DMR: Hands on

Discussion in 'Leica and Rangefinders' started by doug herr, Nov 11, 2004.

  1. Adam Bridge (from another list) and I visited Reed's Cameras in
    Walnut Creek, California today where west coast Leica rep Tom
    Brichta brought an R9 with Digital-Module-R for demonstration.
    The DMR was demonstrated by a Leica employee who had
    flown in from Germany that morning.
    <P>
    My impressions: the handling was great, just like an R8 or R9
    with a motor drive. The digital back protrudes farther back than
    the motor drive does but it doesn't interfere with my nose - and
    I'm left-eyed. The controls were easy to manage and with a
    minute or two of instruction it was all intuitive. Size and weight
    are also about like the R8/R9 + motor drive.
    <P>
    The Leica employee said the firmware is still under development
    so picture quality isn't as good as it will be, so he wouldn't print
    any of the files.
    <P>
    Other things he said:
    <P>
    About 1200 have been ordered. Leica expects to be
    back-ordered through March next year. Until all orders have been
    filled the DMR units will be allocated to dealers based on their
    paid (or substantially paid) orders. No dealers will have any on
    the shelves until all the backorders have been filled.
    <P>
    The hardware is in production. The DMR will be released once
    the firmware work is complete, still expected to be December.
    Firmware can be updated by the user. The updated
    programming is downloaded to the SD card, then the card is put
    into the DMR. The DMR will recognize the updated instructions
    and ask the user if he wants to install the update.
    <P>
    SD cards from several makers will be available in sizes up to 2
    gigs by about May next year.
    <P>
    He's not certain if the entire image capture chain from sensor to
    output is 16-bit.
    <P>
    He recommends using RAW file format for maximum image
    quality. The RAW files are in Imacon format so Photoshop
    already can handle them well. RAW files are ~21MB which
    expands to 60 MB TIFF files. TIFF files may be written in
    LeicaRGB or sRGB color space. Software included with the
    camera will be for Mac or Windoze.
    <P>
    The moire filter is in software, not hardware. The idea behind
    this is to maximize image quality in most situations, and use the
    software moire filter only when nessesary, such as with fabrics
    or other fine patterns like distant picket fences. Other camera
    makers use a hardware moire filter which softens the image.
    <P>
    In use, Adam tried ISO 800 with a 1-stop push to check for
    shadow noise. IIRC the noise was mostly in the blue channel.
    The noise in the blue channel probably will be one of the things
    that will improve in the release firmware. As it is, the white
    balance was off (a firmware issue). Several white balance
    settings are available including Auto and Custom.
    <P>
    Swapping between the film back and the DMR was quick and
    simple, but it's not something Leica expects the user to do often.
    See Adam's comments below. The sensor is protected any time
    the back is off the camera. Cleaning the sensor consists of
    scrubbing it with a microfiber cloth. The hard coating on the
    sensor is the same as the coating used on the front element of
    Leica sport optics.
    <P>
    Here are Adam's comments:
    <P>


    I feel that the ergonomic design of the the DMR is not just "much
    better" it's "vastly superior" to the D30 and 10D. Setting aside the
    basic shooting controls of aperture and shutter speed selection
    -which are precisely where they "ought" to be, the various digital
    settings are easy to select and not buried beneath layers of
    menus or hidden. The monochrome display on the back panel
    gives full indication of the camera's settings. I like having 3
    difference "user modes" - one perhaps for black and white, one
    for vivid color and one for more subdued color settings.
    <P>
    I'm a little wary of the color spaces. "Leica-RGB" doesn't have a
    meaning to me. Does this color space exceed Adobe RGB?
    <P>
    It's odd to use a digital camera whose shutter and winding
    sounds are precisely those of a film camera.
    <P>
    I liked the coating over the sensor so it could be easily cleaned.
    <P>
    The Leica rep said that this is not a product meant to be
    changed "daily" and that if it were changed two or three times a
    week it would require replacement in a couple of years. Why? I'm
    not sure but the idea of shooting between digital and film
    frequently with the same camera on the same day are clearly
    NOT Leica's intention.
    <P>
    The software seems to be in a continual state of flux. He pointed
    out that when looking at the noise in the 1600 ASA mode that
    because white-balance software wasn't working properly it was
    difficult to evaluate the noise. I still think there was a lot of blue
    channel noise - but post processing can address some of that.
    <P>
    I don't have a feeling about the brightness of the color display -
    you definately want to have that be bright enough - the 10D's is
    just bright enough in full sunshine, the jury is out on whether the
    Leica display will be bright enough.
    <P>
    I'm pleased that the firmware can be upgraded via the memory
    card or via direct connection between the camera and the
    computer over the FireWire connection. This bodes well for
    keeping the camera up to date -- I have a feeling that over the
    next year there will be a LOT of software upgrades to this puppy.
     
  2. awahlster

    awahlster Moderator

    "I feel that the ergonomic design of the the DMR is not just "much better" it's "vastly superior" to the D30 and 10D."

    Once agian Leica strives to be better then a camera out dated four years ago and a consumer level digital that has been superseded twice already. Is that what you mean how does it comapre with the current Canon and Nikon offering?

    I'm sorry I just don't get the reason to buy this idea compared to the much more advanced systems already in place selling for much less money.
     
  3. Thank you,Douglas Herr.Most informative post.The information regarding the changing
    frequency of the DMR to film back of the R9 just confirmed my suspicion.Leica feels that in
    order for a professional photographer to experience the best of both of what film and
    digital have to offer,one should own two R9(or R8) cameras.This makes perfect sense, as
    most prudent pros posess back up bodies.The hard coating on the sensors sounds well
    thought out(just read the agonized posts regarding sensor dust removal on the other
    forums).Looking forward to image performance thoughts.Thanks again,Pagan Don.
     
  4. Canon hasn't really changed their ergonomic layout in years. All of their camera, from the
    EOS film line, to the D30 and all the way to the current models, use the same basic layout.
    Although consistent over the years the Canon layout isn't exactly know to be the most
    intuitive or user friendly around. Most people will tell you that Nikon has the better
    ergonomics, regardless of the fact that Canon sells more cameras. Leicas have always had
    excellent ergonomics. It's the one thing they have always gotten right.

    The R-Module really only makes sense if you already have a large investment in R bodies
    and lenses. It is not intended to directly compete with Canon and Nikon's offerings. Leica
    is working on a separate native digital R body, and we can assume it will be competitively
    priced as a result of consolidated manufacturing costs.


    feli
     
  5. Douglas, your pictures with the Leicaflex SL are superb. It's very simple: how does the
    quality of Leica digital stack up, in the final analysis? Many people are swayed by
    economics, which is important, but what does a mega-sized print look like?
     
  6. Feli: "....the Canon layout isn't exactly know to be the most
    intuitive or user friendly around."

    An alternative view - there isn't a more intuitive and practical
    layout than that offered by Canon.

    "Most people will tell you that Nikon has the better ergonomics,
    regardless of the fact that Canon sells more cameras."

    Will "most people" really tell you this? Who are these people?
    Why would most working photographers buy into Canon if Nikon
    had better ergonomics? It's not just about the better digital file
    produced by Canon, because the big shift from Nikon kicked in
    when everyone was still working with film. Photographers took a
    big financial hit migrating from Nikon to Canon, but they were
    prepared to do it precisely because of the better ergonomics
    offered.

    "Leicas have always had excellent ergonomics."

    Sure they have. What could be more practical than taking the
    baseplate off your camera to change film.

    "Leica is working on a seperate native digital R body, and we can
    assume it will be competitively priced......."

    Yeah, just like all other Leica products are competitively
    priced........
     
  7. Feli:

    I disagree with you on Canon ergonimcs. I've been an EOS user since 1988 - since the 650,
    in fact - and I recall the way that the handling of the EOS cameras was received. The
    command dial on the top-plate was seen as a stroke of genius; very natural and intuitive.
    Coming from a variety of other cameras sporting a variety of button, knobs, and adjustors
    I
    found the EOS 650 to be a model of clarity and ease of use, and I continue to find the EOS
    range the same today. I recognise that others familiar with other camera systems (which
    have taken quite a few leaves out of Canon's book in this regard) will prefer their own
    systems,
    but that does not equate to Canon being regarded as not the most intuitive or user
    friendly around.

    And as for "Leica have always had excellent ergonomics" - if they were always so good,
    why are the R8 & R9 so different?
     
  8. canon vs. leica...as if there weren't enough vs battles out there

    i owned canon bodies for a little while but i didn't like them...personally i find leicas'
    bottom loading better than conventional loading methods and i enjoy the uncluttered
    layout...but we all have different hands

    i was under the impression that canon used its clout to dominate nikon in the pro
    department...sponsoring pros/events, giving free cameras/lenses away, cutting deals with
    companies
     
  9. plus canon has more $ for r&d and is more cutting-edge...some developments were
    important enough to make one switch...which doesn't translate
    automatically into ergonomics
     
  10. Jeff: "i was under the impression that canon used its clout to
    dominate nikon in the pro department......giving free
    cameras/lenses away......"

    Firstly, when EOS cameras were launched all the clout in terms
    of professional market share was with Nikon. Secondly, I've often
    read on these forums that Canon gives away equipment to
    professionals, with a very few exceptions they don't. What they
    did do around 15 years ago was to offer professional
    photographers extended loan periods with a fairly extensive
    outfit. At the end of your six weeks you had to give it all back,
    most people were convinced enough of the advantages to go
    ahead and switch from Nikon. The only company I'm aware of
    that will fairly readily give away equipment is Olympus, but it
    hasn't helped them very much.
     
  11. The moire filter is in software, not hardware. The idea behind this is to maximize image quality in most situations, and use the software moire filter only when nessesary, such as with fabrics or other fine patterns like distant picket fences.
    The nice thing about this is that you can do two separate raw conversions, one with and one without moiré reduction. Then layer them in PS CS in full 16 bit and use a brush to paint in the filtering where it's actually needed, at the opacity needed to make it effectively disappear but no more. Plus full control over blending. The flatten the image and save it. Some tools, like NoiseNinja already have some reducing effect on all kinds of artifacts. So if you shoot high ISO for instance you can do two conversions, apply NN to one, MR to the other, and then blend them as needed.
    The other thing I really like about the DMR setup is the frameline focusing screens that show the full image, but with crop marks. I will probably get another screen and use the same in both my bodies. (Assuming it has the standard split/micro in the center.)
    LeicaRGB is probably just an input profile that somewhat accurately describes the actual device gamut of the DMR, plus a little margin for noise and such. If it's a well-done input space with proper gamut boundaries then it can be quite useful for all kinds of practical purposes in the entire workflow chain. If it's large enough you may never need to convert to another space at all but just keep your files in the originating device space and go straight to the printer/ink output when you need to. If you need to share files you can always convert to a generic space. Obviously, if you make web JPEGs you'll convert to sRGB in the process.
     
  12. Ergonomics? Most camera designs are compromises in ergonomics as each brand evolves
    to avoid total obsolescence with previous gear.

    The Canon/Nikon swap over with pros has less to do with ergonomics and a more to do
    with the fact Canon put the focusing motor in the lens early on, resulting in faster AF ...
    plus designed a larger mount which later-on allowed easier access to a full frame sensor
    as digital capture gained momentum. Personally, I prefer the handling of some Nikon
    cameras, but that's was a secondary consideration compared to AF speed back when I
    switched, and certainly secondary when it came to professional digital capture using a full
    frame sensor.

    As for the Leica, it better compete with more than a D10 or D30 which can be had for
    about $500. these days. Better yet, it should carve out some special area of digital
    capture so it offers some sort of alternative. Linking the performance of the sensor and
    software to the characteristics of the lenses is what I would have seriously pursued. It's
    the mistake that Contax made with it's ill fated ND, which actually had software tailored to
    each camera, and produced full frame images with its 6 meg CCD that did indeed
    maximize the qualities of the Zeiss lenses... a fact they never touted in any marketing
    efforts and left it to the consumer to make comparisons with other current digital
    offerings (a competitive/comparison Contax lost in lieu of touting any other advantage) .
    That camera was also the victim of failing at the basics like software and power supply.
     
  13. Marc: "The Canon/Nikon swap over with pros has less to do with
    ergonomics and a more to do with the fact Canon put the
    focusing motor in the lens early on, resulting in faster AF....."

    Efficient AF is an ergonomic improvement. Ergonomics
    encompasses function as well as form.
     
  14. FWIW, i have used the EOS system
    and the FD/FL mount in AE-1 and Ae-1P.
    The older Canon is very ergonomic.
    It is also similar to Leica usage..M's.
    I hated my EOS! I gave it to my daughter..
    the whole system! Now she hates It!
    So obviously it is not user friendly..
    is that also egonomics? I know the difference!
    i studied design!! at a college, OK?
    The push of digital cameras is only about $$$$.
    The fall of selling cameras and lenses has the push!
    Its about profit not "better' technology.
    The mechanical watch is now VERY expensive!
    The push of quartz was due to fact that mechanical watches have almost unlimited life span with maintenance!! See to these old Leicas with 70 yrs still shooting! My M2 is 46 yrs old. The lens 50.
    In terms of digital new cameras, i could have purchased since 67,
    when i got my M at least 15 cameras!! or more!!
    if i go digital, it would be via 'scanner'.
     
  15. Jason: "I hated my EOS! I gave it to my daughter......Now she
    hates It! So obviously it is not user friendly......"

    Well, you've sure convinced me, I'd like to retract my previous
    comments regarding the efficiency of Canon cameras!!!!

    "is that also ergonomics?"

    I don't know!!!

    "I know the difference! i studied design!! at a college, OK?"

    That's wonderful!!!

    "The push of digital cameras is only about $$$$"

    I'm not going to argue with such a well reasoned, well sourced
    posting. It's insights like yours that keep bringing me back to
    photonet!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
     
  16. David Killick wrote:"... how does the quality of Leica digital stack up, in the final analysis?"
    David, we were not able to evaluate picture quality in any meaningful way.
     
  17. I haven't seen this talked about anywhere but it seems to me that the DMR lends itself
    beautifully to take advantage of future chip developments. As larger chips become
    available would it not be cheaper and easier to upgrade the component of the back that
    would be effected instead of building a completely new body around the chip?
     
  18. Mike, the Leica rep talked about chip size a bit. Given current marketable technology the 1.37x crop factor is about the biggest physical size that will fit in the 24x36mm film gate. If the technology for connecting the chip to the rest of the electronics changes there would be room for a larger chip.
    <P>
    There certainly is the possibility of a chip with higher pixel density fitting in the same physical space. There may be technical issues like noise and heat dispersion (pure speculation on my part) that limit the pixel density at this time.
     
  19. "The DMR was demonstrated by a Leica employee who had flown in from Germany that morning." "The Leica employee said the firmware is still under development so picture quality isn't as good as it will be, so he wouldn't print any of the files."

    So then what do we know about the one essential, crucical issue, namely what the image quality is?

    "The RAW files are in Imacon format so Photoshop already can handle them well."

    Will the DMR come with its own RAW conversion software or do we need to upgrade to PS-CS too (and in my case then, Win XP as well)?
     
  20. Ben Z wrote:"Will the DMR come with its own RAW conversion software..."
    I believe it will be shipped with stand-alone RAW conversion software for Win or Mac. My memory is a bit hazy on this so it's probably best to verify.
     
  21. Is "moire filter" another name for "anti-alaising filter"? Also known as optical low-pass filter?

    Sampling theory says you can't put things back together again accurately if you sample at less than twice the bandwidth of the original signal. That's why a low pass is required in the optical resolution.
     
  22. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    I was wondering about that also. And, I find it odd that he knows all about the "moire filter" but can't answer a simple quesion about 16 bits. I think that points out the answer.
     
  23. boris chan , nov 12, 2004; 02:20 a.m.

    >An alternative view - there isn't a more intuitive and practical layout than that offered by
    >Canon.

    For some people. I didn't say that EVERYONE dislikes Canon's layout, but it is hardly know
    as the benchmark of efficency. Compare a D30 to a 20D and you'll see the improvements
    Canon has made.

    >Will "most people" really tell you this? Who are these people? Why would most working
    >photographers buy into Canon if Nikon had better ergonomics? It's not just about the
    >better digital file produced by Canon, because the big shift from Nikon kicked in when
    >everyone was still working with film. Photographers took a big financial hit migrating
    >from Nikon to Canon, but they were prepared to do it precisely because of the better
    >ergonomics offered.

    You will hear this complaint from a lot of Canon shooters. Canon has a tendency to bury
    functions under submenus and you need two hands to operate the menu system. Some
    find this annoying others don't. Canon won the pro race, because Nikon dropped the ball
    in the pro service department and by not being able to compete with Canon's massive R&D
    budget. I shot a 1Ds at work. I didn't like the ergonomics, but the camera made great
    pictures, so I put up with it and would have bought it myself if I had, had to.


    >Sure they have. What could be more practical than taking the baseplate off your camera
    >to change film.

    There are advantages to that design, and after a few rolls it's not a big deal


    >Yeah, just like all other Leica products are competitively priced...

    You get what you pay for.


    Feli
     
  24. Jeff Spirer wrote:"... I find it odd that he knows all about the "moire filter" but can't answer a simple quesion about 16 bits"
    Jeff, as the question was phrased to him it was not simple. He was telling us that it was 16-bit capture and when I pressed this issue, I asked if he was certain that the full 16 bits of data was preserved from capture through processing to output, he said that he wasn't absolutely certain.
     
  25. In re ergonomics between Canon and Nikon, I rent long lenses along with a body to shoot with, over a few weekends to do bird photography in the winters in Florida. Past the F4, I'd have to call it a draw between Nikons and Canons in terms of ergonomics. They both are equally awful. I did fine for years with a dial to set the shutter speed, a ring to set the aperture, and a ring to focus the lens. I don't appreciate a camera that reminds me of the cockpit of a 747, as if there had been a contest among the geeks who designed it to see how many "features" they could cram into it. That's why when I needed a replacement for the Pentax Spotmatics I can no longer focus through, I gravitated to the R8.
     
  26. I appreciate the information but I am profoundly disappointed in the product. It
    is going (gone?) into production and they still haven't got it anywhere near
    right. Then they say that unless you pay the huge price right now (or deposit
    to your dealer) for an unfinished product you won't even see one until after
    March - that is if things go well. New Leica products NEVER go well.

    This has got to be the biggest Leica stuff up ever. No new lenses, an
    unfinished product going to the market at a huge price and a ridiculous
    delivery time even if you (irreversably) order one in blind faith. Am I missing
    something here?

    I really was hoping for a great product ( I bought an R9 specifically) but I
    simply cannot consider putting out US$4,500 -$5,000 to order something that
    is likely to be worth almost nothing within 2 years. And it might never work
    satisfactorily.
     
  27. Peter, I'm not seriously considering digital capture but I like to
    stay informed. I prefer digital printing but I'd rather have a
    tangible original that I can pick up and look at.
     
  28. Peter, I'm still using Kodachrome. K64 and K200 are still available, and I still have a small stash of K25 in the freezer. I'm also using Provia 100F and E100G: [​IMG]
    Mule Deer - Carmichael California
    Leicaflex SL, 400mm f/2.8 Canon FD, Provia 100F
     
  29. Peter, I'm using an old Polaroid SprintScan 4000. This particular
    scan is an extreme (for me) crop of about 50% of the slide.
     
  30. Pete, you might want to set up a feeding area for the wild birds
    on your farm. If you sit quietly nearby, or use a blind, some
    decent photos are possible. I don't have the coastal scenics
    nearby (Sacramento) but I live in a rural area. These were near
    my feeding station:
    <IMG
    SRC="http://www.wildlightphoto.com/birds/rnph00.jpg"><BR>
    <IMG
    SRC="http://www.wildlightphoto.com/birds/rnph01.jpg"><BR>
    <IMG
    SRC="http://www.wildlightphoto.com/birds/cato00.jpg"><BR>
    <IMG
    SRC="http://www.wildlightphoto.com/birds/spto00.jpg"><BR>

    <P>
    .. and there are many more.
     
  31. </i>Italics off.
     

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