The latest Leica Fotografie International (The Leica Magazine) 4/2012 issue provides more information on the M Monochrom and the APO-Summicron-M. That is why I have a few more thoughts on Leica’s latest products.
In the magazine, there is a collection of Black and White photographs by Jacob Aue Sobol using both the APO-Summicron-M and the M Monochrom on his trip by train from Moscow to Beijing. These photos were shared by many online site reporting the release of the Leica M Monochrom. Jacob has surely captured wonderful, powerful and stunning images, especially the ones with close-ups with the heads, faces and bodies. Those are very stylish photographs, reminding me of the oil paintings, but may not be capable of showing fully the best of the optics. But Black and White photography is all about the style and the atmosphere. You cannot simpy judge the quality of some photos to give the lens the ranking. One thing for sure is that, the Leica M-Monochrom has satisfied Jacob and gave him as much joy as his film cameras, in which he expressed this view in the interview. Whether it is worth such a great price is still in much debate in many online forums. My own opinion is that the M9 or M9-P is excellent enough. I love taking photographs in both colour and black and white and I do not want to set myself a limit.
The Leica Magazine is obviously displaying the best of Leica. You may claim this magazine is a corporate propaganda. I disagree. So far in many occasions it provides more in-depth information about Leica’s product range, including innovation and technological advancement. Sometimes it explains the technology such as the science of optics and lens in an easy way. For example, it is not until I read the information article did I realise how difficult to maintain the filter thread size of the APO-Summicron-M to 39mm, same as the previous version. In this small size, Leica manages to improve its resolution and sharpness. You may argue that the size is small because it is merely a manual focus lens, without the complicated mechanism of those autofocus counterparts. But the quality of this Leica lens is not trumpeted. From the MTF chart, it produces better image quality.
Nowadays it becomes not uncommon to see more lenses made in small sizes, for example, some Micro Fourth Third lenses such as the Panasonic Lumix G 20mm f 1.7 ASPH or Panasonic Lumix G 14mm F2.5 ASPH. What I notice is that for some mirrorless cameras, the weight and length of the lens sometimes is not proportional to the body, such as Sony NEX7. If the sleek Sony NEX7 is fitted with a small lens, that would be a giant killer. (By the way, the electronic viewfinder of the NEX7 is fantastic, when you compare it with that of the Leica M9.)
In fact I am quite interested in the Leica X2, although it is only an evolution of the X1. It should be considered as a luxury camera beyond just point-and-shoot. It is elegant, as nicely designed as the X1. It’s heart is equipped with a 16MP APS-C sensor, bigger than that of Micro Fourth Third, and providing faster AF. In the X2, an optional electronic viewfinder is made to mount on the hot shoe to provide better viewing. But the rear LCD with a resolution of 230,000 dot is so disappointing . This is far too low and no excuse for such a highly regarded luxury camera.
All in all, Leica is now driven more by the market. But I am glad to see they still keep their pace and maintain the quality of their product such as lenses. Leica has always admitted their products are pricy. Yes, it is pricy, but not necessarily mean expensive. If you are interested in know more about the pricing of Leica products, read this article from the Leica Rumors website. I can help but admire the process, the quality, and the craftsmanship involved after learning so much from the story behind of every Leica product.