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Thread: About to dip my toe into Leica M system...guidance needed!

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    About to dip my toe into Leica M system...guidance needed!

    Hi all,

    My first post here after visiting quite a bit during my research , I have found it a wealth of knowledge and am looking forward to participating more going forward.

    I am new to Leica having been origionally inspired by Steve Huff’s website and I might need some hand holding here.

    After much deliberation and research I have decided I want an M9 and a couple of lenses.

    My background has been a much loved GF1 which I sold to get a Fuji x100. I find I love my cameras to be more manual and if I am honest more retro looking ( shallow - I know )

    I am a hobby photographer with interest in family and friend shots, travel photography and documenting the new exotic city I find myself living in at the moment ( Shanghai ). For the most part I will probably share my images online with the family and friends and an occasional print for my walls at home. I am looking for that leica ‘look’ in my pictures, prefer colour photography , shoot occasionally indoors and love shollow depth of field . Given this background I am pretty sure I want a 35mm summicron asph , and a 50 mm summilux asph.

    However I am wondering if the members think I am ‘buying too much’ and will be better off going for the cheaper pre asph models given the medium I will be using to view the pics. I am not a pixel peeper or interested in charts but it is important that the end result has that beautiful leica look. Will my untrained eye notice the difference between asph and pre asph??

    It is impossible to rent to try the equipment first in China ( its also much more expensive here ) , I will be picking it up on a business trip to the states in Nov, so it is important that I make the right decision first time round.

    Your guidance and thoughts will be very much appreciated.

    James.

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    Re: About to dip my toe into Leica M system...guidance needed!

    The 35mm Summicron ASPH is an excellent lens and I believe you will be happy with its performance and look. In addition, they seem to be relatively easy to find either new or used. I have used both the ASPH and the version 4 preasph and like both. The prices, though, are not much different between them for used lenses.

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    Re: About to dip my toe into Leica M system...guidance needed!

    James, there are both Chinese and expat Leica users all over China, and I'm sure if you really wanted to try out a lens before buying a solution could be found. As a longtime Leica user who own both of the lenses you are interested in (as well as a couple of M9s) I feel the 35 Summicron ASPH and 50 Summilux ASPH would make a great two lens kit. Of course I don't really know anything about your style, so this recommendation is made with a degree of reservation, but just FYI I find that around 85% of my Leica shots are with the 35mm and 50mm focal length.

    I'm currently living near Chongqing, so if you find yourself traveling in Hubei Province, or if I'm in Shanghai anytime soon, you are welcome to borrow mine. My 35 Summicron ASPH hasn't been getting much love since my 35 Summilux FLE arrived, but that's another matter.

    Cheers,
    Stephen

    PS If budget allows I would encourage you to buy the ASPH version of both of these lenses, as you might just find yourself growing with the M9 and wanting to print instead of just post online. That's where the real fun of Leica ownership is found, when viewing A3 and larger prints.

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    Re: About to dip my toe into Leica M system...guidance needed!

    Hi James,
    My two bits-
    While everyone talks about Leica lenses, the real plus for me is using a rangefinder. But not everyone likes manual focus, or not seeing what the lens sees. This, to me, is a bigger difference than any 'look' due to lenses.

    If you shoot wide open enough of the time (for whatever your purpose), you may appreciate the small differences in rendering between asph lenses and others. But the differences are unlikely to make or break a photograph.

    From a trying-to-be-rational perspective, I'd get into using rangefinders by spending as little as possible. Maybe borrow or buy one camera and one lens? You'll know pretty quick whether it is the right tool for you. Be wary of the hype about a look, for using a rangefinder versus slr or lcd will likely have more influence on the photographs you take than any lens "look".

    But these things are not always rational, nor do they need to be.

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    dalfrednix
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    Smile Re: About to dip my toe into Leica M system...guidance needed!

    Try the 35 mm summarit which Steve Huff recommends; it's a lot of Leica lens for the money. I have one and can support Huff's claims.
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    Re: About to dip my toe into Leica M system...guidance needed!

    If you want f1.4 in the 50mm I recommend the 50/1.4asph.
    I am sure the 35 Summicron is great but I second the 35 Summarit is a great deal as well and I even prefer the bokeh of the Summarit.

    Other than that 35/50 is a valid and good choice. Personally I would question if 28/50 or even 28/75 would offer you a bit more flexibility.
    35 and 50 is pretty close IMO.

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    Re: About to dip my toe into Leica M system...guidance needed!

    I would highly recommend picking up the 35mm f/2.5 Summarit as your first Leica lens. It's one of the sharpest non-ASPH Leica lenses and has beautiful bokeh at any aperture (not distracting or harsh) The rendering is a nice balance between new and old.

    I will be buying 50mm f/1.4 Summilux ASPH, but I will be keeping my 35 Summarit to go along with it.

    35 Summarit pros:
    - Sharp
    - Pleasant bokeh
    - Very, very small, doesn't need lens hood or block much of the view finder
    - Somewhat affodrable for Leica
    - 35mm (and 50mm) are versatile focal lengths

    35 Summarit cons:
    - Aperture is f/2.5, not the best for night photography unless your using an M Monochrom or buy a Leica M
    - Minimum focusing distance is 3 inches further than something like the 50 Summilux ASPH
    - Not "clinical" rendering, although some people prefer it not to be

    Here are some samples, mostly taken with the M8, but the guy with the basketball was the M9







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    Re: About to dip my toe into Leica M system...guidance needed!

    hi james,
    you live in SH, interested in shooting M9?
    let's meet ...

    my recommendation: get some used stuff in good condition. it almost does not matter what (for example, i prefer some zeiss lenses).

    cheers
    sebastian

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    Re: About to dip my toe into Leica M system...guidance needed!

    +1 on the Zeiss, and also the Summarits, with one caveat...they have a way of becoming Summicrons and Summiluxes.

    I really liked my Zeiss ZM lenses, but I love my 35 and 50 Summilux ASPHs.

    One last piece of advice I always give new Leica people is to only buy one lens at a time, and spend the time to get to know it. Three to six months. You will be happy you did.

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    Re: About to dip my toe into Leica M system...guidance needed!

    I'd go for the 35 and 75 Summarits, and perhaps get a Voigtlander 50/1.5 Nokton until you know for certain that the rangefinder experience is what you want. Then investing in a 50 lux asph makes more sense.

    Or just buy the 50 lux asph and no other lens
    Leica Monochrom, Olympus EM-5, Ricoh GR

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    Re: About to dip my toe into Leica M system...guidance needed!

    I agree with Stephen about buying one at a time. That is how I did it with my Zeiss glass, even though I had planned in advance which lenses I wanted to get and in which order.

    I also think that 35/50 is a good choice. Judging from my photos, I think more than 90% are taken with these 2 combined. In fact I could live with only one lens, either 35 or 50, with no sens of deprivation
    M262 ZM 25/2.8 35/1.4 50/2 85/2
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    Re: About to dip my toe into Leica M system...guidance needed!

    Lots of good advice here - I quite agree about the summarits - especially the 35mm, the only real disadvantage they have is that they don't focus as close as the summicrons (which may, or may not be relevant - the aperture difference is not).

    Whilst I agree about buying one lens at a time, it's nice to have a 'kit' to start with, it's also fun to have a longer lens - possibly a 90 summarit?

    Anyway - whatever you choose - I hope you love it - If you're buying Leica lenses there are a hundred ways of getting it right, and not too many of getting it wrong.

    Stephen points out that summarits tend to turn into summicrons and summiluxes, but if you buy carefully, and sell sensibly, you may not lose much (or any) money in the turnaround.

    all the best

    Just this guy you know
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    Re: About to dip my toe into Leica M system...guidance needed!

    While you can t go wrong with any Leica 35/50 combination ..those focal lengths are close in field of view . As most new Leica M users find ..overtime you learn to get closer . The camera really performs in the 28 -50 range .

    You can never go wrong with the 50/1.4asph because it is a great lens and fast enough to never require replacing .

    My picks though for a 2 lens kit would be the 28/2 summicron and the 50/2 sum micron. Both have the classic Leica rendering (look) and can be found a reasonable prices used . You should be able to find both lenses and nice used M9 for less than $10K in the USA.
    Roger Dunham
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    Re: About to dip my toe into Leica M system...guidance needed!

    Jubbaa I as others in the list here also think 35/50 is not too practical as they are very close in coverage.
    I love the 35f2cron my taste it is like a 50 but my 28 is also great I don't have 50 so my thinking is 35 and 75 if you are going to use it on your family, new city etc.
    Otherwise go for a 28 and a 50 you don't have to have very fast lenses as the M9 has enough iso coverage capability to give great images. Enjoy whatever you choose you are in the right direction with the M9 (preferably BLACK;-))

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    Re: About to dip my toe into Leica M system...guidance needed!

    Great advice above. Much depends on what is your preferred focal length. based on how you have described yourself, I'd consider a 28/50, 35/50, or 28/50/90 vs 35/50/90 kit. I'd recommend a 35/75 kit, but 75 has unusual framelines on the M, so I'd stay away for now.

    For 35, the summarit is a great choice for all but low light, but agreed that if you can spend a tad more, the 35 cron asph is fantastic. The 35 lux FLE is a godly lens...get that if you have the big bucks, and you will be left wanting nothing more

    For 50, get the 50 lux asph, and you will be set. For a more stylistic rendering, the Zeiss C-50 sonnar is great, and f/1.5... A rigid 50 'cron is a great and affordable choice, as are the more modern 'crons. If you get a modern 35 cron or summarit, the 50 'lux asph is a better fit for you, in terms of maintaining a look.

    All that said, it may be good to start with 1 camera and 1 lens. A great way to do that is with the M9 and a 50, which does many things well....50 lux asph would be my first choice there...
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    Re: About to dip my toe into Leica M system...guidance needed!

    I have used both the asph and non-asph for each lens you desire. You like color. For me, the asph are best for color, but either will be excellent. I lean towards the asph for color. The non-asph tends to attract those who prefer B&W to prevent heavier contrast. But as others have said, you cannot go wrong either way. I agree 100% with the 28 cron asph. Just a very exceptional lens and the gap from 50 is great. The 35 asph is wonderful, too. I have not used the summarits, but I have not ever read a bad review of them. Your choices, as Jono says, are heavily in your favor whatever you do. Just to add mud to the clarity of decision, the CV 35 f/1.2 is both asph and fast. The lens gets excellent reviews, and compared to leica's, is cheap.

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    Re: About to dip my toe into Leica M system...guidance needed!

    I'm with Roger and Ashwin on this. 28mm 'Cron, 50mm 'Lux, and 75mm 'Cron on the longer end. I'd also be honest and say that my own favorite on the M9 is the 21mm 'Lux, but it's not a lens for a new shooter and takes a long time to master.

    I do believe though just owning one lens to start off with will make you a better photographer much faster than trying to master a whole kit of lenses before you really understand what your doing with the basics. Each of the Leica lenses has their own particular strengths and weaknesses, just as each choice of focal length tells a story from a different perspective. Get the basics under your belt with just one lens is what I advise all of my own students, and then add others one at a time and shoot them exclusively for a bit when you first get 'em.

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    Re: About to dip my toe into Leica M system...guidance needed!

    +1

    I agree wholeheartedly with the "buy one lens at a time approach" even if I'm terrible at following my own advice. What happens is that I tend to buy more than I can deal with at one time, I start using one thing and the rest sit in my drawer for a long long time.

    My own preference with the M9 is for 35/50 ... I went with the Voigtländer Color Skopar 35/2.5 and Nokton 50/1.5 as I like the imaging qualities of those two lenses on the M9. Lens speed is rarely an issue for me, and both net shallow enough FoV when I want it. I like that the little 35/2.5 is so very compact and handy: it's been on the camera for three or four months now, only thing I've used in that period other than the Skink f/47 Zone Plate (for some fun and experimentation).

    But you can hardly go wrong with any Leica lens. I'd not worry about it too much ... each of them is slightly different and you'll find out how to use any of them best by just buying one and doing it. You can hardly even lose money by buying one and then selling it if you prefer to try something different.

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    Re: About to dip my toe into Leica M system...guidance needed!

    Another way to have fun is to buy Cosina Voightlander M lenses to try out some field of views and get a handle on what you want. They are not really expensive and you will not lose much in the experiment. I have found that focal length is really a personal choice and it does not matter how good the optics are if you don't enjoy shooting with it.

    BTW, there are also a host of other non-Leica lenses that can be very nice.

    As far as the one camera, one lens thing, I find that it really does not work for everyone (not even HCB who did use more than one focal length and cropped his images). While I am perfectly happy to shoot that way with also the added constrain that I do not crop in post, it does not really work for everybody. If photography is a hobby, it should be fun and simply follow what you would like to do. Eventually you will sort out your style.

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    Re: About to dip my toe into Leica M system...guidance needed!

    Hmmmm... I didn't know HCB personally, but have a friend who knew him pretty well. He told me HCB shot only his old 50mm. Doesn't really matter though, with or without cropping HCB is one of the best that ever lived at composition.

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    Re: About to dip my toe into Leica M system...guidance needed!

    "Do as I say, not as I do."

    Get one lens, but with that first lens you need to know if you prefer a 35 or 50 for "your" normal lens (or maybe another FL). Only after that decision will you know what the second or next lens should be.

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    Re: About to dip my toe into Leica M system...guidance needed!

    Quote Originally Posted by Chuck Jones View Post
    Hmmmm... I didn't know HCB personally, but have a friend who knew him pretty well. He told me HCB shot only his old 50mm. Doesn't really matter though, with or without cropping HCB is one of the best that ever lived at composition.
    If you simply look at his work you can see he did experiment with focal length and cropping--did your friend know him for his entire career? He certainly was not the type of photographer to work in groups. He dropped cropping early on and certainly became more conservative with his style later in his career. He was a very good photographer and like all successful photographers was good at composition.

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    Re: About to dip my toe into Leica M system...guidance needed!

    HCB: mostly 50, but also 35 and 90 ...

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    Re: About to dip my toe into Leica M system...guidance needed!

    I don't know what lenses Henri used, but I know the fabulous photos he made. ;-)

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    Re: About to dip my toe into Leica M system...guidance needed!

    Using a Leica with a 50mm lens will not make you into an HBC, nor should you want to be. If you start reading the biographies of successful photographers, you will soon see they succeeded with very different styles and approaches--no two are alike. What you really need to discover is what makes you successful.

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    Re: About to dip my toe into Leica M system...guidance needed!

    Quote Originally Posted by Shashin View Post
    As far as the one camera, one lens thing, I find that it really does not work for everyone
    I absolutely agree, and I have a cabinet full of Leica glass to prove it! My point is that only buying one at a time and using only one for a matter of weeks or months allows the new Leica owner to focus on composition and learn the specific signature of that lens without distraction. It will make the choice of the second lens very easy, as he should know by review if he has been constantly walking forward or backward!

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    Re: About to dip my toe into Leica M system...guidance needed!

    Quote Originally Posted by StephenPatterson View Post
    I absolutely agree, and I have a cabinet full of Leica glass to prove it! My point is that only buying one at a time and using only one for a matter of weeks or months allows the new Leica owner to focus on composition and learn the specific signature of that lens without distraction. It will make the choice of the second lens very easy, as he should know by review if he has been constantly walking forward or backward!
    I definitely believe in slamming the doors and kicking the tires if you get a new car or camera. You want to know how it handles. But having a wide and normal at the same time can also be valuable as it gives a comparative frame. If you are fairly new to photography it is really difficult to understand what the significance of one focal length means from simply the experience of a different focal length--I don't think you can really conceptualize it.

    But like I said, the one lens deal works for some. There just seemed to be a growing consensus to the one-lens approach and I just wanted to say it might not be the best approach for everybody.
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    Re: About to dip my toe into Leica M system...guidance needed!

    Quote Originally Posted by Godfrey View Post
    I don't know what lenses Henri used, but I know the fabulous photos he made. ;-)
    I have his book on India, and believe it or not, many inages are OOF
    M262 ZM 25/2.8 35/1.4 50/2 85/2

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    Re: About to dip my toe into Leica M system...guidance needed!

    Quote Originally Posted by Shashin View Post
    I definitely believe in slamming the doors and kicking the tires if you get a new car or camera. You want to know how it handles. But having a wide and normal at the same time can also be valuable as it gives a comparative frame. If you are fairly new to photography it is really difficult to understand what the significance of one focal length means from simply the experience of a different focal length--I don't think you can really conceptualize it.
    Sometimes I like to work within the constraints of having just one lens, it's an aesthetic constraint to spawn creativity. But at this point in my life, I have way more lenses than I need.

    I could only afford one lens (a 50mm normal) for the first year I owned my first Nikon F, way back in age of dinosaurs when the F was a new camera. I read enough books on photography that I knew exactly what I wanted next, and bought it when I had the money a year later. (That was a 200mm Soligor lens ...) It was only later that I managed to convince an uncle that I deserved to borrow his Nikkor 21 and 85 mm lenses. I had the use of them for the next three or four years, on and off.

    All I was agreeing with is that, for a newcomer, it's better buy one bloody expensive Leica lens at a time and take the time to get thoroughly familiar with it, rather than buying a bunch of lenses and never coming to grips with them.

    G

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    Re: About to dip my toe into Leica M system...guidance needed!

    Guys,

    Wow, thanks for taking the time to respond. I have been following the thread since starting it but I apologise for going 'dark' and not responding sooner , I just haven't had the time. But what a lovely surprise to see that it had jumped from 9 replies to 27 over night!

    A wealth of advice which has changed my approach. It seems that there is a definite sense that 35 and 50 could be too close for an initial pairing . This is something that had kind of been bugging me in the back of my mind, but thanks to the posts kicked off by Paratom suggesting 28 and 50 as a better pairing it managed to crystallize it as a question I should ask myself before I jump ...so thank you Paratom for kick starting a whole new round of GAS for me , lol.

    @Mikel, thanks for making me think about whether it is the right tool for me. I get a sense that when it comes to leica it is hard to rational ,haha. Clearly top end FF digital SLR's are more 'capable' ( meaning flexible ) cameras than an M9 , and with them comes auto focus , however I know one thing for certain - I just don't like SLR's, I never have, and in trying to be rational I went to camera shop recently to check out a couple- they were so big, heavy, ugly (IMO) and soo many controls and buttons that it just turned me right off. I then popped a long to the leica dealer , put an M9 in my hands and fell in love...rational eh? I also have no need for zooms as 3 years ago I fitted a 20mm prime to my GF1 and have never looked back :-). Manual focus is something I will have to get used to but I am sure I will soon be able to match the speed of my x100 in no time , haha.

    And then there is the 'Leica look' in the photos that I can't get anywhere else.

    Following on from Mikel's point a number of you have suggested to get one lens only . I think this is a great idea and makes perfect sense to me. Without committing too much capital I will be able to truly tell if rangefinder photography is for me , and at the same time get to know the lens better.

    @Animefx : thanks for sharing your photos, they are great. I particularly liked the basketball player , I loved the composition and light.

    To those who suggested a lens beyond 50mm say the 75 or 90, I don't particularly like the telephoto or zoomed look and prefer my images to be more intimate ...but hey, never say never.

    This last point actually addresses a couple of areas that I have started to think about since starting this thread. The first is that focal length is a personal choice and I wont really truly know what I want and like, and what works for my style of photography, until I shoot with them. The second is that I will probably , in the end , own more than one or two lenses :-)

    @ Stephen I haven't travelled to Chongquing yet but if I do I will drop you a line, please pm me if you are coming to Shanghai as I would like to buy you a beer or two and pick your brain.

    @ Sebastian - lets meet , I will pm you.

    @ all , thank you once again for taking the time to think about my dilemma and help me with the decision making process. I will keep you posted on my progress, and look forward to participating more in the future.

    James.

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    Re: About to dip my toe into Leica M system...guidance needed!

    James, the bottom line is :

    If you get a Leica m9 and any lens you cant go wrong, so already you are ahead of the game

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    Re: About to dip my toe into Leica M system...guidance needed!

    James- If you ever read M. Thein, who does marvelous reviews, he thinks the 20mm lens for the GF1 is right up at the top of his all time favorite list. I agree and so does my wife who has decided to forego her M9 I bought for her and go back to the GF1 +20 and the 45 macro.

    There is no shame in going backwards if it brings you forword.

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    Re: About to dip my toe into Leica M system...guidance needed!

    So much great advice is offered in this thread and if there is simultaniously both a consencious of what lens(s) to begin with vs. a divergence of opinions, it just goes to show that there is no right or wrong, just persional preference with regards to shooting styles and personal vision.

    I'll add my two cents. When I started out many years ago with formal training (both on a rangefinder and simple 35mm SLR), it was strongly suggested that only a single 50mm be used, in order to concentrate on the "art" of picture taking, especially learning both composition and recognizing what makes a successful image as opposed to being focused (no pun intended) on the equipment. The persuit of such goals were such that after a time, I forgot about the idea of switching lenses etc., and loved the idea of going out and finding images that were not mearly photographs, but were able to convey my vision of what is often refered to as the decisve moment. Of course I've long gotten away from this (unfortunately) and am as much as anyone interested in various focal length lenses for all the reasons expressed here in this thread.

    Bottom line, it's hard to know what focal length or lengths to suggest unless someone knows intimately the type of photography you initially plan to do with your camera and I believe equally important what your own personal goals are in terms of your images.

    In one sense you can start out with one lens like a 50mm (or 35mm) and think only about images, not equipment. After a time you will know which direction (focal length wise) your next purchase might be. Purchasing less expensive lenses like the Voightlanders, older vintage Leica's etc., gives you a little more flexability to not worry so much if you spent a fortune and brought the wrong focal length lens and ultimately after considerable use and shooting, you'll automatically know which direction to head, both in quality/look in lenses and also additonal lenses besides your initial 35 and/or 50mm lens.

    Sometimes starting out in simpler fashion may not seem to be as exciting as selecting a whole bunch of lenses, but the satisfaction of never loosing sight of why you picked up a rangefinder in the first place, ends up being a more valuable lesson than almost anything else with regards to photography. Again just my own personal thoughts. Have fun and enjoy!

    Dave (D&A)
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    Re: About to dip my toe into Leica M system...guidance needed!

    As suggested by others, I think it's misleading to repeat facts like "HCB used a normal" or "Sieff used a wide" as support for gear decisions. Doubtful the choice of a focal length determined their compositional excellence. More simply and likely, their compositional sense determined what length they used.

    Might be better just to shoot a lot with what first grabs your fancy, study your work, find your compositional strength, and then what you need/buy will take care of itself. Same goes for lens rendering qualities too.

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