Warning: What follows is satire… there is a degree of truth AND exaggeration in what you are about to read.
Confessions and Observations of a Leica user…
I finally took the plunge and bought a Leica. I had to discover for myself the meaning of the Leica Mystique. The unboxing was an incredible experience for me after waiting days for the UPS truck to arrive.
I may find it difficult to put into words how it feels to use this camera and the handcrafted lenses I have purchased for it. Nevertheless, I will try.
I have discovered that when using the Leica I achieve a Zen-like state. I become one with the camera. My vision through the bright, optical viewfinder results in an elevated state of awareness of what I see. My composition becomes slow and thoughtful. I become aware of all that is in the frame and all that is not as well as that which will soon be in the frame. I can anticipate the decisive moment at which I am to press the shutter release and capture the perfect image.
It no longer seems to matter that my photos are not perfectly in focus as even some of the mundane shots I have taken now appear to be fine art photography due to the way the Leica renders the shot.
The bokeh produced by the Leica lenses is simply not attainable by a lesser lens and camera combination. I finally understand the meaning of the phrase “The Leica Look”.
Yes, I admit the price tag was high. I spent part of my children’s college fund and I took out a second mortgage to obtain my Leica and two lenses but I have to say it was worth it. You only live once, why not enjoy it? The amazing Noctilux f/0.95 allows me to take photographs in near total darkness and was well worth the $10,000 price tag. Using it I can now isolate a single moth in flight with a beautiful, out of focus, background and foreground. I can also shoot a rock concert by the light produced by a single butane lighter held aloft by a concert goer in the crowd, its small flame illuminating the stage and musicians allowing me to capture the scene. This is only possible using the Noctilux and my Leica.
I know many will not understand this but when using the Leica I sometimes find myself feeling as if I am having an out of body experience, floating above the scene I am about to photograph. Colors are more vivid, even though I can’t seem to shoot anything but Black & White. I now see details which I never saw before in the photographs I produced using lesser cameras and lenses. A testament to the superior quality of the Leica M lenses.
Since acquiring my Leica I am drawn to street photography as never before. I now enjoy and see the beauty of capturing a group of people on a smoke break, an old woman crossing the street burdened with four bags of groceries, people having coffee in a restaurant, merchants at fruit stands, bicycle messengers, pigeons in flight and so much more. I have also discovered a whole new world of things to shoot and I owe it all to my Leica. I don’t know how or why, it just happens. A single leaf on the sidewalk is now something I am drawn to photograph. I can’t explain it. It’s just a leaf but yet when photographed with my Leica it becomes something more.
The depth of field indicator on the barrel of the lens and the manual focus allows me to pre-focus, insuring I get the shot. I can shoot from the hip and my subject is not aware that I have taken their photograph. This also insures I don’t get my ass kicked by those subjects who do not wish to have their photo taken. In addition, the whisper quiet shutter allows me to do such things as take a close-up of a sleeping Pit Bull without fear of waking him and the resulting trip to the emergency room for stitches and a Rabies shot. Try that with your big, mirror-slapping, DSLR.
I have also found that the Leica M is far less intimidating than my old DSLR. My subjects no longer run for cover or turn away from the camera as they did when I was using my DSLR. The small size of the Leica M does not threaten them at all. In fact, they don’t even seem to notice I have a camera. It is very stealthy. The small size of the Leica M does not draw the attention of the police or rent-a-cops when I am taking photos in the city. I apparently am no longer considered to be a terrorist plotting to destroy buildings, statues and fruit stand by bored security guys and the local police.
The sheer simplicity of the Leica M frees me from searching through seemingly endless menus to make some adjustment. I can set the ISO, shutter speed and aperture and need not worry about such things as face detection, auto focus (there is none), film styles and such useless things as video and scene settings. Finally, I own a camera that is the pure essence of photography in its simplest form. It is invigorating. The camera itself does not get in the way of the photographer.
I am now free of lugging around 30 pounds of camera gear which often resulted in back and shoulder pain. I no longer need or desire a zoom lens as I have discovered that I can zoom with my feet. I am no longer out of breath from carrying my gear with me when walking from one location to another. The Leica is easily carried in a small Billingham bag which is quite fashionable as well as functional.
When not actually taking photographs with my Leica I can spend time caressing the handmade body and marvel at the jewel-like lenses. Just holding the Leica in my hands makes me feel like a real photographer. Its ownership gives me a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment unequalled by any other camera purchase I have made in the past. Not to mention feeling as if I belong to a brotherhood of photographers using a Leica.
I feel a kinship with the Saudi Princes, the rich and famous and Henri Cartier Bresson. I, as a photographer, am forever changed by this handcrafted device of metal and glass, lovingly honed to perfection by skilled workers and artisans in Germany.
I will try my best not to be an evangelist for Leica but it is difficult not to proclaim the superiority of this finely crafted photographic tool and extoll the virtues and joy of using a Leica to any and all who will listen.
I have seen the light and now my Leica will allow me to capture it like never before.
John J Fictitious
But Seriously Folks…
This is satire.. with a bit of truth, nothing more, so please don’t take it personally or become defensive if you are a Leica owner. Much of what was written above was derived or distilled from actual statements and posts made by Leica owners on various forums on the Internet that I have frequented over the years since the Leica M8 was introduced. Some of it came from my own personal experience with the Leica M8. Please, make no mistake; I am a fan of Leica but also a critic…. and I happen to have a sense of humor.
I’ve owned and used a Leica M and I can truly understand how many Leica owners feel about their cameras. The M system is “special” and truly is capable of producing some absolutely amazing photographs. I know, I’ve seen them and drooled over them wishing I had taken them myself.
There is one thing you will hear on every forum that is Leica specific and that is: “A rangefinder is not for everybody.” If you are thinking of buying an M system then do your best to use one before you buy one. You may find that a rangefinder is not for you. I finally came to realize that my Leica M8, which I saved and saved for, was not for me. It just was not versatile enough for what and how I shoot but for others and maybe you, a Leica M may be perfect. I enjoyed using the M8 a lot but in the end sold it due to the amount of money I had tied up in it and the lenses.
Will owning a Leica M make you a better photographer? My gut says no but then I really can’t say. I guess if owning and using one somehow gives you the confidence you need to take your photography to the next level, why not?
I, like many, continue to wish that the Leica M system was more affordable but the phrase “affordable Leica” is an oxymoron for many of us. There is no denying that Leica glass is some of the most amazing glass in the world and it shows in photograph after photograph. Even when mounted on non-Leica bodies it is amazing glass and produces great photographs. Let’s hope that one day Leica will produce “the Leica camera for the rest of us” which will embody the greatness of Leica glass without the astronomical cost of the M body. I know, I know, snowball’s chance in hell but we can always dream, right?
Personally, I have always said the heart and soul of Leica is not the M body but the M glass. I still believe that it’s all about the glass and there is simply no denying that Leica makes amazing glass. If you missed the link earlier, click here to see why.
Maybe there will be a surprise at the upcoming Photokina… or the next… or the one after that… I, like many of you, will be watching to see what Leica does now and in the future…. and I will continue to play the lottery.