About Gear (again)

Well, I bought a Leica camera. I must be crazy. Or maybe not?

For over three years the Leica M Monochrom has been my dream camera. I have been thinking about buying one again and again. It was the costs that put me off. But now I have made my decision, I bought a used one together with a used 28mm f2.8 lens.

Some weeks ago I sold a good part of my gear. I had enough of microchips and computers being in my way and deciding how my cameras were working. At a used-camera shop in London I sold my Sony RX1 and my Olympus OMD EM1. I believe that a camera has to be invisible to the user. It has to work like a glove that you don’t feel on your hand. It has to become a part of you seeing the world and has to capture your vision of the world without you being aware of the tool that you use. And exactly that was not the case with my previous cameras. I always thought ‘camera’ when I was using one of them.

And I always thought ‘program’ too. Do I use P or A mode? Which type of metering have I switched on? And more than once I forgot which ISO I had selected during my last shooting and for the next shooting I forgot to change it. And I never used any of those arty programs that the microchip in all these modern cameras provides.

So I wondered what if I returned to the simple craft of manual photography? To choosing aperture and exposure time manually. To finding my ISO button right in front of me on the back of my camera. And to focussing manually without any bleeping and flashing autofocus program. Well, that is what Leica rangefinder cameras actually provide. You are on your own with your motive, the camera and the light.

I convert most of my pictures to black and white. I love the mood that monochrome pictures exude. And I love processing and manipulating monochrome files trying to find the expression that I want.

And so I bought a used MM and a 28mm f2.8 lens. 28mm has been my favourite focal length for quite a while, so this decision was not difficult. Justifying the astronomic price for a used camera was. But that is over now. Done. Decision made.

And now I have been using my new tool for the last three weeks. And I love utilizing it. I love holding it. People have written about the ‘haptics of a Leica camera’. And it’s true. It feels special to hold one. Just holding it is great. I love framing with it. And I love the results.

The rendering of this camera is amazing. I can create grey tones that I never had available before. I can process my pictures and torment the files the way I usually do it without loosing tonal graduation. I can import them into Silver Efex2 and create a huge variety of different moods from one single picture. So at last I have the choice of editing my pictures exactly to my liking.

And yes, this camera blows highlights. I read about it in many articles. In bright sunlight with strong contrasts the MM is a pain in the ass. You need to underexpose the picture into nearly invisible greys in order to prevent losing the whole image due to blown highlights. And I am not really sure how I can handle this problem in the future. But apart from that issue, using it and viewing the results is a pleasure. The camera complements my style and I feel that I can develop my art further with this new tool in my hands.

And one last word about an issue that I had before I bought the camera and that I actually still have. Reading articles about MM shooters and their lack of ability to make “the camera sing” made me wonder how using a simple photographic tool creates expectations in your viewers. You need to be able to use its abilities to the full. You need to be able to make it shine, excel, sing. You need to prove that you are worthy using this extraordinary piece of craftsmanship. Well. I shoot light and shadow. Am I worthy? Bullocks!

Eventually it comes all back to personal choices and likings and fun. Yes, fun and joy. And I enjoy this new thing in my hands and I enjoy what I can do with it. Forget the money. Forget the rest. Just enjoy it!