Leica "look" real or myth?
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allstarimaging
Registered: Mar 24, 2006
Total Posts: 1863
Country: United States

When reading reviews on Leica image quality I often see the term the "Leica look" referred to. For those of you shooting Leica gear do you feel that there is a special quality to the images delivered by your gear that is unique and unattainable with other setups? And if so can you describe the "look" and which lens best delivers it.

Thank you
Jack



kosmoskatten
Registered: Oct 11, 2005
Total Posts: 3008
Country: Sweden

I would not go as far as say unattainable, but in them film days people would say that the Leica M (as well as Contax G) shots had some real "pop" and clarity to them making them stand out in print.

Since that was present in some of my Zeiss images I would not say unattainable, though I personally thought they had some similar characteristics as well as being different from one another. I was more of a Zeiss guy back then and, still probably am, though at the moment my Zeiss/Leica lens ratio is 50/50.

I would also say that some of the later Leica offerings look quite similar to Zeiss in rendering. In one case to the point I can hardly tell them apart.



AhamB
Registered: Jul 11, 2008
Total Posts: 5023
Country: Germany

I haven't shot with Leica lenses (yet) but when looking on images taken with them on this forum, what stands out most for me is the very rich color palette and good color separation. There are other characteristics common to them but I'm not sure how to describe them.



joxang
Registered: May 08, 2012
Total Posts: 121
Country: United Kingdom

I'm seen many shots where I've gone 'wow that must be from a leica', and indeed they were.

I've also seen not a small number of shots where I've gone 'wow that is a leica', and they turned out to be well PPed shots on a variety of cameras, even on u43 equipment.

I think the leica look is definitely somewhat achievable in PP.



carstenw
Registered: Dec 26, 2005
Total Posts: 15778
Country: Germany

The Leica look is about their lenses, which are generally superb. They are not everyone's favourite lenses, but you cannot deny their quality, especially the late R and pretty much all the current M lenses, as well as select classics from through time. As for the colour, Leica has also tried to optimise the firmware in their digital cameras for a certain colour palette, with mixed success. The DMR/M8/M9 cameras have it, the M we don't know yet. The rest are mixed.



Taylor Sherman
Registered: Mar 26, 2012
Total Posts: 1145
Country: United States

The modern M lenses have great color. To me, it seems neutral -- I find myself just as often going "ooh!" about the greens, the reds, or the blues. My Zeiss lenses have good color too but tend to have an overall warmness that isn't always what I want.



allstarimaging
Registered: Mar 24, 2006
Total Posts: 1863
Country: United States

So for those that have responded is the color and tonal range delivered via the lens or the camera. And for those with an M9 is it the result of a lot of post processing that pulls out the "look"



freaklikeme
Registered: Apr 08, 2005
Total Posts: 5743
Country: United States

Yes, I do think Leica has a distinct look, but I think that's true of every major lens manufacturer. Canon and Nikon certainly don't diverge much from their chosen formulas as far as what they value in color, contrast, apparent sharpness, resolution, etc. They want people to stay within their system lens offerings, so they won't stray much from their typical draws. That look evolves over time, but their core values remain the basically the same.

As for being unique and unattainable, probably not. Given the amount of control we have over the final images, with enough work at the computer, you can probably obliterate everything that makes any lens or lens line distinct.



Jim Schemel
Registered: Oct 18, 2006
Total Posts: 4813
Country: United States

I have just started shooting with a few Leica lenses.The way i would describe the Leica rendering to me, would be very balanced and relaxed.The images do not look stressed, it that is the right word.The color that i get from the few lenses that i have are superb.Although shooting on a NEX 7
.I would say also that they have less 3D to them than say do the Zeiss.I think that Zeiss is King in that area.
My .02
-Jim



Jeff Kott
Registered: Oct 12, 2008
Total Posts: 1181
Country: United States

kosmoskatten wrote:

I would also say that some of the later Leica offerings look quite similar to Zeiss in rendering. In one case to the point I can hardly tell them apart.


50 Cron and ZM 50 Planar?



carstenw
Registered: Dec 26, 2005
Total Posts: 15778
Country: Germany

I would imagine that the ZM50 is noticeably more contrasty than the rather gentle 50 Cron. Maybe something like the 28 Elmarit-M ASPH and ZM25?



Jeff Kott
Registered: Oct 12, 2008
Total Posts: 1181
Country: United States

carstenw wrote:
I would imagine that the ZM50 is noticeably more contrasty than the rather gentle 50 Cron.


Not in my experience. In the middle of this page is a comparison that I did between these two lenses. Maybe it's more difficult to see the difference in shorter range photos:

http://www.fredmiranda.com/forum/topic/1095523/5#10478818




telyt
Registered: Mar 01, 2004
Total Posts: 1724
Country: United States

The Leica 'look' varies from one lens to another, and other makers have some lenses that are quite good, but in general the 'look' I see in Leica (R in my case) lenses that I don't see nearly as often in other brands of lenses is a combination of image detail, color richness and gradation, good microcontrast, and unobtrusive bokeh.



wfrank
Registered: Feb 09, 2011
Total Posts: 2960
Country: Sweden

Lens quality talk is all fine, interesting and so on. But I'll add that the average Leica shot will be taken by a quite skilled photographer and to me that is at least as much part of the Leica look than anything else.

A good lens is just a prerequisite.



Bijltje
Registered: Jun 29, 2004
Total Posts: 815
Country: Netherlands

Jeff Kott wrote:
kosmoskatten wrote:

I would also say that some of the later Leica offerings look quite similar to Zeiss in rendering. In one case to the point I can hardly tell them apart.


50 Cron and ZM 50 Planar?


I have had both and also the 50 Summarit.
Also had both ZM 28/2.8 and 28 cron, ZM 35/2.8 and 35 cron and ZM18/4 and 18 super elmar.


The zeisses definitely looked harder in color to me. More in your face colors and contrast. The leica's are more gentle, more subtle.
Both can be great for most situation.

As for the 50 cron and 50 planar, the difference is indeed not really big, but still quite obvious since the cron has a slight classic look and the planar a modern.

In the pictures u showed I think the leica gives the nicer body colors. But indeed the difference is small.




millsart
Registered: Apr 29, 2009
Total Posts: 4825
Country: N/A

IMHO much of the so called "Leica Look" is simply due to images coming from some very talented photographers, who not only are skilled at composition, but also post processing.

Exceptions apply of course, but for the most part, those who want to invest what is often tens of thousands of dollars on this hobby, especially with a RF camera, are pretty serious enthusiast.

Your simply not going to see a lot of total beginners posting straight out of camera cat pics like you do from plenty of other mass market consumer cameras.

Take a poster like Charkles K for example, Beautiful Leica images, but he posted some images taken from a little Sony RX100 and darn if they didn't have a fantastic tonality and web sharpness that we are used to seeing in his Leica images.

There certainly are some fantastic optics in the Leica lineup, but there really is no out of the box magic. Trust me I know, I've owned a M8.2 and a M9 and plenty of nice glass and very few of my images had the "Leica Look"

Its about great gear yes, but if you don't have a great eye, and some good skills in post, your not going to get those "WOW" shots.

Likewise, those that really have a good eye and know their way around LR or PS, can often produce images that just jump off the screen with beautiful color and depth.



JohnJ
Registered: Jul 09, 2005
Total Posts: 1997
Country: Australia

Just my 2cents as a Leica R user for the last almost 20 years. I don't really believe in a 'Leica look' as such.

Many, but not all, the lenses are excellent and this contributes to a high overall standard. Arguably some of the lenses even have a unique look of their own, such as the R80 lux, maybe R35 lux so this can be a factor too, but can't be applied to the entire brand.

One possibly interesting aspect that doesn't get much attention these days is the tonal gradation that I used to see (in the film days) in Leica R images but seemed lacking in otherwise identical images shot with Canon L glass (but otherwise just as sharp). I don't really know what has happened to tonal gradation in the digital world as this previously noticeable difference is now almost non existent, or a non-issue, with the typical 8 and 14 bit files we typically use. Maybe you need a 16bit file to get the full benefit that I regularly saw with films such as Velvia. I don't print so maybe the difference is visible there, but not on monitors. I really don't know.

When I shot film the difference between the Leica R images and Canon L was relatively easy to pick yet I would never make that assertion about images shot digitally, I'm not sure I could pick the difference after PP, at least not in my own experience.



LightShow
Registered: Aug 03, 2009
Total Posts: 5048
Country: Canada

Examples backing up your POV would be helpful.



allstarimaging
Registered: Mar 24, 2006
Total Posts: 1863
Country: United States

I'm kind of surprised by the responses that have been posted so far. It seems that many believe that there is not a specific look from Leica that can't be replicated by post processing or other camera lens combos.



edwardkaraa
Registered: Sep 27, 2004
Total Posts: 7503
Country: Thailand

Even though Leica has started copying Zeiss drawing style since the last 20 years, having realized the success that Zeiss achieved with its bold high clarity high contrast three dimensional rendering, originally the Leica look was very distinguishable. if you want to describe, it is rather painterly, flat, with low contrast high color saturation and excellent gradations, and oh, the liquid bokeh. The lenses were notorious for their extremely high resolution. The above mentioned characteristics still distinguish Leica lenses, but to a lesser extent, since as I said, Leica found that Zeiss had more success with their realistic, being there, kind of rendering (and probably the lower pricing ) so their newer designs emulate Zeiss rendering and in some cases even exceed it.

To sum it up, Leica is like looking at a very beautiful painting, Zeiss is like opening the window and looking at the scene with the amazing clarity of being there.



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