Here is a quick post by Ashwin Rao that I thought would be cool to publish this afternoon…
The Leica Look
So what is the Leica Look? Does it exist? Why should we care? I have debated, on my own and with others, just what this 3 word string means. Yesterday, when speaking with a pro photographer at a sporting event, he remarked, on hearing that I owned a Leica, that he had once owned an M3 and Summicron, and felt that there was something indefineable, some clarity or “glow” or what have you, that Leica lenses impart on the images its lenses see, somthing that makes the photo uniquely “Leica”. He currently shoots with Canon pro gear, as it suits his needs, but that misty far away look in his eyes suggested that he wished to have his M3 back. He went so far as to say that looking at a series of images, he could typically tell what images came from Leica.
Last night, on returning home, I grazed through some images taken earlier in the evening, and came accross this one (processed in Lightroom 3). There’s a certain roundedness, a certain 3 dimensionality, a certain sharpness in the focused areas and softness in the background, that’s hard to find elsewhere. By no means do I mean toi present this image as an example remarkable photography. Rather, to me, there’s something here in which I clearly see the ” Leica Look “….
This image was taken with modern glass, the Leica Summilux 50 mm f/1.4 Asph, on the Leica M9. It’s a well corrected lens, maybe the best 50 mm lens ever produced, though it was shot wide open (thus revealing some of its slight aberrations). By no means does this lens exhibit blooming, flare, or low contrast, all of which have been ascribed as imparting the “Leica glow”….rather, there’s something else here….
Anyways, I am surprised that, given the number of threads on this topic, that Leica hasn’t embraced this concept, from a marketing perspective, to sell more gear or to further impart the mystique that is so much of the Leica logos…What a catchy phrase, “That Leica look”, could be, when printed on a brochure. Maybe it’s our collective mass hysteria, or our subjective over-rationalization and over-dramatization to justify our expensive purchases….I have tried to see past these things, and still feel that Leica offers something unique, and it’s in the glass and how the glass interacts with film and the M8/9 sensors. It’s there, hidden in the details, yet so obvious that we are drawn to it…..right?
One added complication for me….I see the Leica look accross generations of lenses….I see it in the old Leica designs of WWII. I see it in Mandler-Era lenses like the summicron 50, Summilux 50 pre-asph, and the legendary 75 mm f/1.4 Summilux and 50 mm f/1.0 Noctilux lenses….I still see it in todays Peter Karbe-designed lenses….so despite different production methods, different lens designers, despite age, it seems that Leica continues to offer something fresh and unique…something that I finds gives my photography depth and meaning.
Sooooo, what do you guys think? Any thoughts? Any examples that you wanna share? I think that there may be a chance to come up with something need here, and hope you guys have thoughts to share…
The best to you all!
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Honestly, i never got it.
I can tell you if I like a photo. I can tell you the focal range to a degree and it it was shot at wide, medium or small aperture. But I never saw this “Leica glow” thing. Probably because that photo of Chinatown at night with the Leica and that photo of that woman in the corn field shot at a sunny day with a Canon are so different in themselves that the rather subtle differences on rendition are invisible to me.
Tell you what. You want me to understand it, the get a Leica with an old Summicron, a new Summicron and a Canikon with a modern 50mm prime, put the on a tripod and shoot the same pictures at f/2.0, f/8 and f/16 and put the pictures next to each other, so that I can see these differences.
No one ever did this sadly, but if you change really big things in your picture, I seem to be too stupid to concentrate on subtleties.
Same goes btw for differences between BW film. When people complain about the quality of Tri-X and that HP5 just is not the same, they provide two completely different pictures, shot of different subjects under different light and expect me to say ‘yes, obviously.’
Sorry, no. Tripod, MF camera with changing back, same lens, we filters, same exposure compensated for film difference and I will agree with you or not. Otherwise I do need see subtle differences but completely different images and cannot figure out what difference is due to the film and what is due to the scene itself.
With amount of money that people spend on Leica bodies and lenses, the sought-after “Leica glow” better be there. In short, could it just a case of placebo effect?
There is no Leica look….only fanboys trying to justify their expensive purchases. I’m sorry man, I’ve tried so hard to see it but COME ON!!! It’s time to move on and remove emotions from expensive objects.
There 110% is a Leica Look but it comes from certain cameras and lenses. For example, the M9 and 50 Noctilux will create an image that looks like NOTHING else. The same way a Canon 5D and 85 1.2L will create an image that looks like nothing else, the “Canon” look. The Leica look is very real with lenses like the 50 Summilux ASPH, Noctilux and even 50 Summicron. Other lenses like the 21 and 24 Summilux have the look as well. Older lenses do as well. I did a test once that someone challenged me to. I was able to pick the Leica shots every time out of random shots printed and JPEG files online. Every time. It’s not an emotion, it is a fact. Most cameras have their own look. Nikon 1, Canon full frame bodies and even Nikon. It’s in the color, the rendering and the way certain lenses work with certain bodies. if you do not see it then you have not worked with a Leica M8, M9 or M and lenses like the ones I have mentioned.
Having seriously contemplated a Leica M as my next and dream camera, I would LOVE to see a real BLIND test between some other nice camera and a Leica M9.
Too much of what we perceive is emotion driven and like any other art form, we insert what we think should be the case, a sort of “wishful thinking” and I’m wondering how much of this the “Leica Look” is to be attributed to. You see a picture labeled “taken by a Leica M9” and you automatically see something special.
How about it Steve?
A head to head with an M or M9 and a couple of comparable cameras all adjusted so that the contrast, colors and such are as similar as can be reasonably made to be….and then post them with no hints?
It’s a “rangefinder” thing. My photos from my Yashica 35 Electro look different from SLR’s. The distance from the rear element to the film plane primarily.
I’d like to offer another way of perceiving this leica look.
Ok this is just an idea but . . . . .The leica look is not about the image produced, but actually about how you arrive at the image because of the leica glass used in the simplistic method of rangefinder shooting. Perhaps the leica look statement refers to the way the photographer looks(percieves) the image through the leica camera.
By this I’m suggesting that the leica look, is meaning (translation miss- interpretation ) the leica way of perceiving vision through the use of the leica system. Or to put it another way, the leica system experience will alter the way you look. A bit zen in that when you strip away the excess, you can focus more clearly.
Just an idea . . .
I began shooting in the ’50s, first with a Kodak Retina IIc, with a 50mm (as I recall) f/2.8 Schneider Kreuznach lens. Then I bought a Rolleiflex with a Schneider Kreuznach f/3.5 lens. Then I bought a Leica M3 with 50mm f/2 DR Summicron. All these lenses produced beautiful images. I did not hear the term “bokeh” until perhaps the ’80s. I had come to the conclusion that the Leica and Rolleiflex images had some kind of really pretty quality for which I didn’t have a technical term. I think the Retina IIc’s lens had a similar look, but that was such a long time ago, I can’t swear to it.
I arrived at this conclusion without reading anything about it or discussing it with a single other person since my circle of friends never happened to include anybody else so deeply into photography as I. I can immediately call to mind specific images that led me to think this. I had sold my Leica equipment to “upgrade” to a Nikon. I was repeatedly dismayed at the look of the images I got from all the Nikon lenses, except possibly the 105mm f/2.5. Even the f/3.5 Micro-Nikkor seemed to lack detail and “something” in its images when compared to my DR Summicron. Then one night I sat up up until 3:00 A.M. poring over the negatives from both systems. I was amazed. First there was focus accuracy. The Leica far exceeded the Nikon in focus accuracy. And secondly the negatives from the Leica lenses seemed more substantial and had a lovelier look to them.
I am intrigued by the passion that this seemingly innocuous subject engenders in people. A good friend of mine, who switched from Nikon to Canon some years ago and thinks it’s just silly to waste money on Leicas has told me that bokeh is “so not important.” I am aware that others feel the same way. Some insist that it doesn’t even exist. That’s what makes horse races. My own experience is that there is a difference, one that made an early impression on me without the benefit of any outside influences, and one that that is important to me to this day. My opinion is that a photograph is something made to look at. The out-of-focus portion of the image is part of what one sees when regarding a photograph. Take two otherwise identical images, one with Leica glow, Leica bokeh, smooth bokeh — whatever, okay? — and the other image with harsh, jagged bokeh. If you can produce the former, why would you choose the latter? If you can’t see harsh, jagged bokeh when you’re looking right at it, fine. You’re entitled to your own view of the universe…and so am I.
We’ve developed a free Photoshop plugin that emulates the color profile of the Leica M9. http://www.leicalook.com/leicalook-photoshop-plugin-free/
I think the “Leica Look” has to do with how Leica renders its colors. Because colors have varying contrasts as well, adapting a photo with the Leica color signature to black and white creates a high contrast image. Of course Leica’s lenses are also optimized for contrast. It’s tough to emulate in post-processing because a lot of it is a result of the lens. It’s like trying to replicate bokeh in Photoshop.
The Leica in-camera processing can be replicated more easily in post. Just look at the differences between the Leica D-Lux and Panasonic LX series cameras. Same hardware, just slightly different firmware. The output from the Leica is more pleasing because of the “Leica Look” aka. tweaked color profile that lends to higher contrast. It’s very subtle and therefore difficult to pinpoint.
I would like to see some people’s photos from non-Leica cameras that emulate the “Leica Look”.
Hello Steve and Ashwin and all the wonderful people in here. My first post. Let me begin by saying i’m close to being an absolute beginner when it comes to Leica cameras and lenses. I have used a Leica camera on a few occasions.. my former boss had one and was kind enough to let me try it.
But even with my untrained eyes, I can say that Leica does have that particular look. OR it could be that our brains DO associate certain type of images with a Leica lens or camera. That itself is the lore and strength of the Leica brand. I remember this one time when was going through a senior photographer’s b/w work here in Nepal a few years back. I casually asked him, “these must be from your Leica..”. I remember him saying “No.. that’s Mamiya”. :). Now I don’t know if there’s a Mamiya look as well?..Could the two, Mamiya and Leica be compared in terms of image ‘looks’?
Just my ignorant curiosity. 🙂
I have used all sorts of equipment, and I’m a “signature” hound. I believe in the Leica look, the Summicron look and the 2008 Summicron M 35/2 on M8 look. I also believe in the Canon digital look, the “L” look, the 5D look, and the 5D Mark II with 50/1.2L look.
The Leica look is just what happens when the company sets rigid high standards and maintains it for many generations of lenses. That’s the only thing in common between a new Summilux 50 and an old-aged Summicron 35.
I’m planning on getting an M9 very soon so I have been studying various lens options a lot. I’m very certain that there is such a thing as the “Leica look”. Thing is, I don’t like it. I’m indifferent to most modern Canonikon rendering, love Zeiss rendering and unfortunately as I’ve discovered dislike Leica. There is one huge exception and that’s the 50/0.95 nocti which I like very much. But apart from that exception, I don’t like Leica’s color rendering and bokeh – it’s too ‘syrupy’ for my taste. I much prefer the more contrasty Zeiss rendering.
There are exceptions, situations where I have in fact been impressed with Leica glass – mostly when it comes to portraits where a certain subtlety in drawing style is welcome. On the whole though I’m not just indifferent to it but I actively dislike it. So I’m quite convinced that there is a distinct Leica look. It’s more difficult to describe than the Zeiss look but it’s definitely there and I wish it was different.
I would really have loved to like Leica glass as it’s technically superb and it would have been interesting to try something new (I’ve become somewhat of a collector of lenses with interesting drawing style). I’ll still probably get the 50 lux asph and perhaps a 75 lux, just to try it out but I don’t have high hopes. So I think in my case we can rule out wishful thinking and an attempt to justify the purchase of expensive toys 😉
Certainly no reason to buy if the look doesn’t satisfy you. The Zeiss option is outstanding, far more economical, and equally satisfying, just in a different way….I’d stick with the Zeiss and not spent the extra 5-6K buying the 75/50 luxes….
Just my $0.02
I get a definate look from my M8 and I love it. The funny thing is I get the look from both my Leica glass and my Voigtlander glass.
There may be a Leica look, or there may be not. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter for photography. There are many masters in the history of photography who are Leica users, but can you name one masterpiece by them that became a masterpiece simply because it has a “Leica look”? Not a single one. David Alan Harvey is a great Leica master. But his images can be equally taken with a Nikon. The masters may shoot Leica because of the rangefinder feel, but definitely not for any special charateristics of a Leica lens.
No doubt. I think this discussion is more about whether there actually is a “Leica look”. Whether that “look” matters in terms of successful photography, my answer would also be a categorical NO! The Leica, just like ANY other camera is simply a tool to convey one’s vision. Nothing more, nothing less. It is true that historically we associate the great photographs taken by Bresson or Ralph Gibson with Leica but, again, their vision is the reflection of what we see, and not about the camera.
Actually Max, it’s not true that you can’t do double exposures. If you accidentally rewind the film and expose over it, then you can expose it twice, except that you don’t know if you match the right position 🙂
True…a bit of hit and miss..more misses though 🙂
Great one Max, Can feel the mood in this.
Now, there is a look one can’t deny. lsteve, ..HOLGA!! Certainly easier to spot an Holga shot than a Leica 🙂
..and Leica can’t do 120 or double exposures..here is one from today, coincidentally..Delta 3200 souped in Rodinal..http://www.flickr.com/photos/leicaman/5076478229/lightbox/
I’d say that the Leica look or Leica glow is 66% in the lenses and 33% in the body. For example, if I put my 35/2.5 VC on my M8 and shoot a landscape and then switch to a 35/2 Summicron IV, the shots will look different. It’s not a huge difference but I can tell them apart. The Summicron has the “look”. The VC is simply sharp and contrasty. The same is true when I compare my Zeiss Biogon shots with those shot with my Elmarits. And no lens I’ve ever used produces photos with the look of my 50 DR Summicron (M4/TriX or HP5).
To be fair, Hasselblad has a look as does Rollei TLR.
And frankly spoken, I am preferring the “glowing” of Holga over Olga!
Philosophy is a downhill road from nowhere to nothing.
Continue posting, I am going out making pictures.
Georg Riedel tells his customers something that isn’t true—his wineglasses make wine taste better—and then the very act of believing it makes the statement true. Because drinkers believe the wine tastes better, it does taste better.
Georg is a tenth-generation glass blower, an artisan pursuing an age-old craft. His company makes wineglasses (also whiskey glasses, espresso glasses, and even water glasses). He and his staff fervently believe that there is a perfect (and different) shape for every beverage. According to Riedel’s website, “The delivery of a wine’s ‘message,’ its bouquet and taste, depends on the form of the glass. It is the responsibility of a glass to convey the wine’s messages in the best manner to the human senses.”
Thomas Matthews, editor of Wine Spectator magazine, said, “Everybody who ventures into a Riedel tasting starts as a skeptic. I did.” The skepticism doesn’t last long. Robert Parker Jr., the king of wine reviewers, said, “The finest glasses for both technical and hedonistic purposes are those made by Riedel. The effect of these glasses on fine wine is profound. I cannot emphasize enough what a difference they make.” Parker and Matthews and hundreds of other wine luminaries are now believers (and as a result, they are Riedel’s best word-of-mouth marketers). Millions of wine drinkers around the world have been persuaded that a $200 bottle of Opus One (or a bottle of Two-Buck Chuck) tastes better when served in the proper Riedel glass.
Yet when tests are done scientifically—double-blind tests that eliminate any chance that the subject would know the shape of the glass—there is absolutely zero detectable difference among glasses. A $1 glass and a $20 glass deliver precisely the same impact on the wine: none.
So what’s going on? Why do wine experts insist that the wine tastes better in a Riedel glass at the same time that scientists can easily prove it doesn’t? The flaw in the experiment, as outlined by Daniel Zwerdling in Gourmet magazine, is that the reason the wine tastes better is that people believe it should. This makes sense, of course. Taste is subjective.
That is one amazing picture.
I completely agree. At the end of the day it doesn’t really matter what we’re using. It’s the person behind the camera that makes the great pictures for us to enjoy. As a typical male photgrapher, I have GAS (gear acquisition syndrome). If I would spend more time practicing and composing correctly and less time worry about what latest and greatest gear will make better pictures, I would be twice the photographer that I am now. I am really wanting to sell all my Canon gear and get an M6 with ONE, only one lens. That may help. Thanks for sharing Ashwin, I always enjoy your photos.
I know where you are coming from DT. I was shooting with my D700 with a 17-35 2.8 and the 50 1.4 and was really enjoying it but the Leica siren was there and I could not ignore it. When the M9 came out I was looking at it very seriously but felt that if I went that way, it would be about looking for the next best thing all the time rather than getting out there shooting and learning. I could not stop thinking about Leica though so I did pretty much what you are suggesting:
I bought an M7 and one lens (the 50 lux asph). I then found someone who scanned professionally with a nikon coolscan 5000 ED and took my film to him and had a look at the scans. I was blown away completely! I immediately placed an order for a Coolscan 5000ED (which I had to get from Canada) and now I find myself shooting 98% of the time with my M7 and lux. Also, come the M9.2/M10 or whatever, nothing can take away from my set up which is state of the art film and whereas some say that film is dying, I say it is the cure to GAS. The only thing I now yearn for is new film to try and when something like Portra 400NC comes out as it did recently, this is my ‘upgrade’ and well, it costs less than £5 and if I don’t like it, its only a fiver. It is such a wonderful feeling knowing that your equipment can’t be made obsolete by some new model/version. Funny, digital cameras by their nature make a person want more and newer versions. With film, you just crave better light and better moments. Ah well, here I go again…
David Kilpatrick’s write-up about Minolta lens history is a must read for Leica users:
Thats a nice write up with some interesting information of the various lens manufacturing philosophies.
Great shots there Jay! Loving that grain.
I think Leica’s magic lies in the final print. If you just look at the pictures on computer, you may not find a big difference between Leica, Canon, and Nikon. But when you print them out, you can see a obvious difference. Leica’s pictures are just more attractive, more 3D, it can draw the viewers into the picture, but Canon’s pictures are just flat, nothing special. When I print them out, my friends can easily recognize Leica pictures from Canon picture because Leica’s are much more eye catching and the picture looks like alive while Canon’s are flat and full of digital feel.
I don’t know whether it is the “Leica glow” or just my connection to the pictures, but i do like the way my Summicron-C 40/2 renders when I am shooting into the light:
On the other hand, can anybody guess what this last shot was taken with? I can give you a list: I use Canon P&S, leica film, occasionally an m8.2, nikon D300, Mamiya MF (645 and 6×7):
I couldn’t remember myself until I pulled the original off of my hard drive.
Happy shooting to all of you!
Absolutely stunning captures, Jay. The subtle gradations, the way you captured the feel of the moment, the grain, all comes together perfectly! Bravo!
An interesting question would be how many manufacturers have tried to emulate the Leica look and have they ever succeeded?
Wow, this article has sparked some great discussion. Since I have not really chimed in yet I think I will now.
I feel there is a certain feel to a Leica image but as others have already touched upon here, it is the lenses that give us this look. Usually, Leica shooters shoot at wide apertures and due to Leica lenses being so good wide open, with superb micro contrast and sharpness we have a certain look that has been tough for other camera/lens combos to match (up until recently).
Nikon have just about caught up to Leica as their 24 1.4 lens is superb and I have seen shots from that lens and a D700 that I thought were from an M9 and Leica 24.
Also, Leica digital is a bit different as the color is always a but more “Leica Like” than a Nikon or Canon. Even the D-Lux 5 has a slightly different color signature than the LX-5. More muted, or “Leica Like” (this came from a head honcho at Leica).
It is the lenses which is why a Zeiss 50 PLanar on an M9 will give you a totally different look and feel than a 50 Summicron. The Zeiss will be warmer in its color, and sharper for what you have in focus. You will also get a more blurred background and sharper in/out of focus transitions. The Summicron will give you cooler colors and a smoother transition from in to out of focus.
One more part of the Leica look is the amazing detail the M8 or M9 can capture, but this is due to there being no AA filter. This works hand in hand with the incredible lenses to give you amazing results. When I open a Leica file, I immediately am wowed when I view at full size on my 27″ Imac. When I open any other cameras file they are bit flat in comparison. BUT, with some PP, you can get really close to the Leica feel.
Once you resize images for the web, add filters and tweak color, the camera starts to not really matter so much. But in use, the Leica M has always been such a pleasure and joy to use.
Bottom line? Is there a “Leica Look”? Of course there is! Can it be replicated by a Nikon or Canon? Almost, but not quite (most of their lenses are not nearly as good wide open). Could we tell the difference in side by side tests with web sized images? Probably not, but maybe 🙂
For me it is all about shooting with what you love to shoot with. Shooting with whatever inspires you and shooting with whatever you are comfortable with. I love my M but I’d be lying if I said I also didn’t love my $700 M4/3 setup and that I can get close to a Leica look even with that system.
Leica excels at f/0.95, f/1.4 and f/2. I never understood those who buy an M9 and shoot at f/8 all the time. This is when you lose that “look” and your files look like all the rest. Shoot your M at the wider apertures and you will see why the lenses are so treasured 🙂
Now…lets have a contest 🙂
Winner of the contest gets to have Steve’s M9!
Ha ha! Maybe Leica will donate one…YEA RIGHT 🙂
What if we do a “Leica Look” Contest? All cameras and lenses are eligible, but not revealed to till the end of the voting.
I like this idea, can be fun and maybe finally answer the question on the “Leica Look”…
I must really like the Voiglander “look.” lol.
Ian, you have a slight advantage re your wife as you know her slightly better than I do. And maybe you are right as regards certain lenses wide open particularly if you are comparing them to noted underperformers (assuming those particular Canon lenses fall into that category). But that is not my point, nor that of most people. To be scientific about it, what I would like to see is, say, 120 good photographs properly printed or displayed online. Of the 120 I would like some to be film, some to be MF, and some to be the best of what Nikon, Canon and Leica currenly have on offer. Let’s say that the size of the print is around A3 and all lenses have to be the equivalent in 35 mm terms of, say, 21 to 75mm in focal length. For argument’s sake let’s include 15 taken on a Leica M8 or 9 and 10 taken on Leica film Ms. How accurate do you think you would be in spotting those 25? Think about it. That is my point.
120??? That’s a whole lotta confusion there. Like a big box of Swiss chocolates and not knowing which to eat first. LOL.
I do think that if it was a matter of about 5 pictures taken by each camera then we would be able to tell.
Good comment. That said, you are ignoring the time honoured adage of “For those who have faith, no evidence is necessary and for those without, no evidence is enough”. I feel sure that no matter what tests are done or comparisons made, the Leica fans will stay true to their convictions. 😉
On a different note (sort of), have any of you noticed that once a photograph has been taken and taken well, you can reproduce copies of that photograph even using very mediocre methods and the intrinsic quality of the original photograph is somehow maintained. I mean, just look at most books on photography, Ansel Adams, Walker Evans, Cartier-Bresson etc, etc. Most of the pictures you see in these books are not prints made from actual negatives (although perhaps some are) and still, we look and marvel at them. Why? What it is about the original shot that is so good it can transcend later copies made by questionable imaging machines? For example, you can snap a photograph of one of Ansel Adams’s photographs using an iPhone and the result will still be great. Try the same shot in Yosemite with your iPhone and get ready for disappointment!
In an extremely minor version of this, I had a book made of my favourite photographs taken with my M7 over the last year and to show friends I snapped a picture of one of the pages with my iPhone. Nothing special at all, just turned the page, bad electric light overhead and snap. When I look at this picture on my iPhone, it has a great look to it and in my humble opinion, it is clear that this photograph (the original) was taken with a great camera and using the iPhone to copy it, does not prevent this observation. Funny to think that this picture has been taken from a negative, scanned, then reduced in size and resolution for the web, then uploaded to the book publishing people, then printed by the publishing people, then snapped with an iPhone and then uploaded back to the web (whew!). Despite all of that copying and reproducing, clearly, the original quality is evident. The original was taken on Tri-X and even through all of the copying, I believe one can still see this. Now, if this is so (and I believe it to be) then… does final image…the one taken with the iPhone… have ‘the Leica look’?
Attached is the picture I took from my iPhone and second link is to the original picture.
Once,many years ago during our camera shops LEICA days demo the LEICA representative when
asked about the LEICA look replied each LEICA lens was sealed in GERMAN air before shipment!
perhaps therein lies the solution to this age old delima.
I agree with much of what has been written. Our Leicas become objects of whimsical love and we ascribe qualities which cannot (I think) be empirically validated. Ashwin is a doctor, I am a lawyer and we both have to function on evidence based tools and methodologies in our day jobs. As, no doubt, will be the case with most readers of this site. But, when we escape to our leisure world of photography, all those disciplines disappear and we resort to hype, mythology, wishful thinking and mystique. To pretend that there is some unique DNA in each Leica picture (including some of the compacts) is romanticism gone mad. The joy of a Leica is that the quality is first rate (but not necessarily better than the best of Nikon or Canon) and that you get a unique user experience which is partly based on the legacy of the brand and partly on its magnificent ergonomics (at least for the minority of people who love RF cameras). Partly because of the limitations of the cameras we have to be slower and more deliberate and cerebral in our approach and that can sometimes lead to better photographs. But in skilled hands we cannot genuinely believe that there is some uniquely superior character to an M9 (or other Leica) image when compared to that of a 5d2 or a D3 (or, for most practical purposes, many other cameras). It would be so simple to prove “the Leica glow” and yet nobody seems to manage it. I have seen some dreadful M9 photos (often lovingly and proudly put on the web by their doting creators) and amazing photos from compacts. Leica, while doing some odd things (viz titanium M9 which alienates a huge number of devotees, many of whom have only recently come back to the brand, and the “pretend” Leica (made by Panasonic) to name but two) also got it absolutely right with the M9 which offered a special and small FF camera as good as any with a look and feel which makes it different from anything out there. It is the user experience which separates it. It is like driving a convertable in the wind. The car is not faster than its sedan equivalent but it feels wonderful and relaxing and rejuvenating. It is that “feelgood” factor that makes the Ms so special and that can lead to some great results but let’s not pretend that you can spot the difference between good (or bad) pictures taken on an M9 compared to other good cameras. Equally, and this is the good news (though I have said enough and probably trodden on enough toes) I often struggle to tell the difference between good “35mm equivalent” digital capture and medium format. By the way, if you have got to end of this, thank you for your diligence!
You say you cant see a difference? Just take a 5D MkII with a 50mm f1.2L and compare it to an M8/9 with the Noctilux f1 on it. You will immediately see the difference. Even my wife who doesn’t care much, can tell the difference.
Not fair to compare the 50mm f1.2L to Noctilux f1? Okay try the Canon 50mm f1.4 and Summilux 50mm f1.4. The Canon 50mm f1.4 is even worse. Try them out and you’ll see.
I have to answer this with two answers. I refer in my answers to Leica M system cameras.
I think the Leica look can in some way be credited to the style of working that a Leica (rangefinder cameras in general) allow. The Leica (because it is the best rangefinder camera – in my humble opinion anyway) allows the photographer to get closer to and more intimate with the subject. It does not get in the way of photography as so many other cameras do.
I have taken images with Leica cameras that i would not have been able to take with any kind of 35mm SLR, medium or large format camera. Also, i think people don’t really know what a Leica is so it does not stick out – they dismiss it as an old camera and let down their guard. Try achieving that with a 70-200 and “pro” SLR.
In addition to the ability of the Leica to disappear in a scene and not stand out like a sore thumb, the lenses are the only real other determining factor in the “Leica look”.
Nearly all Leica lenses i have used have got something special in the rendering. The older, classic design lenses have a look and glow that just seems pleasing to the eye. The modern designs with super sharp rendering at all apertures are also very useful – did somebody say resolution?. The lenses are superior to pretty much everything in Canon & Nikon SLR mount… and are also a fraction of the size and weight.
I print the majority of my work optically and the lenses really make a difference in the final print.
As for Leica compact digital cameras, i feel that these do not have the same ability of the Leica rangefinder cameras to create the Leica look, nor do they possess any further ability over other brands of compact camera. They are essentially just rebadged mass market consumer electronics and offer no real advantage over other makes – apart from bragging (wank) value.
i don’t really believe that there is a leica look but i believe that there is a difference between handmade and machine made lenses and cameras. in general things made to be used, worn or touched by the human body, produced by qualified humans with their hands have to make a difference to machine made.
it’s often a question of design too. the idea of a SLR is combined with bigger bodies and lenses, the idea of rangefinders or TLR is to be as compact as possible. now Leica is definitely the best camera and lens producer for that size, so there is not much competition, except for zeiss lenses.
so if there is not much competition in the top rangefinder level, it’s just one brand being used, one brand being seen as the reference and just one brand producing that certain look.
if other companies invested in rangefinder cameras and optics since the 30s or whatever, just like Leica did, there might not be this myth at all.
so in short: since there is no real competitor to Leica in the rangefinder section, you could say that there is a Leica look (for M lenses) since there isn’t much else out there in this certain type of lens categories.
in the end each lens has it’s own look. when i look at my rolleiflex 2.8F zeiss planar photos, i could say it’s “the planar look”… and there is no other lens like that out there.. that’s what i think.
Each lens, Leica or not, has its own character, some more some less, depending on the subject, light and OOF-aeras it is often (of course not always) very easy to identify Leica- or Zeiss-lenses, especially when they have the same design like Mandler for Leica. And, sometimes it is still possible to finde out which version of the lens was used, i can’t, but some folks in the LUF can (blindtest). For some people the rendering of the lens is very important, for some not (be happy and save the money).
I am not sure. If I wasnt too lazy it would be really nice to show someone 50 photographs and see if he/she could pick out Leica ones. I am afraid that there might be no special Leica look. Many Leica lenses are very good lenses, and often very good specially at wider apartures. But if you take very good lensess form other brands (Canon 50/1.2, 85/1.2,35/1.4, 135/2.0 or Nikon 100DC or Nikon 24/1.4 or new 85/1.4) will anybody see the difference? Personally I am not sure.
I do know that I seem to prefer the look from the M9 ccd sensor over that from my Nikon.
I really don’t see it (the look). And for me – there are far more powerful and meaningful things to focus on in an image that hold so much more than any ‘look’ – real or imagined – could ever have.
Microcontrast, that sparkle that leica glass produces. Very easy to see on velvia and more of an overall subjective quality as a digital capture.
Try to have a look at an article on Canon Rumors ! Here the owner of all Canon gear
wrote a review of his experiences with his M9.
I agree with Vlad to a certain extent. I’ve been shooting with an M6 for a few months now and I’ve found that my subject matter and composition changes when I use an M6+50mm summilux, as compared to when I’m using a Canon 40D+50mm f/1.4.
I believe this is because subconsciously, we all try to use the camera in a manner which maximizes its abilities.
Going through the four pics by Ramon, I’ll say that pic 3 is how I will shoot with any camera. However, 1,4 and probably 2 is how I would shoot with my M6… those to me, are “the Leica look” :_)
You know what? I don’t care if there’s a “Leica look” or not, or if it’s just really a “like-a” look (or a look alike, for that matter) – I love what I see taken with Leicas, I love what I get from my Leica – and that’s all that matters to me! 🙂
On second thought, I am positive there IS a “Zeiss look” … 🙂
Can it be said that there’s a typical Zeiss quality in their lenses?
A bit late posting here, but anyway- Zeiss lenses? I used to use quite a lot of Pentax stuff but eventually bought a Contax with three T* lenses. a 28mm, a 50mm and a 100mm and yes I could see a great difference, but I think it was just the overall quality of the lenses compared to cheaper Pentax lenses. I would say IMO that the Zeiss lenses were slightly more punchy than Nikon stuff I also used, although the Nikon stuff was a lot better than Pentax. I used to do moderately large color prints from the Contax ( about 20 x 16) and you could definitely see that quality lacking in a lot of other stuff including Olympus lenses. The Zeiss negs had a certain brightness about them.
Toss some quality Zeiss glass on an Canikon, do some PP, shoot some quality street and I am rather certain that majority of folks wouldn’t be able to make out the difference. I believe the Leica Look is more of a state of mind than a technically tangible quantity.
disagree, the majority of folks wouldn’t be able to see a difference between a Compact and a 5DII, so thats not the point. Last year, a guy posted a photo in the cananon 5D part of a german forum. Everyboddy asked him why this photo looks so different, what Photoshop-technics he use etc., well, he used a Summicron 50, that was all.
I own a 5D MkII and 1D MkIII with a bunch of L lenses and I do see a difference with my M8. There’s just some magic in there.
Does it have more to do with the colour in the files though on the M8 & M9?
I say this because Ken Rockwell hit upon a really good point a while back about the Kodak produced sensors on the Leica M’s and how he did not like Kodak slide film and preferred Fuji Velvia and remarked that the Kodak sensor on these cameras produced colour rendition very similar to Ektachrome files which were not to his *personal* taste. I think he hit upon a good point with that analysis.
Greetings everyone. Been off photography for a couple of months being entertained by my new hobby — cycling. But as always, Ashwin’s writing and artistry peaked my curiosity. IMO, I have no earthly idea if there’s really such a thing as a “Leica look.” I do know that I enjoy using my M9 and M7 more than any of my other cameras. And I enjoy more the images produced with them as well. Is it because they really have a distinct nicer “look” or is it simply psychological? I don’t think it matters as long as the beholder (me) is happy! 🙂 Nice write up Ashwin!
Thanks, Armando. I agree that one’s enjoyment of using their gear can contribute far more than the lens’ rendering. Cycling is fun too 🙂
“Glow” in photographic images is called spherical aberration. It may be pretty and intended, but it still spherical aberration.
3-d effects in two dimensional photographic images is produced by sharp center of the lens that gets less precipitously toward the edge. No 3d effect in a 50mm/2 Summicron asph. This lens is a perfect example of contemporary society and it’s sensibility. Harsh, exact, clinical, no nuance
I believe the characteristic Leica Look comes from the manual focus lenses that are more commonly focal lengths 50mm and shorter. Leica photographers have a style, enforced by the design of Leicas, to be closer to people. Manual focus predisposes us to center-weighted metering, and a focus more in the center of the frame. We are also slower shooters.
Leica color, to me, is particularly different. Leica color does not seem to have a bright primary chroma. Leica color can be saturated, but more often not. Colors are muted. White balance is often dead center, or less.
Then I have this conviction that the more expressive Leica photographers live in the sometime darl surrealist era in which Leicas first appeared in the world.
Of course, all of the above could be a crock….and just my own illusions.
This seems to have become the Ashwin and Steve blog, I like it!
No no, this blog Steve’s world, and it’s definitely his blog. He puts in all of the hard work for this site, and for him, it’s a labor of love (and what love!!! what an amazing place to visit regularly). I just contribute and write articles here and there. It’s his world…I just live in it ; )….
To be honest, Steve’s given me the greatest opportunity in the world here, to share my thoughts with his audience, and it’s been so much fun to share and help grow this communiuty. So THANK YOU, Steve….great stuff, and this discussion just furthers my belief that this is one of the best places to talk all things photography on the web…..
Thank YOU Ashwin! Your articles rock and everyone loves them, so I owe you one..or a few 🙂
If there is a Leica look, it must be something you can see. Therefore, it should be easy to show it with multiple side by side comparisons. Same focal length, same subject, same lighting, photographed with Leica and one or more other brands. I think there is a Leica look, but it’s hard to describe. I suspect that other lens makers try to achieve the Leica look in their expensive prime lenses, and I think that there are times when it is hard to tell which is which.
Interesting topic indeed! It could well be my partiality to Leica products that make me a believer in that “Leica look”. But I think it’s more than fair to say that Leica glass does produce a very unique look that is different to what you get using other non-Leica lenses.
As Adam mentioned above, the Nikkor 24mm f/1.4 is a fantastic lens, a pretty stunning performer no less. Though there are subtle nuances, like when you’re listening to two hi-fi setups that both produce good “sound” but maybe one of them has a certain delicacy and balance to it that is generally considered more desirable. I believe that images taken using Leica lenses have subtle nuances that give it a characteristic look that I personally like. But I’ve been labelled a “fan boy” before, so maybe that explains it all…
Anyway, it would be very interesting to see a blind test, testing several generations of Leica lenses up against something “comparable”…sounds like a great regular feature!
I may be able to do this test with 50’s, as I have a bunch of them and a Canon 50 as well….May need to put in some time this week-end to do a comparison such as that…, plus my local camera shop might well oblige a test of a few more options!
Cool! Quite excited by it now 😀 You do have a nice bunch of 50’s!!
Very nice post about a great and very subjective subject!
On my blog I put a couple of photos and wonder if anyone can tell which one(s) is shot with a Leica: http://ramonfrankfort.com/2010/10/leica-look/..
Ramon, thanks for the kind words….I just went over and looked at your images, and after psoting this article, hahah, I am nervous to make a guess. I am guessing either the first or the last image….I may to a test to take the same subject, same lighting, different cameras, and do the same test….
Hey Ashwin, thank you. Here you go.. http://bit.ly/c6BEO9
Wonderful example Ramon. Thank you.
Also, I think there’s something (off the top of my head) that can be done as a photographer to ‘encourage’ or bring out the Leica glow from your images if you’re shooting black & white and especially in low light or back lit situations. Overexpose a little. Make sure you expose for your subject’s face(s), if it’s a person or people. If you get that much exposure onto their skin, some of it is going to be slightly overexposed, maybe and have a glow, certainly the background is going to glow and highlighted surfaces will glow. And all with that Leica signature glow. Again, just my opinion.
Physically being there and connecting with your subject as your world melts away….
does it matter what lens combo you use…
if it gets you out the house into the world then it’s done its job…
I recently ventured into 4X5 large format photography. The 4X5 lenses give that 3 dimensional non distorted “like you were really there look” to a photo that I can’t see in anything else. In the image, you can almost reach out and touch the subject. It goes beyond a picture on paper but is more like a window into the world the image was taken from.
That Leica look for me is the closest thing I can use in the 35mm format that gets me to the 4X5 standard. That’s what the camera was originally intended to achieve when Oscar created the first one. With Nikon and Canon, they are workman like images of excellent quality but they are just that, an image.
What’s there, in your example, Ashwin, is emblematic of Leica glass. Sharp subject, wide open gives you subject isolation and yet the lens has stunning contrast, straight lines, which in my opinion, is something that helps create more of a sense of being there than most people give credit for, smooth OOF and pretty bokeh highlights as well.
What else is there? There is a glow on the highlight surface of things. Is it there only on Leica lenses? Probably not. But given the unique level of quality and qualities of Leica lenses, I’m sure that glow has a different visual signature than it would have on MOST other lenses by other manufacturers.
The idea that it’s a modern ASPH lens that supposedly corrects all that Leica mojo away, I just don’t see that. Some of the images on DP review claiming Leica ‘glow’ for some old piece of glass from 1950… those guys can have it. I don’t want it. The images of W. Eugene Smith… just for instance to name a Leica shooter who had to be using those older lenses….they glow plenty… but they’re contrasty and sharp, too.
People who have dull and veiled looking results from old Leica glass shouldn’t be claiming their results as having the ‘Leica glow’. lol! I’m sorry. I’m kind of new to all this but that’s how I see it.
Can a modern Leica lens be corrected to the point where they kill the glow and all that mojo? I’m sure. My lowly 35 Summarit has a lot of mojo considering you can’t get that subject isolation. But it’s also killer sharp. Maybe the Summicrons. But I just don’t see this being an issue for the Summilux ASPH lenses like your 50. I see plenty of Leica glow and look.
And again, contrast, sharpness, subject isolation, straight lines, all wide open at 1.4… hello… this creates a lot of the Leica look right there. JMO. What do I know?
Thanks, Donald. We are definitely on the same page on this topic….
Speaking of “blind tests” an experience back in the late 60s convinced me of the Leica Look. The area Leica Rep was coming to campus to host a Leica event, and a couple weeks before a number of us tied in with the local dealer had a photo outing among the fall colors to put together a slide show to show off the Pradovit projectors. Since the purpose was to show off the projectors, a couple of us also took along our non-Leicas, and a few of those shots were great, and so were mixed in with the Leica slides.
When the Leica Rep got to town he previewed the show, and stopped a few times and said “back-up” to the previous slide. After a pause he’d say “That wasn’t a Leica lens.” He rejected every one that wasn’t done with Leica, and only those of us who slipped them in knew which they were.
We became true believers.
Awesome idea. Sounds like a successful experiment. Okay, we ate done here. LOL!
Logically, the Leica look, glow, magic, whatever, is a myth. Yet it seems to have some truth. I have seen it, or imagined I’ve seen it, lots of times. I wonder if it is partially due to the fact that may Leica owners, having invested so much in their camera and lens, are very serious about photography and just in general tend to be better photographers. But there seems to be a “look” from the lenses as well. Someone should put out a “Leica look” plug-in for PS.
We wear Leica blinders. LOL!!
so the pictures i took with the lx3 would look like they’re taken with the d-lux 4, if anyone can see a difference.
And they could charge the difference between the price of the 2 cameras for the plug-in. Maybe $10 less than the difference.
And it could come with a little red badge to stick on the camera.
Steve, what do you think?
Hey there Per
I really like the images of your home town shot with the M9 – please don’t ever change!
I see a short depth of field image which happens to be pretty, there is no way I could tell if it was taken with a Leica. Now certain lenses certainly impart a look, especially when you own that particular lens and use it for a large portion of your work. Put a image taken with a M9 and 50 lux next to one taken with a d3x and nikon 50 1.4 and I doubt id be able to pick out the brands.
I’d love to agree here.
Unfortunately, Nikkor is yet to produce a decent 50mm 1.4.
Their 50mm NOCT f1.2 on the other hand…………
the 58mm noct 1.2 is what I believe your refering too, an extremely hard to get a hold of lens. Substitute anything you want for the work nikon, lets say olympus 50mm attached to a d3x, olympus lenses might be the sharpest in the world.
Whoops! Yes, 58mm.
Funny you mention Olympus, I used to long for an OM3Ti with some cool Zuiko lenses………
Hitchhiker Douglas Adams once said that you can take a cat apart to see how it works, but then it is no longer a cat. Meaning: You can blindly “taste test” photos for the Leica Effect, but chances are you’ll end up no closer to the mystery, just some lifeless biopsy: images flat here, sharp there, etc. The Leica Glow is some mystical quality in one’s entire relationship with the camera starting with the choice of this gear, then expressed in its character, especially in the doubling of the rangefinder image till it becomes singular, and of course, holding in your hands the photographic history of this 35mm machine. The Glow is in all of this; the photo is just the end point, maybe the deadest part of the whole living system: the bark on the tree. I don’t know about you guys, but I feel like a tool of the camera (not vice versa) when I use a Leica.
Hey Ashwin..great little article and one likely to generate some lively discussions. 🙂
Hahah, thanks, Max…yup, I love the lively discussion! Good stuff!
I’d love to see an article that actually explores this, i.e. have a ‘blind taste test’, get some Leica, Zeiss, and VC glass, maybe some others too, take a few shots with each, and publish the results, without attribution, and see if we can pick out the Leica…
I think in many ways, we see what we want to see, when we know it’s a Summicron, the ‘glow’ becomes apparent, if we know it’s a Canikon, then it’s a bit flat etc…
this is the exact thought i had when i finished reading this post! maybe make it a weekly feature/monthly contest? it’d be fun.
I love my M8 and M6, but I think it is largely a placebo effect.
I imagine that there could have been a Leica look in the past when manufacturing techniques varied much more, and when the country a car or camera came from defined what it was like. But now with everything outsourced and contracted, these subtle nuances have disappeared.
The differences lie mainly in the handling of the cameras.
Oops, M7 and Summilux 50mm asph
Tri-X and HP5+
Hmm this for sure going to be a touchy subject. I have to admit of all the 50 mm lens that I have shot including Nikon, Olympus (the zukio is pretty good), Cannon, and Minolta my Leica Summicron DR has a unique signature when shot wide open; same thing with the 90 mm M-Rokkor even thought its a Minolta…
Many brands have some spectacular lens, but I think you more clearly described what I believe to be the Leica Look which is that you see that look across generations. The Collapsable summicron and DR summicron both are amazing and the Summarit LTM has a unique look.
Perhaps that is what differentiates the Leica as a lens maker from the others…. Its the some what intangible qualities that we have seen through out the generations of Leica images that scream Leica glass.
@Chris… All camera bodies are essentially light boxes! Leica lens will always be Leica lens irrespective of the body to which they are mounted.
As for the camera body being a light box, Leica’s M8 and M9 do have somewhat different sensors (CCD) than Canons or NIkon’s (CMOS), and the added “benefit” (in my eyes) of no anti-aliasing (blur) filter, which may in fact hold back Canon/Nikon glass a bit in terms of resolving power….so the lightbox may have a bit of an effect…
Ashwin, Which is better? CMOS or CCD? I’ve read about it but they seem to be split on that decision.
Ooooh….the CMOS vs CCD debate…..endless articles have been written.
Short[ish] answer from someone who’s had both:
CMOS sensors heat up QUICK. The new ones are better, but most stellar photography (if digital), is taken with liquid cooled CCD sensors.
However, CCD doesn’t do that well with noise or high ISO either.
CMOS are SUPERB with low noise/high ISO. That’s pretty much what they’re made for.
In terms of quality, I seriously doubt anyone could pick up the difference with a standard capture.
Does that help?
Wooo, a hole new debate. I do think that CCD is better for my tastes, while CMOS is better for most others, though I like Adam’s description already.
CCD’s don’t do super well with high ISO, and for some reason can’t do live view…..
CMOS sensors are better for high ISO’s, but currently, most are equipped with an anti-aliasing filter to reduce moire effects and noise, to some degree.
To me, CCD’s render images a bit more sharp, while pixel peeping (yup, I’m a bit guilty at times) shows that CMOS sensors lose a bit of their fidelity, due to the anti-aliasing filter.
I suspec that if a CMOS sensoe without the anti-aliasing filter could be manufactured with high ISO capacity, it’d be the best, but that doesn’t exist in current high production volumes….
Thus, at the moment, CCD is the best fit for me….since I want to get the most fidelity out of my lenses.
In real world practice, I doubt that anyone could tell the difference…..
Capture One, the mega buck digital back that price like a new Corolla, uses CCD technology. Supposedly CCD will give finer result over CMOS but lose out in ISO territory. Of course each technology will find its way to overcome its shortcoming or improve on its strength. But as of now I suspect that each camp of technology has its innate advantage that the camera makers have to embrace one or the other to achieve its products design goals.
Yes, that helped!
Spot-on re the anti-aliasing filter Ashwin – that’s one more key difference.
I’ve noticed that my 6MP CCD D100 “seems” sharper than my 12MP CMOS D3.
Plus the D3 images always look kind of “flat” until you tweak them savagely……….
By the way, I have images blown up to A3 size with the D100 which just look awesome – clarity, feel – just wow. Shooting in the wilds of Arizona (in spring) may have helped! Man that northern hemisphere, late afternoon sunlight is some kind of SUPERB!
I guess I was thinking more of film bodies…. They really are just light boxes.
Sorry I am old school. I don’t own a digital body just yet because they are still out of my price range.
I do think there’s a distinctive character to Leica lenses. I use Zeiss (G-mount) as well, and the Zeiss seems to paint with a finer brush, while the Leicas seem to paint with a broader brush. The Zeiss are sharper in my opinion, but the Leicas have a quality that I like.
I also own the Leica 75mm Summicron APO ASPH, which truly does seem to impart something special to the highlight areas, particularly in the eyes, and a creamy softness to everything else.
But would anybody be able to identify these lenses if I did a “blind taste test”? Probably not. I do think there may be a bit of placebo effect here, even on my part.
I would be curious to see if anyone would be willing to do a blind test of Leica lenses mixed in with Zeiss as well as some Voigtlander. There are plenty of lenses, such as the lowly $100 Nikkor 50mm 1.8, that I think would surprise you in a blind test.
Agreed David, I also shoot with Zeiss G lenses and find them even better than Leica glass if I’m honest. In fact if I have negs on the light box that are from this glass, Leica with Leitz glass or even Leica negs with Voigtlander glass there is very little difference and I have to look back to my notes to see for sure which camera/glass combo the negs were shot with.
There is, in my humble opinion, a Leica look but it can be matched/achieved *without* the use of Leica equipment. Just my 2C anyways.
I hear great things about Zeiss and would love to try a lens on my Nikon D90. I can’t wait for Steve to do a review on the Nikon D7000. (Hint. Hint.) Zeiss on a Leica M is nice too. I know a few people who use them and swear by them. I’ve also heard of Leica R lenses being used on Canon and Nikon. In this month’s LFI Magazine there is an article on a man who uses the R lenses on his Canon 5D Mark II camera. Lovely portraits. He’s a jazz musician who photographs other jazz musicians. great article. But I’m straying from the subject here. Maybe I should go buy the M9 and try iutnthis Leica glow experiment. I do know that the Leica D-Lux 4 camera has glowing files, compared to my other p&s cameras. I do see a certain glow from the M6 though. Film noir glow.
I would say that, if there’s a simple basis for the “Leica look”, it is a quality image at wide apertures, often in natural light. Leica users usually don’t use flash, and they tend to shoot wide open a lot. Not too many people shooting at f/1.4 or f/2 these days due to the popularity of zoom lenses everywhere. Which also means flash or high ISO in low light. And, when people do use prime lenses, they often don’t look so hot wide open, a bit fuzzy and low contrast with soft edges. So, I’d say it is mostly about a lens that is technically good wide open, giving the quality that most any lens can do at f/8 but with a shallow DOF. Lastly, Leica users are about the only ones shooting BW film these days — or — shooting a digital sensor without an antialias filter.
Also, Canon and Nikon are of course SLR lenses, which must accommodate the SLR mirror. This results in a different lens design than RF lenses, especially relevant with wide lenses.
IMHO, so far you have the best point of view, the best explanation.
I agree with you NL. Wide open is where Leica glass shines and is partly responsible for the “look” we all know and love.
David, I completely agree and love your analysis of Zeiss’ fine brush and Leica’s broader brush. I think that’s a nearly perfect analogy, and could probably do a test to show this….
The 75’s in the Leica range are also quite amazing, agreed there. I’d love to get back the 75 lux someday….
could the “leica look” be achieved without a leica body?
Good question, Chris! I’ve tested a couple of Leica lenses on the Sony Nex and the Micro4/3 systems ( http://motimotion.at/blog/category/leica/ ), and my answer would be: partially. But I never had the feeling (at least in digital camera times), that another camera than a Leica produced the “real” Leica look. I’m pretty much convinced it’s the synergy of camera and lens that provides the look we all love.
Ashwin & Chris: Just when I think there’s a Leica look, I find a file that I swear was made by Leica, only to be made by Canon or NIkon or some other camera. So, there is some credibility to the “Leica Look” to an extent, but then I think it’s just not true. I want to believe, just like Fox Mulder, but sometimes I think it’s just a romance of Leica, which is fine. I think any good prime lens wide open can fool people into believing it’s from a Leica. I think that there should be a test with a bunch of awesome photos taken by different cameras that have the nice Bokeh glow to them. Let us guess if they were taken by a Leica? There could be a contest in there somewhere? What do you think?
Good idea Elaine…for this very website 🙂 Hmmmmm
Wait, I already proposed that below! Great minds think alike, it seems 🙂
Needless to say, it has to be a controlled experiment, which means all the shots have to use the same sensor. You can’t really compare shots on an M9 to those taken on a 5D, because the sensor imparts its own look to the images. The test should also use more than just M-mount glass — I think a cheap Canon/Nikon 50 1.8 should be thrown in.
Perhaps the best way to do this would be to use a sharp-grained film like Ektar 100 or Portra 160 — or use a digital camera with an adapter.
Yes. Do it on this website and give some kind of Leica book as a prize for guessing all the right Leica photos. 🙂
I have to humbly disagree Elaine.
I’ve been looking at images (both film and digital) for more years than I care to admit – all cameras – and especially Lecia/Nikon/Canon/Hassy, if shot and shown raw and with no fiddling – have a very specific look to them. I have spent hours playing with Nikon NEF files from a D3 and yes, I can get close to that coveted Lecia look [very close in fact, especially with B&W] – but not quite. The other thing is the edge quality of Leica lenses – all the way to the edge of the shot is crystal clear (in the high end Leica glass); and I’m not just talking about focus.
I will agree that the differences are getting more and more marginal each year though. Nikkor’s latest f1.4 24mm is a case in point. That is a gorgeous lens and very good value for money when you see the results.
Is there a “romance” or x-files slant? Absolutely. But you can’t escape just how warm and fuzzy a mundane Leica image makes you feel when you look at it. When I look at images posted by Steve Huff and Ashwin Rao, it makes me want to rush out and buy everything Leica. Not one Nikon or Canon image shot by anyone, ever, makes me want to do the same.
Heck, give me the diminutive M6 and some cheap film with a 35mm summilux and I’m a very happy boy!
I like your idea though!
thanks Adam, personally i find this issue a non event and yet again am i being a curmudgeon 🙂 I simply love leica for the fact that the M9 is a full sensor camera and gives me exactly what I set my lens to give me. I had Nikon but the computerized aspects of DSLR’s turns me off. I was a film editor for years before digital editing took over, I edit Final Cut Pro on a Mac and I keep it real simple. The same with my photography. I use Lightroom and no photoshop although I have fallen in love, for today, with NIK. It gives me exactly what I want. I shot over a week and 4000 shots in Paris this past May and others comment on the Boke, I simply see an image I like and know in my heart of heart that the combo of beautifully made lenses and a full sensor give me what I want. It is so easy to ‘over think’ what is basically the “blink of the eye” as our hero once said.[img]http://www.flickr.com/photos/kiwicafe/4918150291/in/set-72157624786032800/[/img]
having trouble posting a link 🙂
I agree with you to a point that each camera has its own signature, and Leica having that glow. But Im not always 100% right when I think it’s a Leica or not a Leica file. Sometimes I’m wrong. I think it has more to do with the files being photoshopped or cropped to some extent.
Hi there Richard
My D3 produces technically perfect, super high quality images. And when capturing my little, extremely fast moving 1 year old son, it’s priceless in terms of being quick enough. NIK for Capture NX2 is brilliant too. The B&W adjustment tool is very handy for producing results similar to what I used to get with film.
I doubt an M9 would be able to produce good enough shots of him – maybe whilst he’s asleep………..
My latest project is to find and buy an MP to get back to my “roots”! Or at least to hone my RF stills before the M10 is released.
Great idea, Elaine. I have a 1DIII and a 50 f/1.2, plus a couple Canon zooms, so I could try it out….i have thought about this…..maybe even going to the same crepe place for something like this, to capture a similar shot as viewed above…
If there is a Leica look, it is certainly the lenses, not the bodies making it. A Leica film body is a light tight box with a film advance, that’s it. Same as Bessa or Ikon bodies. I’m a doubter about the Leica look, but if it exists it’s certainly not in the Leica cameras themselves.
Leica film body. LOL! it just sounds so sensual. I have a M6 and it is lovely to hold.
i’m sure we’ll see the results very soon.