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Jason’s Newsround: The trickle becomes a flood — it’s raining new M-lenses from China

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What do you think about Chinese-manufactured lenses? At Macfilos we find ourselves paying more attention to M-Mount variants from China. New ones are appearing at quite a clip, some even tempting die-hard Leica and Voigländer fans. And speaking of temptation, if you are hankering after a return to film photography, there might be some new camera options coming your way. Back in the digital world, surely we are not still talking about the Panasonic Lumix S9, are we? Moving on from new camera and lens options, we also have some news about older Sony and Nikon cameras you might find interesting.

Lenses made in China

If you are intrigued by the number of new companies manufacturing lenses in China, you are not alone. Jörg-Peter Rau recently provided an overview of Chinese lens manufacturers, as part of his M-Files series. And we have also heard from Ed Schwartreich about replicas of classic Leica models, produced by Light Lens Lab. New models are appearing regularly, some of which merit a close look.

One fascinating example is the Eureka 50 f/2 retractable lens from Thypoch. Now available for pre-order, the lens is inspired by a Taylor-Hobson retractable design from the 1950s. The few reviews currently available online suggest that both the build quality and optical performance are good. The lens will be available in both aluminium and brass construction, both with a silver finish. Its vintage look pairs beautifully with silver Leica cameras. Here is one perspective on the lens, in use with a film camera.

If it is as good this review submits, it will make a very appealing 50mm f/2 option for Leica shooters, at a fraction of the price of a Summicron. The recommended retail price for the aluminium version is £475. Hopefully, we will be able to provide a hands-on review before too long.

Not just a eureka moment

Thypoch has now announced three new M-lenses recently. The earlier f/1.4 Simera series lenses are available in 28mm and 35mm focal lengths.

Light Lens Lab is another Chinese lens manufacturer that has featured in the pages of Macfilos. Their business strategy is to recreate vintage classics in more modern, and more affordable versions. Earlier in the year, they released their versions of the 1966 50mm f/1.2 and SPII 50mm f/2, two classic and supremely expensive Leitz lenses. A new/vintage 75mm lens could also be on the way.

It’s encouraging to see so many new camera and lens options becoming available (see below). We will continue to watch this space closely.


The New Pentax Film Camera is on the way

What first was a claim has long become a reality: #filmisnotdead. Wherever you are, you can see — mostly young — photographers with a good old analogue camera. Be it a humble point-and-shoot model, a veteran of the Nikon F3 calibre or even an all-time classic like the Leica M cameras. And these aficionados find a rich supply of films — unfortunately at high prices now, setting the barrier quite high, especially for young people who are keen to discover “real photography”.

A suitable camera is basically easy to find on the second-hand market, and we cannot thank enough the guys from Camera Rescue over in Tampere, Finland who have saved the lives of more than 100,000 cameras according to their website. Add to it all the small workshops who give the old darlings the needed CLA jobs, and you could think that there are really enough film cameras around. And exactly one manufacturer has never given up on analogue cameras: Leica, with the MP and the M-A after the M7 was discontinued, and they even ventured to re-issue the M6 in 2022. You won’t find many companies with such courage.

New camera and lens options of an unexpected kind

Another of them is Ricoh/Pentax. They are about to add one more to all the new camera and lens options. And it is likely that we see an entirely new film-loading camera from them before June is over. This date was confirmed by a Ricoh/Pentax sales representative recently at a house fair. And he said that dealers expect high demand, the order books look promising according to him. And we got some additional information abut this new camera: It will be a Pentax-branded half-frame with a default portrait orientation, it will have a manual focus lens with a 35mm full frame equivalent angle of view, zone focusing (and no rangefinder), manual film advance (listen to the YouTube video!).

All in all, the new camera will cater very well for the need of the Generation Instagram — where Pentax is addressing them actively. If they shoot analogue, they will not search for ultimate sharpness or resolution, and with modern film material, even half-frame images will look good. The half-format reduces the cost per shot, and vertical images are the standard now among younger smartphone users. Interesting is what the Ricoh/Pentax man said about the manual film advance. This is, according to him, more expensive and complicated to design and produce than a motor-driven alternative. But the designers absolutely wanted it because it “gives the genuine manual photography vibes”.

There are so many cameras around from the analogue era (just a tiny selection from left: Rollei 35S, Yashica T4, Olympus OM-2, Leica M3, Minox 35GT) – will a new film loading camera be successful on a market that is still flooded with second-hand offerings?

Is this special item among all the new camera and lens options likely to be a success? The first rush on the Leica M6 seems over, and the second-hand camera market is saturated. But then again, the special features of the new Pentax might be precisely the right niche. Price? “Hopefully under €500”, we heard. Quite a lot of money for a camera with built-in imperfections. Did we speak of courage?


Leica updates

Firmware version 2.1.1 for the Leica M11, M11 Monochrom and M11-P is now available for download. This is a minor bug-fix release, but we’d recommend you install it to avoid future problems. Leica has fixed the occasional generation of incorrect image data. They also addressed the phenomenon where the camera would not start if the start process had been previously interrupted by switching off the camera. In addition, Leica has attended to various errors and causes of freezing, along with a general improvement in the stability of the firmware.

A flawed masterpiece is what Andy Zahn calls the Leica SL3 in his Slashgear review. I read this with interest because here at Macfilos we are expecting to get a review SL3 to use for a week or two. Mike Evans, our editor, has owned both the SL (twice) and the SL2 (once). But every time he decided that the camera was too heavy, bearing in mind the weight of Leica’s lenses. But lighter optics are now readily available from Panasonic and Sigma, and we are keen to find out if the SL3 can change his mind. A brief play with the camera confirms that, while on paper it is barely smaller or lighter than the SL2, it somehow does feel smaller.

The Leica cool factor

Andy praises the SL3 for its image quality, range of available lenses, build quality, ruggedness and weather protection and, of course, the “Leica cool factor”. On the debit side, he thinks the UI takes some getting used to, and that the camera is too easy to power on accidentally. He also criticizes the relatively slow autofocus and the fact that images occasionally failed to record.

We hope to look at all this during June when the SL3 arrives. But I don’t quite understand the problems with the user interface. It’s virtually the same as the M11 and Q3, and Leica is noted for its simple and easily understood menu system.

Rainbow warrior

Octane, Santorini, Gum and Kiss: These are just four of the 24 vibrant hues in which you can clothe your Leica M, Q or CL camera. It’s reminiscent of the old à la carte service from Leica. But Leica Store Singapore has taken the idea a few steps further with its camera customisation service. You can even have your camera engraved with your name, monogram, graphic elements or numbers to complete the individualisation. So, as well as a plethora of new camera and lens options hitting the market, it seems we also have new colour schemes everywhere (see the Lumix S9 below).

Mike has often wondered who, why, how. Is Neil ready to come forward and tell us how he came to order this Crocodile-skinned customised camera and then tired of it?

Individualisation of Leicas is as old as the marque itself. Editor Mike owns a Leica M7 à la carte model with the name “Neil” engraved on the top plate. Since he doesn’t know who Neil is, he now refers to the camera as Neil. See: How I met Neil and experienced love at first sight. And our US associate editor, Keith James, has a penchant for bright hues, owning an M240 in a resplendent red jacket. I can imagine he would be in the market for a Vamp makeover of his Q2. Watch this space.

We are spoiled for choice. Should it be Amaranto, Blue Beetle or Salmon. Full maks to Leica Store Singapore for imagination

Panasonic — the S9 fallout

In the world of new camera and lens options, there is no bigger story presently than this one. A week has passed since Panasonic announced its new compact, full-frame, L-Mount camera, the S9. As a result, there are now many more reviews available online, primarily from people invited to the launch event in Japan.

Opinions on the camera remain mixed. While commentators have described it as a ‘breakthrough product’ for Panasonic, and the L-Mount Alliance, the S9 seems to have polarised opinion across the ‘influencer’ community. Happily, some grey-bearded opinion-leaders acknowledge that they are not the target audience for the camera. As a result, they cannot speak for the younger generation of photographers and videographers at which Panasonic has aimed the camera.

Hopefully, those folk will soon start sharing their perspectives online. Meanwhile, there are plenty of opinion pieces from more familiar commentators. Here is one for your consideration:

One cool way to use the S9, mentioned in passing in the video above, is with M-Mount lenses. Anyone who owns a Leica L-to-M adapter can mount any of their M-lenses and create a very compact range-finder style set up. If you are a street photographer comfortable with zone focusing, you are all set. The S9’s lack of EVF is not an issue.

And if you want to hear yet more opinions on the camera of the moment, here are a few more links for you.

I don’t want the S9 — I want the camera you made 11 years ago
Lumix S9 — fantastic travel camera with limitations
Panasonic S9 — the full-frame GM1 I always wanted
Panasonic S9 — Smaller than an X100VI, but does it have the same appeal

How the Sony RX100 changed compact cameras

Recently, the spotlight has fallen on compact cameras. Two newcomers, very different from one another, have added to the growing army of small, handleable but high-performance cameras with appeal both for the experienced photographer and those coming over from the smartphone area. The desire among smartphone users for “something a bit better” is not surprising. We have been saying for years that the decline of the once-powerful “point-and-shoot” market is no bad thing.

Casual photographers seldom felt satisfied with their results and had no incentive to move on to a larger camera. But, on the other hand, the smartphone flatters even the most inept photographer because of the in-built computational processing. As a result, millions of smartphone users are delighted with their efforts, and are flattered into believing that they need a more capable camera. This is as it may be, but there is no denying that the smartphone is now feeding into the established mirrorless camera market.

The new breed of compacts are happy recipients of this attention from upgraders, and we have covered some of the best cameras in this segment, including the Q3, Ricoh GRIII and Fuji X100VI. But there’s one camera that arguably beats them all for versatility in a tiny package. The Sony RX100 was born to take advantage of the decline of the ultra-small sensor point-and-shoot cameras. Its capable 1in sensor offered much improved image quality and drew a clear line between the smartphone, as it existed in 2012, and other compact cameras of the day.

Sixth generation

The RX100, in its sixth generation, is still extremely popular. Sony has improved the 1in sensor, which is capable of great results, and the little camera now manages to squeeze in a fairly competent pop-up EVF, something that was missing in the first generations. But the true secret of the RX100 is the enormous zoom capability. The RX100 VI extends from 24 to a distant 200mm, without adding significantly to the weight or bulk of this tiny camera. Mike Evans argued that the four-thirds sensor of the new Leica D-Lux 8 is the reason that camera can offer a 24-75mm zoom, and the same argument can be applied to the Sony RX100. If you want the smallest long-zoom lens on the market, then a 1in sensor is the key to building it.

Long-time camera reviewer, Robin Wong, looks back to the original RX100 and shows how this little camera changed the landscape of compact cameras.

Several members of the Macfilos editorial team have owned the RX100 in its various iterations, and agree with Robin that this is an exceptional camera for travel. The Macfilos team has always been delighted with the image quality from the RX. They do, however, complain that the controls can be fiddly to operate, and the handling is poor, but this goes with the small-scale territory. [/mfn]Sony produce a very effective stick-on mini grip which is highly recommended if you are an RX100 user. [/mfn]The Ricoh GRIII has equally minute and rather fiddly controls, but it is easier to hold thanks to the built-in handgrip.

That said, the Sony, with its zoom capability, is well worth considering if you want the smallest fully functioning compact on the market. But do watch Robin’s video if you are in the market. It’s good to know that among all the new camera and lens options, there are a few established models that can still compete.

Via FStoppers

Nikon Zf for street and a good time to buy

Here’s another example of an established model managing to stand out among a wave of new camera and lens options. The Nikon Zf is surely one of the prettiest retro-style mirrorless cameras on the market. We do have several readers who have confessed their love of this camera, which we can fully understand. It’s only when we realise that this would come well outside the Macfilos brief of concentrating on Leica and L-Mount systems that keeps us on the straight and narrow.

Image: Nikon

But this full-frame camera in its attractive retro design is noted for image quality, build quality, excellent stabilisation, and fast autofocus. Some consider it to be the perfect camera for street photography. The good news is that the Zf is now available here in the UK at prices as low as £2,048 listed in Camerapricebuster.com. Or, for £2,300 you can get a kit with the 40mm prime lens.

Why the Nikon Zf is the perfect street photography camera
Via Techradar

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3 COMMENTS

  1. Hi Jason, the Nikon Zf probably has all the qualities that you listed but its main claim to fame are the manual focusing aids. With electronically coupled lenses like the native Voigtlander Z lenses you have both subject detection and focus confirmation using MF. This is huge and very tempting. My Canon has focus confirmation as well (but no subject detection) and I very much prefer it to focus peaking and magnification. The Leica SL has none of this and unlike Nikon and Canon there are no native Voigtlander lenses, only M-mount lenses.

  2. Thanks for the update on what’s happening. I was very glad to see your comment re: Sony RX100. “They do, however, complain that the controls can be fiddly to operate, and the handling is poor”

    Before going to Japan, I tried a couple of very compact long zoom 1″ sensor cameras. I can’t deny I got a few really nice photos, but having ISO, aperture and shutter speed all on a few closely spaced buttons was just too much for me.

    One of the features making the DLux 6,7, 8 line so very good: you don’t have to wonder what controls shutter speed or aperture. When I’m in a hurry to get a photo, I know exactly where the relevant controls are.

    Though: when doesn’t work, I can’t pass the blame on!

  3. Ref. 1″ sensor cameras: One of my favourites is the Nikon J5 (20.8mp), which although deemed ‘entry level’ at launch, has the best sensor of all Nikon’s now long discontinued V1, V2, J1, J2, J3, J4, J5, S1, S2 and AW1, 1″ sensor series of ICL cameras. Nikon’s unsuccessful attempts to develop the system were partly due to most of the 1″ sensors chosen being not quite ‘up to scratch’ ref dynamic range and high ISO capability compared to other marques – but the lenses are excellent – especially the superb Nikkor VR 70-300mm (FF equivalent 189-810mm with 2.7x crop factor). Unlike Sony, Nikon could never harness their many years of marketing expertise and camera development into a successful 1″ sensor ICL camera system. Maybe Nikon’s desire to create a 1″ ICL system compared to Sony’s ‘fixed lens’ offerings, was a bridge too far. I still use my Nikon J5 / Nikkor VR 70-300mm combination with third party extension tubes and a modified Zacuto magnified finder (clipped onto the J5’s monitor; the J5 lacks an EVF) to photograph frame filling insects. IMO it’s one of the best outfits for insect photography and videography due to its very comfortable long working distance, high magnification options. Furthermore when using the VR 70-300mm as an 810mm FF equivalent lens for long distance compressed perspective imaging, a simple lightweight tripod suffices for composition purposes.

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