Why Choose a Leica?
By Jerry Bei
Today I would like to write about what got me into street photography from the start, a Leica. The Leica’s discreetness and unmatchable image quality with a Leica glass is what separate a Leica from all other cameras. I started with the digital M9 first then eventually got the film MP, which is the common route for modern Leica users.
The build quality of Leica is exceptional; it’s like nothing you ever hold in hands. It is made of all metal, feels dense and solid. The weight is right, not too heavy and not too light, all of this is the result of German Engineering. It is necessary to have the right photographic tool as this will form the bond with the photographer and when you go out shooting that it will motivate you to create beautiful images.
The viewfinder is beautiful and bright and it is probably the brightest out of all 35mm cameras. It is a pleasure to view through it and most importantly it does not block a photographer’s view, which allows your eyes to connect with the subject. The way of viewing through a rangefinder allows the photographer to anticipate what is coming to your frame to capture the “decisive moment.” A Leica is truly an “extension of your eye.
Leica lens are renowned for their highest standard of optical quality thus producing amazing image quality. The unique CCD sensor is in the heart of the Leica M9 and it offers a unique rendering, which results in vivid colours and ultra sharp images. The combination of this unique sensor and the Leica glass are known to create that “Leica Look.”
The simplicity of the Leica M design really makes the shooting process more enjoyable. Nothing unnecessary exists on the camera as it strips down to the essence of photography. This allows the photographer to focus on the basics of shooting, back to the roots and in my opinion this in turn can challenge a photographer’s skills to create better photos. The camera is discrete and unobtrusive, which makes the photographer as part of the scene. The discreetness is really the size and the Leica shutter, the click of the shutter is quite and smooth like “music to the ears.”
The focusing on a rangefinder is quite challenging since a Leica M is an all-manual operation camera and if the focus if off then it is your problem. However, the focusing skills come with practice through time and you will get a lot faster with patience.
Overall, Shooting with a rangefinder Leica M is a rewarding process and makes the user feels like in total control. I took the Leica with me to everywhere in the world and it helped me to become a better photographer.
Excellent article write-up and fantastic images Jerry! Some Interesting discussions going on here. BTW I have seen your website and it looks amazing! Great blog as well!
A Leica is superior to other cameras in many ways. Leica cameras are excellent for hand-held, available-light work. They are used for different applications than a Hasselblad would. If I had a Leica M and a couple of lenses, that would be great for travelling or just carrying around with me to social occasions. If I had the Hassleblad I’d use it for interiors, landscapes and formal portraits.
The Leica has advantages over any SLRs They’re quiet, offer great viewfinders, are unobtrusive and the lenses are really compact, the way 35mm system lenses should be. The Leica M would also be great for reportage and such.
For my understanding, there is no more “Leica is superior to other cameras” today, in many ways”! This balloony! There are a number of excellent similar cameras on the market who can do better, for less cost! This Leica “mystery” is generally an big costly “eye wash” only!
There are two mainstream of tourist photography today.
They are wannabe National Geographic and unintentionally Martin Parr.
I enjoy both;)
Finally speaking, because this is as tedious as hearing about how the opposition leader thinks the Prime Minister is untrustworthy and should just surrender the post to him. If you have something in hand, (say)between the legs, or where ever it suits you and then( not unexpecedly) arrive at the conclusion that there is nothing better in the whole wide World, no one is really in the position to disagree. It’s between you and your Joystick. However, that does not make it the “BEST” in the world does it? Similarly, if you have a Peerage, several Billion Dollars or maybe you founded your own Religion, that does not mean everything/everyone else should bow down and in like fashion, copy and worship the same status you have awarded yourself. In this day and age, we still have people debating and thinking that film is better than digital or phono (analogue) LP’s sound far better than CDs. Get over it I say, go back to mailing letters and licking stamps by all means. The choice is yours. Film cameras will still be working perfectly in another 200 years perhaps and Apple might re-invent the circular finger dial all over again. The point is this, even if you wore the Crown of England on your head, you are not better than anyone else! If History is anythng to go by, there is quite a lot of evidence to the contrary!
Let me make my position clear (noone’s asking for it, but I’ll ignore that for the moment):
I like Leicas, their lenses, the way they stick to a rangefinder concept in a digital era, the history of the brand, etc etc.
The way some Leica aficionados present themselves can be both endearingly childish in its enthusiasm as gratingly annoying when the enthusiasm has to be accompanied by talking down other brands. A superior race, apparently.
I had an M5 for a while; we didn’t “gel” like my older film Nikon and Contax slr’s do. No big deal.
As for lens quality, I use the pro quality 1.4 24, 35 and 85, as well as the 2.0 28 and 50 Zeiss on my D700. The image quality (this is not sharpness as an isolated phenomenon, but 3d renderig, bokeh, etc) sometimes to my eye is amazing. And yes, usable 3200 ISO comes in handy every now and then. Autofocus comes in handy as well, but boy, it can fool you. I use single point only; slower but surer. And aperture priority only; the D700 is then almost a manual camera, auto ISO excluded.
I love “seeing” and taking pictures; I love the gear I use and don’t begrudge anyone his enthusiasm for his gear.
100% agree with what you said Michiel, do not begrudge anyone’s enthusiasm and passion especially with Leica which can give special feelings to its rightful owners. People who are judging Leica either haven’t never used a Leica extensively before (or not at all) or simply jealous of our enthusiasm that they don’t possess.
First, I have used a Leica. I found it overrated and overpriced, but if you absolutely want to have one, it is fine with me.
Second, I have enthusiasm for the things that make MY life better. I have no use or jealously for other’s.
Third, this is the old stale passive-aggressive thing that insecure people uses when they feel cornered.
lol it is ironic said you don’t like Leica yet your profile display picture is of you holding a Leica, obviously either you think Leica looks cooler than other cameras and makes you look better or you think that Leica has superior status than other cameras.
No they are not expensive, you can get a M2 from 500 dollars+ depending on the condition.
While I haven’t regretted the three months spent shooting Leica, I DO regret the money wasted – but, who knows, perhaps I’m a poor fool that makes daily “reality checks” to not buying the Kool-Aid of “Leicaness” or any other corpspeak…
Steve is doing a great job by providing a platform for us Leica shooters, Bravo! I have been your keen follower since day one of this website during the era of M8 and it is your passion/enthusiasm that motivated most of us to get a Leica. Since then the Leica passion has been slowly fading on this website but this particular post brought back the long lost passion of all Leica owners and informed the world that we are passionate, we love Leica. I have used many other cameras but there none is a Leica, none will be.
It is great to have the Leica love back on the website.
Thanks! BTW, The Leica love never left, it has been here all along but Leica is so slow to release new cameras that there is really nothing more that can be said about the M9, Monochrom, etc. I still have great love for Leica, and yes, I know for a fact there are differences in Leica photos..not saying a Leica will make someone a great photographer though, actually the opposite is true, If you are an awful photographer your Leica shots will be worse than they would be with a DSLR..until you learn to “see” and know what you are doing with the camera. Once you do though it is tough to go back to anything else simply because there IS a difference in the quality of images. No DSLR or Mirrorless will give you the look of an M9 with 50 Lux at 1.4 shot. No the Canon 5D mark III with 50 L will not do it, no the Nikon D800 with 50 1.4 will not do it either, etc. There is also nothing like the look of an M9 shot with a Noctilux, old or new. There are unique things and the quality mainly is a result of the glass, the color signature of the M9 sensor and what makes the experience so much fun is that it is different than any other camera on the market. The Fuji X bodies do not even come close to giving you an RF experience. The only thing similar is the body style, period. Most of what is slung AGAINST Leica are from those who never owned one for any amount of time. So the Leica love is here, and always will be. Thanks for reading and thanks for sticking around this long!
“it has been here all along but Leica is so slow to release new cameras that there is really nothing more that can be said about the M9, Monochrom, etc”.
I for one, am glad Leica is slow to come out with new cameras, of course it might not be good for their bottom line. The world and technology is moving so fast it’s hard to keep up with. I bought a Fuji X-100 and before I had a chance to get used to it they announced the X-Pro1 then the X-Esomething etc. I lost track after that as I just couldn’t keep up. I picked up a used M9 and fell in love with the simplicity of it. Brings me back to the days when I used to go out and just take pictures, not worry about all the techno stuff that’s built into most digital cameras these days. I hope they keep making the M9, M-E or something like it but maybe just improve the dependability of it.
For me the big difference to an SLR is the old school simplicity of the Leica digital M’s (I use an M8). Since using the M8 I have gone back to SLR’s at times and I find it very difficult (for me) to go back to the complexity and size. My M8 is a good old friend that I LOVE using every time I use it, so for ME there is no comparison and its not about image quality at all but the whole process and method of the M. However, to each his own; you should use what works for you.
There we go, it’s what makes the World go around, debates and adversorial contests, Winner takes all!
At least that is the tendency when you buy anything German, like cars and cameras, in the previous Century! Come to think of it, their Armies were pretty much invincible too, that is, until the rest of the World decided to really test them! OK, rhetoric ended. Lets not just talk about it, lets have a contest! Have a controlled snap-off, with 20 cameras, with about the same specs, same subject, same distance same exposure and lighting conditions and taken at the same time, etc and see which IMAGE can be identified as Leica produced. It will be interesting if more than 10 % of viewers get it right which is what I predict. There goes “Leica Superiority” , no matter what you think when you hold the camera in your hands. Strut your stuff by all means but I see no evidence that Leica images are better than the best of the rest. As before, let me recommend checking out pbase images.
Please mind you tone and be respectable to Leica. We have the most respectable photographers in history: Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Capa, Elliot Erwin, just to name a few. I suggest you check out their images by Leica before making a comment.
“Please mind your tone and try to be respectable to Leica”
I really hope you are being ironic here… And I think you mean respectful rather than respectable(if you’re trying to be grammatical, that is). Anyway, minding my tone and being respectful is something I reserve for people, not a piece of consumer hardware.
Risking the wrath of the holy guardians of the Leica faith, can I point out that while the 3 photographers you mention are indeed deserving of legendary status, they are not exactly contemporary. Leica continues to live off work done 60 plus years ago when there weren’t many alternatives to the brand. There’s a limit to how long they can continue to milk the Magnum etc connection. When there are few if any modern day equivalents of HCB or Capa using the brand to create great work, Leica is going to slip into an ever smaller niche of photographers who buy the nostalgic idea and all the tired ‘extension of you eye’ cliches. Working pros and artists are creating the new great work using other brands.
Otto i am a novice……but i can see a SOOC RAW file difference between my OMD and 20D and an M9 (don’t own one) straight away. And I know nothing! I am sure most professionals would acknoledge that. Just as the Merrills have a distinct rendering. The Leica look everyone goes on about it is a distinct rendering from the CCD sensor…. Sure other cameras have their own rendering as well. I am not saying it’s superior by the way….just saying that is what people are referring to….and they obviously like it!
Excellent write up and amazing pictures Jerry! thanks for sharing!
Leica is the best!!
These are gorgeous! Though the qualities you describe are in no way unique to Leica (in the film world at least) They certainly do help take away distractions. And these photos…..my they’re gorgeous! Really excellent work, I actually liked all of them. I like how you don’t subject your camera to some mis-informed rule of “this can only be used for x and y types of photography”.
Interesting post Jerry, even better comments to follow:) Haven’t had time to even skim the surface of them yet but I am getting the general feeling:)
There’s nothing wrong with hyperbole and enthusiasm, Leica Cameras are bred to instill that in people. But I do take exception to the way you eulogize the brand. This sounds to me like an almost carbon-copy replica of something Tiberius Over-grown-ladygarden could have written. And its bad enough having his mystical nonsense floating around without more of the same here, (one of the few refuges of common sense and unbiased opinions!) We need less ‘guru-speak’ where it seems each Leica actually bestows upon its owner special powers of ‘the force’ of self-determination which will allow one to tower over the Canonites and the Nikonites with a saintly glow:) One light saber given free with each Leica Camera:)
Its all very straightforward. Yes they are good lenses, and yes they are well made, but the simple fact that endears us to Lecia is that they give us more control and the application of this control has been re-interpreted by certain opportunistic ‘gurus’ as an almost paranormal force which justifies our expensive purchase. Its an expensive, well made, manual focus camera, it contains no special powers and will bestow none on those who use it:)
Neil…you have just burst my bubble…..I am thinking about buying a second hand M9 and was hoping it might “change my life” forever!!!!
You have summed it up very well…..and like all tools some people are very very good at getting the best of them vs. other people getting the best out of alternatives (SLRs, MF cameras, panoromic, holgas, etc)
aah! sorry to do that to you Andrew:) to be quite honest, using an M9 did in fact change my photography for ever! It helped me get in touch with a different, more up close and personal style than I had using SLR’s. Now I use whatever suits the task, but they are just tools!
Or you can use a ‘Leica Substitute’:
Many here doubt the writer’s feelings and experiences.
A Leica is a superb instrument. Not perfect, prone to need adjustments and repairs.
The lenses needing adjustments as well.
Is that a sign of a bad camera and optics?
OR! Or maybe with this camera the faults are transparent..
My Pentax,Nikon and Pentax systems seldom need repair. Some never.The Pentax.
Yet in the end, “You either have a Leica, or you don’t”.
Nothing is similar.
Use one and see if it fits you.
Warning! Takes about one year!
You look at the calendar, see my LeicaM3 is 46 years old…the 50mm, 59yrs old.
The images as good as ever..
Reason Photography went digital.
Need more sales…
“Reason photography went digital.
Need more sales…”
So, nothing to do with the inconvenience of changing the recording medium every thirty six shots, then?
Or having increased flexibility over the entire ISO range?
To name just two reasons.
Couldn’t agree more on what you said, this article is n excellent write up and it truly express our Leica owners true feelings and experiences. Thank you!
If you had 3 RF cameras (one active shooting, one spare-backup, and one in the shop for repair after a few hundreds shots). Then there is no down time.
I think some people prefer having a Leica “out to Solms for quite some time” to having and using an ordinary camera, as that obviously is not for them but for ordinary people and will give them sub-optimal results… 😉
And If you had a spare $25,000 lying around to buy 3 Leicas that would be a fine solution…
Leica is doing their best to expand their RF camera’s portfolio(ME, MM, M 240,etc.). For those diehard Leica fans, that is a dream come true.
Not doing their best to reduce their hilarious prices though…
I just traded in a Nikon D3S with the highly regarded (and rightly so) 70-200 VR 2 for an M8.2 and a Nokton 50 F1.5. In technical terms, that’s suicide, but in terms of enjoyment it’s a huge step forward. The D3S is an incredible camera in any way you care to measure it (unless “weight” is your metric), but I infinitely prefer shooting the Leica. Note that I said “Leica” and not “smaller camera”; I’ve used the Fuji duo of X100 and X-Pro 1 as well as other smaller APS-C machines, and I don’t doubt for a moment that on a statistical analysis chart they smoke the M8.2…. but I don’t care. I take photos for the pleasure of it and nothing has brought me more pleasure than the M8.2. It’s frustrating too, but once you work out what it can and can’t do, it is simply (for me) a more pleasurable experience. That’s the bottom line. If I were a pro and I was asked to to a job, I would never use it other than as a backup, but I’m not a pro so the point is irrelevant.
Leica owners should stop defending their cameras and go use them. And for the CaNikon boys boasting about their ability to shoot at F-Graham’s number at 15FPS, you still won’t touch medium format quality. Medium format people, sorry, large format smokes you. And on it goes. Just shoot with what turns you on.
Your trade is not suicide – it’s just strange. Like trading a Porsche for a Bentley. Both great cars but totally different means.
Comparing a D3S / 70-200 with a M8.2 / Nokton 50?
You will be able to make great pics with your M8.2. But you will not be able to make the great pictures you used to make with your D3S.
I don’t see the excitement with the Leica at a Football field trying to catch the boys at the right moment.
And – Leica owners should not stop to defend their cameras. But they should stop telling us how great and inspiring is to fiddle around with the focus ring.
Great post Jerry, I love your pictures, you’ve written something good to share to all of us ( just too bad a lot people perceived it differently…well it’s life and whatever comes with it ).
You have passion and dare to express it, I give you point for that. …afterall that is what Steve’s site all about, sharing passion. I really appreciate your effort to post this.
Just saw your flickr, you got some interesting shot back there….keep up the good work.
Wow! Just reading thru here reminds me of my 3 year old son when he’s at nursery, checking out the other kids in their superhero t-shirts, matching caps and even shoes!!
Me, I’d love to own a Leica, one day if my numbers come up, but more realistically, it’d be one the Fuji X series, right now I’m having fun with my old rangefinders ( Zorki 4, Yashica Electro 35) and my old, battered OM-1, that’s all the nostalgia I need for next to nothing cost wise! And I like the challenge of getting shots from my cheap as chips cameras, I can go anywhere without worrying about getting mugged for my camera, as here in the UK we get plenty of street “muggings” for new iPhones, I can only hope the red dot doesn’t catch on the same way as iPhone snatching has. As for the shots at the top of the article, well, they are indeed stunning, my favourite being the black and white portrait shot, reminds me of being off the beaten track in southern Tunisia.
There is no comparison to a Leica IMO, I am a collector myself and with all the limited editions available there is no brand like Leica IMHO. Leica AG camera is a prestige brand and nothing feels like having a leica, it is a real treat that is an indisputable truth.
This is the best post about Leica IMO and amazing work Jerry!
Here it comes again… We discuss Leica as a photo tool, and then “collectors” are giving us the usual blahblah…
“Indisputable truths”. I like that; reminds me of North Korea. Living in a totalitarian state must be comfortable.
If Leicas were $1200-$1500 with reasonably priced lenses… I wonder if people would dog on them & the users who love them as much as they do?
Like I said above- I love that people love Leicas as much as they do. I enjoy reading the ‘hyperbole’. it makes me happy, and happy for them.
I feel the same way about the pentax 31mm/43mm/77mm lenses. They just have that special… something. That something that makes me want to take them out of their cases at 2am and just look at em’ and smile.
I get it.
Please, forgive an otherwise obvious typo and read the last line in my post as this:
Otherwise, regarding imaging quality of Leica lenses over other makes’ is so subjective that, that alone, cannot be taken as an error-free factor in judgement.
The “Leica supremacy” of digital Leica’s (e.g., M9) has been inherited from the M3…MP film cameras and one should consider whether that act is justifiable. I own and use both M9 and MP and I can tell that the “Leica bond” exists and boosts my photographs only with the MP.
The reason is the feeling that, while the MP is a lifelong Leica (and thus a bond can be created because you are absolutely sure the camera will be with you for the rest of your life, as long as film is around), having the M9 means that there will be a “better” successor in a couple of years or so–the camera is not YOUR CAMERA!
Otherwise, regarding imaging quality of Leica lenses over other makes’ is so subjective that, that alone, can be taken as an error-free factor in judgement.
Boring come to mind
There is no boring in Leica’s world, i bet you are boring just like others using DLSRs and think you are pro.
Some may think the Leica camera thing is elitist and to some degree maybe it is. It is very much is a thing of beauty and a very much so a wonderful artistic tool. “it takes leather balls to play rugby” Now for the pissers…Go ask your wife for your sack back and go buy something thrilling for yourself and stop trying to bring real men down. LOL
“Real men” have Leica’s, no control over adjectives and use bad syntax?
You learn something every day.
‘Real men’ know when to use single quotations and when to use double quotations. They also know when to us an apostrophe and when not to.
Or so I’ve been told…
So many out of work copy editors out and about. Just think if Emily Dickinson had been able to take advantage of your boundless talent- She might have published- like you- No-?
Now now, Michiel.
There should be no possessive apostrophe in “Leica’s” ..it’s a plural!
Tut tut? Ho ho!
I strongly defend my right to be right. So it’s “Leicas”, not “Leica’s”, just as it’s “babies”, not “baby’s”?
English is so foreign to me.
Wrong again. Babies are cute. Baby’s mother can be cute too.
Simple rule, Michiel: if your writing is about the plural of something, then just use an ‘s’ at the end, e.g; fork, forks; tree, trees; camera, cameras; Leica, Leicas.
(But, just to be awkward, baby, babies; man, men; sheep, sheep; radius, radii; fish, fish.)
If you mean that something belongs to someone, it needs an apostrophe: Michiel, Michiel’s; Steve, Steve’s; camera, the camera’s viewfinder; a bull, a bull’s eye.
(But, just to be awkward: me, mine; he, his; Leitz, Leitz’ – the extra ‘s’ is optional, because “Leitz’s” looks and sounds awkward – boys, boys’ (forget the optional extra ‘s’); girls, girls’ (forget the optional extra ‘s’ when meaning the girls’s dresses).
And ..when a letter is missed out, put an apostrophe in its place: “a letter’s missed out” = “a letter is missed out”; “it’s a great day” = “it is a great day”.
Although, when “it” owns something, DON’T (= “do not”) use an apostrophe! “it’s own covering of Vulcanite” isn’t (is not) right ..it should be “its own covering of Vulcanite”. But “it’s covered with Vulcanite” = “it is covered with Vulcanite”. (Yawn..)
It’s (it is) confusing at first, it’s meant to catch out foreigners!
“Babsky’s (Babsky is) bringing his cameras; it’s what his brother’s asked him to do: his wife’s sunglasses clips’ need a surgeon’s tweaks.”
That’ll be six and eightpence, please. Thank you. I mean “Thanks”.
Darn! Got it wrong! ..That should be “his wife’s sunglasses clips need a surgeon’s tweaks.”
And I missed out a second closing parenthesis in “(forget the optional extra ‘s’ when meaning the girls’s dresses))”.
You’re (you are) right; it’s confusing! (Maybe I’d be better off if I changed my name to Smith..)
..No; “his wife’s sunglasses’ clips need a surgeon’s tweaks.”
Phew! ..Sorry about all this, Steve: I’d better go and sit in a corner now and shut up, huh?
I think the original objection to the post was that it sounded straight from the brochure — and we’re all pretty tired of hearing that. We live in a world of tremendous change. APS C and 4/3 sensors now have enough pixels and sensitivity to give decent bokeh and amazing IQ even blown up large. And they have adapters to use Leica glass, if that’s what you want. Hell, I post on a board where one of the members shoots with a D-Lux 4 — a 1.7 sensor — and her images are stunning. If it’s about the images, look to the photographer, not the camera.
But what the post was addressing, as it’s been pointed above, is the feel of the camera (whatever camera) and how it fits into your style of shooting, workflow, and how it inspires you to shoot. I’m having a ball at the moment with a Zorki 4 that I picked up for 50 bucks and it’s getting more use than my beloved IIIf, my Ikon, and my M9. I guess I love steampunk, but there’s something very satisfying about a rangefinder in my hands. So far, EVFs leave me cold. But that could all change.
Modern Leica glass is wonderful, no doubt. However, for the price, I’d rather shoot Zeiss. I like the bump much better than the finger tab and micro contrast at the edges isn’t worth it to me. Much rather have the free cash to explore legacy glass and play with it on my cameras. But that’s me and how I spend my time and money.
So, Leicaman, love your cameras and may the photogods bless you. Just make sure you’re doing it for yourself and not getting caught up in the hype.
What blog is that please? I’d love to follow it too. Thank you.
The fact is the Leica is the easiest to MANUALLY utilize, because that’s what it’s designed to do. The images CAN be better, and different. Depending on what you value in a camera, the Leica can be a total POS, or sublime. There’s no doubt it has limitations, but there’s also little argument that used with them in mind, the results can be superb.
I shoot a Leica because I enjoy it and I enjoy the results. I also shoot an Olympus for the same reasons. But make no mistakes, it is a different experience and different results. Both have their place.
I find it interesting that this lights up such a debate. Everyone that posts photos understandably praises the camera they used, but few create such a furor as the Leica posts. Why folks, why? I have never seen a Leica poster claim they automatically take better pictures than anyone else just because they shoot a Leica. However the experience the photographer describes is real – for them and most other users of the same equipment.
For Leica owners it’s the camera that takes the picture. For the rest of us, it’s the photographer. The only time I hear top chefs waxing lyrical about a particular brand of saucepan or spoon it’s when they’ve got their name on them and are promoting them. Can you imagine Gordon Ramsey, “F*** me, I’ve tried other wooden spoons, but only a d***head would use anything but this hand carved ebony one”. And if you don’t fall for the bs you’re a “hater”. Charming. At least it’s not as prevalent as the cult of apple, but I’d much prefer to hear the story behind the picture, rather than a rant about the camera.
Do You really think that the Leica M does everything for you?
Then You are badly mistaken. But most people(apart from collectors of course) tends to get it because of the fact that you get very little help from the camera.
I love the simplisity of the camera and the fact that there is no autofocus, there is no matrix metering and so on.
I really do not care about the fact that it is a Leica. If there where a competitor at half the price with equally good lenses and same shooting experience, I would probably choose that one… but there isn’t.
The New Fuji X cameras are awesome picture quality wise, and I also had an X100 for a period before getting the M9-P. But even though the picture quality was really excellent I wanted to use the ovf rather than the evf, but this only worked so so… and i missed a lot of shots because the focusing was harder. On the Leica I can only blame myself if not getting things in focus and that is a deeply satisfying experience. On the Fuji I felt that the camera was limiting in the focusing area and not me.
You’re wasting your time justifying your purchase to me, but clearly you felt the need to justify it for yourself.
Don, you are comparing pots,pans and spoons to cameras? You would rather hear the story behind the pictures? Well here it is: Jerry has a Leica and some wonderful pictures and you have some pots and pans to wash. LOL
No, I’m comparing fine food to fine pictures. Like many, I’m tired of hearing ad nauseam about one spanner. True, I have the audacity to suggest the spanner may be irrelevant. Boring now.
I might be beating a dead horse here, but look at the light source in the first pic and where the shadows fall and tell me it’s the sunrise and not color shift. That having been said – I like it! vignetting, colour shift, swirly catseye bokeh in the corners, a light leak in your film back, “flaws” and “weaknesses” often bring feeling to what could otherwise have been a sterile photo. Just look at the popularity of instagram filters.
Sorry, but I did not find any of these particular photos interesting or well executed. And, yes, I do tend to fall into the dimly-lit camp of rolling eyes whenever I hear anyone wax poetic on either Leicas or any other supposedly exceptional piece of technology. This is not meant to demean or be overtly critical of anyone’s shots or camera preferences. But you have to all admit, it gets more than incredibly tedious to read continual exposes on how great just Leica or OMD or any other flavor of the month is. Yes, Leica has been around forever and in the right hands can produce wonderful results. So can any camera. Get over it, most great art is produced with average materials but superior technique. People that unendingly praise ridiculously priced gear do so for many of the reasons others have stated. I’d rather see a daily blog of technical how-to’s than hyperbole and mediocre work. Many great artists used house paint. It’s the work, not what you use to produce it. I think most visitors get this part. But what I think brings out the negativity is more due to the hype and sales pitch overtones the site seems to be increasingly subject to. And I also think it has to be said: local zoos, freak shows, medieval festivals and lazy shots are not doing this site any good. It’s just making it boring.
You can’t deny someone’s great work when you have a biased view against Leica and I am sorry to tell you too that Leica AG is the themost reputable/respectable camera brand and they essentially created today’s 35mm full frame.
‘Leica AG is the themost reputable/respectable camera brand’
Well I’m glad we got that cleared up…Now let’s go and find some Nikon/Canon/Fuji using heretics to burn at the stake.
Amen. And their market share is 0.15%. And its fair to assume that in the last 10 years the percentage of award winning shots taken with a Leica camera was much much smaller than 0.15%. So the reputation stems from times long long gone.
What got me into street-photography was the feeling of wanting it. What got me into rangefinder photography was trying a Yashica Electro GSN, that I got for free and had to CLA for 70 Euros. Now, several years later I have lying around some Leicas, an Epson R-D1 (if s/o wants to buy it – or a M6-TTL, email me ;-)) and some lenses.
The moral demise of Leica is perfectly illustrated by statements like that M9 and MP are the normal route for modern Leica users (that assumes that modern Leica users have some ten-thousand lying around), followed by talks about street photography without showing one single street photograph. Many people (including myself big time!) would be better off using one camera and one lens and make a bond to that combo, no matter what that is. I have noticed that constantly changing lenses only distracts from ever mastering one focal length and the focus ring by muscle memory.
For that reason, Leica started to suck when they reversed the shutter dial on the M6-TLL. That shows that they ceased understanding what mastery is about. Alas, that trend only continued, for example making a shutter speed dial that doesn’t stop at A-Position on the digital M’s. I don’t know about the M7.
I want to say, that nowadays Leica cameras are far from perfect, and all this chatting about “unmatched”, “superior” and what not, is just marketing bla on the one hand, and self-justification on the other.
Maybe today it is better to get an M3 and a Fuji X100, because the digital M’s are not real M’s compared to the M3. I mean, a wakeup-delay of a felt eternity combined with mediocre battery life _does_ get in the way. The Yashica GSN has more M-DNA than the M9 – in that sense: press the button and it fires! But one will only notice this when doing real street photography, where one has to be constantly prepared to take a picture 😉
Leica to me sums up nostalgia of long lost great photographers taking amazing pictures of Paris. Would I like to own a Leica M, you bet, I would love one. Not because of all of the superlatives mentioned above but because of the involved history. Would it make me a better photographer, probably not but I believe I would be oblidged to try my best and do the brand credit.
Looking at my laptop it has a sticker that says “Intel inside” but says nothing about the “idiot outside”. So no matter how good a camera is or isn’t it must depend on the user.
btw I would get an MP not a digital. Probably for the same reason I use a straight razor and write letters with fountain pens.
Interesting photos Jerry, well done. The stories behind them would be REALLY interesting. Thanks
Sometimes I just wonder, do you really think that only your equipment makes a great shot ?
Steve is telling every day in a other story that people with all different kind of equipment can make beautiful shots. Sometimes I even like pictures that are taken 50 years ago … Yes, I am a Leica fan, I love the colors, the bokeh, the lenses, the vision of people who use rangefinders, etc. But the guy behind the camera makes the pictures. So let’s RESPECT each other and look first at the pictures and not at the equipment.
Jerry, you have made some really great shots !
Thanks for this nice post Steve.
Firstly i really like these photos allot thanks for sharing them second unlees any of you noobs have actually shot with any Leica then keep your opinions to yourself i actually just got an m8 and like it better than my fuji xe1 and my m6 is ancient in camera terms and still works like a dream so go buy one walk around take some pics and then mouth off about how Leica sucks on thisbsite in your very own leica bashing review
You seem very angry. It’s just a discussion about gear. No one is attacking you. These are only opinions.
are you talking too me im not angry at all too old too be angry anymore just talking about gear in my opinion not angry at all i will refrain from noob reference from now on too Leica haters lol
Summo Lux: Sentence structure/syntax….look into it.
Now we have the grammar police lol
No grammar police….but it is annoying reading posts like yours where comas and periods are more elusive than a sasquatch.
Back in to “never ending sentence” mode, are we Summo?
Nice photos Jerry! Bridge photo was my favorite. Although it’s my opinion that some of the hyperboles are a bit over the top, I do feel a sense of romanticism when using my M9. And I like it. Granted, using a good AF camera sure makes my life much easier. But there are days I like to use the M9. In any event, thanks for sharing your photos and thoughts. It takes guts to express your opinions just about anything nowadays. Bashers, haters and flamers love to rain on others — especially anything having to do with a red dot.
I shoot both digital and film (medium format and 35mm) for passion. Owning already some RFs, I fell to a whim and three months ago I bought a used Leica M. Even if I can describe the experience of using it as “pleasurable”, it is no more than the other rangefinders I have, and certainly less pleasurable than the others types of camera (in fact, the leica gets too much “in the way” while I’m taking a photo), so presently it’s back on sale…
I could not agree more on what you said, thank you for this great article! As a Leica M8 and M9 owner myself there is “nothing like a Leica”.
I have tried an M9 and I really don’t see how on Earth you can defend that overpriced piece of junk. Yes, the build quality is great and it HAS TO BE considering how much they charge for it but that is all there is to it. If it was not for Leicas great lenses that “unique CCD sensor” would show how bad it actually is with anything over 1200 ISO and for me that is ridiculous considering the price.
Honestly I would take Fuji X-E1 over M9 any time just for ISO performance.
If you charge that much money for it then there is no excuse for such poor ISO performance. AF (or lack of it) is another thing that for me is something that belongs to last century, not 2013.
Red….I laugh at people like you who constantly wax poetic about high ISO capability on digital cameras. The truth…when I shot film there wasn’t a film out there that could give as ‘grain free’ an image at ISO1600 as what the M9 can produce. Seriously, these ISO ratings on the new Canons/Nikons are almost ridiculous. Are they useful?? Sure, if you shoot in dark clubs or churches but for 90% of my shooting I never use anything beyond ISO1600.
I agree a lot of what is said about Leica is hyberbole…but as a former M8 owner I gotta say…there’s something amazing about the CCD sensor and M lenses. That said….I’m pretty happy with my current setup: XPro1 and 5D2.
I shoot a M3 exclusively and where I live it’s night around 6pm.
Loaded with ASA400 film and a F2 lens I can reach 1/30 speed in almost any bad light places (restaurant, coffee shop, …). I agree with you that this Iso debate is absolutely ridiculous…and just mostly covers the lack of technical knowledge of most of users who do not know how to set a good exposure in bad lightning.
If the camera exposure system is on auto (mixed measurement mode)…it’s 100% sure the camera will easily reach automatically it’s maximum iso under dark condition…and you will get an awfully poor result.
A good example happend to me last week. I was out recording movies with my D7000 at night. Let on Auto the camera provided Iso3200 automatically. The exposure was horrible with blow highlights and the file hugely noisy.
Most people will then just think: Damn…I need a better Iso camera to get cleaner file.
Well…I just turned the camera in M mode. Set Iso 800 to get a proper exposure and a better realistic balance with the scene and here I was…video recording at night with a clean file…and good exposure. So simple.
Why Choose a Leica ?
For the same reasons I chose a Bronica and Nikon.
I guess there are many on here that have not touched and let alone used a Leica M for taking pictures.
Haters will always hate….
I used to shoot with a Canon EOS 5D mkII and a wide variety of lenses and the picture quality was good.
I have been shooting SLR/ DSLR’s since the mid nineties up until about a year ago. When I just got fed up with the bulk of the system, buttons, menus and so on. So I sold it all…. even my 135mm F/2 which is an awesome lens.
The Leica system is a lot of money… but not necessarily expensive 😉
Steve is partly to blame for me buying a Leica M9-P and a Summilux 50. But the camera is just so nice to operate and for that i forgive him 😉 I can do everything(how I shoot) with my Leica and I do not need a DSLR for anything, and for the few times I shoot video my RX100 works well 🙂
But a Leica M is a camera you must want to use. The focus is not for everybody, the lack of features is not for everybody. But when mastered it is a very rewarding camera to use.
Some say that the “Leica look” is just BS…. but I kid you not, there is something special with the combination M9 and Leica lenses that I have not seen anywhere else. Magic is probably not the right word, but it is just better. Better colors, better details. And the experience using the camera on a daily basis is just so much better(for me) than the DSLR’s i used before.
When doing street photography with the 5D mkII everybody notices you and quite a few do unusual stuff when they see the camera and often ruined my shot, with the Leica this is not so much an issue and the ones that do notice smile when they see the Leica and go about their business and i get the shot I wanted.
I agree with everything you say here. 100%
Christian I agree and I also think that the M9/M/Mono and leica lenses represent a paradigm shift in what is expected from leica.
I use an M6 and have done for a while along with a Mamiya medium format rangefinder. It’s safe to say I like the rangefinder approach and I know what to expect from both these systems in terms of image quality and look. Film leica qualities include rangefinder approach, discreteness, feel, image quality, portability and ruggedness, but after the M9 there seems to be a shift towards medium format quality images in a 35mm format.
We’re now accustomed to seeing images exhibiting eye splintering sharpness, massive amounts of contrast and minimal depth of field- all representing the “leica look”. When images not showing this are shown, there’s an audible groan of disappointment and disbelief but both are representative of the leica look: film with it’s grain and digital with it’s clarity.
Nice pictures by the way Jerry, thanks for posting.
Spot on !
A M is like a Defender : not powerfull, not the most comfortable car, brick-like but so fun to drive !!!
I don’t like the rendering of Leica glasses. I had two Summicrons : the 50 and the 28, both latest version. Of course, they are sharp but the image looks flat.
I prefer, by far, the 3D look of my Zeiss (28, 35 and 50) lenses. The C-Biogon 35/2.8 is an amazing lens with a very special rendering.
I had the chance to try a 35 Summilux Asph II on my M9P, but was very disappointed with color fringing issues even stopped down to 2.4.
So the C-Biogon is screwed on my Monochrom for good !
“and the ones that do notice smile when they see the Leica and go about their business and i get the shot I wanted”
Oh, give me a break. This is the kind of BS that gives Leica users a bad name.
Personal experience thats all. Get over it and go shoot.
Be happy with what you got…..
I am happy – I just find the idea faintly ridiculous that people all over the world scowl at photographers carrying Nikons or Canons but smile beatifically when you pull out a Holy Leica. Perhaps if the UN issued all their peacekeepers with M9s we could banish war forever and all live in peace and harmony with our fellow men.
There is nothing wrong with Nikon or Canon or Pentax or Sony for that matter.The size and type of camera is the key. I got an equal response when shooting the Fuji X100. (The funny thing was that many people asked me if it was a Leica 😉
For me it’s the size, shooting experience and the lenses that is key. I love the rangefinder experience. And since the Leica is the only one out there with a full frame sensor I really can’t pick and choose.
But let’s say that Carl Zeiss made a digital full frame Zeiss Ikon, the choice would not be so clear or Fuji for that matter they have a long history of making awesome rangefinders. So I am a little bit annoyed that they have chosen the AF route that have in their X series cameras.
As for UN… they are peacekeepers not peace makers. And the only thing that will bring peace to this planet is for the USA and Israel to stop exploiting all the poor countries and looting them for resources!!
JapanCameraHunter says this:
Ahhh, Leica fanboys. I am one of them, and loads of people I know are, there is nothing wrong with that. But we should never take ourselves too seriously. Sometimes it is good to step back and have a bit of fun. Especially about camera wankery. So here is the ‘Shit Leica Fanboys Say’ list.
1. You only hate it because you can’t afford it
2. The red dot stands for quality (tapes over the red dot)
3. (For the M9) Well, it is not about the sensor, it is about the lenses
4. You don’t buy a system, you buy a lifestyle
5. All of the greats used Leica
6. Oh, is that a Voigtlander? Yeah, they are OK I guess *sneers*
7. No, your Zeiss is not as sharp as my Summicron
8. Leica is the pinnacle of quality in cameras
9. There is no substitute for good glass
10. Oh yours was made in Solms? Mine was made in Wetzlar *smug*
11. Well, Ken Rockwell gave this one a better review
12. Yeah, there were only 200 made of this one
13. Use it? Are you insane?
14. I would never use a digital Leica
15. You only shoot a film Leica because you cannot afford a digital Leica
16. Leica still make film cameras?
17. Yeah, it’s a Leica *smug smile*
18. No, this is not a lomo
19. Feel, that, go on feel how smooth that advance is. Right?
20. Oh my god, look how bright that viewfinder is
21. Well, Canada was a low point, but I guess you have to make do
22. OMG, have you seen the bokehzzz on my Noctilux, is is soooooo creamy
23. I had to get the sandpaper out to get the brassing just right
24. I know it is a lot, but the Black and white only sensor has film like tones
25. Oh is that a Luigi? Yeah, me too, the caramel leather is to die for
26. Yeah, this is a A La Carte, I wanted it to match my Porsche
#13 is so funny 😉 (sad to say it’s also true…)
Good one buddy. I’m in the can’t afford it (yet?) boat and confess that I look forward to getting my sweaty mits on one hopefully soon. In the mean time need to quench my old school / “authentic” / quirky thirst by hauling out my dad’s old Topcon RE Super with 58 / 1.4. First ttl metered 35mm SLR. Built (and looks like) a brick outhouse and still works like a dream. Even has a removable prism for waistlevel focussing! Anyway, apologies for gatecrashing the Leica party.
Anyone ever seen that Digitalrev thing “things leica owners say”.
Feel like this is a transcript of it.
This is how we Leica owners all feel about the subject.
Actually those guys on digital rev could benefit from the light weight Leica. It’s comic relief watching those tiny guys try to hoist those huge pro level DSLRs to their eye during their “reviews”.
it’s always enjoyable to read the controversial opinions about Leica. Reminds me of my attitude until a years ago and I see many of the same arguments I used (“buy a real camera like a Nikon and take the rest of the money and go on a trip around the world and shoot photos in Paris, Venice, Cuba etc”)
Then I found out, that my DSLR makes perfect photos but is no fun using it, so my best photos came from a Lumix with Leica lens, just more “emotional” from the colors and the process of shooting became part of the art!
Then I subscribed to Leica Photography International (LFI) and bought all back issues since 2003.
Then I bought a V Lux 3 (Lumix FZ 150)
Now I am saving for M 8 or ME, depending on my business.
Sorry guys, but if you want to see the real magic of Leica this blog here will only give you a glimpse of
what the lenses and the body can do, go to
I think it is neither the camera/lenses not the photographers (you can get master shots with a Nikon etc), it is some kind of combination: if you decide to have a Leica you probably are more ambitious, you develop better as a photographer through he whole RF experiment etc.
The arguments from both sides are always the same and often repeated. It is a bit like Benz and BMW,
I head an unbelievable good driving with a M 3 years ago but guess what I would buy if I was a car fan and had the money?
Yes, the hyperbole, as endearing and enthusiastic as it is, is also predictable, tiresome and a bit childish.
The bonding part is interesting though, and I agree that most people (including myself) wish to have some sort of bond with inanimate objects like cars, motorcycles, racing bicycles, audio equipment, etc etc, in addition to the “technical” performance.
I happen to “bond” with my three years old D700. It’s looking quite worn now, but it always works and puts out great image quality in almost any light. It’s ergonomics are very good, wrist strap included, and no, I don’t “lug” it around with a “huge” zoom. Every evening I decide which prime to put on for the next day: 24, 28, 35, 50, 85; auto or manual focus?
It’s not smal, it’s not light, it’s not quiet. But it works for me and does what I expect it to do. No need for hyperbole.
At least the hyperbole isn’t limited to Leica now though. Now, we have hyperbole with the OM-D, RX1, Fuji, and on and on. Now, DSLR usage is limited only for those with muscle mass beyond the typical prepubescent. They are so heavy and bulky as you know…
Well, actually, the bulk and weight thing is anybody’s preference. No argument there. It’s the recurring “I’m better than the rest ’cause I have a Leica, which is the world’s best camera and provides better bonding, it makes me a better photographer” which becomes a little grating.
I’m enthusiastic about the gear I use (it’s a lot, unfortunately; analogue slr’s mainly); I just don’t feel the need to proclaim that it’s better than the gear someone else uses.
Who said Leicas are better?
I’ll say- they’re more durable, yes.
Best lenses- sure.
Smaller & lighter- all day long.
Sexier- no question.
Holds value- more than any other brand.
But who cares? it’s just a camera. I love reading about people gushing over their leicas. i love that an object captures their affection and inspires them so much they want to sing its praises. i love that.
And when i see someone trashing people for gushing over their leica, I think- what a bitter person that is. That must suck to be them. And when you see that person do it over & over again… Man that’s sad.
I like my Contax G2 better than your d700. I also think my wife is better than yours, and my favorite food is better than your favorite food. You gonna get all mad and butt-hurt about that too?
Be happy that someone loves their camera that much. And ask yourself- why don’t I love mine that much? I’ll give you a hint- it’s not because its not a Leica…
Reread my post carefully, then rethink your own “contribution”.
Your photographs capture some beauty that is so refreshing after a long day at work dealing with the ugly realities of life.
Great work, you are in my view, very skilled.
I just bought a Leica R8 with 35-70 f4 ROM lens. Not the discrete rangefinder camera that an M is but the glass is very good. I was a little shocked at how sharp my images were. I think I am sold on Leica gear ; now just to convince the wife it is worth the money!
A Ford Focus is going to get you to the supermarket the same as a Ferrari would, but the experience is sure as hell isn’t going to feel the same. Following the law, driving by the speed limit, there’s no difference in the result between the two (equivalent to taking a pic and posting online or printing 4×6). But when you REALLY need to get there, it sure as hell which one is going to deliver (equivalent to printing pics at 24×36 or larger). That’s the gear factor. if you dont own it or can’t justify for one, then you are going hate.
then there is of course the user factor. give the Ford to a professional racer and a Ferrari to a 16 years old who just got his license, the result is going change. Learn to identify between the two factors.
Then again, at least you’ll be able to load the weekly shopping into a Ford Focus and bring it home! The point is it’s all just horses for courses. Use what works for you and enjoy it.
I learned to take photos witha Leica IIIf and a Rolleiflex. I know I can get good IQ with my Oly OMD. But holding and usingmamLeica is a wonderful experience and goes beyond IQ. In a way Leica gear may not take better picture but it forces u to become a better fotographer.
This is as fascinating discussion as I have read about Leica vs the rest of the world. I tend to agree with
Duane and others who suggest that Leica lenses are better than Canon or Nikon ones with possibly an exception or two. But lugging my Canon III is getting too burdensome at my age. My Leica provides the perfect platform and, most importantly, gives me the pleasure of complete control. With even a Sony Nex 7 (forgive me for that ) with Leica or Zeiss glass I can get remarkable pictures from those lenses. I do pray for a full frame camera with a fine sensor for those of you who don’t know Leica glass. The trouble with the Sony is, of course, that it is not full frame. I recently tried a Fuji x pro 1 that took remarkably rich pictures with Fuji lenses, but I returned it. The glass was on a faulty, bizarre computer. And therein lies an issue with the Sony and to a lesser extent the Canon III. They are computers and demand fiddling with their guts rather than with the F stop, focusing ring, and an ISO button.
So I guess the question is, can the Japanese manufacturers produce a full frame camera with a very fine sensor that will not weigh over two pounds and be able to carry Leica class and not cost $7,000.
“..They are computers and demand fiddling with their guts rather than with the F stop, focusing ring, and an ISO button..”
Once you’ve got your ‘computer’ set up the way you want to use it, you only ever need to adjust “..the F stop, focusing ring, and an ISO button”. Simple.
I spend a week setting up a (digital) camera the way I want it, and then there’s no need to fiddle with its menus ever again.
When shooting, change the aperture as preferred, ditto the shutter speed, and choose a suitable ISO. That’s all. Like setting the driver’s seat in a car. Like choosing the brightness and contrast on the TV. Once set up how you like it, any digital camera can be as simple to use as any mechanical camera.
And if a person wants to “slow down and be meditative”, you can do that with a digital camera, too.
“..My Leica provides the perfect platform and, most importantly, gives me the pleasure of complete control..”
Yup, same with my Leica ..and with my Canon, Ricoh, Olympus, Zorki and teeny-weeny digital Minox. Choose from the menus, and then leave those settings alone.
But does one ever have the computer set up with any finality? The Fuji for example let one choose the shooting chemistry of three of its great films. Then there is ever shifting light of mother nature which you you can fix your computer to accommodate as it happens.
And I am a technophobe too, so that doesn’t help. But I get by. The Canon 5DIII is less technically daunting than the Sony, and certainly the Fuji x pro 1. How the hell does Leica take such great, or ok equally great pictures, without all the bells and whistles???
I do think, all complaining, kvetching, whatever, aside, that these tools of photography are boy toys of a high order and that they were built to appeal to the boy toy gene. Anyone taking serious issue with that may have an issue.
But I beg to differ about an earlier remark about the “Leica look”. Call it what you will, but a Leica lens differs from a Zeiss, differs from a. C. or N. or S. lens. from L to S and back at the same price range. Or do or will all lenses look alike in the best of all possible hands or worlds, where everyone would have a “Noctilux” equivalent and a sherpa to schlep it all?
Even if you disagree with the the idea of in camera pre-shot “developing” scene by scene. as opposed to Photo Shop developing, don’t you think that these days all that post shot developing has as much to do with the aesthetic of a picture as anything else–ie assuming correct focus and clean glass? And therefore the whole argument here is mostly moot?
Cannot change the old hag into the beautiful princess (ok old bum into a handsome prince) in Photoshop…………..yet, You’re so raitonal I have to exaggerate, a bit.
“..The Fuji for example let one choose the shooting chemistry of three of its great films..”
OK, so leave everything else alone, and just change between Astia, Velvia and Tiddly-pompia, or whatever it’s called. (You may be able to assign that ‘film-type’ choice to a particular button, depending on which camera you’re using ..that’s part of my initial week-long “setting up” business).
But to come back to the car analogy: think of all the different angles at which you could set up the wing and interior mirrors. But you don’t keep on changing them every single time you get in the car (unless someone else has been driving it).
You don’t stop and change the mirror angles when you go uphill, or downhill, or reach a crossroads or get onto a motorway. You set up the mirrors – and the seat – from the huge range of different possible available positions when you buy your car, and then need never adjust them again!
Same with a camera – for me, anyway. I go through all the permutations of what you can assign to which (with an Oly OM-D, for example) and choose WHERE I want the main focusing rectangle to be, and HOW MUCH manual focus-check zoom I want to assign to which button, and WHAT manual-focus focal length I want to assign to the stabilisation system, etc ..and then I LEAVE THEM THERE ..knowing that everything’s now set, is completely predictable, and I don’t need to adjust anything again.
(..And if it’s a Fuji, I’ll try to assign ‘film choice’ to a button or dial, so that I don’t need to plough (plow) through menus.)
“..these tools of photography are boy toys of a high order and that they were built to appeal to the boy toy gene..”
Every camera maker has a profile of who their customers are, and – I guess – most LARGE cameras are bought by men, and most SMALL cameras are bought by women. So the manufacturers add “boys’ toys” buttons and menus to the big ones, and less to the small ones. [But I do get quite a few women with BIG cameras coming to my photography classes; they expect BIG cameras to be more “capable” and to give them “better pictures”. But no-one, NO-ONE! who comes has EVER read, or understood any of, the instruction manual for their camera! And many people who buy SLRs have never bought any extra lenses for it ..thus defeating the purpose of having an interchangeable-lens camera!]
“..I beg to differ about an earlier remark about the ‘Leica look’..”
Maybe I’m just blind. But I think this “Leica look” phrase has been overdone beyond all realistic truth. (I went to a show round the corner from me a couple of years ago ..all Leica photos, shot – on film – by a man who maintained there was a “Leica look”, so all his shots were therefore impeccable. But when you use a FILM camera, it’s just a box with a shutter; the CAMERA doesn’t contribute anything to the look of the photo! The lenses may certainly do, but far less than the photographer’s own “eye”. The pictures were all utterly mundane.)
What became the “Leica look”, from the 1930s to the 1960s was:
(a) the shot was taken from adult eye height (not waist level)
(b) the shot might have been taken in low light (with a wide aperture lens)
(c) the shot might be ‘candid’, not posed or set up (camera was small)
(d) it might have shallow depth of field (via a wide aperture lens)
(e) an out-of-focus blur of (d) was interpreted as “Leica glow”
(f) it might be a “frozen moment” (fast shutter and ‘fast-aperture’ lens)
(g) it might have a dark sky, from the use of small filters
From this, people have extrapolated, and imagine that pictures which have these features are somehow ‘precious’ or special, and can be shot only with “a Leica”.
As Leica rangefinders can’t use long lenses (poor focus accuracy with anything longer than 135mm) “intimacy” has also become synonymous with Leicas. (Not true of Leica SLRs, of course: the world-famous photo of Charles & Diana kissing on Buckingham Palace balcony after their wedding was shot with a Leica SLR and a long lens. But who here talks about Leica SLRs, or the Leica ‘S’ cameras?)
Lenses from many manufacturers can produce results similar to, or indistinguishable from, Leica results: try a Canon 85mm f1.2 for instance, or an Olympus 45m f1.8 (micro4/3).
“..don’t you think that these days all that post shot developing has as much to do with the aesthetic of a picture as anything else–ie assuming correct focus and clean glass? And therefore the whole argument here is mostly moot?..”
I think that many (most?) people have forgotten – or never knew – that a HUGE amount of work generally went into “post processing” pictures which were shot on black-and-white film. Professional photographers in London sent their negs to specialist printers – like Adrian Ensor – to squeeze the best possible results from their negs; dodging and burning ..developing this bit of the paper a bit more to get a deeper black here, and less black there, for instance.. and just look how much effort Ansel Adams put into printing his pics: he never made a straight print, but ALWAYS dodged and burned to bring out intensity or pallor to get the best out of what might have been a weak negative.
Post shot processing has ALWAYS been an important – integral, even – part of b&w photography – though less so of colour photography; there wasn’t much you could do with Kodachrome except just send it through the chemicals and the standard processing routine. And not very much you could do with colour negs, except altering the filtration (colour) when printing onto paper, though sometimes people would copy onto a different film stock to change contrast or colour response.
Anyway, I set up each camera to work repeatedly and predictably without any further fiddling with menus (unless it’s to reset the manual focal length for stabilisation in an OM-D). Then I KNOW that this knob adjusts aperture (if there’s no aperture adjustment on the lens itself), and THIS knob adjusts shutter speed (if I want to set the speed myself), and THIS button sets the ISO (and, if necessary, THIS button sets white balance) ..and there’s nothing more to think about except just the framing …and then click, click, click!
hmmm..gotta try a Leica someday…sounds like I’ll get an orgasm for each shutter button push….
then they would be sought after….
I agree this sounds like an advert for Leica.
Don’t people also agree that any camera in the right hands will take a great image?
Having said that I love the look of Leica camera’s and the size over SLRs.
I have the X10 and XE-1 these are also amazing for street photography and posed pictures in the desert with camels .
It’s not about any special magic. Leica M is about the rangefinder, plain and simple, and there aren’t any other digital rangefinder competitors. Rangefinders aren’t for everyone, just like some don’t like driving stick shifts, but, for those who enjoy rangefinder photography, Leica is the only digital option in town.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts and photographs Jerry. I see you’ve recently launched your website and wish you well with that endeavor. I know from my experience its not always easy to sit down and write, or find a photo that you feel worthy of sharing with others.
I am in your camp as to the relationship I’m developing with my M-E. After shooting a year with Leica glass on a Ricoh GXR I found I wanted more. I’m sorry but others here want to believe you can get the same look with other cameras that a Leica lens can produce. Lens makers have been trying for a long time but Leica lenses still set the standard.
Also a cropped sensor does not allow one to take “full” advantage if one wanted to use the really wide angle lenses that are available. The Voigt 12mm become an 18 or the 15mm becomes a 23. The cropped sensor does not allow the full effect a full frame sensor can provide when shooting wide open with a fast lens in creating the shallow depth of field. You can come close but there is a difference. I see it shooting with my 50mm Summilux.
Then there’s the sensor without an AA filter matched with a Leica lens is different. This is a big deal. You may not like what Jerry has displayed here but if you were to look at the images at full rez you will see detail that will get your attention.
Now if you’re satisfied with your existing camera and how it operates that’s great. What helped make my decision to move to a Leica body was the simplicity of its operation and where you the photographer have “real” control of the light. You have to drive the camera, whereas, most all other cameras are designed to operate in some sort of “automatic” mode. Once you’ve figured out how to turn off the automation the controls aren’t all that simple or intuitive for you to operate. The Leica stays out of your way.
Then there’s the durability. I dare any of you to try standing on your camera. Go ahead, put it on the floor and stand on it. I can with my Leica. I plan on having mine for a while. The lenses will last a life time and I don’t see Leica changing their lens mount any time soon. Not unlike some other major camera companies have done over time, instantly making your lens investments worth a lot less.
Go ahead, price a used Leica Summicron 35mm v1, or v2 ….. I think you get the point.
One last thing and a major pet peeve of mine, at least Leica is willing to work directly with a major post processing software company and provides a licensed copy to ensure you can actually manipulate the RAW file the camera produces along with lens profiles. How long has the Fuji Xpro1 been out? Most users have resigned to settle for jpgs with the excuse they’re good enough. How do you really know?
Thanks for your insightful comments and the support Duane. Leica is really about an experience that you can not get from shooting with any other cameras. There are many other cameras that will get the job done but the choice is all a matter of personal preferences. Shooting with a Leica is like a meditative process for Leica owners and everyone should give it a try.
The digital Ms have fabulous build quality but that doesn’t equate to reliability.
My M8 had hot pixels, which only Leica can remove (at a cost of – few hundred euros)’ and then the dreaded “coffee stain” problem on the LCD.
Leica couldn’t fix the latter problem so offered me a replacement M9 in exchange for the faulty M8 and a few thousand euros.
Film Leicas have legendary status in terms of their reliability, but this is patently not the case with the digital Ms; you only have to search the forums to see what I mean.
But it’s good to know that if my M9 breaks down I can still use it as a makeshift step ladder.
Most of the statements, pardon me, cliches, are outdated. “Shooting a Leica makes you feel in control”, until the buffer is full, I’d say or until daylight is gone.
Let’s face it, in a number of areas other camera makers have caught up big time since the M9 came out and even surpassed it in others. The cliches in the article stem from times when the choice was either a big and heavy DSLR (at least prosumer level) or a M8/9. Great IQ, fun lightweight and affordable can now be had from a number of manufacturers. If it was not for the glass, I would have sold my M9 some time ago. The day Ricoh, Fuji or Sony releases a FF interchangeable lens camera into the market with flawless m-lens performance and priced in the USD 1.5-2.5k range digital Ms will be a tough sell at prices north of USD 3000.
[The day Ricoh, Fuji or Sony releases a FF interchangeable lens camera into the market with flawless m-lens performance and priced in the USD 1.5-2.5k range digital Ms will be a tough sell at prices north of USD 3000.]
Where are the FF interchangeable true rangefinder competitors? There are none.
I agree, this is where the M9/ME still scores. But the RX1 is only the beginning of class leading FF sensors in compact Sony bodies. One of their next products will be a FF mirrorless, compact interchangeable lens camera. And Ricoh has shown with its AA filter free m-mount module that the Leica look can be achieved with other makes.
can fuji xpro1 with 35mm f1.4 achieve similar results? cant affort Leica and its glass but an used xpro 1 with 35mm at about USD1400 is within range.
Except at low isos where the Leica might has a slight edge at detail resolution and micro contrast rendering, the Fuji produces at least comparable if not even better files. At iso 800 and higher, the Leica can not compete. Have a look at one of Steves links to Fuji deals at B&H. There are currently great deals offered for the XE1 plus lenses even below USD1400.
I have an x-pro1 with the 35. There isn’t a shadow of a doubt that anyone who wants to claim leica M9 + leica glass is better is really not being objective. You can take side by side shots between the two (some examples out there) and really – can you spot the difference ? No way. I picked up an M9 in the a leica store and really kind of liked the concept and would really like to own one – but its only because I like it in my hands, its not because I think I’m going to get a better shot. I take a lot of low light and the pro1 I think is better. We’ve hit the stage now where the quality of cameras is just stunning (and I’m not talking about the iphone 5 camera ;0-) So go buy the pro1 anyone who wants good pics. Far be it from me to say I’m the best that there is out there, but even I think my pics are fine – you can see some on flickr = username steveabcdefghi. hope this helps.
Have to agree with most that has been written about the article and the images.
Let me come at it from a different angle. I have been a Biker for som 40+ years I have ridden many, many motorcycles from all different Makers. When I pull up in a say a Yamaha at the local watering hole everyone continues what they were doing. When I show up in my Harley, everyone stops and looks, sometimes they even come out for a closer look! Same rider, same skills etc etc.
If I had the coin for a Leica & Glass, I would buy it. Not because there is a chance of producing better work but for the value they retain just like my Harley.
By the way my Nikon V1 is completely silent and is my best Street Camera to date!
I don’t own a digital Leica, but can anyone comment why Leica don’t include a dedicated ISO wheel with Auto and ISO numbers on their digital camera’s? If I made the jump from film, I’d be hoping the operation to be as close to film as possible (with the obvious improvement of being able to change ISO mid roll)… How does one change ISO on the ME and new M?
ISO menu button…very simple.
I like your pictures very much.
I was a little mystified by the statement, “I started with the digital M9 first then eventually got the film MP, which is the common route for modern Leica users.” I’m not sure how this is a common route, especially for us “older photographers” (I’m 57 and have been shooting since I was 13. My first real camera was a Leica IIIf and it was already 20 years old when I acquired it. I’ve shot 35mm, medium format and large format. One of my favorite cameras is a Mamiya 7ii which is a 6 x 7 cm rangefinder. It’s just one more tool. But I can relate emotionally to all my cameras. I’m only now starting to shoot digital (although I have been scanning my film for about 12 years) with a Leica M Monochrom. I’m sure the bond will develop as it did to my IIIf.
I’m still more attached to film than initial digital capture. I think that the route to Leica (or any other camera a person loves) is as varied as photographers and their styles.
“it’s like nothing you ever hold in hands.. German Engineering..allows your eyes to connect with the subject…the “decisive moment…” A Leica is truly an “extension of your eye…highest standard of optical quality thus producing amazing image quality…offers a unique rendering …that “Leica Look.”…strips down to the essence of photography…discrete and unobtrusive…the click of the shutter is like “music to the ears.”
Your images are great, but unfortunately, the text does sound like it was written by a ‘Leica cliche generator’. It plays right into the hands of those who see Leica as a religious cult rather than a piece of camera equipment.
I sold an M8 and a Canon 5D to get a fuji x pro 1 with a voigtlander 15mm and fuji 35 and 60mm lenses. I like the “Fuji Look” more than the Leica look and dont need a ir filter,
@Cory: Do you use the Voigtländer 15mm f/4.5? Which M-mount adapter do you use? Do you have a blog? =)
Hi. I use the old version voigtlander 15mm f4.5, the one you can not put a filter on. It is super sharp. I thought about the Fuji 14mm, but with depth of focus from about 2 feet to infinity, who needs auto focus? Dont have a blog.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/93425313@N08/ Two shots with the 15mm here..
Very nice! indeed looks sharp
“..The weight is right, not too heavy and not too light, all of this is the result of German Engineering..”
We-ell, designed in Germany, but made in Portugal (..and then sent to Germany for final adjustment and insertion of the sensor). So not “made” in Germany.
I find an M9 rather heavier than I’d like, and the shutter noise is just too, too loud: compare it against the “discreet” shutter of a Canon 6D (or 5DIII) in “silent” mode, and the M9 is a clatterbox. “..the click of the shutter is quite and smooth like “music to the ears” ..the MP possibly, the M9 definitely not! Try a well-oiled M3 for “music to the ears”.
Beauty and “just right ness” are, of course, in the eye of the beholder, or in the hands of the user. What suits one does not necessarily suit someone else.
Your pictures are great, and if you feel “at home” with your camera(s) then that’s great too. But I really think it’s silly to imagine that only a Leica could take these pictures. Couldn’t the two pics in colour of the two women be taken with any sharp, wide-aperture lens?
I really don’t want to rain on your parade, and it’s great that you feel the way you do about these cameras, but may I suggest a little amendment, from “..The combination of this unique sensor and the Leica glass are known to create that “Leica Look..” perhaps to “..The combination of this unique sensor and the Leica glass are said to to create that “Leica Look”. I think it’s really a matter of the Emperor’s New Clothes ..if you convince yourself that there’s a unique “Leica Look”, then you’ll see it.
Personally, and speaking from first-hand experience with my Digilux 3 (really a Panasonic but called a Leica), a IIIf, an M3 and M4-P, an M8.2 and an M9 and a two whole handfuls of Leica lenses, my opinion is that it’s really just not so.
“..The way of viewing through a rangefinder allows the photographer to anticipate what is coming to your frame to capture the “decisive moment”.
Mmm; you can do that, I’ve found, with absolutely any camera: you just open the other eye.
“..The weight is right, not too heavy and not too light, all of this is the result of German Engineering..”
“We-ell, designed in Germany, but made in Portugal (..and then sent to Germany for final adjustment and insertion of the sensor). So not “made” in Germany.”
Isn’t “Engineering” design? No where did he say “made” in Germany.
I agree the M9 is a bit heavy after carrying it around esp if it match it with some heavy Leica glass. Usually you feel it in the shoulders, not so much when you holding it by hand. I find adding the thumbsup really does help.
As for sensor, I don’t know about a Leica look, but I do know certain Leica’s lenses have a glow, though its not fair to call it the Leica look since not all their lenses can produce this. On the Canon, the 85L sometimes produces a unique look, not a glow but a look that my other L lenses do not produce. It would be like calling it the Canon look, when really you don’t get it with all canon’s gear.
Just one quibble with the statement “unmachable image quality”. It’s not true. With respect to all camera users, I have to say I am sick and tired of people saying just how superior their camera gear is to anything that is around out there. Let me just say, it’s NOT about the camera, but about the person and how he/she captures the moment. This writer, like ALL Leica owners inevitably disappoint both themselves and others because they SO MUCH want others to agree with them that they have the BEST and that is never going to be the case! Just like blind testing Stradivarius violins, out of 10, maybe 2 will pick correctly. Likewise, out of 10 photographs,of the same subject, I would say that only ONE if any would pick a photo taken by a Leica camera. So, say everything you want about your wife, your car your camera and your bank account by all means, but no one actually expects any of it to be impartial or factual. To support this rude utterance of mine, just look at pbase photographs, especially Leica ones. They are inevitably disappointing.
Some great shots and words 🙂 thankyou for the post!
I use a zeiss ikon zm with Leica glass. Also a beautiful bright viewfinder !
Bonding is really the issue, isn’t it? (And of course seeing!) Have just done the interesting experiment of putting your pictures side by side on the screen with Michel Mayerle’s. Just possible that an OMD EM5 might become my poor man’s Leica M…………..
Your pictures are really champagne for the eyes. Thankyou.
Nice shots. Nothing there that couldn’t have come from dozens of other cameras, but I’m glad you’ve found an agreeable system that meets your needs. The accompanying text is a bit over the top. Outrageous claims of technical superiority like these make many dismiss Leica as a maker of religious paraphernalia rather than a camera company.
Luckily, they still do have good optical engineers, some of them even German, not that it matters. I hear their are some pretty good Japanese engineers, too. I do wish those clever German engineers could have perfected rangefinders so they didn’t need calibration periodically. That looks like poor engineering to me – it’s not like they haven’t had plenty of time to get it right by now.
The quality of your images are fantastic, but the accompanying words are just hyperbole and it does unnecessarily read like a Leica advertisement. Why not talk instead of the places you went and people you met along the way?
Also when you say “The discreetness is really the size and the Leica shutter, the click of the shutter is quite (sic) and smooth like music to the ears.” – I shoot with a Leica M9-P and I wouldn’t describe the shutter in any way as quiet and discreet.
agree on the advertisement part, but if he is talking about the Leica MP the shutter is near-silent. Nothing like the M9/P
Great images and I would concur with your experience.
There are many great cameras but I prefer my Leica.
It just feels great to use and like you said inspires you to be creative or in the zone when you pick it up.
Nice photos by the way.
A superb example of how, in the right hands and in front of the right eyes, a Leica can really shine the way that it was meant to.
Superb shots !
I do agree. The difference is that I do it with film. And when it comes to film. Leica is the best. The cameras are very good, the lens are excellent and the whole experiance adds up to near prefection.
I honestly don’t mean this to sound harsh or demeaning, nor do I have any issues with people wanting to use a Leica, but to me this post reads like a rehash of the same dogma (for lack of a better word) that we’ve been reading in Leica brochures and blog/forum posts alike.
Many a double blind test has cast doubts on the substance behind the hyperbole (“umatchable”, “exceptional”, “amazing”, “unique”, etc.) and woolly qualifications (“form the bond with the photographer”, “extension of your eye”, etc.) that seems to be matter-of-course for this type of opinion piece and at the very least (again, in my opinion) it does not lend credence to its validity.
Although I can actually relate to the appeal of an M, some reviews or user reports sound like someone copied entire paragraphs verbatim from Leica’s marketing material.
Please note: this opinion is aimed at the message, not the messenger.
It’s called passion..excitement..enthusiasm. Something most get when they use a Leica camera. Nothing wrong with that at all.
No need to defend the message. I felt like I was reading some advertisement brochure. It may be a uniq CCd sensor, but so is the Sony sensor in my camera. Or the Cmos in my oldet. Etc…
Leica will always remain a controversial part of photography especially in the digital era but criticism can also be a positive motivation behind Leica users.
There is nothing wrong in finding a camera that invokes your creative energy. I am an artist, I have a favourite brush manufacturer (although they happen to be German too) that completes the artistic experience for me
I have a Leica M6ttl and 50 Summicron version iv lens. I love shooting my Leica, and its not because its a camera that connects me with my subject, OR a camera that ‘doesn’t’ get in the way … Hell, its manual camera and uses parallax focusing! I couldn’t imagine a camera that gets in the way more than a Leica !
And as for connecting me with my subject .. it connects me with mE
If you wish to connect with the person being photographed, use a medium format camera with a waist level finder .. I can’t think of a more anthropologically correct way to connect with a person than looking at them with both eyes and no barrier.
I love my Leica because it is small, compact, and sexy … I totally commit to the fashion and style element of the camera … hell I am an artist, I just accept these things
Does my film Leica take better images than my Digital Nikon..no, it doesn’t
Does my film Leica take better images than my Mamiya 645 Pro..absolutely not (not fair, I know)
I think its important to know what you Don’t get with Leica .. and better images are not a guarantee. The other Big swingers in the business can put together camera systems that are far superior to Leica’s, and if you are on any type of budget … forget this camera maker completely! and don’t be enticed by posts claiming the greatness of Leica and leverage yourself to be in the ‘club’. The mirrorless camera technology and its makers are unleashing some wild-ass equipment right now AND provide M-Adapters!
Leica can be a great experience, but not at any price …
An Amateur worries about equipment
A Pro worries about money
… and a Master worries about Light
I enjoyed reading your comment. It’s so spot on!
there’s been a lot of hype about the unique sensor, unique mechanism, unique everything, and then what does Leica do ? make the M240 that confuses everyone and brings in electronics, automation, cmos… hell, its just an autofocus away from sony rx1.
don’t get me wrong, i have the MP, M9, 50 lux, 24lux, 90 cron, 35 cron, and enjoy all of these, but for different reasons.
wow nice reading. Loved the final part! Congrads!
I’d just change the last line a little:
“… A Photographer worries about Light.”
You don’t have to be a Master to be a Photographer. Not all amateurs and pros are photographers.
If you cant get passion from photography from any camera and just a leica, you need to ask yourself what you care about most. its just a placebo, and the discreet factor is a sham considering the fat m9 is a SUV compared with a ps camera. These are only myths that are reinforced, it had meanign in the 50’s and 60’s but not anymore when the world is digital and ps cameras now are pretty darn good compared with old films from just 30 years ago. Technically, every single photo you see here besides the no big deal shallow dof photos, can be done with any camera. All cameras do the same thing. Someones prefernce for one type of camera over another is just that, preference, not anything tangible. the rest are all just myths regurgitated over and over.
need toshoot with leica first to appreciate what it is
I own a Leica M3. All the superlatives that apply to Leica can also apply to any camera you create a bond with. Creating the bond is the hard part. I have that bond with the M3 & X100. I don’t with my Nikon D600. What that means is that I shoot with my M3, X100 and even Sony RX100 far more then I do with my Nikon D600. All are capable of taking good and bad pictures. I love Leica and respect the heritage but they do not have an exclusive claim on superlatives. I do enjoy the photos you posted….
I am opposite. I ditched my X100 and RX100. My D600 is with me at all times. I have a M6 that I love but for other reasons…mainly film and rangefinder experience… I want to get a medium format camera 😛
You’re absolutely right.
Leica, thanks to its recent customers, became the definition of “snobbery at its best”.
Until the MP, they created fabulous tools, small and unobtrusive TOOLS for the field photographer.
Ever since then, owning a Leica is like owning an Iphone, a sign of class success, a kind of.
I’m really fed up with the “fantastic”, “mind blowing”, “amazing” comments everytime someone posts a below average photo taken with a Leica.
Of course, the right tool in the hand of the right photographer can produce superb results, but not neccessarily because it’s a Leica.
I have a Leica M9P and I bought a Monochrom two days ago because these bodies fit my style : discrete, almost transparent in the crowd.
Not because I wanted to be part of the “überklass”.
I’m a former Nikon D3x user and I ended up with several pounds hung to my shoulder (Nikkor zooms, batteries…) with an impact on my spine.
Of course, a D600 or a Sony RX1 could fit the bill, but I’m already accustomed to M bodies and already have some very fine Zeiss lenses.
But what you get with a M is a small, lght, carry everywhere black box that can renders really deep blacks, great colors (once the DNG is proccessed) and specific grain.
I got my bodies, no need for a M (240). I don’t “suffer” from “GAS”. I just buy the tool I need.
Steve was right when he was talking about a “bond” with its Ms. But this bond can be with ANY camera. It’s up to one’s taste and preferences.
Leica is a label that gathers lots of passion around its name for historical reasons.
No, a M will N-E-V-E-R give your more skills or, by magic, make you the next McCurry, but it will give you the motivation and the inspiration to improve yourself.
My two cents only…
Whatever is your camera, go outside and shoot !!!
I enjoyed reading your article.
Like some others said a Leica camera gives you that something “extra” (emotional) in comparison to other systems in my opinion. The excitement, enjoyment, the bonding. I like to read about this.
For some this is a nice thing, others are maybe to rational, don’t believe in this or can’t afford it and therefore never experienced it…no problem, but just skip to the next article and forget about the judging 🙂
The quality of a Leica is the real deal, not just a fad or self delusion. I have been lucky enough to shoot a number of different cameras and camera systems. I currently have a full frame DSLR system, a Leica M9 with 3 Leica lenses and one Zeiss, an OM-D and a Sony RX100. I wish it wasn’t necessary to have so many cameras but each has its place and works well in that place. The Leica is unsurpassed for street photography and landscapes. The Canon 5DIII is an incredibly good camera but the Leica will produce sharper photos and only those two cameras produce images that stand up to big enlargement (I am still getting to know the OM-D so it may be a contender also). Canon’s newest lenses are closing that gap but there will not be true parity until Canon releases a DSLR with no AA filter. Leica M lenses are heirlooms. That is why Leica has survived. It isn’t the M9 body. There are many better camera bodies. The M9 exists because it has a good sensor and is the easiest way to mount M lenses on a full frame digital body.
“The Leica is unsurpassed for street photography and landscapes.”
This is simply inaccurate and propagates an exaggerated myth.
“The Canon 5DIII is an incredibly good camera but the Leica will produce sharper photos and only those two cameras produce images that stand up to big enlargement (I am still getting to know the OM-D so it may be a contender also).”
This is also untrue. The Nikon D800 with the 14-24mm f/2.8 will blow all the aforementioned cameras away for ultimate landscape image quality. But I’m not going to get into that right now.
First, determine what sort of photographs and shots you want to make. Then, find the gear that will best allow you to express your creativity…or get the professional job done.
Go from there.
Leicas are great. I love their history and unique heritage. They pioneered 35mm photography and helped bring it to the masses before the Japanese seriously entered the market.
But things are different now. Leicas are a curious hybrid of old and new technology. The company is philosophically stuck in the ’50s in many ways, and while that’s part of the charm, to be sure ― and in some cases can aid one’s photography ― it’s more often a serious impediment to photographic versatility. Ask any pro.
Leica have been clever about this by couching this resistance to change using such adjectives as “pure” and “essence” in combination with the word photography. But handmade brass bodies, while luxurious in this day and age, are no longer necessary or practical…and have become more a “luxury hallmark” than a requirement for making quality images in the 21st century. Hence Leica positioning themselves as a luxury brand (even if they “officially” deny it).
Are their lenses phenomenal? Sure. But so are several pro optics from Canon and Nikon; to the extent you would never notice the difference, even when pixel peeping. There is nothing that the Germans still secretly know about lens-making that the Japanese didn’t learn a long time ago. That playing field has long since evened out.
And given that digital cameras are now marvels of electronic wizardry more than ever before, the sensor plays a big role in image quality as well―much more so than during the days of film. Being the electronics giants that they are, here the Japanese turn the tables completely. They “own” here.
The one thing that can easily surpass the Leica for ANY form of photography, is the skill ― or lack thereof ― of the photographer using it.
You are the vision…the camera is merely the tool. Shoot with what inspires you, Leica or otherwise. Just don’t automatically expect better results simply because you’re shooting with a Leica.
Gee Robert, none of that had ever occurred to me before. Thanks for pointing it out. The fact is I do expect better results with the camera I use. Not all tools are alike. There is a big difference between images produced with different cameras and some images can only be captured by cameras with certain features and qualities. Just about any car will get me back and forth to work, even a Yugo. And how I drive it is obviously important. But I would not make a major purchase like a car without checking out the choices. I think that is what this site is all about. It isn’t read by people who only care about their gear. I have learned a great deal reading what others have learned and reported on this site and I both appreciate it and try to add to it for that reason. So if all you need is your cell phone camera why are you reading these posts?
You might want to re-read my post.
I re read your post. Allow me to make two changes in my original post. First, add at the beginning of each comment “in my experience”. Second, I did not mean to exclude top end Nikon or other DSLRs from the list of great landscape cameras. I know the Nikon D800 does well. That said, I have shot my Canon 5DIII and Leica M9 side by side at some of my favorite viewpoints in Canyonlands National Park and the Leica consistently produced a slightly sharper photo. The Canon was still very good. The final proof for me was a photo of a cliff face. It is sedimentary rock with many layers that have become broken and distorted over time. It was like a natural lens test full of swirls and layers that compress and merge into other layers. I used the M9 with a Zeiss 21mm f2.8, cropped it and then printed it as large as my printer will go (22 inches). The detail is razor sharp. Minute textures are clearly visible. The detail is as good at the edges as in the center. The photo would still be interesting as a rock formation but otherwise unremarkable without that extreme detail. With that detail it is abstract but also real at the same time. That is where the tool is essential to achieving the vision. Without a really good camera that vision would have only been a momentary personal thought. I think Leica continues to produce a rangefinder that is backward in many respects because of the M lenses. It came out with the R film and S digital systems with modern lenses but with the M it is really all about the lenses and they are all manual and cannot be updated to autofocus.
Sorry Robert you are wrong in many ways. There is a big difference in optics from what is offered by Leica vs. much of Nikon’s. I’ve owned some of Nikon’s best…the 24, 85, 200. I have a D800E and a 200mm f/2 and a Zeiss 21mm. Those lenses are on par with my Leica lenses….your 14-24 *isn’t* except at the wide end and it’s as fat as a pig. The images from my Leica are very different from my D800E.
If you want ultimate image quality from your Nikon I’d get some Zeiss glass or some primes and give up your zoom. You may find that you have a lot to learn.
I shoot professionally — using a D800, a D7000, and Nikon’s “Holy Trinity” of lenses: the 14-24 f2.8, the 24-70 f/2.8, and the 70-200 f/2.8 VRII. I also use the 85mm f/1.4D and the older 50mm f1.2 AIS.
I also own Fuji’s X-Pro 1 with the 35mm and 18mm lenses.
I use all this equipment for portraits (environmental and otherwise), weddings, street, landscape and travel photography.
Nikon’s three zooms are unsurpassed in their respective fields. The 85mm is spectacular and superior to Leica’s 90mm.
I say this as I have a close friend with an M9 and an assortment of M glass, and we’ve done lots of recreational shoots together, always comparing our work afterwards.
The results might surprise you.
The 14-24 is the finest wide angle zoom lens ever made. Period. Yes, there is some distortion, expected in a lens of this focal range. But its sharpness and resolution are unsurpassed — and Leica offers nothing that competes with this in either the M or S formats.
I will fully concede that as a COMPLETE LINEUP, Leica wins hands down for quality, while Nikon, Canon et al make a lot of consumer lenses that are acceptable, but little more. Meanwhile, EVERY lens Leica makes is typically an optical gem.
However, both Canon and Nikon make optical gems, too, and to say that all Leica lenses are superior to Canon and Nikon’s best is simply denominational fallacy.
I could not have said it better myself. The way it was written made me think the post was intended as a joke, undetectable by all hardcore Leica fans who’d mistake it for the real thing.
However, the pictures are very nice. I like the colors in the 1st pic and the picture under the bridge a lot. I long for the day I can afford a MP and 35 summicron
Appreciate all of your comments. I simply stated my actual experience and feelings from shooting with a Leica and I believe a Leica rangefinder can really slows you down and makes you think. This is critical to create better photographs.
Actually I like the color shift in pic 1. Makes it more interesting.
Great photographs as always Jerry. That first one is just amazing. Love the way you have exposed this. The light is just right – very real.
Keep up the good work.
Your images are fantastic and keep my Leica dreams alive…. c’mon Lotto!
The first picture has color shift both left and right from (I guess) Voigtlander 15mm. There is a software that correct it, I belive you can find more information at aperture priority web site. I guess that picture would be far better corrected.
The image was taking by Zeiss 25mm ZM and the colour shift you see I believe is due to the light from the sunrise on that side of the sky as it is not apparent on both sides/all corners.
How do you determine it’s color shift?
When you use Zeiss lens, it will look like “Zeiss color”. When you use Leica lens then it will look like “Leica color”. Different glasses, coating and the workflow on editing software may obtain different results. IMHO I don’t think you can obtain “Leica color” from Zeiss lens.
That is why it is so fun to use a Leica M beacuse you get to use both of the top optics manufacturers in the world with the same lens mount. I agree their renderings are different but each with its own distinctiveness and appeal to different users. When you want the Leica look you just go for Leica lens and the same goes for Zeiss.