I sold my Fuji X100 after 2 years of shooting with it. Since then, for quite a while, I have been searching for a perfect replacement. I wanted a smaller, perfect quality camera to take with me on short trips as well as carry around New York. I still love my Canon 5D and I have tons of gear for it, but I mainly use it for work or long journeys, when I need a wide range of lenses, audio recorders, flashes etc.
I have been looking at multiple options:
1. I considered Fuji XT-1 at first, a perfect replacement for X100. But I really didn’t want to go with cropped matrix. A lot of people say it doesn’t matter, but after shooting for 6 years with full frame and experiencing full mm’s of your lenses, as well as full light metering, I just didn’t see much of a point. Despite all of that I read a lot of great reviews about XT-1 and more great reviews about new series of Fuji lenses, that are excellent and cheaper than Canon’s for example.
2. For full frame I was looking at Sony a7 cameras. But going with Sony lenses was really a drag for me
3. For a second I looked at Leica T, the new range of Leica cameras designed by Audi Design. Cropped matrix as well, new range of lenses. You can use M mount lenses with an adaptor only, which was not ideal for me.
All three cameras above are excellent in reality. Honestly, those are the best range finder cameras you can get right now on the market. All have excellent reviews from mature photographers as well as produce stunning results. I just had my own personal “but” with every one of each and would rather stay with Canon than purchasing another camera I would not be entirely happy with.
Now, why the hell I went with Leica M? Leica M Typ 240 can not be really put in comparison with three cameras above. Mainly because of price. Sure, you can read millions of reviews online, same way as I did for a couple of months, so this post is not going to be a review. I went with Leica M for mainly 3 reasons:
- It is a full frame range finder camera
- Lenses. There are just no better lenses than Leica lenses. Images they produce have exceptional quality and sharpness. I haven’t seen quality like that so far on any other optics I used in 14 years. So if I were to invest into a new lens (or series of lenses) I would go for the best. You can only use Leica lenses properly on actual Leica M camera without any adaptors. On top of that camera recognizes it’s lenses and does certain image processing in Leica M camera.
- White balance is exceptional. Another major difference is how Leica measures light and applies white balance. It is far more accurate (or interesting for my taste) than Canon. So for the first month I was purely shooting in JPG, getting great photos. Leica Summilux-M lens + accurate white balance + Leica image processing = amazing JPGs.
- That is exactly the camera I wanted.
Leicas don’t come cheap. That is true. While keeping an eye on it I already knew that I can not afford to go for a brand new one. And here comes New York, that proven one more time to be a capital of photography. I was scanning Craigslist for a month or two looking for a camera and lens I wanted. Surprisingly you can find much much cheaper deals than on E-bay (which I used for a week and then ditched for their retarded website and annoying e-mails). I found a second hand Leica M Typ 240 in excellent condition, low shutter count and still with a year of warranty. And that was much cheaper than anywhere else I found online (including E-bay, Amazon Used products, BH used department etc).
For lense I wanted to go with Summilux-M. The way Leica gives names to their M lenses is:
- Noctilux - f/0.95 (for now they only have one lens in this family which is 50mm
- Summilux - f/1.4
- Summircon - f/2
- Elmar - f/3.4 - f/4
- Leica also used to offer Summarit - f/2.5 and Elmarit f/2.8
So going with Summilux was going for the fast and bright f/1.4 lens. I was debating between classic photo journalistic 35mm or a natural image angle of 50mm. I decided to go with 50mm as I am quite used using 50mm on my Canon and felt 35mm would be a little too wide. Also lately I am more into zoom and barely use any wide angle lenses. As it worked with the camera, it also worked with the lens. I got Leica Summilux-M 50mm f/1,4 on Craiglist for much cheaper than used lenses in other places.
I had to leave to Costa Rica for a conference and that was a perfect moment for me to give the new camera a proper test run. There was not a single moment of disappointment with it. Camera is beautifully built and sits nice in hand. There’s attention to detail to every single part, knob, button and material of the body. Manual focusing is not an issue at all. I am used to shooting with manual lenses and manual cameras, but the way Leica lens is built with a little grip for your finger that allows you to focus more comfortably and naturally with just one finger, rather than grabbing an entire lens with your hand, makes it very pleasurable. And lastly image quality. So many shots turn out cool without any extra work on the photograph, that made me feel I rediscovered photography again.
Conclusion. Buy shit at Craigslist.
Here are some photos straight from the camera (non retouched):