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Thread: What is it about a Leica?

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    Workshop Member Woody Campbell's Avatar
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    What is it about a Leica?

    I've been off messing around in other parts of GetDPI for the past few weeks. When I returned to the "Very Latest and Greatest . . . ." thread I was struck by the very, very high quality of work on display - I really can't think of any thing like it on the internet. Lot's of photographers doing serious, and in many cases brilliant, work. Street. Landscape. Close up details. Portrait. Lots of magic light and critical moments. Not much fast moving action but that makes sense.

    Why is this? Most people on the thread are shooting with M9s or M8s. Are people who bother with Leica Ms better photographers? Does the feel of having a Leica in your hands make you a better photographer? Is it the glass? Is it rangefinder viewing? Is it manual control? Is it the fact that it's compact so there's a chance that you have it with you when the light or passersby are cooperating? What I'm sure of is that my Leica work is often my best.

    I dunno.

    What's going on here?

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    Senior Member M5-Guy's Avatar
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    Re: What is it about a Leica?

    It's the whole RF experience,
    Yes, The Glass, if you can afford Leitz glass, but Zeiss and Voigtlander glass are very good too.

    Being able to see what "Outside" the frame, is one plus,
    Very quite shutter is another, I mean very quite!
    Only 3-4 things to set.... ISO, F/stop, Shutter, Focus.
    With film Leica's, the learned ability to know you have the shot with 1 photo.
    A camera that will last over 30 years with ease, just a $250.00 - $350.00 CLA every 10-15 years., My M5 is over 35 years old, and acts and feels like is under 5 years old.

    To name a few

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    Re: What is it about a Leica?

    I will strongly disagree.
    I don't want to sound too negative, but the worst work I see is usually from Leica amateur shooters in general.
    I see far more interesting images coming from DSLRs, and it's not a big surprise as 99% of the shooters are DSLR shooters so this merely is a mathematical matter. But I can't say Leica shooters are better then others. Quite the opposite if I what I see at dpreview or rangefinderforum, for instance, is a valid sample.

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    Re: What is it about a Leica?

    I agree with RF experience.

    I have both DSLR and RF with most of my photography days with SLR.

    - I like the feel of having full manual control of my camera at all times (RF).
    - I like the compactness of RF.
    - I like the quiet shutter. can go down to 1/8s shutter with minimal vibration hand held.
    - I would like to use film Leica's because they last forever, but I stuck with digital because I did not want to go back and deal with film anymore... I have some reservations with digital M with respect to reliability...

    None of the above makes me a better photographer.

    And I agree with NB23 somewhat.
    But I also think the learning curve is steeper with RF than DSLR for someone who's new to photography.
    Scott

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    Super Duper
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    Re: What is it about a Leica?

    Woody, I think it is a matter of specific taste that leads you to this observation. As mentioned, there is a lot of images shot with SLR/DSLRs, and some are quite good. Taste can narrow that down to a small percentage of images that you personally relate to ... where this forum seems to attract experienced Leica shooters ... ones with honed instincts as opposed to some rangefinder newbie shooting anything, in any light.

    IMO ... Rangefinders tend to force a concentration on content without the distraction of how the image will actually look. We do not see the effect of wide or telephoto lenses, just the subject matter and crop. IMO, this can profoundly effect how you emotionally relate to your surroundings.

    The M mount lenses are unemcombered with the multitasking of SLR optics. They are more devoted to one thing: IQ. In the case of M lenses, it is often the concentration on IQ performance when shot wide open ... which tends to promote careful observation of light, and is something of a signature for Leica in the hands of those who are more aware of light.

    I also think this devotion to optical excellence migrated to the R and S line of lenses, and there is something about how they render that brings them closer to the M feel.

    Lastly, all of the serious Leica digital products are CCDs sans AA filters. The DMR, M8/9 and now S2.

    -Marc

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    Re: What is it about a Leica?

    There are excelent photographs, there are crap shots I have no idea why anyone posted...

    Repeating pictures during writing comments is also very distracting...
    Link or pictures numbering would be better.
    Instead you see the same picture repeated many times...

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    Re: What is it about a Leica?

    I'm not sure if Leica shots are better, but if they are I think it has mostly to do with the simplicity of operation. When shooting my M9, I'm more concentrated on the subject, less aware of the camera, and less distracted by it.
    Or maybe it's the selection of photographers attracted to simplicity.
    Of course I agree with everything that Marc said, but I think the biggest difference in good and not so good pictures isn't the image quality of the camera, but the image imagination of the less distracted mind.

    Best,

    Mitchell

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    Re: What is it about a Leica?

    I am currently not a RF user.. I do however think that what is going on is that the RF experience and process demands an approach to the medium that is more intentional and deliberate..my last RF was a super-technika 4x5 and that demanded serious attention to the process of photography, so I think that those that are shooting with M cameras are doing so because they are not the "spray and pray" type, but old school conscious photographers seeing through the viewfinder and creating deliberate images. Another aspect is that those drawn to the leica have discerning tastes..quality..both in equipment and image.

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    Re: What is it about a Leica?

    i'm with Jerry. i don't visit that thread enough as i can't handle the image repeating maybe ten times per page and the constant backslapping. How many times do you have to read: "I love that one", or "nice use of light and shadow".

    Too much promotion of group good feeling to wade through for my taste.

    on the other hand, plenty of good images there!

    as far as simplicity of operation, the Leica is not so simple to use. If you do get it down to where the f stop and s speed are set for a similar group of scenes, you still have to set focus by concentrating on a tiny part of the frame. A typical 4/3 is much simpler and probably as quick to use if not quicker and just as stealthy

    Leica shooting, the rangefinder style of viewing, in a weird way, is more like the eye, less like an optically manipulated and concentrated view.

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    Re: What is it about a Leica?

    I worked with Leica RF and Nikon SLR cameras side by side for thirty years. To me, most of the RF experience is balderdash. The coupled RF viewfinder has some advantages in certain situations and subject types, but overall I generally preferred working with an SLR viewfinder for its versatility. RFs work best with wide lenses, SLRs with teles.

    Regards technical quality, Leica lenses are very very good. They have a superb imaging quality that few others do. The M bodies are simple and (generally) rugged, quiet in operation. Nothing special otherwise, they're a means to carry the lens. (This changes a little with the digital models as they are also the recording medium.)

    What really makes a difference is that since the Leica is a nearly all manual camera, the photographer must think to some degree before pushing the button, and think in different ways. He/She is not a slave to an autofocus system, to a multiplicity of focal lengths, to a multi-targeting AF system of dots and metering modes, etc. He/She thinks about "where am I placing the focus, what aperture am I using?, what am I including in the frame?", the three most important questions to think of capturing great photos.

    You can do this with any camera, really, but the Leica M gets out of your way a little more easily than most others. Having limits on options of what to tell the camera to do and more time, then, to think of these things, as well as the excellent nature of the Leica lenses, very good photographs can be the result to the point that after a while the questions themselves disappear from consciousness and you are thinking of the subject, with an invisible camera that your hands just know of themselves how to work.

    A few SLRs do as well at this. For me, the Nikon F3 and Olympus E-1, E-5 are in the same ballpark as my beloved old Leica Ms. That's why I have them.

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    Re: What is it about a Leica?

    I went with Leica after years of reverse snobbery. It was the only digital system that combined DoF control (m4/3 sensor is too small), image quality (Canon wides /shudder OK, there is Zeiss), and portability (Canon 1Ds - too big. 5D with lens.. still too big). I was happily unaware of the Alpa

    I'm still not good at focusing, but at least it's always with me.

    Best,

    Matt

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    Re: What is it about a Leica?

    It is strictly the glass which is superior to other brands.

    All other parameters are operator controlled. As matter of fact the Leica bodies still need to do lot of catch up.

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    Re: What is it about a Leica?

    The lenses which are also very good wide open are one factor which is important IMO. THERE IS FOR EXAMPLE NO LENS FROM Nikon which draws as nice as a Summilux at f1.4.
    There are some nice fast lenses from Nikon and Canon (like 35/1.4, 50/1.2 85/1.2 anw Nikon 105/2.0DC ....) but nearly all from Leica are really nice.
    Also being forced to use primes might make a difference.
    You develop a better feeling for a certain focal length.
    You can do all this with DSLR but Leica M forces you to do it.

    The downside is that as soon as movement and action is included with a rangefinder, same when some reach is needed.

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    Senior Member danlindberg's Avatar
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    Re: What is it about a Leica?

    Certain cameras/lenses/equipment inspires. Makes you walk further, look harder and think longer. In the end it makes you a better photographer even if you have the same photographic knowledge with whatever camera you hold in your hand.
    Alpa FPS MAX TC | Alpagon 32Hr | Helvetar 75 | Schneider 120N | Leaf Aptus II 5 Leaf Credo 60 | www.danlindberg.com

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    Re: What is it about a Leica?

    Quote Originally Posted by Woody Campbell View Post
    Why is this? Most people on the thread are shooting with M9s or M8s. Are people who bother with Leica Ms better photographers? Does the feel of having a Leica in your hands make you a better photographer? Is it the glass? Is it rangefinder viewing? Is it manual control? Is it the fact that it's compact so there's a chance that you have it with you when the light or passersby are cooperating? What I'm sure of is that my Leica work is often my best.

    I dunno.

    What's going on here?
    LOL
    Hi Woody - great question
    I'm a bit with Jerry and Jlm on the repeated photos and the backslapping (guilty too). But I'm with you and others, that the standard of photography (with certain exceptions ) is really very high.

    Like you, I feel that if I'm shooting with my M9 - that's when I usually get the best results.

    I think it's really simple - it's a combination between the fact of being unobtrusive, always having the camera ready, and having to think. I don't really think there is another camera system which implies the same benefits/requirements (and the lovely lenses don't make things worse!).

    Just this guy you know

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    Re: What is it about a Leica?

    The more you learn about photography the better the Leica M delivers - in M9 guise you get the benefits of MF quality files as well as the benefits of the best glass money can buy.

    Experience teaches you to work within and around the limitations of the system. There are many limitations.

    The quality of shots posted varies from outstanding to ( at best) happy snaps. So what? The same thing can be said about any picture thread from any forum here

    What I like about the threads is the friendly encouragement people give each other - an important positive motivator for people to post their snaps AND a happy reminder that photography ( like any hobby)_ should be FUN!

    What I dont like is the repeated quoting/posting of shots - this makes for a frustrating viewing experience...

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    Re: What is it about a Leica?

    Quote Originally Posted by PeterA View Post
    The more you learn about photography the better the Leica M delivers - in M9 guise you get the benefits of MF quality files as well as the benefits of the best glass money can buy.

    Experience teaches you to work within and around the limitations of the system. There are many limitations.

    The quality of shots posted varies from outstanding to ( at best) happy snaps. So what? The same thing can be said about any picture thread from any forum here

    What I like about the threads is the friendly encouragement people give each other - an important positive motivator for people to post their snaps AND a happy reminder that photography ( like any hobby)_ should be FUN!

    What I dont like is the repeated quoting/posting of shots - this makes for a frustrating viewing experience...

    There is a serious overload to the thread with all the duplication...a suggestion would be for Jack and Guy to allow embedded links which could point to the pic in question without showing it. Occasionally a fair amount of time passes prior to the comment and one is unsure as to just which pic the post refers.

    With the link you can track back if you desire but it should limit bandwidth and viewer fatigue.

    Bob

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    Re: What is it about a Leica?

    I had a good post prepared earlier today, and amid a phone call, lost it, to bad.

    The M series may inspire you, it may frustrate you, it may show your inexperience, it may create something unique and wonderful with you. The bottom line is in photography, we all seek our own idea of perfection, Photographic Nirvana, whatever that may be for us. If the M, S, or whatever is an avenue that helps us get there, then great, if it's not, then find your own inspiration elsewhere. People saying the Leica camera is not special in it's own right, have not used the latest Leica. It is true there are many shortfalls of the rangefinder system, it is true it is not for everyone, heck, it is not really even for every purpose either. That is the nature of rangefinder, you either embrace it, or hate it. It either works for you, or it doesn't. This is obvious at times by people that buy M systems, and then soon after, put them for sale. The S of course, is a different game, but the entry price is so steep for many of us, it's either cost prohibitive, or we don't chose to invest quite so heavily in one item. Or maybe we just like the stealthy nature of M. coming from a large DSLR Pro series set of photographic tools, I have to say, the freedom my M and 2 lenses gives me, is refreshing, it's inspiring too. A photographically stale me, became creative, and inspired again, it rejuvinated my love for photography, pure and simple.

    I won't say there's not some truth about the backslapping, it does happen. But at least it's not backstabbing. I won't say there's not truth to re-displaying images so much. It is a practice I have opted not to employ here or elsewhere myself. Why people choose to redisplay images instead of describing them, I don't know. But make no mistake, the people in the threads are friendly, nobody is there expressly to trash anyone, as I have seen in other places, heck I been trashed myself at more than one forum, and the exact same images got praise at another forum. I think this is one reason a group of people that post regularly sharing images, feel better doing so, than raising them as a flag by themselves in the forum, to say look at these, critique me. It's just more comfortable. The people that contribute, are just sharing, and enjoying challenging each other to reach down and create the best images that we can, whether they be portrait, landscape, candid, street, whatever. That's all I got.

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    Re: What is it about a Leica?

    Quote Originally Posted by Photojazz View Post
    The M series may inspire you, it may frustrate you, it may show your inexperience, it may create something unique and wonderful with you. The bottom line is in photography, we all seek our own idea of perfection, Photographic Nirvana, whatever that may be for us. If the M, S, or whatever is an avenue that helps us get there, then great, if it's not, then find your own inspiration elsewhere. People saying the Leica camera is not special in it's own right, have not used the latest Leica. It is true there are many shortfalls of the rangefinder system, it is true it is not for everyone, heck, it is not really even for every purpose either. That is the nature of rangefinder, you either embrace it, or hate it. It either works for you, or it doesn't.
    Amen!

    Im new to the RF game, but have to say that I am loving it. As many have stated it is the forced simplicity that makes me love the RF system - not to mention the IQ is outstanding for such a small body (M9).

    Also, without autofocus (which I do miss at times) I find myself not only thinking more, but also waiting and observing more. Waiting for that "decisive moment" and not looking for that decisive moment somewhere between images 5 and 6 when shooting at 15 fps.

    Great thread!

  20. #20
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    Re: What is it about a Leica?

    It is nothing special about the Leica, but the demographic. I doubt you are going to have many snap shooters buying a Leica to take party pictures--they buy compacts. So the photographer interested in the camera tends to be more interested in the craft of photography. A Leica is after all just a lump of metal, glass, plastic, and silicon, just as a Stradivarius just wood and wire.

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    Subscriber Member Jorgen Udvang's Avatar
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    Re: What is it about a Leica?

    It's the attitude that makes people buy a Leica, and it's the same or a related attitude that makes people take good photos with said camera. If I have the attitude, but not the money, I still take the same photos. More or less. The Leica lenses are great of course, but there are other great lenses as well. Taking photos with a rangefinder camera is a slow and elaborate process, but I can be slow with any camera. I usually am.

    I don't think the process of taking photos with the GH1 and the manual focus lenses that I use is very different from what I would do if I used an M9. I even take photos with both eyes open (I just discovered coincidence. Didn't know after more than 40 years of photography.), which is important for the timing of almost any photo. Would I like to have a Leica? Yes, absolutely, but I don't think the photos I take would change radically.

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