time travel with Leica

Looking back when I started with photography back when I was a child, I had a cheap film camera from some 2nd hand market for a few bucks. It basically had an integrated fixed 35mm lens, a range finder and a shutter. There was not really much else this camera allowed me to adjust. Everything was in focus because the lens was wide. I cannot remember the f-stop this thing had, but likely it was something like f5.6 or so. I loved this camera because of it it’s simplicity and probably also because it was my very first own one.

A few other cameras later I ended up with an Olympus AF-1TWIN that allowed to switch between a 35mm f/3.5 and 70mm f/6.3. As the name implies it offered auto focus and still a range finder. Toggling between both both lenses was just simply a matter of pressing a button. By doing so also the range finder changed it’s view.

Olympus AF-1TWIN

A few years later I switched to my first SLR, Canon EOS 300 (also known as EOS Rebel 2000). I used it quite a lot with a variety of lenses. However I did not really spend too much for lenses back then and so I ended up with some cheap 28-80mm Kit Lens, 75-300mm Kit-Lens as well as a Sigma Fisheye. What was great about this gear was that I could learn to understand working with Aperture, Shutter-Speed and Focal-Length. So I shot many rolls of film, mostly color negative, but also B&W-film or positives.

Canon EOS-300 (Rebel 2000)

Roughly in 2000 I jumped into digital photography and so my analog equipment went to the shelf and as most of us I was also amazed of what one could do with this new technology.

Nikon Coolpix 990

Starting with a Nikon Coolpix 990 (2,1 Megapixels), different Canon IXUS-models, Sony RX-100 I also swapped my analog Canon EOS 300 to a digital Canon EOS 30D, later a 60D then a D60. Those things always got better with each generation but also always more complicated, heavy and bulky.

Canon 60D

The result of that was that I didn’t bring my camera with me because I had to bring too much equipment with me. So I tried with a smaller Sony RX100 III, which turned out to be a nightmare in terms of ergonomic design. I loved the picture quality and size of it when carrying it with me. However operating this little guy with my full-size hands was really tricky and I got frustrated each time when I had to navigate through the menu to find the setting I was looking for.

Sony RX100 III

At this time I decided to sell all my Canon DSLR gear with all lenses, the small Sony RX100 and try my luck with Sony A6000 and A6600. I liked the size of those cameras. Not too small and not too big either. Now at this point the APS-C dilemma started. As I wanted to reach a shallow depth of field I had to go for Sigma f1.4 lenses. This combo provides rather great bang for your buck. However the small f-stop lenses turned out to be too heavy and bulky for me. So at the end the camera/lens combo was smaller my DSLR equipment used to be, but still not on an every day carry level for me.

Sony A7RIII with 55mm f1.8

Tried my luck with a used A7II and finally found A7RIII to provide was I was looking for.
The body of the A7RIII is only slightly bigger than the A6600 but since it is full-frame there does not apply any crop-factor. A 35mm lens is 35mm here, which is great, because the combo of 35mm f1.8 with the A7RIII is more compact compared to an A6600 with a Sigma 20mm f1.4 which translates to similar focal length like the 35mm on full frame.

Sony A7RIII – ISO100 55mm f1.8 @f3.5 1/2000

The technical capabilities of the A7RIII are absolut astonishing and when I saw the resulting images I knew I landed finally on a camera I will stay now for a longer time. I tried out many different lenses and finally got rid of any zooms and kept only the 35mm f1.8, 55mm f1.8 as well as the 90mm f2.8 Macro lens. the latter one is a beast by all means. It is a heavy tank you probably think of twice, if you really want to carry it with you, but the resulting macro pictures are absolutely mind blowing.

Sony A7RIII – ISO100 55mm f1.8 @f8 1/320

Most of the time I am using my 35mm or 55mm lens, because this leads to a rather compact combo while still being fairly universal but yet providing great performance. The autofocus is lightning fast and as accurate an AF can be. The ideal equipment for sports and action pictures. The 42MP are more than enough. As I crop my pictures in post quite often, this allows still for enough room without any compromise.

Sony A7RIII – ISO100 55mm f1.8 @f1.8 1/100

For me the A7RIII is on a technical level which does not leave any wishes open for something more.


there is always a BUT, isn’t it?

As much as I love the results of my Sony A7RIII the same way I don’t really enjoy the operation of it. This thing has a myriad of menus and sub menus. Youtube videos explaining each of them take more than 1h 40min!!! Similar applies for all its dozens of knobs, buttons and wheels. OMG. You can spend days and weeks to get your Sony A7 customized to your likings, which sounds like freedom one a first glance. This however is a huge downside at the same time. If you do not work with your Sony camera on a regular basis, you get lost next time when picking it up and you wonder how to change from the current mode to the other mode needed.
Anyways, I decided nevertheless to keep my Sony, because I am so amazed about what this thing can do for me – whenever I am willing to put my effort into operating it.

The wish for simplicity and slowness

While being satisfied with the Sony’s results this camera did never really pull me in. It has a nice high quality body with just the right size for me and my hands, but going out taking pictures with it I did not enjoy too much up till now. The camera takes too much of my attention which brings me away from the actual subject I am about to take a picture from.

back to the roots of photography

Looking around what else is out there on the market allowing for my very special demands I always ended up at the good old well known trade mark Leica. Well, as a known to be one of the most freaking expensive trademarks for cameras I just had it on my dream wish list for anytime in the future, whenever this might be.

Fuji X-100 seemed to be a suitable alternative but as I didn’t want to step back to APS-C I skipped this option again.

Leica Q seemed to be almost what I was looking for. As I got used to the Sony’s 42MP I finally picked up a used but actually in brand new condition Leica Q2.

Leica Q2 – what a beauty!

Man! What a camera, what a lens! This thing is equipped with a Summilux 28mm f1.7 lens and a 47MP sensor. Even though the results from my Sony A7RIII are great, this thing really blew me away. The Summilux optics do not show any compromise even when shooting wide open at f1.7. The resulting image is perfect from center to edge no matter which aperture chosen. The first time looking through the EVF I was amazed how big the picture is. Due to it’s high resolution the resulting 28mm image can be cropped digitally without problems down to 35mm, 50mm or even 75mm. Of course you skip megapixels, but this high quality lens provides micro contrasts resulting in absolutely amazing pictures without any compromise.

Leica Q2 ISO 160 28mm f1.7 @f1.7 1/30

What was absolutely new to me is that there is no mode wheel to switch between aperture, shutter, auto or manual mode, although the camera can do all of it. The lens has an aperture ring that can be either in position A for Auto-aperture. however nobody with a Leica lens would do that likely. Leica lenses are meant to be shot wide open. So, by turning the aperture ring from it’s position A to a dedicated aperture (e.g.f/1.7) the camera turns into half automatic. By turning the wheel for the shutter time from A to the shutter time of your liking you suddenly can go to full manual mode. Same goes for focus. The lens has a focus ring. As long as it is locked into A-position the Q2 will auto focus for you. Even though the focus is not on par with the Sony A7RIII it is still fairly accurate. In manual focus the Q2 provides magnification and focus peaking.

Leica Q2 – ISO 100 28mm f1.7 @f13 1/60

The camera has just only a few buttons and a very clean classical design. The material and the haptics of this device is just a pleasure. I recognized myself to take the camera to my hands quite often to just try out things with it, because I really like the feeling of having it in my hands. It is hard to describe in words, but this is almost like magnetism or gravity. You want to have this thing with you, because it feels so great.

Does owning a Leica mean shooting better pictures?

Of course it does not. The picture is done by the photographer, not by the camera.
However, the Leica motivates me much more to go out and shoot. The more I shoot, the more practice I can gain. The more I am able to focus on the scene, subject, light and composition the more happy I am about the resulting pictures.

Leica Q2 – ISO160 – f1.7 1/1000

At the end of the day I have the satisfactory feeling that I was more creative rather than just getting the pictures out from a full automatic device that does everything for me.

people have warned me in advance

I heard so often, that the Q/Q2 is a gateway device. What that means?
You stepped into Leica and soon you want to dive deeper into. I couldn’t believe it, but it is absolutely true. Leica is not only a company. It is a philosophy of photography. Once into Leica you start to follow stories, news and read about history of Leica.

While the Q2 looks like a vintage camera it’s internally a pretty modern device providing almost all expected from such a device these days.
I recognized that the Q2 helped me to slow down quite a lot. By slowing down I mean that I think more before taking a picture. I end up with less but better pictures after a photo-walk. I take more time to think about the scene, the light, the subject and the story rather than switching between different modes, shifting the focus field around and pressing or even holding down the shutter button to shoot dozens of pictures continuously.

slow down to the max!

So, the next logical step was the range finder system from Leica, called the M-series.
The Leica M started back in 1954 (of course analog) and has evolved since then. The first digital Leica M was the M8 in 2006. The concept and also the design remained almost same. If Henry Cartier Bresson would still be alive, rest assured, he could simply take a modern Leica M10 into his hands and he immediately would be able to shoot pictures like many decades ago without any doubts.

Leica M10 with Summilux 50mm ASPH. f1.4

Even lenses from the 50s can still be mounted to a modern Leica M. The user interface is as simple as it could be. Manual aperture, manual (but also automatic) shutter time, an ISO dial and a shutter release button. That are all the ingredients needed to choose from in order to dial in exposure and focus. The range finder compensates for parallax and is damn easy to handle. Since Leica is famous for their best class in world lenses the result is absolutely amazing. Having that combined with amazing build quality and haptics making the photographing process an absolute joy. Holding a 50mm Summilux f1.4 in the palm of your hand, while feeling the relative heavy weight shows the perfection of what it means manufacturing optics these days. Unbelievable how such a small lens can provide such fine details in a picture wide open.

Leica M10 – ISO 100 Summilux 50mm f1.4 @f1.7 1/350

Click on the above picture and see the details on the full size image. Note, that compared to other higher resolution sensors the M10 “only” has 24 megapixels.

Learning to handle the range finder takes some time, but one quickly gets used to it. In the range finder everything is in focus basically. By turning the focus wheel on the lens a center field in the range finder gets overlayed by another picture. once both match exactly you have nailed down the focus plane.
The great thing about that is that muscle memory helps to get used to it quickly and even though it sounds esoteric, it really helps not to think too much about it.
Just do it!

Leica M10 – ISO100 Summilux 50mm f1.4 @f1.4 1/125

I really love how subjects pop out with this lens/camera combination. The bokeh is butter smooth and natural and the focus area is razor sharp.

Look how the shape of the image seems like liquid colors are building the image. It’s sharp while it is soft. Is this the so-called Leica-look?

click the image to see it in full-res:

Leica M10, ISO-200 Summilux 35mm f1.4 @f1.4 1/500

The Leica M10 is a fairly compact and stealthy camera. For the average person on the street it easily gets underrated. This helps for unobtrusive photography without having people acting unnatural in front of a camera.

Leica M10

I have just started to dive in but I fell into love with this thing immediately. It’s a quite strange feeling. Now when I fulfilled my long existing dream suddenly all discussions about the newer and better gear seem to be fully gone. Instead learning to see and work with the different qualities of light, getting connected with the subject on an emotional level, composition, the feeling for the right moment, etc. gets much more important.

It somehow feels like I get connected somehow with what I was starting with many many years ago. A simple range finder camera like back then, but having a modern technology packed inside. Somehow like a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Retro look and feel equipped with state of the art technology.

I am so curious where this journey leads to. Let me share it with you here on this blog.

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