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What's Leica rendering?

Discussion in 'Native Lenses' started by veereshai, Jul 31, 2012.

  1. veereshai

    veereshai Mu-43 Top Veteran

    May 12, 2011
    Arlington, VA
    Now, let me say it upfront that I don't intend to start a war or a flame thread. I just want to understand (preferably with pictures) as to what leica rendering is. I have seen a lot of photos made with Zeiss lenses and a lot of them definitely have that 3D pop. I understand from various threads that some people just don't see that 3D effect. I am wondering if that's the case with me when it comes to Leica rendering. I have this question because almost everyone who has used the 20mm and the PL 25mm says the 25mm has better rendering or drawing style. But, honestly, I don't see it. So, can you please guide me as to what I am looking for when it comes to rendering by Leica lenses?
    • Like Like x 3
  2. Bhupinder2002

    Bhupinder2002 Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Thanks for this one . I would also love to see some proper examples. I had PL25 mm 1.4 but I failed to see this L rendering thing .Honesty speaking there isnt much of IQ diff between Panny 20 mm and PL25.
    Bring it on guys and show us this 3D pop out
  3. kevinparis

    kevinparis Cantankerous Scotsman Subscribing Member

    Feb 12, 2010
    Gent, Belgium
    there is no one 'leica' look.... ask any leica owener and they will tell you different lenses have different looks... some sharp and contrasty, older ones lower contrast, some have a sort of dreamy glow wide open.

    I am lucky my partner is a Leica shooter, so I have had the opportunity to shoot with some of her lenses on micro 4/3

    this shot taken with a Summilux 75/1.4 on an E-P1 captures what I consider the 'Leica Look' - the in focus area is sharp and the transition to the out of focus is distinct.

    Eat on the Go by kevinparis, on Flickr

    another leica trademark is the smoothness of the out of focus.

    This shot was taken with a Noctilux 50/1.0 again on the e-p1

    Night Bell by kevinparis, on Flickr

    I have only recently started shooting with the Panasonic 25/1.4.... but I am beginning to see shots with that distinct leica look such as this one shot with a GH-2

    P1040699 by kevinparis, on Flickr

    hope this helps

    • Like Like x 11
  4. WT21

    WT21 Mu-43 Legend Subscribing Member

    Feb 19, 2010
    There are huge discussions devoted to "what's Leica rendering." I'm going to side step that question, and talk only about the PL25, and what I, personally, look for in a lens.

    To me, a well designed lens has a special signature. Something that causes the image to pop, something that brings attention to the image from that lens, and the subject inside the image. I believe (though do not have a scientific knowledge) that it has to do with the focal length, aperture, contrast, color, vignetting, and sharpness (or lack thereof) from center to edge, and bokeh (OOF area rendering).

    It seems to me that some of the most beautiful shots I've seen are done with lenses where the lens maker purposely sets out to create a beautiful combination of all these elements in a given lens. In my experience, most of my favorite lenses are NOT sharp edge to edge and have plenty of vignetting, but with those elements working together in the image. Now, I shoot mainly family shots and portraits, vacation and travel memories and emotive shots. I would think a landscape shooter would want sharpness and low vignetting, so your preference may be drive by what you are trying to accomplish and your vision.

    I find that the PL25 has a great combination of all these items mixed together. The best of the m43 lenses I've used to date, IMO and to my personal tastes. The Focal length and OOF characteristics can really make a subject pop, and almost look 3D. Additionally, the beautiful (to my eyes) vignetting and bokeh adds to the overall impact of the shot.

    I find this is the case on the PL25 and PL45, and also the 100-300. I don't find this combination as much in the P14 or P20, but I would think the size trade-offs limited what the designers could do with those lenses. I find the Oly lenses to sometimes be technically superior to my Pannys (edge to edge sharpness, for example), but the rendering to be more clinical, and therefore less desirable to my personal taste.

    This is also, btw, why I am not that excited about legacy Leica glass on crop cameras. Sure, the NEX is a wonderful camera for MF, but you are cutting out SO MUCH of the vignetting and other characteristics of the lens that were PURPOSE BUILT for a FF sensor. And it's also why I prefer native glass on m43. I'm able to enjoy the entire vision of the lens designer.

    Maybe someone else can wrap some science around this, but those are my thoughts from a purely intuitive perspective.
    • Like Like x 5
  5. veereshai

    veereshai Mu-43 Top Veteran

    May 12, 2011
    Arlington, VA
    Thank you for comments but honestly I wouldn't want this thread to turn into a Leica vs Non-Leica debate :smile:. I honestly want to understand this property, tangible or intangible.

    EDIT: Kevin and WT21 replied while I was typing this reply. Thank you both for a detailed explanation.
  6. Bhupinder2002

    Bhupinder2002 Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    This has been shot with OLy 45 mm 1.8 ..very smooth out of focus area.

    E-PL2    ---    45mm    f/1.8    1/80s    ISO 200
    • Like Like x 2
  7. Hikari

    Hikari Mu-43 All-Pro

    Nov 26, 2010
    It is a preference in the lens design for contrast over resolution. As strange as this might sound, you can optimize a lens for one, but not both at the same time. German optics tends toward the contrast end where the Japanese like resolution.
    • Like Like x 6
  8. Aegon

    Aegon Mu-43 Veteran

    Nov 3, 2011
    Portland, OR
    I haven't "studied" what other people think of as the Leica look. So I'm not speaking by the book or anything, but rather from my own opinion as I've developed it.

    In my opinion, the Leica look is liquid sunlight.

    A quick search on Flickr for "Leica look", ordered by interesting first, shows the following examples all from the first page of results which, in my opinion, corroborate my "liquid sunlight" casual explanation.

    Summer solstice | Flickr - Photo Sharing!
    Paphiopedilum | Flickr - Photo Sharing!
    TF | Flickr - Photo Sharing!
    Don't Shoot Me | Flickr - Photo Sharing!
    iPhone ProCare | Flickr - Photo Sharing!
    walk away | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

    I didn't look at these photos to make sure they were shot with Leica or Leica lenses. I didn't limit my search to only unprocessed images. YMMV.
    • Like Like x 3
  9. WT21

    WT21 Mu-43 Legend Subscribing Member

    Feb 19, 2010
    Yeah! What Hikari said :) 

    Sadly, my paragraphs of rambling are summed up in Hikari's 44 words, lol. I still think that vignetting is an intentional choice, and I like to see some, and I also wonder how the bokeh rendering plays out here, but that simple description sums up what I see as the differences (generally) between Oly and Panny lenses (with the Oly breaking more for resolution and the Panny more for contrast).

    LL has a related article: http://www.luminous-landscape.com/tutorials/understanding-series/lens-contrast.shtml
  10. jloden

    jloden Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 15, 2012
    Hunterdon County, NJ
    Interesting... I think you may have hit the nail on the head.

    I never really delved that much into it to be honest. For me if I like the lens results that's all I really care about. I don't stare at images trying to dissect what it is that I like, but I know with the 25mm when I got it there was a distinct look that wasn't there with the 20mm, 12mm or kit zooms I'd tried previous to that.

    I don't think it's necessarily sharpness, since the 20mm and 12mm are both sharp lenses. Contrast might very well be a major factor - I recall thinking the images looked really "crisp" and dimensional. Having worked with PP a lot more since, it reminds me of using the Clarity slider in lightroom, where adjusting micro-contrast can really add depth to the image.

    Each lens seems to have its own characteristics that come through. In the same vein, using the Voigtlander 25mm gives certain qualities that I find hard to define in quantifiable terms. I've always just thought of it as a "cinematic" look because a lot of the shots somehow remind of of film images. Trying to actually pick out specifics is actually hard. I would guess it's a combination of slight vignetting, ultra-sharp in focus areas and a transition to really soft bokeh for the background. When shot wide open of course there's also the "glow" effect which adds another element.
  11. snkenai

    snkenai Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Sep 5, 2010
    Very interesting discussion of contrast vs resolution, or the compromise. Not sure I have my mind wrapped around it all yet.
  12. jloden

    jloden Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 15, 2012
    Hunterdon County, NJ
    I wonder if that's part of what makes people feel a lens has "clinical" rendering. High sharpness without as much contrast would make an image look very clear, but also somewhat flat and untextured.
  13. Hikari

    Hikari Mu-43 All-Pro

    Nov 26, 2010
    You may see the difference between legacy and native lenses of the same focal length. The native lenses resolve more, but they also don't have the contrast of the legacy lens--if it is a good legacy lens the image overall will have a bit more punch to it. The smaller the sensor, the greater need to emphasize resolution.

    You can think of contrast as the amplitude of a signal and the resolution as the frequency. As the frequency increases, the amplitude decreases. Would you rather preserve the high amplitude at the expense of the frequency or go to a high frequency with a loss of amplitude. This gets into point spread functions and a lot of higher math that is beyond my pay grade. I am naturally painting with a broad brush as there is a lot that goes into the image formation and then the processing of that image. USM can be thought of a spacial frequency filter that can bring back some of the loss of contrast, for example.
    • Like Like x 2
  14. WT21

    WT21 Mu-43 Legend Subscribing Member

    Feb 19, 2010

    I'm going to ignore what you just wrote, and go with your earlier post :biggrin: The first post I could understand :rofl:
    • Like Like x 2
  15. fransglans

    fransglans Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jun 12, 2012
    I have posted this link before, but i like it!:) 
    I was just as a lot of people having a hard time deciding
    Between these two. But this site helped me alot:


    It does not explain all about the "magical rendering" but a bit of it maybe.
    • Like Like x 1
  16. strang

    strang Mu-43 Veteran

    May 7, 2012
    I just picked up a 25mm too.

    But I did it because I needed and wanted something 50mm equiv. and this was the only choice at the moment. I could wait for the rumoured Olympus 25mm, but even if it materializes it would mean that I miss out on all the photos I could have taken between today and TBD.
  17. Donsantos

    Donsantos Mu-43 Regular

    Mar 24, 2012
    Some examples Imo

    All taken with 25mm 1.4




    • Like Like x 6
  18. RobWatson

    RobWatson Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    MTF (modulation transfer function) plots are very revealing in comparing contrast versus resolutuion. Sadly, many lens manufacturers do not readily provide them or they do but in formats not particularly helpful in this respect (like center versus edge).
  19. WT21

    WT21 Mu-43 Legend Subscribing Member

    Feb 19, 2010
    Donsantos: #3 is an exceptionally good example for what I like about this lens (no idea if that's the "Leica look")
  20. Brian S

    Brian S Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Apr 11, 2009
    Classic Leica rendering.

    View attachment 221126
    nikki_Summar_f2 by anachronist1, on Flickr

    Highly color corrected, low-contrast. 1934 Summar wide-open.

    A 1954 9cm F4 Elmar collapsible on the Leica M8, wide-open.

    View attachment 221127
    Leica M8, Collapsible Elmar 9cm F4 collapsible, wide-open by anachronist1, on Flickr

    And a Summarit 5cm f1.5, wide-open on the M9, optimized for wide-open use across the focus range. I changed the focal length of this lens.

    View attachment 221128
    Flower and Visitor by anachronist1, on Flickr

    Lower contrast tends to prevent blown highlights and maintains shadows. Especially nice for digital.
    • Like Like x 1
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