My Leica CL alternative: the Fuji X-E1 and 40mm Summicron
By Reindert Gerding
As a 13yr old kid I started photography with an old Kodak camera and manual light meter, after which I moved to a Cosina that I found in my parents attic. On my 16th birthday my grandfather gave me his Leica CL with the 40mm and 90mm lenses included. I fell in love with that camera almost instantly. The way it felt, the way it handled and the way it fit in my pocket. And when my grandfather passed away it became an emotional connection to him as well. But after I went to university I got distracted by other things and forgot about how I enjoyed photography…
Things changed when I came across Steve’s site some years ago and I have been a fan ever since. It is Steve’s approach that I related to from the beginning: it’s not about the best technical product, it’s about how a camera makes you feel. In my opinion this is an integral part of the essence of photography (maybe especially as an amateur). And so eventually, a while ago I decided to start shooting again.
A digital Leica was something I couldn’t afford (nor do I have the skill to properly use one), but fortunately Fuji brought out its X-series and I fell for the X-E1. Of all the cameras I investigated and tried, for me this one came the closest to my beloved Leica CL and with the M-to-X adapter I could also use my CL lenses.
I didn’t at first, sticking with the quite impressive Fujinon XF 18-55 kit lens. But it just didn’t bring me the joy of shooting like before. So I recently bought my girlfriend a second hand X-T10 to combine with the Fujinon lens and put my 40mm Summicron on the X-E1.. and now its staying there!
I already loved the look and feel of the X-E1. It is the right size for my hands, hasn’t got too many bells and whistles, its buttons are at the exact place where I like them and with a thumb rest add-on it offers a firm grip. But what makes it complete is the 40mm Summicron. With it attached it transforms in a wonderful little retro package to fall in love with…
Needless to say it takes a while to get back into “manual”photography and especially manual focusing. It is a real skill that I hope to master one day. It’s frustrating to miss one shot, it’s more frustrating to miss most, but gradually I feel like I’m improving and finding myself hitting the sweet spot more often and getting that feeling of satisfaction that I remember from the times with my CL (minus the exciting wait for the pics to be developed of course 🙂
Reentering into “manual” photography is also bringing back the elements I forgot with all the automatic aiding you in modern camera’s like actually paying attention to your subject, its surroundings, the lighting and thinking in advance what kind of result you are after. And then creating it “with your own hands”.
By no means do I claim that all off this makes my results spectacular, but I love my time spent with this neat little cam-lens combo and hope it shows…
Does this mean there is nothing else to wish for? Well, off course there is… it would be awesome if Leica were ever to make a digital CL. It would also be great if I were to develop my skills further, win the lottery and be able to buy a Leica M :-).
But there is this company over in Japan that managed to help revive a love for photography that could in the meantime be the provider of more bliss in the form of an X-E3 which wouldn’t need much else for me compared to the X-E1. The new X-trans sensor – or maybe even a full frame X-trans (?) – and a perfected manual focus aid would do it. No other flashy stuff. They can keep that for the X-T series. And off course I know there is the X-pro2, but somehow that is not the camera for me.
In the meantime, I remain developing my skills with a combination that makes me happy: the X-E1 and the 40mm Summicron.
Thanks to all for your contributions here, and a special thanks to Steve for making it all possible.
I miss my CL..such a great camera, eventually moved onto mp and also m-p , but I don’t love it…that’s the problem…need a digital CL
Nice! Send me a print of the pig-pic for my collection!
I miss my X-E2 and I have to say that I have been enjoying Manual lenses as well. Nothing as spectacular as your Summicron, but I bought a few Canon FD lens for a video project, and I have fallen in love with the 28mm F2.8 which is 40mm in Stills world and with the Fuji X-T2 crop nearly bang on 50mm for 4k so its working rather well in both applications. A different slower take on the world as a 40mm stills lens and a great fast-ish 50mm for video. Love the digital revolution. But the X-E2 was my favourite camera. I am waiting to see what the new X-E3 has to offer, I suspect I won’t be able to part with the X-T2 as its just too practical for video and the fast AF is great for travel wildlife sports, kids etc. However for street I may pick up a X-E2 sh again as the price will drop (further) when X-E3 comes out, as I miss the form factor and I miss the more filmic rendering of the 16 MP sensor that really lent itself to street.
Really like the write-up! Lets talk soon bro.
Ben je in Sydney en kom je niet eens langs….
There is something to be said for the pure joy of photography and equipment. You’ve found it. Congrats!
I used to own a leica ME but it was too thick compared to the film M bodies so I sold it. But I still cling to the CL for its size and weight, since the M10 shows leica’s ability to downsize a digital M, I wonder if they will do a CL digital, that would be my ideal leica gear!
Fujis are best manual focussed IMO.
The newer PDAF models have great MF aids (much better than the X-E1 did, split prism in particular is fantastic). Also Kipon have released an M mount Speedbooster for Fuji X that brings full frame field of view to M lenses on the Fuji X – Might be something worth checking out.
Of course, an M9 or M-E would also do the trick, fabulous photo making tools.
Interesting reading about combining Fuji X-E1 with Summicron 40 mm. Thanks for that. I have photographed analogously with M Leica since 1962, but never became friends with the digital M Leican, I thought it was too big and too expensive. I’m using a Summicron 35mm on my Fuji X-E1 now and it feels very good and inspiring! It feels like a digital compact M Leica!
I’m glad you survived that encounter with the drop bear, Reindert. Looks as if he had you in his sights.
It was terrifying 🙂
Reindert, the Fuji combo that I use use is, in one way, closer to the CL + 40 Summicron that you are using now: the X-E1 + Fujinon 27/2.8; it’s extremely compact, too (it’s a pancake). I liked the original FOV os the CL and 40—in fact 40mm is my all-time favourite FOV.
Give the Fujinon some consideration. As an Australian, I recognise most of the scenes in your images, too! Thanks for posting this.
Hi Kit, we can shake hands on the 40mm FOV. Love it. I also tried the fujinon 27 and was impressed. But I just love using old(er) lenses and this little lens in particular. I hope to get myself a fullframe body at some point to make it shine at its intended 40mm.
X-E1 & 2 is a great base for using manual lenses, particularly rangefinder lenses which preserve the compactness of the original camera – lens combinations .
I can completely understand what you have to say about this excellent rangefinder-like alternative to the Leica M10 & its predecessors. For me a while back it was mating my Fuji X-E2 with a Zeiss Planar 50mm using the Fuji X-M adapter. Unfortunately some vision issues made manual focus more difficult, so now my substitute is the X-Pro2 with the XF35mm f2 combo. But by using the very excellent manual focus aids of magnification & focus peaking, I can still enjoy what I started out doing when I first discovered photography in my youth like you. And your B&W images are very nice indeed!
Thanks Jed! How is the X-pro2 working out for you in comparison to your previous combo in termes of feel and handling?
Love the “litter” shot! Not too often seen is a pun both visual and verbal.
Nice write-up. Thank you. The micro-contrast and 3D pop in that first image of the sign really shines through. Do you still have your CL? If so, have you considered continuing to shoot it as well? -Scott
Off course I stil have the CL ;-). I take it out once in a while. Unfortunately the light meter is broken so I use an old handheld meter. Still a joy to shoot 🙂
After running multiple Fuji rigs I can confidently say the xe1 remains my personal favorite.