Leica Cameras and Lenses – Are they on to something or are they playing to the Leica purist?

I love Leica and I have always loved Leica. The camera bodies are beautifully tooled, the optics are some of the finest in the world and maybe in some cases THE FINEST optics made for 35mm style photography.  I have great admiration for the owners of Leica products because they have great taste in cameras and lenses, have the money to play in the Leica arena (which means multi thousands of dollars for a camera body and one lens), and hopefully use their cameras every day of every week of every month of every year to make their decision viable.

Perhaps if I could afford a Leica (and I cannot) I would own one and maybe three lenses or so.  But I don’t and won’t buy into the system.  What I have done is shot with a great many brands of cameras and if I just look at what is available today and what the prices are, I have to believe that there are truly no bad cameras.  I cannot say the same about lenses but cameras do offer a lot for the money today all based around some excellent sensors.

I can appreciate what Leica is doing with this new camera without an LCD on the back of their new camera but I sure as hell do not agree with their reasoning.   Almost all digital cameras have the ability through a button or a menu item to turn off the rear LCD and leave it off.  It is up to the user to have better self control so as to not be chimping all the time.*  By taking the LCD off the back of the camera is not going to stop the chimper from chimping inside the viewfinder of the camera and may actually make the situation worse.  It is really and solely up to the camera operator to make a difficult decision to review images on the back of the camera.

Leica is truly aiming this camera at people who only want to do street photography, are not interested in making any menu changes.

Well okay maybe other photographers who shoot other than street photography-

I have read some reviews from Leica snob bloggers and they seem to think this camera is the second coming at $7000.00.  I wonder how people who only do reviews can afford a $7000.00 camera considering the review is only their opinion. 🙂 Hmmmm!  No further comment necessary.

The other problems with most users is that there is no longer for the most part as a single shot of anything.  I mean, as an example, a photographer doing food photography.(please all food photographers this is only an example of a subject so don’t email me)  The lighting, f-stop, shutter speed, composition is not changing, but 12 images were just put on the memory card.  You must ask yourself why.  I am willing to bet that with a 36 exposure roll of film you would never have done this.

So did Leica actually miss the chance to be a purely purist camera.  Should they have taken away the memory card slot and only built-in enough memory for 36 RAW files?  I mean think about it.  Don’t go part way, go all the way Leica.  I mean pure is pure.

And how about the battery.  Maybe it should have been set up to charge the battery in the camera and the charge would only be good for 360 images or 10 rolls of 36 exposure film.

Oh! It would be clever that after the first shot the starting Iso was locked in no matter what the lighting conditions may be.  Sort of like having a roll of film in the camera.

I use a Fuji X-t1 and have several high-speed primes which are outrageously incredible and no….I did not get any of my Fuji stuff free to review and say nice things about.

The Fuji is small, built very well, easy to work with and produces outstanding images every day.  My total investment for body and lenses is somewhere around $4700.00 and I will put my image quality up against any 16 megapixel camera in the market place.  The new X-t2 should be coming out soon and it will have over 20 mega pixels which will provide some advantages but that does not mean I will stop shooting with what I own.  I would put a lens purchase before a body purchase. But the point here is that for a camera body and 5 prime lenses I believe it is a steal compared to any Leica system out there. Period.  Theoretically if i set up a Leica in the same way I am looking at about SEVENTEEN THOUSAND DOLLARS.  That is $17000.00.  About what 3 Fuji Systems would cost me.

How do I shoot?  My LCD is turned off.  I only use the viewfinder when I am shooting. How do I judge the scene I am shooting and what changes do I make is simple.

If I like what I see in the view finder and the exposure looks correct to MY eye I push the shutter release button and I have taken ONE shot.  If I want to modify the exposure I turn my exposure compensation dial either to the plus or the minus until it looks like what I want.  As for Iso I try to shoot at the 200 base camera Iso but I have no problems switching to a higher Iso when lighting conditions call for it.

And for focus I can either auto focus or manually focus.  Again simple depending upon the condition I am shooting in.  The nice part of the manual focus is that the edges of m subject or highlighted when the manual focus is achieved.  Of course I do not have to have it that way because manual focus for the most part is great without the highlighting.

So for all the Leica purists that are out there, maybe Leica will read this and take away a few more things that I wrote about, but my hat is truly off to all of you because you do create some of the worlds most wonderful images with your gear and that alone is what it is all about.

I brought this up in yesterdays blog and I think it would make a great exercise for all of you to try.  Either through a button on your camera or a menu item, shut off the rear LCD.  In the menu reduce the amount of information that is in the viewfinder.  Fill up your memory card with nonsense data so you only have about 1 or 2 mega pixels left to shoot with.  Do not look in your viewfinder to see an image by hitting the play back and only take one shot of a subject to capture an image.

If you can do all that and actually want to, please leave a message in the comments and I shall tell you where you can send the few images you shot for posting.

Way back when I ran workshops my favorite was a workshop that limited the focal length a student could use.  If they had a prime then that was perfect.  If they did not then they had a zoom and the instructors gaffer taped the zoom ring to the students favored focal length to shoot with and they could not change it.


Go for these challenges and I guarantee it will help your photography a lot. 🙂



4 thoughts on “Leica Cameras and Lenses – Are they on to something or are they playing to the Leica purist?

  1. jlfrankiii2015

    Why Leica?

    I trust that Elliot knows me well enough to conclude that I am not a Leica snob. I fully subscribe to Elliot’s point of view regarding chimping and his comments regarding the Leica M-D. Since he recommended my subscribing to Reid Reviews, it is hardly surprising that both Elliot’s comments and Reid Reviews are largely in agreement concerning the M-D and chimping in general.

    I started photography as a child, bought my first SLR in Japan with the Navy, but never studied the art until about 2003 when I met Elliot and bought a Canon 5D with a couple of zoom lenses. I took classes with Elliot and he spent a lot of time with me. I seldom needed the zoom. I found myself either shooting at 35mm or 200mm. Although I did get some good shots, my results were not consistent and I would describe the color temperature readings of the camera to be funky at best. Having been previously a film shooter for five decades it just seem to me that I was getting neither the dynamic range nor color saturation (when shooting color) that I expected. I still use this camera, just not a lot.

    In about 2005 I invested in a Leica M7 (film camera) and a 50mm lens. I was overjoyed with the results. Over the years, I saved and bought a number of Leica M lenses, a pocket Leica for my wife, and a few accessories. Ultimately I added a M9 body, because film processing became a wait I wasn’t prepared to endure on a regular basis. But as Elliot pointed out to me camera bodies come and go; but your glass lives on forever.

    So do I regret my strategy and decisions? Largely, I have been so happy with Leica. There are two lenses I have seldom used- a 50mm f/1.0 and a 90mm. I imagine some day I will trade them in or sell them.

    So with this history, I will try to answer the question I posed. My Leica cameras are incredibly easy to setup and use. The controls are virtually the same from camera to camera. This way I can concentrate on photography and not seemingly endless combinations of controls, screens, and optimum settings. In case of point, I bought an Olympus mirrorless camera about four years ago or a little more. Despite Elliot spending personal time with me on the settings and a lengthy visit with the factory rep at the photo show in New York I have never been able to achieve acceptable results on a consistent basis. It has great color balance and the auto focus is good enough for me; but I usually default to full automatic instead of the aperture priority that I would prefer. It is good for snapshots, but has a very short battery life.

    For the street and industrial photography I try to concentrate on, my Leica M7 and M9 seem optimum. When I can afford it, I intend to buy a Leica M Monochrom (Typ 246) Digital Rangefinder Camera. In the meantime I am shooting B&W with my M7. Perhaps my technique and commercial processing options will obviate the need for the purchase. One can get a lot of rolls of film developed and printed for that amount of money. I have more patience now than when I was younger.

    One last thought, the weight of my Leica cameras offsets the shaking I get when shooting handheld. Submitted with thanks to Cartier-Bresson, my inspiration, and Elliot Stern my instructor.


    1. ELLIOT STERN Post author

      As I said on Facebook thanks Ian. Specs are a little lacking on the camera at this point, at least from what I have been able to make out. But it makes sense not to have it in the view finder either. I just can’t help that people can self discipline themselves to not always be peaking/chimping all the time, but to charge the kind of money they are charging for removing what are features on other brands simply does not make sense. They really need to get into the real world and figure out how to make a less expensive camera to get more people into their system. Lenses are lenses and Leica makes superb lenses, but can one define the real differences by looking on a monitor or and 8×10 print. Maybe some people can but most cannot. I still love the product and in the days when I could have afforded to join the club I was unable to because of who I worked for and now I think I am happier that I did not.



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