Earlier this week a friend asked me on Facebook why I switched to Leica brand for my photography. Given the size of the investment into Leica cameras and lenses, what advantages does Leica have that won me over?
I get this question quite regularly. There are so many options for photography today – starting with our phones that have great cameras, to more traditional compact cameras, DSLR, and to the trending mirrorless cameras sold by Sony, Fuji, Olympus and so forth. And, of course, film. So why pick that option over all others?
There were mainly two simple reasons why I switched all my gear to Leica.
Here’s the first reason… A couple of years ago I was on a work trip in Europe and I swung by Paris on my way home where I spent a few days by myself doing photography. I was walking around everywhere as I do in a big city, but after a day of carrying my big Nikon camera around, with lenses, tripod and all kinds of accessories my back was hurting and I got home earlier than I thought I would. The next day I decided to leave the bag behind and just to take pictures with my iPhone. This was fine and I loved what I was getting and how I could stay out and shoot all day without any fatigue.
But then I got back to the States and uploaded the pictures to my computer and boy was I shocked… They files looked terrible when blown up – not sharp, a lot of artifacts, and pretty much not usable for anything other than an iPhone. And on the big screen they looked nothing more than what they were – a bunch of phone snaps taken by a tourist. So here I was – just came back from Paris – and didn’t have any pictures I was happy with.
I realized this was also happening with the photography of my kids. I stopped taking pictures of them when we’d go outside. They’re all small and under the age of eight so they often need me to carry them when we’re out and about. I couldn’t do it well with a Nikon camera and the bag I had to carry with me. So I stopped taking pictures, which isn’t great because their childhood is passing by so fast. I got into photography wanting to take better pictures of my kids, and here I was, not taking any.
So I started looking at various systems and cameras that could deliver great image quality but that were small in size. Sony didn’t release A7 at that time, so I was mostly looking at Fuji and Olympus brands and their mirrorless lineup. I did own Fuji X100 at one time, but it only had one attached lens, and the image quality and experience with the camera weren’t as good as I could get from an SLR, so I sold it.
Now to the second reason… Then one day I started researching Leica and what they’ve done with their digital rangefinders because I kept reading reviews for Fuji and everyone always had to answer whether or not there were as good as Leica, or better, or worse (everyone usually said Fuji cameras were better…). One day I simply asked on Google+ – what did people think of Leica. Lots chimed in but one nice guy who I haven’t even met in person at that time answered and said I could just borrow his M9 for a weekend.
Well, of course!
That changed everything. The camera was exactly what I was looking for in terms of its size – small, light, compact but very well built. Unlike Fuji, the camera was super easy to figure out and operate. From the very first frames I took I was hooked to the images I was getting. They had something to them that looked magical. The color, or contrast, or sharpness, or… I really couldn’t put my finger on it. I still can’t. But I kept shooting all weekend long and captured what were some of my favorite images to this day.
So few weeks after that I drove up to Camera West in Walnut Creek and good folks over there hooked me up with the new Leica M (type 240), which just came out.
I did my research, of course, prior to buying. I read up on the rich history of Leica cameras and lenses, I looked at the work of many, many Leica photographers. It turned out that majority of the most iconic images of the last century were captured with a Leica. I talked to my friend Sam at work who owned film Leica and was familiar with the brand. And I had to convince my wife that this was the purchase that was going to change my life.. Or “take better pictures of our kids” – the usual excuse in these kinds of situations. In fact, she made be give up the naming rights to our next child as part of our bargain. True story.
But really – all it came down to was that (1) I found a camera that was small in size, but that deliveres amazing picture quality, and (2) the camera is incredibly fun to shoot with. Some people hate rangefinder experience or how manual Leicas are (there is no auto focus, for example). But for me – and now I’m two years into this experience – I just couldn’t stop shooting with the camera I could take everywhere with me.
It took some time for me to let go of my Nikon gear and I kept shooting weddings and families with it because that seemed easier and I was still learning the manual focus and other Leica tricks that take a while to get used to. But few weeks ago I sold all of my Nikon gear and I now shoot with Leica 100% of the time – my kids, my travels, the weddings, the families etc.
And two years later, Leica continues to impress me with the quality of images it delivers.
The images I shared here with this post – except the selfie one, I don’t think I take any of them unless I have a small camera I don’t mind bringing everywhere with me as I go hang out with my kids. And to me that proved to be the biggest benefit of being a Leica shooter – my production increased many times over, and hopefully that means I became a better photographer as a result.
Questions? Would love to answer any – hit me up in the comments.