Why I Choose The Leica M: Aperture, ISO, Shutter Speed, Focal Point

Starting today Louis Ferreira (www.500px.com/LouisFerreira) will start contributing articles to Leica Rumors. His first post addresses why he selected the Leica M system:

During the transition to digital I tried many camera systems and read many articles to find a camera that fit me, but when the first digital M hit the market I was intrigued. None of the articles I came across did a good job of explaining the rangefinder window or M style of shooting. Instead, they focused on the luxurious brass build quality and its fit/finish, which is a shame because the shooting experience is the reason photographers should covet the M.

Life on a Bike

For me, being a Leica enthusiast is about having a superior shooting experience that requires a minimal amount of editing time. The only settings I adjust when shooting are Aperture, ISO, Shutter Speed, and Focal Point; and if I miss a shot I know it was something I did wrong and the mistake will not be repeated. Shooting an M fully manual is an educational and liberating experience. I rarely miss focus or get motion blur, and I manage a high hit rate using my rangefinder, even while tracking kids sprinting. For me, the rangefinder in the M is by far the best way to focus with enough practice. It is also a better tool for framing shots than a SLR view finder because you can see beyond the image capture area, which allows for a variety of creative possibilities. The ability to see beyond the capture area is presently unmatched by any production digital camera, and it helps contribute to what people call the Leica look because it allows the photographer to make well informed, split-second framing adjustments that are only guesses on other camera systems. Microcontrast and color are important but framing makes the photograph.

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Thankfully I do not have to spend much time in Lightroom tweaking my photos to get results that I find pleasing but Leica enthusiasts still debate CMOS vs CCD more than two years after the launch of the M240 and it is unfortunate no one has come up with a simple solution. You can spend a great deal of time trying to make M240 pictures look like M9 photos and still not get the Leica look. In mine and many other M photographers’ experience, the CCD in the M9 at low ISO helped M photographers create more WOW shots with less editing time than any other camera. This opinion is unlikely to change so Leica should consider building a color profile swap for current and future M’s to make them able to emulate M9 CCD photos. They could include it in a firmware update as a secondary custom DNG profile or work with Adobe to build an optional M9 simulation profile.

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In a perfect photographic utopia I would own an M240, M9 and Monochrome, so I could create photos with all of Leica’s excellent rangefinder cameras, but one $7K camera is enough for me. Thankfully, I do not find the M240 default colors offensive, but I definitely do not get as many low ISO WOW shots as I used to. The trade off is a newfound flexibility to capture high ISO WOW shots that were simply impossible with the M9.

The M has plenty of other benefits like its size, the sound of its shutter, etc… but the areas I addressed above are unique to the M. Focusing on the luxurious build quality of the camera and it lenses over these unique qualities is pejorative and part of the reason M enthusiasts have a hard time being taken seriously by some professionals, but feel free to let me know your thoughts.

This entry was posted in Leica M, Leica M-E, Leica M-P Typ 240, Leica M9, Leica M9-P, LR Guest Posts. Bookmark the permalink. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.
  • rogeriozz

    With the M9 I thought I’ve finally found the perfect camera for digital. Coming from shooting with the MP. Until the sensor corrosion attacked it – twice. Since I bought it second-hand, I don’t see myself spending, as you said, 7K, in a camera. Now I shoot with a Fuji X100s. It’s a fair trade-off for 1/7 of the price of a Leica, not considering lens, obviously.

    • Thanks for commenting Rogeriozz. The Fuji is an excellent camera and I have owned a few over the years, but in my opinion you can’t beat manual focus, especially in low light.

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