Monday, March 17, 2014

How Leica Killed "Leica Photography" on Leicaphilia

Now this is an interesting post, especially for me to be reading one day after I posted about taking a modern digital image from my Leica M9, removing many of the gray levels through boosting contrast, adding grain, and in my opinion, improving it.
 
The blog Leicaphilia provides a perspective on how Leica has killed its own style of photography by abandoning their expertise in making compact, functional, straightforward rangefinders and instead shifting their focus to exacting optical designs and products.
 
(Click Here) to read the post on Leicaphilia.
 
What do I think of all of this?
 
Sketching, by Reed A. George
Leica IIIC, Canon 50mm f1.4 Lens, TMax 400 Film
 
Well, I certainly agree that the attraction to Leica, especially old Leica cameras like the IIIC I used for the shot above, has something to do with the camera body design. Simple, effective, obviously hand-built. And, I must agree about the quality of some of Leica's competitors' lenses back in the day. The Canon 50mm f1.4 I used for the shot above is really quite nice.
 
I'm not sure that I agree that other brand lenses were actually better than Leica's back in the day. No, I don't judge them by micro-contrast or even necessarily sharpness, but my Leica Summar and Summaron lenses make beautiful images. They take quite a beating in the above-referenced post. There also seems to be a marked lean toward Nikkor lenses in that post. Not that I disagree; I have a nice Nikkor 3.5cm f2.5 in Leica thread mount (LTM) that does quite a nice job. Honestly, though, I prefer my Leica Summaron 3.5cm f3.5 in terms of the images it produces.
 
Finally, I don't agree that Leica has turned away from its design basics. The Leica M9 is about as straightforward to use as you could make a modern digital camera, while still giving the user complete control. I can easily switch back and forth between the M9 and a 1955 M3, without having to worry about differences in controls.
 
Now, the same cannot be said for some of Leica's other cameras. Some of them do have the same issues with complicated controls and multilayer menus that their Japanese counterparts have. Anyone notice the differences between shooting a Nikon F film camera and the wonderful, but complicated D700, for example?
 
So, I agree with some of the points in the article, not with others. I would say it's a call for Leica to be vigilant about future designs.
 
The author is correct that optical perfection does not necessarily lead to a great image. I'm learning to remove some perfection to get to the image that I really want.
 
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