Leica T (Typ 701) First Impressions Review
During pre-launch briefings for the T, Leica was very keen to stress the optical quality of the new lenses. Most interestingly, we heard that they relied on optical corrections, rather than software, so as to project the best possible image onto the sensor.
So we were a little surprised to note an interesting little message when processing the camera's DNG files through Adobe Camera Raw: "Built-in lens profile applied: Vario-Elmar T 1:3.5-5.6 / 18-56 ASPH.. Click for more info." Clicking indeed gives more details:
|According to Adobe Camera Raw, the Leica T's files include lens profile information for software correction of distortion and lateral chromatic aberration.|
Because the profiled corrections are mandatory in ACR, we decided to look at the underlying data using a raw converter which won't apply them by default. For this we chose RawTherapee (4.0.12): a nice GUI around built around the DCRaw converter. The results are pretty interesting: Leica is clearly applying in-camera software corrections to the image projected by the lens onto the sensor.
Barrel distortion correction (18-56mm at 18mm)
Here we're looking at distortion, using the 18-56mm zoom set to wideangle (where we'd expect any distortion to be strongest). We're comparing the camera's JPEG with the corresponding DNG file processed through Adobe Camera Raw and RawTherapee.
|Camera JPEG||DNG + ACR||DNG + RawTherapee|
Roll your mouse over the buttons of the table above to see how the geometry compares between these three versions of the image. The result is pretty striking: processing through RawTherapee reveals plenty of barrel distortion, that's being automatically corrected in the JPEG (and indeed during normal live view).
We've looked at the full range of focal lengths, and have found that the 18-56mm's distortion characteristics are quite typical of a zoom of this range: ranging from barrel distortion at wideangle, through neutral in the middle of the range, to slight pincushion at 56mm. But the camera auto-corrects all the time, including when you're composing your pictures using the camera's LCD or EVF. So the user experience is of a lens that shows very little distortion at any time.
Chromatic aberration correction (18-56mm at 18mm)
Here we're looking at software correction of lateral chromatic aberration, by examining color fringing towards the corner of the frame with the zoom set to 18mm (again, where we'd expect it to be most noticeable). The camera JPEG gives a distinctly different result to the Raw conversions: both RAWTherapee and ACR show obvious (although not necessarily excessive) red/cyan fringing, while the JPEG gives some distinctly unexpected yellow and magenta fringing.
|Camera JPEG||100% crop|
|DNG + ACR||100% crop|
|DNG + RawTherapee||100% crop|
It's not quite clear exactly what's going on here - we have to assume that RawTherapee gives the most accurate depiction of the lens's characteristics, which then suggests that Leica does some processing to suppress the visibility of the fringing. We're just a bit surprised to see some residual yellow turn up in the camera's JPEGs. (Note that objects in the RawTherapee crop appear smaller because we haven't applied any distortion correction here.)
Vignetting (18-56mm at 18mm F3.5)
Finally, let's take a look at the possibility of Leica applying vignetting correction. In the example below we're comparing a camera JPEG to the corresponding DNG converted in ACR and RawTherapee, but now with distortion correction applied manually to the latter to attempt to match its geometry to the JPEG.
|Camera JPEG||DNG + ACR||DNG + RawTherapee,
Here the camera JPEG and the DNG converted with Adobe Camera Raw match quite closely. The DNG converted with RawTherapee has a very different rendition in terms of color saturation, which complicates the interpretation. However it still appears to show some degree of vignetting that's not present in the JPEGs.
It's worth noting that the 24mm prime would probably give much less ambiguous results when assessing the possibility of vignetting correction being applied, unfortunately we haven't yet been able to shoot with one to test this out.
Summary of findings
Our quick tests looking at the T's DNG files converted through DCRaw (via RawTherapee) show that Leica is in fact employing a thoroughly up-to-date lens design philosophy, similar to that used by pretty much every other mirrorless system. So the 18-56mm lens isn't fully corrected for distortion optically, but instead integrates software correction into the overall system design. This may not please purists, but frankly it counts as standard practice with modern lenses, and in our experience has little, if any, negative impact on the final image compared to fully-optical correction.
When it comes to lateral chromatic aberration, the lens is at least as well-corrected optically as we'd expect for a small zoom, and in fact probably better than most. But Leica is also taking the opportunity to reduce the visibility of color fringing via software correction. Again, this is simply standard practice in modern camera systems.
We're less certain about vignetting, but on the balance of probabilities would suggest that Leica is also reducing lens shading in software. We're less keen on this, and generally prefer it to be left to the user's discretion. But again, other mirrorless systems do the same thing (from, for example, Fujifilm and Sony).
Overall, we have no problem with Leica using this technology - incorporating software corrections into lens designs has enabled the creation of a range of very good lenses that wouldn't have been feasible if only glass were used. The only thing that we'd take issue with is the company claiming not to use this approach, when it so clearly is.
Looking to get in on the instant camera fun? We tried every model and think the Fujifilm Instax Mini 70 strikes the right balance between price and feature - the Instax Wide 300 is our choice if you crave a larger format.
Chrome users can now 'unhide' Instagram likes on the Web using a new browser extension called The Return of Likes.
Profoto has announced its compact A1X studio light now supports Fujifilm camera systems.
The new Motorola One Hyper has a 64MP sensor in its main camera, and even the pop-up selfie camera produces 32MP pictures that can be display across the full area of the 6.5in screen.
The Thanksgiving break gave us a chance to take the Nikon Z50 on a tour of New Orleans. See how it did with both the kit zoom and the new Nikkor Z 24mm F1.8 S.
The update adds support for Canon's new RF 85mm F1.2L USM DS lens and addresses a number of bugs throughout the system.
Among the topics of discussion with Mr. Murata were the new OM-D E-M5 III and his company's strategy to attract professional photographers.
Canadian retailer Back-Gear is offering a modified 'Ribcage' version of the Sony RX0 II that features a passive MFT mount for manual lenses.
What better way to promote a phone than to shoot a commercial for it directly on the device. It's not the first of its kind, nor will it be the last, but as has often been the case, it's a fun watch from a blockbuster director.
The new Snapdragon 865 is more power-efficient than ever but continues to push the boundaries of mobile computing, especially in the imaging department.
Here is a slideshow of some of the shortlisted photos for Wildlife Photographer of the Year's Lumix People's Choice Awards.
Since launching in 2014, over 18 million aerial photographers and content creators have uploaded their work to SkyPixel. They are celebrating by giving away big prizes for their 5th anniversary.
Capture One 20 is live with a new and improved interface and a number of new or redesigned tools to help process your photos more effectively.
Senior Editor Barney Britton's first choice for Gear of the Year is a camera that he has carried with him more than any other in 2019 (not including his phone) – the Ricoh GR III.
Chris and Jordan test the Canon EOS R with new v1.4 firmware to see how much it improves autofocus. TL;DR – if you use eye-AF, you'll want this update.
Google's latest update for Google Photos makes it possible to have conversations and share images with others directly from the service's mobile apps and Web.
The Laowa 12mm F2.8 Zero-D, 25mm F2.8 2.5-5X Ultra Macro and 100mm F2.8 2X Ultra Macro can now be used with Canon RF and Nikon Z camera systems.
Google has announced it's rolling out new features for its Google Photos mobile app that makes it possible to manually tag faces that aren't recognized (or mistakenly identified) by its AI system.
ZY Optics says the lens was specifically designed ‘to have one of the longest working distance for any super macro lens.’ It's available in eight mount options and retails for $499.
The fourth lens to debut in Panasonic's full-frame lineup is the 24-70mm F2.8. It's a popular and versatile focal range, and the company makes big claims of its image quality.
According to retail analyst BCN Ranking, Sony has overtaken Canon and Nikon to claim the top spot the full-frame camera market in Japan.
Facebook gets the Data Transfer Project moving by announcing the ongoing roll-out of an open-source tool that lets you move all your Facebook photos to Google Photos
The original CamRanger was one of the first wireless and app-controlled camera remotes. Now the company has released an updated version.
Panasonic has announced it's selling its minority stake in its joint venture semiconductor business to Taiwanese company Nuvoton for $250M.
A number of anti-virus programs have been flagging Nikon's software as a virus due to mistakenly identifying a specific installation file. Nikon has updated its suite of Windows software to correct this issue.
There were a lot of cameras released in 2019, and this is your chance to vote for your favorites.
Which prime lens was your favorite in 2019? This is your chance to vote.
A lot of really great zoom lenses were released this year - vote for your favorites in our 2019 readers polls.
FCC filings and additional reports suggest the Autel EVO 2 drone will have a 48MP camera and will be capable of recording 8K video.
Planning to do any outdoor photography this winter? Here are some products you might want to take with you.