Home Cameras/Lenses Leica Return of Tom Stanworth and a Leica changing moment

Return of Tom Stanworth and a Leica changing moment

 Darulaman Palace around 2009, Leica M6 and Zeiss 50mm Planar (Tom Stanworth)
Darulaman Palace around 2009, Leica M6 and Zeiss 50mm Planar (Tom Stanworth)

Tom Stanworth has returned to live in Britain after over eleven years in war-torn Afghanistan. During that time he has used his film Leicas, and latterly a Mark I Monochrome, to record life in a country that few of us can ever hope to visit. His Leicas, and a tiny Ricoh GR, have been his constant companions throughout the decade. We have written about Tom’s adventures on several occasions and you can find a list of links at the end of this article. 

A brilliant photographer and owner of the popular Photo Fundamentalist blog, Tom has used the opportunity of his return to England to assess his relationship with Leica:

I have shot the Leica M system for over ten years and I still absolutely love it. But things have changed. My needs and priorities have changed and my circumstances have changed. The camera ‘landscape’ has also moved forwards and these all impact such decisions. I started with Leica film cameras (I’ve owned various M2, M3, M6 and MP cameras at one point or other) and jumped into Leica digital with a Monochrom (M9M). The resultant photos have wowed me, but there is more to it than that. I have to remain focused on the most cost effective ways of producing the best photographs I can. Its also important not to forget that you can’t evaluate the quality of photographs you haven’t taken. One must therefore ask whether a system is restrictive and leaves you wishing for X, Y or Z.

 Another of Tom Stanworth
Another of Tom Stanworth’s iconic and moving images from Afganistan: Heroin addicts outside the peripheral buildings at the Russian Cultural Centre, taken in 2008.

Tom has chosen to move his full-frame photography from Leica to Sony, while retaining the APS-C Ricoh GR as a handy, pocket go-anywhere camera for street work. He makes some persuasive arguments in favour of the move to Sony, many of which I can appreciate. Certainly in terms of value for money there is no disputing the cost-effectiveness of the Sony FE system. I can also fully understand his loyalty to the Ricoh GR. I also have one of these little cameras on the gear shelf and slip it into my pocket when I want to travel really light. 

Yet there is something about the Leica system that keeps me loyal. It is partly the heritage, tracing a line of progress over ninety years, but also the sense of belonging that keeps me in the Leica fold. Above all, though, I love the cameras and I love the system.

Yet I cannot with honesty say that Tom has made a bad decision. After all, everyone has to make a choice and Tom feels that the Sony system can give him everything he needs at a much lower cost. I appreciate that and I am sure Tom will continue to produce more of his wonderful photography, irrespective of the tools he uses. 

We all have our reasons for our choice of system. I have tarried with Sony, dallied with Fuji and am currently engaged in a little love affair with Olympus. But my one true love remains Leica and it is the M that I pick up most times when I am setting off for an event or even a walk around a favourite city. 

I (and I am sure Tom) will be interested in any views from readers. I wish Tom good luck in his new system but I’m glad he’s hanging on to one Leica, his original M2. Perhaps it will make him feel a little homesick from time to time.

Read the full story of Tom’s transition from Leica to Sony



  1. It was through reading the Photo Fundamentalist blog, that I purchased my Ricoh GRrrrrr and also found my way to MacFilos Mike.

    I agree that the GRrrr (that’s growl) gives great results, but I found the closeness of the controls really annoying (growl) and I gave it to my daughter.

    I am not a professional but I too love the Leica cameras that I have (M2 M6 M-P) and I have no plans to get lost in the labyrinthine Sony menu’s again.

    The best p&s camera that I had was the LX3 from Panasonic, that did everything in a small package very well, I was surprised to read that you were considering moving your later (read current) Leica version on Mike.

    • Stephen,

      I have absolutely no complaints about the D-Lux. In fact, it was the catalyst for my trying out m43. I sell all my digitals when I think the time is right (with the exception of the M-P which was caused solely through the acquisition of the M-D) and I just thought I wouldn’t be using the D-Lux much while I am playing with the Olympus PEN. And, of course, we can expect a new D-Lux sometime in the next year I would imagine.

  2. There’s not that much difference in image quality between the various digital makes nowadays. Lenses can make a difference, but less so than in the film days. Fujifilm is way out front on handling, which is the most important differentiator for me. I hope that Leica is listening to and looking at Fujifilm when it upgrades the M. For me, the current generation of digital Ms are ‘clunky’ by comparison with their film ancestors. Leica need to get back to where they once were in terms of handling. As for the Sony models, they seem to me to be like ‘computers with lenses’.

    The closer it is to ‘traditional handling’ the better I like any camera.


  3. With modern digital, it seems there is a march toward an ideal. I admit to not being qualified to make technical analysis of digital images, but I am able to read such analysis; it seems they all use the same terminology, i.e means of critique, and manufacturers respond with measured strides toward that ideal; as they move closer and closer, the disparity in what their various brands render becomes harder to discern. Maybe of of the advantages of this is that it will become apparent that photography is not just about subject and composition…..who has not viewed a digital portfolio of brilliantly composed, tack-sharp photos and not become, well…..bored with the underlying sameness.

    The perfect sensor probably does lie in future. I am not so sure I want anything to do with it.

  4. I have to say I’m not surprised that the Monochrom has become a dead-end for any photographer. I loved the idea, until I realised that I would lose all flexibility in post-processing – the digital darkroom where the real creative power lies. I’d have to carry a set of colour filters everywhere with me, and be constantly swapping them. No thanks. As much as I like the Leica philosophy of distilling the photographic process to its pure, bare essentials (and I probably will buy an M-D at some point), a monochrome-only sensor removes too much.


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