my thoughts on Leica lens and camera bodies

Started Jan 3, 2012 | Discussions
monoblocks
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my thoughts on Leica lens and camera bodies
Jan 3, 2012

I have a Leica M8 camera body as well as a few Leica lens. Lately I have acquired a Ricoh GXR M unit which takes on Leica M mount lens. And it is interesting to know that the focusing system with GXR M is really creditable. It uses a so called "peaking" system. I can focus as fast on my Ricoh as the Leica M8. And for lens with longer focal length, Ricoh has edge over M bodies with its way of focusing.

Traditionally, range finder focusing bounds M lens to expensive M bodies. However, with creditable new focusing system out from third party cameras, the linkage is likely to be loosen. Besides, as the focusing system is software generated, I can see there should be room of improvement with firmware upgrade.

Now, one can mount used M lenses on cheap third party mirrorless cameras like Sony and Ricoh and focus conveniently. Remember, these companies have technology on advance sensor design. One day, I am not surprised they will be able to manufacture a full frame sensor for Leica M lens on their own camera bodies. Or they can produce sensor that brings much higher fidelity than those used on Leica camera bodies.

And I would believe that people will take up more and more used Leica lenses with their mirrorless camera but leave behind the VERY expensive Leica camera bodies.

The price of lens will go up but price of camera body will come off as their sensors will be outdated. Besides, their range finder focusing system have lost itheir magic.

As the range finder bondage is being eroded gradually, I think it is time for Leica to rethink their strategy. Of course they might still survive on a niche market with collector and big spenders, but they will be marginalized. As a Leica fan, I would really want to see the company landing on some long term strategy and let its lens and camera body technologies to shine again and within reach for those who love perfection.
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Godfrey
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Re: my thoughts on Leica lens and camera bodies
In reply to monoblocks, Jan 3, 2012

Leica has stated it will announce its own mirrorless body in Fall 2012.

Meanwhile, there will always be a niche market for an optical rangefinder camera. I have both the Ricoh GXR-M and Leica M4-2 ... work with them is a totally different experience. The GXR-M is a more versatile, TTL system camera, and produces superb results. But ... I would not want to be without the rangefinder body as well. So my next stop on this train is to acquire an M9 body.

There's space in the market for all kinds of products. Including high end optical rangefinders and mid-level mirrorless TTL cameras. Leica will prosper.
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Jono Slack
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Re: my thoughts on Leica lens and camera bodies
In reply to monoblocks, Jan 3, 2012

Hi MonoBlocks
the whole point of using a rangefinder is . . . erm . . . the rangefinder!

It's not bondage, it's freedom. It's airy and connects you with your subject. It's one of those things which is a pleasure to use, allowing you to see around the frame as well as within it, engagement and participation.

I actually really like using my NEX, and I agree with you that focus peaking is a wonderful new development in still cameras - a different, exciting and innovative way of using manual focus legacy lenses.

But why throw out the baby with the bathwater? Shooting an M is a fantastic way of shooting - It'd be tragic to see anything else replace it - sure - have the other things as well.

monoblocks wrote:

The price of lens will go up but price of camera body will come off as their sensors will be outdated. Besides, their range finder focusing system have lost itheir magic.

As the range finder bondage is being eroded gradually, I think it is time for Leica to rethink their strategy. Of course they might still survive on a niche market with collector and big spenders, but they will be marginalized. As a Leica fan, I would really want to see the company landing on some long term strategy and let its lens and camera body technologies to shine again and within reach for those who love perfection.
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Peter Nelson
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Re: my thoughts on Leica lens and camera bodies
In reply to Jono Slack, Jan 4, 2012

I have the Leica M5 and a digital rangefinder camera the Seiko/Epson R-D1 and 2 Barnak (LTM) cameras. I also have the Oly E-P1 and Panny G1 and several M to m4/3 and LTM M39 to m4/3 adapters. I like all of them.

I'm the type of photographer who preferes manual focusing. The optcal glass/mirrored rangefinder system may be a little challanging to get the focus just right in some lighting conditions but I really enjoy the challange. I agree with Jono, we can have both.

One question. With focus peaking do you find yourself still looking at the subject or are you looking at the colered outlines indicating what's in focus for the majority of your shots?
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monoblocks
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Re: my thoughts on Leica lens and camera bodies
In reply to Peter Nelson, Jan 4, 2012

It is the exaggerated bright outline that we seek in focusing. With the Ricoh system, you get two ways of "peak" focusing, the first one comes with normal color but bright tiny dots that you should turn the lens barrel to make them as bright as possible. The second type makes everything appears in grey with bright edges. Turn the lens barrel to make the bright outline as bright as possible and you get the correct focus. Drawbacks - when you focus, you see a grey screen instead of colored one. But once you have finished focusing, half press the shutter and you get everything right back. Good part - the whole LCD screen will tell you patches of in focus and out focus as indicated by the brightness of the edges. When you turn your lens barrel, you can see exactly which part of the picture is in focused as compared to other parts. I was told that the Sony system is even better though it is of the same principle. I haven't tried. My personal experience is that the "peaking" system can be very fast and accurate, much more advanced than the traditional enlargement way of focusing with manual lens.
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Irakly Shanidze
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Re: my thoughts on Leica lens and camera bodies
In reply to monoblocks, Jan 4, 2012

how does it do in low light?
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Godfrey
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Re: my thoughts on Leica lens and camera bodies
In reply to Peter Nelson, Jan 4, 2012

Peter Nelson wrote:

One question. With focus peaking do you find yourself still looking at the subject or are you looking at the colered outlines indicating what's in focus for the majority of your shots?

Like any other focusing aid (including a rangefinder), focus peaking can occasionally become distracting. Just like with my film SLRs, I tend to prefer learning how to focus by just looking at a plain image field.

At first when I had the GXR-M, I over-used the focus assist and magnification. I found my focusing consistency dropped.

Since then, I've spent time learning how to focus the GXR-M without either magnification or focus assist. It gets tricky with the 21 and 28 mm lenses, like with any wide angle, but is pretty easy with 35mm and longer. Now I use magnification to spot check focus on a critical shot only, and focus assist (mode 2) to help with focusing in low light. With the 90mm and longer lenses, I don't use any magnification anymore.

Yes, like you I most often prefer manual focus over AF. I seem to consistently get more accurately focused images and it is less in the way, less distracting, when I'm shooting.
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Godfrey
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Re: my thoughts on Leica lens and camera bodies
In reply to Irakly Shanidze, Jan 4, 2012

Irakly Shanidze wrote:

how does it do in low light?

I presume you mean the GXR-M?

It works fine down to the point where the viewfinder becomes too dark to see anything with. The GXR-M viewfinder does not "amp up" and become sluggish in low light, it simply gets dark when the light is too low for the sensor to keep the screen bright with a fixed refresh rate.

Compared to my M4-2, the one thing the optical RF can do in very low light that the GXR-M cannot is find a miniscule point of light or reflection in a scene and make them coincide. Of course, with either camera, at that point I'm generally just estimating distance and setting focus by the scale on the lens ... !
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Franka T.L.
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Re: my thoughts on Leica lens and camera bodies
In reply to monoblocks, Jan 4, 2012

I start my Leica usage way back with a screw mount, I recall way back in the early 80's I was then, looking for a good solid top end body that can stand the abuse of my outdoor field work ( hiking, cycling, but no real X-sport ). I recall then the Leica M4-P or might be its the M4-2 is at the time body only 30% to 50% more than the like of top end body from Nikon ( then the F3 ). And I look at the lens availability as well as what the camera brings. I had to say to myself, well the Leica is good craftsmanship, but its hardly the best CAMERA.

This goes since as Leica been on the way of branding and pricing themselves out of real equipment market. instead the camera , especially the M is no more than brand and niche.

I had in the past relay that the M can easily be evolved to adopt the AF, mirrorless, liveview and even AF without even needing to take away the old mechanical M mount ( Nikon and Pentax current SLR still using mechanically the same mount as they first introduce their bayonet )

And speaking of it, I never think of the other brand as cheap, they are just priced more accordingly to market. Lens also. good price bring good optics. Leica lens is no different than others, and coming from a multiple system, multiple format usage background. I never get to worship the Leica namesake.

The recent Leica sale of their 44% share yet to raise more capital ( they of course put it in a more politically correct wording ) is yet another way of telling how iunsecure they see themselves in the longer term. I humbly believe Leica need to go back to the drawing table and rethinkl their current business. They might be making money, but there is not a healthy long term viability in the whole thing and lacks direction to go forth into the new imaging realm and long term profitability to support the R&D as well as all the misc ....

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monoblocks
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Re: my thoughts on Leica lens and camera bodies
In reply to Franka T.L., Jan 4, 2012

I certainly agree with what Franka has pointed out.

Interestingly, the most expensive Leica cameras and lens are now being sold in Hong Kong to tourist from China. It is not uncommon to find old, rare, excellent exotic Leica bodies sold as high as US$ 30,000 to 40,000 or even over 50,000. And I have seen Leica M3 body sold as high as US$ 20,000 in local shop. These items are always bought back by tourist as presents and gifts. Because of a surge of demand of both camera lens and bodies, there is always a back-log for those lens and camera bodies. And it become annoying for those who really want one for taking photos. As a result, the prices for all second-hand and used items have surged and some of them can disappear literally. The proof is that you see less and less Leica sold out from Japan than Hong Kong through internet because the demand is here.

However, it is sad that these photographic equipment are getting into hands of big spenders and collectors, those who know not a cent about taking photographs. Neither do they appreciate the true beauty of a Leica M and the photos from the lens. All they realize is the red dot - it has become a symbol of wealth and prestige. This is not what someone who takes Leica seriously as a photographic equipment would like to hear.

Lastly, my good guess is that the upcoming Leica mirror-less in 2012 should be able to accommodate M mount manual lens and comes with a creditable focusing method with manual M lens.

Hope that Leica, while retaining its legend, will strike on a business plan that brings its unique photographic pleasure to those who appreciate perfection!
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Jono Slack
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Re: my thoughts on Leica lens and camera bodies
In reply to Irakly Shanidze, Jan 4, 2012

HI Irakly

no experience with the Ricoh. As the peaking works on contrast, at first look it's not very good in low light . . . until you realise that most people's eyes have a little sparkle in them - I'm ashamed to say I often find myself focusing on the tip of a nose (less a bit) or the corner of glasses (more a bit) with the M9 - it's interesting with focus peaking that you tend to focus actually on the eye.

It'll never replace a rangefinder . . . but it's surprisingly useful - especially with scattered subjects in an image, where you can see exactly what is, and what's not in focus.

all the best
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VladimirV
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Re: my thoughts on Leica lens and camera bodies
In reply to monoblocks, Jan 5, 2012

monoblocks wrote:

And I would believe that people will take up more and more used Leica lenses with their mirrorless camera but leave behind the VERY expensive Leica camera bodies.

This I can easily see but there will always be people who want a Leica just for the red dot and because of the history. Then again, I wonder how much longer people can justify spending 5-10x more just for the Leica badge and to get a more limited body compared with the alternatives.

The price of lens will go up but price of camera body will come off as their sensors will be outdated.

This is exactly it, lenses are he main thing to keep, electronics fail and are outdated sooner than one thinks but you can keep and use M lenses on a whole host of cameras (film and digital).

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Godfrey
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Re: my thoughts on Leica lens and camera bodies
In reply to VladimirV, Jan 5, 2012

Oh, so now you come over to the Leica forum just to disparage Leica cameras.
I'm ashamed for you, Christian.

BTW, Leica cameras have had electronics in them since the M6 in the middle 1980s. Nikons have had electronics in them since the middle 1970s. They're still working....
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VladimirV
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Re: my thoughts on Leica lens and camera bodies
In reply to Godfrey, Jan 5, 2012

Godfrey wrote:

Oh, so now you come over to the Leica forum just to disparage Leica cameras.
I'm ashamed for you, Christian.

Ah, I just think it good to offer a different point of view every now and then.

And I don't disparage Leica cameras, I just don't seen the point of their digital cameras, their film cameras are fantastic and I would like to see Leica make a real digital version of them and the M8/9 are not it and neither is the X1.

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Irakly Shanidze
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Re: my thoughts on Leica lens and camera bodies
In reply to Godfrey, Jan 5, 2012

This is exactly what I mean: with an optical rangefinder I can focus on a backlit strand of hair from fifteen feet away, when everything is pitch-dark around.
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Godfrey
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Re: my thoughts on Leica lens and camera bodies
In reply to VladimirV, Jan 5, 2012

VladimirV wrote:

Godfrey wrote:

Oh, so now you come over to the Leica forum just to disparage Leica cameras.
I'm ashamed for you, Christian.

Ah, I just think it good to offer a different point of view every now and then.

Your point of view is reiterated on DPR approximately a dozen times a day. It's not different, it's just more myth to bore people to tears.

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Irakly Shanidze
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Re: my thoughts on Leica lens and camera bodies
In reply to Jono Slack, Jan 5, 2012

Jono, I know, when the light is there, peak focusing is wonderful. it just so happens that most of my pictures are shot when the light is somewhere else
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Irakly Shanidze
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Re: my thoughts on Leica lens and camera bodies
In reply to VladimirV, Jan 5, 2012

What would you consider The Real Digital Leica?
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MilSooper
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Re: my thoughts on Leica lens and camera bodies
In reply to Irakly Shanidze, Jan 5, 2012

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Jono Slack
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Re: my thoughts on Leica lens and camera bodies
In reply to Irakly Shanidze, Jan 5, 2012

Irakly Shanidze wrote:

Jono, I know, when the light is there, peak focusing is wonderful. it just so happens that most of my pictures are shot when the light is somewhere else

Well, to be honest, I almost prefer it in low light - there always seem to be enough sparkles to focus, whereas in high contrast scenes there can be too much to be able to see the image properly.

I don't think it's any substitute for a rangefinder on an M9, and it's certainly not going to replace mine . . . but it DOES work, and it works well - I shot a New years Eve party in dreadful lighting with the NEX7 and the 50 'lux - focusing was not a problem (the light, and the amount I'd drunk were more of an issue!).

all the best
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