2014 is Leica’s 100th year in the photography realm and to be frank, they are probably the only camera manufacturer that still makes products that make photographers smile while pressing the shutter button. I mean a smile from the heart that is. I have used many cameras over the years from point and shoot, SLRs (film and digital), TLRs, Hasselblads to rangefinders. All of them gave me fantastic results that I wanted but almost all of them made me feel at work except Leica. Leica isn’t the only rangefinder manufacturer in the world and there were many other brands out there and in the golden age of rangefinders, before SLR roamed the world, Voigtlander, Carl Zeiss, Kodak, Canon, Nikon, Olympus, Konica, Fuji and many more were making rangefinders. When the SLR flooded the world, rangefinders became a thing of the past solely because of its inflexibility to adapt in various conditions. Rangefinders were great tools on the street but not so great for subjects hundreds of meters. Then only the street photographers, journalists and a dedicated few continued. Leica ran into trouble at one point but things turned around when they entered the digital market with the M8. Fortunately, things just got better when the first Full Frame M9 arrived that simply stunned the world as the most compact full frame system! And the latest M Type 240 is the definitely THE milestone for Leica to embrace modern digital world.
I am not here to drill into Leica’s history but I am about to say that Leica still sticked with their original manual everything concept. Despite the electronic parts in the latest M, you are still focusing the lenses manually, setting the aperture manually, despite the Aperture Priority mode, you set the shutter speed manually. Of course there are numerous inherent ‘enhancements’ for being digital such as the flexibility of instant playback, ISO settings and latest video capability. But that’s all Leica is offering. I have used a M2 (1960), M6 (1986) and now the M Type 240 (2014). I find virtually no difference in operation and that’s what amazes me. When I first turned on the M 240, I virtually didn’t need the manual to start shooting, it’s that simple . With the likes of Canon or Nikon, seriously, when I first picked up my film Canon EOS 50E, then 5D, 5D Mark II and the latest Mark III, I had to learn new things every time. Each incarnation has so many new functions that the manual page just got longer and longer. Great that there are many customisations but the truth is that I rarely drill into it too deep. All I need are the shutter button and the aperture ring.
To be frank, before the Nikon Df was announced, I had high hopes for what it said “Pure Photography” but after watching DigitalRev’s review and some other forum’s comments, it isn’t all that. If you are looking for some no frill photographic tool with decent performance, why don’t someone pick up a secondhand Canon EOS 5D Mark I for £350. It’s full frame, no video and just a camera. Pure and classic. Why pay nearly £3000 for Df?
So Leica has done it, to remain in its root. Pure hearted yet embracing essential technologies that only enhances its capabilities and take advantage of all those lovely Leica glass over the years. If you wonder, I can put an adaptor to other mirrorless (including the fantastic Sony A7/A7R), then read THIS. To those who doesn’t quite know, native lenses always perform better specific bodies because of the design of the optics and how the light hits the sensor. Leica lenses are better with a Leica body, period.
Anyhow, another nice piece of new written by the Guardian UK about Leica’s 100th year birthday.
Happy birthday Mr Leica!!
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