The Misconception on Leica M

“I am currently quite depressed as a friend just went for a M… To only shoot the same exact static objects photos with zero improvement”

I saw this quote by someone online and I’m a bit… speechless. I wonder whether he is trying to imply that a Leica M is not meant for shooting static subject? Or does he trying to imply that using a M should bring dramatic improvement to your photography? I wonder. There are people who think Leica is “legendary” and when you hold a Leica you will blend into the crowd and become a ninja and start snapping awesome street shots that will end up being award winning masterpiece… Seriously, there are such people out there, I met a few personally and they made me speechless as well. For most of them, I believe they have never really use a Leica M to shoot with before making such comment. I can truly understand as I was one of those who are skeptical about what Leica M is before this. My experience with Leica M before this is only from online reviews and photography forums. I don’t know what’s fact and what’s fiction. I’m curious, hence I decided to find out myself. I got myself an M, start shooting with it, understanding it, experiencing it with my own hand. Then I realized all the remarks online surrounding the Leica cameras are both true and false.

Very often people will associate rangefinder to Leica. Well, they are perhaps the only company left who are still releasing digital rangefinder camera in the modern age. And often people will associate rangefinder/Leica being a “street camera”. I believe this perception is mainly derived from the history whereby there were quite a number of famous street photographers or journalists who use rangefinder as their main camera. Hence, causing people to think that rangefinder is a “street camera”. In many way, a rangefinder is a camera that’s suitable to be used for street photography. That I have to agree. It is more discreet as compared to DSLR, the optical viewfinder allows you to anticipate the surrounding of your framing and so on. However, to me a camera is still a camera. There’s no limitation on what it can shoot and what one should shoot with it. It’s just like people always associate camera such as Canon 1DX and Nikon D4S as sport photography camera due to their fast burst rate and auto focus, but are they not capable of shooting subject other than sports? Not really.

People always debate a lot about Leica being overpriced and under-spec as compared to other camera. Well, to me it really depends on how you look at it as a camera and as a brand. As a brand, there’s always the demand for luxurious brand. You can see it from watches, cars, hand bags and etc. One can always buy a cheaper bag, a cheaper watch or a cheaper car that does the same job, but why one willing to splurge on a branded item instead? Maybe to some its about social status, but for me, it’s more about the service quality they provide. Luxurious brand are usually more customer focus and hence giving a better ownership experience. As a camera, Leica M’s philosophy is always about precision in engineering, and how they stripped down the camera to its bare basic (set the shutter speed, iso speed, aperture and shoot!) without the clutter of unnecessary features. There are always cheaper and better alternatives out there (such as Sony A7 series), however it is one’s choice to make on what he/she want to use to shoot with, and it’s not something that needs permission or understanding from others. It’s just like how I’ll never understand why people are willing to spend on sports car because I would rather spend those money on properties for example.

If you nailed the shot, its your effort. If you screwed it, its obviously your own fault. Perhaps this “pure photography” concept makes one think that M is a good platform for one to grow in terms of photography. And I couldn’t agree more. People always comment that using a Leica M will “slow you down” and hence giving you more time to look into your shot before clicking the shutter. This may sound odd to you, but I can assure you that it is true. But does owning a Leica M makes you a better photographer overnight? It surely doesn’t. Does using a Leica M means every shot you take from it must be a masterpiece? Not really either. Take a look at the Magnum Contact Sheet and you will realize how many shots were taken by those Magnum photographers just to get “the shot” they wanted. It’s never easy, and that’s what make photography a fun hobby to me.

After much sharing, so is Leica really “legendary” or “the best”? I wouldn’t say so. But I do hope my sharing based on my actual experience helped to clarify on some of the myths and doubts about Leica M. There will never be “the best” camera. “The best” camera will always be the camera that’s going to be released next. Period. To me, there’s only “the best” camera that suit your need, blend with your workflow, makes you want to shoot more and makes you improve continuously and progress in your photography. Sorry for being brutally honest here, but one just need to get a life and stop being sarcastic about camera brands and make silly remarks online. The roots of photography is always about your composition, lighting, tonality, subject and so on. It’s always about your picture, and it’s never about the camera used to take the picture. For me, I’m happy shooting with my Leica M-P and Fujifilm X-T1. They are tools for different purpose and I’ll try my very best to make full use of them to improve my photography. Nothing more, nothing less, as simple as that.

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