« Canon's Excellent Zoom | Main | Our Thoughts on Memorial Day (OT) »

Monday, 28 May 2018

Comments

I have two lookaleicas, both made by Sony - an A7r with the Kolari UT modification, used with 21-35-50-75 Voigtlanders in M-mount; and the other an A7ii that I use with a 28/f3.5 Color Skopar and 40 & 90 m-Rokkors. Just to make the A7ii more authentic, I have a leather half-case and braided leather strap for it.

1 yes,
2 yes,
sorta 3 (I've had an M2 from ancient times, and it still gets some use), nothing wrong with 4,
5 yes,
6 yes (but contrary to your assumption, the wide angles don't work at all well on Sony bodies),
7 it IS fun.

I'm very curious to hear what Carl W comes up with.

>>In my view, the digital M's are not an updating of the M camera concept, not an evolution of the M camera concept, and not an improvement of the M camera concept. Nor are they digital cameras with a usefully different form-factor.<<

True words.

Or you actually prefer/enjoy the M viewing and focusing experience, particularly with 28-90mm focal lengths. Or you prefer/enjoy the simple M control interface. Or even if you don’t own M lenses yet, you like their rendering (and variety...over half century) for your workflow.

Besides the Monochrom versions (2 now and likely an M10 version coming), Leica was also bold enough to produce a digital M without an LCD screen.

And yes, the SL (or other L mount Leica’s) can adapt M, R or S lenses, as well as third party lenses.

What I would buy is a Fuji X-Pro-M. A Monochrome Fuji camera with the rangefinder style. Not a true rangefinder, I know. But the handling and performance of the X-Pro bodies is very nice. The lenses are excellent. An X-Pro-M taking nothing but RAW B&W would be just the ticket for my carry around digital.

Well, I'll plump for No. 6, but if I am honest with myself all reasons except No.2 are kind of near the mark. FWIW, as soon as the Epson RD-1 came out, I had one in hand, specifically because I wanted to jump to digital, but didn't want to spend my life removing dust spots at 200% magnification on a computer monitor. So, I'd say that No.6 (wanting to use the lenses) was primary and all the other reasons were secondary.

I have had better results from my Leica lenses, particularly wide-angle lenses, on Leica digital cameras than on Sony/Olympus/Fuji models with adapters. If you are used to working with those lenses, then using them with a Leica FF body is a no brainer. The cameras also get the heck out of way, compared to their more menu-engineered cousins from the Big 3, (also Nikon does OK here IMHO in terms of their manual button/wheel controls).

And that is maybe reason No.8 -- if, when the M8 hoved into view, you were already getting good results with the 1950's style focusing system and motor drives in the 3-6 fps range, then all you wanted was a sensor to drop behind the lenses. Awww shoot. That's really No. 5, isn't it?

Maybe No.8 could be: you really like the idea, somewhere back in your lizard brain, of putting a 1930's Summitar on your whiz-bang digital camera and getting great results.

I don’t have a digital M anymore.
I once had a M8 because of your #6 I already had the lenses.
And at that time there were no adapters for mounting them on other cameras. A more interesting question is why I had the film M in the first place. I had it because I wanted a small discrete camera capable of taking photos in low light. So I got a used Leica M6 many years ago.
Now there is a small discrete camera capable of taking photos in low light called an iPhone. For other photos I chose a camera that was designed from the ground up to be a digital camera versus a replicant.
That camera happened to be a Leica S, but not for your reason of #4, as I have found that very few people know what a Leica is, even many photographers. And thanks to a progress in technology, that Leica S2 can be matched by a lot of other camera brands for much less today. But I wish there were a Monochrom S, because reason #6, I have the lenses!

Simplicity of operation is a strong plus for the digital leica m

Unless you don't mind dealing with dust on sensor ( acquired when changing lens) it's best to have two m's. Each with different lens e.g. 50 and 28 or whatever you like. Or, to have one to use while the other is being cla'd, repaired, etc.

I have absolutely no quarrel with people who say "I wanted to try that and see what it was like", and I have absolutely no quarrel with people who say "I found I liked it and wanted to keep doing it". (Particularly as regards camera choice; but in fact on most topics where their actions have no effect on the rest of the world.)

Problem is, I've encountered "too many" (and, not having kept track of these and others, I can't speak to a ratio; it's probably a really small group) people who get all weird about it, asserting absolutes that aren't demonstrable and so forth for why their preference is "the right choice".

This no doubt leads me to be unreasonably suspicious and possibly even to speak overly sharply to people who are in fact happily going about their own business in ways that suit them and not harming me in the slightest. So my apologies to the no-doubt large number of film devotees that I have snarked at over the last couple of decades!

(I also have no quarrel with people using some of the other reasons on those lists, especially the variants on "It's how I know to make images I like" especially when paired with "And I'm old enough to not think the investment of learning a completely new approach will pay off.")

I've got a 1967 M4 with a 35mm Summaron and a 50mm Summicron. It's a lovely little kit and everything works fine. But I must admit that, as I get older (I'm the same age as you, Mike) I use it less and less. While I enjoy the results I get with film, the entire process is more work than I'd like given that I am working harder than ever at this point in my life. I have to be careful about how I spend my discretionary time and energy.

Meanwhile, on the subject of digital Leicas, most don't come close to meeting any kind of value proposition for me. Not that I have any problem with those who purchase and enjoy them. I personally don't have any desire for a digital M. But if a Q found its way into my kit, it would find a welcoming home. However, at $4500, there's that value proposition problem again. Cut that price in half and we'll talk.

(Long time lurker, surfacing now)

I've been shooting for a little less than 5 years now, most of it street photography. I cut my teeth on the X100S but moved shortly to film when I realised black and white was more to my liking and I could get the results that I wanted without pesky editing processes.

Eventually, after experimenting with pretty much every film camera out there (the Olympus XA2 remains an absolute favourite), I settled on a Leica MP because I wanted a new camera. It has served me remarkably well although it's not built to the standards we associated with Leica—it lost a pip on the backside after a couple weeks of intense use when a friend's M3 that I used to borrow looks great after 30 years of good use. I'd definitely agree than that, for film, getting a used M3 or M4 is a much better proposition.

When I decided to move back to digital because I was getting tired of the hassle of development and scanning (I still do MF film for landscapes), I settled on a XPro2 given my previous great experience with the X100S (which I recently donated to my brother). I rarely shoot more than 20-40 frames a day so film and digital are equivalent in terms of quantity for me.

The XPro2 is a lovely machine but it never captured my way of shooting the way the Leica did. I realised after a few months alternating between both that I had many more keepers with the *film* Leica, which surprised me.

After I while, I figured that between the different, for my style of street shooting, the Leica provided me aspects of speed and reliability that the XPro2 can't replicate. For example, I rely heavily on tiny adjustments of aperture and manual focus for zone focusing that the lovely 23mm and 35mm Fujiflm lenses can't really provide even in their manual modes given the usage of motors. That meant I couldn't trust the lens to be where it was supposed to be and had to keep checking. I shoot a lot while moving around in a city so even the very quick autofocus of the XPro2–blessed be Fuji for its amazing firmware updates—zone focusing is just faster.

Recently, I decided to try the new M10 and found myself able to migrate the film experience to it unchanged, with the benefit of getting more ISO control (I can now easily get to 3200-6400 to keep 1/500th shutter speeds with great results), which is nice for expanding the shooting envelope on days with complicated lighting and lots of movement.

The Q is far from my preferred focal length (50mm) and the S is too big for street work. The SL could work but is bigger and would required me to lose some value on the lens switch (adapters are a hassle, IMNSHO, and the lens array of the M10 sensor is designed for the M-mount, of course). With zone focus the EVF doesn't matter other than for the 5% of the time that my varifocals can't cope with the 90mm that well.

The Monochrom is good but needs an update now with the better sensor on the M10, which makes moot the biggest selling points of the Monochrom, namely dynamic range and tonality. Also, in my experience, extracting the best of it requires much processing as does conversion in the M10. But, still, it did work for me when I tried it because of the reasons above.

All in all, this is very long winded way of arguing for the relevance of rangefinder for at least some of (now becoming) niche styles of shooting. I really like the M10–except for the uncomfortable price tag—and will keep it.

There is one more good reason to use a Leica M, or, probably, any other rangefinder for that matter, it's quite easy to focus with old eyes (I'm 65.) And, another highly subjective reason is that you feel good using them! I have a few digital cameras and not one, when shooting, gives me the satisfaction of my Leica M6.

'There's absolutely no practical or rational reason to use either film or a rangefinder camera today.' So true. And for me today there's absolutely no practical or rational reason to make photographs, either. I am not working for Nasa, a hospital, a newspaper or an advertising agency, thank god. I am 69 and I am free. I might pick up Japanese woodblock printing, using the traditional tools (although there is absolutely no practical or rational reason not to use a stanley knife). But having been a photographer from my teenage years onwards - now professional, now a free agent - , when recently the once in my lifetime opportunity occured to spend some money as unresponsibly as I wanted, I did not buy a car (have none) or make a bucket-list intercontinental journey (I feel like I am in a different country after a ten miles' hike and bucket-lists make me sad) but bought a demo Leica M-D 262 instead, the crazy one without the LCD. What a relief! And the files are beautifully printable at 13x19", no problem there. Nor is a quicksilver subject like my granddaughter. All the same, I am grateful I do not have to work with the highly unpractical and completely irrational tools the likes of Sally Mann and Gary Briechle have to work with.

The way I look at it, the very name Leica conjures film.
So what if they have bowed to digital? To me, having used any number of early Leica in my employment found the camera robust and happy to be doing what it di;, take pictures. And digital or film is that not what
our photographic gear is all about?

Digital Leica: For me, reasons 5, but specially 6, were very important. I had two Leica lenses (one a 30 years old, another some 20) which I couldn't live without. So I stuck with film until a reasonable replacement in digital came, M9, waited until it became obsolete for its used market price to drop, and then switched. Apart from affordability, there were three other reasons. I hate selling anything, so it was very difficult for me start over in a totally different format because I couldn't afford to buy another set of equally stellar lenses without selling the Leica lenses. I have found that range-finder allows me more "successful shots" than by an SLR type--probably because I am no longer prey to the siren song of creamy, out-of-focus, background through the viewfinder. Finally, I was stunned by the quality of the M9 images--far superior to the full frame Nikon I recently purchased (but still keep using with ~30 years old Nikkor prime lenses). You can call me conservative, and I will probably agree with you on this topic alone.

I used to think of Leica as a status symbol only, like a diamond necklace for men, until I saw images from the M9. They were far superior than anything 35mm digital back then.

Now I think there is a very legit reason to buy a digital Leica M for its special image quality. If I could afford one, I would definitely give it a try.

An interesting discussion, thanks Mike, more so because I have been thinking of buying a digital M, having been an M4/6 film shooter for many years.

From the posts, it seems that the M10 is the best bet (unfortunately, since the prices of used M240s, including the -P version) are relatively reasonable at present. And talking about the -P version, the biggest niggle I have is that the M10 does not have the Leica engraving on the top plate, whereas the M9-P and M240 - P both do.

An interesting observation is that the M4 Leica used on the Leica website, to compare with the M10, has suffered a fair amount of impact damage and scuffing on the right side. Could they have not found one in better condition or is it a statement that these are tough old cameras. Malcolm Taylor very kindly rebuilt my M4 about ten years ago, new shutter blinds, fixed the rangefinder etc., so it works 'as new' now.

Other than my phones, the last digital camera I purchased was the Leica M9 back in 2010. 8 years later, it still draws great images. I did a multi-days fly-on-the-wall documentary project with the M9 and the M7 concurrently and they feel much the same. The M7 because some of the photos were taken in a hospital andI needed the utmost in quietness.

There is no logical reasons to buy a Leica, yet if the M9 dies, I will probably look to purchase a used whatever the latest or second to last digital M is.

It's the closest to being an extension to my eyes.

Perhaps the reason is similar to why my neighbor upstairs has parked in the basement a newish BMW and a 1980ish Mercedes and drives both regularly.

There are plenty of reasons for using a film Leica of course: you've had it for a few years (59 in the case of my IIIg), it and it's lenses still work pretty well, your digital camera of choice is great but there's an enjoyable difference between the way the two of them represent the world you see with the naked eye.
I get the feeling that there's a lot more wrapped up in our feelings about cameras we've used than technological perfectionism.
I wish I still had the 'between the wars' Brownie Box I was given in 1947 and I still sometimes use 19thC cameras one of my grandfathers gave me in the early 1950s (with cut-film rather than glass of course). On the other hand a freeze-frame from a video clip can work quite well: http://www.pbase.com/hhmrogers/image/164274834 I'm fond of my Pentax but let's hear it for Holgas too: http://www.pbase.com/hhmrogers/image/166278471
Henry

Hi Mike

No need for a response but I don't think that Peter Turnley is shooting with the Monochrome -- I could be wrong but I was with him last month.

Mike,

There's a more affordable alternative to getting an M Monochrom: remove the color filter array off a regular digital camera. There are a couple of places that do this, and I can highly recommend Monochrome Imaging: https://www.monochromeimaging.com/

That's where I had my Sony NEX-5N modified, and Daniel turns around cameras quickly, and gives great service. I've been using the camera off and on for the last month to get a feel for it before committing to a more expensive conversion of a full-frame camera. The results remind me very much of a Foveon Merrill sensor in terms of the resolution, and the gray tonality is very smooth. I'm still trying to figure out how to best process it so I don't lose the smooth tonality that the camera is now giving me.

The site has lots of useful information, and is worth checking out.

And yet... I don't understand why Leica ceases M7 production, and re-introduces the Thambar and Summaron f/5.6. They introduce the odd, old designs alongside its modern TL/SL wunderlenses as if it's perfectly natural for them. And they drop their most convenient film camera from their catalog. Doesn't quite compute, for me.

[Probably has to do with sales. From what I've heard most film M sales are to Japan, and the MP and M-A are the most popular choices among film cameras there.

Does anyone have better information about this? —Mike]

Me, I think it interesting that when Leica first came about a century ago, it was the *smallest* format you might want. A compact! Now it is, to my taste, the *largest* one. A completely different proposition.

Why buy a digital Leica M?

Because I needed a black-and-white digital camera.

Voltz

I'm with Ken. Having owned an M for over 35 years, moving to digital (M8.2) in 2009, i've always required a complementary system for more general needs, specifically using zooms or lenses outside 28-90 mm, or in film days, using medium and large format for ultimate print quality.

But the M10 is the best M I've ever used. Coupled with digital PP, my print results are better than I ever achieved in darkroom days. The VF is gorgeous, with improved magnification, larger opening and better eye relief for use with my glasses. It's quiet and robust, too, with much improved weather sealing.

The viewing and focusing system is paramount for me in choosing a camera system. How I see and focus on the subject matters. And there's nothing like a window to world using an M. Next, I want a great lens line, so what could be better than being able to mount virtually any M lens ever made? Combine that with an essentially unchanged and simple control interface, and I'm set.

So, what about that complementary system? Well, one could do worse than the SL, which as a bonus can accommodate those same M lenses. But, even so, regardless of my complementary system, the M will remain in my stable of gear, offering what no other system can, even for covering the same 28-90 mm focal length needs. Portability, form factor, viewing and focusing, lenses, controls, build quality....they all play a role for me.

I wonder how much prices play a role in people's negativity toward digital Ms, and Leica in general. Generally, when I hand my digital M to a skeptic, somehow the negativity fades away.

The last time I checked in with Peter Turnley, he was using an M10.

I love my M9-P, but I covet the form factor and the sensor of the M10.

I like working with a rangefinder and I love digital. So, it's really the only choice for me. The X100 is great, but I like my glass.

One reason to not buy any Leica:

"Hey lady! Where the hell did you get the money for that thing!?!?"

Mike said..."Probably has to do with sales. From what I've heard most film M sales are to Japan, and the MP and M-A are the most popular choices among film cameras there.

Does anyone have better information about this? —Mike]"

See my comment from your post from a few days ago. In 2014, Alfred Schopf said that about 1000 film Ms were produced each year, wth about 60 percent sold in Japan. He didn't distinguish between models in that interview. I don't know if any of that changed in the last 4 years.

Oh Mike.. Leicas are Porsches not Ferraris
M cameras are 911s
Both German, both clinging on to heritage in a way no one else currently is, both come in special limited variants that cost insane amounts and then resell for even more insane amounts ;)

I truly enjoyed my time with Leica, aside from the expense... but then I was able to buy into the lenses just before Leica went digital, lucked into a deal on an M9, and sold at a profit. (The lenses; not the M9).

The Leica cool factor can't be denied: history and style. I have an M4 in my little photography shrine on the mantel.

I found three things very pleasurable about Leica cameras and not quite matched by other systems:
(1) Small, solid quality package.
(2) The immediacy of the experience: Focus and click.
(3) Old-school haptics and simplicity of the controls: Aperture priority set on the lens. ISO/Speed on the computer.

I've tried with almost acceptable success to replicate my Leica kit on the Sony 7 platform.

The Sony/Ziess 35mm f/2.8 matches the Leica for size, and I get autofocus. So far, so good. Actually, very good.

I'm sure I've surpassed the Leica image quality at 1/4 the price using Zeiss Loxia, and the extraordinary Voigtlander 65mm APO. But that comes at 4x the size.

What I haven't matched is the focus & click immediacy of the Leica. Turn on the Sony, wait; press the release to engage focus, wait; then click. Realize you are in some strange mode buried deep in the menus. Spend a half hour in the manual trying to set things up the right way.

The long and short of the story, is that the Leica system is small, high-quality and simple. The biggest short-coming (aside from cost)? You give up auto-focus, which I admit is essential for kids and event-style journalism.

I recently had the opportunity to compare carefully shot identical scenes simultaneously shot with $18,000 worth of nearly new Leica M10 and 4 M lenses (20 or 21 through 90mm) against the same scenes shot with my Olympus E-M5 II and the Olympus 12-40mm Pro zoom.

There was no comparison - the M43 images were distinctly sharper and crisper. From what I could discern, M43's better sharpness was due to more accurate on-sensor contrast-detection focusing.

The mechanically linked rangefinder focusing did not seem to be nearly as accurate, hence the softer images from the Leica gear.

FWIW, I'm not anti-full frame. I also use a micro-focus calibrated Pentax K-1 and a 5x7 when those are more appropriate.

Mike, you listed three reasons why someone should buy a film Leica. You missed no. 4. Teach a person to be a thinking photographer, to plan his work rather than spray and pray.

I'll buy a Leica, lens, and a brick of film every couple of years, shoot it over a couple of months, and nowadays send it off to one of the trendy film processing labs that scans everything fairly well. It's expensive but not that much... I get my film fix. And then I sell the Leica for what I paid for it and happily go back to shooting digital again, now with renewed vigor, thankful for how immediate and wonderful it is!

I've done this a few different ways now. The classic "get darn good photos with no BS" way is to pick up a $1200 CLA'd M6 and a $2000 35/2 Summicron-ASPH combo with Kodak Portra 400. Can't go wrong, the results have that Leica presence and dimensionality, and the equipment is superb.

But the riskier move is to find a clean 1930s Leica II, like a black and Nickel IId. It has to have had recent maintenance otherwise the RF will be too dim. And hunt down a Nickel 50/3.5 Elmar to go with... if you are patient and lucky you can find both for about $800. Now that's a looker and it also has a distinct signature... and a slower paced working style that is very different from digital. To get successful photos with the early Leica takes some skill, it is very satisfying.

The caveat is never to buy beater user grade cameras. Gear that has been ridden hard will inevitably break while in your possession and repairs can be costly. I've been burnt by several genuinely worn out Leica lenses that developed wobbles that could be temporarily masked with heavy grease but the Brass and Aluminum internals were hopeless. (35/1.4 Pre-ASPH Summiluxes are noted for this!) Likewise those inexpensive M2 and M3s that have a few battle scars often start capping or their RF patches are faint.

Shoot until you get bored and sell them. They hold their resale so you're only tying up your money for a few months. If you decide to keep shooting then sell off your digital Canikonyolyic to square your account.

I've done this with other oddballs too, like old Kodak Panorams and Soviet era stuff. A few times I've been burned but I've also seen some appreciation so it all evens out in the end, at least if you are patient and buy smartly to begin with.

Ken T speaks of "severe limitations" and "artificial barriers". Creativity often comes from working within, or against, limitations and barriers. Form and structure are important. This is true of most, if not all, forms of art. So perhaps working within the capabilities of a film RF camera can be a good thing.

I've been a rangefinder guy ever since my dad gave me his Contax IIIA during my last year of high school. After ten years passed I moved to an Olympus XA, a decade later I got into Leica with an M3. Within another decade an M6, three years ago an R-D1 and last year an M262. They all take nice pictures that are appropriate to their respective technologies. Since I'm not a professional, instant focussing and high frame rates are not important.

I've tried mirrorless Fujis and Sonys in the camera store, but for me the electronic viewfinders are annoying and manual focus peaking is distracting.

I have never understood why manual focusing ever fell out of favor. A simple rangefinder patch or split-image ground glass works so well. I've missed way more shots with a confused autofocus than with a manual. Why should I hope that the camera will correctly guess what I want to focus on when I can just do it myself? Ironically, smartphones and newer digicams are taking us all the way back to manual with their tap-to-focus touchscreens.

Physical size is important too. I carry a camera most of the time and it can't be too big. Lately I've standardized on just one type of carrying bag, the Think Tank Mirrorless Mover 10. Any camera with lens that's about 3" x 5" x 4" is A-OK. If there's room left over for a notebook, pen and light meter, that's even better.

Over the years, I've assembled a sizable camera collection and have lots of models and types to choose from, but the ones that fit in that little shoulder bag are the ones that get out to go out and play... M262, Epson R-D1 and Nikon B700 digitals... film M's... Olympus Pen, Canon Dial and Mercury II half-frames... Pentax MX or ME for full-frame SLR.

The larger cameras mostly stay home. The Nikon DSLR that lives on a copy stand and vicariously digitizes all the film images is the only big one that regularly gets to see what's going on in the outside world.

Well, I just added a late comment to the m7 thread below, but now I feel like I should also comment here. to suggest that there are no ‘rational’ reasons to use an m, limiting the scope of reasons to use one to essentially subjective caprice is a lot like saying it’s okay if you believe the earth is flat—you do you—without discussing the objective reasons why it isn’t. it kind of misses the point.
Succinctly, no other camera combines quick, reliable direct control over everything photographic with a system that does not preview the scene before you in two dimensions, forcing you to actually visualize the picture yourself. (You can *almost* get the latter in a fuji window-finder model, only not as well as an m, and without retaining the former; a q will get you even closer.) this isn’t a preference or a subjective opinion. It is simply a description of the way rangefinder cameras work.
This difference between rf and 2d-finder cameras won’t ensure you make better photos; many people will make worse photos, esp until they learn a few things. the greatest photographer working today (imo) doesn’t use a rf camera, and it doesn’t hurt his work in the least. (If you haven’t yet perused nachtwey’s time mag essay on the opioid situation, you should do so now.) but there are people out there who will make better photos using a rf, who also have no way to know this—esp when so many voices pronounce rangefinder cameras nothing but an affectation, without actual photographic advantages to offer (along with disadvantages, naturally). I know they are out there, because I was one, and for a long time I believed the line about m cameras being nothing but a nostalgic, prestige-marque anachronism.
As for specifically digital m cameras, well, I think you’re way off. The m9 was extraordinary—even today, but in its time it was by far the smallest digital full frame camera and for a long time the only mirrorless ff camera, with extraordinary files in terms of how they printed. The m240 was far more robust, and improved on the usability in low light. The current m10 has the best finder, the ideal ergonomics of the film bodies, may be the only camera whose shooting parameters are *all* directly controllable even with the camera turned off, is the most reliable of the digital leicas, and delivers superb files in almost any conditions. any of them will deliver the same qualitative advantages any digital system offers—with the advantages of a rf, that makes best use of some of the best lenses out there, is still one of the smallest ff cameras made, and doesn’t impose the limitations of the camera’s automation engineering on you, instead rewarding you for improving your skills while leaving the blame squarely on your shoulders should anything go wrong.
I hope that this post will help at least some people out there to give rangefinders a chance on their own terms, and not dismiss them out of hand for the wrong reasons.

I'd argue there's one more practical advantage of the digital M system.

If you want the smallest and lightest system with the highest possible image quality, the digital M is hard to beat.

The Sony A7 series is the only other competitor in this weight class, and it's native lenses are almost SLR sized. It can adapt M lenses, but with significant image quality drawbacks. The Fuji, Panasonic, and Olympus options, while excellent, have smaller sensors which have their depth of field and low light drawbacks (image quality).

A nice thing about the Leica M system, the sustainability of the viewfinder with analog and digital models, allows to go from one to the other effortlessly.

I switch from the M-P digital to the MP analog, depending on the project. The digital M is used for completing my Canon gear when I have industrial assignments. I then regularly snaps candids that my client do often appreciate. And there is some virtue as changing gear on assignments: it refreshes the vision of things. Well, at least for me.

Often, on weekends or when I visit the states of New England, I enjoyed shooting film with a analog Leica M. It is compact & elegant. The color palette of Fuji 400 Color film or Kodak Portra 400 is pleasant, on screen but even more when printed on nice paper. More so than digital files. But then again, at least for me.

And again, there is the Monochrom. I have one since December 2012. And I still use it a lot. The camera, based on the old M9, is clunky for sure. The sound of the shutter is very metallic. But the files can be wonderfully processed.

Whatever the model I use, I can shoot with these wonderful little lenses the Leica optics are. I have been trough too many of them. From the sixties models to the current ASPH ones. Oddly, my current favorites for the analog and for the Monochrom are two 30+ years old 35 & 50 Summicrons. These have been wise purchases.

Well, if you are a film user who is comfortable with manual everything, I’d say absolutely. It is just such a pleasant thing to use. Relatively speaking, it is a bargain. I’m using a 50+ year old M2. Not many film cameras provide service that long….and forget digital. It will outlive me.

My problem is Leica is the only camera manufacturer who makes a digital manual focus rangefinder. I'm desperate for a digital rangefinder because I don't like autofocus cameras but I can't afford a Leica M. Why no other camera company apart from Epson hasn't attempted to build one just beats me. Surely I'm not the only person who likes a real manual focus lens who can't afford a Leica.

In 2011, I borrowed a colleague's M8 for week to see what it was like. I quickly discovered all of the annoyances. But one of the things I found I liked about the it was that it was less immersive than the SLR. It made me very aware that I was operating this little machine, choosing what it pointed at and how that was framed, choosing aperture and shutter speed. But at the same time it was quick and simple to use, and after a short period became almost automatic. For me, using it is a weird combination of fluidity and ease while remaining much more detached than the lovely seduction of a good SLR viewfinder.

I thought, and still think, the pictures ended up being better. In early 2012 I bought a second-hand M8 (with the upgraded shutter, so at least the sound isn't quite as awful as the original), and in 2018 I'm still using it. I have used other cameras, and in particular I have been entranced by and frustrated with the Sigma DP2M; but I haven't used anything that makes me feel I would gain enough in giving up the M8. When the M8 dies, I hope I can then find a second-hand M10 and most of the annoyances of the M8 will disappear.

So, shades of 1) I want to, and 8) it's fun. But a little different than either: it pleases me.

My personal view: the problems with mirrorless and SLR cameras are that you see all the lens effects and have only tunnel vision. Using my X-Pro2 I can solve those problems by switching to the optical viewfinder, however the camera itself is festooned with buttons and options which just get in the way of thinking creatively. With my Leica M3 I get fast precise focusing and I know exactly how to achieve what I want in a picture. The problem with the M10/most digital is that two-thirds of the picture is guessed by the computer in it and that it has no ability to handle bright areas in the image (just goes to white). Also the pictures have a plasticky boring look!

In most cases I “see” better (photographically speaking) with a rangefinder camera than an SLR. And my range of focal lengths rarely exceeds 50mm - all I really need is the 40mm Cron on my CL and a 28 on an M4 iteration, M6 if I want a metered body. I could never afford a digital M, even if I didn’t primarily use film. The reason I’m likely to buy a Leica M is that with regular service they are reliable and will last much longer than I will.

Oh, I just watched "James Cameron's Story Of Science Fiction," and the entire point of Blade Runner, according to Ridley Scott, is that Replicants are as human as any of us.

So, count me a proud Roy Blatty, uh, Leica digital shooter. Now, I've got to get myself to the shoulder of Orion.

"It has limitations that represent artificial barriers".

Yes, it does. BUT, Mike, aren't artificial barriers something that you promoted time and time again? One camera, one (fixed) lens, for instance...

Having said that, I have sold my M8.2 a long time ago. Not because I didn't like the Leica 'thang', quite to the contrary. But that camera began falling apart, quite literally, and Leica didn't have any spare parts to repair it. And while I shot quite a few of my best photographs with that red-dotted black box, I am quite happy now with my Fuji X100F, a camera that arguably also comes with a few artificial barriers of its own.

Don't, please do not buy a film Leica. Either you have one or you do not need one.

If you have one, or a bunch of them like I do, consider using them or one of them.

I see posts from people who try to get comfortable with using them and find them too irritating. Yes they are. I found it hard to get used to them. And I was using them 8 hours a day. So it took a week or two.

I just watched the Netflix movie Kodachrome. Nice enough. But an M-4P ? Kinda broke the spell, doesn't it?

What a bummer that I am too late to parcicipate in that discussion. Cause there are so much more good questions no one does answer:
- Why learn drawing or even painting if you can take a picture with your camera?
- Why copper engravings if there is offset printing?
- Why learn writing by hand if there are text-processors? And when you know that even after ten yours of school and training most people are not able to write a letter without auxiliary lines and the help of their mum?
- Why search for love if you can pay for it?
- Why live with a partner if you have at least one usable arm left to stroke yourself and feed your cat?
- Why spend thousands and thousands of whatever currency on equipment if you can see on flickr what crap all we sad amateurs produce using these overengineered devices?
- Why (also on flickr) do always the owners of the best lenses show the most horrible images and "bokeh studies"?
- Why call it photography when "digital image processing" circumscribes it much better? (Don't remember who came up with that one)

The comments to this entry are closed.