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  1. #51

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    I suspect some of the so-called mystique rests in Leica being the grand-daddy of 35mm photography (somebody had to be first), and then being a leader in the quality end of the market for several decades. To me, they're just very finely made cameras. I started with a IIIf and an Elmar a year or so ago, specifically to find out what Leica was all about. There were no heavenly choirs, and my photographs didn't suddenly become any more 'art' than they already were (or weren't). I felt that the squinty finder was a bit of a pain to use, and the camera needed a CLA within a few rolls of film, which it duly got. When I use it, I liken it to driving something like a classic Rolls Royce - a bit quirky and different to modern equipment, but an excellent tactile experience due to the fit, finish, and superb build quality. It pleases me that something 56 years old can feel so good in the hand, and I have to admit that I feel like I'm using a genuine classic that has its place in photographic history.

    But the squinty finder is a bit of a pain, the rangefinder patch is a little dull, the knob film advance can be a bit slow at times, it can be annoying if you catch the spinning shutter speed dial with a finger when you release the shutter (and have to reshoot, assuming it wasn't a 'decisive moment' pic, in which case there is nothing to reshoot), the restriction to a 50mm field of view is inconvenient, as is having to trim the film leader with my swiss army knife, the shutter speeds are odd, lens changes are slow, etc, etc.

    So I got an M2 a year ago. Great finder, lever advance, no leader trimming, proper shutter speeds, etc. Build quality? Still top banana - every bit as good as the IIIf. Another classic Rolls Royce, with an updated design, and much easier to drive. Aside from being easier to use, what I like about the M2 in particular is that it's 48 years old, but barely feels 5 years old. Unlike the IIIf, the M2 doesn't have that feel of using a piece of history, probably because its design is more conventional with regard to my experience of 35mm cameras. Of the dozen+ cameras that I own (film and digital), the M2 is my primary camera. All of my lenses are LTM with adapters, and only the Elmar is Leica glass (Russian and Voigtlander for the rest). Those and both bodies live in a small outfit bag which goes with me everywhere.

    I think most of the so-called mystique is down to a combination of people waxing lyrical about the equipment, and a certain admiration for the work of famous Leica users over the years. Some of it surely stems from the amazing build quality - anyone who uses hand tools, of any sort, can usually appreciate tools that are very well made, and there is a certain pleasure in using kit that is the best - in knowing that there is no upgrade path. The other small film cameras that I use (Olympus 35RC, Olympus XA, Rollei 35S) are simply not in the same league (the 'baby Leica' appellation that is sometimes given to the Rollei 35 is nonsense - it's nice, but it's not a patch on the real deal).

    For me, there is no mystique - it's all in people's heads. Out of the M2 and IIIf, it's the IIIf that puts a smile on my face - it's that slice of history thing, and knowing that the IIIf is just about the pinnacle of the Barnack form factor. The M2 is what I would call the more serious picture taking machine - very fast and intuitive, and more trasparent as a tool. The IIIf is more like engineering art in the true 'form follows function' tradition. This isn't mystique - it's just my personal disposition towards a particular camera, with a nod to the photographic history that led to its creation. The name on the top plate is immaterial. Somebody had to be first, somebody had to be better than anyone else, and that just happened to be Leica.

  2. #52

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    Quote Originally Posted by Nomad View Post
    For me, there is no mystique - it's all in people's heads.
    Where else would you hope to find "mystique"?


    The RF Leica has become a true classic, because it was the best available camera for a new type of photography ('stealthy' reportage - compare Leica-like cameras to the big press cameras of the day).
    It wasn't first (in anything), nor alone, nor did it 'invent' that type of photography. It stood out, became the tool of choice, because Leitz knew how to make things good.

    Though it is a thing from the distant past, Leicas still enjoy that well earned reputation.
    They are still well made, but (like Kodachrome film) something very outdated (yes, you can still take photos with them) and long surpassed in usability by many others.
    For instance: the Olympus OM series have been mentioned already, and they are as small, as quiet and as good as the RF Leica, but are far more versatile cameras.

    So the price paid for anything with the name Leica on it is very much largely (they are still high quality thingies, and you pay for that too) "mystique". The idea of owning a physical link to an important part of photographic history is worth something (it really is).

  3. #53
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nomad View Post
    I think most of the so-called mystique is down to a combination of people waxing lyrical about the equipment, and a certain admiration for the work of famous Leica users over the years. ...
    It is in my case. I, too, have a IIIf and an M2 and adore them both. H. Cartier-Bresson is oft quoted as saying the Leica was "an extension of [his] eye" and while many people may roll their eyes at such talk, I believe I understand what he meant.

    I have run put over 100 rolls of film through my IIIf and loved every minute with it - and yes, that includes changing lenses, loading film, cutting leaders and everything else that drives people mad. All of my favorite photos have come from the IIIf (even my avatar is from the IIIf manual.)

    The name on the top plate is immaterial.
    100% agree. 'Run what you brung' and be happy with it.
    Those who know, shoot film

  4. #54

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    What Cartier Bresson was saying was not that the LEICA was an extension of his eye, but his CAMERA (that happened to be a Leica) was an extension of his eye.

  5. #55

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    Quote Originally Posted by Nomad View Post
    The name on the top plate is immaterial.
    But the type of metal that plate is made out of is crucially important!
    Steve.

  6. #56

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    Quote Originally Posted by perkeleellinen View Post
    But the type of metal that plate is made out of is crucially important!
    That's rather exagerating things a bit.
    What's important is what's beneath that top plate. The plate itself only serves to protect the innards. Almost anything would do for that.

  7. #57

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    Just the fact that there are page after page after page of replies is evidence of the passion on both sides that the Leica name evokes.

  8. #58

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    I have a Zeiss Ikon, and my brother recently bought a Leica M6. The Leica is somewhat more solidly built, but other than that, I felt no desire to own it, and I feel no draw of "mystique". I do like the lenses though, I have a cheap Summicron, battered and old, and I'd say it generally outperforms my brand new Voigtlander lens.

    I'm probably going to fall on both sides of the argument: Leica make lovely cameras and great lenses, but so do lots of companies.

  9. #59

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    Quote Originally Posted by Q.G. View Post
    That's rather exagerating things a bit.
    I know!
    Steve.

  10. #60

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    My sarcasm radar failed me. Sorry!



 

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