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Saturday, 22 August 2015


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The test would be to take your iPhone out on the streets of your local town and start taking photos.

What kind of reaction do you get? And is it easy to get those quick shots that are the trademark of street photography?

Just asking.

True in every respect mentioned. Only possible difference is how it is used "professionally," and that can be argued.

Oh... and as to, "It's the meaning of Leica that has changed," yes again, its legend (ie- a quality instrument of considerable cost available only to those who can afford it) has now completely eclipsed its original intent.

Now if the Ur-Leica would have been an organizer, calculator, telegraph, toy box and a camera you´d be right. But it was a machine dedicated to photography - rather than a machine dedicated to everything plus picture taking.

Not so sure I'd agree that cell phone cameras aren't quick - there have been a lot of efforts to improve the speed of taking a picture - and in half-decent light, grabbing my phone from my pocket, sliding up the camera from the lock screen, and snapping a pic is just as quick as grabbing a camera off the shoulder, turning it on, and shooting. and if the phone is already in hand....

I agree! https://since1968.exposure.co/the-iphone-6-plus-is-the-new-leica-m3

The problem with smartphones is that most results are fish nor fowl.
Not the roughness of a polaroid or classic black and white 35mm, nor the reality, depth and plasticity of modern digital cameras with a larger sensor. In other words: pretty boring. This one is great though, thanks to the perfect light (and photographer).

[Thanks! :-) --Mike]

I agree with you. I look at the grid on VSCOcam, and often walk away feeling like a lot of the "throw out the rule book" creatives are using an iPhone (A caveat... just as often I walk away thinking its all derivative poop).

iPhones can be very quick and stealthy. Apps like ProCamera8 let you zone focus and hit anywhere on the screen to capture, most camera apps let you use the volume button on your headphones as a shutter release, and nobody notices a guy listening to music on his iPhone. I shoot with my iPhone more than any of my other cameras, simply because it's always with me (and it doesn't hurt that I like shooting with a 28mm focal length).

You're spot on and that's reinforced when we look at the photos (and videos) of the moment coming out of places like Syria and Yemen. They are immediate, and 'from the people,' both surely being selling points of the original Leica and now coming from smartphones.

We would know less about the world if we only relied on 'photojournalists' for our news in these difficult times.

Hmmm ... that sounds familiar. :) http://theonlinephotographer.typepad.com/the_online_photographer/2014/06/the-best-mobile-device-camera.html (see the Featured Comment)

I feel like there was a thread on here, sometime in the last couple years, where people could nominate cameras for "today's Leica" status. My current nomination wouldn't be a phone; they're too clunky for quick grab shots. Today's high-end point and shoots, like the Sony RX100 I have, are pretty neat. Quiet, unobtrusive, good results despite small size. I took all of the photos here: http://matt.pictures/2015/08/06/market-street.html with it.

There's a thing that happens when you're using a large camera, or a phone, to people in the photograph; it's like they're hyper-aware of certain motions and cues that mean a picture is about to be taken. The documentary approach would be to take time with subjects and get past their initial reactions, to find something more authentic. The street approach is to not trigger that reaction at all.

The counter arguments citing the tactile experience coming in 3, 2...

You make a very interesting point about the original concept of Leica — and one which is too often completely overlooked. The early Leica cameras were designed to be small and quick/easy to operate, to go places where "serious" cameras couldn't easily go, to grab stuff on the fly, and to use oddball 35mm movie film stock!

Today Leica has become quite different things. For one, it is the basis a myth about how photography used to be better in the past. For another it has led to certain conservative and fixed views about photography and photography equipment. Third, it has led some folks to make decisions about their equipment that are not necessarily optimal for making photographs.

I've long found it ironic that certain kinds of photographers (among them some young photographers "discovering" street photography) have adopted point of view that trying to emulate a slightly false image of something that was old news decades ago constitutes being new and edgy.

It doesn't. And once again, it isn't the gear that is the thing. It is what you do with it. Even with an iPhone. ;-)

Is the iPhone capable of "good enough" results in anything but good light? For me, iPhone results don't hold up well enough when the light goes down. But people like me are very possibly the outliers these days. Which means it may very well be "good enough" by today's standards.

You may catch some Heck for this, but I'm with you.
(I even noticed that the photos I took with my old iPhone 5s was of very similar quality to 35mm photos. Which fit well with the answer to my early question of how many megapixels do we need to measure up to 35mm. Answer: 6MP.)

It is obvious that from the beginning the Leica was not supposed to be a top camera. If that were so, they would have been insane in the noggin' to chose 35mm format. With the films of the day, the image quality was simply not good enough for serious photography (apart from documentary, balanced with the relative invisibility of the camera).

So as times and quality changes, they were smart enough to change with them, and put the emphasis from "small" to "outstanding quality from Germany". Good play.

By the by, the iPhone is still a bit behind in autofocus speed (not a *lot*). But I'll bet it is rather better than the average photographer can do manually, certainly me.

Second by the by, the longest series I've had published was with a 2-megapixel camera. (iPhone: 8.)

I am aware that megapixels is not an ideal measure of quality. I just watched a review of a Minox 14-pixel camera. The IQ was awful, certainly no better than my old 2-MP camera. But still and all.

Hmmm... maybe.
My recollection of how the Leica gained legitimacy was that it was a proven to rugged and viable war-reportage camera.
(That will simply NEVER happen with an iPhone.)
Apple has somehow become not just the dominant player in smartphones, but the highest market-cap company in the world by using the latter-day Leica model of Veblen goods. Apple's product, however, is made in China with assembly methods virtually indistinguishable from other high-end smartphones.

Nice try, but wrong.

Obviously, at least to me, a cellphone is inferior to a Leica for conventional street photography (that "quick" thing).

However, we've already had street photography; it's not new (though individual photos from there still are).

The next revolution may well be "going viral" -- basically, crowd-sourced photo editing bringing some remarkable things to the attention of the world. The source for that is largely the pictures people take for themselves in their day-to-day lives, where ubiquity reigns supreme. If that's the next important photographic revolution, then the cell phones will dominate it.

"Only possible difference is how it is used "professionally," and that can be argued."

World Press Awards have been won with iPhones. Many PJs love their iPhone, the same crowd who used Leica, back-in-the-day.

I've shot double trucks with a 8.2 Mp Canon EOS 20D (2004). I see no reason that I can't out-do the 20D with an iPhone. A Canon 5D3 is overkill for my work, and the up-coming iPhone 6+S may be Goldielocks. Time marches on—get used to it.

Yes, but well made and built to last like the old Leica cameras? I don't think so. The iPhone is a nicely designed, cheaply built gadget with integrated obsolescence guarantee. I think the manufacturer calls it "operating system updates."

I love Leica cameras and lenses, they work great for me and give me great results, so I will defend them as much as people love to attack them.

Mike says: " ...rather than in bourgeois technical fastidiousness ..."

Did you really use "bourgeois" and "fastidiousness" in the same sentence?? Or am I hallucinating?? 8-)

Henri Cartier-Bresson said: "Sharpness is a bourgeois concept”

Obviously HCB has no use for "bourgeois technical fastidiousness." 8-)

And don't forget e) specifically designed to be way easier to carry.

I mostly agree with this thought, but I think that is well known.

The iPhone is a pretty sophisticated tool when used correctly. It's certainly quick enough for a lot of street work... some examples from my recent travels.

You can always take pictures of people taking selfies:

"street panorama": https://www.flickr.com/photos/79904144@N00/20603678358/in/album-72157655286335373/

Street dog portraits:

I thought this was going to be a rant about status-obsessed fanboys who will wait in line outside the dealer's all night just to get *on the list* for the newest and more expensive model, nothwithstanding the infinitesimal increase in features over the last model.

I'll come back later.

The best camera is the one you have with you. Arguably.

Brought my gh4 for some birdie video. Bird there. Gh4 no battery. Have to use the-recalled ip6+ to do bird video for id.

The bird is only thumb size! (https://vimeo.com/137032893 20s+, just in case y are interest to id bird by mono audio and the movement f little guy.)

But that is what i got. That is not my choice even just a serious hobbits. And if I have to take that professionally, I doubt v much I would it. Cannot zoom, cannot easy colour graded, ...

It is different from leica position which I believe then is a professional (or very well off hobbits) choice, not a general consumer choice. Similar to iphone should be 6x9 then and other 135mm starting run in parallel. Leica was an expensive one and is good enough for some purpose. But even that was eclipse by slr (nikon lens then f series plus hasselblad and other 6x6 and 6x7 formats).

I would choose my gh4 or omd2 or d810 ... Even as a serious hobbies. Not iphone. Not good enough. Even for street and definitely not for bird.

Let's not forget video. There was a movie shot mostly on iPhone at Sundance Film festival. They used steady cam rigs and anamorphic lenses on their iPhones. Early Leica was to film photography of the time as iPhone is to video photography now? Throwing that out there as a reaction to your thought.

The iPhone is also excellent at pop concerts. Whereas you can't take in a Leica, they don't prevent smartphones. This is fantastic as they add two major effects. One is that it is even harder to see as half the people hold them above their head to film and record the event and the other is that their screens provide a new artistic dancing light source, layered above the crowd.

Wouldn't it be better if you used the term smartphone instead of iPhone?

One huge distinction between Apple and Leica is that you get the lens that Cupertino thinks you should have and not necessarily the one that you want. It is inconceivable that the Leica photographers of lore would have been completely indifferent to such a crucial part of the photographic process (focal length selection).

Well, iPhone wasn`t first phone with a decent camera and still it`s not "the best". Simply beacuse they don`t care ;)

Ernst Leitz GmbH did.

The iPhone only has one major downfall: horrendous battery life with no easy way to change batteries.

Go here: http://www.hidinginplainsight.mobi/2011/03/all-you-need-is.html

"The iPhone is a nicely designed, cheaply built gadget with integrated obsolescence guarantee. I think the manufacturer calls it "operating system updates.""

Interesting way to look at what someone else might describe as "counter-obsolescence by means of operating system updates." (Not easy to update the operating system of that decades-old Leica... ;-)

Seems to me there are a number of compact cameras that would be more appropriate to compare to early Leicas. Certainly "low in prestige" these days for whatever reason, but designed with a sense of quality and the needs of photographers.

I wish people stopped this nonsense of the iPhone being the camera Henri Cartier-Bresson would use if he were alive and shooting today. Besides displaying poor knowledge of HC-B's body of work, abusively reducing it to what we now call "street photography", such assertion ignores the fact he had a plethora of small, "stealthy" cameras comparable to the iPhone at hand, should he want to use one. There were point and shoot cameras back in his day, yet he clung to the Leica until the end of his career.
Some people have a completely misjudged conception of HC-B's photographing ways. For instance, he liked to use standard lenses because he didn't want the people he shot to feel uncomfortable with his proximity. Using the iPhone would imply getting too close to people, given the short focal length of the iPhone's lens. I can understand the taste for hyperbole, but not when it leads to such a misguided statement.

My iPhone 5 has approximately the same image quality as my Nikon P50 point'n'shoot from a few years back, except the iPhone is clearly inferior in operability. And the P50 is a ghastly little jpeg generating box.

I disagree. The Leica was always a serious camera, even at the beginning. The iPhone, on the other hand, is a note-taking machine, it's just that some of the notes are selfies or party pictures. But I (and lots of other people, I've seen them doing it) literally use it for taking notes. I take pictures of book displays, and on a recent car trip around the central U.S., took pictures of the prices on gas pumps. I've seen people taking pictures of products in grocery stores, I suspect so they can compare prices. In other words, I think in many ways there's a fundamental conceptual difference in what was (is) going on, between early Leicas and the iPhone. A Leica photo would lead to a long process of dismounting the film, protecting it, getting it processed, getting prints made. I think most iPhone photos are deleted, because they don't amount to much, and were never intended to amount to much. They're just notes in an on-going life, while Leica photos were "moments."

The iPhone is far too successful a consumer product to be a Leica. It's also an ok camera.

Take a look at the back cover of any recent New Yorker Magazine, and you'll see an iPhone image in black & white that tries a little too hard to look cool and intriguing, yet comes across as anything but...My problem with Apple is that they have created the myth that THEIR image is THE only message that matters. We are talking about mass commodity electronic products here. Apple's claim to fame is their ability to co-opt ideas in the name of innovation and then present them as being the gushing best EVER. Read any interview with the Apple Style Guru Jony Ives (or is it Johnnie?) and you quickly discover the phony, exclusive world view of Appleville. They rule that world and never let anyone forget it. Style and frabricated taste don't come cheap...just ask the world's first near TRILLION dollar corporation. Did I just call Apple a corporation? The Beattles and their Apple Corps label found out the hard way just how Corporate Apple Computer, Incorporated, could be. All the while I thought they were a small B&W iPhone photography group...

A point worth raising is that there are other very compact cameras that can put the iPhone deep in the shade (e.g. the Sony RX100 series and the slightly larger Panasonic LX 100). Either of these is a better choice to fill the role once played by Leica.

Eolake said: Hmmm... maybe.

My recollection of how the Leica gained legitimacy was that it was a proven to rugged and viable war-reportage camera.
(That will simply NEVER happen with an iPhone.)

World Press Awards are being won by War Corespondents using iPhones. Above the Fold photos, from war zones, are being shot with iPhones. Etc, etc, etc.

BTW All cameras are nothing but tools, be they Nikon 810 or iPhone. You can take selfies with a Medium Format Digital as well as a Leica Q. To put it another way: It's not the nail, it's the hammer that drives it.

Somewhat related: this evening I saw a feature film that was shot entirely with three iPhone 5s phones.


Trailer (red band version):

(Not easy to update the operating system of that decades-old Leica... ;-)

Sure it is, it's called film. (T Max , the MS Vista of film)

Easier than with digital cameras

Huh, I think actually the choice of nail matters a lot MORE than the choice of hammer most of the time. I mean, coated, ringed, spiral, finishing or normal, what? But a wide range of hammers all work fine on all of them.

I think people are getting lost in the details. The smartphone isn't "repeating" the Leica's path. It isn't attacking that niche at all. Each revolution is different; if it were the same, it wouldn't be revolutionary.

Leica arguably made war photography possible, and did a lot to make lots of "people" photography more fluid and quick, hence more natural and realistic. That was revolutionary.

Phone cameras aren't going to make that happen again, no. That is already happening. Phones might or might not make those things happen better (people seem to mostly be arguing "not", and I think I agree), but in any case that isn't revolutionary; if that happens it's a classic example of evolutionary improvement.

But most people, not just dedicated photographers, having a camera (their smartphone) with them all the time may well have a revolutionary impact on photography. That combined with "crowd-sourced photo editing" i.e. people sharing things they like on Facebook or wherever and the system promoting the ones that enough people like until it "goes viral", may be revolutionary. Certainly some striking photos have already come out of it, and they don't mostly look in much of any ways like the striking photos that the Leica revolution brought us.


I understand the point that an iphone is probably not going to be the first choice of most war photographers. But a quick search for iphone war photography shows there's some good stuff out there.

And yes, I'm sure lots of other phones have decent-ish cameras too.

I think your criteria is broad enough to apply to nearly every camera that is smaller and more discreet than a DSLR. If I were to pick a camera based on how small, rugged, and purpose built it was I would be more likely to end up with an Olympus OMD-EM5 II, Nikon 1 AW1, or Ricoh GR than an iPhone. I think I tend to agree with others that phone cameras are more analogous to the everyman cameras of yesteryear (maybe those cheap, little APS cameras that everyone seemed to have several of in the 80s).

"There were point and shoot cameras back in his day, yet he clung to the Leica until the end of his career."

Someone from Leica told me he used a Minilux towards the end and photos taken with it were published in several of his books. He even got around to mastering the exposure compensation button when photographing on snow-capped mountains.

Re: Eolake "Leica was not supposed to be a top camera..."

Correct, it was never meant to compete with large plate cameras, it was a "note taker". (Didn't Oscar Barnack have asthma or something, and couldn't shag a big camera around? So he designed something 'good enough'). There wasn't really any 'real' professional 35mm film cameras as a format either, nor packaged film. The Leica was designed to use 35mm movie film left-over 'tails', because they were cheap.

I remember seeing a show on Robert Franks pre-U.S. work, at a gallery in Washington DC, all shot on a Leica, and the quality was immensely bleak. I remember thinking at the time I was getting far greater quality out of my Olympus point-and-shoot.

For some reason, the reverence given to all 35mm film cameras by the general public was way out of proportion to the actual uses by professionals. I remember all that big push being in the late 60's and through the 70's. Professionals never used anything smaller than a 120, except for magazine and newspaper shooters, which was a very, very tiny portion of the trade. Amateurs that wanted to shoot like pros before that, wanted a Rollei or a Graflex. I worked for years in a medium sized market, in the commercial and advertising imaging business, and I can tell you that from when I got in, in the early 70's, until film went digital, I never knew an art director that would have specified, or accepted, anything shot on 35mm film.

You know, the push by universities to expand the visual arts with photography instruction in the 70's must have felt to the old-timers, like the same mayhem going on today.

I think the small cameras made amateur photography practical. But it was still photography and you had to know how to do it. My dad took a course, built his own enlarger with the lamp housed in a coffee can. His camera was a kine Exacta with a waist level focusing screen and a tiny flip-up magnifier. You closed it sides first, then back, then front. Click. He photographed his kids, his work place, his vacation. He obtained lights and set up a studio in the basement. He learned about reciprocity, optical aberrations, the rule of thirds. In his world, the Leica was a status symbol. He was given one for repair at one point, so he bought a junk Leica for a dry run but he never could figure out how to get into it without damaging it. Dad was a mechanic; he respected machines but he did not worship them. Doctors owned Leicas and there was a family of opticians who had a movie camera! The subjects of all this photography were pretty pedestrian, maybe because the people were so methodical. The Bell & Howell, for instance, photographed people walking endlessly to and fro across the lawn. There was no photojournalism in the amateur world, no HCB, no street photography. Film was expensive and not to be wasted. People would invest in film only to make nice pictures. Art was vaguely immoral, modern art was downright disturbing. The exciting new technology was the TV, not the Leica and casual snap-shooting had to wait until the invention of the point 'n' shoot, decades later. Just my 2 cents.

"iPhone ... still it`s not "the best". Simply beacuse they don`t care ;)”

Does Victorinox care how good their blades are? I’d say yes, but the blades in a Swiss Army Knife are not as good as in a dedicated kitchen knife. Victorinox has a lot of other things to care about as well.

I think that what Apple has done for photography is at least as important as what Leitz did, because so many people use iPhone (and other cell phone) cameras, and use them much more often, than before. Photography will never be the same as it was pre-iPhone. The same can be said about Leica.

Yes, I saw the smile and wink at the end of the quote, but ranters gotta rant! :-)

For a while, Nokia was making the “best” phone cameras. Apple hired a key engineer from Nokia’s photography team about a year and a half ago. That was probably too late to have much of an impact on the iPhone 6, but just about right to influence the cameras in the new models this year.

Whoaaa could you hear all those real cameras being dropped onto the ground by the headline alone!?
Naturally.... Leicas bounced right back - unharmed. There is only one important question unanswered: why is there no IPhone + Leica!?

To quote Steve Jobs:

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