Photographers are never a happy lot. If you are like most photographers, you tend to spend too much time reading photography sites and worrying about the gear you don’t have, or the photos you are not taking. Seldom will you check out a photo’s EXIF data and find yourself rejoicing. No, on the contrary. What’s more likely to happen is that all that technical data contained in those accompanying files will leave you with a sense of quiet desperation. One side of you will see that the great photo you’re looking at was taken with a more expensive camera/lens combination than what sits in your camera bag. Another side of you, and perhaps more painful to ego and wellbeing, will discover that the photograph was taken with a much cheaper camera/lens combination than what you dished-out for your precious. Whatever the case, your mind will immediately begin questioning your choices, and a raging war of words from pundits living in your subconscious will not waste a single second in turning your brain into a virtual battle zone. You need more, you need less, you need different, more time, more knowledge, more, more, less, less. It’s enough to get you committed to an institution. In the end, all you really need is the desire to take photos, and the ability to do so. Time and disposition are the key, and just like wine, whatever you think is good, is good enough. So best to purge those voices in your head and just go out and make photographs with whatever gear you’ve got. Believe me, I’ve been plenty envious of what some people are recording with their iPhones. But maybe it was because I didn’t have the right lens. Oh no, there again are those voices in my head.
Nothing like getting your hands on a new Leica M camera to get your photographic blood pumping a little. But not just any M, mind you, but rather the new (and still very hard to get) Leica M 240 from the folks at Solms, Germany. How good is this camera? Very, very good, in my humble opinion. I’m no gear analyst by any stretch of the imagination, but I would be remiss if I didn’t stop for a second and describe what it feels like to go out shooting with this remarkable work of art. At the risk of being labeled a bleeding Leica fanboy, I have to tell you that this camera is about as close as anyone will get to enjoying the feeling of photographic poetry. The best camera in the world? Of course not. No sports shooter here my friend. The only camera you would take to document the swamp people in the Amazon River? Nope. This camera is definitely not about the extremes, even if some incredible daring photographers out there would just go for it. But if you are thinking street, documentary, fine art, or studio work, then the Leica M would be a powerful photographic tool in your hand.
I have read many blogs where the Leica M has been described as a totally new camera when compared with its predecessor, the Leica M9. And you know what? The blogs were right (see Steve Huff’s wonderful review here). This is an amazing camera. Richer colors, nearly silent operation, great contrast, extensive customization, live view, focus peaking, fantastic battery, and retention of the famous “Leica look.” I could go on and on about the specs, but others a lot more qualified have already provided this information (see Ming Thein’s article and Sam Hurd’s take on this camera). But why the excitement about all these functions that have already made their appearance in other camera brands, and at a lot less money? The answer to this question lies precisely on the fact that we are talking about Leica here. Ever heard of tradition? Well, Leica takes this concept significantly beyond the point to which the patriarch Tevye did in the movie Fiddler on the Roof, and by a long shot. In fact, it is precisely this “remain in touch with the past” attitude that brings so many photographers into the Leica camp. Change, any change, is big news in the Leica community, with equal amounts of proponents and detractors taking their positions at opposite sides of the trenches. In the end, what I know is this: that recording the world around you with a Leica M is a very special thing–a feeling that is only intensified by the new Leica M 240. Simplicity at its very best. And at a price.