…because then i could sell it and probably get a leica m and a lens for the returns… but on the other hand, do i really want to own one? the following post will try to clarify.
as promised in that post i’ll try to do a report on my experiences with a leica m (typ 240) that i got my (then very clean) hands on two weeks ago. i took part in a promotional campaign – still running until the end of october – called ‘you and leica m’ that granted free access to a leica m body and one lens (of choice) for two days to test it out. of course there was some contract work necessary and unfortunately there was no insurance included in the campaign so some sweaty hands (on my part) were involved in the handing over of the camera-lens-combination. the reasoning behind the missing insurance (‘because it is for free there is no insurance included’) was a mystery to me but i tempted fate nevertheless.
after a careful scrutinization of the camera by me and the very friendly and appropriately austere clerk and the written acknowledgement of a very tiny mark on the lower plate on the camera body i left the very stylish leica shop with a black leica m body and a 75mm f2.5 summarit lens and quite a heavy heart. additionally there was of course a battery and a charger included and luckily the whole package was contained in a quite nice brown leather bag that made the carry home a breeze. this package now was worth about 7500 euro and that had me a bit worried.
when at home i carefully took the leica out of the bag and tried to get acquainted with its controls. after a few minutes my at first fearful respect changed into a quite relaxed respect for the craftsmanship and the nice user interface. then i took the leica for what it is – a tool. a very expensive tool, though.
the only other rangefinder experience i had until using the leica m was with my father’s old olympus 35rc film camera. so i hadn’t learned enough about the parallax problem, yet. this is the problem of not seeing through the lens but through the viewfinder that is roughly (probably as good as possible) aligned with what the lens sees but then not quite. so the framing with a rangefinder works a bit different than with digital cameras or with (d)slrs where the viewfinder shows what the lens sees. you have to get adjusted to the parallax shift of the viewfinder to find the correct framing. this takes time. it is of course facilitated by the fact that the leica is a digital camera and you can see the outcome of a framing immediately. i guess two days is too short for getting used to this completely but i guess it is only a matter of time. what can easily happen is to forget the lens cap. everything just works fine only you get a black picture on the display later… it took me three black shots to find out what the problem was. of course the leica m also supports live view on the display but i don’t rent a leica to use it like a run of the mill point&shoot ;-)
the handling of the camera is quite straightforward actually. what i found a bit unusual is that you have to use both hands to make any adjustments in the settings when using the menu. you have to keep the selected menu button on the left side of the camera back pressed and then use the other hand to press the actual ‘set’ button on the right of the camera back. that was shown to me at the shop already. i guess i wouldn’t have found that out by myself because i usually consult the manual only as ultima ratio…
the leica is quite big and quite heavy at least compared with my usual camera of choice the olympus e-p5 (which is no slouch weightwise itself in the m43 line-up at least). that’s probably the full frame toll that has to be paid. the lens on the other hand is comparably tiny which i attribute to the missing autofocus machinery. yes – there is no autofocus on leica rangefinder lenses nor cameras. i bet if you read until here you already knew that but i always think it is worthwhile pointing it out. no autofocus!
this leads to my only issue with the leica (besides of course price, size and weight): technically sharp images are quite hard to get and i guess you need a lot of practice. this might sound like a lame excuse for the pictures shown here but it was a real challenge for me. my glasses might have made the issue even worse but i really think it’s a matter of experience using the rangefinder. i definitely have less problems focusing manually on my e-p5.
what is really cool (and probably part of the focusing issue) is of course the leica’s full frame sensor with its shallow depth of field capabilities and the superb out of focus rendering of the summarit lens. always big fun to be able to use this effect. it’s definitely not for every picture and it might get gimmicky after a while but having it at my disposal was really nice. after the weekend with the leica i actually consider trying out the voigtländer 42.5 f0.95 lens for micro four thirds now which enables the m43 format to get similar possibilities without changing the whole system (and without breaking the complete bank if i can get my hands on a used one).
almost all shots have been taken in berlin friedrichshain. some of them in pankow. on a more technical note: these pictures are not straight out of camera instead i used my usual development flow in lightroom with the huge leica dng raw files. i guess aside from possible aesthetical issues all problems in the technical quality of the pictures are thus mine, too.
so as a kind of conclusion: if somebody would be willing to give me a leica m and a nice lens as a present i would happily accept and definitely keep it. otherwise there is no way that i ever will have one in my hands again except when i win the lottery :)
it was nevertheless a fun experience and i can really recommend trying out a leica m at your local leica store (remember: the campaign is still running for one week)