Is a Leica...

Discussion in 'Casual Photo Conversations' started by hjoseph7, Dec 8, 2012.

  1. Is a Leica camera still the ultimate camera ? I watched some photographers after getting their first Leica camera in no matter what condition, act as if it was the birth of their first child. I never owned or used a Leica camera but do you think that Nikon and Canon cameras have finally caught up ? I was going to post this in the Leica section, but then I would get a bunch of 'yes, yes, yes' from leica owners and I wanted a more varied point of view.
  2. stp


    Ultimate camera for what? I'm wanting to photograph birds in flight, so no, it's not the ultimate.
  3. Ultimate, no. Desirable, yes. Could it be my only camera - I don't think so. But I have the idea it could be a system that fits my needs/wants for much I do really well - but a bit out of my financial league for now.
  4. Which Leica? I had a 3f rangefinder with four lenses and it was a good camera for its day but I never really liked it. I had an M2R rangefinder and it was swell for available light photography but was extremely limited. I think it's worthless for anything but a 50mm or a 35mm. I used a Leica SLR with a Leitz macro lens and the copies I made with the combo were fabulous but I thought the camera body was too bulky and kinda klunky. A pal I know tried three Leitz 90mm f2 lenses (real whizbangers at the time) and sent 'em all back. They were not sharp.
    I had a cast iron-bodied camera first made to show the arc of torpedos being dropped from an airplane in World War II. It had one shutter speed and four f-stops but was 90 degree wide angle without distortion on film 2 1/4 high by seven inches long. It was the perfect camera to shoot fields of flowers.
    There is no best, no ultimate. Would you buy a Rolls Royce to haul cow manure? Would you drive your cow caca truck to take a date to a fine resturant?
    A good Leica is a fine instrument but so is a $15,000 Rolex I am told. I carry a Timex and guess what -- it gets me where I want to go on time and the money I saved I can put into fine cameras or whatever I want.
  5. I own a Leica IIIf w/ a few lenses. It's a camera -- a nice one, but still just a camera -- not even my favorite one.
    Ha! Wayne, we own the same Leica! :)
  6. There is no ultimate or perfect camera, but some are better suited to some tasks than others. I would find it hard to do without the flexibility of my D3, but I bought a Leica M2 nearly 50 years ago for newspaper photography, and never regretted it. It was small, quiet and built to last. It could also be focused in extremely dim light. I still have it, although I haven't used it in several years. I could be persuaded to carry a digital version when traveling, however, rather than a 6 pound Nikon and 30 pounds of miscellaneous gear.
    My kit consisted of three lenses, 35mm, 50mm and 90mm, which would fit in a jacket pocket with room to spare. On my last vacation, I never removed the 28-70 from my Nikon, so that Leica kit would have worked just fine. The body itself weighs only about 1-1/2 pounds. It is not as quiet as legend would have it, but has none of the slap and clunk of an SLR, just a discrete zip and bounce. My Rolleiflex is much quieter, and perhaps stealthier because of the right-angle viewing.
    Loading film was a bit of a challenge. On mine, you removed the takeup spool and slipped the leader under a spring-loaded leaf, then dropped film and spool in through the bottom of the camera. You removed a slim base plate, compared to the entire back of the Nikon F, it's chief competitor at the time. Leica replaced the removeable spool with a slotted takeup after my time, but you still load through the bottom.
    The lenses are made extremely well made, and were sharper than anything else at the time. By the 80's, I preferred the higher contrast of Nikon lenses, which look sharper even though test targets might still favor the Leica.
    Handling a Leica is hard to describe. You get the impression you are in charge, and the camera won't get in your way. The camera is very solid (no removeable back), and the wind lever is smooth, ending in a way that lets you know the film is wound. The lenses operate with a somewhat stiff but smooth motion. The superimposed image rangefinder seems to pop into focus. You look for that pop, rather than minimum separation of the images. The viewfinder is clear and open, with bright lines to designate the frame size. These lines change with the lens, but you can see outside the lines even at the wide angle setting, which is good for action photography. The viewfinder compensates for parallax, so you can compose fairly tightly.
  7. DUPLICATE POST ... durned gateway timeout. There's no way to know if your response got uploaded.
  8. Handle one and you'll find out quickly whether the magic works on you. I've handled a few variations of the III-series, the M2, M3, M6 and MP, along with a few lenses. They really do feel like high quality pieces of equipment, solid and substantial with straightforward - if occasionally quirky - controls. The Rolleiflex TLRs offer a very similar feeling of indefinable quality.
    The "Leica glow" and other vague descriptions of image quality? Don't know, can't see it, don't care. I think I've seen that magical aura in my own photos taken with favorite lenses, so I won't dismiss it.
    But I've never gotten along well with rangefinder focusing so the mystique was lost on me. I settled for affordable compact rangefinders like the Canonets and Olympus 35 RC. I'm more interested in function and ergonomics and the best examples of those types of cameras usually occur in the mid-priced sweet spot across a generous swath of camera brands and models.
  9. I have been " exposed" pun uintended.
    to many cameras some worked for me and others I really disliked for one reason or another.
    I looked at Leica postings and decided I do not want one.
    I would take it or a close clone if it were really inexpensive or free.
    I read that the Canon LTM cameras with different loading ( wow the back opens)
    are lastly superior., there are other japanese cameras like that as well.
    But other rf cameras are a lot easier to use.
    and I cannot really see logic to an interchangeble lens rf camera.
    a simple eye level SLR it better.
    I had a 6x9 rolfix and I used it a lot but the viewfinder was primative.
    I see some merit to a 6x6 eye level folder. and limited use.
    but few other kinds or picture taking machines have their uses .
  10. Ultimate neck jewelry, for sure...
  11. SCL


    I was persuaded to buy a Leica M4 in 1968, which I owned until June of this year; I also owned a M6 in the early 2000s, as well as a slew of Leica SLRs. I've owned many other excellent cameras along the way as well. Some Leicas are better than others...but mostly it has to do with the lenses (no, not all of them, really a few models which are exceptional). I couldn't honestly say the Leicas I've owned are necessarily "better" than others I've owned. What I will say is that the construction quality, reliability, and tight tolerances gave me consistently reliable results, especially in an interchangeable rangefinder system. The SLRs I owned were built like tanks and again highly reliable, and with the SL2 - the best viewfinder I've ever used in an SLR/DSLR + the lenses I owned were optimized for use wide need to stop down 1-2 stops for sharpness. But I also like Nikon, Ricoh (old RF and TLRs), Rolleiflex (TLR), Olympus, Canon, and Contax offerings. I think it is more whatever fits your needs and budget...and the best pictures aren't determined by the camera is the photographer and his/her vision, understanding of the capabilities and nuances bodies and lenses at his disposal, and overall technical competence which wins the prize.
  12. Leicas are legendary because they started the 35mm revolution in photography and also because of their excellent build quality and performance. However, the SLR revolution of the 1960s and the more recent digital photography revolution were led by camera brands other than Leica. The truth is that fine photographs can be made by most any modern camera, and artsy-fartsy pictures are even made with toy cameras.
  13. Ultimate - depends on what you are looking for. I love my Leicas much more than my Canons or MF bodies. Most
    people who hate them have never used them. Can they do all the things my Canons can do ? - NO. Is the image quality
    any better - NO (indeed the high ISO performance of my M8 is terrible). S they are expensive to buy and more limited
    than my Canons - so why do I love them? Well here is why...

    The lenses really are magnificent - they have a different feel to my Canon primes.

    The bodies are very intuitive to use (once you get used to them) and you are much more involved in the picture as you
    can see outside the taking area (you can also shoot with your left eye open!)

    The viewfinder is so big and bright

    You can ignore the digital bits - with an M8 or M9 you only need to use the digital bits to set the ISO and format the card.
    I find that I rarely look at the exposure on the rear LCD (good job as the resolution is very poor)

    In essence they offer a very different experience to a DSLR and feel much more like you are using a film workflow. The
    digital Leicas really do feel and work like the film ones. While the lenses look expensive they are really not as they
    appreciate (rather than depreciate) in value. The digital bodies do suffer depreciation but since you save the cost of film it
    is not that bad. I suggest that you approach them carefully as once you have shot them you may find you need to buy
  14. There are things that the best DSLR's can do that the Leica cannot do, or not do as well. There are things that the Leica can do that the top DSLR cannot do, or not do as well. If we had cameras that could do the best of what Leica does and also do the best of what the top DSLR does, then we might have the ultimate camera. Some cameras attempted that in the 35mm film days, like the RF+SLR Alpas and the compact Olympus SLR, but came only fairly close to whatever is the "ultimate". Leica does have very fine prime optics, but at a high price, whereas some fast long lenses of Nikon or Canon, at near new car prices, are also tops, but the camera bodies and performance of each type are not "ultimate".
  15. I have a couple of Leica but they carry the Lumix name, great cameras for what they are.
    Way back I sold my Leica IIIB for a Japanese Topcon 35S becuase I wanted a leaf shutter for sync sunlight work when that concept arrived on my patch. That Leica had a sync speed of 1/30 :)
  16. My view, as someone who has used a lot of Leicas professionally and for fun over the last 45 years, is that Leica was the ultimate camera from the end of WWII, after Contax had faded away. Its position on the pedestal began to slip when the Nikon F appeared in 1959 and was certainly lost by the mid-1970s. Since then, Leica has been a special-purpose camera for pros (quiet operation, good hand-holding at low shutter speeds) and a status object for amateurs (some of course appreciated its technical qualities as a picture-making instrument, but they were a minority). I still use Leica today for sentimental/nostalgic reasons, but my ultimate camera is my Canon 5D Mark II. No one camera is perfect for everything, but the Canon comes closer than anything I’ve ever used or owned before (in any format from 35mm to 8x10”).
  17. Like others have said, I guess it depends on the Leica in question. I certainly wouldn't consider a knob wind rangefinder an ultimate anything, so forget the early ones. The Feds and Zorkis are just as good once they're serviced, and the lenses are the equal or better in IQ. The M2/3/4/6 I've owned, and while nice, they were too heavy for me to tote every day. Love the viewfinders in the M3 though. Leica lenses shine, and I've always considered them to be the benchmark in 35mm photography. But recently I went exploring the world of less expensive, yet high quality, cameras and lenses. To my eyes, some of the Retina cameras, the Canon FD 85 1.8 lens, Nikkor HC 50 2.0 lens, etc are as good as anything I've ever used. Right now I'm trying to decide whether to keep that FD 85 1.8, or a Leica R 90 Elmarit, for my portraits, and the Canon just may win out. So I guess my answer would be no, a Leica is not an ultimate camera. There's just too many other great cameras and lenses to choose from to say that.
  18. Given the choice between the Leica III I had to use as a field camera many, many years ago and my not-so-shiny red FED-2, I'd be torn in terms of which would be easier to load and shoot.
    I would love to have a beautiful black Leica rangefinder from the period after the screw-mount, but there's just too much competition for them from the collectors.
    There is no denying their value as 'bling'. ;)
  19. Steve - if you can find one at a reasonable price try the FD85 F1.2. This is my favourite FD lens and I have shot
    thousands of portraits with it. On the Leica side I love the look of the (relatively inexpensive) Zeiss ZM 50 F1.5 on the M8
    for portraits - the lens is not quite as sharp as my Leics 50 F2 but has perhaps the best Bokah around.
  20. Of the cameras that attained prominence earliest in the first half of the 20th century, Leica, Contax and Rollei are the ones to show quality of design and manufacture. To call any of them "the world's best camera" is absurd. The differences of quality between the best cameras are so small as not to matter. I use a Leica because I am comfortable with it, my friends use Nikons or Hasselblads for the same reason, and all of us get acceptable pictures. None of us is bad, none of us is the best. I have sometimes faced the question, "You use a Leica, the world's best camera?" The only sensible answer to this is, "Yes, but I am not the world's best photographer." Most people accept the statement that as the top brands are in competition with one another, they need to be of pretty much the same quality.
  21. Shoot with a Summilux, or any of the Asphericals, and you'll see why people worship Leicas. These lenses have a look like no others.
  22. I have Nikons (three of them: a D300, an FE and an F4) and Leicas (two: the M3 and the M6).
    For pretty much everything I get paid for, I shoot the D300. You can take a lot more shots without the extra expense of film processing. You can see--and show the client--what you're getting during the shoot. You can process it and forward it on much more quickly, and don't have to go through the intermediate stage of scanning the film. (While you can make the argument that film, at least some kinds of it, can still possibly produce better quality than digital under certain circumstances, *getting* all of that quality into a form that can be used by someone else can be problematic, time-consuming and expensive. For all practical purposes, digital--especially in newer, high-resolution DSLRs--surpasses the real-world quality of 35 mm film in usable resolution and ability to correct colour and sharpness, and most definitely in the ability to monkey around with the final image ad infinitum. I don't own a digital Leica, but for the M8 definitely and very probably for the M9, the sensors found in Nikons are likely much superior--and I'm not the only one who thinks so:
    Still, I don't love my D300. It's a tool (a faithful and capable one, to be sure), I use it when I need it, but I don't wildly enjoy shooting with it.
    Whenever I'm shooting for my own enjoyment, or for many of the documentary projects I do, I use the Leicas 90% of the time. They get in the way of getting the image far less than a DSLR does. They're quiet, petite and unobtrusive, you don't have to worry about mirror vibrations in low light, and they're not saddled with great hulking lenses that look--and handle--like bazookas. (I do have several MF Nikkors--they are nice enough, but not as nice as the Leitz lenses. Not only that, I swear I can feel the clunk as the aperture stop-down lever kicks in during the firing of the shutter on all of them--it's not nearly so obvious on the F4 as on the D300--which I'm certain has to compromise sharpness a bit.)
    Optically, you'd be hard-pressed to tell which photos were taken with the Nikkors and which with the Leica lenses at mid apertures in an 8x10 print from film. I'd bet very few people could consistently do it, no matter what they may claim. Where the Leitz lenses rock is wide open--with my 50 Summicron at F2, whatever is in focus is *sharp*. With a Nikkor 50/1.8, you're gonna get lots of lovely (or not), arty haze until you get it down to F4 or so.
    So, really, horses for courses. If I could have only *one* system, I'd stick with my Nikons, as they provide by far the most versatility, for film and digital--and good enough quality, certainly. I'd do it regretfully, though--for some things, the Leicas are simply superior, and more enjoyable to shoot. If you can afford both--and you don't have to break the bank to have a modest Leica system, I'm at least a prince of finding bargain Leica stuff--there's no reason not to enjoy the best of both worlds.
  23. Ultimate neck jewelry, for sure...​
  24. Bernard - I suggest that you try a digital Leica. The DXO mark tests do not do any favours to CCD sensors like Leica uses
    (for example the 50 MP Hassy is out scored by a number of cheap Pentax APS-C sensors - and a Nokia mobile phone!).
    In real world use the resolution and IQ of the M8 are as good as the Canon 5D classic. The issue with the CCD sensors
    such as the ones used by Leica is that they are really only good at ISO 200 and 400 and in RAW (Leica calls them 160
    and 320 ISO but they really appear to be closer to 200 and 400). When used correctly the images from even the M8 are
    quite stunning (unless you extensively pixel peep - then the limitations of 10 MP will start to show). Indeed I find that I
    take many of my best photos with my lowly M8 despite taking at least 10x as many shots with my Digital Canons (1
    series, 5DII, 7D). The images from the CCD sensor are sharp straight from the camera (no anti alias filter) and the
    colours are very pleasing. With Leica you have to work harder - no AF, manual or AE exposure, simple metering, slow
    FPS and write time etc.. As I said earlier it is not an ultimate (no camera is) but it is a very different way of shooting to a
    DSLR- for me this is very appealing and I love to use the Leica when I can. I suspect that the Nikon D800E is perhaps
    the best DSLR for image quality based on what I have seen from it.
  25. If one can reasonably argue that Jim Thorpe, Jim Brown, and Michael Jordan belong on the short list of best athletes of all time or perhaps even ultimate athlete, understanding the broad brush required to make such a list across all sports even though these candidates clearly had diverse skills, then certainly the Leica M belongs on such a list of cameras and is a candidate for ultimate camera. With respect to what Nikon and Canon offer lately, the ultimate camera can not be one that is being replaced by a better version every two years. The Nikon F certainly belongs on the list with the Leica M: a game changer unsurpassed in it's own time and still relevant and usable today with the benefits of relatively compact size and simplicity that show the current dslrs as the evolving robots that they are.
  26. Hi, Philip!
    Unfortunately, that (and the disturbing IR blacks problem) is why I'd rule out an M8--even though the prices are getting rather tempting nowadays. To me, a maximum ISO of 400 on a Leica is one heck of a limitation--for daylight, it would of course be fine, but one of the strengths of the Leica (and Leitz lenses) is their performance in low light, and ISO 400 is just not going to cut it much of the time.
    I am probably at some point going to get an M9, depending on how far/fast prices drop when the M comes out. It looks like you can squeeze enough usable ISO out of it to make it more useful in the situations I typically shoot in; plus the IR fix and being full-frame with a higher resolution make it more appealing--to me--than the M8 could be. And I'd *love* a capable digital Leica that works identically to my film Ms.
    Nuts to people who say Leicas are neck/wrist jewelry! True enough, some people carry them to that effect. To those of us who know how to use them, however, they're tools--and they're generally much more pleasurable to use than your typical DSLR, of whatever make.
  27. I believe they are exceptional. To me, they are beautiful, wonderfully exact and quick to use, yet capable of disappearing in your hands,
    allowing total absorbing the photographer into the subject being photographed. I also believe in Leica glow (.com).
  28. There is no ultimate camera. The question is, does the camera aid and abet your vision? Does it help or get out of the way in order for you to make the best pictures you can? The Leicas certainly have the track record. I've owned seven of them and they served me well.
  29. Leica hasn't been the ultimate camera for more than 50 years. They are special though. I've owned a few and have also used among a bunch of others, Nikons and Canons. The one thing I can tell you is that once you become familiar with your Leica and shoot it consistently, it does become an incredibly personal tool. As one example, I was asked to do a location portrait for a friend, We walked around taking numerous shots with different backgrounds around the city. we came upon a scene and had him pose while I got in position. As soon as I snapped the shutter, I told him, that was the money shot. This was from a manual, no light meter, no SLR, non digital camera yet once I snapped the shutter, I knew the shot was perfect. If you've never owned one and have the money and time to use it consistently for some time, you might just get to understand the drool coming out the side of some Leica Forum members. I sold mine when I no longer had time to process and print photos and didn't want to spend $7K for a digital M.
  30. This thread has been refreshing. Often there is a reverse snobbery about Leicas as non-objective as the aversion to anything non-Leica on the dedicated forum. Most of the responses here are from users, like myself, who can relate the good and bad points in practical terms.
    No one mentioned that a Leica M is the ultimate tool for street photography - discrete, quick and reliable. Unfortunately, like Porsches and M-series BMWs, those who need them can seldom afford it, and those who can afford it seldom know how to drive them properly.
  31. Harry, Best does not exist. To add to all of the above excellent responses, you may want to consider the Panasonic Lumix LX5 or its most recent version. Panasonic uses Leica lenses in a number of their cameras. The LX5 is a versatile point and shoot with all the flexibility of a DSLR. It's my choice when carrying a lot of gear is not feasible or sensible.
  32. I guess when I said I had Leica's with Panasonic name on them I was showing my respect and reverence for Leica from using them early on. But then there were Rolleiflex, Linhoff etc. also to be respected.

Share This Page