Well maybe I should talk of the past before we move on to Leica’s newest breed on RF history. For new readers, who may not know my past with Leica; let me brief you just a little.
I started with Leica gear after much frustration with Canon lenses back in the 1Ds era. Some consider me the grandfather of bolting on Leica and Zeiss lenses on my Canon 1Ds as there was a lack of any decent wide angle Canon lenses. I hung onto this practice for some time moving through the succession of Canon bodies. Using lenses in this way with stop down metering got old and it became obvious that Canon was not going to improve things on my timetable.
So, by chance I saw a DMR that had just been released and as miraculously I found available body (there were not that many in circulation) to test out. I think it was from David Farkas at Dale labs, but I’ve changed gear pretty often so my memory of all gear comings and goings is a bit limited. Anyway, at that point in time as a Canon shooter my camera bag already included 9 Leica R lenses and just 1 Canon lens (making testing easy). In the process, I realized something was seriously wrong with this picture (no pun intended) and I would be better off using the camera meant to take best advantage of the stellar lenses. So next step, I bought the DMR. I pretty much tested the daylights out of it compared to the Canon, which resulted in a famous thread on a Fred Miranda called the DMR Bible. As you guessed, I simply fell in love with the DMR, sold everything Canon and bought more Leica including additional lenses and backup bodies. The DMR was truly an amazing image maker and as many will attest, even with advances in camera design and sensors sporting way more pixels, it still is an amazing tool.
Then the M8 emerged and I was intrigued. Being a Pro for 33 years I avoided Leica rangefinders for the longest time. I don’t have an answer for the why. Anyway, in a mad frenzy of buying and selling gear (and for people who have known me for a long time “mad frenzy” is the correct terminology), I bought the M8 the first day it hit the streets. As we all know, the intro to the M8 wasn’t terribly smooth. However, as a working pro, I needed this tool to work for me, right away, without delay. I’m not going into all the details here but in those first few launch months, in a similar fashion to the DMR bible, I was very helpful to users and Leica in solving many of initial M8 launch issues. In that process, I spent time in Germany on a tour visiting the factory, getting to know the key managers, and generally have a great time with a bunch of really nice folks from Leica.
Along the way Jack Flesher, another long time Leica user, and I became friendly and then partners in teaching workshops and owning GetDPI. When we first began our workshops most of the participants shot or were interested in Leica gear and we had the Leica reps join us with a full complement of gear. The tradition of having either a rep or loaner gear sent directly from Leica continues today.
Now the sad part in all of this is I did sell all my M8 gear to fund a medium format Phase One system. As good as the M8 is I had client demands that exceeded the output I could get from the system. I made this decision when the prospects of full frame higher resolution rangefinder were thought to be quite low and a several months before the announcement of the S2, an introduction that surprised everyone. If I had this crystal ball to see what amazing progress Leica would make in such a short time, who knows if I would have made the same decisions. That being said, to date my experience with the Phase system and a few of their digital backs has been outstanding. The files are fantastic with a color and richness that is not surprisingly a big step above the M8. In addition, the dealer support has been stellar.
So, as you can imagine, I was surprised when I got the call earlier this week asking if I wanted to borrow an M9 and put the camera through its paces in some real world working situations. I guess it shouldn’t have been that much of a surprise after leading so many users through their DMR and M8 journey and having used almost all of the currently available M lenses (let’s put it differently there are a lot of happy lens owners that can say “this once belonged to Guy Mancuso”). Tomorrow the camera arrives and perhaps it will be the start of the “M9 bible” -- of course on GetDPI this time. I hope to give users, and others interested, insights into getting the best from the system. Even with the evolution of the M system my business has also changed and the M9 probably isn’t the answer for my professional needs. I do benefit from a high resolution auto focus solution and the Phase systems does that today. So, my sights are really set on also testing out the S2 and comparing it to my Phase system when they are available. I had the opportunity to handle one this spring in Las Vegas. The ergonomics felt great and it was a pleasure to look through the huge bright viewfinder.
Now for those of you who know me and read my daily postings, you know this piece was proofed and spiffed up. Don’t worry once the M9 and hopefully S2 bibles begin you will be back in the world of “Guy’s version of the English language”. Enjoy.