News: Leica T in town for June road test
The Leica T is in town. Yesterday I went to Leica Mayfair to collect a road-test T with the latest version 1.1 firmware. The shiny aluminium body came with an electronic viewfinder, silicone rubber neck strap, Vario-Elmar-T 18-56mm zoom and, most essentially, a T to M adapter for Leica M lenses. I now know how Steve Huff feels when he opens yet another EXCITING!!! box from FedEx and all the GOODIES! spill out. I have a month to put the new camera through its paces and give my verdict. Not to miss a trick, of course, I shall be marrying the T with a collection of modern six-bit-coded M lenses, all the way from the 21mm Super-Elmar through to a 90mm Apo Summicron, with a fast pit-stop at the 0.95 Noctilux. I might even be able to borrow that modern unicorn, the bitingly sharp and wondrously expensive 50mm Apo-Summicron. Will it suit the T?
This morning at dawn's crack I was on my way to Borough Market in Southwark, always a good place to get some shots (and a good breakfast if you get there before the crowds). I carried the Vario-Elmar zoom, a 35mm Summicron which, of course, becomes a nifty fifty on the T, and a 50mm Summilux, transformed into a modest 75mm telephoto.
It is early days and I am just getting used to the handling of the camera. But first impressions are positive. I am already at home with the smartphone control interface and I have my slippers under the table. The camera feels comfortable in the hand and none of these lenses caused any balance problems. Manual focus with the M optics needs practice and I was conscious of a bit of fumbling. The Vario-Elmar, on the other hand, is great for impromptu auto-focus shots and the zoom range does come in useful. It is is a relatively slow lens for use indoors at Borough Market, resulting in higher ISO shots, but comes into its own outside, especially for street work.
I ended up using the Vario-Elmar more than the M lens, simply because it was more convenient. Although I wasn't attempting back-to-back comparisons, the little zoom did well and I am impressed. My first take on the T is that the new 18-56mm zoom lens is the one to buy in order to have a versatile tool. Strangely, this camera, with its zoom, reminds me so much of the great X Vario. If you don't need a system camera and are happy with a fixed zoom, the XV remains a good bet.
The Vario-Elmar was also a congenial companion later as I walked along the river back to the Waterloo. I am not normally a great fan of zoom lenses (as I keep saying) and, more often than not, cleave to just one prime. At the moment I am in the midst of a nifty fifty phase to the neglect of my previous 35mm fave-raves. I have to admit, though, that for walk-around photography there are some advantages in a modest zoom range such as the Vario-Elmar's 28-85mm equivalent
Along the South Bank I bumped into a friend, Steven Kwan of Steven Kwan Photography, who is a great working photographer and also a talented street tog. Give him his due, he's also a Leica (M9) man and that's his main love. The new Fuji X-E1 he bought recently because it was very cheap and too good to miss; that is his excuse. Steven kindly offered to act as a portrait guinea pig for the new Leica. Later I rummaged in my bag and produced the chrome 50mm Summilux ASPH which looks just right on the T. It could have been made for this camera, although it is a relatively weighty little optic. Still struggling with the manual focus, though. In contrast, the Vario-Elmar (below) was spot on for a quick autofocus street shot.