Monday, September 3, 2012

Guilty as Charged - Leica M9 Is a Luxury Item

Leica M9
Image Source:
I read a very interesting article on THEME by Ming Thein recently. The thesis of the piece is that expensive cameras have some similarities to luxury watches - and some differences.
(Click Here) to read Ming's story on THEME.
In terms of similarities, Ming makes the point that expensive watches (tens or even hundreds of times more expensive than fully functional modern watches in the lower end) not only lack any technical advantage in terms of accuracy or allowing the user to tell time better, they are worse. A mechanical Rolex is much less accurate than a Casio.
The similarities end when you consider that cameras really are tools for creative work. Ming makes the case that there are a lot of poor pictures made with Leicas and Hasselblads. In fact, he believes that the photographers responsible believe their crappy pictures are good, simply because of the tool they were taken with. I can see his point, but don't fully agree. I think this behavior reflects more about the person than the camera they're using.
I have recently bought a used Leica M9. Yes, it is a luxury. But you know what? I work really hard for my money, and am very happy to be able to enjoy the luxury of using what I consider to be a great tool. My Leica pictures are no better than those taken with a $350 Lumix DMC-G3. But, they are more fun to take!
I also believe that the Leica is capable of producing unique (not better) photographic feel - if I can connect with it better than other cameras. I certainly believe it takes more to make a good picture with the Leica. The same goes for shooting film in my opinion. I am more likely to develop that skill, and move into new creative ground, if I absolutely love the camera I'm using.
When I consider what Ming presents, I tend to think of cars rather than watches. For example, a Chevy Corvette will outperform a Porsche Carrera in almost every measure. I like both cars. However, early on, before I transformed into a family station wagon driver, I had a 1986 Porsche. I actually made the decision between the 1986 Porsche and a 1989 Corvette. The Corvette was awesome - fast, tight, like a jet fighter. The Porsche was something altogether different. I just plain fell in love with it. It also took me a while to learn how to drive the Porsche. But boy, was that a fun experience.
And back to Ming's point, I never felt that driving a Porsche made me a good driver. It did challenge me in different ways. Ways that added to my life, not the quality of my driving.
So, I will be sharing my experiences in using the M9 with you dear readers, as well as my continued use of the excellent products available and coming from Panasonic. Thanks for indulging my need for a little luxury in my favorite hobby.


  1. In the end, it comes down to the photographer. You take great pictures with a sub-$100 digital, and you'll also take great pictures with your M9. But the experience of taking the picture will be different.

    Since you compared the Corvette to a jet fighter, I think this quote from Baron Manfred von Richthofen sums it up with regard to cars and fighter aircraft:
    "The quality of the crate matters little. Success depends upon who sits in it."

    It also applies to cameras, as long as you don't sit on them. Looking forward to seeing what your M9 will do.

  2. Color me shocked! A Leica M9 is a luxury item?!

    When it comes down to it, it's all a matter of degrees. An interchangeable lens camera is luxury item, heck, a camera is a luxury item. Do you make a living with it? Don't give me some high falutin' interpretation of "make a living" either. Do you feed your family with it? Nope? It's a luxury item. So is your Lumix. If you feel otherwise, go to a third world country and walk around, with your Lumix dangling off your shoulder, look into the eyes of someone begging to get their child into a hospital and tell me how much your camera isn't a luxury item. Take a picture of that shopkeeper who works seven days a week selling their wares and spends evenings tending the family plot of land for a little extra food so their children can grow up a little less malnourished.

    We all work hard. None of us know the roadblocks, the demons, the prejudices, the fortunes that others in this world face. I once had a string of conjectures about the actions of others shattered by a wise friend who just looked at me and repeated "You just don't know." What we can deduce, however is that, in the end, some of our lives are more fortunate than others. We were born in the right places, we had the right mentors, the right breaks, often enough we said "No" when we should have, "Yes" when we should have, and we prospered. I've never liked the word or idea of "deserve" because it implies that others who have less, don't deserve.

    But so what? It's all degrees. Your camera allows you to to enjoy your life, to grow, to celebrate, to commemorate. That's what people struggle for, the opportunity to have a little more. You've got that opportunity. Embrace it. Run with it. Manifest it. Go, baby, go!!

  3. Rob - thanks for the compliment. And the Red Baron? Wow - what a pull.

  4. Mike - I love your message. I agree totally. I have no false illusions about how lucky I am. And so are you. Ask those same people what they think of you spending your time typing on some blog, given what they have to do.

    Your message ends so positively, and I take it that way. I will put my soul into trying to use this luxury to full advantage. I hope it will show.