Archived posting to the Leica Users Group, 2004/07/28

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Subject: [Leica] Playing with the RD 1 in Hong Kong
From: cummer at (Howard Cummer)
Date: Wed Jul 28 06:22:46 2004

Hello Luggers,
Today Joseph Yao arranged with Epson Hong Kong, to test drive 
pre-launch sample serial
number 0211 of the RD 1.  Local Professional Photog Bobby Lee and his 
M using friend YW Li joined us with everyone contributing lenses to 
try. I
brought my 40mm Summicron, 50mm Summarit, 50mm Summilux, a 90 Elmarit 
style) a 35 Pre-Asph Summilux, and just for fun, a 135 Elmar. I also 
in the 2nd edition Tri  Elmar as it  was my favourite travel lens (when 
was shooting film). Bobby contributed a 15mm CV and over lunch YW pulled
out his Noctilux for some focusing fun. Joseph threw a new 50mm Summilux
Asph into the mix.
We shot with all the above lenses  with the camera set in auto exposure 
auto white balance  at various apertures  and varying the ISO between 
and 1600. We took pictures both indoors and outdoors,  still objects,
scenery and portraits. We shot in RAW mode and then downloaded, using 
Epson programming to an Apple G4 powerbook. Later, if I have time, I 
will try to
post some images but in the meantime here are my impressions.
1.) the camera feels very solid. It is heavier than a Bessa R2 and has a
solidity to it a bit like the Leica Digilux 2 / Panasonic LC 1.  
Controls are
tight and precise.
2.) The viewfinder is less bright than the Bessa R2 but fully functional
with a clearly delineated focusing patch. Given the limited rangefinder
base of the viewfinder, precise focusing is difficult with the fastest
lenses but still pretty good. We were all rangefinder users and didn't 
that much problem getting accurately focused pictures  except perhaps 
the Noctilux.
3.) The shutter noise is more muffled than the sharp sound of the Bessa 
but noisier than an M shutter. Because the timbre of the shutter is 
than the R2 it seems less intrusive.
4.) There is no auto play-back. After you take a picture  you have to 
a play button  and then toggle what would be the rewind lever to magnify
the playback. This can slow you down if you want to check every 
picture. We
couldn't figure out how to scroll around in the enlarged image;  we 
it can be done.
5.) Metering is centre weighted and there is an exposure lock button. 
helps compensate for the lack of spot metering. In the Epson down load
software the details of each picture includes that it was taken in 
weighted mode  which made us think that perhaps the camera had a spot 
but if it does, we couldn't access it.
6.) So how are the pictures? Well, the output of a 50 plus year old
Summarit and a 45 plus year old Elmar never looked better. On the 17" 
book screen, with just a minimum of auto balancing the colours really
glowed on the screen. When we progressed to the latest and, some say, 
best - the Summilux 50 Asph  the impact of quality lenses on a digital
image was immediately clear to all of us.
7.) With Bobby's 15mm CV and a 200% blowup there was some colour 
in the corners of the picture  a bit like you might see with a Canon G5.
You can see why there had to be a compromise in the size of the imaging
chip given the close distance of the rear elements of wide angle lenses 
the chip surface. With longer lenses there was no color fringing in the
8.)We turned the ISO up to 1600 and shot some lower light pictures
to check for digital noise. The chip used in the RD 1 is the same one 
in the Nikon D70 and high ISO performance is very similar  which is to 
very acceptable. ISO 1600 noise is pretty much like the grain in modern 
400 film and Bobby said grain reduction programs could smooth more of 
noise if anyone felt it was objectionable.
9.) Will anyone who loves Leicas actually buy one of these? Well, the
viewfinder could be better, the handling of the camera is a queer
combination of the latest technology and last century's. I forgot to 
the advance lever time after time to cock the shutter and kept waiting 
the playback to show up after the picture was taken. Yet, when we had
examined the magnified images on the screen, three of the four of us 
then and there we would be buying the RD 1 when it becomes available and
made Sam, the Epson rep, promise to hold units for us. So that is 
certainly a case of
putting our money where our mouths are!
10.) We didn't get into local pricing but availability in Hong Kong 
will be
late September, early October, in limited numbers. It seems Epson is
planning to make only 10,000 of the cameras  this limitation is set by
Cosina about the number of bodies that can be supplied. Of course, if 
market is there I am certain they will find a way to build more.

Replies: Reply from joseph at (Joseph Yao) ([Leica] Playing with the RD 1 in Hong Kong)