A half-century ago (literally) I worked at a research photo lab for the University of Minnesota. It was there I became acquainted with Leica cameras. Of course, this was pre-digital. I learned to develop film, use enlargers, and make prints. I used view cameras -- some as large as 16"x20" on rails, 8x10s, and 4x5s. I would make contact prints from the larger cameras with sharpness that had to be seen to be believed. My favorites, however, were the Leicas.
This was before the days of the M-series (for those of you who may be familiar with Leicas). I still remember the models: IIIf and, my favorite, the IIIg. They were light, compact, with lenses that seemed to rival the view cameras. Alas, I was in college and could not afford them. Today, if I was a rational person, I still cannot afford them. But at my age, I cannot afford to be rational. So, early this year I decided to start small and get what some may call a point-and-shoot, the Leica's X1. It is not a single-lens reflex. It has a fixed f2.8 lens. It will not focus closer than about 20". The auto-focusing is slow. So why did I get it? It has three things going for it -- things that are very important to me.
- It has an APC size sensor, the same size as your typical DSLR (excluding full-frame cameras).
- It has a wide angle lens with unbelievable sharpness and color rendition.
- It is very quiet -- I would challenge you to hear the shutter.
After agonizing over Leica's expensive lenses, I settled on the old standard, a 50mm f/2 Summicron. After all, if it was good enough for one of the world's greatest photographers, Henri Cartier-Bresson, it should be sufficient for me. I'm not so naive to believe that a Leica with a 50mm will make me the next Bresson. But, after using film Leicas and reading about the history and nature of manual rangefinder type shooting, I do believe this approach will improve my photography in those areas where Leica is outstanding: street and candid photography, nature/landscape, portraits, and as an instrument for recording the years I may have remaining. Tripods, full-frame DSLRS, and telephoto lenses are getting heavier each year.
There are some kinds of photography that Leica is not good at. They include extreme closeups (less than 2'), bird and nature photography that calls for telephoto lenses greater than 135mm, and sports/action photography (the M9 shoots at only 2 frames/sec. and does not have automatic focusing). For these very reasons I will keep at least one Canon body and my 70-200mm f/2.8 and 400mm f/4 lenses. Anyone interested in the rest?
I have not yet decided what I will do with my present blogs. (I do know I will keep my iPhone blog.) Tomorrow I will post some of the test shots I've taken with my M9 so far.