What They Think of Us Over at DPReview

This from a popular digital camera discussion forum.

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“Q: Why buy a Leica?

Considering the cost and the way that people gush over Leica and its lens I was expecting camera perfection… But when I look at the pictures posted I’m like MEH???

Looking at the specs, they aren’t impressive as other cameras seem to provide more features for much less cost and then reading reviews the reviewer tends to highlight several shortcomings and then comes to the conclusion that it’s the best camera they’ve ever used.So not owning one, what is so special about the Leica brand that makes people go gaga over them?

Coming from astronomy, I hear this all the time with handmade Apochromatic refractors but looking through them I don’t see the cost/benefit ratio. I’m not trying to bash Leica, but when one can get a Sony/Canon or Nikon for much less and that people post MUCH better photos…….”

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A1: I bought my first Leica (an M6TTL) when film was still popular.  I grew to love the lenses.  Later I bought a Leica M8.  I still use it from time to time.  It still takes great pictures.  (The new M bodies are too far out of my price range.  Oh well.)

I don’t own a Rolex but I do have a Tag Heuer Autavia that I have been wearing for many years.  It still keeps perfect time.

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A2: Nothing really special apart from the price and their past reputation.

Much Leica stuff is made for them by Panasonic as they have some sort of arrangement. Even Minolta used to make some of their lenses for them. My Panasonic LX3 has “Leica” engraved on the lens and it is a good lens for a compact but has bucket loads of barrel distortion that needs a lot of help from the in-camera or post processing correction. The same camera was sold as some Leica D-Lux product name but at twice the price. I guess it’s a lot like the Toyota-Lexus arrangement where the Lexus appears to be a better built Toyota.

The Leica camera models and lenses that have the truly astronomic prices are probably still hand-made by a bunch of German elves in the Black Forest or somewhere like that. Nice but why?

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A3: As an ex Leica film camera owner, I think that the current cameras are basically living on reputation…

Back in the day,  the lenses were very good,  and certainly my m4’s never gave me any issues…  they were reliable cameras… more so than the Nikon’s or Contaxs that I also had… but of course they were much simpler cameras as well, so bound to be. They were fairly small,  discrete, quiet,  reliable and robust cameras with excellent glass. Otoh… they also were a right PITA for loading,  and focusing was nowhere near to as accurate or fast as with an slr….    in effect they were actually deeply flawed,  and inevitably most of my work was done with the Nikon’s I had as well.

Moving forward…  I simply cannot see that the cameras are anything to go gaga about…  like all digital cameras their end output quality is restrained by the technology of the chip… so unlike the film camera,  their exquisite build quality is superfluous…  as they are life limited by external factors. The glass is very good…  but others have caught up and arguably a lot of the Zeiss glass gives a similar organic feel with a lower cost.

so,  I deeply regret selling my film leicas,   As they were jewels which would still be perfectly useable film cameras now…  but the gaga factor over these is more about narcissism than practicality… as for the digital gear….  they are toys of the rich, and have no real practical value for myself…. rangefinder manual focussing being rubbish in 1980,  never mind 2018.

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A4: On the whole there’s nothing special about a Leica unless you are in love with a mystical toy. In my case the purchase of a Leica M9 which was the Leica Representatives demo camera. It was an economically good move. It cost me about $3,000. Over the years, I have had Leica M2 M3 M4 and M5 cameras which are now being sold to collectors .

I started shooting Leica in the late 1960s when I was in university. I more than covered the cost of the Leica by shooting University Theatre and dance Productions. This was a far better choice for shooting the Performing Arts compared to the then available Nikon F1.

Over the years I have accumulated many Leica lenses from 24 to 200 mm which have been written off and have a book value of zero. Since I continued my hobby of àshooting the Performing Arts after University I made enough money to pay for the additional lenses and cameras. I now have a complete camera system that as far as I’m concerned that cost me $3,000.

The Leica is a superb Walkabout camera with old lenses that are even today pretty fine. On a regular basis I still get some excellent photographs with this manual full frame rangefinder camera. It is relatively small lightweight and convenient.

I normally shoot with a pretty large Canon DSLR system for Sports theater dance Studio and other forms of photography.

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A5: Nothing, except a 1950 German legacy of prestige that’s long gone but lives on in the minds people who want to show off that they have the money to spend on luxury and you can’t.

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A6: Leica cameras represent status and prestige because not everyone can afford them. If you can spend $40,000 for a camera and a few lenses you are in a very select group.

While there are other more sensible reasons to buy a Leica, the biggest factor might be as a status symbol. Which is why they are purchased by a lot of non-photographers who happened to find themselves wealthy and who want to show off their wealth.

This doesn’t mean their cameras aren’t wonderful. It just means their high prices put them in the same category with Rolex, Hermes, Gucci, Mont Blanc, and Ferrari as status symbols for some people.

Absolutely no one buys a Timex watch, Parker pen or Toyota Corolla to make a statement about how successful they are.

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A7: Because some people think owning a Leica would transform them overnight into a pro if they use the camera used by people like Cartier-Bresson, Koudelka, Eggleston and etc…

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 A8: Do you think that Leica owners are so bored that they hang around photographic forums? They are far too busy enjoying themselves. Leica owners tend not to be of the type that want to show off how much better the pictures from their cameras are. A lot of the Canon and Nikon stuff you see has been rinsed through Lightroom etc before a sanitized version is posted online for comments of admiration. Leica owners do far less, or zero image enhancements outside the ability of their camera.

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A9: Looking at the sample [Leica User] galleries I expected to be blown away by the quality of Leica, mostly I got was badly composed pictures of guys with beards and black and white homeless people.

Cafe de Jaren, Amsterdam. Need a good meal before walking the city looking for homeless people to photograph.

 

13 thoughts on “What They Think of Us Over at DPReview

  1. korhomme

    DPR may be “popular” but many of the inhabitants come out from under bridges to announce themselves as trolls, and people consumed with jealousy, envy, spite and general and specific ignorance. Such trolls would condemn a Rolls-Royce without any understanding, or even any attempt at understanding, what precision engineering and exactitude actually mean.

    As the man said, ” whatsoever is rightly done, however humble, is noble” and “the quality remains long after the price has been forgotten”. And it wasn’t Barnack.

    DPR is useful for reference; just ignore the comments btl.

    Reply
  2. Jimbo

    DPR–the land of measurebators and pixel peepers. “Nice capture!” and other tripe; technoweenies who bought their cameras a year ago and now think themselves experts in the field. The same anti-Leica tripe has been going on since well before the internet, usually from jealousy, prejudice and ignorance. Nothing has changed since the 1980s.

    If the Anti-Leica brigade would try a Leica, they might like it, but often they are too insecure (knowing that no camera will make better photos, only the photographer’s skills) and too wedded to their prejudices to move forward. That’s why on the one hand they complain about Leica, yet drool at spending $3k+ on the latest CaNiSony gizmo (worthless in a few years) with gazzillon pixels that add NO real value to the final image, or rationalizing phallic-shaped, oversized telephoto lenses to shoot yet another boring, meaningless (and often poorly lit and composed) bird photo. Give them another year and they’ll lose interest in photography and move onto something else.

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  3. Jimbo

    Let the masses have their say–and ignore them. Worked for Apple and Jobs. Imagine if Vincent Van Gogh had been sane?

    Reply
  4. Finny

    Way I Love Leica?
    Follow this Blog, read the stories and the comments. Could you imagine a blog like this from a Canon or Nikon user?
    It is probably primarily an attitude of mind to use such products as Leica, Montblanc or Bang & Olufsen. Not necessarily a matter of money!
    It hasn’t always to be “the best”, “the fastest” or “the brightest”. It only has to calm me down a little bit. It’s like Zen Buddhism. I need such small things in the daily chaos and confusion, it makes me feel a little bit “better”.

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    1. Rob Campbell

      I have no Leica, but I do have ‘blanc pen and propelling pencil set circa1948-1952, a presentation to my granddad; I have the B&O that I bought in the 70s and the only bits still in use – now and again – are the wall-mounted speakers. The rest was long replaced with other brands, though the tuner/amp lives up in a cupboard; the Rolex Submariner I bought when I could afford it, which was before Bond had his, but it doesn’t cut string. It was the most elegant bit of industrial design that I’d seen since seeing ads for Leica 111g. It took me a long time to be able to buy that thing, and today, a replacement bracelet retails in Spain for around 1200 euros, about ten times what I paid for the watch. I need a new one because the original stretched itself into uselessness: it, the watch part, lives slung beneath my wrist, not where it should reside at all. Need doesn’t indicate I’m about to buy! My son can when it’s his.

      So yes, I am perfectly willing to believe that one could covet a Leica for itself, not for the impression it may create. The only people I ever met who knew what a Rolex was about were very rich folks, but theirs were all gold. Oh – thieves know, too. For the rest, it’s a solitary vice. And why not?

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    2. Randle P. McMurphy

      Why cameras don´t matter ?
      Because they are just tools and it´s still our own hand and eye
      who sees and puss the trigger at the right or wrong moment !

      I had almost all Leicas from M to R and there is nothing “magic”
      or “different” to the pictures I made with other brands.

      You really think a M6 with 35 Cron will make you a better photograph
      or you even see the difference to a Nikkormat EL with Nikkor O 2,0/35
      when you just compare the pictures ?

      *You can´t buy talent. You can buy a sharper lens and make boring pictures.

      *Just my 2cents after 30 years working as a photographer

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      1. Rob Campbell

        Not entirely sure I can agree 100% on there being no discernible difference with Leica glass compared with alternatives – the cameras are, of course, another thing.

        During, my last job as employed photographer, my darkroom duties including printing images from the M3 and one of the 21mm wides. Alongside other work on a Nikon F, there was indeed something else going on. Perhaps the best way to describe the difference is the one I see on my iPad when compared with my calibrated LaCie monitor: a kind of “richness, thickness” of the image not observed elsewhere without going up a format size. Were somebody else to say this, I’d smile and say yeah, right. But, I have seen it quite often. On wet darkroom prints, that is.

        Never bought any rangefinder when working on my own; found the system too restrictive.

        Rob

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  5. Nico

    The internet is full of places where frustrated and narrow-minded people can “express” themselves. I don’t feel compelled to read their “opinion” as I have better to do. DPR is one of these places.

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  6. Kodachromeguy

    The comment section on DPreview has become a sort of Gong Show, where people go to read the absurd comments from trolls and incompetents. Several themes always evoke orgasmic-spurts of hatred and outrage: Leica anything, monochrome sensors, tripods, manual focus, Fuji RAF files, any sensor that is smaller than 24×36mm (but any sensor larger than that is totally unnecessary and only for poseurs), and especially film. But the spurts shield a lot of insecurity; it reminds me of automobile forums where car “enthusiasts” curse manual transmission – and then you realize they have absolutely no idea how to shift their own gears. Sigh….

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  7. Rob Campbell

    Kodachrome, your problem is probably the same as mine: those cassettes of Kodachrome we can never use still taking up so much space in the bottom drawer of the freezer. Cryogenics never felt so close to home…

    Reply

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