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Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Go, Leica

I was rather surprised that the post below this one turned out to be controversial, with many people writing in public comments and in private to me in a somewhat scornful vein.

Personally, I'm really glad there's an M8. To my way of thinking there are all kinds of good things about it. I won't try to list them all, but let me mention a few.

One thing that has struck me about the Digital Age is that newcomers who are exclusively digital don't have the option of buying really old cameras and initiating themselves into some of the many methods of the past. I know that for me, exploring the available modes of expression was an education, not to mention a blast. I still have in my archives the results of my brief sorties into Kodachrome, cyanotype, and still life with studio lighting; a nice picture I took with a toy camera (which actually got published), and an 8x10 portrait; to say nothing of projects like dismantling and restoring a press camera. I have larger projects I undertook on 4x5 Polaroid P/N film and in medium format black-and-white using an Exakta 66. None of these were the way I ended up working, but they all contributed to my education and, I think, enhanced my connection to the photographers of the past, and their work.

The other day I criticized Howard French for his juggling of many formats and methods, and among his responses was his admission that his "display work is overwhelmingly shot in black and white with the Rolleiflex." He added that he switches around "because I'm all about growth, and I don't like barriers." This latter is perfectly defensible; but for many older photographers the point would have been what he said in his first statement—experimentation made them familar with many ways of working, and they tended to hone in on what worked, and continued to develop and refine that, discarding the rest. (If they were Howard, in other words, they would have been grateful to find their own most natural technique and simply settled there.) Sometimes I reflect on what a shame it is that newcomers to photography will no longer have to learn how to keep a Hasselblad from freezing up, or choose between the competing options for developing sheet film streak- and mottle-free, or learn camera movements. It's not like we haven't gained a lot too, so I'm not moaning. It's just that a lot that I thought was part of the potential of the experience of being a photographer is no longer really there.

Beautiful Samba, age six, dying of cancer

I shot exclusively with an M6 for about a year and a half, some 15 years ago. I've said before that the camera itself was among my teachers in photography, and I still think so. It demanded a different way of looking, of responding, of appreciating the work of others—a different way of thinking. True, a lot of M8 buyers will use their fancy toys no differently than they would use a big DSLR or a Rolleiflex, but that's their loss. "Getting to grips" with an M Leica (the phrase is Andrew Mattheson's) was one of the pleasures of learning the old art, and was among its rewards. Personally, I'm glad the M8 is there to carry the M "way" into the new paradigm.

That's one thing. Another is that I'm glad that a camera maker can be so inventive, so different, in a market that is turning out to be so disappointingly repetitive (or, as I used to spell it, "repetetititive"). Basically, the Canon T90 stamped its design DNA indelibly into everything that came after it, a style of device that my friend Bill Pierce dubbed "Wunderplastik." Wunderplastik and the point-and-shoot are overwhelmingly the style choices available in digital cameras, and every design outlier is a rebel to be valued. Maybe an M-style digital was just Leica's best choice, but still, there's no denying it's very different from the norm. When there's nothing but conformity abroad in the land, nonconformity is more, not less, crucial to vitality.

I'm thankful that there are categories of cameras that don't accept zoom lenses. Again, being forced to work for at least a while with one or two single-focal length lenses is a teaching moment, an eye-opener, a dimension of one's growth in this art. It's good that there are a few high-quality digital sensors that don't lend themselves to being used with the ever-more-ubiquitous zoom.

Zander at 14

I'll mention only one more, which is that I'm happy for those people whom the M8 hits square on the bull's-eye. I noted an item on Lyra Research the other day noting that "By late 2008 or early 2009, the cumulative number of camera phones shipped will surpass the cumulative number of both conventional and digital cameras shipped in the entire history of photography...." To which I responded with a big fat harrumph, thinking to myself, yeah, but what percentage of the work I care about will be done with them? Almost none, most likely. What matters to me is not that there's a camera in every home, not that the market for camera-type devices grows to the size of the market for toothbrushes, but that the few people who will be doing great photography have the tools that fit them, so they can do their work.

Posted by: MIKE JOHNSTON

P.S. The pictures here weren't taken with a rangefinder, but with my trusty K-M 7D and, yes, a zoom lens, the Tamron-made K-M 28–75mm. They're there simply as decoration, to break up the "gray matter" of the text.

Featured Comment by nextSibling: I mainly shoot sports and social events, and a bit of mediocre street photography, these days. Nothing that's ever likely to find its way to a gallery or make me a living, and that's how I like it. In the last couple of months I've used my Pentax DSLRs, an FM2n, an Olympus XA, an Olympus Stylus Epic, a Rolleiflex, a Fuji 6x8 rangefinder, spent (wasted) far too much time playing around in Photoshop, and processed a few rolls of 120 Tri-X in Diafine.

What I've come to realise is that we're living in a golden age of photography. However one wants to pursue it. Someone like me with little talent and an unremarkable income can play around like this more easily and accessibly than ever before, just for the fun of of it and with no obligations. The web allows us to share our results, however unexciting, should we wish to, like never possible just a few years ago.

It's all rather wonderful, whatever we do. Whenever the next interesting thing comes along, I'll be jumping on the bandwagon (DP-1, I'm looking at you). The only reason I don't have an M8 is the price tag.

44 Comments:

Blogger cb said...

Paraphrasing Gertrude Stein: It takes a lot of genius to invent a new Leica, you have to sit around so much improving nothing, really improving nothing.

3:41 PM  
Blogger Daniel said...

I think the fact that an M8 with a few lenses will cost almost $10,000 makes keeping the nonconformist tradition alive available to very few people.

Now if they make a digital version of the Bessa R2 we're in business!

3:49 PM  
Blogger Mike Johnston said...

"I think the fact that an M8 with a few lenses will cost almost $10,000 makes keeping the nonconformist tradition alive available to very few people."

Arguably, that's what customers want. It's a luxury item, and more desirable to people who buy it because of its exclusivity. I imagine it would sell less well if it were less expensive, like any true luxury good.

--Mike

4:00 PM  
Blogger eolake said...

Yeah, much as I appreciate the wunderplastic (good word) way of industrial design for its economy and effectiveness, I miss metal. I have a bunch of eBay'd metal SLRs sitting around in my apartment, just because I appreciate them. (A Nikon F2, a Zenit, a Pentax Spotmatic (a gift), a Canon AE-1, a Pentax K2, a Pentax ME-Super.)

4:03 PM  
Blogger dasmb said...

I shoot the Canon XTi, which puts me squarely in the school of the safe bet. And yet I never, ever suggest Canons to friends looking for new cameras. From my position of neutrality and paced evolution I see a lot of wierd, exciting stuff I wish I could be a part of, if only vicariously.

I want an offset flash and side swinging mirror like the E-330. I want a cool, centered design and a bouncable flash like the DMC-LC1. I want a rangefinder, and I want a Foveon sensor.

(God, do I. I can't wait for the DP-1).

Most importantly, I want these competitors to stick around and keep going to strange new places. It's the birds on the fringe that direct the flock.

4:23 PM  
Blogger Allen George said...

Quoth daniel:
Now if they make a digital version of the Bessa R2 we're in business!

Definitely. I'd be on that in a heartbeat!

4:26 PM  
Blogger plabby said...

Thanks for the perspective Mike, as a pure digital guy its nice to learn from the generations before us who really had to perfect their craft before they ever got a "keeper".

Sometimes I neglect to think about how much blood and sweat went into the iconic images of modern times, all those beautiful leica rangefinder shots, where the photographer was also a scientist, a technician, as well as an artist.

For me the ease of use of digital allows me to concentrate on image making rather than picture taking, which makes me appreciate how the old masters did it so well, realizing that if I started now, it would take me decades to acheive the level of technical competence of lets say, a Brassai piece.

(flips knob from auto to M)

4:26 PM  
Blogger Austin said...

"Now if they make a digital version of the Bessa R2 we're in business!"


It already exists, as the wonderful Epson RD-1.

But the foundation of the Voigtlgander camera line is bringing the tradional Leica aesthetic to the lower priced market, and therein lies an interesting point that the Epson raises: at the present time, it is probably impossible to bring a low priced digital M Leica to the market. Even with a 6 Megapixel sensor in a 8, 10, 12 megapixel year, the RD-1 was priced at nearly $2000 more than the R2. Actually, the original RD-1 cost what the M8 costs. Even the used prices right now are double the R2's modest price tag.

I think we won't see a modestly priced digital M Leica until the digital revolution has matured to the point that large sensors are not even much cheaper to produce than film.

4:46 PM  
Blogger Light and Lens said...

I think it's really a shame when digital cameras really took off a couple years ago. Some very interesting developments and variations were coming out on the film side of things, and then were not developed further as resources were put towards the digital side of things or companies went belly-up. Imagine where the following systems would be now, and what others they might have influenced, if they weren't discontinued (in no particular order):

- Bronica RF645
- Mamiya 6, 7
- Fuji 645ZI
- Contax G1, G2
- Contax 645, N
- Nikon F6 (still current, but I'm assuming no further development)
- Rollei 6008 series
- Pentax MZ-S
- Hassy XPan

Note that most of these had the non-zoom approach to lenses and ergonomics in mind. I think the only holdovers in film camera innovation are Fuji with their Japanese-only compact cameras and Cosina-Voigtlander with the Bessa series. I haven't mentioned the amazing quality later films, from all the makers, that will be missed (e.g. Agfa Ultra and Vista are gone, Kodak UC is disappearing, Ilford is limited, Konica's C-41 BW (did anyone else try that?) and Centuria, and I'm assuming Fuji will slowly discontinue their line-up too).

What's surprising and disappointing is the lack of more innovative designs on the digital front. Given that you don't have to worry about film constraints, the variations in design are sorely lacking. It seems that everyone's found a decent money-making design (box with lens, and then make box with lens smaller, and then put in a higher megapixel sensor) and no more "interesting" designs are forthcoming. Sure, in-body anti-shake is useful, as is the swivel screen idea, but really, is that it? I thought the Leica R's digital solution was more innovative than their M8, but again, it's gone now too.

Remember the Nikon swivel-lenses? Why are they only in crappy consumer versions? Why is the pistol-grip design from Sanyo on a Sanyo? Why did the digital Rollei stop with a toy-like 2 MP? Why has Sony given up on the R1? Given the enhanced sensitivity that digital sensors have, why hasn't Canon tried a DSLR version of the pellicle mirror (there's "live-view" for you)? I could go on, but the camera manufacturers won't listen...

4:47 PM  
Blogger BlankPhotog said...

I disagree. I don't think what photographers want is a higher price tag, but a camera that can do different things than what other cameras can do. The price tag may in part serve that purpose, but what really serves it is that you can't buy a Leica at Best Buy.

5:44 PM  
Blogger John said...

In following the Leica user forum, the exclusivity doesn't seem compelling. They just like using the camera. If you want real luxury and exclusivity spend $40M on a digital H3D Hasselblad. I greatly appreciate the existence of the M8, not because it is a RF but because it is smaller by far than my Canon 1Ds. I sure wish the cost were lower so I could buy a back up which so far seems pretty necessary. Admittedly, the cost to me of getting the M8 was reduced by owning 2 twenty year old M6's and a bunch of lenses. I had 2 to have color in one and B&W in the other, something no longer necessary with digital. So for me I had no additional lens cost and sold the two old M6s for enough to cut the cost of the M8 by $2m. Expecting someone to get into the system from scratch is an expensive stretch that few will do, but for a few years Leica will do fine just selling to former Leica film users like me.

5:55 PM  
Blogger Albano Garcia said...

I love the Zander shot, as teen as it gets, very moody, great tones.
My best wishes for the dog, too young...

I used primes and manual cameras exclusively for 7 years, and then went digital with a 10x zoom camera, and then a dlsr with 3x zoom. My photography improved so so so much in my digital era, that I don't know if it's mere coincidence, it has to do with digital flexibility, zoom flexibility or maybe (more likely), an inner change, or the three of them.

6:39 PM  
Blogger Andy Radin said...

I'm thankful that there are categories of cameras that don't accept zoom lenses.

This is an absurd nitpick, but the new 16-18-21 Tri-Elmar is a true zoom with intermediate positions:

http://www.luminous-landscape.com/reviews/lenses/wa-tri-elmar.shtml

As is its accompanying finder. Sorry to burst that particular bubble...

6:57 PM  
Blogger tsj said...

Maybe this thought is not entirely related to this post, but it is something I'd like to throw out. Digital has moved removed the egalitarian accessibility of photography. In the past, invest in a good used lens and body (even a Leica), develop your own film, borrow or buy a good enlarger and lens and for very little money you had the potential to produce prints as well as could be done. Now...

7:39 PM  
Blogger Mike said...

Digital M is great, but it's not the only way to use good primes. It's all really what you like and are used to. I'm an slr guy, even after shooting M leicas only for about 4 years in the mid 90's. I never really got comfortable enough to be able to focus accurately on the run like I can with an slr. Now of course AF is very helpful to my astigmatic eyeballs.

Primes lenses are very much available for dslrs just as they are for a leica. Unless I am shooting a perfomance from a fixed position, I use 3 primes on my 1Ds Mk2, a 24, 50 & 135. They 3 are much lighter and focus in the dark where even I cannot see detail, and they don't require a stabilizer. I move around instead of zooming in and out, and my photos are better because of it. Just like when I was shooting with my M's.

Digital is only for paid clients though. For myself, I shoot with a hasselblad for my street photography and urban landscape work. It is so fundamentally different from my dslr that I am not in any way tempted to shoot like I do when shooting for clients. I am able to completely switch gears mentally by switching my camera gear. It's truly refreshing to get that big old camera in my hands, even the way I hold it is different.

And, even though scanning is a big pain, I still like film, just not for clients. Shooting digital on the streets just seems to leave me cold. I cannot explain why, it just feels empty and weightless. Must be my age.

7:46 PM  
Blogger carpeicthus said...

I agree with this. Anything that makes the range of digital cameras available less monotonous is fine in my book. A lot of artsy types talk about how clean and lifeless digital is -- I don't agree, but it's there. I think only part of that is the sensor and the bigger part is that everyone except for a very few are basically using variants of the same camera. I only buy equipment I can amortize fairly quickly, and so the Leica, which would mostly be a lark, isn't in my bag … but what a lark! I loved testing it, and I can't wait until digital rangefinders come into their own.

9:09 PM  
Blogger A Glimpse of the World said...

That there is no one path to making good pictures, and that includes what tools one uses, is, I would think by now self-evident.
There's a very interesting passage in the book The Ongoing Moment, which anyone who loves photography would profit from reading, where Robert Frank or Walker Evans, I can't remember offhand which, denounces color. Very shortly after, though, this same photographer was persuaded to try it and spent the next few years doing so.
In that spirit I'd like to clear up an impression that may have been left of me jumping back and forth almost capriciously between different types of gear.
That's in fact not the case. I spent the better part of the last three years shooting a Rolleiflex for 80-90 percent of my work.
I did that because I love the Rollei, and because I see a benefit in getting to know a camera as deeply as it can be known. My work has profited from this approach, too. The Rollei is truly like and extension of my eye and arm, and yields me the highest success rate of any camera I've ever used.
I'm not tired of that camera. I'm humbled by it. I'm also intrigued by new technologies, and feel challenged to see if I can achieve anything like what I've done with the Rollei with other gear.
I chose the M8 because I owned M lenses; because of the file quality; because I had experience with rangefinders; because I don't like DSLRs, generally; because I like what the digital darkroom has to offer, and I could go on.
I'm early in my learning curve still, but this is exciting. I am quite positive that I'm not leaving the Rollei and film behind. For practical purposes, though, really learning the new Leica means shooting my old love less for now.

9:24 PM  
Blogger glasshalffull said...

Hey,

The journey has had me shooting a Canon FTb (still own it--a black one, very cherry, with a nice 1.8/50mm) in the '70s and every kind of medium format and 4x5 until 2006.

I'd like to have an M8. For the street. For portraits. For anything. I'd like to own a Jeep Wrangler so I could go down the Rubicon Trail.

I just logged my 1-year anniversary with a 5D. I've never had so much fun or less gear envy.

It was the camera I was waiting for--my full-frame Honda. It's wunderplastik that's reliable and doesn't break down. It was familiar wunderplastik, like my Elan7, which caused me to buy a bunch of inferior L lenses in the first place.

I've reached a certain age. I'm weary of dashboards that chatter like Halloween teeth. And Hasselblads that charmingly freeze up.

Gear and brands inspire passions.

Make nice prints...

MikeB

9:41 PM  
Blogger phule said...

[[One thing that has struck me about the Digital Age is that newcomers who are exclusively digital don't have the option of buying really old cameras and initiating themselves into some of the many methods of the past.]]

I just don't get this statement, Mike. How are people being prevented from buying old cameras? Is there a law? Did they all get shot into space?

People still have the option of choosing whatever camera system they want. People can still shoot daguerreotypes if they want. Do not confuse marketing with lack of choice.

9:47 PM  
Blogger Mike Johnston said...

"[[One thing that has struck me about the Digital Age is that newcomers who are exclusively digital don't have the option of buying really old cameras and initiating themselves into some of the many methods of the past.]]

"I just don't get this statement, Mike. How are people being prevented from buying old cameras?"

phule,
You don't get how newcomers who are exclusively digital can be exclusively digital? I don't either, I guess, but that doesn't mean they aren't....

--Mike

10:00 PM  
Blogger seascape said...

I find it interesting that people who slam Leica cameras, usually use the camera cost as justification for their comments.

These people are often the same ones who would willingly pay the same amount for a "Feature Driven" camera (they will be multimedia) device.

I guess actual results just don't count anymore.

10:24 PM  
Blogger Stephen said...

The thing that struck me most about this thread was the poignancy of the photo of beautiful Samba.

11:08 PM  
Blogger david mantripp said...

I can think of at least 4 recent DSLRs which look little like the Canon T90 (which was a great camera, by the way): Olympus E-300; Olympus E-330; Olympus E-400; Panaleica DigiL-1

Is a pattern emerging ?

The M8 is indeed nothing like the Wunderplastic brigade, but in itself, it is hardly a brave new idea. It's an M-Leica with an image sensor jammed into it. Apart from the technical achievement, and the indisputable values of a Leica M, what's the big (new) deal here, honestly ? More like running just to keep up rather than innovating.

2:02 AM  
Blogger erlik said...

Why did the digital Rollei stop with a toy-like 2 MP?

There's a Rollei 6008 AF with a Phase One 16MP digital back. For about $10-12K with a lens, as far as I could see.

Press rrelease at Steve's Digicams

2:07 AM  
Blogger Paul said...

I have a 5D, it produces nice images and it is a Godsend for the editorial work I do. But I feel indifferent to using it, it has no soul, its lacking a certain something. The cameras I love using are my Voightlander R2, my pinhole 5x4 and my OM4. Its not because they use film but because they have a certain character to them that makes them enjoyable to use. Its the ergonomics, the way they impose certain conditions on how I interpret the world. its all sorts of subtle nuances that I feel are missing from a lot of modern camera designs.

I was really excited when the Epson RD1 came out, unfortunately they were just out of my budget. I'm excited by the advent of the M8. It gives me hope that some manufacturers are trying to supply cameras that don't conform to the Dslr standard. Hopefully this trend will continue and we'll see some more interesting designs that will produce a camera with a bit of soul.

6:34 AM  
Blogger Mike Johnston said...

"The thing that struck me most about this thread was the poignancy of the photo of beautiful Samba."

Stephen,
Very sad about her. She has cancer in her leg that has spread to the rest of her body. She belongs to my stepsister and her husband. She has outlived her initial prognosis already and is currently comfortable on painkillers, but she won't survive much longer. They also have a male Golden who is going to be very lonely....

P.S. Nice to see somebody else who likes "Aguirre: der zorn Gottes." I do a mean Klaus Kinski impression....

--Mike

6:41 AM  
Blogger Chris said...

Good blog, Mike. I feel your pain, but I still think there are some of us out there that try to mix it up and experience different aspects of photography.

Why, just yesterday I was at the Colorado Railroad Museum shooting with a No. 2 Brownie Box camera. What a hoot!

8:21 AM  
Blogger Timothy said...

Thank you Mike, for attempting to knock back some of the more outrageous Leica-bashing. Frankly, I find it very sad that people even think this way.

People talk about the expense of the M system as though other top-of-the-line cameras and lenses weren't similarly high-priced, and as if it were somehow *unfair* for Leica to charge the prices it does. Let's face it, making the M cheaper is *not* going to open the floodgates of potential users. A manual focus rangefinder camera is always going to have a small user-base and, unfortunately, the expense of producing for that small user-base is always going to have to be spread over a smaller pool, resulting in higher prices. This is just simple, basic economics.

The Leica really is useful for people whose vision (for lack of a better word) is more suited to its idiosyncratic working style. When I moved to digital I really, really, tried to adapt my shooting to using dSLR's but, just as I'd previously rejected them in favor of viewfinders, I found myself unsatisfied by looking through that little window surrounded by black. The picture quality was great, especially once I got a d200, but the whole act of picture taking became a chore and less rewarding. The M8, while not perfect, is the closest yet to providing a camera that works with my style of shooting.

Finally, the thing I have the hardest time understanding is the *tone* of the comments, as if they are personally insulted that Leica even exists. Why do camera people have to bash other peoples choices? Does is make them feel superior? Is it the result of some deep insecurity? I especially love it when the comments are from people who so obviously have never even touched the camera they're bashing. If my choice is to shoot with a Topcon, what possible bearing does that have on your choice to shoot with Canon?

Anyway, thanks again Mike for a thoughful post.

8:40 AM  
Blogger Mike Johnston said...

"When I moved to digital I really, really, tried to adapt my shooting to using dSLR's but, just as I'd previously rejected them in favor of viewfinders, I found myself unsatisfied by looking through that little window surrounded by black."

Timothy,
I hear you. I feel the opposite--I periodically try to adjust to rangefinders but I repeatedly find I just really prefer SLR viewing. But it's a personal chemistry thing, not a one-is-better-than-the-other thing.

--Mike

8:48 AM  
Blogger craig16229 said...

Let me start off by saying that I never met a camera I didn't like :-)

High-tech in general tends to leave us with a colder, less personal feel. Music aficianados have the same sentiments when comparing vinyl to CD (and now - I guess - to iPod).

I believe part of the problem is the way some people use the digital format. If the digital "exposures" (storage card) are virtually endless and cheap, then it's tempting to shoot volumes and pick the best image later on screen. Images are expendible, and it can lessen the value placed on them.

In the "film only" days, how many of us looked at the exposures left on camera and roll, and thought about how we didn't have much left to get a great shot. Film makes you more selective, careful, and thoughtful.

When I shoot with a DSLR, I force myself to slow down and think about what I want, what might be possible, and how it might look later.

When I was shooting in Chicago during Spring Break, I was doing a "watch and wait" when I took the two shots on the right of this page (not that they belong on any museum wall). But I will always remember those shots because some people must have noticed me with my gear and my lens pointed in a certain direction. More than a few came right up beside me, clicked in the same direction, and then quickly moved on. I didn't pay as close of attention to them as I did to what I was trying to do, but I know some of them had entry level DSLR's and not just point-and-shoots.

Maybe the shots they got were better than mine, maybe not. But you get point.

8:53 AM  
Blogger erlik said...

I can think of at least 4 recent DSLRs which look little like the Canon T90 (which was a great camera, by the way): Olympus E-300; Olympus E-330; Olympus E-400; Panaleica DigiL-1

Is a pattern emerging?


No, there isn't. I really don't understand where do you see the similarity. Three of the cameras you cite there look more like an M8 than a T90. Which is no wonder in L1's case.

E-400 looks more like an A-1 or an OM4.

The E-1 successor's mockup from Fotokina looked a bit like a T90, due to the cutaway on its vertical grip, but the mockup from PMA had a "normal" grip again.

If you want something that looks like T90, take a look at 5D...

10:06 AM  
Blogger dasmb said...

So you don't feel quite so bad for the younger generation, Mike -- my other camera is an Argus C2, loaded with T-max.

My shame is I've never, ever gotten a good shot from it. Technology is my crutch.

10:44 AM  
Blogger eric said...

Leica bashing doesn't really bother me, everyone has misinformed opinions on any range of subjects.

I have an M8 and I love it (and I'm an artist, not a doctor or lawyer or banker). I also use a 1DsII which is a fantastic camera as well. Initially I worried that a rangefinder would be all fiddly in focusing but it isn't. In some circumstances its faster than the Canon (low light). I was concerned about switching back to primes from my 24-105 f/4IS L zoom. It's a strange thing but there are as many interesting images to be made with one focul length as there can be with a zoom. I think its analogous to the way there are an infinate number of numbers and also an infinate number of even numbers though the latter is a subset of the former.

The files which come out of the Leica are very impressive. The advantage of the Leica is clear to anyone who has to have a camera hanging from their body for 5+ hours/day. On top of that, the Leica is far more discreet than the Canon, a real plus for me as I'm frequently in nasty neighborhoods though its possible to be relatively discreet with the 1DsII when you learn how.

Interestingly, Leica has already hinted that they are designing and will be making a series of less expensive lenses to get the system price down. The new 28 2.8 lens is an example of what's to come. It's half the price of its f2.0 elder brother. It's unlikely that Leica will ever be able to compete in the consumer space, that's why they teamed with Panasonic.

To those who see the Leica only as a link to the past, I thought so too until recently. But on using the M8, I'd say that what I like about it is its a better tool for the job I need doing than any other camera I'm aware of. The fact that so many Leicas are used to photo the kids is neither here nor there. If Leica can stay afloat by marketing to the Hermes set, so be it as long as they make quality precision photographic tools with the particular design philosophy that has worked these many years. It's a solid, useful, unique professional tool if you need its strengths.

10:49 AM  
Blogger Peter said...

...at the present time, it is probably impossible to bring a low priced digital M Leica to the market. Even with a 6 Megapixel sensor in a 8, 10, 12 megapixel year, the RD-1 was priced at nearly $2000 more than the R2. Actually, the original RD-1 cost what the M8 costs.

I'm sorry, but I've looked at these numbers a lot, and I just don't buy this. An R3A (which based on the VF magnification and aperture priority AE of the Epson, is really the basis for this camera) costs just $539. A Pentax K110D costs just $450 with kit lens. While I understand that R&D costs can drastically change the economics of things, I just can't see that they need to charge close to $2500 for this camera. If hearsay is to be believed, then a full $500 of that cost might be down to the fancy analog gauge peppering the top-plate of the camera (dubious, but who knows). Just as an aside, I don't recall the Epson ever selling for close to $4,800, more like $3000 at launch. When the camera was introduced the high cost was attributed primarily to the small production run of the camera, which again was rumored to be, only about 10,000 units. Apropos the above comment about per unit R&D costs.

Let's face it, making the M cheaper is *not* going to open the floodgates of potential users.

I don't know about that, Leica's experience with the CL seem to refute that. However perhaps those were different times. I wouldn't know for sure because that was before my time as it were. On the other hand, the current "rangefinder rennaissance" seems quite real to me---largely driven by the appearance of new low-cost, high-value, rangefinder cameras.

12:22 PM  
Blogger Witek said...

>that's what customers want. It's a luxury item, and more desirable to people who buy it because of its exclusivity

I am sorry, but I do not belive, the newcomers, you mention in the post have any possibility to taste it, even if it exist now (M8 I mean)


>a lot of M8 buyers will use their fancy toys no differently than they would use a big DSLR or a Rolleiflex

This is the first time I see a person to put up a DSLR and a Rolleiflex.

1:23 PM  
Blogger m. said...

How can I bash Leicas? I've never used one. I don't even completely understand how using a rangefinder works.

But this is the Internet, so I shouldn't let that stop me.

3:18 PM  
Blogger dasmb said...

M.: If you want to know how a rangefinder works, buy one. You can get old (and working) Canonets, Argus C2/3s and knock-off Russian Leica clones for less than $40 on eBay. Load it up with film, use your current camera to meter the light if you don't want to buy a light meter, and go to town.

I guarantee you'll learn something, if only how much you prefer working in digital (or hate having film developed).

4:45 PM  
Blogger Max said...

Learning.. that's worth all the hassle. I'm not feeling all that good as a photographer lately, but I took a 6x9 camera for a trip with great lenses and great film. After feeling like a dork for a long time I learned that when you use a sharp lens and a huge negative/sensor, when you get acceptable resolution from, say 2 meters to infinity as any given depth scale or program would tell you, there's a hard truth: If your lens is very good, it will show a peak in sharpness at something like 4 meters, so you'll be able to see ants walking in front of a much softer subject that was 8 meters away (and probably was my center of attention).
The old rangefinder with the big neg was the only way I could have noticed this kind of stuff, and no digital camera I can buy would have taught me so. I shoot landscapes and this is an optic rule, no matter what you use. It will stay with me forever, and I value that, I guess.
I would love to feel better about my photography, but I sure feel more able now.

5:04 PM  
Blogger Paul said...

Peter Wrote
"I don't know about that, Leica's experience with the CL seem to refute that."

Well the CL nearly sent Leica bankrupt. it diverted so many sales away from the M series to a product with a much smaller profit margin.


"While I understand that R&D costs can drastically change the economics of things, I just can't see that they need to charge close to $2500 for this camera."

Its not just the R&D that had impact on the final cost, it was also the small production runs. Manufacturing works on economies of scale, tooling up costs must be recouped and if the product has limited market appeal then that translates to high prices. What is to be commended is that Epson even bothered. I would like to see the marque continued and improved.

Since the launch of the M8 I have been toying with the idea of selling my Canon DSLR system and buying one. Then I pinch myself and say that would be commercial suicide. But if someone does come out with a more affordable digital range finder then perhaps I would be able to justify it to the minister of finance as a recreational item. Until then there's I'll be allowed to spend that kind of dosh.

9:18 PM  
Blogger phule said...

[[You don't get how newcomers who are exclusively digital can be exclusively digital? I don't either, I guess, but that doesn't mean they aren't....]]

Mike,
Your original statment makes no sense. Shooting digital exclusively does in no way prevent anyone from the OPTION of buying any other camera. If you want to claim that shooting digital exclusively does not directly allow people to experience the film world, fine. But to claim that they don't even have the option is just nonsense.

You might as well claim that people that drink Coke exclusively don't have the option to try Pepsi.

Again, you're needlessly mashing together two distinct issues.

4:21 PM  
Blogger Mike Johnston said...

Phule,
What you're saying is a little like a lawyer questioning an expert witness by saying "Yes, but is it POSSIBLE?" to get the expert to affirm that something is in fact POSSIBLE despite being pretty unlikely. I'm speaking from my experience of working with, and serving, photo hobbyists for more than twenty years--and from where I stand it seems to me that a lot of people who start with digital and who are happy with digital just don't have any real reason, inclination, or need to go learn the ins-and-outs of various types and styles of film photography equipment and methods. It's not that they are PREVENTED from doing it, necessarily, it's just that they DON'T do it--it's no longer terribly relevant to the kind of photography they've chosen to do.

Let me put it another way. I used to teach horseback riding. Horses are nice too, and it's interesting to learn how to ride them and care for them and get to know them, and there's at least a small measure of loss in the fact that most people who drive cars never have a reason to experience horses any more. You could, of course, claim--rightly--that there is nothing PREVENTING people who drive automobiles from learning how to ride horses. But that doesn't change the fact that most of them probably won't see any need to do so.

--Mike

5:19 PM  
Blogger pastjay said...

I hadn't thought about the loss of variety until a friend forwarded your post. I've no eagerness to return to film, but I would llike to put a chip into my ancient Leica 3-C. It's a lot smaller than my 10D. I guess no one will be putting a chip into a Diana any time soon.

In one sense we've returned to the wet palate days: limited materials and equipment. It's where the technology is. In the next 25 years the costs will come down and it wouldn't surprise me if someone is giving away a plastic digital camera for popsicle wrappers.

My heart goes out to Samba and her people. She's a year younger than my Aggie; looks like her, too. Can't imagine what I'll do when she's gone.

8:45 PM  
Blogger Craftsman said...

Now 56, i majored in photography at the Maryland Institute of Art more than 35 years ago. Over the years I've used a lot of different cameras but I started with an inexpensive rangefinder while I saved for a new black Nikon FTN. Back then I thought that that Nikon would make me look like a pro.The only camera that I shoot with today is a Leica MP. It's the camera that just feels right in my hands and for the way that I shoot. I'll probably shoot film until you just can't get it anymore.Then, i'll but an M8 or what ever it'll be called then.The ability to capture hundreds of pictures on a digital isn't going to make a good photographer out 1% of people who buy them. Volume isn't going to help you if you haven't taken the time to learn something about the craft.I truly get a kick out seeing all these people with these big ugly hunks of plastic automation hanging around there necks.Most all of these cameras will end up in landfills along with last years computers. They're outdated faster than your underwear, I know the pro's ,especially the news photographers depend on them for their livelyhood but for most they're as much of a status symbol as others claim Leica is.

1:24 PM  
Blogger gyrovaguex said...

Hi there, I just stumbled upon this post via google so I'm chiming in rather late.

But I though you'd be interested to know that I began my very first photography pursuits with a digital camera (Canon G3) about 4 years ago.

Now, that G3 mostly collects dust. I shoot with:

Olympus OM2
Olympus XA
Holga

I also own and occasionally use:
Argus 75
Argus C2
Braun Paxette

I've begun collecting vintage cameras and I absolutely love learning how to use all their mechanical dials and knobs!

I know I'm the exception to the rule, being a retrophile and all, but I'm not alone;)

Also, I'm on a teeny tiny budget, and old cameras are easy to come by very cheap.

11:49 AM  

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