We were having too much fun yesterday to even get to all the other new cameras we haven't mentioned yet. And that was without even broaching the subject of the Ive One-Off. Many readers were anxious to tell me about that (and of course I do appreciate tips, even ones I don't use, and thank you, thank you for caring). Seems that Jonathan Ive, head design honcho of Apple Computer, will be designing his own version of the Leica M camera. Leica will then manufacture one (that's not a typo; I didn't leave off the "hundred" or the "thousand" by mistake) and auction it off for charity.
Fine, but one question: what does that have to do with me? I guess I like Jonathan Ive as much as the next guy—well, the next Apple user, since PC users have a glowering antipathy to all things Jobsian that don't have to do with animated toys, cars, or fish—but I wouldn't care about Ive at all if they had only built one iPhone or one iMac.
Right: Sir Jonathan Paul Ive, KBE, Senior VP of Industrial Design at Apple
The whole point of design to me is that designers work really hard to create something really nice, and then whoever employs them builds loads of them, and I can have one. At the other extreme is exclusivity, which is the idea that the fewer there are of anything the more exalted and set apart you are for owning one, and my insight is that I am eccentric enough already without trying to further distinguish myself from my fellow human beings on purpose. I have a dim idea that exclusivity is very important in haute couture (that's French for "high sewing," but it sounds better if you leave it in French—it means "fashion"). For instance to female movie stars, because it is very important to, say, Nicole Kidman that she not show up at the Oscars wearing the same dress as Katie Holmes, or whomever the Scientologists assign to Tom Cruise next. But then again, all the male movie stars essentially wear the same suit to the Oscars anyway, so even that doesn't apply. (If I went, I'd wear jeans, like my onetime acquaintance Larry McMurtry did.)
I'm feeling vaguely dizzy. This always happens when I allow my mind to flirt with the tractor beams at the edge of the vortex of pop culture's celebrity obsession.
Okay. I'm feeling wordy this morning. Verbose. Prolix.
(Warning: beyond the break, prolixity continueth. Click through at thy own risk. Oh, and there's nothing at all about the Canon 6D, either...I'll try to correct for all this misdirected effort later today.)
I should have just said: "The Jonathan Ive Leica M? Don't care."
Of course, then, a great many individual would accuse me of the "L Libel." I get accused of the L Libel regularly—essentially, every time I write about the L-word.
If you don't know what I'm talking about, I'm referencing the blood libel, and the L-word, which is Leica. The "blood libel," which is sort of an early antecedent of a dirty campaign tactic, is, roughly, the idea that you spread really nasty rumors about your enemies in order to make other people hate them as much as you do. It's demonization of others in the cause of enlisting allies to your own point of view. Specifically, it's the notion that Jewish people ritually kill children to use their blood in religious rituals, and that, therefore, you are so justified in keeping those people out of the country club. The L Libel, which is not a blood libel, is the idea that if you don't revere all things having to do with Leica then you "hate" Leica. It 's basically the old "if you're not fer us you're agin us" problem. Either you love Leica, or you must hate Leica.
I don't love or hate Leica. Honest. I feel about Leica just about exactly like I feel about Canon. I know some people like 'em and some people don't; I like some of their products and not others; and I have no problem with them.
The difference is that you are allowed to feel that way about Canon, but you are not allowed to feel that way about Leica.
My mantra is full disclosure, so I should disclose: I like film M Leicas; I've owned several. I'm kind of obsessed with old R4—>R7 cameras, and still look longingly at R7's on eBay auctions; I hated the R8; I totally love and approve of and admire the S2 (which I might even use if I could comfortably afford it, which is an if that will never be); I dismiss the X2, quite probably unfairly; and—gulp—no, I really don't like the digital M's all that much. And when I say "the digital M's," I mean to signify all the digital rangefinder designs, not just the new ones which will be called "M." We will have to be clear about that from now on.
Remember how I wrote recently about "bonding" with your camera? The opposite, I suppose, would be aversion. When you're averse to something it means you just don't like it. Sometimes for no good reason. The digital M-plural and I got off on the wrong foot. The very first pictures I took with an early Leica M8 happened to be at a restaurant that had a multitude of recessed so-called "french-fry" lights in the ceiling that must have given off very high levels of infrared. (This was before the M8's IR problem was well known, and before Leica had offered a workaround for it.) The results were so astonishingly, alarmingly horrible that I was, yes, shocked. I'm not just saying I was shocked; it was a feeling that I felt. I mean I was really stunned, taken aback, consternated.
The next pictures I took with it happened to be of a subject (window screening) that showed vivid, ineradicable moiré.
At that point, I did not trust that camera. And trust is essential for bonding. Accordinly, I divided my M8 review, which was the last Leica review I'm going to write, into "pro" and "con" sections. The dogs of Leica set upon me for the "con" half, howling the L Libel as they hunted snapping and snarling.
I am not making things better for myself here, am I. Unfortunately, the more I protest that I don't hate Leica, the more Leica fans think I do.
I have another problem with the digital M-family. One that I freely admit makes no sense. (I'm about to do my anti-Leica reputation no favors.) It's that they persistently strikes me as a replicas. In other words, digital M-types pretend to be something they're not. The great beauty of the M4 (my favorite film Leica) is that it's a supreme example of form and function, a refined and perfected design, a device of supreme mechanical beauty rendered with unparalled craftsmanship. Everything about it is devoted to ergonomic efficiency and transparency in use; it really is one of the great industrial designs of the 20th century.
The digital M-family just looks like it. Yes, the M9 has the same viewfinder and takes the same lenses—and both of those requirements necessitated compromise. But it seems to me that it has no integrity as a digital device. It mimics, like plastic wood, or a suburban tract house with Tara-like antebellum-mansion pillars on the front, or a print of a painting with fake brushstroke texture made of plastic on top of it.
It's faux. That's my feeling.
I said this makes no sense, and it doesn't, and here's why: there are many digital cameras that are just as much "replicas" of old film cameras. What is a D600 but a digital F100? It also takes the same lenses and has the same kind of viewfinder. Same shape, more or less the same controls, same color, made of the same materials, even has the by-now intensely stale Giugiaro red slash motif. The sensor is the same size as a 35mm negative. What's not a replica about that? Sure, it works completely differently, but the M9 is no more a replica than the D600 is. So why object to one and not the other?
I can't defend it. It's just a feeling I have, and find I can't escape from.
And some people really like the M-types' form-factor, and the handling, and the viewfinder, and the fact that they take all those lovely lenses...and what's wrong with that? Nothing. Nothing at all.
But anyway, the upshot here is that I don't hate Leica; I like some Leicas and not others. I can say the same thing about any other make of camera. If someone gave me a Leica M, I'm fairly sure it would sit on the shelf in the cabinet a lot. It's probably not my cuppa tea. But then, I'm envious of my buddy Jack, who does pretty much everything with an S2 and two gorgeous lenses and is as happy as a pig in mud. And gets breathtaking results. And makes big, beautiful, glorious prints. Leica clean-sheeted the S, and that one strikes me as a camera of supreme integrity, very well conceived, a thorough-going and through-designed marvel that gets most everything right.
You can feel free to like what you like and dislike what you don't like. I hope I'm allowed, too. It's permissable to pick and choose. You're not being disloyal to your favorite camera company if you don't like one of its offerings. It's allowable to like one model and not care so much for another.
Maybe I can even not care about the Jony Ive M. Without getting slapped for libel.
...Oh, dear. I've "gone on" again, and haven't even gotten to the Canon 6D yet. Guess I'll have to start another post. Hopefully, one that's not so wordy....
P.S. If three or more people order a Leica M through my links, I will take back everything bad I ever say about it. Yes, I will. Why? Because then it will be a marvelous, fantastic, wonderful, amazing camera. :-)
(I'm kidding here, just to be clear.)
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Original contents copyright 2012 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved.
Featured Comment by Andrew Johnston [no relation —Ed.]: "'...You are allowed to feel that way about Canon....'
"I'm not! I think the problem comes if you criticise something you're 'supposed to like.' As a long-standing Leica user, you 'should' like the Leica digital M's.
"I quite unexpectedly experienced something similar with a Canon review. A couple of years ago, I upgraded my Canon 40D to a 7D. After a bit of use, I came to the conclusion that it was a good camera, with a couple of relative drawbacks: 1, the 7D has some ergonomic inconsistencies not present in the 40D and 2, the image quality at low ISOs is not quite as good. On top of my own practical experience I found that DxO supported my IQ observation. So I posted a review of the 7D on Amazon.
"You would think I had asserted that all readers were the progeny of unmarried streetwalkers! Of course the 7D is better than the 40D! In comments on my review I have been accused of stupidity, of ignorance, of inexperience, of hatred, and in one remarkable case of simple inability to correctly express my love and admiration of the camera...
"If I had just said 'I don't like this camera' I might have got away with it. But saying 'I am an owner and user of many Canons and this one is OK but imperfect' seems to trigger the strongest emotions, because I 'should' just like it."
Featured Comment by Jeffrey Goggin: "'It mimics, like plastic wood, or a suburban tract house with Tara-like antebellum-mansion pillars on the front, or a print of a painting with fake brushstroke texture made of plastic on top of it.'
"You've articulated precisely the reason why I can't abide the Olympus OM-D and its faux pentaprism hump. A camera's appearance generally doesn't matter much to me, except when it does. In which case, it then matters a lot. 8^)"
Featured Comment by Joel Rittvo: "As a designer, Ive seems to be as interested in manufacturing technique and production wizardry as he is in the look and feel of the finished product. I find it a little ironic that he has been tapped to do what will be essentially a 'bespoke' hand-made camera, rather than one for the assembly line."
Featured Comment by noeffred: "Ive's camera will be auctioned off and the proceeds will be donated to charity...I fail to see the problem with that...."