Joel Meyerowitz: My Life with Leica (part 1)

Leica Akademie Italy has met Joel Meyerowitz, soon after the opening of his latest exhibition in Milan, and interviewed him about his life long "love" for Leica cameras, from the first Leica M2 in the sixties to the Leica M9, M and S today. In this first take Meyerowitz talks about a camera that has positively surprised him a lot: the new Leica XVario... (to be continued).

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  • Bobby Frank

    Good salesman. Leica is smart when it comes to picking spokespeople to help peddle their products (except for Seal; what the hell was that all about?) It’s also interesting in respect to the different demographics that companies are clearly aiming at: Joel Meyerowitz for Leica; Zack Arias for Fuji, etc.. But certainly Leica is clearly wanting to be sure to capitalize on their history of being “the camera” from those halcyon days of the 1950’s to late 1970s era of photography.

    btw, Danny Lyon was a Leica user during that period. Today he likes to use a Canon point and shoot. Susan Meiselas was also a big Leica user in those “Leica days.” She now uses a Canon DSLR. I’m guessing Meyerowitz also uses different brands of cameras, too. They all do.

    • Nicolas

      Few years ago when he had a retrospective in Paris he was “sponsored” by HP inkjet printers… he did some youtube videos for them then too.

      He’s a great photographer, and if that’s what it takes for us to get to see exhibitions of his work, by all means, please carry on “selling out”. ;)

      Also, the awfull X-vario doesn’t feel like to much of a mismatch for him
      since he was never known to be a photographer who favors narrow depth
      of field and difficult light…

    • Vulkanitwit

      Ashton Kutcher for Nikon………..lol.

    • larry

      Looks like he maybe using a free XV now.

  • etr brony

    my favourite photographer of all time!
    a gentleman that is always a open book when it comes to photographic information and technique.
    thanks for sharing

  • waterengineer

    Because Joel Meyerowitz is who I want to listen to about landscape photography. Leica, that was a misstep.

  • sperdynamite

    “The exposures are always incredibly, correct.” Wtf? An amazing sell out, my Meyerowitz must be needing that cash these days.

    • NoMeJodas

      Let me complete his sentence for you

      “The exposures are always incredibly, correct. [..] So when I work with them in Photoshop everything holds, the information in the highlights and the details in the shadow..”

      He was obviously talking about the DR in Leica cameras. But please, don’t let this ruin your “argument”.

      • sperdynamite

        The dynamic range in Leica digital cameras thus far has always been universally poor, especially when compared to other options. He was obviously blowing smoke up that guys ass, which is a shame considering he came from shooting Ektachrome in a meterless M4, so he should know a thing or two about exposure.

        • NoMeJodas

          In the video when he says exposure he means photo BTW.

          When was the last time you had a Leica in your hands? I don’t have any complaints about the DR on my M240. I’d say its comparable to the D600 and better than X-E1 (partly due to the poor LR support for X-trans) in my experience. But pure technical details are not the most important thing anyway.

          What other options? There are NO other options other than Leica M if you are into digital RF photography, sadly. Competition has its benefits but it seems there is not enough demand for RF to make another manufacturer enter the digital RF market.

          • sperdynamite

            I’m pretty sure he’s talking about the Leica X Vario, since he’s…holding a Leica X Vario. In the APS-C advanced camera market there are plenty of options, and nearly all of them at the top, a better buy than a fucking Leica X Vario.

          • NoMeJodas

            No. He was talking about Leica cameras in general (from 0:49 onward).

            But even the X Vario has its unique characteristics. If IQ, build quality and traditional manual controls are very high in your list and you don’t care about the slow lens because you mostly shoot at f8 and smaller, then there will be not many options left other than the X vario (build quality alone will make it hard to find alternatives).

            Which camera is better in which price segment is a very personal decision because it will always depend on the personal photography style, what features one consider how important and which price one is willing to pay for it.

          • sperdynamite

            That sounds like a LOT of rationalizing for the X Vario. If you’re shooting at ƒ8 then your lens is probably performing as well as most other decent lenses out there. I doubt you would see much difference between a Fuji XE-2 with the 18-55 set to ƒ8 vs the Leica (keeping in mind you can also change the lens to a Zeiss or Fuji prime). Yes yes, the processing can be weird, but word is it’s pretty well fixed up now. As for build quality, who really knows how well the thing is build and how it will last. For my part, what is the point of a sturdy APS-C compact when it’s going to be obsoleted as soon as Leica figures out they should but a finder IN the camera itself. These are hardly long term investments, and there is no data to suggest an X vario will last any longer than the forthcoming XT-1. People throw around the word ‘build quality’ a lot. Like we really know what’s under the hood. I’ve seen a lotta broken Leicas, and a lotta broken D3s, 1Ds, etc… Nobody really knows if their sensor is gonna crack (M9) or if they’re gonna get dust problems (D600), or if their lens is gonna have stickyness (early X100 productions), or hell even if their camera has a light leak (early 5D3s). ‘Build quality’ is a hope and a prayer.

          • DouglasGottlieb

            As a rangefinder newbie who’s loving the style of shooting, I sure wish this was not the case. Leica’s full frame digital rangefinders are to cameras as Rolls Royces are to cars. Fortunately, vintage film Leicas are quite affordable, which is how I got into the system with an M3. But it sounds like Adobe and Fuji are finally getting together to help LR better handle XTrans. If that happens, do you think the XPro 1 and X100s come close to the rangefinder experience with the hybrid finders? And didn’t Epson have a rangefinder at one point? Whatever happened to that? I wish Voigtlander would partner with someone to make a digital rangefinder that would be more affordable than their last try with Epson and the R-D1. They should get together with Panasonic and do a M43 rangefinder.

          • NoMeJodas

            That’s true. More competition would have brought the prices down. My last hope was a digital Zeiss Icon but unfortunately this never happened and never going to happen. This is particularly sad because I’m sure RF photography would find more followers among young photographers if there were modern affordable alternatives available.

            To me the two most important advantages of RF cameras are of course the mechanical, very precise RF focus mechanism, and the separation between the vision of the lens and that of the photographer. Fuji does not offer similar focus mechanism and relays only on electronic focus aids which deliver a far poorer MF experience. As for the separation between photographer’s and lens FoV, only three Fuji bodies offer an optical VF with framelines: X-Pro1, X-100 and X-100s. I didn’t use any of them so I can’t comment on that.

  • J.H

    Nice try leica… But I’m still not buying it

  • mooh

    Well Leica doesn’t make a 8×10 so that’s it.

    • sperdynamite

      Actually, they do! Since they bought SINAR, they technically do make 8×10 cameras. :-) Now don’t expect P2s to start shipping with red dots, but as far as I know, you can still buy them new.

  • DouglasGottlieb

    I could listen to Joel Meyerowitz discuss photography all day. Meyerowitz is that rarest of artist: one who can speak as eloquently and directly as his art speaks for itself.

    That said, I watched part one of the video hoping to hear Mr. Meyerowitz talk Leica rangefinder feel and philosophy, but instead found an advertisement for something else. Props to him for repeatedly referring to this camera as a great camera for amateurs. While I don’t believe that the tool makes one a pro or an amateur, I think his intent was just to put a little distance between himself and this particular model, allowing him to say nice things about the camera while implying that it wasn’t for him.

    To Leica marketing in Italy, nice try, but we’d all be better served (as would this product) by just letting great artists talk about their art, with less focus on hawking gear of a particular model. Just sayin’

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