Excellent article at Luminous Landscape to Leica on the future direction of the M-Line.
A Modest Proposal For Reinventing the M Series
Excellent article at Luminous Landscape to Leica on the future direction of the M-Line.
A Modest Proposal For Reinventing the M Series
I read that earlier. I too thought it was excellent. Surprised it took so long for someone to post it here
Makes some interesting points, I think the EVF is likely going to replace optical viewfinders in many cases, especially with entry-level DSLRs.
http://forum.getdpi.com/forum/showthread.php?t=13577 also seems to refer to the same article.
I find using RF focusing to be very accurate compared to EVF etc. so even if CMOS, Live view etc are to be used, the existing system must remain. AF is the only other option, but as the author suggests that's not required. I'm using some M lenses with GF1, with the excellent zoom view when focusing manually, and I still prefer the RF focusing.
I merged the threads
There is a pretty lively thread going on over on the "other" forum about this. Adding live view would pretty much require going to a CMOS sensor as I understand it. I prefer the look of CCD cameras with weak IR filters personally. I'd think the ideal solution would be to produce a hot shoe mounted EVF that could do live view, insert histogram, etc, that the traditionalists could remove or use at will.
My thoughts are that Richman's article is primarily focused on the needs of landscape shooters, and despite the fact that I do shoot landscapes with an M9, it's not the ideal tool for the job. It certainly has advantages (mainly the lenses and size/weight), however, I don't see RF as the ideal tool for that job.
I thought the letter was nonsense. What does ANY of that have to do with the "M aesthetic?" Go buy a GF1 if you want an EVF. I sure don't.
I mostly agree with Double Negative (above). There is a reason the M camera has kept its heritage all these years. Although change has come slowly, its not only due to limited resources and or available technology at times...but the level of acceptance of it's core group of dedicated users.
I think if resorces allowed, it might be worthwhile for Leica to consider making a camera, incorporating some of MR's sugestions but this would be a seperate "additional" model aside from the current M9, M10 or whatever traditional M digital camera is current at the time. This way those who seek out the latest in technology or are transitioning from currently advanced DSLR's, will feel they have made a worthwhile transition to the Leica system. For those that are more "traditionalists", they too will continue to have the camera they expect, with the types of advances they feel, still represent why they continue to shoot with Leica M's. There's room for both (in a ideal world).
I think they need to figure out how to build M9s at a faster pace, and then maybe they can think about the future. How about getting fundamental things like manufacturing down first?
And you know what? If I manage to pull an extra $7k out of my @ss, I might just pick up an M9!
In another fit of anti-technology, I've also acquired a Mamiya 7II and Hasselblad 503CW as well in the recent years. The latter doesn't even take a stinkin' battery! Cool, huh?
There's a reason the M has survived all this time. Sometimes you just want a CAMERA. Not something that needs a 100 page instruction manual, four batteries, various adapters, plugs, cables and who knows what else. I like the direct, almost animal-instinct nature of a black box. You look through a peep hole, fiddle with four basic controls and you're off to the races. Granted, the M8/M9 is pushing the technology angle, but there's no escaping that with a digital camera, after all. But at least the original intent is still behind every aspect!
I could have upgraded my Canon 1D Mark IIn. Instead, I chose to go the other way. And I've never been happier. The results from the M8 have been universally better than all the Canon gear I've been schlepping around the globe for the last decade.
Note to self:
Make photographs. Don't waste energy arguing about equipment aesthetics and opinions. Equipment often gets in the way of Photography.
Double Negative....I agree with you on all counts! I suspect it's what brought a lot of DLSR users back into the Leica fold recently....the ability to have their (a) "digital" camera as well as why they used to shoot Leica in the first place...size of the entire system, quality of M optics in general (doesn't necessarily have to be Leica brand), relatively compact body and even through "digital"...a mimimal of controls..at least as minimal as one can expect from a digital camera at this level. Beisdes these former rangefinder shooters coming back to Leica...as you say, there are many DSLR shooters who feel too many things are now presented in their DSLR that get in the way of the picture taking experience. That may be why some Nikon users have been clamering for a camera like a Nikon FM2 digital...a well built sort of Spotmatic camera thats basic in controls but has the necessary digital options to make it a userable experience even for advance use. This of course brings us close to what the M8/M9 is today.
I think at some point, some of the current Digital M users are going to want more innovative things incorporated into the Digital M and thats why I feel sooner or later, if money for development costs exists, Leica is going to have to diverge the M digital line into two...the traditionalist line as well as the line I'll refer to as the MR line. One can see from the many posts here and elsehwhere...that what's desired in the next M digital varies greatly...so much so...that a single camera isn't going to bridge that gap.
I think talking about the merrits of equipment can be important (a nod to the post directly above) as even for profesional use situations...one wants to be able to have the features they desire or feel most comfortable with. Race car drivers may love to drive their cars fast....but they still need to be on top of what goes into their cars...so all aspects of discussion are important...within reason, and if it doesn't get in the way of the ultimate objective...taking pictures.
Dave and Double Negative
I'm right with you - Michael Reichmann's article made me yawn. (everybody knows what an M SHOULD be . . and if you add everyone's opinion together you get an SLR).
The whole crux of the M is the rangefinder with the framelines . . and the simplicity.
There are lots of sensible high tech alternatives which Leica could make (including live view, evf, video mode etc. etc.), but they should be made AS WELL AS the M9, not instead of it.
all the best
Just this guy you know
I am a little confused...
If I get invited to go see the production of M9 and X1 would I be telling those hosts what I think they should be doing in private or blog it?
Dave/Jono, I think that's the key... Trying to shoehorn everybody's whim into an M camera is the wrong approach. A separate, new product to expand on Leica's offerings sounds much more reasonable and they are trying - witness the X1.
But I'm left wondering if it's worthwhile (or even possible) for Leica to do this; certainly not without the help of say, Panasonic. Leica has a loyal following for various reasons; simplicity of the camera, the utmost in quality whether it's a lens or a camera, etc. Do they really want to get involved in the trench warfare that has ensnared Nikon and Canon (and others)? If it wasn't the megapixel war, now it's about video. The menu system of modern DSLRs has gotten so ridiculous and utterly out-of-countrol. Now you need software on your computer to manage your camera even.
Don't get me wrong, I love technology as much as the next person (heck, it's what I do professionally). There will always be the camp that wants the latest-and-greatest. They won't be happy until they have a device that makes phone calls, takes pictures and video, plays games, surfs the Web... Oh, wait...
Leica should by all means stay competitive - but I think their underlying principles have served them well so far. Okay, so they're not as huge as some other manufacturers - but is that a bad thing, necessarily? As long as Leica stays in business and makes enough profit to ensure sustainability - I for one will continue to buy their products BECAUSE they're unique (and of extremely high quality in this day and age of cheap, disposable crap).
If I didn't have such a huge investment in Canon gear and the fact that I like to shoot all kinds of things (things where, let's face it, M cameras don't excel) I would ditch it all and stick with Leica film and digital Ms. I've schlepped around 25lb+ backpacks enough for one lifetime! They might not be everyone's cup of tea, but I for one am happy to be back!
But the incessant and obsessive "I like this, this is good and that is bad" opinionated BS I read over and over and over and over and over and over again, on every forum discussing photographic technology, is a distraction and a waste of energy.
For the record, I wrote a camera brief much like MR's "open letter" in late 2006. I sent it to Olympus, Panasonic and Leica. In 2008, when the Panasonic G1 was announced, it so closely mirrored what I wrote as my thoughts about 'a future camera that would be useful' I was amazed. Certainly don't mean to take credit for any ideas ... after all, I know they were well into the technology development phase of the project before I mailed my brief to them ... But the thing that interested me was that at the time I wrote my brief I considered an electronically coupled, optical RF system (instead of mechanically coupled as the Leica M RF system is) to be an ideal "hybrid of types" to pursue. I'd had EVF cameras before that and was disappointed in their responsiveness and utility value. The G1 changed all that for me: I find it a FAR better viewfinder for the purposes of focusing and framing, for the vast majority of use situations, than any of the RF and SLR cameras I've owned (30+ years with Nikon SLR and Leica M film cameras here, never mind medium format SLR/TLR and large format cameras).
Even for me there are some niches where present technology EVF is surpassed by a pro SLR viewfinder (sequence shooting is one of them) and where it might prove easier to use an RF (very very very low light framing and focusing), but these are rare and far between IMO ... and I keep an SLR around for that express purpose and have constructed my camera kit such that I can share my choice in lenses freely between the camera I use most of the time (petite, quiet, small and unobtrusive G1), and the SLRs that suit the other occasions, whether it be for weatherproofing or sequence work or other situations.
Picking up a Leica M8 again at the camera shop the other day, my fingers were happy to hold it, my hands knew exactly where to go, the aesthetic of simplicity gave me great security. But when I put it to my eye I immediately said, "No, this is no longer where I want to be. What I have now works better for me."
If it is where you want to be, if optical RF or even film capture satisfies you, then with all good intent and encouragement, go for it. Enjoy it, make beautiful photographs. But why the insistence on trying to convince others, over and over again, that your opinion is right one, that it is "The Right Way That Must Be", I simply do not understand and cannot spare the energy to debate.
De gustibus non disputandem.
There is a long list of small items that could be added; in my opinion the simpler the better. To quote Albert Einstein, "Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler." Strip it down to what is needed then stop. A good deal of the beauty of the M is it's simplicity.
However, there are two enormous issues that must be faced; it is foolish to avoid them simply by saying that it's the M way and to change it would be heresy. Honestly confront the questions, look at possible new answers, and perhaps the current solutions will remain the best solutions.
Autofocus. I love autofocus. I do not know all the technical problems that an autofocus M would face, but clearly the lenses will change. I can accept that these changes may destroy what is good about the M. Simpler (manual focus) may be better for the M. But maybe it's possible? I can get along without autofocus, but what would REALLY help is...
...a better manual focusing system. Here I think the answer is less clear. I find the current system to be challenging, especially when DOF is very thin. I would love a technology that allows me to continue looking through the optical viewfinder but presents me with a method to confirm accurate focus. This strikes me as less technically daunting.
Live view? Moving focus points? HD video? Etc, etc, I agree, get a DSLR.
Godfrey, I appreciate your posts here- all of them.
I guess it's really best to just agree to disagree. Clearly, there will never be ONE camera that will make everyone happy. Arguing back and forth over which is better, is indeed silly as Godfrey alludes. In the end, as long as you have your choice of tools and it makes pictures that you (and hopefully others) are happy with is all that should matter because that's what it's really about, isn't it?
one vs many
form vs matter
light vs shadow
plane vs depth
uniformity vs individuality
intactness vs brokenness
moment vs lifecycle
technique vs nature
microcosm vs macrocosm
realism vs symbolism
signifier vs signified
outer perceptions vs inner emotions
a thought-provoking photo
Business graveyards are full of companies who turn their backs on what made them succesful in the first place. The MR article made me laugh - fortunately my film Ms are still there and when I manage to source an M9 to go with M8 I will be set.
it is a BIG mistake to think that Leica's success is only lenses - the lenses and the body type are hand in glove.
if peopel want gee wizz japanese type gizmos ther are plenty to choose from and frankly Leica couldnt do that kind of thing better.
I see the path forward quite differently than MR. I would counsel sicking to the rangefinder design but incorporate electronic focus confirm and electronic frame lines. The wide range finder base should permit very accurate electronic focus - much more accurate than I can do at present, especially in poor light. It also would permit focus to by customized by the factory for each lens model, and might permit user adjustment of infinity focus.
Electronic frame limes could be continuously variable in size.
If electronic focus confirm were available I'd buy a Nocti in an nanosecond.
Many people choose the M system for the very opposite reason. I know I sure did. It also seems to be making a resurgence by similarly disaffected DSLR shooters. It has clearly worked for Leica for a long, long time (granted, they're not raking in millions).
But you're absolutely right. Leica does need to "keep up" and modernize. And I do believe they are. They adopted digital - thus the M8. They've partnered with the likes of Panasonic and introduced products together. Now we've got the LUXes, X1, M9 and let's not forget - the S2.
The problem I see is if Leica, a small company - just getting into the digital thing, long standing for some very key principles, etc. starts stretching itself too thin and diversifying too much. It's all too easy to get distracted and stray from your principles - and make a lot of products that all more or less suck.
Besides, why should Leica get involved in that mess? Let Canon, Nikon and the others duke it out over megapixels and video and image stabilization and EVFs and who knows what's next... I just want to take a picture!
How about a brighter Contax G2 style viewfinder? Parallax-corrected, zooms from 28mm to 90mm, automatically set as the lens is mounted. Add electronic focus confirm, which could be done via electronic rangefinder as in the Contax, except with manual focus.
I have never had any issues with the viewfinder (or the rest for that matter -- I still shoot a G2) although two ways to improve the VF would be to make it brighter, and make the exit pupil larger so the eye doesn't have to be placed in exactly the right place. The G2 can focus in low light or even in the dark up to a certain distance. With an electronic RF driving LED arrows in the VF, focus could be absolutely nailed even in low light.
I tried a G1 and just hated using an EVF, even a good one. Watching the world on TV is as far from the aesthetic I want as a photographer as can be. Optical VF only for me. All I'd like is a electronic indicator, (dot) that signals focus along with the RF, and the ability to move the focus point anywhere in the frame. 90% of the time, at least, I wouldn't use it. But for the fastest lenses and shallowest DOF images where the critical focus is a matter of inches (or less) this sure would be welcome. best...Peter
I hope Leica doesn't think he speaks for everyone.
I also think it is anything but "A Modest Proposal".
Personally I do not want my favorite photographic tool of all time to become yet another circus act. I have more than enough "electronic clowns" pouring out of my gear vault as it is.
I can understand the points being made for focus confirmation, but little else. Even that I couldn't care less about, but I understand the desire for it.
M Rangefinder's aren't for everyone ... trying to make it appeal to everyone will make it something else.
Here is my "Modest Proposal" to Leica:
Real Black Chrome & Real Chrome Chrome. Offer short lived, velvet boxed painted versions with Lama skin covering as a special order. I use this camera to make a living, and really do not like coddling it, or wiping the sweat shmear off it every 5 seconds.
Put the hard LCD glass on the damned thing for $7000.
Offer a .085 option for 50mm and above, especially Nocti, 75/1.4, 90/2AA and 135APO users. Please accept my order for one here and now.
Keep updating the firmware to squeeze every bit out of what's already there.
Sink M camera R&D cash into improving quality, service and turn around time ... pros that can prove they are pros should be get it even faster.
Make the warranty longer ... believe in your product and prove it.
Call it the M10 if you want ... I don't care.
the M9 is there as far as I'm concerned ... so make some already, and get it out in the market!
M9, 24/1.4 ASPH; 28/2 ASPH, 35/1.4 ASPH, 50/0.95 ASPH, 75/1.4 old school, 90/2.8 old school ... thinking 21/1.4 ASPH and 135 APO
P.S., Where is my freaking second M9? I need two bodies to do my work ... NOW, not 1 year from now!
Methinks MR takes himself rather too seriously, I think his 'inside track' to Leica is all in his own mind. Companies do not pay heed to journalists, they pay heed to their customer base and Leica seem to know exactly what their customers want - not a DSLR.
What I think there is room for is pany to make a FF GF1 style camera designed for M mount lenses, they can market their own versions with AF included but it would give both pany and leica a huge boost in the market that MR seems to be recommending.
It does seem a shame to me that for the lack of LV, the M9 could have stopped being just a rangefinder and have opened far larger horizons for itself without in any way being untrue to what enamours so many people to what an M camera is, i.e. a simple picture taking machine. If you don't want to use it you never switch it on.
I am not a painter, nor an artist. Therefore I can see straight, and that may be my undoing. - Alfred Stieglitz
Well done, Marc! Well done, of course, because it mirrors my thinking, exactly!
Now, send it to Leica because Leica WILL see and read MR's open letter since he was one of those sent to Solms to do the first "look see". How much dissenting opinion they will see is unknown. In fact, anyone of similar mind should also drop a line to Solms and let it be known that MR does not speak for them.
MR's thoughts are fine for a firm that wants to markedly increase sales in a short time, but shows little appreciation for niche markets which can be very comfortable and rewarding for those who do niche well.
Leica M6, M8.2 & assorted Leica glass
However, Leica may be turning it's back on otherwise future customers with their adherence to the 'classic' viewing and image framing design of the 'M' line. That is of course unless one thinks that the current distractions of twinned framelines, external magnifiers and dioptre corrections, inaccurate framing, broken-up image framelines etc., are excellent design solutions for now rather than half a century ago. Personally, I think it's an anachronistic design solution long past it's retirement as a clever museum piece, but one I am obliged to use in order to get the other design advantages of rangefinder camera lenses, and small 'M' camera form.
Chris wrote >>> "What made the 'M' line successful was the small camera form, the design advantages of rangefinder camera lenses, a whisper quiet shutter, and the 'direct' part of the viewfinder system.
However, Leica may be turning it's back on otherwise future customers with their adherence to the 'classic' viewing and image framing design of the 'M' line. That is of course unless one thinks that the current distractions of twinned framelines, external magnifiers and dioptre corrections, inaccurate framing, broken-up image framelines etc., are excellent design solutions for now rather than half a century ago. Personally, I think it's an anachronistic design solution long past it's retirement as a clever museum piece, but one I am obliged to use in order to get the other design advantages of rangefinder camera lenses, and small 'M' camera form."<<<
This is why I wrote in my two posts (above), that for the near future, Leica should (within the bounds of their resources) have a line of two Digital M camera....one along the current traditional route like the M9, M10 etc, where traditional herritage combined with feedback on acceptable technological improvements will be readily acceptable by those that prefer the classical rangefinder concept. The other M digital line would implement quite a bit of the excellent suggestions put forth here and elsewhere, that such a camera should not be constrained by what some observe is half a century old technology....and incorporate a more open form design concept. I think Leica by virtue of having both a film "M" and Digital "M" already emulates such a "two line" approach and its possible due to the economic realities, that someday it will turn into a two line approach having the two lines of Digital M cameras, I outlined. I think Leica by having a single Digital M today is trying to straddle a fine line, trying to incorporate some 21st century technology but at the same time not offending those who prefer as much a tradition M in a M Digital body. Sooner or later with more and more advances being made in electronics and associated concepts....the ability to exclude much of this is going to be difficult for those who want to use a Leica Digital M, but don't want to be left out in the cold regarding whats available and offered on many other cameras..including compact 4/3rd ones. If R&D money exists, I think there will be room for these two lines of Digital M's. If sales of the traditional Digital M line slowly dies out (from lack of sufficient sales)...this will automatically tell Leica that the time has come to concentrate resources on their other Digital M line. No different when the time came for Nikon to realize it was the end of the line for manufacturing film SLR's. The market will dictate.
Please don't get me wrong....as much as I prefer the Traditional Digital M concept, this may have more to do with my current DSLR use...and as Double Negative aptly pointed out....there is that system (Large DSLR's and their associated pro lenses) and many others cameras for all the latest technology, if and when required...abeit at the cost of often of lugging around 25 lb backpacks. Both concepts have their place and when the opportunity presents itself in that I do have a choice...I always reach for the Leica. This is due to both weight of the M system, its simplicity and that I focus more on adeliberate spects of creativity as opposed to "getting the shot".
Last edited by D&A; 22nd January 2010 at 05:26.
Very interesting discussion. I agree with most about the viewfinder vs EVIL point; I wouldn't want a M full of gadgetry and stuff, of course; however, a couple of things popped out of the whole discussion here:
This is why the "Perpetual Upgrade Program" for the M8 made so much sense. You keep the body but upgrade it along its lifespan... Now granted, it's not the way to maximize profits, having customers buy a whole new camera every other year just to "keep up."
In this brave new digital world, it's hard to say "but it does everything I need - I'll never need another camera!" And the M9, dare I say, comes very close to that ideal. It's full frame, got plenty of resolution. The feature set is relatively basic. What more do you want? But of course we all know that resolution will continue to increase, as well as dynamic range, noise (especially at higher ISO ratings) and so on.
It does seem contradictory. "Why should I spend $7k on a camera that could survive a nuke, when I'm just going to replace them every year anyway?" Depends on your needs (and wants) really. I'd rather shoot with something like an M than a plasticky camera that creaks and groans when you pick it up. For a working pro, there's no question which camera would stand up to rough daily use. Then there's the folks that just like shooting with a fine instrument. All valid reasons.
As for the baseplate, gawd yeah. Time to move on. Or does the ol' "keeps the film plane flat" line still apply to the LCD out back?
With all respect to EVF -
I still believe an EVF does mean
- a considerable delay between what happens and what you see in the viewfinder. For me more difficult to "catch the moment"
- needs magnification if you want to focus manually (and if you do have magbification it means part of the viewfinder is blocked for focusing and not usable for composing at the same time)
The rangefinder works very accurate as long as you lenses are calibrated fine and as long as you donr use lenses that suffer from focus shift.
While some of the reasons for Leica becoming so famous (small size, fast etc) might not be 100% valid any more there are still many practical reasons that the concept works still very well (IMO) as it is.
-large bright viewfinder even if you use slower lenses (EVF would destory this argument)
-first class selection of class, (ok-has nothing to with rangefinder concept)
-simple and clean user interface (important IMO; EVF would destory this IMO)
-M8/M9 -> great sensor (I dont know why you dont find a comparable one in a DSLR)
-you can see the action around the frame ((EVF would destory this argument)
I have to agree with the TV-comment; Personally with the Leica M8/9 I feel I am in the scene/ not much between the subject and myself.
With the EVF of the gh1 (my wife uses one) I feel more like I watch TV, more indirect and with a slight delay all the time. Becoming more difficult when it gets darker and lenses get slower.
Its good to have the choice between both but (for my taste) I wouldnt call a camera with EFV "M10". Call it whatever but I would give it a new name and please continue also the "traditional" (and still practical) M line.
It works very well for me and is my most used camera.
Sounds like the Contax G2-style design that someone mentioned earlier in the thread. With LED focusing arrows, also mentioned earlier. Hmm...
If you're going to zoom the rangefinder then you may as well simply use an SLR (or an EVF).
Mind you - I'm not simply luddite about this, I think there is an argument for having perhaps 3 settings for the rangefinder (e.g. for wide angles, normals and telephotos) - each with their own set of framelines.
It would also be good to have a single frameline for each focal length, and I'm right on for focus confirmation too.
Just this guy you know
It seems like it would be possible to have a zooming finder that can still show additional area outside the specific frame for each lens.
I don't mind adding functionality, but not at the expense of the basic feel of the camera.
Just this guy you know
With an electronic focus confirmation (instead of the RF patch) and a two position zooming finder, I'd be happy. I.e., say a .72 standard finder for wides and normals, and say a 1.25x for 75mm and up. This would make 90 and 135mm teles quite enjoyable.