Home Cameras/Lenses 7Artisans Leica M System: In praise of simplicity and longevity

Leica M System: In praise of simplicity and longevity

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Were we to judge the success of a camera system on the number of new lenses it spawns every year, we would conclude that the Leica M is the world’s most common and most successful camera. True or false?

Hardly a month goes by without a new lens from one of the many third-party manufacturers, including Voigtländer, Zeiss and 7Artisans. And even Leica continues to do its bit, with expensive new creations such as the 75mm Noctilux, the f/1.5 Summilux-M ASPH and various limited editions.

Voigländer's latest Mk.III version of the 35mm f/1.2 Nokton
Voigländer’s latest Mk.III version of the 35mm f/1.2 Nokton

It seems, though, that it is Cosina Voigtländer that takes the Cordon d’Or for optical fecundity. The Japanese company is rampant, especially in comparison with compatriot Zeiss’s wavering M libido. Maybe it’s something to do with such quintessentially German monikers being transplanted to Japan. Or maybe it’s the Umlaut wot done it.

What can we make of all this? Optical companies throughout the world are investing in a system that has been around for 70 years and is represented by just one camera manufacturer. None of the protagonists makes a camera to go with all these lenses.

The cheapest current camera on which you can bolt all these wonderful new optics is the ever-so-’umble Leica M-A at £3,600. If you fancy a digital M, it has to be the M10 at £5,750 although, it has to be said, the superseded M240 and M240 Monochrom models are still lurking on shelves for marginally fewer spondulicks. Fortunately, after a 70-year run, buying opportunities are not limited to new stock.

Toil and trouble

By any stretch of the imagination, the number of new Leica rangefinders sold in a year should not be able to support all this frenzied activity, this honing of aspherical elements and crafting of hubble-bubble mechanical focusing contrivances for such a very niche sort of snapper.

My friend Adam Lee with his pre-1960 double-stroke M3 (image Mike Evans)
My friend Adam Lee with his pre-1960 double-stroke M3 (image Mike Evans)

In the real world, however, we have to acknowledge the unique position of the Leica rangefinder. The M-Mount, as we learned last week, was patented in 1950 and had its naming day during Photokina in September 1954. That was arguably one of the most significant new-product announcements in the history of photography. Who could have imagined, back in those days over a glass or two of Kölsch, that the vast majority of Μ3s and ensuing rangefinder cameras would still be alive and snapping in 2020? It would have been an alcohol-fuelled joke, that’s what it would have been.

“Lifetime investment in perfect photography”: How prophetic could an advertisement be? Spend around £125 on this set up in 1954 and you’d have enjoyed some profitable photography over the next 66 years.

In our throwaway society, there can be few examples of products which stand the test of time so successfully. As with Rolls-Royces, Porsche 911s and other similarly fine cars, Leica’s film cameras and its mechanical lenses defy the precepts of modern consumerism.

In comparison with other camera systems and the above-mentioned motor cars, very few M-Mount products have been scrapped and most are “still on the road”.

From the M3, through the M2, M4 and M6, there’s a ready market for the cameras and, as a result, a constant demand for compatible lenses. Derivatives such as the MP are also much in demand. Only the M5 and to some extent the M7, in both cases unfairly, are not high on the list of the new generation of fans, the M-illenials. They seem to be getting younger and they are buying these latest lenses in sufficient quantities to support an entire industry.

Electronic excess

There is no sign that this trend is reversing; quite the contrary, in fact, if Voigtländer’s latest offerings are any guide. M-Mount lenses are a unique success in the photographic world simply because they are wholly mechanical, eminently serviceable and fit for a century of use.

In these days of electronic excess, where products are out of date within a year, the good old M-Mount soldiers on. Even if Leica were suddenly to close its shutters for the last time, the system would live on, in a state of perpetual motion, for another half-century at least. I predict that the more the industry flirts with fleeting technology, the more attractive the stability of the old M system will become.

And there was life even before the M3 came along. Mike exercises his snap-around-the-corner 1935 Leica III with the intrepid Winkelsucher (corner viewfinder). Those were the days before GDPR.
And there was life even before the M3 came along. Sneaky Mike exercises his snap-around-the-corner 1935 Leica III with the intrepid Winkelsucher (angle viewfinder). Those were the days before GDPR (image Adam Lee, M3).

Indeed, it is inconceivable that the vast majority of electronic lenses produced to match modern cameras (and that includes Leica’s SL and TL optics) will still be usable in 70 years time, even if their circuits haven’t withered and died by then. With their autofocus mechanisms, electronic communications with transient, matching bodies and, in many cases, complex stabilisation systems, they will survive only as long as there are camera bodies to call home and someone able to repair them. New developments will render them mostly obsolete within ten or twenty years.

Investment

The Leica M7, although technically the epitome of film Leicas is less popular than some earlier models, in particular the M7. The M7 is identical in size and operation to the latest M10 digital, by the way.
The Leica M7, although technically the pinnacle of film Leicas, is less popular than some earlier models, in particular its predecessor, the M6. The M7 is identical in size and operation to the latest M10 digital, by the way, and that can’t be a bad thing. It is the only automatic aperture-priority Leica film camera

Buying an expensive computerised optic is certainly not the sort of investment decision that you hope for when acquiring an M lens. Because we all know the M lens will still be usable in another seventy years, its depreciation is inversely proportional to its longevity.

Could there be a time when most photographers become accustomed to throw-away equipment — a sort of super iPhone camera that can be sent to the knacker’s yard after a couple of years, lens(es) and all? And could it be that there will be an increasing band of photographers who will gravitate to the only remaining mechanical system, that invented by Leica 70 years ago? I think we are already witnessing that band of purists, judging by the increasing popularity of (in particular) the M6 among young photographers.

£790 for a 35-year-old camera body. Must be joking. But this camera, seen here in Aperture Photographic in 2017. But today, three years later, you'd be lucky to bag it for £1,200. A profitable pleasure.
£790 for a 35-year-old camera body? You must be joking. But this camera, seen here in Aperture Leica in 2017 was actually a very good buy at the time. Today, less than three years later, you’d be lucky to bag it for £1,200. A profitable pleasure it would have been.

There is currently a wide range of M-Mount bodies available at almost every price point. Buying one of these cameras and, perhaps, adding a few mechanical lenses, is potentially one of the cheapest ways of enjoying photography. If you play your cards well, you could even end up making a profit, thus achieving that rare thing, pleasure for nothing.

M bull awakes

Even Leica digitals, such as the M9, seem to have a life well beyond normal expectations. This is because the system is immutable. Only the sensor and processor improve version by version and, let’s face it, the M9 was pretty good for its time and is still a joy to use. It may be a little insensitive in the ISO stakes, but it still produces wonderful images.

An example of the more desirable Wetzlar-made M4 in black chrome. This would now cost north of £2,000 compared with the £1,200 this model cost some five years ago (without the lens, of course).
An example of the more desirable Wetzlar-made M4 in black chrome. This would now cost well north of £2,000 compared with the £1,200 this camera cost some five years ago (without the lens, of course, can’t be greedy).

As a result, after ten or eleven years, you can still pay up to 50 per cent of the original price for a good M9-P. Where else could you see so little depreciation if you had bought that camera new?

I’m therefore bullish about the M system. However often I tarry a while with the latest SL, the CL or, indeed, the wonderful Q2, I always return to the M with a sense of peace, of having found a place that will not change dramatically while I am enjoying the next cup of tea.

There is so much pleasure to be had from working with a simple, manual camera (whether it be an M3 or an M10) that I am constantly re-enthused. It’s like owning a fine writing implement, or wearing an expensive Swiss watch: Pretenders come and go, they may offer transient benefits and advantages, but the appeal of true craftsmanship never wanes.

What do you think? Do you think you will continue to return to the M rangefinder as an antidote to computerised excess? Leave a comment and let’s discuss.

42 COMMENTS

  1. “..Spend around £125 on this set up in 1954 and you’d have enjoyed some profitable photography over the next 66 years”.

    That’s what my father-in-law did; he bought number 706676, made in ’54, and used it forever. After he died, I inherited it. I had it cleaned – it was a bit stiff – and the 50mm lens polished and (re-?)coated, and I used it yesterday up in London, in ‘Aperture’, the camera shop ..we-ell, in the old branch which now does just film processing, where I took a roll of XP2 for developing.

    He bought a collapsible 90mm, and a “goggled” 35mm, too, and I had those cleaned as well, and they’re excellent. I had the lightmeter – the only component which wasn’t working – cleaned and fixed (..and I did the same job myself on my old Contax IIIa last week: now like new).

    I don’t use the Leicameter much – you can pretty much guess with such forgiving film as XP2 – but the camera gets a reasonable amount of use ..it has, after all, the most accurate rangefinder of all the subsequent Leica M series!

    • P.S: £790 for an M4-P..? ..Munich’s the place to get 2nd-hand Leicas; my M4-P (..black, complete with working Leicameter..) cost about €250 three years ago. Sauter’s and Foto Presto are the 2nd-hand windows to watch! ..Oh, and they also sell online.

      • But the magnification of the finder on the M3 is 91% life-size, giving the most accurate focusing of all of them. (The finder magnification of the M9 was a paltry 0.68% ..slightly more than half life-size.) My M7 has an 85% life-size finder – there were other, lesser, finder options ..depending on whether you wanted to see the view seen by, say, a 28mm or a 35mm lens.

        The finder on the original M3 was meant for a 50mm or narrower (longer) lens, and so didn’t accommodate the view seen by a 35mm lens ..for that, you bought a 35mm lens with the additional “goggles” attached, which then broadened the view which you saw through the 50mm finder.

        The M10 finder is 73% life-size. So things look further away and smaller in the M10 finder than in the old original M3 finder ..and considerably smaller and further away in the M9 finder!

        • I have every M model from the M3 through to the M10. I find that with a 50mm lens the M3 gives the most accurate focus of all. The M10 is an improvement on the previous model, but the long rangefinder base on the M3 has never been bettered.

          William

  2. It’s a great article Mike, and makes me scurry back to my lovely M10 after a week doing publicity stuff with my (also lovely) SL2.
    But you won’t get me back to film! About 3 years ago I made a real effort – 3 months film only – M6 – half the films never got processed and look at me grumpily on my desk. If I still had a dark room and did wet prints then I might consider it.
    It’s a lovely thought that my (rather tired looking) 75 APO will still be just as relevant I another 20 years.
    best

    • You’re right about 75mm being the lens, Jono: I thought my 75 f2.5 was great ..we-ell, terrific!.. but when I tried a not-much-larger f2 APO, I was hooked, you naughty thing!

      (However, the comparatively cheapo Voigtländer 75 f1.5 (338 grams) gives just about the same background blur – well, ‘similar’ – to the monstrously heavy (and pricey) 50mm f0.95 (775 grams!) ..so the Voigtländer’s the 75 which I use the most!)

    • Thanks, Jono. I hope it makes a good discussion point. I tend to agree on film. I’ve tried to get back into film, but I have now been spoiled by instant digital results. As with you, things might be different if I went the whole hog and did home processing.

      • Dr Kaufmann told me that the 75mm f2.5 lens was excellent when I took his photo along with editor Mike. It is not a focal length that I use very often, otherwise I might have bought a ‘better’ 75mm lens. I might add there that the 7.3cm f1.9 Hektor, which I have, gives wild bokeh, which you won’t see on modern lenses

        As for film, the technician at our gallery summarised it perfectly last week when he said “it is digital for business, but film for the soul”. He shoots with an M6 himself. This man knows what he is talking about. A few weeks ago he did superb work for an exhibition of Dorothea Lange prints which, it must be said, arrived as scans, but the final result on walls looked just like ‘real prints’

        I’ll leave it at that.
        William

  3. I am bullish on the Leica m system. I did not like the M 240 as it constantly froze on me and had to have battery removed to solve it but that required the removal of my almost conformaly coated half case. Sigh… I understand that after years went by that this issue was dramatically reduced with firmware updates. however, I do not know if that included the usage of the disgusting evf. i had to epoxy my overpriced evf down as it very very very easily popped up to the vertical position. I should have purchased the Epson low price version. I cheerfully sold the M 240 with almost no loss due to increase in prices so purchased the gorgeous but somewhat large not exactly discreet Leica SL. I loved using my m-mount glass on it especially after using the world best zoom the SL 24-90. I sold the SL 24-90 after some emotional struggle but my doctor said my camera arm was stretching one inch a month and that was looking odd. I then sold my SL before dramatic price reduction in anticipation of the SL2 which 2 years later is still as rare as hens teeth.
    I then purchase Panasonic S1R which a truly amazing camera and loved it but I found m-glass did not play to my perfectionist standards in spite of positive reviews by people such as Thorsten Overgaard extolling that you can enjoy great results with the whole Leica m catalogue – I should send him a bill for my unhappiness. I then wanted to get an M but could not wrap my mind around an M10 when I also want an SL2.
    I then found a Leica M-E at a fire sale price that was open box with warranty at my favorite camera dealer. I absolutely love the rendering of this camera! I now have the joy of a rangefinder again at a firesale price. I also got a five year guarantee on the sensor so hopefully I will live that long.
    There is a joy in going out with a rangefinder with relatively tiny glass.
    My current m- glass system built up over the years includes: Voigtlander 15 iii, sensational Leica 18mm, Leica 21/3.4, Leica 28/1.4, gorgeous Leica 28/5.6, Zeiss 35/2, legendary Leica 50/1.4, gorgeous Voigtlander 50/3.5, wonderful 7Artisans 75/1.25. The Leica 50/1.4 is tiny compared to my Panasonic S pro 50/1.4 which captures gorgeous images but I cannot carry much else.
    I am patiently waiting for delivery of a Sigma fp to see how well it works with the m glass and also use it with my two l mount lenses.
    I am Obviously bullish on m system and may go eventually for a M10 monochrom instead of the SL 2 if the Sigma fp works out. The L-mount alliance sure enriches the options with m glass!

    I replaced my Leica SL 24-90 with a Oly 12-100 pro lens which is stunning and a fraction of the size. I have never missed the amazing 24-90 because of the size and weight for my purposes. Oh, by the way, for those silly people that think M43 is dead, 3 more companies have just announced joining the consortium. I suggest that Mike due a posting on that.

    • Thanks, Brian for all the background. I did see the news piece about the new recruits to the M43 camp but haven’t got round to doing anything. Since I sold up my M43 equipment I don’t think I have a valid voice any more. I certainly don’t see M43 nearing death. On the contrary, I think it offers the perfect complement to full-frame or medium format. It is possibly APS-C, neither fish nor fowl, that is more likely to fall off the perch.

    • Hi Brian
      Interesting – I’m actually seriously considering a EM1 iii with the 12-100 for those lighter zoom moments. My 24-90 isn’t going anywhere (just so good for weddings and events), but I’m tempted to dip my fingers back into µ43

      • Just after I dipped out….. I sold all my m43 lenses but the idea of a 24-200mm range in one compact zoom is certainly compelling. Maybe I was rather rash. As I said in another comment, I think m43 and full-frame complement one another perfectly but I don’t know about APS-C. There’s not much point in changing from m43 to APS-C, nor from full-frame to APS-C. It’s increasingly becoming piggy in the middle.

          • I am tempted to get out too. It had crossed my mind that the Sigma fp with that 45mm lens, which I already own, is as compact and light as a typical APS-C equivalent. I just don’t often feel motivated to use the CL, unfortunately.

          • Hi Jono, I have been M43 and “full frame” since the amazing Panasonic G9 came out. I sold off my Hasselblad system due to needing to simplify my system options and overlaps. I am overly picky on image quality buy M43 is definitely second to none in good light. I have simplified my system recently to reduce overlaps and my wife is asking me recently awkward questions such as how many cameras do I have. Thank God she did not ask me how many lenses I have.

            I owned many Oly and Panny lenses that in general were picked after careful study of image rendering under a variety of lighting conditions. I found the Oly 25/1.2 to be disappointing in rendering and overpriced and replaced it with the much better and more compact Panny Leica 25/1.4 which I have since sold to reduce system redundancy. The Oly 25/1.2 and 45/1.2 are sensational in all aspects except I hated the manual focus clutch instead of just a switch. I sold these due to Leica m redundancy. I owned the Panny Leica 12-60 which had a noticeable Leica 3d microcontrast rendering and somewhat better bokeh but I had to exchange 4 copies to get a properly centred version. My daughter stole that one to put on her G9 and she takes it everywhere and captures wonderful candids of our now 3 year old grandson. I replaced it with the Oly pro 12-100 lens and it is the only zoom I have used that seems to have equally razor sharp edge to edge resolution from wide open over the whole zoom range. Having such a fantastic zoom covering 24mm to 200mm is a must have purchase and worth entering M43 for it alone.
            I used to own the magnificent oly 75/1.8 but sold as I was not needing 1.8 very often and was redundant with the 12-100 for most of my applications. But it was so tiny – but I am forced to get a wee bit realistic! However, I took a photo of an international model with it a couple of years ago and the photos were among her favourites and she got prints for her parents. So certainly there are amazing compact options in M43 in spite of what many on-line think that have never used the system.
            I also had the oly pro 40-150 and it was amazing and has a lens hood design that is brilliant. I sold as I did not use it much due to the much more compact 12-100 that eliminated need for changing lenses for common wider focal lengths.
            I still own the most sensational telephoto I have ever used for razor sharpness and bokeh: the Panny Leica 200/2.8. It is incredibly compact for the specs and it will have to be pried out of my hands when I am dead. It is essentially just as sharp with the included 1.4x converter which is unheard of.
            I owned the Oly pro 7–14 lens for a brief period primarily purchased for real estate interiors. I had read reviews that said it had flare and sun artifact issues but it was so bad with light sources including windows that I sold it in disgust at a significant loss.. Full frame is the correct answer for ultra wide glass anyway if you want detail.
            Some may think I am an idiot changing out so much equipment but I have reasons to some degree. I was rear ended two years ago by distracted driver and suffered major whiplash and right arm nerve pain/control issues and medium traumatic brain injuries. I could no longer carry heavyweight camera equipment so tried out G9 with various glass and it made me morein love with photography than a long time. Amazing images light equipment somewhat like Leica M but autofocus option and an incredible mature range of optics from fisheye to 800mm equivalents in full frame. I have recently got to the point of being able to carry more so have been modifying my system to suit my interests.
            My M43 system has a zoom and telephoto emphasis with the exception that I will keep the spectacular Panny Leica 12/1.4. OMG! Leica 3D rendering and autofocus.
            I am waiting for the Sigma fp, viewfinder, large grip, and Sigma 45/2.8 to arrive next week to see how well the trample all other viewfinder experience and rendering goes with my m glass. I will also use it with my sensational but huge Panny s pro 50/1.4 and the blow your socks off Leica SL 35/2 that I purchased due to Jono Slack review and images.
            My core love will be my recently purchased new Leica ME (M9 ccd version that captures a gorgeous rendering that I have never enjoyed before!) with an emphasis on the 28mm to 75mm focal lengths.
            I hope my unplanned journey through cameras and glass will be food for thought and of benefit to some people. For me, the ideal system is composed of a joint M43 and full frame equipment and cherry picking the best solution from both. I think APS-C sensor size is fine for a limited system but in the long run the investment in choice will not be there as seen in the CL. I was hoping the CL would be full frame but c’est la vie and it seems to be getting orphaned by Leica.

  4. Thanks for the fun article, Mike. I thoroughly enjoyed it!
    You are right about the M, it is simply timeless. I have been an M user for over 50 years, starting at the tender age of 12. My dad lent me his M3 for a school trip, admonishing me to not let anyone touch it, use it, and if I lost it not to bother coming home! He was an M user from the beginning of the M, and before that LTM since just after the end of WWII, when he was stationed in Germany with the Occupation. So you see, I was brought up with Leicas.
    There is nothing else like them, and now that I don’t shoot commercially, they are the only thing I use.
    Now my 2 year old grandson is into my Leica M10. I’ll pre-focus the camera and put it in Live View. He sits on my lap and he loves to push the shutter release button. He squeals with joy when he sees the picture come up on the display! I call him my Leica Man in training!

    • And I bet that in 60 years’ time he could well be writing of his love of the M….. when I was a lad, grandad’s M10 and all that….

  5. Years ago, I was fortunate enough to live close to Peter Goldfield’s Goldfinger Pharmacy in Muswell Hill, and there I could buy every sort of film I wanted from Fuji, Agfa, Ilford, Kodak-you name it. Along with that was everything needed for my home darkroom, from enlargers to paper and chemicals.

    I’d very much like to go back to film, with Leica and Nikon F2/AS/SB cameras, but hardly a month goes by without seeing that so-and-so has discontinued film “X”, and I think I’m stuck with digital. That’s in a nice way, with M (and TL) lenses on a Leica CL.

    • My understanding is that film is undergoing a revival. It certainly seems to be readily available but, of course, no longer at chemists’ shops.

      • Chemist’s shops? You are bringing back memories of the 1950s. There is a growth of film photography not only with ‘old lads’ like me who remember it the first time around but also with the ‘digital natives’ who never knew it. A young French chap (late 20s) came into an exhibition (which was all film photos, some taken with an old Nikkormat which I had donated) launch I was at two weeks ago toting an Leica M4-2 with a 7 Artisans 35mm f2 lens, which was a lot smaller than my 35mm Summicron. I asked him to bring in his portfolio some day. It seemed to be largely ‘street photography’, ‘great grandson of HCB’ and all that. One thing that a ‘digital detox’ requires is the ability to go back to the situation where we evaluated and considered every shot before we took it. Also, we need to get away from the need to ‘chimp’ after taking a photo, which is what the M10-D is about. It, however, is no substitute for the ‘real thing’.

        William

        • You will recall that R.G.Lewis started as a developing business over father’s chemists in Enfield. Pharmacies often sold photographic gear and, of course, chemicals for processing.

        • I have the MD type 262, and I certainly don’t share the same sort of ownership history of others here but this camera was on my list as “most desirable object” before Leica made it. When they released the M60, we all knew it was a possibility.

          I was disappointed at the weirdly high price of a cut down camera, even though I understood the stated reason. So I waited for them to come onto the used market. This was a totally pointless exercise in economy, since I ended up buying all sorts of stuff by way of compensation, and would have benefitted more from buying what I wanted in the first place. I also probably spent more than double had I taken the preferred route from the start.

          I am a massive fan of the film versions of the M camera too, this developed from Mike Johnston’s OCOLOY which I completed with an M2/Summicron. I enjoyed the experience of using film again, and I now use everything from 4×5 to 35mm film, and pinhole to MF cameras, mostly old junk.

          Even if the same techniques are employed, the Leica MD is very different from any film M, due to the difference in ability at making a picture… It is light years ahead of any film M. However, I still prefer the film camera, the lack of technical flexibility of film, is a major part of photography, where the photographer tries to cheat the camera and its available technology… One doesn’t need to with the MD.

          So it is the same simple techniques, no need to read a menu, and you pretty much know that you are going to get a picture, even though you can’t see until it is “developed”, just as with film.

          The film M is far more absorbing as a tool though, especially if one is happy to develop at home, and then either scan or wet print.

          Given a choice of which camera to take out, I will usually take the M4 or the CL (old),usually with the 1950’s Nikkor lens that I love, however for travelling, the M262 is so much more user friendly. I also tend to stick to HP5, no colour, even though I still have bag of Poundland colour film in the fridge.

          Whatever, the overriding principle of the M, that everything is up to “the user’, rings true throughout the history of the range, and in my view, it that which is the essence of the legend.

  6. Although I own and use my M4-p, M6 0.85 and M240 a lot I have to say that in my opinion all these third party lenses are being created because the Leica M mount has become the universal mount for mirrorless adaption, not only for use on Leicas.
    I have used my Voigtlander 15mm ver 3 and 21mm f1.8 with Sony, Leica, Nikon Z and they work perfectly on all. My old Canon LTM and Leica wideangles I keep for film, my Zeiss ZM 21mm f4.5, is crap on any digital and fabulous on film.The ZM Zeiss 28mm f2.8 and 35mm f2.8 are beautiful on film and on the M240 but hopeless on mirrorless unless well stopped down. My LTM canon 50mm f1.4 is lovely on any medium.
    I actually cannot stand modern Aspheric Leica lenses and the old wide ones are no good for digital, so the third party lenses fill a very popular niche.
    My 7Artisans 28mm f1.4 has hardly been off my M240 since I bought it, much prefer it to any Leica 28mm I have tried of any aperture. I also tried it on my Z6 and with IBIS and that sensor it is a low light beast. Heavy but lovely.
    Lots of these lenses can be bought in Leica M and Sony mounts, but most buy the Leica version because it can then be adapted to either and therefore will hold it’s value better as it appeals to a larger audience.
    So the mount from the smallest selling camera becomes a defacto universal mount, mad but true…..
    Personally I moved house recently so am building yet another new darkroom and spending more time using film than digital which has started to bore me since I retired from earning money with my camera. I find 5×4 particularly interesting to use, love having movements with all lenses.

    • That’s a valid point about the M Mount becoming a sort of universal fitting using these lenses on a wide range of mirrorless cameras. It’s something I overlooked in the article, but you are right. None of this, however, does any harm to the prospects for M cameras. Anyone buying lenses for use on mirrorless cameras always has the option to pick up a Leica body and enjoy adaptor-free photography.

    • Such a good point about the M-mount (and, I guess, L-mount about which I know nothing) and its burgeoning use. It was a great marketing decision by Leica to join in the Sigma/Panasonic union that will translate a into great world for users. The example that comes to mind is the old contest in the VCR world: Beta with superior resolution, sound and machines but a tight control over its technology and early unwillingness to license it; JVC, with their longer-recording VHS format, licensed their tech to any company that wanted it and would pay the fees, resulting in more competition that drove down machine prices. (Their initial cassette taping time was also longer than Beta.) More users is almost always a good thing!

  7. Great article which I thoroughly enjoyed reading Mike. It certainly does give a lot of food for thought. I’ve been shooting Leica almost exclusively since 1969, with the exception of a pair of Nikons I use for safari and motorsport. (It’s difficult to put a 600mm f4.0 on an M body.)
    I started with a screw mount Leica, although cannot remember exactly which model it was, then went to a Double-Wind M3, followed by a pair of M6’s (the black for B&W and the chrome for colour), before going digital with the M8, M9, M240 and M10, plus the M9M, Type 246 and recently returning to my favourite; the M9 Monochrom.
    Unlike others, I can’t think of going back to film. Having to dedicate a full day in the darkroom in order to get the most out of the chemicals. Digital is wonderful, because now I can spend five minutes, or five hours playing around and easily “breaking-off” part way through a project to answer her who must be obeyed.

    • Thanks, Tom. I wasn’t sure what to write about yesterday, but I rattled this off in an hour and I’m surprised to find it generating so much interest. Must try harder!

        • Yeah, totally agree. This was indeed a good read. This picture of you and your’s of Adam Lee, was it taken recently? Even here, in Delhi, there aren’t many who process and print b&w film anymore. Infact, there aren’t many Kodak colour processing labs either. Should be the same in your place too I guess.

          • I think those pictures were taken about four years ago. Adam did a good job processing the ones he took with the M3. My shot was commercially processed and then enhanced a bit in Lightroom.

            Processing is quite easy to find still, although most of the mainstream companies do colour. Black and white is a bit more specialised and, generally, more expensive. In fact, when you take into account the cost of the film, it isn’t a cheap hobby any more, especially if you don’t do your own processing.

  8. I can’t comment on the M system as I’ve never used anything from it. Describing the APSC system as “Neither fish nor fowl” maybe missing a point or two. It has the support of a number of manufacturers covering Canon, Leica, Nikon, Panasonic, Pentax, Sigma and Sony make cameras to fit this format. If that’s neither fish nor fowl it must be reasonably worthwhile or some names would not be there regardless of what you call it.

    You could argue that the APSC format is the perfect answer for those who have grown tired of overweight, over complicated full frame cameras, or throwbacks that no longer make sense to the modern day photographer.

    The IQ is more than good enough for all but those whose livelihoods depend on their cameras. Enlarge APSC images to A1 and you will not be disappointed. Can the majority of photographers in a unlabeled test tell the difference in IQ between APSC and FF? It they for sure can tell the weight difference between FF and APSC. But the IQ of APSC seems to be better than M43, and the weight increase over M43 not the great.

    So maybe it’s true: APSC is neither fish nor fowl: it’s actually Goldilocks.

    • Yes of course I could equally well construct an argument that APS-C is the future. Maybe I will! At least it is a good talking point.

  9. I was talking to one of the guys at Aperture recently about the film vs digital thing, and he, like some of us, has an M10 and an MP (film) and came up with this:

    “Digital is for emergencies!”

    Some months later I still think it’s priceless, hilarious and somewhat true!

    • I’d have thought it’s the other way around: digital is for creativity ..for dense colours, for use in low light (with the hi ISO capabilities of current digital cameras, compared with what, max 3200 ISO of film?), digital offers absolutely silent shutters, digital offers b-&-w or colour at the touch of a switch (or a menu option) ..so you’ve always got BOTH loaded in the camera, and digital offers instant results, and instant adjustment, without dipping the sensor in assorted chemicals afterwards; but film is for emergencies ..when you’ve no battery left!

  10. At the Boston Annual LHSA meeting in October 2019 I had a quite humorous conversation with Dr. Kaufmann, Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Leica Camera but mostly known as the public face and saviour of Leica Camera. When I told him that my first Leica, an M4 black paint bought when I was 16, had recently let me down after 49 years with no issues (cloth shutter curtain separated from the metal leading edge), he gave a hearty laugh and asked me, “Don’t you think we make our cameras to last too long?” We laughed so hard I imagine those standing near must have wondered what was going on!

    • That longevity was one of the reasons Leica was doing so badly when Dr K cane along. He solved it with the digital rangefinders which we keep buying in every iteration. Tremendous marketing exercise…

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