Why I take pictures with the Leica M system
Each of the traveling bloggers or journalists has their own focus in photography. While one packs a heavy backpack filled with various cameras and lenses, others get by with the smartphone. Some want to be prepared for every situation, others want to invest as little money as possible.
In between there are of course many alternatives. They are not better or worse. We chose the Leica M system and describe why it is the ideal camera system for us.
The oldest existing 35mm system in the world
To be precise, the Leica M system is the oldest 35mm system still in use in the world. Before 1920, travelers took a Leitz camera with them and documented their stays. Many war photographers used it in World War II, i.e. under the toughest conditions. Until the SLR cameras were introduced, the Leica was to remain the tool for reporters around the world.
Leica, then still Leitz Wetzlar, further developed the camera after the war and used it to create the Leica M system, which is still in use today. Currently, after more than 80 years, you can take pictures with the cameras and lenses of that time. You can easily connect a Leitz lens over 80 years old to a Leica M camera. In the beginning, when the lenses were attached to the camera using a screw thread, the first Leica M came with the bayonet lock, which is still state of the art. Also for the full format. I can take photos with the same lenses, both analog and digital. Leica still has analog Leica M cameras in its range that work without batteries. A true masterpiece of mechanics. These old cameras and lenses can still be serviced and repaired.
With the Leica M, the first full-frame system came onto the market, and the Leica M is still the smallest full-frame system in the world with first-class optical performance.
Tradition obliges: to top performance
In recent years, a Leica M has given way to many systems as analogue tools that pack everything into their housings that is only possible. The motto is bigger and faster, the developments often overrun the new releases. Many reporters now use other systems, whereby some components are created under sometimes questionable working conditions in low-wage countries and are therefore cheaper (not cheaper). As with Leica, brand awareness among the male user groups is very high and has some religious features.
Photography is actually about the image and thus the question of which tool I can use to achieve it.
In the digital age in particular, optics are increasingly being digitally corrected. When you take a closer look, you can see whether an image from nature has been created optically ideal or whether it has been “optimized” by the camera-side electronics.
Leica lenses are counted on the optimum “at all costs”, sometimes using the most expensive types of glass that can be bought for money. With a few exceptions, even in the digital age, Leica lenses are the only lenses that are actually optically corrected. And this means that they continue to exist at a high level in analog photography. Admittedly, all of this comes at a price. But here we are with the term “inexpensive”. Used lenses from the Leica M system are often above their new price at some point.
So as simple as possible - no more than necessary
I am a person by nature, where things have to work. And- I’m a rather reserved person. Accordingly, I would like a reserved camera.
As far as photography is concerned, I have to be able to concentrate on the image. I have to master time and aperture and have a feeling for the focus level. It’s good with that. I would never buy a flashlight with a range of 300 meters or a car with all the assistance systems. I also have a real mobile phone without any apps overwhelming me. Even the home decorations are very subtle at home. Less is more for us and the same applies to the camera system I prefer. I don’t want what I don’t need. And what I need just has to be good. That is already my fundamental decision that brought me to the Leica M system. Anything else would be too exhausting for me personally.
Leica M:The reportage camera
To this day, the Leica M is what it was when it was launched: a real reportage camera.
It is small, unobtrusive, quick to use and robust in everything. This is exactly the right thing for me when I visit a press appointment, when we are on the go or even on a hiking tour. If necessary, the Leica disappears in a small daypack with just one lens, otherwise a small bag is enough.
Even in the museum, in a concert or on the train or bus, it doesn’t bother you. She simply stays put on city tours.
The energy consumption is negligible. If you only use the optical viewfinder, you get endlessly far. This is ideal on long hiking and biking tours away from civilization and when shooting in cold regions.
And when it comes to the picture: cover off. Aperture and distance range set and triggered.
We’re not talking about the sympathy factor, be it retro or brand. But it is really special when one suddenly talks to the owner about photography in an exhibition even after business hours and then pulls out the prints he has made recently.
The joy of the picture
When it comes to enumerating the functions that a Leica M has, you are quickly done. What she definitely doesn’t have are any creative programs. What they have instead of an electronic viewfinder is a complex, first-class optical viewfinder. It is built from countless individual parts and allows a clear view regardless of energy, even at night. The optical viewfinder alone would be an argument for a Leica M for me. A sectional image indicator is used to focus. From time to time, the rangefinder must be adjusted so that the lens setting matches the rangefinder.
And now comes another argument, which speaks for many people for or against a Leica M. It has no auto focus. The Leica lenses have to be focused manually. But in most cases this works quite well. Especially in our travel photography. Children or animals running towards us make the whole thing more difficult, of course, but somehow still possible.
Because on the lenses, the focus areas are clearly marked in combination with the aperture. This is special, because these engravings alone are often saved.
Due to the lack of autofocus, the lenses are very small. And yet Leica M lenses are real gems in photo technology. They have their own character, are heavy but very good to hold and are wonderful to focus on. The current Leica M lenses already perform best when opened fully.
With everything, I enjoy taking pictures with the Leica M. You have to get involved. The Leica M system is not convenient, but it is exempt. And it frees you to capture a picture instead of shooting at it.
In the meantime, the Leica M has also made up ground in the professional sector. Many professional photographers, even in the editorial offices, appreciate a Leica M. The choice of a single lens is often sufficient.
Apart from that, the Leica M is by far one of the most sustainable systems. Lowest possible consumption of rare earths, low energy consumption and high value retention thanks to the optical viewfinder are second to none.
If the Leica M had been my first camera, I wouldn’t have taken another one. And so for me it is what a camera should be: a suitable tool.