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Friday, February 12, 2016

OBERWERTH – HIGH CLASS CAMERA BAGS HANDMADE IN GERMANY




Please welcome our new sponsor Oberwerth.  They are a manufacturer of very high class, handmade camera bags from Germany.  Oberwerth is not just a bag.  Oberwerth is an idea.  A statement.  A belief.  High quality, craftsmanship and sustainable, responsible production are the values that drive them.  This is why they combine the finest materials, the most intelligent design and the highest quality of finish to create a product that pleases, impresses and inspires across the board.

All Oberwerth camera bags are 100 percent handmade.  All bags are the culmination of the highest standards and uncompromising quality. To achieve this, they strive for top quality and use only the best materials such as full-grain, vegetable-tanned leather and sturdy CORDURA® manufactured in Germany.  Every Oberwerth bag is finished perfectly right down to the last stitch, which creates an outstanding look and feel. The top-quality fastenings and seams are the final touches to an unparalleled blend of high-end materials.


Of special interest to Leica owners is the WETZLAR bag.  It was designed with mspecial input from Leica owners.  The bag takes Oberwerth bags in a new, sportier direction. Made of high-quality leather and sturdy CORDURA®, it is more spacious than the Freiburg bag, but is still compact and lightweight.  This beautifully made bag is the perfect option for ambitious photographers who are looking to transport their valuable equipment securely yet stylishly.  The Wetzlar has space for up to two camera bodies and two lenses or one lens and a flash unit. There is also room for your rangefinder, power adaptor and personal items in the spacious front and side pockets.

      

The removable CORDURA® insert is fleece-lined and provides top-notch protection for your valuable equipment. The integrated air cushion between these layers protects your equipment from impact, moisture and other external influences. The top of the insert contains two leather pockets for your memory cards.

The Oberwerth Wetzlar is almost entirely made of vegetable-tanned leather; only the two front pockets are made of extremely durable CORDURA®, creating a high-quality mix of materials.

The Wetzlar was first introduced at the Leica Erlebnistage at Leica Camera AG.  It was immediately welcomed as a welcome addition.  Many welcomed the fact that it could hold two Leica M bodies with attached lenses.  GHowever, it was also noticed that the camera bodies disappeared relatively far toward the bottom of the bag.  Upon the advice of Leica owners, Oberwerth decided to redesign the bag  with a special, thick padding.  This not only helped for the cameras to sit more to the top, it also added some special protection.  To perfect the redesign, it took Oberwerth eight weeks to do so.

External dimensions: 30 x 21,5 x 15,5 cm
Internal dimensions: 25 x 19,5 x 13 cm
Weight: 1150g


Oberwerth bags are available in the US from our friends at Leica Store Miami, Leica Store San Francisco, Leica Store SoHo, Leica Store Belleviewand several other companies.


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For more information on KOMARU and for orders go to: www.taos-photographic.com

For more information and pre orders go to: www.lenstab.com



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Thursday, February 11, 2016

NEW UNDERWATER HOUSING FOR LEICA M




With the introduction of the Leica X-U Leica is offering a camera that can be used even under water with a rated depth of 15m (50 ft) for 60 minutes.  But what if you need more and what if you want to use a Leica M instead?

Leica used to make an underwater housing for the Leica M4 years ago.  But virtually no examples are available any longer, with only a few on display in Leica collections and one in the Leica museum in Wetzlar.

 



The M4 Underwater Housing at the Wetzlar Leica Museum


But help is on the way.  The Austrian company of Subal from Vienna just introduced an underwater housing for the Leica M.  It is an intriguing design that goes far beyond conventional underwater housings.  While most of them are usually quite bulky, the Subal design has the unmistakable shape of a Leica M camera.  


Subal believes that you should not have to give up any of the camera functions just because it is in an underwater housing.   Their housing offers a larger than average number of operations. This means the technical and creative possibilities of the Leica M cameras are fully accessible.  Wherever possible, the operating controls are optimized to be close to hand or in the camera position that you are used to.  Subal’s high-tech production is based on their second Skin principle which results in the smallest possible dimension and weight.



SUBAL housings are milled from a solid block of aluminum. This prevents unwanted air pockets and ensures absolute tightness. All housing parts and accessories are made of this same alloy, which is characterized by a high degree of seawater resistance. Additional heat treatment increases strength and hardness by about 30 percent and reduces the inevitable underwater deformations due to depth.  Shafts, screws, and many other parts are made of high-alloy nickel-chromium coated steel.  Only high-quality engineering plastics are used for the best durability and longevity.

Front ports especially depend on hardness and dimensional stability. Therefore most SUBAL ports are made of polyacetal resin. With the larger dome ports a seawater-resistant light metal alloy is used and are then subject to the hard-coating process. The quality of underwater photos depends on the material of the “windscreen”, which is why all SUBAL flat and dome lenses, unlike with many other underwater housings, are made of perfect optical quality glass, which is also coated internally for optimum light transmission and better contrast performance. 

SUBAL Frontports  

The Subal port bayonet allows the use of flat ports for lenses with a narrower angle like macro lenses, for instance.  For wider angles dome ports are available.  In addition Subal offers an adapter to allow the use of Nikonos lenses directly on the housing without any additional ports.

For flash operation the Leica M housing uses the Nikonos 5 plug.  By request it can also be delivered with a fiber optic connection.  This allows the use of virtually all underwater flash systems.

The Subal Leica M housing is rated for a depth of 80 meters (260 feet) or with the Tec Version up to 120 meters (395 feet)

Width             16.5 cm - 6.5 inch
Height            12.5 cm - 5.0 inch
Depth               8.0 cm - 3.2 inch

Weight           1 kg – 2.2 lbs

Price               $6200 at current exchange rate


Deliveries will start in March 2016


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Wednesday, February 10, 2016

ALPA – LEICA QUALITY IN A COMPETITOR’S CAMERA





When the Leica was first marketed in 1925 it was without competition.  It was an entirely new concept, not seen before.  Thus it was no surprising that the camera immediately became a huge success with competing companies struggling to offer something similar.  Soon Zeiss entered the market with the Contax, as did others, including Kodak with the German made Retina, but none ever had the success of the Leica.

This success continued after being interrupted by WWII, with the first post war model, the Leica IIIf and then the incredible M3 which lives on in its basic concept even today with the Leica M.  Of course there were cameras from competing companies as well, the continuation of the Zeiss Contax as the main competitor.  Kodak too tried to get a hold on the 35mm rangefinder market with their incredible Ektra, but Leica remained on top.

This success continued even far into the new 35mm single lens reflex camera market which rapidly gained popularity.  This brings us to an interesting concept from Switzerland, the Alpa Reflex.

Alpa was an offshoot of the Pignons S.A. company, which made specialty parts (pinions) for Swiss watches.  In the late 1930s, Pignons invited engineer Jacques Bolsky to design a camera for them. This resulted in the Alpa-Reflex in the 1940s.  As did most everyone else, he took a close look at the Leica, but also at the emerging single lens reflex cameras (SLR).  As a company involved in the watchmaking industry, the Alpa camera turned out to be an incredibly well made piece of equipment, mostly hand made with extremely tight tolerances.

What set the camera apart from virtually all cameras at the time is the fact that the camera was a hybrid, offering rangefinder focusing as well as single lens reflex viewing. A closer look, especially at the lens, definitely reveals the influence of the Leica.  Because of the very high quality of the camera, production was low, but quality and prices were high. Even these days, collectible Alpa cameras can fetch quite high auction prices.

 
The original Alpa Reflex

Alpa was quite innovative with other features too.  There is an ongoing question concerning which camera company was first with such innovations as the quick-return mirror, through-the-lens metering cells in prism housings and the bayonet lens mount. Alpa was a contender for being first with each of these innovations and several others.

Soon after the introduction of the Alpa Reflex, a new model was introduced.  While the Alpa reflex sported a waist level viewfinder, the new Alpa Prism Reflex was one of the first SLR cameras with a prism viewfinder, but it also maintained rangefinder focusing.

 

Not only did the Apla cameras stand out because of their very high quality, this continued with their lenses as well.  They did not make their own lenses, instead they had them made by some of the best lens makers, Angenieux, Kern, Kinoptik, Schneider, and others.  They were the only company to guarantee optical quality of the lenses they sold.  The Kern Macro Switar lens was a 50 mm lens at F1.8 or F1.9.  It was an apochromat, and is still highly regarded as one of the best standard lenses ever offered. Other apochromats offered by Alpa included the 100 mm F2 and 150 mm F2.8 Kinoptik lenses.  The company retained the same lens mount on the Swiss made cameras from 1942 until they ended production. The back focus of the body was the thinnest of any 35 mm camera, and as a result, it was possible to make adapters to use lenses designed for almost any other 35 mm SLR on an Alpa. Adapters offered included Exakta, M42 (automatic diaphragm and manual), Nikon (auto and manual), Leica R, T-mount, and Contax.

Just as the combination of rangefinder and reflex focusing was a definite deviation from the norm, Alpa continued to be different with follow up models as well.  For instance, the initial film winding knob was replaced with a lever wind, as was the case on other cameras.  But instead of using the common counter clockwise, thumb activated winding lever, Alpa decided to do the opposite.  Their winding lever stuck out from the front of the camera and it was activated by pulling it with the right index finger.  Alpa also continued to use the camera release via a knob on their lenses which also activated the auto stop down of the diaphragm, a system apparently taken over from Exacta.

 
Alpa 9d with 50mm f/1.8 Macro Switar
The reverse wind lever and shutter release on the lens are clearly visible

 

One of the strangest accessories for the Alpa was without a doubt the motor drive.  While everyone would attach the motor to the bottom of the camera, Alpa decided to put it on the top.  The motor attached by being fastened to the screw fittings normally used to attach a neck strap.  Right above the advance lever a pin stuck out from the motor which, when activated, actually moved the advance lever as it would normally be done by the index finger.  The shutter release was in the back of the motor which necessitated a short cable release in front of the motor to be connected to the normal shutter release on the lenses.

Unfortunately, Alpa did not have the resources to keep up with the technological advances that the mainstream camera companies were introducing in the 1970s and sales began to decline. It is not clear whether the lack of technological "innovation" was due to lack of money, or actually a choice made by the company against the automation brought about by other companies.

In 1990 the company could no longer compete with other manufacturers, especially from outside Europe. The fatal blow however was delivered by problems within the company. Pignons SA declared bankruptcy. The last ALPA model produced by Pignons SA was the ALPA 11.

 

In 1996 Capaul & Weber from Zurich acquired the world-wide rights to the brand-name ALPA. The new owners aimed to continue the tradition of quality established with the classic 35-mm ALPA reflex cameras and to enter into the field of medium-format cameras which resulted in the Alpa 12 camera currently on the market.  Just recently Alpa joined forces with Phase One.  They now offer the Alpa 12 with the new, 100megapixle Phase One digital back.

 

As Leica enthusiast we should be able to understand a certain resistance to market trends.  The insistence on doing things their way brought considerable financial hardships for Leica, especially their less than lukewarm embrace of digital photography.  Fortunately, with the help of Dr. Andreas Kaufmann, the direction of the company changed and today Leica is once again one of the major players in the high end camera market.


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