We march to a different drummer By John Shingleton

We march to a different drummer

By John Shingleton

Many months ago I made a resolution not to waste any more time reading the comments on photoblogs/websites and forums as so many are negative in tone. My resolve broke during a long stopover at Dubai airport last month as to pass time I started reading the comments on the web on the new Leica X-Vario. Even I was not prepared for so much negativity,so much angst and so many vindictive comments. And so many of the comments were harsh and negative before the camera had even been officially announced. Now Steve has already commented on this horrible negativity in his review of the X-Vario last week so I will just add that I find it incredible that so many people have the time and the inclination to post so many disparaging comments about a very small German camera manufacturer. What a waste of precious time – better to use it to walk the dog, brush the cat , talk to your partner, play with the children or even take some photos.

Then my thoughts turned to the good folk at Leica and I found myself wondering how they felt about being abused in this way and I quickly decided that they most likely do not care because like me and so many of their customers they march to a different drummer. They are not in the mass market camera business. They produce very individualistic high-end cameras which have an extremely loyal and enthusiastic following and this is their market. And it is not a market of grumpy old men. The enthusiastic uptake of the M9 and the new M models by so many young and up and coming photographers is testimony to the wide and enduring appeal of their products. They do not have to care what the chattering and ill-informed tweeters and commentors say.The X-Vario totally fits the Leica mould .It is not another “me too” camera with virtually the same features as its competitors destined to be discounted in 12 months time to $199 by Amazon and B&H. It appears to have stunning IQ and very straightforward controls and menus. Of course it lacks proper IS and wi-fi and GPS and muliti layered menus and art filters and so on and so on but the point is that the people who will buy it-people like me- do not want these fripperies. We want a tool not an entertainment centre.

Now I am not a young man-a sensitive way of saying that I am in fact old- and my long enthusiasm for photography has previously posted on Steve’s blog  and as I say in that story I have given up on carrying a great heavy bag of gear of camera around on my many travels.

I have been there and done that. My Leica X1 suits me just fine nowadays. In fact it does more than that because in the two years I have owned it I have taken more photos which I am really happy with than in my previous 50 odd years of photography. The combination of a fixed lens which makes me really consider the viewpoint and framing of the photo ,portability of the camera and the very simple controls combined with the superb IQ and that unique Leica feel and “mojo”must explain why I feel so comfortable with it. I have just returned from a 3 week trip to France and I have included some photos from that journey below and my photos from Myanmar also taken with the X1 appeared HERE.

The X-Vario won’t tempt me on because I have really found a rhythm with my X1 and also the X-Vario seems to be substantially bigger than the X1. However I do understand why Leica have made it and I do totally understand that they march to a different drummer.



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  1. Mr. Shingleton,

    I’m late to the game here but just wanted to say your article, and subsequent replies to the ‘nasties’ were brilliantly written and very funny! Thank you for that … and thank you to the ‘nasties’ for making every single post in this thread interesting.

    Let’s be truthful here, if we all came to Steve’s site and blew each other kisses and hugged it out – this thread would have been a yawn fest (your photos John notwithstanding, most were really good!). Different opinions, broken English, bad typing … and yes, the ‘nasties’ make this all thoroughly entertaining.

    Finally, I am unapologetically a Leica Fanboy – I’ve owned an M8.2, D-Lux 5, and still have my trusty M9. I think its our job to take Leica to task when they introduce a camera like the X-Vario. For $3K the camera should have a faster lens and viewfinder to say the least.

    • Definitely should have a viewfinder, and a GOOD one at that. I am extremely interested in this camera, but the lack of a good EVF (will the new Oly VF4 work?) and the speed of the lens are why I have not yet bought one.

      I don’t mind paying for quality, as my M Monochrom was far more expensive and I feel a good value. Now as I look for something smaller (and color) to take with me to Germany in April, the X-Vario, X2 and Sony RX1/RX1R twins.

      Sadly, while there are many fantastic large-sensor compacts in the $2K~$3K range, each of them fall short in some way. I’m actually leaning toward the Sony at this moment, but we’ll see what the camera fairy introduces in the next month or two.

  2. John you are happy to criticise those who you call negative
    yet you cant take a taste of your own medicine.
    Steve’s done the same when criticising “negative”people.

    It is quite simple both of you and everyone else has lots of flaws.
    So why preach,why get on a high horse.

    • No high horse here, I just do not surround myself or live with negativity. It’s like a tumor that eats at you until you end up miserable. This is why I try to keep it away from this site. Negativity is not when someone critiques a photo and says it could be better and why. Negativity is not being sad because you lost your job or moping around being sad. Negativity is attacking others, being mean to others to make yourself feel better or just being outright nasty. I see it every day here especially when I talk about Leica. Most can not stand it not because Leica doesn’t make a good camera but because they feel they need to bash and attack due to cost. Some people love and enjoy shooting with a Leica, there is nothing wrong with that just as there is nothing wrong who equally love shooting with a $50 camera. It is all about what you enjoy using but people should never be attacked for doing what they love and sadly that happens often, from all of the negative bitter people. It is just how it is I guess and will always be like this.

      • Not surprisingly I am 100% with Steve on this and I hope that he will continue to attack negativity whether it is on his blog or elsewhere.He certainly articulates his position well and everyone who comments on the blog should consider his words carefully.
        Whilst I am pleased that my story and the accompanying photos have been generally well received I do feel that the few really nasty comments demonstrate the validity of what said in the article and indeed what Steve has said above.Some of the”nasties” have not carefully read what I said .To critique what I said .1.The appalling negativity across the web about the Leica XVario,much of it before the camera was even released,was very unpleasant and I was surprised that the writers did not have more useful things to do with their time.2.Leica has a different strategy to most other camera manufacturers and the “nasties” should recognise this.3.Some of us like our Leicas and believe that they are great photographic tools.

        I have read and reread what I wrote in the article and do not believe that any reasonable person could reach the conclusions about it that the “nasties” have reached.In other words they attached to it their own interpretation.

        I also feel very strongly that if you are going to criticise someone you should be prepared to present your argument fully,cogently ( and properly typed ) and clearly and that you should be prepared to state your name fully and not hide behind a mask of anonymity by using initials or a webname.I spell out my name fully as does Steve.None of the nasties above who so earnestly attacked me used their names.Shame on you.

        A famous English football manager once said that’football is not a matter of life and death.It is more important than that”.I’d like to think that all of us feel that photography does not fit into the same category and that we can all enjoy it as a fun hobby.A release from our everyday stresses and worries and that we can enjoy blogs such as Steve’s and others in a positive frame of mind and engaging in a constructive dialogue with fellow enthusiasts.Life is way too short to be nasty to anyone paricularly fellow photographers.
        John Shingleton.

  3. Nice read John. I’ve never touched a Leica, let alone shot one, but that’s fine. As for your photos, they are soft on this forum but the same images on your blog are sharp. It’s most probably the compression used by someone, somewhere or something else. (Flickr is notorious for compressing images to being almost unusable).

    I also like your point about NOT photographing everything. Sometimes it’s good to let one’s mind capture the scene.

    Regards from the northern Central Coast, NSW!

  4. These are images that I find engaging – enough so that I returned for repeat viewings. I doubt that more sharpness would make them more enjoyable to view. I like the subtle and understated feeling – so refreshing compared to the over-the-top sensationalism that so many strive to achieve via shot selection, composition, or post processing

    • Oh dear.Some people are being nasty and personal and mean and downright silly again.And none of them ever sign their full names either.What a coincidence.Time to stop reading the comments and the forums again.Time to read a good book.Au revoir.Goodbye.
      John Shingleton
      ps at least I can type

  5. But can we agree that “different opinion from the majority” is not necessarily “negative”?
    Overall, this is a good, creative blog with a lot of diverse ideas. However, there are too many posts featuring very plain, same-y images taken with £2,500-£8,000 gear that almost everyone lauds as “phenomenal”. It is not trolling to state that some of the shots and portraits in the RX1r post or some of the street shots in this article are just that: nice and perfectly acceptable. Not the 2nd Coming for the art of photography; or indeed anything that could not be shot with a camera which is 10 times cheaper. It’s the hyperbole of the praise that drives the hyperbole of the criticism.

  6. The nice reation sof the people to yo Johnc learly shows you are a nice person.

    Yet “Many months ago I made a resolution not to waste any more time reading the comments on photoblogs/websites and forums as so many are negative in tone. ”
    suggests that you are a saint who has never been negative, disparaging towards anyone, anything.

    Steve’s done the same talking about negative people.

    All i can say is get off high horse, hold up a mirror.
    Look at the plank of wood in our own eye instead of looking at the splinter in someone elses eye.

  7. A refreshing view point John. Photographers use different cameras types for all sorts reasons, but mostly because they like it, it suits their needs and can afford their choice. Opinions are great, take out of them what you want, go try a piece of new gear and find out for your selves.

    Cheers, Mike

  8. Harley Davidson actually is an interesting case study of “individualism” marketed for the well-off middle aged. I used to ride MV Agustas (pre 2010, F4’s and a Brutale).

    Nice images John.

    • Btw I’ve just realized (English is not my mother language) that “marching to a drummer” denotes following exactly the rithm that another has estabilished. Not a very individualistic and original way of living, but Freudian slips are like this…
      And not, I’m not trolling…

  9. Nice images!

    I kind of agree with your comments about criticism found in forums, but perhaps not 100%.

    With respect… I think the criticisms DO have a certain value, and I do hope the manufacturers take note (weighing it for what it’s worth)

    I think criticism should not be limited to either positive or negative, but in fact be honest and sincere.

    Most importantly, I think criticism should be ‘professional and respectful’ meaning that it should be directed toward a product, feature, design, action, or outcome and not simply toward an individual.

    I say this as a person who has always believed in marching to his own drummer, as I personally appreciate all criticism… though I may or may not apply it and I certainly weigh it based on the expertise and success of the person giving it 🙂

  10. I am very disappointed with the X-Vario. I said it and don’t feel like I wasted my time. I still had the time after that to talk to my wife and kiss my son goodnight.
    I think criticism has its place and if we don’t like something it’s not bad to say it.
    On an other topic, the last picture of your set is absolutely incredible !!
    Cheers from France 🙂

  11. I totally agree with the point you make here John. I prefer to use my sparse time to shoot and to connect with people in a positive way. Photography has surely a major part in that. Love your photographs by the way!

  12. Christer, there is always some sanctimonious type who knows the meaning of life and has an antenna tuned to anyone who does not play the game, so don’t worry, he he.
    Try commenting on crooked horizons or fuzzy shots and “you’ve missed the point”!
    But mention you place a filter in front of the lens and the “degradation” will be cause for copied scorn and derision as if every shot is a debacle.

    “Negativity” can become “negativism” used to silence other opinions. Once constructive criticism is dishonestly labeled as negativism it gives the sanctimonious licence to shut down alternate viewpoints.
    Cameras are highly technical machines and to criticise someone because they comment on an artefact (eg sharpness) of their operation is servile
    nonsense. Let’s point out the deficiencies and encourage further development.

  13. Wonderful shots….but in all honesty, they could have been taken with any of the few dozen cameras on the market today.

    The real message is that you don’t need a Leica to do excellent work.

    • I completely agree with you.The shots could easily have been taken with dozens of cameras on the market and nowhere in my story do I claim that the Leica is in anyway unique in terms of IQ.What I tried to say is that my Leica is small and it works for me and arguably I may well have not taken these photos if I had been carrying round a bag of complex gear .
      Whilst I have, again, broken my resolution not to read comments and forums I should keep going and say that I cannot see that these images are unsharp ( but maybe my old eyes are not upto the task).They certainly look sharp on my Mac monitor.I keep my fingers well away from the sharpening slider as I believe that many photos nowadays are oversharpened and have too much micro contrast so this may be why some feel that they are unsharp.Real life is not always so sharp that you can cut your hand on it and some of these pictures were taken in soft light.Anyway I believe that it’s all about the pictures not the pixels.

  14. This goes both ways. In my walks around Toronto I’ve met a few people with Leicas who look at me with an odd disdain as I walk around with my Canon 7d and my Sigma 30mm lens. I was shocked when an older gentleman with a Voightlanger had the nerve to approach me and say “You’ll never get the kind of photos I get on my camera.” Mind you, he was shocked when I knew his camera was pronounced “Fauschtlanger” and we ended up having a brief but pleasant conversation.

    I find that Leica users tend to shoot-first and ask questions later and very quickly count out those people walking around with Canons, Nikons, and other standard or popular brands.. When you do get to talk to them they tend to be very well spoken, less gear-headded, relaxed and understanding.

    Truthfully, I love my old Leica M4 (which itself used to be derided to no end among Leicaphiles) but I just can’t put this Sigma 30mm lens down (it’s the older 1.4 version, not the latest one). There’s just something about it and the Canon 50mm 1.4 I just bought that makes me want to keep taking photos! I think that’s more important than a red dot.

    Very nice photos John! Keep taking pictures!

    All the best everyone!

    • And THAT (“There’s just something about it and the Canon 50mm 1.4 I just bought that makes me want to keep taking photos!”) is what it (photography) is all about, Frank!

    • Don’t mean to be too critical but you are probably talking about a Voigtländer camera which is pronounced very differently as well.

      • No worries. I can’t always be on my game with spelling. Besides, where I come from we call them “Cosina” 😉

  15. I also love my X1. It was responsible for my jump to the M9 after 1.5 short years. Great camera that stunned me with it’s images. Has a slow AF and is poor in low light but you learn to work with it. I still shoot it now and again. Nice pics…

  16. Sorry – I expressed myself badly (above no.11), John. I meant that your photos showed why I should pluck up courage, not why I haven’t! And I notice by the way that you’re very content with your X1 – which also got it’s fair share of flak.

  17. Sorry but who gives a rats proverbial if people slate a camera or it’s manufacturer??? Pretty sad if anybody takes offence or finds such negative reviews a problem if you ask me. As human beings we need to be objective if we are to progress in any aspect of life whether that is buying a camera or changing one’s career or whatever. Use what works for you, who cares a £$%# if another person doesn’t agree with your choice? As much can be gained from a negative comment as can be from a positive comment if the reader is an open minded and objective person.

    Now, if we are talking about a person who is simply offensive and attacks other people and their views then that is a completely different matter and a form of negativity that is unwarranted, hurtful and damaging. People like that do not deserve to be heard whatsoever.

    There’s a big difference between the two. And after all when it comes to any personal decision about any kind of tool purchase – One man’s meat is another man’s poison.

    JM2C 🙂

  18. The photos are really interesting… The article tought, is the mandatory blurb about how “We are different”… reminds me of the same attitude from Harley Davidson (“We drive OUR way”) and Apple buyers (“Think Different”)… All different individualistic thinkers, all the tens thousands of them, all with the same props/objects… A little suggestion: care less of being different, care more of enjoying life 😉

    • Don’t worry I certainly know how to enjoy life.My worry now is that I use an Apple Mac and before I retired I was the CEO of Harley-Davidson Australia! Probably explains it all.I won’t tell you what cars I collect you’ll probably collapse in a heap groaning!
      John Shingleton

      • AhAH! I got you dear Sir! Btw, just joking, but please don’t call Leica a “very small German camera manufacturer”. It can outbuy a small south american country… And, as I said, you made interesting pictures, so I hope I’ll see you again on this page.

      • Oh Harley, that explains it. I drive a BMW 75/6 and my car collection consist of a LandRover 109, both in daily use.

        Best regards

      • Hi John,

        Your comment about using a Leica and being CEO of Harley Davidson made me laugh out loud with my morning coffee cup in hand. Well done! You write and respond to comments with class.

        I’m 47 this year. The older I get, the more I appreciate minimalism, the beauty of well designed single-purpose tools. I stumbled on on this site researching Leica comparisons and appear to have discovered a community of photographers who appreciate photography for the same reasons I do. For the longest time, I gave up chasing the latest equipment gear. I just used an OLD Canon G3 which tops out at 5 megapixels. Its slow to focus. The ISO only goes up to 400 (can you believe that?) and the images are noisy ay ISO 200 and above. It doesn’t have great dynamic range compared to anything at the time of this writing. Even a $100 P&S today will have better specifications on paper.

        However, there is something about that camera that renders images I find pleasing. Images that with a bit of post-processing, are able to communicate the feelings I was trying to capture and evoke with a subsequent viewer. The files created by the camera were able to be manipulated decently I suppose.

        You can see a sample of some pics here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/12377946@N04/

        Pretty much any camera works as a decent capture device these days. More important is thet eye and skill of the photographer in judging composition, cropping, post-processing the image. I confess that while I am comfortable and work with computers on a daily basis, I have no patience for long hours tweaking an image to perfection or trying out various film grain filters. I have never mastered Photoshop. Most of my adjustments were performed in Picasa or open source software using Linux.

        These days, I mainly look for ease of exposure compensation, a decent P program, aperture priority and image rendering that is pleasing to my eye. The camera should not get in my way to “seeing” and “capturing” the image.

        I will be considering the Ricoh GR and a Leica (I don’t know which one yet).

        Best wishes,

  19. I appreciate John’s photos and his thoughts about negativity. I do think, however, that the dintinction between criticism and vindictiveness is a slippery slope.

    Negativity towards individuals is wrong but negative camera reviews are fair game.

    The reason why I say this is because we have all read glowing product reviews. Positivity helps to increase sales and the image of manufactuers. This behavior is morally good.

    On the flip side, negativity is often met with scorn. When someone attacks the merits of a product the response from others is swift. Whether or not the critique is soundly reasoned, the attacker is viewed as ignorant and a troll. The attacker is morally bad.

    So what is worse; attacking camera equipment or attacking those people who write negative reviews? I say the later.

    I believe it is far easier to write positive product reviews. People shower you with praise and we are all left with a warm and fuzzy feelings inside. I learn more, however, from negative reviews. It takes courage to write them. I may disagree with parts or even all of a review but I appreciate looking at a point of view I haven’t considered before, even if harsh.

    With this said, I am thinking about many of the comments written about Steve’s review of the RX1R. There is mud slinging and slander all around. I don’t agree with this kind of behavior. And as far as the Leica X-Vario is concerned, fine, if you believe it is an awful camera, I want to know why you believe that. I may agree or not but I do believe you are entitled to your opinion.

  20. What a lovely article! I haven’t plucked up the courage yet to go single focal length, but your photos make me see why. Maybe a Ricoh GR? However I’m half way: I don’t do heavy gear either! Thanks for the posting.

  21. And this folks is what a Leica Fanboy sounds like. Title in itself sounds so elitist. Much more when you said, “they most likely do not care because like me and so many of their customers they march to a different drummer. They produce very individualistic high-end cameras which have an extremely loyal and enthusiastic following and this is their market. And it is not a market of grumpy old men.”

    And of course you so happen to own a Leica X1. Boo-hoo to the others who chose to follow the rhythm of the conductor and play along with the music of us regular folks.

    I am not trying to be mean. But this is what I gathered from reading your article. Good on you for finding a rhythm with your X1, just please don’t bash others because you have a Leica and they don’t.

    • Fair go Gregory.I’m no fan boy.Fan senior maybe but not a fan boy please. Let’s have some respect. But on a semi serious note I’m sorry you didn’t like the title and you found it “elitist” but I found it difficult to think of an alternative which neatly summarises the intent in quite the same way.It’s quite a well known turn of phrase by the way.Well it is where I come from.I am sure you will find a similar difficulty with the title when you write your story for Steve’s post and I do look forward to seeing your photos.
      I certainly was not being mean to those who do not own a Leica in the article and to draw this conclusion from it is wrong.
      But enough of this silly time wasting how about we agree to be friends and go and take some photos?
      John Shingleton

  22. Your words describe what I felt for years with a rollei 35 SE. The unsharpness in your fotos has got a soul.
    Lots of ultrasharp soulless fotos nowadays.

  23. Beautiful photos, full of soul. (And I could say the same complaint as Martin Hulbert.)
    Also, this article makes me think, how the most of photo enthusiasts (me too in these days) postprocess photos to look contrasty and have rich colour, at the same time totally losing the other methods to make them expressive and interesting. While some subjects ask for contrast, it’s not the general rule. May be we’ll better try to give to our photos less from the camera and more from ourselves — like you do.

  24. John,

    I like the set of 4 B&W pictures at the end of your post. Also enjoyed the pictures attached to your first post here.

    I agree on the fact that the X-Vario is a niche product. However, and even though I am a Leica fan, I tend to believe that it is overpriced. In any case, I truly hope for it be a full success as it will support the development of future Leica products (e.g.: 21-24-28 Tri-Elmarit, 21-35-50 Tri-Elmarit, M35606 with true high-ISO capabilities, M240 Monochrom, CL-D with M-mount etc.).


  25. Thanks for your post. I too am leaving a few forums behind that are incredibly negative, or virtually run by fanboys to the detriment of all reason and logic. I must say I was not positive about the new Leica. After seeing the results, and holding one in hand, I found it to be well built, and capable of excellent output. Is it worth the price? Well, we have to ask what the measure of “worth” is. If it is about being the cheapest, then I would expect every parking lot to be full of Toyota Tercels, or Yugos. As they are not, there is more the experience then just a price.

  26. These pictures are so unsharp, at least as presented here, that any other qualities that they may have get lost.

  27. Love images 1, 7, and 10 but especially 1! While I don’t and never will shoot with a Leica (out of my price range), I have found cameras that have worked for me over the years from Olympus to Nikon (while I was a working newspaper shooter) and finally (and recently!) to the Fuji X100S. After years of needing and using fast zooms I have returned to my roots with a single fixed lens. I do plan on adding a X-E1 w/35mm f1.4 but for now I am sticking with the 35mm FOV that the X100S provides. Really a different way of shooting – more thought is required along with a need to get my head around and get comfortable with the FOV that the camera provides. Just a matter of really “seeing” an image is a challenge for me at this point and one that is bringing about a different type of image.

  28. John
    You have seen the France and the French very well – I love the images and thanks for sharing… the only complaint is that your images make me want to go there again and at the moment that is not possible.

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