I love my vintage film cameras and nothing brings me greater pleasure than to shoot with a film camera and advance the film. This last weekend, I took the family to an island near Jakarta so my wife and daughter could get SCUBA certified and when it came to selecting a camera I picked the Leica ME.
Let me begin by saying that I am not a Leica fanatic. I have a Leica ME and M6, both great cameras, but I sport Zeiss glass on them. The reason for that is that Zeiss glass is absolutely intoxicating! What these lenses are capable of producing is a constant surprise so why spend more money on Leica glass?
I chose the ME as I wanted to capture the color of the island. Beaches are not very exciting to shoot, but the one thing they do provide is plenty of color. But when it comes to color, I love what the CCD sensor of this little camera can do. It is made by Kodak and it is reminiscent of the Kodachrome film that once ruled over advertising.
I believe the ME is the perfect balance of a simple camera, good sensor size (18Mp is plenty in my book) and gives me a feel that is rather unique when used with Zeiss glass. The portraits that I manage to capture with this beauty always makes me happy. It is not as expensive as an M9, but does everything I need it to. The battery lasts for days and while the back screen is complete crap, I like the manual feel of everything. Get sloppy and the image is out of focus, forget your basics and your depth of field will be way off and if you are trying "auto" anything be ready to be disappointed. But if you take control of the camera you will be astounded with what you can do with it.
Here is a shot of my son on the pier near the beach. The Zeiss 50mm f/2 did exactly what I needed it to do. It threw the background out of focus but I nailed the focus on my sons eyes. A simple conversion to B&W and I have a great image, wonderful tonality and a vibrance that is difficult to find on digital.
Ah yes, I was speaking about color. Have a look at this shot above. The sun was setting, a storm was rolling in and the boats were seeking shelter. The scene was set and all I needed was a dynamic range coupled with the ability to show both the cool clouds and warm sunset in a single image. This was set on Auto WB and it nailed the scene perfectly.
The simplicity of the camera makes me adopt a simple style of photography. I am not after winning any awards, I just want to capture an image that tells me the story of the scene. The Leica camera is known for getting out of the way of the photographer, and the Leica ME, while old in digital standards, does that better than any other digital Leica M camera I have seen.
A great deal has been written about the sensor corrosion issue. This has been all over the internet and has caused many to doubt Leica or at least the M9, ME and Monochrome cameras that they have made. I have a very different perspective on this. This camera was made in 2009, that is nine years ago and while it is indeed very expensive, it is unrealistic for us to believe that they will work forever.
If you want a camera that will last 50 years, I suggest a film camera. Digital technology just was not build with that kind of shelf life. Does the possibility of some marks on my sensor worry me? No. I have plenty of dust on there as well. I will keep shooting my camera until those marks make it unusable. If I manage to get 9 or even 10 years our of it I am thrilled.
I bought my camera used with 209 shutter actuations. It had been sold a year before and the owner had upgraded to the newer camera. This was made back in 2015 and I purchased it in 2016. I managed to save a bit of money as everyone was talking about the Leica M10.
Any camera/lens combination that allows me to take the images like the one above is an absolute gem in my mind. The colors are spot on, the contrast is well defined, the bohke is refined yet gives me the separation I need all of this in a camera much smaller than most DSLRs.
I know many people love to hate Leica, just as they do Apple. As long as these two companies make good products I will happily buy them. Does Leica need to get their act together after these sensor issues? Absolutely. But I will still look at their product and decided on a case by case basis whether I want one or not. The M240 and the M10 are not doing it for me yet but this little Leica ME is perfection in my book.
Patrick...confirmed film & digital photography addict.