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Digital M In Light Of Nikon D200

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Reasons to buy Digital M over D200? I can think of the following


a. It's smaller.


b. It focuses better in low light


c. If you want to shoot in certain types of shots/situations where a rangefinder is preferred over a DSLR (eg concert, in court, etc)


d. If you want to use your existing Leica glass


e. If you like using rangefinders


f. If you hate scanning film.


g. If you got too much $$$.


"there's no way that a DM body will be worth an extra $3000 just to be able to use it"


A thing's worth is a very personal judgement. You have made yours. Others will make theirs. What I understand now, four years into using Leicas, is that


(a) Price and quality are related. By quality, I mean as in the difference between a Bentley and a Lexus, not just in terms of meeting specs or mean time between failure


(b) Resale value is very good, so when you sell out, you don't lose much, esp. if you buy second hand


© Although there are some crazy prices, by and large Leica prices are so because they are handmade by expensive but highly skilled German workers, using premium materials. To take lenses for example, using metal may not affect optical performance, but it sure makes the lens user feel like a million dollars.


On the depreciation of a digital M, I suspect it may not follow the usual route. Witness the DMR-- resale prices are holding up very well, basically because of the low production, because most buyers intend to keep and use it for a long time, and because Leica has no habit of releasing new products every 18 months (unlike Canon).


Sensor technology has peaked (many observers have stated that the megapixel race is over), so further technical improvements are going to be limited. Rather, like film SLRs before, manufacturers will compete on features (eg autofocus performance, WiFi/WiMax capability, etc). But Leica stands out for its manual controls and will not be involved in such competition.


If there is no Digital M2 to replace the Digital M in 18 months, prices are unlikely to change much in the resale market, and the depreciation will likely be minimal.


This is a good time to be introducing the Digital M. I do not agree with people who feel Leica missed the digital revolution. Given Leica's brand position (absolutely high-end stuff) and limited resources, releasing a cheap 4 or 6 MP Digital M would have compromised the brand identity, especially since it would have cost $5,000. The most expensive part of a digital M is not the sensor, but the labour and materials that goes into making it. Now that sensors are much cheaper than 3-5 years ago, and they are cleaner and higher pixel count, it's finally possible for Leica to make a digital M that will meet users' expectations (10 MP or more) and one that will not face megapixel obsolescence so quickly.

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Depreciation of an M digital in an industry that is still experiencing rapid changes in technology is an issue. However, if history is guide, Leica still made and sold film cameras despite the advancement in film camera technology, addition of AF, built-in motors, multi-pattern metering, etc. etc.


I would not necessarily expect a digital M to depreciate as rapidly as digital SLRs, although no one can predict what will happen.

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If the price is right I'll certainly buy a digital M, for all the points Max has listed - smaller size, quieter shutter, better ability to hand-hold at lower shutter speeds, better to manually focus in low light and the ability to use all my Leica lenses.


The D 200 is still a clunky blob of an SLR - being digital doesn't change that, lenses are big and not that great wide open (the Zeiss's may be an exception), and wide angles will be slow.


Of course, it will have all the advantages that SLRs have and will be much better for wildlife photography, sport and macro - none of which I'm very interested in.

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Michael Reichmann on Luminous Landscape says sensors are already outrunning the

quality of available lenses -- so, he says, lens quality does mean something, and to put

his money where his mouth is, he went out and bought a bunch of digital-specific lenses

for his MF back. Generally, the feeling he projects is that routine Canon/Nikon/Zeiss glass

no longers matches up with sensor quality.




Shooting RF is different than shooting SLR. I still plan to use my SLR, but frankly, haven't

picked it up (it's a D2x) since I got an R-D1. The experience of shooting is not the same.

Maybe for somebody else, it is. And when summer comes, and I can get out on the

landscape again, I'll be working with the D2x some more.


The "roughly the same size" school of thought hasn't handled both. My 17-35 Nikon

zoom, all by itself, feels as though it weights as much as my R-D1 with a tri-elmar

attached. I haven't looked up the exact weights, so it may be an illusion. I know I can fit an

R-D1 and five lenses in the bottom of a briefcase, and a Nikon system with five lenses

would need wheels. Nikon does have much better flash than Leica's ever had -- much

better than Canon, too -- but Leicas aren't really thought of as flash cameras.


The high ISO argument is not so simple. Which has a higher ISO? A Canon that shoots

excellent 1600 at 2.8 or a Leica that shoots excellent 800 at 1.4? And the D200 (while an

excellent camera) is not known as a brilliant high-ISO performer; that means Leica will

give you an extra stop or two.


There's a thread on the Rangefinder forum right now about the difference between

shooting a DSLR and a Rangerfinder. A big DSLR says, "There's a photographer in the

house, look good!" while a rangefinder doesn't seem to say much of anything. People tend

to think of them as touristy P&S cameras.


When people shot film, most serious photographers shot SLRs because of their obvious

advantages with telephotos and macro work. And there are some great SLRs -- I've haven't

been without multiple Nikons since sometime in the 1970s. But at the same time, a lot of

great photographers were shooting RF. They had reasons for doing that. Those reasons

might not be worth $3000 to some people, but for others, they would be.



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Other than doctor fondlers, it's basically the digital crowd. You know, the people who prefer to scan film, work on photoshop and print on inkjets rather than use an enlarger.


A real fondler would go for the limited editions, the latest being the Ralph Gibson model.


I'm not keen on the digital M because (a) I don't have $5,000 to blow right now, and (b) I prefer the darkroom. But that's just me.


Minus you and me, there WILL still be a long queue of buyers for the digital M when it comes out. And believe it or not, these will be people who buy it to use. They will be serious amateurs, and maybe some working pros (like wedding photographers). And they will make good use of the digital M, not just put it in a display case.


Believe it or not, if you are currently scanning film, the digital M will save you so much time (and give you so much better control over white balance to boot) that $5,000 is nothing, esp. when you amortise it over 5 years. And the high resale value will help if you ever want to sell out.

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Andy, if you'd used an M, then how is it you can't tell the difference between using a rangefinder and a SLR? Why did you get the M7 instead of a Nikon F5/6?


As for whether I'll get the DM, I'll have to say that it depends on how well the images look at high ISO settings. In any case, the D200 is not the best tool for low-lights anyway, for one thing because it is not a rangefinder, and secondly, if I'm going to use a DSLR for low-lights, I'd use the Canon 5D.

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"If I was a well-paid Photojournalist I would."


probably not, John. PJ's use fill flash and zooms for 99% of their work and would only buy something with those abilities. Documentary style, maybe, with your own look when you can do things at your pace, yeah, i could see it.


Max, it's all a trade off. The only reason I don't have a 5D at the moment is because of the lack of wide angles from Canon. When they get thier 17-55 out, I'll give it another shot. Until then, I'll take a little bit more noise, from Nikon, with a lot more lens choice.

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Andy, your argument is sound with respect to most people, but it doesn't apply to those people who currently own half a dozen M lenses and no Nikon ones.


Since I own 3 of each, I guess for me it would depend on what Leica comes up with. I've been meaning to buy a D200, but B&W film still does it for me, and for my digital needs, my Pentax *istDS has been perfect (meters with lots of cheap, nice old lenses too).

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The comparison of the D200 to the Digital M is not correct, nor will it ever be, no matter what sensor is in the cameras. Using a rangefinder is a completely different animal than an slr, its kind of like saying a crown graphic is just as good at 150 bucks than a Canham DLC 4x5 at 2000k. They are completely different animals that could allow you to shoot the same kind of film, so they must be the same. So the Crown must better because it is cheaper and anybody buying a Canham is a fondling richy who desperately needs to show his superiority.


BTW, the Pentax digital slr cameras can meter with MF lenses.

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A system is only as good as its lenses. If a Nikon dSLR can AE meter with Leica lenses then we'll talk, else if an F mount Zeiss 21mm is on the way. Meanwhile all those Ai lenses collecting dust in every Main Street used photo dealers' shelves will continue to sit there.
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