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Thursday, 20 July 2017

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You do realize that effective 8/15/2017 Leica will no longer replace free of charge corroded M9 and MM sensors resulting from defective design. The company does not do everything right. And let's not forget too that the TL2 is not perfect. It locks up when you use the Visoflex (EVF) and Leica has stopped selling them until it can figure out the problem.

Jay hates the Ferrari dealers, not the cars. Letterman got over it.

I have a personal dilemma with Leica, because as a long time film M-Leica user (M4 and M6), I have often thought about buying a digital M body, since I still have my M lenses. But in recent years, probably since the M9, there is an association, expressed recently in a reader comment, that Leicas were bought by middle-aged men with too much money. Possibly I can align with the former, but not the latter, and it isn’t a group I want to join.

So, would the consensus be that I should go the Fuji X-Pro 2 route, especially since the files are more amenable to producing good black and white images? It has an excellent lens line and is good to look at, albeit in a rather intentionally homage to Leica way.

But it would be sad you can’t buy another Leica just because the ‘wrong sort of people’ are buying them, although that assumes they are mainly bought for the wrong reasons. For example, someone carrying one of the new Fuji or Hasselblad larger format digital cameras is unlikely to be given such a hard time, or are they?

I think it is hard to fight the snark at the current new prices. For me, it is just straight up sour grapes. I'll admit that right up front. I bought my first Leica back in 1993 or so: a used M3 with a 50mm 1.5 Summarit. This was followed closely by the next camera over in the case, an M3 double-stroke with a 35/3.5 Summaron . . the one with the "goggles." I loved their design simplicity, their quiet operation, their small size, and above all how they fit in the hand. When a tool just feels "right," it is a fine thing.

There was a moment in the 1990's when my income curve crossed with the price decline curve of newer used Leica gear and I bought an M4-P, then an M6, then an M6 TTL (new) then an M7 (also new). I still have the M3's and the M6, although I haven't used them in a while.

The sour grapes have come from the fact that the current crop of FF sensor Leicas are just over horizon of the possible for me in terms of cost. I love the idea of a B&W only digital camera -- quite against reason. I love that a company would take the risk of designing and building that specialized a tool. It takes a certain amount of guts. And I think that in a consumer society the notion that you can't afford something is always accompanied by a hint of a bitter taste. That is where some of the strong negative sentiments originate concerning the company and their brand, I am sure.

I think a useful test is to take money out of the equation. If you won the Lottery tomorrow, what would you get? I have a pretty specific list, but the M Monocrom would definitely be on it.

I am close to selling off a lot of my excess gear, of which there is a lot though that may not generate a lot of cash. I would do so to (partially) fund:

1. CLA of my CL/Summicron 40
2. Purchase of a film M (I haven't decided between M4-? and M6 with a 28mm

My line-up would then be streamlined to Leica, Rolleiflex and Chamonix 4x5, with an OM in reserve for work that really requires a 35MM SLR, as well as Fuji XLPro when digital originals are required.

For 35mm I just work better with an RF for most situations. Using Leica is not about status or snobbery for me, it's about how I function, how the gear suits me, and build quality and reliability.

Can you state your objection to the Leica brand more concisely? Do you just object to its pricing?

[One word...snobbism. --Mike

Snobbism. the double inclination to ape one's superiors, often through vulgar ostentation, and also to be proud and insolent with one's inferiors. Also called snobbery.—snob, n.—snobby, snobbish, adj.]

Despite whatever role today’s Leica has to play in consumer consciousness or conspicuous consumption, my Leica M2 and 50mm Summicron Dual Range, having already served previous owners for some six decades, will provide me a lifetime of what I consider realistic perfection, and all for far less than a Sony a9 body-only.

Jay Lenno is far to "classy" (in the classical sense) to own a Ferrari.

When a photographer uses essentially normal lenses, from 28 to 50 or around. The clear viewfinder of M type is a relief of simplicity an the absence of any mirror blackout or electronic freezing is a joy.

Also appreciated, is the form of the camera, the gentle nature of its appearance.

The Leica M is a general purpose camera, with universal appeal.

Actually, the market trifurcates -- into products for the rich, products for the rest, and products for the the ignorant. I doubt the rich would carry them if they knew the rest of us thought they were ignorant. Ignorant is no longer an acceptable place for the rich to be, but is rather the most severe embarrassment: watch CNN some night and you'll know what I mean.

Like you, I am a democrat, and I believe in, or at least approve of, all the things you enumerated. However, I have always agonized over the issue of inequality. I am offended by it. I cannot justify it. And yet, analytically, I cannot escape the uneasy feeling that it is, well, necessary -- necessary in the sense that it is inequality which drives innovation and progress.

This thought hits me in the face every time I travel in Europe. Why do people go to Europe, if not to admire the products of centuries of inequality? All the palaces, the chateaux, and to some extent the cathedrals, all the objet d'arts in all the museums -- are they not all products of extreme inequality? Were the quality of materials and workmanship demanded, perfected, and paid for by 0.01% patrons not essential to the process of development? Had wealth been more evenly/fairly distributed, what would Europe look like? Levittown? And what would museums look like? Walmart?

Back to the subject at hand. Without inequality, would we have technological innovation? Air travel started out for jetsetters. Look at pretty much any product -- not just gearhead objects like cell phones, cameras, cars. Look at clothing, textile, appliances, everything. Almost every innovation of consequence starts at the top end, expensive and exclusive, before it gets into the broad market. Wealth may or may not trickle down. (I'd say it flows both ways.) But innovation most certainly does.

All of this is one long justification (excuse?) for my love of Leicas, Ferraris etc.

I should add that a big downstream market is also a necessary condition for innovation. And that requires a strong middle class. Does that redeem my moral self-conception?

Technical, which is to say, mathematical, or more precisely, geometrical (which in fact an idiomatic) note:

"So to have a Leica that's a copy of a Sony is, historically, to go full circle—something I find wonderful and marvelous."

It's actually gone half-circle. If it was full circle it would mean that Japanese copied German, then German copied Japanese, and now Japanese is copying German again. In other words, it is 180 degrees from the tradition, not 360.

If Panasonic made a camera as simple as the TL2, it would be mocked as an entry-level camera and not something that any of us are interested. In fact, Panasonic made a whole line of simple "GF" cameras. No one has ever praised them.

The TL2 is missing features I'd expect to find on a $2000 camera, nay, missing features I'd expect to find on a $500 camera. An automatic exposure lock button? Zebra patterns or other live indicator of highlight clipping? Level? Minimum shutter speed? Nope.

Also, I can spend a lot less money on a Panasonic or Olympus camera and get IBIS and a built-in flash and a built-in viewfinder.

Is it seemly to carp about near-perfection? All the TL2 lacks is a tilt-screen. Those of us with a lot of TLR in our DNA like them.

I have a lot of respect for Leica’s history, achievements, and dedication to quality. I think the most fun I ever had with a camera was with an M6 loaded with whatever B&W film I happened to be fooling around with at the time. I looked forward to spending weekends developing the results of the week’s shooting. I had an M8 for a while too, which was still a positive experience while being a bit of a PITA at the same time.

However … there was a time for Leica that has, for me, passed. The “age of uncertainty” between film and digital, when digital cameras took OK pictures but there was always that “something amiss” you couldn’t quite put your finger on. The promise was clear but the execution was still kind of fuzzy. That’s when Leica made total sense to me. It gave me the technical and creative quality I wanted (even though I didn’t even come close to using its full potential), and that made all the extra work that film required worth it, if not downright enjoyable.

How things have changed. I’m sure some will disagree, and that’s OK, but in a very short time digital imaging has surpassed film in so many ways and to such a degree that there’s no turning back. That goes not only for cameras, but for the multitude of post-processing options we now have too. Leica came to the digital game a little too late and has had a hard time keeping up. The TL2 is another symptom of their need to get with the times. I’m sure it feels and functions like a Leica, which is definitely part of the appeal, but in terms of pure photographic potential there are so many other ways to get there that the choice to go Leica is more about the cachet than the images. But of course if cachet is what floats your boat, you have that option. If you can afford it.

Isn't it more of a copy of a Sony NEX-5? No viewfinder (at least not one that doesn't break the camera).

While I have not looked at this I can not see how it could be a copy of the Sony Nex-7. I just sold the one I had at a Precision Camera (Best Pro shop in Austin) Swap event. The Sony Nex-7 was a small, capable camera but the controls and menu system were not simple at all. It is a very complex set of physical dials and buttons and mess of settings in the menus. And for me at least it was simply too small. I have big hands and am 6'2" in height and while I'm quite thin this camera was simply way too small for my likes. Given that you say it's a Nex-7 perhaps that only in sensor.

"The more wealth inequality there is, the more markets tend to bifurcate into products for the rich and products for the rest." Ah, but it's also true that in these economies the products for the rest are so much better than the products for everyone in economies where everyone and their products are all the same! :-)

The main attraction of the TL2 (other than its small size and unique user interface) is the superb set of T and TL lenses that Leica has created for it. I'm pretty sure that there are no AF lenses for the NEX/A6xxx lineup that can match them. I would not even mind the external VF, except for the price, but that's what you expect from Leica. The biggest single drawback of the TL2 is the absence of image stabilization. But for Leica to have included it would have made the camera larger and more expensive.

Incidentally, I shot today with my only Leica lens (a 21 SEM) because it gets too little use and afterwards had to marvel how natural its rendition is (no, I don't own a Leica camera). I'm always a bit amused by people getting poetic about the Leica look and in my case I think the overall look was more due to the lighting and the sensor, but small details such as the transition from focus to OOF and handling of highlights was excellent. Still, I doubt those would manifest themselves in small prints.

As for the company, it's a shame their products are so expensive and seem to be frequently marred with gaffes, which shouldn't occur at this price point (take the latest TL2 issue as an example). There would be room in the market for compact (excluding the SL), simple products that render beautiful images in the real world (simple lens sharpness tests get overrated these days).

"One of my teachers, Frank DiPerna, said that it was an epiphany for him when he took a class from Garry Winogrand and learned that most of Winogrand's exposures sucked."
Mike Johnston
08 April 2015

Now I wonder what did camera Winogrand use? hmmm?

...it's the only company in the world with the boldness and the self-confidence to make its products simple.

It's interesting to see how different folks see what defines "simple" and often times in completely different ways. In the context of your comments, the Hasselblad X1D would have to be defined as simple as well. So, by this definition, its not the only company in the world with the boldness and self-confidence to make it's products simple.

IMHO, I don't like and have virtually no desire to use icon-based touchscreen contolled cameras. Try getting a touchscreen camera to work with gloved or wet fingers, or fingers covered with sunscreen. Nor do I consider plowing through a series of menus that you barely see in bright sunlight to evoke a single function "simple."

On the other hand, I find the control system of the Fuji X-Pro and X-T series the essence of simplicity. You can see what all the key settings of the camera are at a glance, and you can actually change the four key settings for functionality (SS, aperture, ISO & comp) even while the camera is off.

"And the company does everything right."

I honestly can't tell here if you're being serious, sarcastic or snarky. Especially considering the previous post about the failure mode that can be evoked when using the Leica Visoflex EVF on the Leica TL2.

Leica lost all credibility with me when they started issuing those ridiculous limited edition Ms, like the pre-brassed Lenny Kravitz edition or the pink Hello Kitty M6s. But the real capper was the Digital M-P Type 240 covered in table tennis paddle rubber for IIRC, $15,000. Gimme a frickin' break. Sheesh.

The good thing about Veblen Good is that they usually appreciate in price over time. Not with the TL. A friend bought the TL thinking it's the prefect camera, which I agree that it's a prefect match with him. He shot with the rear LCD all the time with any camera, he liked crafty artifacts, and he didn't care too much about picture quality. What disappointed him was the falling price of the TL, he eventually had to cut his losses....
The TL was like another orphaned child in the Leica family, with few native zoom lenses, and even fewer primes... until now. But still, without the excellent prime lenses Leica was famous for, the TL2 is doomed as another orphaned child, just like the SL and S.
Come to think of it, Leica has more "lines" of camera than even Sony! They have APS-C TL, the Full Frame SL, and mini-medium-format S, and range finder M-series! Not counting the rebadged Panasonics.... How can they keep up with the lenses??

The problem is that it is not a copy of the NEX-7, it is a NEX-7, repackaged with a few tweaks. Of course Leica have to make a profit but I feel that they are devaluing their brand with their rebadging exercises.

The TL2 is a nice camera. But, when that tiny jewels is coupled to a big telescope - as in your picture - it's not reasonable to hide the equatorial mount.

I bought a new Leica M2 in 1970. I still own it. In fact, last year I shelled out $650 to have it completly overhauled. I'm not using it much, but I do live that camera.

In 2011 my wife gave me a M9 for my 70th birthday. I used it as my main camera for five years. I own just 35mm and 50mm Summicrons.

Then in January of this year I bought an Olympus Pen F largely because its style and form factor. It is SO light and small. Lenses are superb.

Since I bought the Pen F I've not taken a single image with my M2, my M9, or my Nikon D600. I have taken a dozen or so rolls with my 60 year old Rolleicord.

There certainly is a mystique about Leica, but the Pen F has stolen my heart.

Nearest I'll get to a Leica is my Panasonic LF1, also available as the Leica C type 112.

So, I suppose, the circle had already been completed...

I had a pair of Leica M3 and a few lenses back in the day. My photos weren't any better shooting those cameras, so I sold them and bought something more reasonably priced.

I needed to better myself and knew that the camera wasn't going to do it for me.

Mike, are you basically saying that you would like Leica more if it cost less?

[Not necessarily. I paid $2,000 for my body and lens in 1990 (that's $3,850 now). But it didn't have the same kind of snob appeal then that it does now. Back then only other photographers noticed. --Mike]

Sadly, modern Leica’s have become conspicuous consumption items, that is to say they are used by the owners as much to say, “look at me” as “look at what I photograph” - to a great extent because of their high price. I do not see a young photojournalist or documentarian with a digital Leica M while there was a time that that several film M’s with different lenses were relatively common in those trades. On a practical level less expensive cameras offer excellent image quality, focusing accuracy, e.t.c.. Leica is obviously putting serious effort into exploring non rangefinder cameras with excellent on-sensor focusing even though its fanboys make life hard for the company by wanting the more expensive and often less accurate rangefinder. (And if they drop the price on new cameras folks will assume the less expensive cameras are “not as good” whether that is true or not.)

The conspicuous consumption model started with Leica film cameras issued in special editions and custom colors. I wish it hadn’t happened because I thought the even better sales point was that some very good photographers used it to take good and, often, important pictures. But I’m a photographer, not a business man. From a profit point, what Leitz is doing may make perfect sense.

For me, the issue with Leica is that better cameras can be had for far less money. So, assuming I had the money, no, I wouldn't buy one.

That said, if anyone owns Leica gear and truly enjoys it, they shouldn't be concerned with what anyone else thinks.

Now that the hurricane season of throwing money at the "latest and greatest" has subsided, and I have had time to reflect on the torrent of digital cameras owned and used, the dual control wheels of the NEX 7 are probably first and foremost in the few truly fond memories I have of any of the cameras. I remain amazed that Sony abandoned that feature on all ensuing models. It makes sense that Leica would pick up on that feature. While other companies may have had a tradition of copying current Leica cameras, none have REALLY copied Leica. Sony had a great, maybe almost perfect, camera with NEX7. Imagine if they had moved forward with that model in the same spirit Leica has moved forward with the M.

OK...but if you pay $1000 for the new iPhone, you'll completely undercut your argument.

Having more or less given up photography for owning a sailboat I have this to say: photography is cheaper.

I shot film with an M6 for a while, HATED the film loading routine, went to Zeiss Ikon and never looked back. Leica lenses and Zeiss was as good as there was. Years later I miss the silver Zeiss. Still shoot Leica on my Sony.

Unfortunately I have to struggle with a PEN-F and the 25mm f/1.2. In the meantime I frequently buy or visit the LFI mag or website. The only promo material that's bearable. And I ordered this one to keep my dream alive.
https://www.amazon.com/Leica-96602-Ceramic-Coffee-Style/dp/B00AZ3LSLM

Once upon a time Volvo was the car of choice in northern New England because it was tough and affordable. Then Volvo went upscale with a vengeance. Subaru now has that market.

Al C. above makes some interesting points. I would like to add the role of government in innovation where for-profit corporations can't take the risk even by pricing for the 1%. The internet and govt sponsored research at universities and medical centers are but two examples. So in enlightened societies govt can take the role of royalty. I'm trying to keep this short thus the sweeping generalities.

I have never seen a modern Leica digital camera in actual use by anyone since the dawn of digital cameras. My opinion is that collectors or Leica enthusiasts simply buy them and store them in their original packaging. I always thought cameras should be used as designed, to make photographs. Would you take a Leica to shoot in bad weather or snow, fog, probably not. The people that can afford these over priced collector items are simply not in my economic or social circle, that tiny red symbol-logo sure is expensive.

I don't travel to Europe to soak in the wealth inequality ... just sayin' ;)

Mike, have you held the TL2 in your hand?
If not, me thinks your judgement of it as a copy
of a Sony NEX 7 becomes a bit shaky.

Exactly!! See below from Stephen Scharf's comment:

On the other hand, I find the control system of the Fuji X-Pro and X-T series the essence of simplicity. You can see what all the key settings of the camera are at a glance, and you can actually change the four key settings for functionality (SS, aperture, ISO & comp) even while the camera is off.

"And the company does everything right."

Kent suggests that the 'only reason to buy a Leica' is the cachet, given how hard the Company has to try to keep up in the digital world (though the M10's sensor looks to be up to speed with others).

I'm not convinced. I currently use an M4 and a Pentax K1. For 'just taking pictures' the M4's combined viewfinder/rangefinder is preferable to me. The Pentax does amazing stuff, but I prefer shooting with the RF usually.

FWIW, I also tried an XPro2, but found the moving focus spot - necessary of course - made it less intuitive than manually or zone focusing an RF.

I wish that M10's cost £1,000 and were actually available to buy, but I can wait until I have the money. Film is still good for black and white anyway.

Mike

1. I wonder if people give Peter Turnley shit for shooting with his digital M?

2. I was once speaking with a photographer who used an 8x10" view camera and then paid to have someone develop the films and then who scanned the negatives on a wet-plate scanner he owned and then had the files printed by a lab at something like 50"x Mumble.

He asked what I used.

"I've got a Leica M9," I replied.

"Jesus, lady! Where'd you get the money for something like that?!?!?"

The very odd thing being that for the price of six months of shooting his way, he could have an M10 and a new Summilux.

3. Leica makes people weird.

4. I love my M9-P. It's my favorite camera ever, right after my M4-P. Suck it, h8ters!

[Maggie, I apologize. It's not our intention to "h8" anyone's camera. Whatever works for you is good by me. --Mike]

Producing things in Germany is expensive! Everyone keeps complaining about Leica being a brand for the super-rich. Well, they produce a lot less cameras than other brands and they employ people in a good country where workers still enjoy some decent benefits. Aside from the fact that the cameras and lenses are generally very good, this should account for something.

I shot a documentary project using M9 and M7 with Neopan 1600. Here's a condensed version of the images
http://richardmanphoto.com/PICS/Susanne-X-2017

Will be doing following up in 10 days with M9 and M7 with Double-X pushed to 3200

If I were going to get back into shooting film, the first thing I'd buy would be a Leica. A Texas Leica.

For about $400, there's a passel of 'em on Ebay...

Mike, not sure where you get the 'NEX7 copy' idea from. It's not even close, not in shape, size, build quality or anything. It's 100% original - I know the lead designer and whilst all cameras are influenced by others in so many ways, this is not a copy of anything.

@al c on inequality: reading Beethoven you may note those upper classes is not the reason why we have good things but why we may have missed so many good things if they let go earlier. Patron system is bad not good.

However this is not equal to communism ... we are not equal but an environment shall not pre judge or forbid certain people to advance. More talent and innovation may come. An immigrant's son can be a potus not another trump tower.

There will always be products out of reach of the middle class. That is what drives innovation at the highest levels and excellence. I am not envious of the super rich. The way I see it... they had the same opportunity I had. Ferraris are not affordable by the middle class in general, and that is OK. If we legislate 'equality' we end up with mediocrity first, and chaos and anarchy later. BTW... in Nature there's no equality, and no one thinks Nature is unbalanced...

Great post for the weekend, Mike. I’m a long-time Leica M user and amateur photographer (in the true sense of the word). I’ve used other makes of cameras, of course, but I keep on coming back to the M camera for it’s simplicity and small form factor. I wish I didn’t have to: they are expensive.

When the M10 was announced I was half-hoping that I wouldn’t like it and move to the Fuji X-Pro2, but I found it to be a lovely camera with the same dimensions as a film M. I’m considering buying a wide-angle for the M10 but keep thinking that I could buy a Fuji X-Pro2 AND a wide-angle for less than the Leica lens (and also get the lovely Fuji b&w JPEGs).

I do agree with your comment that very few working photographers use Leica cameras, Mike, as the cost of a working system and a back-up body would be astronomical. Some exist, but very few; and with the option of being able to use cameras such as from the Fuji line-up, why would you bother? Except maybe for the simplicity of use.

"Mike replies: For hobbyist fun maybe, but in all my years in photography I've met exactly one guy who shot seriously with a Barnack Leica—it was in the 1990s, and it was the only camera he had owned since the '40s. I tried it for a while...trimming my film leaders with nail scissors before leaving the house, etc. Man, no thanks. A view camera is easier to use!"

Mike, no need to carry nail scissors. Try inserting a thin business card vertically behind the film gate in a Barnack, then gently push the film down behind it. Quick and easy, with no need to trim the film leader.

The combination of small size, quality lenses and non-threatening appearance (compared to DSLRs and most mirrorless) makes a Barnack an excellent choice for street and snapshots. I guess you could say the same about a Sony A6500, but the Barnack is way more fun, and unlike a Sony it usually generates positive responses when it's noticed. In my experience folders and TLRs are the only other cameras that do that.

I still haven't got the hang of including pictures in blogs, so here's a link to some street work and snaps with a Leica IIIc:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/91846820@N00/albums/72157670422040872/with/33683909824/

Sounds like a camera subsidy is required to cool the angst. Everyone should have a Leica or maybe it should be required. Those that don't want or need one should pay a fine.

Peter Turnley, Jacob Aue Sobol and Jan Gurrup are all out there using Leica Ms professionally. Jan in particular in hard environments. It's not that no one uses them, but given the relative expense of replacing a damaged camera or lens, I can understand why few do.

Business-wise, Leica saw the money fall out of professional photojournalism at the end of the 20th century. Pushing the M I to the luxury segment has allowed them to keep that model line alive. For those who want a talking piece, I think that's fine. For those who do want to shoot M cameras, they are, as others have already pointed out, cheaper than many other hobbies. I don't believe that the majority of Leicas sit on the shelf or are collected, although they may be over-protected. I bet a greater number of mid-range DSLRs gather dust than Leicas.

I don't know what to think of the conspicuous consumption issue. I have an M-P 240 and most of the time people think it's an old film camera. Almost no-one has heard of Leica. Who is there to strut in front of? No saying it doesn't happen, but the aren't Ferrari or Gucci.

I do love shooting mine though. The Ms are the most involving cameras I've used. Every now and then I do think of switching to Fuji but I never do.

Funny story: I got the money for my first M (an M6), but selling cardboard pinhole camera templatea designed to look like an MP, online, from a site styled to look like Leica's own, with satirical eye rolling marketing copy.

I had to stop when Leica's legal dept sent me a C&D, but by that time I had enough for a used M6 and a 35 'Cron. I traded up to an M9 when I could and took advantage of the sensor corrosion trade-up to for the M-P.

As a young Brit, in the '50s, I used to read "Popular Mechanics", albeit irregularly. I marvelled at the cars, the boats, the light aircraft, the technology, the air-conditioning, the life-style you Yanks (am I allowed to say that, these days?) enjoyed.

However, it never caused me to think "You elitist, capitalistic, materialistic B*$¥4:@s!". No, it created aspiration, the conviction that "Someday, ....!".

I read, now, some of the comments regarding the Leica brand. There are many reasons why it could be a bad idea to buy Leica, but inverse snobbery? Fear of what others might think?

When did "democratic" mean levelling down to the lowest common denominator? Whatever happened to aspiration? Whatever happened to ambition? Whatever happened to that "Someday, ...!"? Just asking.

Yes, I've got a bit of selected Leica kit, amongst other stuff. It took me 50-60 years.

Never made the light aircraft or the air-conditioning, though ........ so far!

"I don't know what to think of the conspicuous consumption issue. I have an M-P 240 and most of the time people think it's an old film camera. Almost no-one has heard of Leica. Who is there to strut in front of? No saying it doesn't happen, but the aren't Ferrari or Gucci."

This is spot-on. The only people who recognize my Leicas are other Leica shooters or gearheads.

I was shooting on Oakland, CA one afternoon and the guy in the photo here said to me, "Hey! That's a sweet Fuji you've got there!"

Tall Bike Test Ride, Oakland, CA, July 26, 2014

Peter Komar said: "I have never seen a modern Leica digital camera in actual use by anyone since the dawn of digital cameras."

A few hours ago I saw a young woman in a touristy part of Manhattan with a Leica.

I have six Leicas and a few lenses and also a focomat enlarger which I don't use anymore. I miss the size of the camera and the lenses and mostly I miss the printing. Now I use an X-PRO2. Still miss the printing.

I had a Leica M4-2 with a 50mm f2 for about a year, I loved the idea of having a Leica, I even had it CLA'd by Sherry. But I like to take portraits wide open, and somehow got very few keepers because of misfocus issues. Only other photographers recognized the camera, and I took the wedding pictures of one of my best friends with it and with the Hasselblad I had at the time.
In the end I sold it, I just couldn't "be one" with it.

It's possible that even as long ago as the 70s some photographers didn't recognize a Leica when they saw one. At least, one photographer a little older than me tried to impress me with his Nikon F when I had a Leica M3 around my neck. If he'd been meaning to diss Leica or rangefinders in general surely he'd have said something specific about that? It read to me as his not knowing that I was holding something widely viewed as comparable or even superior to the camera he was boasting about.

On the third hand, the higher levels of Veblen good aren't really to impress the hoi polloi, they're to impress lesser cognoscenti.

On professional users of Leica today, you'll find Kyle Cassidy still using them when the mood takes him.

Getting back here very late (as usual these days). So "snobbery" is the issue, Mike? I understand. But consider that, like the tango and voodoo, it takes two to make snobbery work: the snobber and the snobbed. Outside of an ever-shrinking (and aging) subset of photo enthusiasts I doubt many people recognize the Leica brand. True story: Some years ago our friends' home was robbed, apparently by an experienced crew who ransacked every room and closet and made off with a great deal of valuables, including a then-new Canon dslr kit. But their Leica M6 and two lenses was inspected and left on the bed, apparently considered a non-saleable relic.

An analog: how many here would recognize a Hermes "Birkin" bag (the namesake of "Blow-Up" actress Jane Birkin)? But one of these basic sacks could cost you far more than a Leica M or S. I do, with some regularity, attend social events attended by wealthy women who, I've been informed, are sometimes trying to impress each other with such accessories. But it's like dog-whistling to me and most of my male peers (except the poor guys who have to pay for them). They look no different to me than the free sacks you get for spending $50 at a department store cosmetic counter. Snobbery foiled!

In the dozen years I've regularly used a Leica I can recall being approached only once by someone curious. I'm certain most people see M's as simply old-time cameras. And, in fact, isn't that what they really are? The new M10 is a mini-marvel of engineering and certainly the apex of digital M line. But like its predecessors it's all about the particular photographic experience it offers, not about photographs. Like a WWII plane, the true rangefinder has been lapped --many times over-- by even modest contemporary cameras. But, again like an old Spitfire, the Leica M can sure be a lot of fun to fly!

I have to say it again (sorry for that)
Pentax was there, seen there, done that.
Everyone seems to praise the simplicity of the m series. If there was a sector looking for ease of use and build quality, that would have been education. Many a k1000 worked well after been beaten almost to death. They are still clicketing through.

(add.)
Leica is the German Pentax.
Three outstanding lenses, a mf wunderkind with small sales, subpar body specs.

It's a funny thing: I too, thought a Leica was pointless, & I was entirely happy with my APS-C dSLR. Then, when I was looking for a weather-resistant (cropped) medium format system for use in the field, there it was. The Leica S2.

Subsequently, I have re-gained all the hours looking at gear commentary, & just make photos. I've not felt impelled by the constant upgrade treadmill.

On balance, it was eye-wateringly expensive to buy, but has been inexpensive (!) to keep & use. Besides, in the MF sphere, it's sufficient to have no more fingers on one hand, than lenses.

A Veblen good is priced high *because* that high price stimulates demand (that’s the definition). So is that why leicas are priced where they are? I am sure some of the price, especially for some models, is prestige based, but for real leicas (m models—yes, *that’s* snobbery;), there is genuinely a lot of precision crafting that goes into a relatively low-volume product, and a lot of it is made in Europe, with a relatively high cost of living. To say nothing of the fact that their r&d costs aren’t amortized the way they are at canon or nikon, for example. I doubt very much that leica is padding the sticker price of their cameras by much. If that is true, then they sell in large part *in spite of*, not because of, their high price.

I use primarily leicas despite them being the most expensive things I own (by a lot), and despite the fact that on a teacher’s income I can barely afford them. I would absolutely love to switch to a cheaper brand, I assure you. But there literally is no other choice, if you want a small, direct manual control, digital, rangefinder camera. I can focus and precisely set aperture and shutter speed without bringing the camera to my eye, without even looking at the camera—which means I can control what I photograph, and how that photograph turns out, in ways that I simply cannot match with other cameras. And if there is any deficiency in my focus or exposure, then I know how to fix that: I practice more, and improve my skills, which are reflected in the resulting pictures. With any other camera, to fix those deficiencies generally means buying a newer model camera—the autofocus and autoexposure only work as well as they work.

Now, maybe that makes me a “snob,” but really it means I know what I am trying to achieve, and I don’t want a camera engineer i’ve never met to stand in between me and that goal. If the x-pro line had really usable manual focus, I would seriously consider it—I like a lot of what I see in fuji, and a few other cameras as well. But in the last 8 years, i’ve only bought 2 digital cameras (okay, not counting a couple of underwater cameras), and still use my film leicas regularly. I haven’t bought a lens in 6 years, and don’t need to—the three I own are good enough.

The thing that gets me about leica discussions on the net is that while the m may qualify as an icon, there’s nothing iconoclastic about running it down—that is pretty near the most stereotypical attitude imaginable. Sure, there are rubes out there buying leicas because they cost a lot and they think that alone makes it good, or worth having—thank goodness, for without those folks there wouldn’t exist leicas for the rest of us to own; the market just isn’t big enough to support them (one could probably say that about the entire market for ‘serious cameras’ of any brand…). But on balance, it really seems to me that there’s more snobbery involved in anti-leica posturing than in going out and buying one.

I have no problem if other photographers choose different cameras, or if they prefer different ways of working—nachtwey isn’t likely to make better pictures by switching to leica. But it does not follow that the differences *as tools* that the m cameras offer aren’t real, or that the only reason someone could have for choosing one is as a status symbol, rather than its objective qualities.

The really unfortunate thing is that most photographers will never know or understand what those objective differences are—and be discouraged from ever finding out for themselves.

Many commenters focus on productivity; that Leicas don't make better photos. I don't care. I shoot for fun, and the most fun is to shoot a manual RF camera. It is also more fun to concentrate on the next photo rather than on the one I just took. This is why I use the screenless M-D. An added bonus is that I don't know what my photos look like before I get home. I am currently on a three week trip, with no computer, and I like the suspense. The uncertainty may even push me to take extra care that set the camera right. With a DSLR I find that I often take a shot, look at it, and then adjust, rather than think about my settings. On the rare occasions I shoot for clients, however, I use my Canon gear. Reliable, but less fun.

Before 2014, when I bought my first serious camera and started reading on photography, I thought Nikon and Asahi Pentax were for professionals and the other brands for amateurs. In my mind Canon, like Kyocera, produced copiers and the like.
I had never heard of Leica, though 'Leitz' was well known for their office supplies.

I have had an M6 TTL since 2001, and owned another M6 for another few years. I sold that without a hint of remorse. My subjects changed to water sports (swimming and water polo) , so the M6 became pretty useless. I shot with an a900 for a few years before it died right before a championship game. Since then, I have been back shooting the M6 but with an ancient Nikkor 105/2.5 ltm. it is forcing me to be more precise and to take my time. I don't get all of the shots I used to, BUT I can now watch my kids swim and play water polo instead of having the camera up to my face all of the time.

For what it is worth, I hang onto the M6 because my father gave it to me a year before he died. If he hadn't, it would've been gone a while ago. I preferred the Mamiya 7 II with the polaroid back. It is the only camera that I have ever regretted selling. Ever.

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