Author Topic: "Leicia Look" - "Leica Look" - Why Don't We Ever Hear About A "Nikon Look"?  (Read 2835 times)

BruceSD

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We've all heard Leicaphiles wax poetic about the unique and artistic "Leica Look".  To see examples of the Leica Look, here's a link to my Flickr "Leica Look" gallery.  https://www.flickr.com/photos/f2guru/galleries/72157721471974918/

I've recently purchased 9 Lightroom presets from MrLeica.com that are supposed to enable me to artificially obtain the Leica look in post with one click.  I'm doing some long term testing to see how close these presets make images taken with non-Leica gear look Leica like.   

   # Do you agree there is a Leica Look? 
   # Is there a Nikon/Nikkor look?  Are there certain Nikon cameras and/or Nikkor lenses that produce the greatest Nikon look?
   # Can presets change the look of an image so that you are fooled into thinking it was taken with different gear than was actually used?

pluton

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   # Do you agree there is a Leica Look? 
   # Is there a Nikon/Nikkor look?  Are there certain Nikon cameras and/or Nikkor lenses that produce the greatest Nikon look?
   # Can presets change the look of an image so that you are fooled into thinking it was taken with different gear than was actually used?
I only shot Leica lenses on film...
1. In the early 1980's, I possessed a few Leica lenses. There was a 'Leica look' at that time.  While examining developed 35mm black and white film, the look of the negatives was different from Nikon and Canon negs that were shot on the same film stock and developed in the same tank at the same time. You could instantly spot the Leica roll hanging next to rolls shot on Nikon/Canon/OLympus, etc.
On color slide film the Leica shots looked different also.  The difference was subtle and hard to describe. My judgment (and other photographers I knew at the time) was that we'd rather have the Leica look if it was feasible...which it wasn't ($$$) at the time.
2. Some of the 1970's Nikon lenses have a lower contrast and what Birna describes as a 'rounded look' which can be pleasant, especially in color.
3. As I mentioned, the observed difference in scene rendition between Leica vs Nikon/Canon/Olympus was subtle...way more subtle than the post production style of most of the shots in the Flickr group you linked to. The photos in the Flickr group do not illustrate what I remember as 'the Leica look".
Keith B., Santa Monica, CA, USA

Hugh_3170

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In respect of the "Leica Look", was this just constrained to the Leica rangefinder lenses, whose register distances were about half that of the register distance for Leicaflex SLR lenses and competitor SLR lenses of the day from the likes of Canon, Minolta, Nikon, Olympus, Pentax etc?  And did for example Contax or Nikon S rangefinder cameras have a look distinct from their SLR siblings?

I ask the question this way, because the design constraints of making SLR lenses using retro focus design methods to get around the longish register distances of SLR cameras versus rangefinder lenses that could be designed without such constraints may also have some bearing on the look.  Just asking - not making a statement!
Hugh Gunn

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If I remember correctly, Leica lenses were generally felt to have higher resolution but lower contrast while Zeiss lenses were felt to have lower resolution but higher contrast.  Big debate a few decades ago as to which look was preferred.  Seems subjective to me. 

I've owned Leica rangefinders and loved using them for how the cameras handled.  The lenses were good but I never felt they were much different from other brands best lenses at the time.  I recall processing two rolls of Tri-X in the same tank, one shot on a Leica M6 with a 50mm Summicron and the other with a Canon EOS1n and a Canon bargain priced 50/1.8 EF lens.  I had trouble distinguishing the difference between the negatives.  Overall, both lenses performed well and the prints looked good although someone might have been able to tell the Leica ones from the Canon ones.  I also recall a trip across the Southwestern USA using a Nikon F2 and a Leica M4P, shooting Kodachrome and using Nikkor and Leitz lenses of approximately the same focal lengths.  At the time, I knew which camera/lens combination was used for which photos but years later I honestly couldn't tell you which camera was used for which photo. 

Lenses can give different looks but I think the look comes from the design and designer, not necessarily the brand. 

"If it's more than a hundred feet from the car, it's not photogenic."--Edward Weston

My Photos: https://www.flickr.com/photos/197057338@N03/

Jack Dahlgren

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I guess I%u2019m getting old because very few of those shots say %u201CLeica%u201D to me, but instead point to an aesthetic of color grading and manipulation of the lens rendering. For me the Leica look is a very straight realistic look, letting the film and the subject show through.  The majority of the images posted look hyper-real and delight in the color and rendering.

Nikkor lenses have had different looks through the ages. Reading through Nikon%u2019s %u201CThe 1001 Nights%u201D series you can see that it has always been heavily influenced by technical capabilities such as speed and sharpness and suitability for a particular purpose. This leads to a diversity of rendering styles. Certainly many Nikkor lenses have a distinct look (105mm 2.5, 35mm f/1.4, 200mm f/2 and so on) but there are so many lenses for so many purposes that it is hard to condense into a singular %u201Clook%u201D.

I%u2019d also point out that the look is also about how the photo is taken. The rangefinder finds itself most useful in capturing mid-distance, mid-focal length images in mid to low lighting conditions. This rangefinder aesthetic is perhaps as much of the look as are the results delivered by the camera. I%u2019m not experienced with the Nikon rangefinders but I%u2019d guess that images with those cameras would be more akin to Leica images than would be the images from an F3 with an 80-200mm zoom.

I found your gallery very interesting and it makes me want to try pushing some of my images further rather than holding back due to a long standing attachment to fidelity to the subject. I usually look for real examples of extraordinary color and light, but maybe I shouldn%u2019t be so constrained to the reality as I am.

BruceSD

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Thanks to all for sharing your comments! 

My two favorite Leica digital cameras are the M9 and the SL.    Both are full frame, but the M9 uses a CCD sensor and the SL uses a CMOS sensor.    I tend to prefer the intensity of colors (especially blue, green and red) that CCD sensors produce, therefore most of the images I posted to this Flickr.com gallery were M9 images.   

Maybe I should have made separate Leica look galleries for Leica's CCD sensor bodies and another for their CMOS sensor bodies.  Listening to some of you describe the Leica look you detected during the film days made me realize that the more accurate colors of the current CCD sensors seem to do a better job of replicating the old look of Leica film images better than Leica CCD sensor camera bodies do.

Heck, I guess I've just proved the point that cameras even within the same brand have very different image qualities and renderings.   

That's not to discount the huge impact the lens has on the rendering.  I own many Nikkor lenses, and some have a very different and fairly unique look (e.g. 200/2).
.

Erik Lund

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Sure the Leica look is real ;) however it's not restricted to Leica, you can achieve it with some other brand lens/camera combinations.
Agree that it is Leica M that is the easiest and for instance the Leica M9 still capable but the same lens on a Leica SL with an adapter your pretty close.
Nikon has always tried to have as neutral lenses as possible, limited geometric distortion, well corrected and good coatings.
IMHO the Leica M9 and M lenses are very close to Nikon D810 image quality - So both great options for tweaking towards the Leica look. In the end i gave up on Leica M9 and went for a Nikon D850 - Best of all worlds and definitely still possible to achieve the Leica look ;)
Erik Lund

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Many years ago I purchased the book pictured.
There are many nice images and I think a lot of them shows the "Leica look". The printing of the images is also quite good. The pictures have nice 3D look and nice soft backgrounds. I also think the best Nikkors can do the same.
Probably the book is quite cheap to purchase 2nd hand.

I attached also a couple of "snap repro's" hand held :-)   .....just to give an indication....
The image of the bird is shot with a 180/3.4 APO Telyt at F4 and the portrait with a 90/2 at 2.8. Both lenses are reflex lenses.

I remember at that time many years ago the 180/3.4 I thought could be fun to get.


RexGig0

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I do not think that there is one Leica Look. Even among Leica shooters, there is debate and discussion about the differences between modern Leica lenses, and the various older Leica lenses. I, myself, see a Leica Glow, that is characteristic of Leica lenses designed by Walter Mandler, being different from newer Leica lenses designed by Peter Karbe. Some Leica shooters will want all of their lenses to be Mandler-designed. Others will want all of most or their lenses to be Karbe-designed, though there is no definitive list of which lenses were designed by Peter Karbe, himself, other than the ones specifically identified during interviews with this often-modest designer.

As I understand it, the Leica Glow is a result of optical corrections being imperfectly-corrected, at least when shot wide-open. I can assert that my Summilux-M 50mm ASPH (Ashperical) is not perfectly-corrected, when shot wide-open, but does become much better-corrected when stopped-down. This is the lens that lured me into adding the Leica M system, in early 2018. It was designed by Peter Karbe.

Notably, several different vintage 35mm Leica lenses each have their own followings, among devotees, who have driven-up the price of some of the classic, vintage Leica lenses. Cosina, under its Voigtlander brand, markets a Nokton 35mm f/1.4 lens that is regarded as being similar to the pre-Aspheric Leica M 35mm f/1.4 Summilux. Notably, one can choose a Single-Coated (SC) version of the Nokton, in order to get images even closer to those captured by the vintage, pre-Aspheric Summilux, the earliest of which, at least, were totally uncoated. The Multi-Coat (MC) version of the 35mm f/1.4 Nokton is available, for shooters who desire the optically uncorrected aspect of the pre-Aspheric Summilux, but prefer the better flare resistance provided by modern Multi-Coating.

Another vintage Leica lens, desired by some shooters, is the 8-Element Summicron 35mm f/2, which has been replicated by Light Lens Lab, a relatively recent, low-volume manufacturerer, in China. I know much less about this one, than the above-mentioned Nokton 35mm f/1.4, which I have handled, when I met a local shooter, who borrowed my Leica M10, to make sure that his aging eyes could still focus with the rangefinder, before he ordered an M10-R.

One major reason that I believe that the %u201CLeica Look%u201D is largely the result of the lenses, is because I use several Zeiss ZM lenses on Leica M cameras. The Zeiss lenses produce a %u201CZeiss Look,%u201D rather than a %u201CLeica Look.%u201D The film-era Zeiss ZM lenses produce a different look than the much newer Zeiss Distagon 35mm f/1.4 ZM. I was familiar with Nikon F-mount Zeiss ZF.2 lenses, so, an M-mount Zeiss Distagon 35mm ZM lens provided a familiar Zeiss Look.

Having said the above, I will now say that there is something about the different Leica digital sensors, too. The M10 has a color palette that I really do like, requiring no corrections for my wifes skin tones, or the clothing she wears. It is different than that produced by the previous model generation, the M Type 240, which I test-shot, before buying an M10. (I only tested the Type 240 indoors, at one camera store.) One fault of Leica digital M cameras, before the M10, is that they did not block enough IR, which affects the colors. Some shooters may have liked the effect, while others have not. The Leica M8 required a UVIR filters, to prevent blacks from appearing purple, in some conditions. Some Leica shooters using IR-cut filters when using Leica M cameras, up to and including the 240-series.

I am not any kind of expert. My formal training was with Canon equipment, for evidentiary/forensic/crime scene photography. My wife mentored me with Nikon Gear, and I am, thus far, self-taught with Leica M system.
Rex Michael Gigout

Hugh_3170

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Rex, thank you for sharing your experiences and understandings.

It is interesting that technical shortcomings in designs and coatings can give rise to visual artifacts that people can enjoy and even seek out and follow.  We are indeed a strange species!  ;D

I do not think that there is one Leica Look. Even among Leica shooters, there is debate and discussion about the differences between modern Leica lenses, and the various older Leica lenses. I, myself, see a Leica Glow, that is characteristic of Leica lenses designed by Walter Mandler, being different from newer Leica lenses designed by Peter Karbe. Some Leica shooters will want all of their lenses to be Mandler-designed. Others will want all of most or their lenses to be Karbe-designed, though there is no definitive list of which lenses were designed by Peter Karbe, himself, other than the ones specifically identified during interviews with this often-modest designer.

As I understand it, the Leica Glow is a result of optical corrections being imperfectly-corrected, at least when shot wide-open. I can assert that my Summilux-M 50mm ASPH (Ashperical) is not perfectly-corrected, when shot wide-open, but does become much better-corrected when stopped-down. This is the lens that lured me into adding the Leica M system, in early 2018. It was designed by Peter Karbe.

Notably, several different vintage 35mm Leica lenses each have their own followings, among devotees, who have driven-up the price of some of the classic, vintage Leica lenses. Cosina, under its Voigtlander brand, markets a Nokton 35mm f/1.4 lens that is regarded as being similar to the pre-Aspheric Leica M 35mm f/1.4 Summilux. Notably, one can choose a Single-Coated (SC) version of the Nokton, in order to get images even closer to those captured by the vintage, pre-Aspheric Summilux, the earliest of which, at least, were totally uncoated. The Multi-Coat (MC) version of the 35mm f/1.4 Nokton is available, for shooters who desire the optically uncorrected aspect of the pre-Aspheric Summilux, but prefer the better flare resistance provided by modern Multi-Coating.

Another vintage Leica lens, desired by some shooters, is the 8-Element Summicron 35mm f/2, which has been replicated by Light Lens Lab, a relatively recent, low-volume manufacturerer, in China. I know much less about this one, than the above-mentioned Nokton 35mm f/1.4, which I have handled, when I met a local shooter, who borrowed my Leica M10, to make sure that his aging eyes could still focus with the rangefinder, before he ordered an M10-R.

One major reason that I believe that the %u201CLeica Look%u201D is largely the result of the lenses, is because I use several Zeiss ZM lenses on Leica M cameras. The Zeiss lenses produce a %u201CZeiss Look,%u201D rather than a %u201CLeica Look.%u201D The film-era Zeiss ZM lenses produce a different look than the much newer Zeiss Distagon 35mm f/1.4 ZM. I was familiar with Nikon F-mount Zeiss ZF.2 lenses, so, an M-mount Zeiss Distagon 35mm ZM lens provided a familiar Zeiss Look.

Having said the above, I will now say that there is something about the different Leica digital sensors, too. The M10 has a color palette that I really do like, requiring no corrections for my wifes skin tones, or the clothing she wears. It is different than that produced by the previous model generation, the M Type 240, which I test-shot, before buying an M10. (I only tested the Type 240 indoors, at one camera store.) One fault of Leica digital M cameras, before the M10, is that they did not block enough IR, which affects the colors. Some shooters may have liked the effect, while others have not. The Leica M8 required a UVIR filters, to prevent blacks from appearing purple, in some conditions. Some Leica shooters using IR-cut filters when using Leica M cameras, up to and including the 240-series.

I am not any kind of expert. My formal training was with Canon equipment, for evidentiary/forensic/crime scene photography. My wife mentored me with Nikon Gear, and I am, thus far, self-taught with Leica M system.
Hugh Gunn

RexGig0

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Just trying to be helpful.  :)

To be clear, in my earlier post, I did not mean to imply that all of the newer Leica lenses are designed by Peter Karbe, or that all older Leica lenses were designed by Walter Mandler.

Some Leica lenses do not have what is recognized as the Leica Glow. This is probably especially true of the more recent lenses, particularly those with both APO and ASPH designations.

APO is the Leica marketing term for Apochromatic. This does not mean that any Leica M lens is a true, complete Apochromat.

ASPH, of course, is Leica-speak for Aspherical.

Not everyone agree that there is such a thing as Leica Glow. I reckon that may be similar to not everyone agreeing that Zeiss lenses exhibit micro-contrast.
Rex Michael Gigout

pluton

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I ask the question this way, because the design constraints of making SLR lenses using retro focus design methods to get around the longish register distances of SLR cameras versus rangefinder lenses that could be designed without such constraints may also have some bearing on the look.  Just asking - not making a statement!
It might be significant. We have all recently seen the advantages of the lens-design advantages of mirrorless cameras and their short register distance.  It's possible Leica was exploiting that before any of us considered it a subject for discussion!
Keith B., Santa Monica, CA, USA

Erik Lund

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While dissecting the subject please remember that the lens, the glass and coatings as well as the sensor itself with it's glass and coating and sensor sites are all interpreted by the firmware applied in the camera despite using raw as well as the subsequent de-mosaic actions chosen in the software when opening and tweaking the images,,, Very similar to when using film, the different film manufactures chose how to put the color layers or B&W together and the later in  development and printing,,,

The above was very obvious for those of us shooting with the D1 when it came out - It was like learning photography all over to be able to master the colors out of that thing!

I agree many older Nikkors can give the Leica Look - My conclusion is that Leica M and Nikon-F go well hand in hand as systems, often I have a hard time to see the difference even for my own images.

And yes especially the f/1.2 and f/1.4 lenses a very much alike brands in-between. Yes you can call it Glow  ;D But very often you can eliminate or change the Glow by changing the light of the scene in different ways,,,
Similar to Mandler we have Nikkor lens designers that are/where very much into their own take at how a lens renders, there are many very interesting tales here:

https://imaging.nikon.com/history/story/


Erik Lund

JJChan

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Erik Lund’s photos with M9 with 35mm FLE summilux typify what I regard as Leica look - high 3d effect even with objects mid distance:

http://nikongear.net/revival/index.php/topic,1833.msg24096.html#msg24096

Also see photos especially in M10R thread on Leica forum eg https://www.l-camera-forum.com/topic/314837-m-10-r-image-thread/page/113/#comments

I think this may be a product of: a) rangefinder with best focus range in these mid distances and b) Leica lenses biased towards good micro-contrast and low chromatic aberration. Nikon have a few of these: eg original Noct, Haruo Sato’s AF-S 35mm and 58mm, the AF-S 28mm 1.8, and a few Zs

BruceSD

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I am really enjoying reading your comments.

Someone speculated that a factor that might help to cause the Leica look is the type of body the lens is being used on  -  rangefinder vs mirrorless.

Taking that concept one step further, I would like to ask this question  -  "Does the flange distance difference between Nikon DSLR cameras and Nikon mirrorless cameras result in a different rendering (look)?"