S2 system working.

    No doubts about all the experience from reviewers as Loyd but still so many factors for possible failure including sample variation.
    I am looking forward to hear more from your experience with the S2.

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    Re: S2 Impressions: A year later.

    Quote Originally Posted by t_streng View Post
    Kurt,
    I thought exactly the same thing. I think the problem is that there are so many factors going into AF and even more into IQ (including AF) that it is just so difficult to make a clear judgement.
    I have tried to compare different systems and first you think there is some difference and afterwards you realize there were just so minor differences in focus which lead to a wrong conclusion.
    The fact that DOF is soo shallow with such systems I sometimes believe the more "gentle" transition from sharp to unsharp areas and the more forgiving "thickness of emulsion of film" were/are one major advantage of film over digital.
    I get really sick of focus and lens testing. Even more complicated if you have a new system and dont know how much comes from the camera and how much from the lens (and how much from you). It seems to be necesary to do it though when getting new gear. Its not easy to make conclusions from 1 or 2 tests - so only after using gear for some time one really knows if it works. But thats pretty difficult with a 30k system.

    Simplicity of a camera and user interface includes to be able to totally rely on a camera system IMO.
    Exactly!

    I'm sick to death of it actually

    I can't believe how difficult it is to make a decision anymore. And the decisions are relatively BIG ones with almost any system you buy today ($$$$$$$).

    Look at the focus issues being uncovered with the relatively expensive new Nikon G lenses (24, 35 and 85/1.4s). I went through four different new and used Leica M75/2 ASPH lenses and not one of them focused properly ... and finally gave up (trust me, it wasn't the cameras as the 0.95 Nocti focused perfectly, as did the 28/2 and my old 90/2.8). Finally found a late model 6 bit 75/1.4 that did work on both my M9s. Even a Rodenstock digital lens I bought new was so off that even shimming it wouldn't work, and they finally replaced it (with a lot of grousing, and foot dragging about the exchange ).

    This testing crap takes hours and hours to determine, is a PITA, and involves shipping expensive gear back-and-forth often at your expense ... a disaster waiting to happen.

    All compounded by conflicting tests and comments on the web, or people defending a purchase decision (which is understandable at these stratospheric prices.)

    It's gotten to the point that if a brand new piece of gear actually works, you throw confetti in the air and bring out the champagne.

    -Marc

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    Re: S2 Impressions: A year later.

    Marc, the testing stuff can drive you nuts...which is not a very long drive in my case And in any event the testing, at best, only deals with objective factors. While I value and respect Lloyd and Guy's tests at the end of the day it's a subjective choice. The things that went into making my decision aren't the same for others. I gave up my DMR and Contax kits which weren't getting much use anyway. If I had to give up the M9 it would have been a more difficult choice. The Leica S system is expensive... some would say overpriced. The financial pain was mitigated for me by buying a used kit and getting very good trade values. If I were buying at full boat retail for cash I'm not sure I could have justified the expenditure. Also, I wanted to wait and see if the S2 would gain traction in the marketplace. After the Leica R was discontinued and the Hy6 was stillborn the last thing I wanted was another orphaned camera system. Based on anecdotal information I'm satisfied that there is a strong enough demand for the S2 that it will remain viable. I also believe that the limited availability of lenses and the increase in price coming next month will mitigate losses on my investment. In short, there was a lot of totally non-scientific, non-photographic factors that played a major part in my decision making.

  48. #48
    Administrator, Instructor Guy Mancuso's Avatar
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    Re: S2 Impressions: A year later.

    Exactly David there are many considerations in buying into these systems as we all know. Why my always first rule is try them first. Than you have to look at all the backend stuff and post production not just going and buying a lens. Threads like this are really good as folks can see what kind of decisions are rolling around that they need to consider. The S2 is no exception that it will produce great images just like a Hassy, Sinar, Leaf and Phase counterparts. End of day that is the part you really don't have to worry about too much, you will get good images. It's the everything else like functions, ergos, service, availability of parts and accessories that will drive you nuts trying to hammer everything that ones needs are and what is important. Honestly I love seeing you folks struggle to make these decisions and only because your doing the needed homework to make a smart buy decision for what you are truly after. None of these systems are remotely perfect and it will always come down to some compromise in the system that your just going to have to deal with. It's just like life, it ain't perfect by any stretch. Pardon the slang there and BTW Merry Christmas. It's almost time for me to go wake the kids and make them a awesome breakfast.
    Photography is all about experimentation and without it you will never learn art.

    www.guymancusophotography.com

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    Re: S2 Impressions: A year later.

    Merry Xmas to you too Guy and the other forum members around the world. Hope Santa was good to you all this year !!

  50. #50
    Subscriber Member KurtKamka's Avatar
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    Re: S2 Impressions: A year later.

    There are several reasons that it took me a long while to decide which system to go with in jumping back into medium format. (I'm very happy to be once again enjoying the bigger sensor look.) First, the cost of entry is high ... making mistakes can be costly (added on top of the cost of selling other gear, etc.) Second, while nothing is perfect, the image quality provided by each of the systems at this level is fantastic. Third, there are several trade-offs with each system that you need to match up with how and what you shoot.

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