Going to town…a journey from a DSLR to a Leica M by Steven Foon

Going to town….. a journey from a DSLR to a Leica M

By Steven Foon

More warm thanks to Steve Huff for giving us a site to go to learn and share our experiences with this love affair with photography and especially Leica’s. I wanted to share with everyone and especially with those looking to migrate from a DSLR to a Rangefinder my journey.

To start….

Like most of us, this love affair began when we were all very young. Seeing our parents using this tool called a camera to capture a moment in time. My love affair stopped right after high school (too many years ago), just because of the expense of film and processing. I stayed away for many years with intermittent ventures back to cameras.

Here’s the list of all the cameras in my life:

Keystone Everflash 20

Polaroid Super Colorpack

Kodak Pocket Instamatic 20 ( I thought 110 was great – what did I know )

Canon EOS Rebel

Casio (too many to remember)

Nikon N60

Nikon Coolpix 900 & 950

Canon Powershot 100

Nikon D100

Nikon D300S

Nikon D3S

Leica X1

Sony NEX3

Leica M8 ( a real “M” in my hands )

Leica M9 ( the pride and joy )

As you can see…. A lot of equipment. Not to mention a lot of money. Part of my goal here is to share my story and hope that those looking to do this will learn from my trial and errors.

TIP 1 – Make sure you really love this – this can get very expensive very quickly.

You don’t need a great camera to take great pictures. This is a line that you will hear very often and it is true. However, if you love this form of expression and really want to get serious, the better equipment will make a difference – mainly to you.

Think of it this way.

A kid just learning to drive. You pop ‘em into an average car and then put them into something special like a BMW M series (trying to keep that “M” theme here ). At first the kid is going to think the M is better – but really honestly don’t know why. It takes skill and knowledge to fully understand, use and appreciate any tool.

Put that BMW in the hands of someone who knows…… magic. The same holds true for fine photographic equipment. Don’t buy a Leica M just because it’s a Leica. You’ll be wasting your money and the tool.

TIP 2 – Find out what type of photography you want to do.

This is hard and will take some time.

I tired everything. Landscape, Wildlife, Sports, Studio, Street / Journalism, Events, etc…

This is important because knowing what you want to shoot will determine what gear to focus on. A DSLR is a great versatile tool in my opinion. You can use it for everything but there are some compromises. Size, weight, format, shooting experience, are just some of the compromises.

I discovered Street / Journalism photography was my thing and has become my passion.

The Nikon D3S is a great camera but for shooting Street / Journalism…. It’s not the best. More on this later in the article. Also search out the other great postings on this site.

TIP 3 – Research, Research, Research

Learn all you can….. it’ll be a life long learning thing anyway (if you intend to be better). I was fortunate to meet some great people during this journey.

Find a camera dealer with knowledgeable people. For me, Camera West in Walnut Creek, CA has been a haven and wonderful place for the pros and the serious hobbyists. The more you know, the more you’ll know what to buy.

I thought I knew what I was doing…. but this learning journey has cost hundreds if not thousands of dollars in equipment bought and sold and traded. Since you are reading this on Steve Huff’s site, you are doing your homework. This site helped me a great deal.

TIP 4 – An open mind

Along the same lines as tip 3, you need to absorb all you can. Make up your own mind of course but listen to others.

My journey….

Thanks to our lovely economy and the fear that any day now I may lose my job, I decided to see if there’s something that I love can perhaps become something of an occupation. Being realistic, it’s a long shot at best at making money at this and if anything…. Life is short and following your passion isn’t a bad thing either. I decided to jump back in the photography world.

The D300S fit my budget and is great.

Like most people with “cameraholism”, we end up getting gear.

Lens lust is the word.

I bought lenses of every imaginable focal length and speed.

One day, the lusting for a full frame sensor and not having to deal with the crop factor with my lenses got me moving in another direction. The D700 was in view but I was only really getting the D300S with a full frame sensor. The D3S on the other hand provided me the ultimate DSLR.

This came at a cost. A D3S is well over $5,000.

I did it – and still have it.

I was shooting away but soon discovered that shooting street with a huge lens and a big camera may do wonders for your ego ( that “I’m a photographer syndrome” ), but it just doesn’t’ cut it with street / journalism where the spontaneous is the name of the game.

What finally did it was when Apple launched the iPhone 4. I went out and shot images of the massive crowds. At one location, I was stopped by security 5 times. No kidding. I had a Press ID and identified myself. It was the gear I was handling that caused all this attention.

That’s when learning about rangefinders, Leica’s and this web site sparked my interest.

My camera store probably saw me coming.

I told them what I loved about camera gear that I missed – silky smooth focus rings, aperture setting on the lens and shutter speed with a knob. A Zeiss 50mm f/2 was put on my D3S and I thought I found the missing link. The thrill was back for the most part except for the format of a DSLR and the type of photography I wanted to do.

Over a short period of time, I was handed a Leica S2 to see and experience Leica. The build quality and feeling was second to none.

I had always thought Leica was this German company who is still trying to make a living with old technology and catered only to those who wanted a status symbol.

Boy was I wrong. Sure, a Leica isn’t cheap but there is more here.

The best way I can explain it is this way….

If you loved the feel of a vintage SLR. All the sensory inputs you experienced, the Leica will bring all this back.

I first bought the X1. To get that Leica experience and image quality.

It’s a great camera but for me, I longed for more. Focus ring, viewfinder, more control.

An M8 came in to Camera West.

I traded the X1 to pay for the M8

I loved every minute of it. The tool is perfect for what I wanted to do. There really is something about shooting with a rangefinder and especially a Leica with those outstanding lenses.

Everything was great until my camera haven told me the LEICA M9’s are coming in. I decided…. I wanted a full frame and the ultimate rangefinder.

I traded almost my entire Nikon kit – except for the Zeiss, a 50mm Nikkor and the 70-200mm VRII.

The day came…. See the big smile?

This is just like finding religion once again.

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  1. Guys, I have a D700 and have achieved many personal breakthroughs with it as a tool; but keep coming back to~ what would it be like to have a camera that has nothing but the absolute BASIC CONTROLS, and gets out of the way; and doubles as the best possible travel camera? i have been studying the FUJI XPRO1 and the images it can produce. I love the COLOR, esp. SKIN TONES ! And I was startled with shots of the NIGHT SKY. They approached what I used to get with FILM so closely, I thought I was seeing a film shot, only clearer! I like the price point, and the dynamic range; and autofocus is nice as you age… True, NOTHING equaled M9 images, but they were very close ! Hhhhmmmmm.

  2. Reading the notes from Francis – re. using a 50mm, and framing as if it were a 90; reminds me of conversations with my father ~ BRILLIANT !

  3. @Jan… I have been in Sweeden, sweet country you got there (I am from Canada). Yup you can fram with your 50 like if it was a 90…Good test and the shots will likely be pretty good too since you have 18mpix to play with.

    @Daniel… In the wides (21-24 even 28) there are not too many options in the Leica for less than $3000. So I bought a Zeiss 21mm f2.8 (Whatever somethingon it is), a Leica Summicron 35mm and a fun lense the Nokton f1.1 which I barely use. If I would buy another one it would likely be the Leica 75mm (f2.8 or 2.5) . The Summicron was a few hundred bucks more than the Zeiss but I wanted the main glass I use to be leica. The Zeiss by the way is a great lense, especially if you Zone focus. I don’t even use an additional VF, I crop what I don’t want but so far, I did nbot crop anything. Great little lense.

  4. Good article!

    I am waiting for my M9 to arrive. I have a feeling that there’s been a gap since I started with digital where I haven’t felt anything with these NikCanons, big black boxes that make you beeing notice everywhere. I’ve had a Leica X1 for a couple of months and it was excellent! No compact camera can compare to this one. But still not enough, I need to have more control. M9 is the one. DSRLs have to many options and distract you from the final point: shoot good photos.

    I can’t wait to get my M9 and feel a CAMERA again in my hands, as I used to do with my FM2, Contax G2 or my Hasselblad 500CM.

    I have now to decide wether to buy Zeiss new lenses or used Leica’s.

    Thanks Steve for this site!

  5. Your Swenglish is fine… befor you buy a 90mm, try to switch the lever to call up the 90mm framelines for a few shots… You will see that the framing becomes harder and harder as the focal lenghtens. Also Leica lenses have much less distortion than most asia designed lenses (although Zeiss is made in Japan they do not have too much distortion either). So shooting a portrait at 50mm is not a huge issue. I think the 75mm would be a good option between the very small 90mm frame and the 50mm. If you have pixels to trhow away you can always frame as a 90mm with the 50mm frame on and crop on the computer to retrieve what you had when you framed with the 90mm framlines… This is like having a 50-75-90mm with one lense… but you will lose some pixels by doing so. But its kinda cool when you travel and don’t want to change lense, this can be done with any lense or camera as long as you frame it in your head, RF give you framlines to visualise.

    • @francis. Thanks for enlighting me! I didn´t thought about the frameline issue. Your right. I´m gonna go downtown and check it out. Thanks again. If you were in sweden I bought you a lunch for that answer 🙂

  6. And another stupid question. I can ask them here cause you can´t knock on my door and call me stupid. 🙂

    The lenses are really good and have a quite high second hand value. Why is no one using 90mm:s. If I look on the market in Sweden you be lucky to find ANYTHING under 50 mm. Over that, they nearly throw it after you. Are they shellfillers or should I buy one? I love a portrait lens but it seems people using Summilux 50:s for that or the noct but the price difference is HUGE.
    And again, sorry for my swenglish and be glad that you don´t hear me. I sound like the swedish chef in the muppets.

  7. I don´t understand Leica. I never look at them. Old people with old values use them. Bresson YES!, but guess what he could have delivered with my gear. I swopped cameras so many times now from Nikon to Canon to Hasselblad, lovin the pics. Going back to “small” cameras. Nikon d3 then tired of 38 kilos of weight back to Canon with horrible zooms and then down to 24 and 35 1.4 Lenses. And a couple of Zeiss. Perfect! Just lost a fortune that could have bought me a Ferrari. Who cares. The “boat” is now in the port. I thought. Sorry buy the way for my swenglish. Im swedish. Happy then? Well, the primes don´t always deliver but, what the hack. Autofocus is slow, so sometimes I think of other things waiting. Should I move back AGAIN to Nikon now when the really nice glasses like the prime 24 is there? So I jumped in to my local dealer Procenter in Stockholm. Talking to one of the saledudes, he told me that he only uses 4×5 when taking pictures. Work? Then he uses different cameras, but TAKING pics. 4×5. Impressive, and I love hes pictures. How about the Leica, I heard myself asking. Could I try it over the weekend? Could be fun, it´s to expensive with the lenses and NOT more than 18 MB. But for a weekend. Just to have done it. I´m no Leica guy. To small, no autofocus, expensive and little to much of a myth. Hmm. Nice feeling thought. In my car a had to stop and look. 28mm 2.0, and a 50 2.0. Not even the primes. What ever. Back late. Talked on the phone with a magazine that wanted pictures of the new jaguar. Nemas problemas. I have a Canon. Suddenly at home, familys asleep I started to surf around a little bit just to read verdicts of M9. Mon Dieu. The pics and verdicts was like I had the holy grail of photos in the kitchen. So next day I brought it along. The perfect octoberday with the perfect light. Time for some M9. Quiet. Hmm. Nice. Everything was silent. I heard to leafes and the camera wasn´t screaming like a monster. The sound of mirror working can be enoying. So I jumped back in to the car. Grabbed my Mac and looked at the pictures. I was shocked over the quality and the colors. Even at 2.0 it looked stunning. I dont care about the sharpness. But the colors and the feeling. Marvelous. I called my wife and said to come up with my daughter. I would love to take portraits of her with this Leica. Difficult? Autofocus? I had forgot about thoose problems directly when I saw the results. A second longer for pics like this? I could wait days for them. 2 days later and for a week ago I bought my own M9 and a summilux 35 1.4. Im not sure if I need more lenses. I dont now. I just love my camera. I cant stop taking pictures with it and I get results like sent from I dont now where. I even took pictures on a soccergame today. I just waited until they run my way. I been working as a photographer for 20 years but this is it. This it the shit or the gear. No more huge packings. I read that someone had his camera in his Barbourjacket. Hahaha. I did as well. I love my camera in a ridiculous way. I never felt better with a camera and I have never loved being a photographer as I do now. My customers gonna se some good good pictures coming there way now. So what is this comment about? Nothing really. Just that I found my companion now. We are gonna have a nice time in front of us.

    • Very inspiring! I love the fact that your story is not filled with morale and the narcissic idea of having a Leica. Your post actually make me think that it is nice when such thing happen: finding your companion. It happened to me 30 years ago when I got a Nikon F: the camera that made Vietnam. I lost it when one day I saw a friend walking in the street (I was eating in a restaurant). I went out for a minute to talk to her and when I came back in, the Nikon F was gone. I had made tons of pictures with it, spent days and nights in the darkroom. The insurance got me a brand new Nikon F3 as a replacement. Did a few rolls with it and sold it.

      • I´m sorry for your loss. I really understand the feeling. A friend of mine uses a F2 and he loves his Nikon. So once again, sorry. My wife is a heartsurgeon and sometimes I compare my cameras with her scalpells. They deliveres exactly what shes in to, BUT with no soul, of course. Same thing with all new cameras. Perfect results but often it´s the camera computer who do all meisuring. I just compose. But now… Wow! It´s the same thing with your old friend. It delivered together and with you. The feeling for me is to compare paintings with paintings with numbers. 🙂

  8. @michael all they need to do is a focus sustem that moves the sensor. Then all lenses endup being autofocus and stabilized with a nice aperture ring. That is what 2010 should be not a back to the future but a step forward. Any one with a few million on hand it is about time we build the ultimate camera: ff, low noise, autofocus&stab on sensor, hybrid VF. Many of the constraints were from film, digital sensor is free to move.

    • Interesting! I agree with you that Leica would have made quite an impact if they would have been able to translate their unique craftmanship in lens making into a trully inovative digital camera. They rather choose to exploit the iconic nature of the M body. It reminds me of the prime Bordeaux wines. At close to a thousand dollars a bottle when the new millesime comes on the market, only the new millionaires in Russia and China buy them.

  9. I agree with you wholeheartedly, Michael Gardner. I started out shooting with an Olympus OM-10 (for the lightweight) w/Zuiko 50mm f1.8. Many cameras, a switch to Nikon (for autofocus for sports), and almost exclusively zooms for the last 20+ years, I am coming back to my roots (so to speak). I just recently sold three lenses and a flash because they were getting little use since I was forced to leave the weekly newspaper I had supported for a decade. Right now I am shooting with Nikon D2h bodies and am very happy with them. The only thing lacking in my (small) arsenal of zooms is something really fast (f2.0 or better) that I can use in very low light on the street. That is where I see a lot of DSLR street shooters lose it. They have that big f2.8 80-200mm zoom on it. Me, I just purchased a new, very highly rated Nikkor 35mm f1.8 DX lens to use as my “normal” lens for low light shooting and I feel there will be days when I shoot with it all day long. While I might get an quick glance from someone when I bring the D2h body up to shoot with a little lens on it, they will quickly forget about me. Do I wish I had a used D3 or used D700 for full frame? Sure, but I don’t want to spend the money for them. Everyone on here talks about spending several thousands of dollars for Leica or Nikon or whatever. I have already done that. Now I have just spent $200 for a superb (if the reviews are accurate) “normal” lens that will take me back in time. I get the convenience of digital and autofocus (love shooting from the hip with a short DOF) without spending a fortune. AND I LOVE my D2h which STILL has the shortest shutter lag (37ms) of any DSLR made and I’ve got 8 fps. Toss in Nik Dfine for noise control at ISO1600 and I’m a happy camper! Have a great weekend, everyone, and shoot lots!!!

      • Steve, I also shoot film with two fixed lens Yashica Electro 35 rangefinders. If you are not familiar, the camera has a 45mm f1.7 lens that has been rated fairly good. I got the first one, a GS model, when my dad passed away in 1997 and bought a second this year, a GT model, so I could add a 3-stop neutral density filter for shooting closer to wide open in daylight with my favorite film, Tri-X. I am really enjoying the light weight (although these rangefinders are fairly substantial) but also love my D2h bodies. They fit my hands well and fit my shooting style. I love being able to shoot from the hip wide open with autofocus. I also recently sold a number of lenses and my SB-800 and purchased the new Nikkor 35mm DX f1.8 which will be my low light shooting lens. I am excitedly awaiting that lens as I write this missive.

      • That is why I never upgraded to the D3. Would love the extra stops of ISO but I have found what works (right now) for me. And isn’t that what our passion for photography all about – founding the subject matter we want and enjoying our results. After shooting for over 30 years including a decade as a shooter for a newspaper, I have found that, even after all this time, I love documenting life with all of its good and bad sides.

    • I feel the same way. I also have a D90 and use it only with prime lenses (20mm f:2.8, and 50mm f:1.4). I don’t use the 18-200 anymore. Love the size of the D90 with the 20mm. If only the shutter was more quiet…This is why I might get tempted by the Fuji when it comes out…

      • I agree with you about the shutter noise but for most of the time on the street I have found no one really notices the sound. I use the 18-200 during the daylight hours but I have a feeling it might see less usage when I get the 35mm…

  10. I am not convinced that the Leica is the “best” camera for street photography in all cases. I consider that I do mostly street photography, meaning that I “steal” street life moments from strangers. I often feel like a “hunter” and, in several cases, bringing the camera to my eye is not an option (D3, M9, GF1, P&S don’t make a difference). This is where I am happy to have the autofocus on my GF1. I can shoot, often wide open, with a very high rate of pictures very sharp. I know that you can use the “hyperfocal” with the M9 but it leaves you with close apertures and limits your ability to shoot in low light, and the control over DOF. The GF1 with the 20mm (40mm equivalent) f:1.7 is great and the autofocus is really fast and precise. Since I am not a nostalgic, I would dare to say something that will sound like an heresy to a lot of people, but i would love to see Leica lenses with autofocus! I would probably own 2 M9 then.

    • Good point Michael. Another car analogy. A stick shift versus an automatic. You still get to where you want…. it’s a mater of how you go about getting there. No question that a camera with auto everything will most likely “nail it” all the time…. and that’s important. For me personally, the end result that I want has to be a combination of composition and technical skill. It’s a satisfaction thing for me.

      • I guess you are right. I will pass then and have my chance with the Fuji when it comes…or the GF2 that is possibly going to come with an integrated EVF.

    • I hear ya, Michael! I have made several trips to Europe w/my D2h and shot with two lenses – a Tokina 12-24mm f4 and a Nikkor 10-200mm f3.5-5.6. With the autofocus on in one of its various modes, I can walk down the street in London with no one giving me an even casual glance while shooting at 18-35mm (27-52mm in 35mm format). If I see something farther away, I can bring the camera up and shoot long. In both cases I have come away with images that I really like. The one thing I felt I have been missing is something really fast (f2.0 or better) for night shooting to get my shutter speed up. Tomorrow I will receive a 35mm f1.8 G DX “normal” lens for my D2h. Why do I keep the D2h? It is paid for. I never print any larger than 12″x18″. The files are manageable. I tend to do very little if any cropping believing in the old adage “fill the frame.”
      To get my film/analog fix, I break out my dad’s old Yashica Electro35 GS, load it with Tri-X, and enjoy shooting with a fixed lens rangefinder.
      Each camera has its own unique feeling it provides when I am shooting and I plan on keeping both.

  11. Everyone…. thanks for the feedback and comments.

    Don’t get me wrong, I still have a love affair with the Nikon D3S. To me the cameras are just tools…. just like a paint brush and paint. DSLR’s are still great for what they can do. D3S can shoot in environments that the Leica just can’t match and vis-a-versa.

    I recently went to the ballpark (GO SF Giants) with the Leica in one hand and my Nikon D3S with the 70-200mm mounted. The D3S took some great shots and being able to zoom in from a distance was nice. However, whenever I took the D3S to hand and pointed it, someone noticed. Either my subject or others (security) and they reacted. Also trying to quietly shoot even with the D3S in silent mode, they still can hear the camera at work.

    I then walked among the crowd with the Leica, hardly a sole noticed and most dismissed what I was doing as just another fan with some old camera or a point and shoot. The cliche’ about the essence of Street Photography versus being a Paparazzi is so true. The D3S easily can do Street Photography, just that it has to be done just differently and I feel looses the essence of Street.

    This experience confirmed why the Leica or any rangefinder has an advantage for this style of Photography.

    Sure, the Leica can’t shoot at ISO 12,800+, Super telephoto or Macro, shoot video and can handle complex lighting situation with little or no input from me. It’s not the tool for capturing fast action or moving wildlife.

    For me, it’s getting to the basics. Technical and Composition and the sensual tactile feel of the camera.

    If a photo fails due to poor technical reasons…. it’s my fault not the camera.

    If my composition stinks, it me and not the camera.

    However, when it’s all correct or at least I have the results I was looking for…. there’s a certain amount of satisfaction I get that the end result is from what I did and not what the electronics did for me.

    My hope is that by sharing my experience, someone new…. reading this site for the first time or looking for answers will prevent some of the mistakes I made.

    At the end, there’s no right or wrong answer or solution. It’s all up to you.
    Happy Shooting Everyone !!!

  12. Hmmm I think the major problem with GAS is instead of developing a style or your photography you are just thinking about to get better equipment that you think will “suit your style.”

    I’ve shot a lot of cameras because my father was a collector, but honestly I’ve spent most of my private photography life shooting basically two lens. A nikkor 20 mm and a Leica 50 DR. I second the point of others that M and F mounts allow you to shoot over 50 years of lens. That is a plus especially in the disposable digital age.

    For me the camera has not always been a big deal, but I shoot film. In digital speak the body is nearly as important as the lens.

    Your quote, “You don’t need a great camera to take great pictures. This is a line that you will hear very often and it is true.” is most likely overused and under appreciated. You can do great work with a Holga, but you have to shoot a lot and not give up. You can make good shots with a PS but you have to think a lot about composition and know the cameras limits.

    I say forget GAS… Buy one camera, one fixed focal length that suits your style (a wide for me), and one film, and shoot. You can have a couple of lens around for special work like low light portraiture, but do you really need anything else?

    I think steve himself is a great example of this… I”ve seen him go through many bodies and lens on this website, but I would argue his best work is when he is shooting the 35 lux and 50 lux on the M7/MP (Tri-X) or M9…. Just my 2 cents : )

    • Leica M6! Yes! That’s my one film camera these days. I also have a Fuji GA645 medium format film camera for those 120 film days. Love B&W film.

      • I have an itch to someday go back to medium format and film. Have you ever had a chance to try a digital back on a medium format? The results from film still can’t be beat but I guess I’ve become impatient and spoiled with digital.

        • I’ve never had a chance to do that. For me it would defeat the purpose of using that camera. I want to use film. Now, if they came up with a digital back for the M6, where I could shoot film and digital at the same time, I’d be in heaven.

  13. Well at least Leica gives you the chance to keep the lenses from gen to gen… So does Canon and Nikon but if you go from DX to FX your screwed, The other way around also. With Leica you buy 2-3 primes (I went Zeiss for the wide angle since they were 3 times less expensive than the same Leica) for about 4-5K and you are set for life glass wise. The camera body does like any other digital camera out there, they just lose value compared to the new cameras coming out every year (or every other year). If you don’t buy the newest better cooler one at full price when introduced, you end up waiting like mad for the new one to come out. I would like to buy a D700 but read everywhere that the replacement is coming around March 2011 so I am waiting. waiting for the D700 to lose a few $$ or waiting to buy the one with twice the resolution. With Leica the choice is clear: M8 around 3K or M9 around 7K. If you got an M8, one can wait for the M9 to cut price or go for the M10 you will still get a good $1500 for the M8 in 2012 and the M9 will go around 3K… As long as you have your glass you can acomodate to any version of the digital M by walking back and forth… The spec sheet will always be anemic anyways so why bother, buy the one that fits your budget and go shoot.

    • @Francis: yeah, the digital camera renewal cycle is pretty awful. I bought a D200 in August 2008; obsolete body, cheap, great camera. Traded it in for the D700 (wanted full frame; will never go back to crop) in February 2010; then an already almost two year old design.

      GREAT camera! Still is, after 8 months… Will I lust after the new, (for ever) impending D700 successor (won’t be out in the next year I hear whispered…) ? Possibly.

      The current great camera (in our possession now) will still be a great camera next year; unless it is lacking facilities that you really need and might be incorporated in the next iteration.

      I’d buy a D700 right now if I didn’t have one already.

      • Thanks for the insight, I will get a d700 and a 28-300 plus fast 35 or 50mm (1.4). This should cover any sport, wedding or travel picture. Altough for people shots and wandering around town, I still prefer the M8.2 with my 21mm and my 35 cron…
        I still have a Contax G2 to get rid of so upgrading to the D700 will be my best option.

  14. If possible and within your usage parameters, get the best you can, then you enjoy and save in the long run. For example:
    1. The best paint provides these benefits:
    a) Less time to paint. Somehow good paints stick to the service. Cheap paints require you to brush over and over again.
    b) The finish products last longer. At least long enough so that you may not see faded paints in two years and the cycle kicks in to: buy…paint…fade again.
    c) Good paints’ colors just look vibrant.

    2. Good scissors’ benefits:
    a) Good clean cut. No more struggling.
    b) Stay sharp for quite a while.
    c) Feels good in your hand.

    Good Cameras & lenses: you guys fill in the rest.

  15. Hi Steve thanks for the wonderful experience that you have went through. I am just like you after reading Steve Huff reviews on the X1 I went out to buy it and start shooting. Guess what ! I sold all my Nikon Stuff and took the bullet and bought the new M9. Like what you said you need the experience to shoot the M9. I have just completed my 2 weeks shoot with the M9 & X1 in Italy and I must said that I have learnt alot from this trip. The tips from Steve Huff and fellow Leica fans here really help a lot and I have gotten the Leica bugs and have since visited all the Leica store in Rome , Florence , Maranello and Milan. I have just met a very old veteran in Milan who has been shooting Leica for at least 40 years and his favorite M camera is the still the M6. Guess what I was so bought over by him after I saw all his work that I too bought a 1985 M6 on the spot. I am very happy that I cross over from DSLR and I have never shoot so many photograph before when I had the Nikon D700. So for those who are thinking about crossing over to Leica please do so and you will be very happy with your decision.

  16. Steve Foon,

    Thanks for the story about your history of purchases, mistakes, and changing preferences. Buying a camera can be a tricky task. The consistent hurdle is finding out what type of pictures you like to take. M9, D3s, MarkII, HD-40, Hassy V, Ebony, they all work, but they may not work for everyone.

    Leica represents a single percentage of the camera market. While dSLR shooters sometimes get down on people who sold all their gear for a Leica, it is worth noting that while SLR’s are good, their market share does not represent them being superior, just better selling. Are they 90% better than every other format? Of course not.

    Its nice to see new photographers being turned on to rangefinders, film, and alternate types of photography. If everyone shot just one type of camera imagine how boring websites would be?

  17. I couldn’t agree more with you Steven.

    I had the same photo lusting experience, starting with Nikon FE2, Minolta, Canon G2, Rebel 300D, EOS 40D, Bessa R2A, Leica M4P, M6, Lumix GF1 and now end up with with EOS 5D Mark II, Leica D-Lux 3 and the most being used for shooting today is Epson RD-1 S with Summicron 35mm f2.

    And yes, I am thinking about trading all my gears for M9!

    Your article sounds like a convincing to me. 😎

    Have a nice day!


  18. Nice enough pics but just another “dump your slr, buy into the Leica dream” story?

    As far as reliability goes, visit l-camera forum if you’re in the mood for some real sob stories. I’ve had my D700 with 3 Zeiss lenses for 8 months now (D200 before that), never had any problem whatsoever.
    Maybe I’m just lucky. I’m sure the vast majority of Leica M users never had a problem either.



    • The Leica M9 is 585g with the battery and card + 255g with the Leica 35/2 = 840g. Total depth with lens on is 37 mm + 34.5 mm = 71.5 mm. It can fit in the pocket of a barbour. Liiiiiight and silent.

      The D700 is 995g + 80g / 90 g of battery + 530g with the Zeiss 35/2 = 1605 / 1615g. Depth with lens on is 77mm + 97mm = 174 mm. It does not fit the the barbour’s pocket (or in any pocket). Pretty large and not terribly silent if I have to go by the noise of my friend’s D300.

      Maybe that is part of the explanation, for street photography …. well, maybe also the 18M sensor without AA filter and Leica’s prime lenses line up. 😀

      • Well, I do street photography and all other sorts with the D700/Zeiss combo (the f1.4/50 is a little lighter and smaller). I’m not complaining.

    • I agree with Michiel. I had no issues with Nikon’s service. they were wonderful and fixed two cameras for free even though they were way out of warranty by then. Also, I can see only two reasons to dump a D-SLR to buy into a rangefinder:

      1. Because you’re sick of carrying the bulky D-SLR
      2. Because you love using that particular style of camera, so you tend to use it more.

      The reason being used that you’re getting better quality out of a Leica M VS a D-SLR isn’t true. Both produce, (if the photographer is GOOD), a pro file.

  19. Good comment, in 2005 I bought a Digilux2 to take into the American West, up till then i had been using a dinky little Sony 5mp digital camera. I wanted a camera that was simple, fixed lens and a rear screen to frame my images, however most of the time I found it more fun to shoot from the hip. In 2006 I bought a new Nikon D200 and all the new Nikon lenses from the 10.5mm to the 70-200mm zoom. I used my Leica for hiking, lightweight and fast. I fell into a New Zealand river truly dunking the Leica, it was out of warranty however, Leica took it back, cleaned it out and did not charge me a penny/cent. It made me a Leica devotee in a flash. The Nikon was plastic in more ways than one and bits kept breaking, Nikon did not want to know, I sold all my Nikon gear and invested, never say bought with a Leica, invested in an M8, unfortunately the light meter didn’t work so back it went. I “invested” in an M9 and “invested” in a slew of lenses. I love the full frame aspect. However it has gone back to Leica twice now, it’s still there, sensor issues, shooting black frames at the wrong times. A close friend, a Leica man for 40 years took delivery of his brand new M9 yesterday, it didn’t work! He receives a replacement tomorrow. All I can say is he was one pissed Leica Fan. I am a brand loyal person, always have been but there becomes a time when I/We need to speak up and out. I love my M9 and have a loaner at present, I have an awesome supplier and I have the new 35mm lens on order. It would not take much for me to dis-invest 🙂 the Leica and wait for the Fuji Finepix. My lens of choice is a 35mm, it covers most of what I shoot and I know that Fujinon make fine lenses. More will be revealed. I continue to love my Digilux 2.

    • Thinking about the M9, when I get one, I want to get a user (if that’s advisable in the digital world). I have a film M4-2 and i take wherever and if it gets knocked around I don’t mind at all. Works perfectly every time minus owner paranoia of giving it its first scratch or ding 🙂

    • Hi Ym32…. I also have a Canon FTb. Shot a roll of black and white recently. I think there was a posting here…. film is not dead ! I shot medium format back in high school….. I may head back that way some day.

  20. Nice article! I think the thing with cameras is you have to know what you like shooting and finding the gear that matches that. You’re right about its ability to get real expensive, real fast. I currently own 6 cameras yet I know I don’t have the the camera I want (the M9). When I look back at how much I’ve already spent, it would have been more than the cost of the “holy grail”. Today I’m thinking of selling my cameras and lenses and keeping only one set. I’ll take that money, invest it and in 3 years get the M9. Between now and then, I plan to shun all intentions to buy new gear and focus on shooting– the supposed real reason i got into photography in the first place.

    The lesson I learned is: get the one you want because it will bring you the most joy plus when you have what you want, you spend less time buying gear and spend more time shooting with the gear.

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