Don't want to go back to anything smaller than FF, and the lack of high ISO performance puts me off too much.
Thorsten von Overgaard, a self-declared Leica-freak, wrote an article on focusing with a rangefinder as part of a series on the Leica M 240. I'm continuously agonizing over getting me a Leica M, mainly because I like the small lenses and because I remember how it felt to use my father's Contax rangefinder with a 50mm; my wife effortlessly made a perfectly sharp picture of me at that time, and she never managed that with an SLR. I now have a Sony A7R2 which serves me well but I feel I must have tried to use a rangefinder camera at some point in time.
The article is long so I picked some highlights from it, that got me thinking if a Leica M really is for me.
And some musings of my own.
- A rangefinder forces you to focus and recompose. I often use large apertures combined with placing my subject in the corner, and I'm worried that focus and recompose will degrade sharpness to an unacceptable degree in such a scenario.
Yes, there are two factors which play to quality degradation here. First, the F&R action itself but it's not actually that often that you foul up an image because you moved too much while recomposing IME.
The greater issue is that due to small lenses with size constraints, many of the M mount lenses exhibit some degrees of issues, a big one being field curvature. This bugs me considerably with the 35 Summicron ASPH which is supposed to be the very best but actually has issues with soft mid-2/3rds. If you plan on shooting 50mm or use Zeiss offerings, you will get solid performance though.
And one more added point: because you gotta focus in the middle, the subject you're shooting at might realise it way easier than if you shot a wide angle lens just by placing your AF point on the edge.
- A rangefinder enables you to see outside the frame for all but the widest lenses, seems like a bonus in street photography. Although the author thinks that it isn't all that important.
I don't think this matters much either. If you like 35mm or wider, you won't see any outside frame anyway. Even less with glasses! If you like shooting 90, perhaps maybe.
- Leica offers an extensive range of high-quality and relatively small lenses.
True, very true. The lenses are super small for being FF. But with small size comes some design compromises. The modern DSLR lenses or modern FF mirrorless lenses aren't huge for nothing!
It might be a tough pill to swallow, to pay big money for lenses that don't actually perform that well wide open as everyone exclaims.
- Leica M cameras don't offer autofocus, so for that I'd have to keep my Sony FE system.
- Rangefinders are delicate instruments, that can go out of alignment and must be treated with care. Hate that, to be honest.
I'd hate this too. But if you're not shooting 50/0.95 at minimum focusing distances all the time, chances are your focus mechanism will be just fine. Besides, newer Leica bodies are pretty resistant to going misaligned (M240 and up).
- No preview of depth of field; not all that important to me, I often bracket apertures anyway to select the best result in post.
This is one of the things you would learn over time. Leica M leaves a lot of decisions for you to make (and learn).
- Quote: Can be hard to see the focus center in dark.
So it's just like a CDAF camera in that regard. Can't see any contrast to lock focus on.
- Not suitable for telephoto. Another reason to keep the Sony FE system.
- Wider than 28mm lenses necessitate a separate optical viewfinder. Or use the display or EVF, which is probably what I would do.
External viewfinders are kind of cool to be honest. Not entirely practical though. I have a 21mm lens with an optical accessory viewfinder and I lost my cool with it, started using the screen to compose. Still focus via RF because it's absolutely the quickest, smoothest and most accurate way with wide-angle lenses..
- Quote: You will realize that you will never have 100% of your images in focus. For static scenes I have a hitrate over 99.9 % with the Sony A7R2.
With static scenes you'll get a similar hitrate I guarantee you. With moving subjects, it's a different thing altogether.
- Quote: Children is one of the major reasons many Leica M users give as the reason to look for a small quality camera. That surprised me. If and when I'll have grand-children, I'll know.
I don't know why every shot (out of thousands) of ones kids has to be in perfect focus. You don't have to practice long until you get a very nice hit rate if you don't recompose after focusing. And even with recomposing you can be pretty sharp about it.
- The author states that you won't have a 100 % hit rate with moving subject, autofocus or not. From my experience he's right.
Both approaches are imperfect. But to be honest, autofocus camera in manual focus mode with back-button focus would cover the best of both worlds.
- The lens can be visible in the frame. Wouldn't bother me.
If you like 35mm and you like accurate framing, it could be a problem with some of the lens options out there.
- The author said he used the EVF-2 in a situation when he had to be absolutely sure that he'd be able to focus reliably. That remark made me cringe.
I shoot lenses like 21/3.5, 35/2, 50/3.5, and 90/4. With these depths of field I find the rangefinder to be absolutely perfect. No missed shots really. But Overgaard, he likes his 50/0.95 very much.
- The author's plea for going easy on perfectionism doesn't really resonate with me.
I'll give it to you straight. If that is truly the case, Leica M is absolutely not for you. Humans make mistakes in focusing, the rangefinder mechanism can be off, the small lenses have their optical compromises, etc. Leica M is about the shooting experience from out of which you still get crazy good shots. Sure, shooting static subjects with well calibrated lenses give you amazing output that easily rivals the best of the systems. But there's too many "imperfections" in the typical output. It sure was a tough pill for me to swallow, pay all this money just to get to learn not to pixel peep (But it's a good lesson.)
I already read all posts in this thread, just curious for more thoughts, so get your flamethrowers out .
- Focus shift impacts rangefinder focusing, whereas it's irrelevant for manual focusing with an EVF/display when the lens is set at the working aperture, like I always do.
Well you may know that most modern DSLRs and mirrorless cameras also focus wide open and then close down only to take the picture. But these lenses that have focus shift, have the errors corrected in the firmware.
But I agree, focus shift is just another prick in my flesh when considering the overall system and the cost.
- I'd hate to have my camera's rangefinder calibrated at (ir)regular intervals. Leica's service is not known for its speedy turn-around times, to say the least.
With M240 and up, it's not likely you'd have to do this very often. Of course, bad luck can happen and the service sure is not the greatest, I've heard.
- Leica is expensive.
Tru dat! I splurged on a body and now I don't mind that much, but I still like the idea about two-bodying and the cost of a second body is starting to seem too much for me.
- I might want to wait until a Leica M would also feature a high-performance built-in EVF and would carry a state-of-the art sensor. The present sensors in Sony and Nikon cameras are operating near the theoretical limits of dynamic range and noise performance, so such a sensor would be a boon in a Leica M.
Leica is known to travel their own paths, when it comes to processing the signal from the sensors.
- I'd miss the sensor stabilization I have now, I can get away with hand-held shooting in a way inconceivable before that.
Leica M bodies have that weight to them it's not actually too bad. Of course it won't be Olympus-tier image stabilisation.
- I'm basically a one-system guy, even a one-camera guy. Maybe the Leica M and Sony FE systems are sufficiently different so that I don't have trouble switching between the two.
In my experience it's difficult to be a two-system guy if you have all the focal lengths replicated in both systems. But on the other hand ,if you shoot wide angles up to 50mm with Leica and go for Sony on everything narrower, it would be rather easy.
Already calibrated myself for his non-rational enthousiasm .If you are battling GAS and want an M, Overgaard's pages are the very last place where you want to be. He writes so romantically about the M.
This is part of what is attracting me to more classic methods of photography, I think. I'm getting tired of all the attention around absolute image quality. I mean, I do use a Ricoh GR III, which has great IQ, and maybe 50% of its DNA is about the sharpness, but the other half is about the freedom it gives you to carry it anywhere and take snapshots effortlessly, and that latter 50% is what is really speaking to me lately.(The author's plea for going easy on perfectionism doesn't really resonate with me.)
I'll give it to you straight. If that is truly the case, Leica M is absolutely not for you
The Epson R-D1 was, essentially, a digital Bessa R. People who own them swear by them, but not many were sold I believe.
I know - but it was an APS-C camera. Not to put it down in any way - it was/is a stroke of genius; it's lasting appeal proves that. But I'd really love a FF Bessa R ... Maybe at half the price of a Leica? That said, I'm actually no longer in the market for a new M mount RF - I own what I want.The Epson R-D1 was, essentially, a digital Bessa R. People who own them swear by them, but not many were sold I believe.
You are, of course, absolutely right.I know - but it was an APS-C camera. Not to put it down in any way - it was/is a stroke of genius; it's lasting appeal proves that. But I'd really love a FF Bessa R ... Maybe at half the price of a Leica? That said, I'm actually no longer in the market for a new M mount RF - I own what I want.
Christina, these are beautiful!I take far fewer photos with an M camera but even if focus isn't always spot on, I like the results usually! These are the M10 and 50mm Summilux ASPH but it's not much different to the M240 (which I still have).
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