Are Leica cameras worth the money, and is there a difference in image quality? I don’t think any sane person can ever justify the price of a Leica camera. They feed on consumers biggest fear that unless you pay through your teeth for something, you will not be able to take good images. Because of Leica’s outrageous price, buyers assume better pictures. I will admit that quality boosts your confidence. I will admit that quality boosts your confidence.
Trust in your equipment just gives you that physiological edge, but you must do some self-analysis when a good camera costing $1000 and the other is $7000 and has a ¼ of the functions, that the latter will provide X7 times better IQ and will sell for more.
You don’t buy a Leica only because of it’s specs but because it makes a statement over your wealth and status within the society, therefore you wouldn’t expect to pay a real small amount for it.Non-Leica user
A printed A2-A3 image from a Leica and comparable full-frame camera (APS as well) is not discernible to 99.99% of people. The 0.01% will only be able to tell the difference when pixel peeping, and having a lengthy debate which is which. The 0.01% are not the ones paying for your prints, they either sell camera equipment, design them or are artists themselves. The 99.99% will also not pay 7X more just because it is done with a Leica.
If lens quality is your concern, stick a Voigtlander in front of your camera to get a little extra micro-contrast. It will not break your bank and you have the ultimate luxury of manual focus as well. In some cases, many of your camera functions will not work so you will be as limited as a Leica with the same or even better quality image IQ.
Leica cameras are unreachable to the bourgeois
If you can’t have something, you want it. The price of Leica cameras are not set according to their intrinsic value, but rather to place it in a segment only reachable by a targeted segment of photographers. It is the same segment that Patek Philippe watches are targeting. These watches are not better at keeping time than any other $50 Swatch watch. Yes, there is beautiful artwork, and they are handcrafted, much more so than a Leica camera.
The lure or dream of owning a Leica is not created by the intrinsic quality of the mechanics or lens quality. It is established and presented by the price of the product. It is also carefully marketed by select people with just the right amount of humble snobbishness that sets the tone of the type of owners that use them. Just listen to Nicholas Teetelli and Thorsten von Overgaard. They ooze Leica apartheid and make even Michael Kaschke feel inferior.
Just by the way, Leica lenses are made in Portugal. Yes, they are assembled in Germany, but still. They can just as well been assembled in Morocco. Furthermore, Leica is owned by The Blackstone Group which knows nothing about photography and everything about making money for their investors.
Getting perspective on what a camera is and does
A film camera consists of three things. The body, the lens and the type of film you are using. The body is there to hold the lens aligned to the film. IT controls the shutter speed and aperture. That is about it. Journalists bought expensive cameras because the mechanics had to last a long time. In a film camera, there are 1000 times more moving parts than in digital.
A digital camera consists of three things. The body, the lens and the sensor. Again the body changes the shutter and aperture and the ISO or film simulation can either be done on camera or later (Just as with film).
The point is, the lens and sensor are the most important components of the whole system. There is nothing special about Leica sensors, as a matter of fact, the M8, M8.2 and M9 series were disastrous. They were plagued by rust problems and that coming for an elite system. In any case, most sensors are made by Sony and the subtle differences in sensors can be adjusted digitally. However, the quality of the lens cannot.
Since the sensor is not proprietary to Leica, it makes the body obsolete. The quality of the image is determined by the lens and not sensor. Yes, the sensor does have some part in processing but not as much as the lens. Lens characteristics can hardly be simulated out of the camera while the sensor characteristics can. Put it this way, lens characteristics are analogue while the sensor output is digital.
In order to get very high-quality images, you need to look at lenses. These days most lenses are good enough but, if you are looking for something special Leica does provide one of the best lens IQ you can get at obese prices. The same quality can be achieved and sometimes better by smacking a Zeiss or Voigtlander lens to your system. Both the Zeiss and Voigtlander are a 1/4 of the price and the Voigtlander is even 1/2 that of the Zeiss with the same image quality & build. Oh and if you are worried that your camera will be converted to an autofocus system don’t worry, all three lenses are still manual focus so you can stuff your AF up your arse. No matter how you try, you will not be able to use your AF ability and defile your photographic experience with new technology.
What Leica cameras got right
I had the privilege to shoot with a Zeiss Ikon Contarex Super+ and Contarex I (Bullseye or Cyclops). These were beasts. My mother gave me a
Ricoh 500RF which was amazing as I had so much control. I also used her Leica M4. Later on I used a Nikon FE2 and even prefered it over my F5. The F5 was my dream machine but I never enjoyed shooting with it as much as the FE2 I had. The light meter in the Contarex system did not work so I had to guess the reading or use a light meter. It was fantastic doing this. The same applied to my FE2. Why is this. How can one get more pleasure using a simpler tool than a more advanced one.
I have longed for Nikon to make a replacement of the FM2. They should have called it the DM2 or just DM. The Df was a disaster in my eyes. The DM must not have a screen at the back. It had to be manual focus and operate on the same principle as the Fuji X series. One can clearly see the direction I am going. Simplicity. And that is what Leica got right. It forces you to think. I guess that is why I also sold all my zoom lenses and exchanged them for fixed focal length lenses. This minimalist approach tears away all distractions from technology and fiddling. It basically leaves you technologically bored in a way. The more your camera can do, the more distracted you become with all its functions. That distracts you from taking images that matter.
So Leica has got the essence of photography right by reducing the complexity of their system. No camera manufacturer is willing to do this since features is a huge selling point to the masses. Maybe I have answered myself.
You pay for less in a world wanting to pay less for more.Lyssa
Nobody is good at multitasking. Humans are evolved in doing one thing at a time. Just watch how Derren Brown is able to rob a guy because this guy can only focus on one thing at a time. It’s not bad. It’s a positive characteristic of our nature that helped us to become the dominant specie of earth. So when you are focussing on your art, and I am not talking about family snapshots or weddings and even fast sports photography, more features distract you from your end goal, the art of photography. d’Antoine de Saint-Exupéry got it right with what he said:
Il semble que la perfection soit atteinte non quand il n’y a plus rien à ajouter, mais quand il n’y a plus rien à retrancher.d’Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
So is the price to focus on your art so high or do you have the discipline to remove yourself from your equipment and focus on what you want to express no matter what is in your hands?
You might want to read a better article on Leica cameras found on Leicaphilia and article By Anthony Lane. Originally published in The New Yorker, September 24, 2007.
I know I’m using the best, and I don’t have to think about it anymoreA Leica Fan