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Leica R Digital

merrill

Member
I thought some info on the Leica user changeable digital back for the R9 might be of interest. Its a Kodak CCD chip and is being developed for Leica by Imacon in Denmark.The prototype is up and running and they hope to introduce it at Photokina in September and ready for market in December.

Merrill
 

jsmisc

Well-Known Member
That is interesting Merrill. I hadn't realized it was already so advanced. Did I read that it was to be at least 10 Megapixels? I believe Imacon has an excellent reputation. I expect that it will be very expensive though.
John
 

merrill

Member
A friend sent me a .pdf file with details including photographs which seems to be from a Leica magazine. The file is 884k which I'm sure is too large to post here. Is there any way I can make it available to those who are interested? There is no mention of even an estimated price.

Merrill
 

jsmisc

Well-Known Member
Merrill,
I would be interested in seeing it and I expect that others would too. Have you tried uploading it to see if it will work? I'm sorry I have no idea how to post it, if it doesn't work. Maybe someone else might know?
Cheers,
John
 

merrill

Member
I copied and pasted the text from the article. I'll try to do something similar with the photographs.

Merrill

30 LFI 4/2004
Leica’s Digital Module R is nearly ready for the market. The digital back prototypes developed by Danish specialist Imacon are being thoroughly tested. We paid them a visit and got an idea of the present state of affairs.
BY HOLGER SPARR

Under normal circumstances, M and R users get along well, but occasionally a bit of jealousy cannot be avoided when peeking into each others c&. Only recently viewfinder fans got the fortunate news that Leica intends to present them with a digital M, without failing to mention that, unfortunately, they will have to hang in there another two years.

R users’ long wait is almost over, as Leica will be introducing the Digital Module R in time for photokina this September. The prototype was almost complete in February when we last visited the Danes at Imacon, who are developing the digital back for Leica. In the meanwhile, Solms is busy producing picture s&les. To date the prototypes were anything but fully functional digital cameras, as several internal image optimisation functions were still lacking. Furthermore, the moiré correction and the automatic white balance were not working. The many photographers dying to get their hands on the new camera will have to continue practicing their patience, as the prototypes are simply not ready – alas, this issue will not present pictures taken with an R Digital. Instead, the combination camera and back unit has to continue proving its performance by means of test charts and climate chambers.

However, we are already convinced by the way it handles. The digital R8 or R9 feels like its analogue counterpart with mounted motor drive, and the digital control elements are intuitive. You pick up the modified Leica R, take a few pictures, and it feels like you have never done anything else in your life. This is due to careful and well thought-out planning, not forgetting the successful interplay between development partners
Kodak and Imacon.

Kodak’s CCD chip was the base for all further procedures and had to be completed at an early stage (see LFI 8/2003). Then Imacon went to work – not only developing but also manufacturing the Digital Module R.

The Danes are renowned for developing and producing the high-quality FlexTight scanners, which, with their internal CCD sensors, rank them among drum scanners. Furthermore, they build the Ixpress digital back units for medium format cameras. Just like the Digital Module R, they run on Kodak’s expert CCD chips. Imacon head and founder,Christian Poulsen, relies on years of experience with CCD technology, and the company itself holds several patents for its efficient usage. How could Leica miss out on such vast knowledge for their digital R unit?

During our visit in February, Poulsen elaborated on the special challenges for the development of the Digital Module R (see our interview on the next page). Imacon had a large influence on the construction of the CCD converter, like when it came to choosing the excellent colour and infrared band elimination filters.

According to Christian Poulsen,they have a major effect on thesensor’s capacity to tell colours apart.This makes the exclusive Leica sensor relatively expensive, but it brings along the capability of recognising colours much more accurately than many other digital cameras.

The experiences with medium format back units and their customers, who are hard to please in terms of sharpness, pushed Imacon to exclude an anti aliasing filter against moiré and to ‘fake it’ by means of software. This concept, perfected throughout the years, now compliments the digital module for the Leica R – with the advantage over Imacon’s Ixpress back units that the moiré filtering takes place directly on its digital signal processor. According to Christian Poulsen, it is the fastest and best of its kind for an acceptable price. Furthermore, it is the only one capable of storing a complete picture – colour corrected and moiré-free – within fractions of a second on the memory card.

Above all the Danes are absolute leaders when it comes to avoiding picture noise. Their trick is to keep the sensors cool:“Noise doubles every 7 to 10 degrees of increased sensor temperature,” says Christian Poulsen. “There are two ways of reducing this problem: the chip is either actively cooled, which is next to impossible in a portable camera, or one ensures that it doesn’t get hot in the first place, which we achieve by means of intelligent current regulation.” The recipe for this sounds easy, but technically the procedure is highly complex: the sensor uses as little electricity as possible, and this only imminently before the exposure. The Danes own further patented techniques for interpreting the picture signals, in order to shrink the chip’s appetite for energy and to keep it cool. According to Christian Poulsen, even Kodak is impressed with their methods and results. Together with the Digital Module R, this technology enters the realm of 35 mm photography for the first time ever.

Ever-improving prototypes are currently travelling from Copenhagen to Leica in Solms at ever-shorter intervals, and the devices are being methodically checked and optimised. The quality assurance phase takes a lot of time, as the Digital Module R needs to be fully functional and achieving the ideal quality expected from Leica, market-ready for December of this year. The present prototypes prove that things are going as planned, since Leica is already extremely satisfied with the sharpness and resolution of the first test s&les. The only thing lacking is plenty of fine-tuning. Without a shadow of a doubt, Leica and its Digital Module R will enrich the scene with an extremely powerful digital camera.
 
D

djg

Hmm ... I'm wondering about the sensor mounted on a hinged back ... that's never going to be as rigid as a one-piece mounted system. We'll have to wait and see, especially after repeated opening and closing.
 
D

djg

And I still name the ND as the sexiest digital out there
.
 

jsmisc

Well-Known Member
I suppose that it wouldn't have to be opened and closed very much if it's used mainly as a digital camera and not very much for film. Maybe they have that in mind.
John
 

jsmisc

Well-Known Member
Thank you very much Merrill. That is very interesting. It has all come out fine on the forum site. It sounds a very attractive proposition to me if it is as good as suggested. But I think it may well be too expensive for me, sadly.
John
 
D

djg

Dirk,

I have found cleaning the ND sensor a cinch, if you ignore the need to use the setup menu's cleaning function which requires the AC power supply be connected, not something readily doable in the situations where you are more likely to get dust on the sensor, i.e. out on the field. Here's what I do while on the road.

1. Take off the lens when you're all set to clean.

2. Turn the camera on to shooting mode, and cover the lens opening COMPLETELY with your hand - the LCD will read 32 sec exposure.

3. Place the camera on AE Lock while the lens opening is covered to lock the 32 second exposure.

4. Remove your hand and click the shutter - you now have 32 seconds to clean the exposed sensor with an air blower, plenty of time.

Me, I'm praying for an ND2, not a digital RX
.

Cheers,

DJ
 

dirk

CI-Founder
mmmhh, that sounds good.

So then we have to work hard after the special edition of the Contax SL300R to organize a special ND offer for the members of Contaxinfo.com
 

jsmisc

Well-Known Member
Wow! an Rx with a digital back like the new Leica. That is a nice thought. It might make economic sense too because it would be a real competitor for the Leica and the RX and lenses are much cheaper, so people might buy it instead. I expect that Kyocera will pursue the ND though instead and as DJ says naturally people who have the ND or the N series would prefer that.
Cheers,
John
 

stan_parry

Well-Known Member
Do you mean I should hold on to my N System? Do you really see the market supporting a Contax N or CY Digital back? Has Contax so disillusioned potential Digital users that it will never happen? Or will 35mm digital back be available for a variety of high end brands?
 
J

jgban

There are rumors of a new Contax N digital. I have not used Leica R8 or R9, but the N1 is at least on the same league and has AF, which is nice (on paper, I think the N1 is a better camera, except for the flash options). I don;t know how good the new Leica R lenses are, but I doubt their 28-90 is any better than the 24-85 at 3-4 times the price. This lens alone (the 24-85) is a reason to stick with the N for a while. I would wait.

The C/Y "system" is only the Aria now (in the USA at least). I doubt Kyocera will reverse strategy and go digital with that mount. They decided to go with the N system.

Juan
 

stan_parry

Well-Known Member
Thanks, I agree, particularly about the 28-85, the best zoom. I wasn't really hoping that Kocera would finally get on the ball with the CY system for digital but that maybe with the development of other brand digital backs by Imagon or whoever, it might be more feasible for them to license a digital back. Seems like a long shot to me, though. I wonder if there were enough N Systems sold to justify the development of a digital camera or back. Weren't the lenses designed for a full size chip? Has Kyocera deliberately ignored its Contax customer base just to avoid justifying new development money for digital?

Stan
 
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