Have you ever thought of being a Leica rangefinder camera user?

(Sorry I don’t call the Leica M camera the mirrorless camera.)

Having just read Mark Dubovoy’s article posted on Luminous Landscape, I am thinking about the endless pursuit of the finest camera.  Is the Leica M (Type 240) my next camera?  It retains the old format, superbly made with some innovations at a glimpse. Given my Leica M9 has entered its third year, I may have a reason to justify this upgrade.

I have a long history of using a SLR or DSLR camera, mainly the Canon. When I received my first salary and decided to buy a camera to take photos in my graduation ceremony, I have only heard of Minolta, Nikon, Canon, Pentax and Olympus. Yes, all the Japanese brands. My university mate was using a Minolta X700. I did not know why I chose Canon but probably my dear friend wanted to have a chance to play around with it, sort of hands-on.  So I ended up buying a Canon AE-1 Program with a 35-70 mm zoom lens.

My next Canon camera was a Canon New F-1, top of the range. It cost me nearly a whole month salary. Later I bought a FD 50 mm f/1.2L when I was more serious in photography and taking more rolls of film. So this has become my everyday camera since then. Now if I remember the equipment items I used in the past and compare them with the current outfit: the Leica M9 with the Summicron-M 50mm f/2.0, they are almost identical. So my question is:  am I making progress or staying in the same?

We now apparently have better photo-taking tools, do we make better photography? Especially if you want to switch from a DSLR or mirrorless camera to the Leica rangefinder camera, you have to bear in mind missing the following features which are supposed very common nowadays:

  1. The Leica rangefinder camera has no autofocus function.
  2. The Leica rangefinder has no zoom lens (don’t expect a travel zoom)
  3. The Leica rangefinder has very limited automatic exposure functions (only aperture priority)
  4. The Leica rangefinder lenses has limited capability of taking close-ups (the closest distance is around 0.7m)
  5. The Leica rangefinder has no image stabilising function (in camera or lens)

Is the new Leica M (Type 240) making a departure? Not really. However, the new Leica M has already set a new standard for the rangefinder camera. As we are reading growing numbers of reviews and user reports, I noticed the Leica M is not just a face-off. It is a big leap forward compared with the Leica M9. This has little to do with the outward appearances, although you still can spot the differences at the front and the rear. I have no dispute with the fact that the new M (Type 240) has a brand new internal:  the 24MP Maestro CMOS sensor, the HD movie recording capability and the Live View display when taking video on the rear LCD monitor. The luminance noise and chroma noise of the new Leica M are also much better than those of the Leica M9 thanks to the new sensor. You can have the option of GPS and WiFi in the new handgrip. If you want to study further details, read the article called The M Delivers written by Michael J. Hussmann on the 3/2013 April issue of LFI magazine. So if you ask me to choose between the Leica M-E or the Leica M, I would suggest you to go for the latter, although there is a significant price difference. The Leica M is truly a flagship of Leica.

The Leica rangefinder is a camera not for everyone, not because of the price tag, but the style of taking photographs. It calls for a back-to-basic attitude to photography: why do I take this photograph and what does the subject mean to me? Many people collect the Leica rangefinder cameras for aesthetic design or investment. It is just a waste a time and money if you do not fully use this wonderful camera. I want to tell you honestly that I have been using my Leica M9 to take more photographs than using the Canons, and I enjoy every moment with the Leica rangefinder camera.

I am not sure if this quote is from Henri Cartier-Bresson.  He once said, “Shooting with a LEICA is like a long tender kiss, like firing an automatic pistol, like an hour on the analyist’s (analyst?) couch.”


Featured image: The sunset. Summicron-M 50 mm, ISO160, f/5.7, 1/250 sec



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