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Author Topic: "First Impressions" Review of the Leica S2  (Read 5893 times)
MattBeardsley
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« on: December 21, 2010, 04:25:25 PM »
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Hello LL,

I had a chance to cruise around Oakland CA's China Town with a Leica S2 and 70mm f2.5...  It's a remarkable camera.  I can't wait to get my hands on one for more extensive testing to really see how it stacks up against other 40 MP competition.  My initial impression of image quality is very favorable, and the ergonomics are almost perfect...  check it out:

http://photoartsmonthly.com/blog/2010/12/21/first-impressions-the-awesome-leica-s2/

thoughts?  Also, please let me know if you catch any errors or weak points... I look forward to hearing from you!

Matt

[Jan. 17, 2011 update.  I've scaled my blog up to a more formal web-based magazine and have updated the above link. Thanks for taking a look! ~matt]
« Last Edit: January 17, 2011, 05:11:14 PM by MattBeardsley » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: December 21, 2010, 08:24:03 PM »
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Matt, the detail in those is insane. All hand held?

- N.
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Nick Devlin   @onelittlecamera
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« Reply #2 on: December 21, 2010, 08:31:06 PM »
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Matt, the detail in those is insane.
Yea. I had to use the F word when I clicked on the 100% crops.
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narikin
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« Reply #3 on: December 21, 2010, 08:34:47 PM »
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The Achilles Heel is the terrible Chromatic Abberation in the 70mm (+others?) at wider apertures.
try it on a sunny day at F2.5-3.5 and see what there is around light:dark edges. great rings of red and green fringing.

Its one of the worst lenses in digital MF for this.  

I could list other reasons why I didn't buy it, but this is a major one, and makes it near unusable with wide apertures.
Leica out did themselves: too complicated a lens design with multiple aspheric surfaces, creates problems.

Leica need to bring out a short barrel 70mm, smaller, lighter, cheaper, with ~f3.5 aperture, and concentrate on fixing the CA.
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« Reply #4 on: December 21, 2010, 09:13:10 PM »
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I thought CA is easily fixable in Raw?

Edmund

The Achilles Heel is the terrible Chromatic Abberation in the 70mm (+others?) at wider apertures.
try it on a sunny day at F2.5-3.5 and see what there is around light:dark edges. great rings of red and green fringing.

Its one of the worst lenses in digital MF for this.  

I could list other reasons why I didn't buy it, but this is a major one, and makes it near unusable with wide apertures.
Leica out did themselves: too complicated a lens design with multiple aspheric surfaces, creates problems.

Leica need to bring out a short barrel 70mm, smaller, lighter, cheaper, with ~f3.5 aperture, and concentrate on fixing the CA.
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narikin
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« Reply #5 on: December 21, 2010, 09:27:14 PM »
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my expert friend (and he won a MacArthur Genius award for this kind of thing) says that only symmetrical designs are easily fixed with RAW CA tool.  Asymmetric not so good.

and anyways, didn't Leica boast that their lens don't need any post production fixing - that it was a sign of poor design?!
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Nick Rains
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« Reply #6 on: December 21, 2010, 09:29:42 PM »
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my expert friend (and he won a MacArthur Genius award for this kind of thing) says that only symmetrical designs are easily fixed with RAW CA tool.  Asymmetric not so good.

and anyways, didn't Leica boast that their lens don't need any post production fixing - that it was a sign of poor design?!

What CA are you referring too? I have this exact lens on an S2 and see no CA. maybe you had a duff lens.

Branches of trees against bright sky, corners of frames, classic place to look for red/cyan fringing. On my images, none at all.
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Nick Rains
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narikin
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« Reply #7 on: December 21, 2010, 09:34:45 PM »
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You are very lucky if that is the case.

However I am certainly not the only one to notice this. Two high end digital camera stores I know spotted it in their testing, and try the report at Digilloyds DAP site for more info (paid site).

If you are happy/lucky with your camera and lens, then great - end of story.


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Nick Rains
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« Reply #8 on: December 21, 2010, 10:54:29 PM »
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You are very lucky if that is the case.

However I am certainly not the only one to notice this. Two high end digital camera stores I know spotted it in their testing, and try the report at Digilloyds DAP site for more info (paid site).

If you are happy/lucky with your camera and lens, then great - end of story.

You were referring to Chromatic Aberration which I wrongly took to mean the kind of aberration that can be corrected in Lightroom etc. I read DigiLloyds references to Purple Fringing and Color Bokeh and it seems it is normal for fast lenses and disappears by f8. I'd not go so far as to call it the 'worst of all medium format lenses' however, but regardless of that, it's an astonishing lens in so many other characteristics and I really like having the extra light gathering of the f2.5 specification. It makes it very easy to focus and may have a lot to do with why the AF is so accurate.
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MattBeardsley
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« Reply #9 on: December 22, 2010, 02:19:01 AM »
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N,

Good question; yes all the examples are hand held.  The S2 feels a little smoother than big-box MF cameras in terms of mirror slap, which is nice for hand holding.  Though I wouldn't get rid of the tripods just yet!

Also, I'm surprised others have experienced fringing or CA with this lens/camera combination.  I didn't notice any, though the day of our test shoot was overcast and not especially high contrast.  I'll take a very close second look and report back..

Since there isn't a "Phocus" or "Capture One" for Leica, does anyone know if Lens profiles are yet available for the S2 and Lightroom?

~Matt
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Matt Beardsley, Oakland, CA
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« Reply #10 on: December 22, 2010, 03:00:35 AM »
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OK... After some extreme pixel peeping, I found only one occurrence of any noticeable fringing and have attached an example.  The first attachment is a 100% crop of the second attachment and shows the only area of fringe I found any any of the test images.  The are is harshly backlit and a dark color surface, so it's the ideal extreme contrast to lead to problems.  For what it's worth, Lightroom's Defringe > Highlight Edges tool virtually eliminated what is visible here.

I'd venture to say the S2 (at least the copy I tested) is very good at controlling fringing, especially as the subject's coat shows no fringes, nor any of the extreme highlights in the background.  It's not an ideal shot to demonstrate S2 image quality, as it was a hasty capture and is not ideally sharp, exposed, etc.  It is, though, the only image I found with any noticeable fringing.  I'd certainly want to see further tests in more high-contrast lighting, like the backlit tree mentioned in an above post... can anyone share examples of problematic images?

Thanks for the question... I hope that helps!

~Matt
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« Reply #11 on: December 22, 2010, 05:11:25 AM »
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maybe you had a duff lens.
so sample variation? On a Leica lens at this price tag?
Interessting...
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Dustbak
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« Reply #12 on: December 22, 2010, 05:49:52 AM »
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OK... After some extreme pixel peeping, I found only one occurrence of any noticeable fringing and have attached an example.  The first attachment is a 100% crop of the second attachment and shows the only area of fringe I found any any of the test images.  The are is harshly backlit and a dark color surface, so it's the ideal extreme contrast to lead to problems.  For what it's worth, Lightroom's Defringe > Highlight Edges tool virtually eliminated what is visible here.

I'd venture to say the S2 (at least the copy I tested) is very good at controlling fringing, especially as the subject's coat shows no fringes, nor any of the extreme highlights in the background.  It's not an ideal shot to demonstrate S2 image quality, as it was a hasty capture and is not ideally sharp, exposed, etc.  It is, though, the only image I found with any noticeable fringing.  I'd certainly want to see further tests in more high-contrast lighting, like the backlit tree mentioned in an above post... can anyone share examples of problematic images?

Thanks for the question... I hope that helps!

~Matt

I saw fringing at the first 100% crop you showed. The white van around the headlights. Besides that the details of the images look stunning.
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John R Smith
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« Reply #13 on: December 22, 2010, 06:03:23 AM »
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Well, the images look very good, but I don't think that the 100% crops look any better than similar 100% crops from my CFV-39 and the 80mm Planar. Perhaps it's just more about the 'look' of 40MP MF files in general.

John
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« Reply #14 on: December 22, 2010, 06:18:10 AM »
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Well, the images look very good, but I don't think that the 100% crops look any better than similar 100% crops from my CFV-39 and the 80mm Planar. Perhaps it's just more about the 'look' of 40MP MF files in general.
maybe.
Based on the few samples I've seen from the S2 and the 70mm lens my impression is it is much better wide open and at close and mid distances than the 80 Planar. Whereas almost any shot I've seen from the S2/70mm at wide distances and stopped down was quite soft at the edges (center still very sharp)... I think here the Planar is even better. Maybe the 70mm is somehow optimzied for close and mid distances...?
Again... these are just impressions based on few samples of the 70mm available on the web and not backed up by own experience.
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« Reply #15 on: December 22, 2010, 07:35:25 AM »
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The ONLY really damaging criticsms levelled at the S2 have been that the AF focus works badly at large distances, and that there is no fine-focus adjustment so if a lens is not ok for the body you have to send both in, and sometimes lenses really are out of tolerance. Apart from that, it would seem that the camera is pretty much as described, and decently modern and integrated.

Note that some smartass with too much maths training on this forum worked out that a 10cm focus error at 5m is equivalent to a much lower rez camera, at some real-world aperture, which confirms it is worth taking a hard look of the real-life focus performance of any camera before buying it.

Edmund
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« Reply #16 on: December 22, 2010, 09:14:14 AM »
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maybe.
Based on the few samples I've seen from the S2 and the 70mm lens my impression is it is much better wide open and at close and mid distances than the 80 Planar. Whereas almost any shot I've seen from the S2/70mm at wide distances and stopped down was quite soft at the edges (center still very sharp)... I think here the Planar is even better. Maybe the 70mm is somehow optimzied for close and mid distances...?
Again... these are just impressions based on few samples of the 70mm available on the web and not backed up by own experience.

Leica certainly have a tradition of producing lenses which work best at or near maximum aperture. Whereas the 80mm Planar is best at f8.

John
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« Reply #17 on: December 22, 2010, 01:56:26 PM »
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I would expect that the "defringe" control in LR3 would remove virtually all of this 'defect'.  There is loads of purple/green fringing in RAW shots from the 645D, and they vanish in LR.

Besides, if you're working in B&W, like a real man, it hardly matters.  Grin

- N.
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« Reply #18 on: December 22, 2010, 04:09:41 PM »
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Besides, if you're working in B&W, like a real man, it hardly matters.  Grin

Actually chromatic aberration / purple fringing removal (or using a system which does not have any) can be a very important step in B+W workflow.

If you're using sophisticated RGB B+W conversion, like a real man, then purple fringing / sensor bloom or chromatic aberration can create unwanted dark or light halos around your subject matter. For instance if you are using a red-biased black and white conversion to make more brighter/creamier skin tones you'll find that any dark subject matter with a hard edge has a (sometimes very strong) white halo where the red chromatic aberration was pushed up in tonality. Even worse is when you got a dark outline on the interior side of a bright edge - very unnatural.

Also not all programs with a "defringe" or "chromatic aberration tool" perform at the same level for any given camera/lens.


I was not able to remove the CA of this image with LR (right) without damaging other parts of the image but it was easy in C1 with no deleterious effects (left)  - more about this image

-----

@Edmund: CA and blooming can be very easy to remove in post. But it can also be a nightmare. It depends very much on which raw processor, and what camera/lens. The most difficult chromatic aberration is often CA in slightly out of focus areas where the algorithms have a hard time telling the difference between magenta/green subject matter and magenta/green chromatic aberration.

Doug Peterson (e-mail Me)
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« Reply #19 on: December 22, 2010, 04:49:04 PM »
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maybe.
Based on the few samples I've seen from the S2 and the 70mm lens my impression is it is much better wide open and at close and mid distances than the 80 Planar. Whereas almost any shot I've seen from the S2/70mm at wide distances and stopped down was quite soft at the edges (center still very sharp)... I think here the Planar is even better. Maybe the 70mm is somehow optimzied for close and mid distances...?
Again... these are just impressions based on few samples of the 70mm available on the web and not backed up by own experience.

I find I use the 35mm more for landscape shots, the 70mm is less useful for 'front to back sharp' images. Here is a screengrab from the 35mm displayed at 100%, it's the extreme bottom left corner of the frame, a hand held grab shot whilst in the city a few months back. I think you will agree there is zero corner sharpness fall-off. f8@1/250.

What I do see with this lens is modest curvature of field, like so may wide lenses. I thought this was a problem until I realised that its a bit like having built in 'tilt'. Shooting vertically, the foreground is sharper than it would be if it was a flat field lens. Lloyd Chambers makes the point that lenses are rarely designed to be flat field, and to work with the lenses' characteristics rather than against them. This is also where MTF charts fall down as they are made from flat plane targets. Resolution does not necessarily drop off in corners, it can easily be simply out of focus whilst being still just as sharp in a different plane of focus.

The 70mm is as sharp at f2.5 as it is at f8, no question. (Same with the 35mm, although the curvature of field is more pronounced wide open) No other medium format lens is fully sharp wide open, even the amazing Digitars need to be used at f5.6 or f8 for max IQ. On the S2 you don't choose an aperture for quality reasons, just for DOF reasons.

For your entertainment I have attached the (measured) MTF from the new 120mm macro - the contrast at 40lpm at the edge is better than most lenses in the centre!

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Nick Rains
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