Leica excellence: Leica film camera vs. all other digital?

Discussion in 'Leica and Rangefinders' started by philip_maus, Nov 4, 2008.

  1. Okay - I know the title of this question appears to be asking for a rehash of a very tired old "film vs. digital"
    debate, but I assure you, the question I am asking is none of that. The question I am asking here, hopefully from
    some of the more experienced Leica M film users, is whether the benefits, or the privilege, more aptly, of using
    that sublime creation of German engineering and optics outweighs the advantages of modern digital media and the
    cameras that go with it? More simply put: Do you still prefer to use your film M with all of the digital options
    out there?

    I have been groping around in the dark for many months (or years even) trying to find some definite direction for
    my photography, and while I have been an adamant holdout for film in the face of the digital 'revolution', I
    have, very recently, caved a little and bought a Canon G10, which is a wonderful little camera when used within
    it's capabilities. I was hoping it might deliver at least some of the benefits that I wanted from a Leica,
    including small, discreet, quiet, etc..but without the price tag, as well as being able to dip my toe in the
    digital pool.

    I love to shoot "street" and all that 'decisive moment' stuff really hits home with me. For years I have been
    using a Nikon FE2 with a 50 1.4, which, when used without an auto-winder, can, in practice, deliver good
    performance and speed for this, but with none of those intangibles that can be got from using the legendary Leica
    M. That's not even to mention the speed and image quality of the best Leica prime glass.

    So, all this preamble and background basically boils down to these two things, and I am keen to hear your opinions:

    (1.) I have now pretty much made up my mind to buy into the Leica mystique and I'm thinking either an M6 if I
    can come up with the bucks, or a more traditional M3 or M4 if I can live without the built-in meter. Any advice
    here? I have done some research on all of these, but I keep running in to one dang thing....what about digital?
    That is a loud and persistent call indeed.

    (2.) Do you still shoot your film Leica Ms with all that versatile digital technology out there? Do you do both?
    I'm sure if you are a commercial pro or some such, you have no choice but to shoot digital, but do you pick up
    your Leica when you are off the clock? I've looked around this thread a little and can't find any meaningful
    answers to this question - not on the "Film vs. Digital" question, but on the much more difficult and serious
    "Leica M vs. digital" question. And I am aware of the existence of the M8 and that's not what I mean by digital,
    that camera is WAY out of my league....

    Thanks very much for your thoughtful opinions and direction.
  2. WEll, my answer is get an old Brownie camera for $0.25 at a yard sale and shoot until you drop. Gear will only answer to itself in a material, a materialistic way. Good photography requires spirit and soul and can be had for a quarter. Art and fun requires not much other than what is between our ears: an eye or two, an idea or a few, and enjoy! Material battles are just that: needless warfare over irrelevant parameters. Sorry, and do buy all the luxury gear you lust over, it will make the economy happy, but not you. Sorry, the bubble has burst, ...
  3. digital/film, red/blue states, guiness/murphy stout, why is it always one or the other. Fe2 is a great camera, doubt you 'll get much better pics from a Leica, but if you really need to go for the mystique, the M3/M4 ooze uber machine age charisma but the M6 is probably more practical. If you like shooting with the 50, you might really like the pre-asph Summicron or the 35 pre-asph Summicron.
  4. I rarely use my M6TTL now, except to occasionally burn through remaining film. But I *do* use my Leica M glass regularly on that
    other digital M body, the RD1, which I find much more appealing than the M8. And much more affordable, relatively speaking. I don't
    really miss the "legendary" "sublime" Leica body for the most part... so there is no "Leica M vs digital" issue for me...

  5. Jonas - I do appreciate the input and I'm surprised to hear (from reading on PN) how many folks actually own and
    use R-D1s. I guess I thought that great idea kinda went south due to some technical and design issues. It's nice
    to hear you have found some success and enjoyment with that camera.

    Frank - Yes and thanks, I do know that great pictures do indeed originate between one's ears, but some
    consideration must surely be given to the method one uses to translate that idea onto a piece of silver coated
    emulsion. I think all photogs are, to some extent, gear junkies or at the very least, concerned about what sort
    of black box they are using for what sort of picture they're trying to make. In my case, I get lots of pleasure
    using my camera (meter, frame, focus, trip shutter at right moment, etc.) for the act of making pictures, as well
    as the pictures themselves.

    My interest in Leica stems primarily from the fact that I believe it is well suited for the kind of pictures I
    like to make and also my appreciation for something as singular, well built and with such storied history and
    reputation for reliability as the Leica M. That brings me right back to my original question; is the Leica *so*
    good at what it does, so enjoyable to use and of such profound quality and "feel" that using it, and continuing
    to shoot film outweighs the advantages of using more modern digital cameras and technology? It ain't the luxury
    of it or the status of it, there's something much more than that and I'd like to know what that is. That's all....
  6. Like Philip, I feel deeply unsettled about the M+film versus 'other' experience. I am fortunate enough to have an M6 classic, a Hexar RF, an M8 and a 5D. I hardly ever use the M6 or the RF. I love using the M6 but I am always disappointed by the results of the processing, whichever colour neg film I use. I have tried a large number of processing labs and there is always a colour cast or very weird colours. I have recently tried a process-paid Boots (Fuji) slide film but am still waiting for its return after two weeks. So I don't buy into the film is always better than digital. When my wife needs a picture of one of her paintings to upload to her website, I reach for the 5D with its staggeringly good Sigma 50mm f1.4 and the picture is on her site in 5 minutes!

    I, too, like street photography and the 5D is big and heavy so I use an M8. This is a quirky camera and is nowhere near as reliable as any of the Canons I've owned. It can only be used in RAW mode (JPGs are awful), but it does have a Leica M feel about it. It's also surprising noisy. I wish that I had bought an RD1s which is far less quirky.

    As far as point and shoot cameras are concerned, their tiny sensors are very limiting and I've never been very impressed.

    I would really like to like film! Then I could really enjoy my M6, but if I really need to get some good photos and can only take one camera it will be the 5D. If weight is a bit less restricted I'll add the M8.

    I would be cautious about using an older M without metering. That will be a controversial thing to say. After all HCB managed! I had an M2 for a short while before it died and I found it very frustrating to have to use a handheld meter. If you are used to 'in camera' metering, you might find it irritating. For street shots there is an advantage to automatic exposure which the M7 and the M8 have as do some of the Bessa's and Contaxes.
  7. You can do great things with digital or scanned film.

    If you like low light & wide aperture lenses, the M8 + ASPH is way better than my D700 Nikon + 50 1.4. WAY better. Not even a contest. No pixel peeping required. Same with film. The older lenses have less distinction, but still better. Digital Nikons do not auto focus with the accuracy required for 1.4 and manual can be difficult to perfection. Close is very easy. Perfect is difficult. The new D700 and D3 are way better than my D200 in this respect.

    At 5.6 things start to even out, but the Nikon glass never equals Leica in overall image quality.

    Old Leicas are like old cars. Be prepared to spend time and money. Very few are in perfect working condition and suffer from age related issues to numerous to describe. All are fixable at a cost. They are not cost effective unless you get lucky.

    Nikon has never invested in a really good 50. I guess they consider it an orphan that people buy with a camera because they need something and want to keep the price low.

    The newest Nikon glass competes in sharpness with the 1980 generation of Leica. Sharpness only, total image quality not. The newest ASPH designs leave Nikon in the dust. Even my 50 2.8 and 90 4.0 are significantly better than Nikon.

    Leica files will not take the same level of digital sharpening because they are sharper already. The limit is 1/2 to 2/3 what Nikon can take before halos appear. This is already with the1.3 crop sensor. Colors are deeper and richer. There is no anti alias filter to soften the image.

    Is it worth the $ required for Leica? Only you can say. You know your financials and know if 4x the cost is worth it for 200% better image quality at 1.4 and 20% at 5.6.
  8. The primary reasons for using Leica M film are:
    1. lens quality especially the ASPH lenses. I have sets of Leica RF lenses for the M3 and the new ASPH for my M6 and two M7's. Frankly unless you do objective testing, one can't tell the difference between the lenses.
    2. Quiet operation. The M3 is very quiet and I usually have Motor M's on my M7's which are still very quiet. I have a Leicavit which is lighter but winding with it upsets the camera position more than the normal winder or Motor M. The choice is yours. As an adjunct, it is possible to hold very slow speeds with practice with an M.
    3. Film. I can still shoot K64 and obtain better quality than any DX or FX format.
    I started shooting weddings with Nikon SLR equipment and then switched to Leica M mainly for the change and the less obtrusive operation. For Newspaper work, the SLR is king and I doubt anyone has used an M since the 1960's. In fact I purchased one of my M7's from a Long Island times photog, just didn't use it.
    For 'people' photography, the M is still 'King'. Quiet, fast and superlative quality, it just can't be beat.
    I also much prefer a meter in my camera so my M3 does not get used anymore.
    $$'s. Money spent on a used M6 whether Classic or TTL in Mint condition along with a few Mint lenses of the Summicron variety is about as good as it comes. The newer ASPH lenses are slightly better but not required.
    If the M8 took better pictures than my film M's, I would be using one.
    Good luck!-Dick
  9. I have been groping around in the dark for many months (or years even) trying to find some definite direction for my photography, and while I have been an adamant holdout for film in the face of the digital 'revolution', I have, very recently, caved a little and bought a Canon G10, which is a wonderful little camera when used within it's capabilities."

    Equipment won't help you find a "definite direction." You need to evaluate what to use from the type of photographs you take - cameras are only tools. IF you have found yourself shooting in a situation in which a Leica might provide better results, or if you find yourself thinking about shooting in situations where a Leica might provide better opportunities because of its intrinsic operating features - then, sure get a Leica.

    Otherwise, tools in and of themselves won't give you definite direction.
  10. SCL


    If you want a Leica then get one...don't be ambivalent. If you don't like it, sell it...they seem to hold their value pretty well. Personally I sold my M6ttl (a very nice camera) and kept my M4 (my companion off and on for almost 40 years), and have been using DSLRs since they came on the market. I mostly use the Leica M gear these days for B&W work, which I can scan if I want digital copies or prints, or I can print the output on my Focomat enlarger. Digital, for me, is a convenience factor.
  11. Still shooting film with no interest in shooting digital, although I do scan everything. With an M6 TTL and an M2, I prefer to shoot with the M2 + separate meter. As others have mentioned, lenses are superb, and the overall size of the package is small. I shoot 99% B&W and Im convinced digital capture is still an eternity away from delivering the tonality of traditional B&W films.
  12. cpj


    Short Answer: M8 used 90% of the time; M7 used 10% of the time, usually with Fuji Velvia ISO 50 chrome film for color intensity
    and regular use of wide aperture for predictable depth of field control. (The digital quality is there with the M8 and producing
    prints is easier if you are putting out 11x14's or larger.)
  13. I'm with Craig Cooper in his response, except I changed it slightly:

    Still shooting film with no interest in shooting digital, although I do scan everything. With an M4 and VC Meter II, I prefer to shoot Tri-X and Ilford HP5, FP4, and PanF+. As others have mentioned, lenses are superb, and the overall size of the package is small. I shoot 99% B&W and I'm convinced digital capture is still an eternity away from delivering the tonality of traditional B&W films. I also don't want to spend hours, trying to make digital images look like my preferred film stocks. And my Leica will not be obsolete in 2 years, unlike most digital SLR cameras.
  14. If you like Leica, then, don't think too much and get one :) I don't think you will regret later...I am using digital (Nikon) for work related
    (weddings, portraitures, and events), but, beside that, I shoot film on daily base, more personal project.

    I recently found some wedding film shooters, and I really like the outlook style that film create, and I am thinking of going back to film.
    For work related projects, I have no idea why I do digital or why I start using digital...and sometimes, I wonder, I end up spend more
    money using digital (updates couple times, unlike Leica, you won't be able to sell used equipment for a decent price, computer spaces,
    time spend sitting in front of computer editing...)

    Just my thought...
  15. Craig / Andrew - I wholeheartedly agree with the thought that good, self processed B&W film has qualities that
    digital cannot match. I can't say that for color print films, but that's partly because, as Harry Baker says,
    finding good processing for CP film is getting more and more scarce and I also think, unfortunately, that the
    beautiful results that I used to obtain from E6 have been somewhat eclipsed by the best digital technology. I
    will save my G10 for color, a task for which this camera is well suited as color usually happens in good light

    For low light and available light, I am convinced that the combination of B&W film and, hopefully, my future M6
    with Leica glass (or even less-dollar Zeiss glass, maybe?) will be a combination that will withstand the digital
    call for a long time to come. Without getting too close to the film v. digital debate, I still think (albeit,
    without a lot of first hand experience) that even the best and the fastest Nikon D3/D700 sensors cannot compete
    with the "low noise" performance of a frame of well developed Kodak T-Max 400 pushed to 1600, or even 3200. With
    that combo and a good, fast lens, I can shoot that in the dang near DARK and I don't have to hold up a huge,
    obvious and
    noisy black cannon in someone's face to do it!

    To me, that is the reason I can't keep my mind off of Leica and it's potential for that kind of photography. I
    love the thought of being able to make nice frames of diners eating in a candle-lit restaurant without being
    noticed, or frames of people on the street going about their business from 6 feet away and no one the wiser.
    *That* is candid photography in my mind; *that* is my excuse to continue in the film domain for awhile longer and
    *that* is the reason I asked for your generous input about your Leica experience.

    Thank you PN members for contributing your considerable experience and expertise!
  16. Hmm... low-light and available light are where I really reach for my digital cameras (not the P+S ones, of course). The RD1 I don't
    hesitate to use at 1600, the D3 I allow to go up to 6400...

    Of course, the D3 has the "noisy big black cannon" problem. The RD1 on the other hand fills the "Leica" style discreet RF shooting
    needs wonderfully.
  17. Jonas - RD1. That is very interesting. There is so little (relatively speaking) positive info out there on that
    camera, and that is disappointing. I would probably go for an RD1 if, like you say, it has good low-light, low
    noise performance at high ISO. What about the vignetting issue? I won't typically shoot wider then 35mm, but
    would like at least the option of plugging in a 28mm, or even maybe 24mm if the opportunity arises and there are
    lots of lens choices out there for that body. How does that camera do at those wide angles? How does it do at
    35mm? Oh, and I guess I'm not considering the 1.5x or so for the sensor right? - so I guess I mean 35mm
    equivalent. That crop factor makes a big difference. So what's the scoop? Is the RD1 possibly a good alternative
    to film Ms, or M8? Listening to you makes it sound pretty attractive.
  18. I'd owned M3s over the years but was always frustrated at not having a reliable on-body meter. Last spring I paid top dollar at a local dealer for an M6 that had been traded in on an M8 and also paid top dollar for a mint-in-box 50mm Summicron from a dealer who advertised in Shutterbug. Shot a few rolls of color film; didn't see the "look" I wanted, switched to B&W and am anchored there. Meanwhile, retired at age 77, I tote a 5-year-old Canon 10D for my occasional PJ freelance assignment. So it's Leica M6 for me, Canon 10D for the rest. Color me happy.
  19. Addendum: When the rangefinder says your image is sharp, it's SHARP! And when the light meter's two opposing red arrows indicate correct exposure regardless of shutter speed or f-stop, you're IN! And there's no photo sound like the soft click of a Leica shutter.
  20. If you're not prepared to do your own darkroom work, incl printing wet, I suggest you stick to digital.

    To scan is to digitise the film, which wastes a lot of time, esp if you want to get more out of it than the best digital cameras have to offer today. Might as well start with digital.

    But if you're prepared to do your own darkroom work, you'll find film is cheap and darkrooms are cheap and your prints will be beautiful and different from digital.
  21. Philip, here's a link to a well know digital photographer that experimented with a $5 film camera vs.a high dollar full frame digital SLR. He had the film developed and images scanned at a discount warehouse store. Very sobering results...

  22. I have a M6TTL with 24 2.8, 35 2.0, 50 2.0, 90 2.8 and a G7 and a 5D with several L leses. The 5D is really, really good.
    The G7 is ok. I take the best shots with the M6. I found that I use the 35 for >80% of my shots.
    I got the 5D not so long ago and now with the MkII coming along I'm thinking about replacing it. OTOH I've played around
    with all the successors of the M6 and never felt the need to replace it with a newer one.
    Desperately waiting for the M10 with high-iso/low-noise full-frame sensor .. one day?
  23. Oh, forgot, IQ-wise there's still nothing digital (that I've seen) that comes close to top Leica M optics / Fuji Provia displayed
    with a Colorplan lens.
  24. Wow! - what a lot of great input on this question and what a lot of different viewpoints offered from PN users
    and photographers. Certainly, in reading through this there is still a lot of controversy about IQ and which
    equipment produces the better picture. IMHO, "image quality" can be measured using all the usual parameters of
    sharpness, contrast, color accuracy, etc., and when you are only talking in those terms, the equipment used
    really makes the difference and the better camera will come out on top most of the time. Hence, digital v. film
    debates and Canon v. Nikon (v. Leica) debates ad infinitum. And, of course, the exception to every rule: to Ken
    Rockwell's point you can indeed take the occasional cheapo dog of a camera, coupled with a lot of skill and some
    ideal conditions and produce technically great images. So what? Would you use the cheap plastic camera to shoot
    an important wedding, or ad layout? uh...nope. Neither would I, and I'm not even making money with my pictures; I
    just want to enjoy the act of making them as much as I enjoy the end result and I can't see it happening with the
    $5 oddity.

    To add to that, I think image quality, in terms of comparing any great image to any mediocre one, can be measured
    with a whole different set of yardsticks, and it could easily turn out that the image made with the $0.25 Brownie
    bought at the yard sale yields the far superior image, thus, higher "IQ". By a long shot. But image quality isn't
    really what this is about in my mind. No one will ever convince a die-hard digital photographer that 'film is
    better', and vice-versa for the die-hard film user. That isn't the point and it's why those arguments never go
    anywhere except round 'n round 'n round.

    I think almost everyone can agree that making pictures is an art *and* a craft, as has been said here before, and
    that you really can't have one without the other and still make consistently good pictures. So, for my part, I
    will continue to work on the "art" part of it and continue to search for my direction, style, or what have you.
    As for the craft, I thoroughly enjoy using the 'tools of the trade' and that's not to say the camera is more
    important than the pictures either. They both are important, if not equally so, and if I am enjoying the camera I
    happen to be using at the time, I can be pretty sure that my pictures will reflect some of that enthusiasm. That
    is really the reason I asked this question in the first place; I wanted to know what people thought about their
    film Leica Ms and was the craft part of making pictures *with* the Leica, important enough for them to forgo

    I really want to jump on the Leica bandwagon and I probably will, too. And in no small part from some of the
    responses you've graciously given here. It won't be an M3 either - my eyes are open now and I will opt for the
    metered M6 as soon as finances allow. As for film, I will keep an eye on the digital world out there and I'll
    hang onto my nifty little digital G10, as I get a big kick out of it too, for what it's worth. I'm just glad to
    hear that some of you are still shooting film Leicas and intend to continue doing so. I must think it's for the
    excellent image quality and "aptness" for the task at hand, as for the sheer pleasure of using them which, by the
    way, seem to me to be a long, long way away from obsolescence indeed.
  25. This all reminds me of golf lessons; many questions, many teachers many options, , no answers. Namaste.
  26. Philip, although I like math, I hate menus. I like problem solving like using Excel to create a special complex spreadsheet to solve or study something I'm interested in, but I hate figuring out why a print driver won't work because I see it as an obstacle to what I want: a hoop to jump through more than a task fundamentally rooted in the end product. I have a fair amount of knowledge of technical photographic issues, so using my M is enjoyable because it seems so simple to me even as I have total control. It is designed for that. (I've only had it for about 5 years, but it was a natural extension of the way I used my manual film SLRs and the rangefinder was a revelation with little learning curve for me.) Honestly, I am not on a quest to improve my photography either, which is fortunate because I am simply too lazy to go through a 1/2" thick digital camera manual. So I use a digital point and shoot for basic stuff because it is cheap, but I don't particularly enjoy it and have never read the manual.

    Granted my disincentive to learn new equipment has something to do with the fact that there simply isn't anything out there in digital (or even film SLR) that can do what I enjoy considering that my highest priority is on small size equipment with great low light and wide angle capability. Let's say I go on a trip with my 35 cron aspherical and my Voigtlander 15 mm. Yea, I think Nikon made a 24 f2 that would be a 36 f2 on one of their consumer DSLRs, but it won't even meter on those bodies. There is absolutely no compact digital equivalent for my M6 with the 15mm VC. Then consider that my used M6 with a new VC15 cost about $1500, which is the entry price for a D300, I think, which is bigger and with no economical lens SO SMALL to achieve what this set up does. I can take this 2 lens set up with me anywhere with my wife on vacation or anniversery (maybe with a tiny 90 f4 for a portrait at dusk) and enjoy myself a bit creatively with her (35 f2 of her at the table from 7' with backlighting, hand held) without having to lay a big honking DSLR and megazoom on the dinner table at the restaurant she wants to go to in the evening. Then we can go back to the hotel, and I take a picture of the cool bathroom with 15mm superwide braced against the door frame because it is a slow lens. Maybe I'm weird. Its easy. Its awesome. I love it. Maybe one day there will exist a mini 4/3rds digital system that can do this, but there isn't now.
  27. Recently I came in possession of a Leica M1 in superb condition. I also have Canon 40D with 6 fine lenses. Let me put it this way: I would not trade M1 for a new 5D mark II fully aware that it is totaly irational. About some things man have to listen to his hart. This is not vs. issue.
  28. Once the M8 arrived, the M6 and M3 got packed away and I never used them again.

    If I didn't have an M8, perhaps my primary camera would be my Sigma DP1. A quirky thing, but it sure takes fine photos.

    Main places I might still use film are large-format work and panoramas.
  29. I shoot film exclusively in M7/M6. And usually only one of the many great colour films currently available. For six pounds
    GBP per roll I have film developed and scanned to CD in 18Mb files at a near-by pro lab -- this provides me with what I
    regard as a sort of digital contact sheet. I tweak 'prints' in P/Shop (making minimal adjustments). To me this seems the best
    of both worlds. But then I have no one (generally speaking) waiting on my pictures, no deadlines to meet, and no need to
    adopt a working method other than this.

  30. And I presume that some think that digital has gone about as far as it is going to go?

    Digital is barely off the ground, and now we are comparing it to Leica. Six years ago, when I first started shooting digital, no one would have suggested such a thing.

    Where will we be in another five or six years?

    As for someone's link to Ken Rockwell's site, I have to say that Ken manages to get some of the worst results from the 5D that I have ever seen. That takes real talent. Here is a crop from a snap that I took with a 5D:


    Back to my original point, though: film is not progressing very much. Digital is. Is digital already superior? If so, look for the gap to widen. If not, look for the gap to close fast, and then watch digital pull away. I wish that it were not so. I don't like to sit in front of the computer to process images, but, if I want the best results and the most creative control, that is what I really have to do.

    No one disputes the quality of Leica optics and overall engineering. But the mystique? Well, that is a very personal thing, I presume. Photographic technology could have stopped with Leica film technology, but it didn't. The comparison therefore cannot only be between was is already out there. A truly meaningful comparison would have to be about possible futures. Leica glass on new Leica sensors sounds good to me, if I had the money to do it.

  31. The answer is pretty simple for me. I shoot Leica (and other film cameras) 99% in B&W film. Digital B&W output cannot
    compete with film yet, on the other hand, digital colour is very competitive against film, and it really boils down to taste in
    the final output, while the convenience is obviously on the part of digital. So I shoot film, scan and print on an inkjet.
  32. You're right, this isn't a film v. digital argument. For me, leaving quality and everything else aside, it's a manual thumb powered camera versus something that requires you to carry a mobile nuclear power station sort of argument. My M (in the past M4-P, M2, M6, M6TTL 0.58, now MP 0.58) + two lenses (24 Elmarit + 50 pre-ASPH 'Lux) goes travelling with me. Sometimes I travel to cities, where batteries are available, but sometimes I travel to places where they aren't. Before I was a Leica user I sed Nikon F's. back in the early 1990's my wife and I took a holiday to Egypt, and spent the third week going up Sinai in a shared jeep. The people travelling with us had a very new (by the standards iof the day) Camcorder. Styopping overnight at St Catherine's monastery (the burning bush, Jacob's Well, Mount Sinai) i got up early the next morning to take some sunrisy pictures. Coming back down I met my new frien, without the camcorder. "Not taking pictures today?" I enquired. "Wouldn't charge" he said. And that was that. After St Catherine's monastery we crossed the Red Sea into Jordan and saw Petra. I sent him a spare set of prints, as he still hadn't managed to charge the camcorder. Given the choice between a Nikon F with plain prism and a Leica M, of whatever sort, I'd take the M these days, although there's nothing wrong with the F. But something totally reliant on batteries...?
  33. Philip, my vote is for a M6 TTL. It offers so much... Value, meter, flash accuracy and old world durability.

    Lannie, Ken Rockwell's link shows me that there are other alternatives for the folks that truly WANT to own a Leica
    and still post great/affordable digital results. Ken's knowledge and photographic skills are top notch. He's a big
    digital Canon & Nikon fan, who was just making a point for those that can't afford the high dollar DSLR's. After all,
    Philip did indicate that cameras priced like the M8 where out of his budget range.

    Besides Lannie, your unknown lens example of a CENTER portion enlargement, doesn't address: "The $5 Olympus
    Trip 35 is sharper, since the Canon 17-40mm got a little softer in the CORNER and the Olympus' sharpness stayed
    as high as it was in the center. These crops would print the entire image at 44" x 29" (110 x 70 cm) if you printed the
    entire image at this magnification." Little less than a 4 foot by 3 foot poster size !

    Back to my original $5 point, though; if someone goes the route of new or old Leica FILM equipment, in light of the
    Trip 35 experiment, can have FANTASTIC results!
  34. Instead of answering in the abstract, I will offer a comparison of two pieces of equipment with which I am personally familiar. I have both a Leica M2 and a Canon Powershot G5, a 5.0 megapixel digital camera. The G5 is a good camera, but for most uses that count to me, the Leica wins hands down. The M2 focuses accurately in dim available light. The G5 is unable to do so. The G5's autofocus hunts and hunts in dim light without reaching accurate focus, so the G5 is basically unusable in such situations except with the built-in flash. While I have to use a hand-held meter to set the Leica's shutter speed and aperture manually in advance, the Leica shutter fires almost instantaneously, with almost zero shutter lag when I go to take the picture. The G5 pauses between pushing the shutter and taking the picture while the autofocus and autoexposure functions set the camera before the shutter goes off, and although these functions work relatively quickly considering the complex functions involved, the gap between depressing the shutter part way until the green focus light comes on and then pushing the shutter the rest of the way until the shutter fires can seem like an eternity when the subject is in motion. While the Canon zoom lens on the G5 is surprisingly good, the Leica fixed focal length lenses on the M2 are better, and the M2 can use the latest M-Mount lenses offered by Leica (or other firms such as Zeiss), while the lens of the G5 is a fixed-mount lens that cannot be updated. The M2, being a manual camera that does not need batteries, works at any time and in a wide range of temperature conditions. The G5, being dependent upon a rechargeable battery, works only when the battery is charged, does not seem to have a very long battery life, and seems to have an even shorter battery life when the weather is cold. The M2 is a strongly built and durable camera, with spare parts and service still available 50 years after it was manufactured. The G5, while a well-made camera, appears significantly less durable in terms of ability to withstand unintentional abuse without major damage, and I doubt that it will be repairable 10 years from now, never mind 50. The G5 does offer a couple of good features, however. Assuming that the battery is charged and there is enough like for the autofocus system to function, the G5 allows me to download images to my computer quickly, while with the M2 I have to wait several days to get developed film and a photo CD back before I can see how the pictures came out. Since the G5 has a zoom lens, I don't have to change lenses to change focal lengths. The G5 is also good at allowing close-ups. On overall balance, the G5 is a good camera, I like it, and I can see why some people prefer some of the conveniences of digital photography, but the M2 is a great deal better at the things that really count to me.

    As with all such questions, the answer turns upon your personal preferences and the types of photography that you do most often, as much as upon the equipment itself. For available-light photography, candid portraiture, and extended shooting under field conditions, a Leica M is hard to beat. I don't do "street" photography myself, but many people appear to find Leica M cameras ideal for that kind of work, because one can set the exposure in advance, zone focus with a wide-angle lens, and then compose and shoot very rapidly when an opportunity presents itself. For casual shooting in daylight conditions where you want to be able to see your pictures the same day, a digital camera might be preferable. For sports photography or long-range nature photography requiring long telephoto lenses, a DSLR would probably be preferable.
  35. "If you like low light & wide aperture lenses, the M8 + ASPH is way better than my D700 Nikon + 50 1.4. WAY better. Not even a contest. No pixel peeping required. Same with film."

    Since I'm interested in both these cameras, I'd like to know exactly what you mean here. Are you saying 1) the M8 itself is better in low light? (there seems to be a lot of well supported info claiming the opposite). Are you saying 2) that the M8 focuses more accurately, and therefore produces better results? Or 3) are you just saying that at wide apertures the 50 lux asph is sharper than Nikon's 50/1.4? (who would dispute that?). Or even 4) some combination of these things?

    If 2, then are you saying the Nikon D700 focuses inaccurately in low light? If so, how low, at what distances etc. by how much is it off, could it be user error? Could manually focusing help improve things?

    If 3, then have you tried other lenses - the Zeiss 50/1.4, the Voigtlander SLII 40/2? Or even the Nikon 50/1.8?

    I'd appreciate a considered reply - even better if you could post some evidence.
  36. I shoot street. I need AE. I prefer loading film via swing back. I want a relatively a long EBL. I want good value. I
    bought a Zeiss ZI.
  37. I got an idea, how about just go out and photograph and stop worrying about the film digital nonsense.....
  38. Hi,
    just adding fuel to the fire ... in the last months I finally realized that I have two photographic "modes":
    1) Landscapes (mostly, ruins) & still-life
    2) Streets candid & travel

    For my mode (1) I have a Contax 645 that is a dream and joy but,most of all, does exactly what I want. The problem is that is quite unsuited for my mode (2) for which I would need a small, silent, sturdy, quality camera (with fast lenses).

    Looking around I sorted out various possibilities:
    - Leica M8/M8.2
    - Leica M7/MP
    - Zeiss Ikon
    - Bessa R2/3 (A/M)
    - Epson R-D1s
    - Old RF (Canon 7, Canon P, Leica M3, Leica M4 ...)

    After taking into account size, sound, comfort (i.e. swing back, AE), durability and money the right tool for my needs seems to be (in my opinion) either the Epson R-D1s or the Zeiss Ikon but I'm a bit perplexed about the Dynamic Range and Resolution of the Epson.
  39. Everything else aside, there is a problem with most digital cameras, save a handful: they are not full frame. This goes
    for the M8 and the RD-1s. If you are keen on wide angle and are a committed RF shooter, for whatever reason, film is
    still medium. This is why I pack a film M camera along with my M8. Lately, I've gone back to my mechanical Ms.

    It's not "film vs digital." It's what you want to produce.

    I have confessed this often enough but I'll do it again. I am a inept at processing my own film and have never had the
    where with all to assemble a darkroom for black and white, much less color. The digital revolution has been a liberation
    because my darkroom is a computer, a scanner, the Internet and an inkjet printer. I know I have missed out on the joys
    the traditional darkroom, but such is life.

    I absolutely recommend an M6 or another M if you love RF photography. A good mechanical M is less headaches in the
    long run--say I a confirmed M8 addict.
  40. I bought a Canon 10D in 2003. I was frustrated by the digital learning curve and thought that my camera would not
    produce good images. I blamed the technology, and bought a Leica MP a la carte. I used both cameras that year
    and by August of 2005, after suddenly having lost regular access to a wet darkroom, my post-processing Photoshop
    skills began to yield images from the 10D as good as those I'd been making with my film cameras.

    Since then, my MP has become a very expensive paperweight. It is the single most ill-timed and poorly thought out
    purchase I've ever made. Its a wonderful tool; there are perhaps none better, but its not for me. Given the choice
    that digital offers, I don't responsibly have the extra time needed to expose and process and print film. Losing the
    access to a darkroom was a bit of a surprise. Inasmuch as I've not had to buy film for the Leica, the price of the 10D
    has now been offset. So, I'm not really out any more money beyond the (rather substantial) purchase price of the
    Leica by having both.

    I came away from my experience having bought two very nice cameras and having learned one very expensive
    lesson. If others are getting good results using the same camera that I have, and I'm not getting good results,
    maybe its not the camera!

    I should probably sell the Leica, but somehow cannot talk myself into doing so.

    Michael J Hoffman
  41. what I like most about the Leica M is its positive fast focusing -- always dead on. The 35/50mm ASPH glass is nice too.

    There is something uniquely special about bringing up my MP/Summilux ASPH to my eye and having it represent what I see.
  42. I can understand not wanting to part from your MP, Michael. But if ever you do, well, let us know.
  43. The simplest solution if you find yourself lusting after a Leica is to just buy it. Then look at it, hold it in your hands, caress
    it in the evenings when watching TV. Oh, yeah, and take a few photos with it. Get it out of your system. Whether you end
    up loving or hating the Leica, you will always wonder until you actually own one and shoot it. Lots of folks end up loving
    them, lots of folks don't. But you will never know how YOU will react by reading threads on Internet forums.
  44. I purchased an MP brand new in 2004 and then sold it a few years later fearing the "end of film" and thereby reducing the value of the camera...

    Biggest mistake I have ever made in selling that camera. I now on an M6 and a number of lenses and also own a digital camera.

    Ultimately, a camera is a tool and its a case of "horses for courses". There are things the Leica will always do better than a huge DSLR, and vice versa..
  45. Digital is cool. At some point I want to get a full frame M or full frame Canon to complement my film Canon and M.

    That being said, I have so much fun shooting film, mostly with my M, but even with my SLR. I do mostly black and
    white and process it my own. I mostly scan it to, but manage to get into the darkroom once a month or so.

    Get an M6. The couple extra hundred dollars or so buys you a meter, easier film loading, and probably avoids the need
    for a CLA. Or get a Zeiss Ikon.

    Alternately, keep shooting with what you have. It's a good setup.

    A DSLR is certainly more versatile. And more easily produces big prints. And is more convenient to get pictures onto
    your computer. But, not everything needs to be super versatile. I enjoy my quirky camera and my quirky images.
    Grain/noise at ISO 1600? I can deal.
  46. Think about it like this. If you buy a DSLR you are basically buying into an upgrade cycle. Your DSLR will be great for a few years, but then you'll start wanting the next big thing. You might even make it 4 or 5 years before you upgrade, but you will want to upgrade eventually. So, instead of making your jump into the DSLR upgrade cycle with something like a 5D, make it with an M6. It's futile to resist the cycle completely, so just think of the M6 as your first DSLR purchase. When you're ready to upgrade in a few years, you can get the latest DSLR, better than what is currently available, and still have a perfectly fine M6. Who knows. By then you might be eyeing an M9.
  47. Your question almost brings up the less common rangefinder vs. SLR debate. Like Vel, I shoot mostly landscapes or street... meaning 21-50mm. A rangefinder excels at the focal lengths. The ultra wide angle lenses are going to be much smaller and lighter than their SLR counterparts. The M3 body will be a lot smaller than the full frame DSLR.
    I recommend a M3 with a Voigtlander VCII meter . It's a good comprimise between the two. You can always sell both for at or near the same value. Digital, you will have a lot of depreciation.
    Digital, don't forget about shutter lag. There is a lot of post processing. I scan, but I don't need to spend hours in Photoshop. I don't feel the need to develop my photos either. Bresson didn't so why do I have to?
  48. It depends on why you are into photography. Photographs have to come into it somewhere, but aren't mentioned much in the OP. If you like photography because it lets you fondle lumps of mechanical perfection then buy a Leica. But ask your self if the photos will show any difference. Lots of people claim that Leica lenses are "better" than any others. I used Leicas for years but never saw that difference. My Leica's have been sitting in a cupboard since I bought a couple of DSLRs. I can honestly say that the DSLRs with their automation and various gizmos have enabled me to take pictures that I never would have taken with my Leicas.

    I shoot colour and I think that is a key point in my views. If I still shot black and white I would be more tempted to continue with film, as black and white film has much more latitude than digital cameras. Another factor is that I have acquired a family. A two year old does not leave much time or energy for developing films or anything like that.

    For me, the bottom line is I want to take pictures and I don't care about the stuff that enables me to do it. I want to record my life and what is happening around me. No one else cares about the hardware used, why should I?

    Regards and good luck in whatever you decide.


  49. More simply put: Do you still prefer to use your film M with all of the digital options out there?
    I left my M6 in the back of a cab on Feb 1. As far as my photography is concerned, it was the best thing I ever did. I was never really satisfied with what I was getting from my Leica, and when I looked at the work on this forum, I saw even less to get excited about.
    I don't shoot digital. These days I shoot almost all medium format, mostly with Holgas. At least give MF a go. It's quite an experience. I shoot street.
    Before you rush out and spend your hard-earned cash, take a look at the work of people on this forum. See if any of it matches your own expectations and aspirations. If not, go to Flickr and expand you search to include other camera systems. There's so much out there! Bottom line -- Take your time.
    (On a purely selfish-indulgent note, I suggest you check out Kiev MF cameras)

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