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Old Feb 12, 2012, 7:31 PM   #1
BDD
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Default Leica rangefinder cameras.

What makes Leica cameras (e.g. M9 & M9-P) so sought after (by rangefinder fans) and "special"? Besides it's retro body design. I've heard of quirks with their M8. And why is their glass so much more expensive than DSLR glass? Is the detail so superior? Can you not get the same amount of detail from a Nikon D3x or a Canon 1Ds??

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Old Feb 14, 2012, 2:00 AM   #2
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It's (mostly) not the retro factor.

1. Viewfinder - you can see outside the frame area. This can be very useful. There is no blackout when you trip the shutter. It's clear, sharp, everything is in focus, and very big and bright.

2. It's much quieter than most DSLR cameras, no flapping mirror.

3. No vibration from the flapping mirror means you can usually get by with an extra 1-2 stops when handholding and still get sharp images.

4. It's much smaller than a DSLR. Certainly comparing an M9 + 35 summicron (f1.4) to a FF DSLR + 35 f1.4 is startling. The Leica combo is less than half the size and weight.

5. Lens quality is exceptional, and the lenses are very small and light in comparison. The quality is better than the best Canon or Nikon lenses, as reflected in the price.

Of course there are many disadvantages too:

1. The rangefinder viewfinder only works well for a very limited range of focal lengths.

2. Manual focus - even if it is extremely precise.

3. No zooms.

4. High price for Leica, though there is a mid-price Zeiss Ikon ZM and lower price Voigtlander Bessa cameras and lenses.

5. Only Leica does a digital rangefinder.

The new Fuji X-Pro1 camera about to start shipping worldwide has many of the same advantages, even though it is not strictly a rangefinder camera. For people on the price-sensitive end of the Leica demand curve it looks like a dream come true.

But don't forget that the SLR (film) took almost all the market away from the rangefinder cameras long before the advent of digital. The SLR is more flexible and powerful in most respects.
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Old Feb 14, 2012, 3:23 AM   #3
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Thanks for the words. I have been Googling. Perhaps when I win a lottery and can then afford one to play around with. Not cheap at 7k for the M9. 30k for the Titanium LTD ED version. I was just curious. I'll stick with DSLRs for now.
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Old Feb 14, 2012, 5:42 AM   #4
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The LENS is the thing.

I can't remember where I read that, but it's true.
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Old Feb 14, 2012, 10:17 AM   #5
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No it's really not, and even back in film days it wasn't true.

http://theonlinephotographer.typepad...important.html

It's one of the things, and very important of course. But the sensor is also a thing. The on-board processing chip is also a thing. Your RAW converter (in-camera or out-of-camera) is also a thing. The print pipeline is also a thing.

You are almost never totally limited by one component in the chain. Improving resolution on the sensor and leaving everything else the same improves the end result, improving ANY one thing in the whole chain improves the end result.
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Old Feb 14, 2012, 10:29 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BDD View Post
What makes Leica cameras (e.g. M9 & M9-P) so sought after (by rangefinder fans) and "special"? Besides it's retro body design. I've heard of quirks with their M8. And why is their glass so much more expensive than DSLR glass? Is the detail so superior? Can you not get the same amount of detail from a Nikon D3x or a Canon 1Ds??
What makes a Ferrari so sought after and expensive, when a Mustang can deliver more performance than almost anyone can handle?
When Shakespeare said "What's in a name? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.", modern marketing hadn't yet been invented. Certainly iif it had been called 'dungflower', it wouldn't have been as popular.

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Old Feb 14, 2012, 10:30 AM   #7
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A wonderful site for anyone interested in Leica (particularly Leica lenses) and rangefinder cameras in general is Erwin Puts' website - he has written the Leica lens compendium, an encyclopedia of all the Leica lenses made for the M system:

Here he answers the original question of the thread:

http://imx.nl/photo/Analysis/page149/page149.html
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Old Feb 15, 2012, 3:10 PM   #8
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HAH! Leica is the Ferrari of pro-digital cameras? That's sort of what I was wondering. Is Leica, with their quirks, truly superior in terms of IQ? Over a D3s/x, 1Ds....etc.? Could you not get similar results (IQ) using a flagship DSLR?

I think part of it is the tech. Getting incredible IQ (so I've read) from little lenses and a very compact camera body. That and the "experience" (manual focusing, using a camera reminescent of cameras from the 60's...etc.).

Love to take one for a "test ride". For now I'll keep buying lottery tickets. My birthday is coming up in 8 months...how about sending me the limited edition titanium edition M9? Though, at only 500 copies, they're probably all already spoken for...so the "regular" M9' in basic black will do. I'm not greedy.
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Old Feb 15, 2012, 4:12 PM   #9
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Quote:
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The LENS is the thing.
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No it's really not, and even back in film days it wasn't true.
Yeah, it really is, and it always has been. The lens is the first and the biggest impediment to good image quality.

No manufacturer is going to release a camera that takes bad pictures. They have plenty of time to get that part right (or at least close to right.) Under all but the most extreme circumstances, photos taken with the $499 Canon T3 don't look very different from photos taken with the $1,299 Canon 7D, when they're both using the same lens.

Yet almost all manufacturers turn out some really great lenses right alongside their lowball junk. Canon, for instance, produces the remarkable $1,499 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM, and sells it right alongside their also remarkable (though for a different reason) 75-300mm f/4.0-5.6 III.

This is not the case with companies like Leica, which is a primary reason why their cameras and lenses are so highly regarded and sought after. If a product carries the Leica nameplate, it's top quality stuff.
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Old Feb 15, 2012, 7:24 PM   #10
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BDD,

I have a Leica Rangefinder with a Leitz Elmar 50 mm, F 3.5 lens.

It's a Leica 11f...made in 1952.

I bought it in 1982. I've used it a lot in the past 30 years. It's never needed a repair. The pictures it takes are excellent...still stunning.

I still find there are not many cameras that can equal it's very low light focusing ability.

It's built like a tank. All the controls are silky smooth and precise . Setting the controls is a tactile pleasure the like of which I've never experienced with another camera and I've had plenty of them and used many different brands.

Imagine that...after 60 years...over half a century of use.

It cost me about $ 350 CAD or so 30 years ago.

I've often thought that a Leica M9 with a somewhere around a 24mm, 50mm and 90 mm Leica lenses might just be the thing to buy for a lifetime of fine photography.

Also a basic DSLR (say a Pentax KR with a DA 300mm lens for telephoto work to complete your kit. Leica Rangefinders don't lend themselves to telephoto work.

Will I follow my own advice ? No I'm too old now, having been born in the '40's.

But if I was 20 something, single and had good cash flow...I would.

I also have and wear a Rolex watch. A basic Air-King-Date. Stainless steel. It was bought for me as an engagement gift by my wife to be.
It's much like the old Leica I have. Reliable, durable, requiring little if any service. Accurate. Still looks like a new watch.
But I've always loved fine mechanical machines. Not everybody is as enamored of them as I am.

To each his own, I suppose.

Hope this helps to explain the mystique of Leica.

Take care,

Les

Last edited by lesmore49; Feb 15, 2012 at 7:39 PM.
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