"This is my camera. There are many like it, but this one is mine". I was recently watching a YouTube channel that I really love, created by Eduardo Pavez Goye (see it HERE) where he shares the sad story of the death of his Leica M8 and he un-recommends buying it. While I agree with him that the Leica M8 is a bit too old and early in the development to recommend buying, I do believe that it is worth telling of my own experience with the Leica ME.
I bought this camera in 2016 used in London. The camera was made in 2015 and had 200 shutter actuations. The M240 had been out for a long time and the M10 was coming out. So this was three generations back, and was designed around 2009 technology. All very good reasons to pass it by. But I liked my film Leica and wanted to give digital a try. So I bought it without any plans of upgrading.
The wonderful thing about the ME is that it is basic. Nothing fancy just a digital camera with aperture priority as the most advanced function. The bad is that the camera is slow and can only take memory cards up to 32GB. It is built like a tank and the LCD screen is about as useful as a hole in the head.
But here is the thing, I LOVE to shoot this camera. I have more "keepers" then I get with my Nikon D800. The system is smaller so it makes it easy to carry. It is a silent camera so I can run around all day without drawing too much attention. The high ISO performance is roughly the same as film, so it does not match modern digital cameras, but I love film so the limitation is normal for me.
I did indeed buy the Leica M10, this was a 20th wedding anniversary gift from my wife. I love the M10 however it is a massive investment and I would not have done it without a wedding anniversary as an excuse. The ME gives me 18mp compared the the M10 24mp (roughly the same). The only improvement on the M10 is the ISO performance and the ability to transfer images via WIFI. Aside from that they function the same way.
So as I travel to the rough an tumble streets of Buenos Aires, going to shoot in high crime locations, I do not want to risk the M10. I will risk my trusty ME, and I love the images it delivers. Slap on a 7Artisan 35mm lens and you have a trusty companion that can outshoot most photographers.
Would I recommend this camera? Yes. Here is why. This camera was built around 2009 technology and I still love it. On Nikon you would have had four or five generations of cameras out by now and the desire to upgrade is there. I do not develop a relationship with digital SLR, they are consumable. The Leica is not. So if you like the Leica feel, then this camera will serve you well with one warning, get one with a new sensor to reduce the corrosion risk.
Do you run risks with older digital technology? Yes. A solid film camera is a better investment. But if you want digital then you are buying into this risk. So a brand new Nikon, Sony, Cannon or Fuji will set you back a similar amount of money, will wind up in the trash in three years time (or sold for peanuts) while the ME should still be relevant and shooting great images. If you do not care for the Leica "feel" then by all means spend your money on something else. There are a great deal of good quality, technologically advanced cameras out there.
The concept is so basic for so many people. Most people travel with a maximum of one camera, but for a photographer, this is a massive challenge. Changing cameras opens up the artistic possibilities. You can move from digital to film, color to b&w or from a medium format to 35mm. These changes alter how you see the world, what you photograph and the very story you tell.
So to limit myself to a single is not a small challenge. Consider that a single camera would eliminate film or digital. I prefer film for the color shots but love the B&W that film gives me. To simplify that even further, would be to limit myself to a single camera and a single lens. But what would that look like and how would it impact my view of the location?
I recently was asked to shoot the grand opening of a base during a work trip. I had to travel light as we had a full week planned. I ended up taking my Leica M10 and took the Zeiss 50, 35 and Voigtlander 15mm. I had been shooting almost exclusively on the 50mm and was sure that this would be the lens I used during the base opening.
While there I quickly switched to 35mm and was so grateful I had it with me. I needed to get closer to the subjects and get a large number of people into the frame. The 35mm gave me that. I used the Leica app to transfer some images to my phone and get some early shots processed on Lightroom CC.
The combination turned out to be perfect. The 35mm gave me the angle of view and the wifi file transfer allowed me to work on some early examples that ended up being published on various forums online.
This got me thinking that a one camera solution might just work. The challenge is film and how to balance my love for both mediums. Right now the best I can do is to take a single digital camera with a few lenses and a film camera with a single 50mm lens. The Leica M10 and the M6 give me the ability to share the lenses between the two however when shooting a rangefinder I prefer to have a SLR enjoy both camera forms.
So this is the best I can do. A single camera in each medium. At the end of the day, it is me who has to carry the stuff around, and I am willing to carry a few more pounds for the sake of medium flexibility.
Here I shot a wonderful environmental portrait of a shop owner. Her colorful clothing, wonderful expression and contagious smile in front of the background of her little shop make this a nice image. It was shot on a Nikon D800, with a 24-70mm lens. I did not add any vignette but also did not correct for what the lens gave me.
I did a great deal of detailed work on the contrast to make sure the image popped properly. This accentuated the vignette a bit. I shot it at ISO800 which is high for the D800 yet I did not reduce the grain at all. I kept the image with all of its imperfections, because in an image, as in a person, the character is hidden in the imperfections.
How many times do you go to a party and find yourself speaking to the cookie cutter suburban homeowner? How many times have you longed for the imperfect person who took far too many wrong turns? The person who jumped off the fashion train and is marching to the beat of their own drums?
You should look at your images the same way. Why have the perfect lens? Why not shoot with a lens that is imperfect and full of character? Why not leave your image with those small distractions we are taught to cut out? In this example I have a white string tied to the shelf on the right of the image. It is bright, distracts and does not contribute to the image. Cookie cutter photo editing would tell you to remove it, or at the very least darken it a bit.
But in that little piece of string, you have a story. A story of a little shop that is held together by hundreds of little strings just like that. The woman is smiling through cataract filled eyes, missing teeth and a wrinkled face yet she tells a wonderful story too. That story needs to be told as it is. To whitewash, dodge, burn and surgically alter the storyline is to tell a different story. One that does not exist, never did exist and never will exist. That is fantasy which has little place in a environmental portrait.
Two conflicting messages which further proves this world is more about content then about having a true belief. YouTube has become one of the most popular places to share and enjoy hobbies and pursuits. It is filled with wonderful tutorials, reviews and open discussions. But the modern YouTube creator has to come with something more, as good, reliable information is no longer enough to garner the subscribers desired. Which brings me to my blog post today....
A common message that has been going around photography circles for decades is that the camera is not important. It is the creative attention and knowledge possessed by the photographer that makes the difference. This is an important message for two key reasons, the first is that it highlights that a wonderful camera will not make you a wonderful photographer and second, that if you do not have the money for top gear, you can still be a wonderful photographer. I have heard some YouTubers compare a camera with an oven. You see a professional oven at the hands of an amateur baker will not produce mouthwatering results however a professional baker with a poor oven can.
I can understand, and somewhat, agree with that philosophy. If you ascribe to it, gear acquisition is not longer important and your goal is to expose yourself to more photographic opportunities and learn as much as you can. I can see the benefit of this approach.
Then I see the same photographers who preach this, spending a great deal of time discussing why they changed from one camera system to another. If the camera does not matter then why spend the time giving these explanations? Perhaps it is a question of finding some content to display? I see plenty of YouTube creators who just seem to copy what others are doing. There is little creative content and perhaps they need something to discuss. How many times can you talk about the relationship between aperture and shutter speed?
If this is a case of content starved creators, then I completely understand. If this is a case of people dishing out philosophy who do not really believe it then I do have an issue with it. New photographers are trying to learn from them, they are portraying themselves as knowledgeable teachers so they should be held accountable for what they preach.
I had long heard that Tokyo was the Mecca of film camera stores and always dreamt of going. So when I discovered a need to travel to Japan for work, I decided to take advantage of the opportunity to see if I could find some time to check out the famous stores.
I did not have too much time to prepare, so I went to Japan Camera Hunter and found a map with a ton of stores around Tokyo. I downloaded this to my iPhone and off I went. I arrived on a Saturday night and had the full day on Sunday to walk around and check out the stores.
Below are the lessons I learned, and some recommendations to help you get the most out of any shopping trip in Tokyo.
For those curious about what I bought....I finally got my hands on a wonderful Nikon S2. I was going to leave it at that but at the last minutes I decided to pick up a Nikon F3T. I have the Nikon F3 but always dreamt of the F3 Professional and the F3 Titanium. I found a mint F3T for about USD 550. Like I said, not a steal but given the condition of the camera, a very respectable price. I will share pictures soon!
Patrick...confirmed film & digital photography addict.