Dear Mrs. Leica …
Leica M9 vs. Leica M(10). Leica spring 2012: Tops down, shoes off and feet up (to not let grass grow under Mrs. Leica feet?) Dear Mrs. Leica, don’t get (too?) lazy and don’t put yourself to a (final?) rest!
An Open Letter To Leica
Dear Mrs. Leica, (this is the way a friendly letter should start, isn’t it?)
Spring finally has arrived and, as usual after boring winters, many fresh rumors are out about you and your new fashion style for 2012. I heard it through the grapevine; rumor says you would prefer to appear in Black & White only? Well, this dress-code is best for a funeral, not that much a suit for the spring? Do you like to bury yourself ? Or are you already dressed to attend your own burial?
However, March 10, 2012 will arrive and we will get a sneak preview on your new dress. You might step down the stairs like a diva to surprise us. Maybe you will show us that a mature German Lady always can catch up with the young gals and runway-rookies from Japan? Well, up to this mystical date everything is subject of sheer speculation.
But I’d like to pick up the opportunity and add some personal thoughts to the the hefty rumors. All views are from a photographer who owns and uses one of your siblings, a Leica M9. And, in general, is quite happy with her habits. Well done, Mrs. Leica! But your daughter is still a little bit fractious and calls for some (major?) improvements, refinements and fine tuning, imho.
Dressed in Black & White only? In general, dear Mrs. Leica, I’m quite happy with your habits. But still you are a bit fractious and bitchy. Room for some refinements?
1) Live-View and video capabilities: Please, Mrs.Leica, do NOT (by all means) listen to people who ask for these fancy and unnecessary fashionable accessories. Please keep in mind that these suggestions are mostly forwarded by people who never have kissed you. They are attracted by your historical myth, they may canvass you, but they never will marry you!
And, dear Mrs.Leica, with due respect, let’s keep honest, your fame is based on the ‘German Mechanical Engineering’. In electronics you are, well, hm, not that up-to-shape? In my personal Leica M9 edition still the faster SD card is the slower one in the cam! Even with the latest firmware upgrade and nearly 3 (three!) years after you gave birth to her. Hey, let’s first solve this problem before talking about any fancy electronic innovations like Live-View, video or (a most weird) viewfinder-zoom. Ha, what are you saying ?
2.) Dear Mrs. Leica, your electronic heart is a bit grainy. By far outdated. By far behind the industry. Maybe the worst one compared to others. Yes, I know, you precious diva, you don’t like comparisons. But we, the photographers, have to deal with you. I have restricted your ISO settings to a value of 320 max. Above that you’re creating too much buzz. Yes yes, you love to create buzz, I know that! But, in no way ISO 400 (and above) is acceptable to me. Dear, Mrs. Leica, this really is heartless!
Now, in Auto-ISO mode your noisy heart pulses between ISO 160 and ISO 320. Your ISO-waist really is tight corseted, but you are leaving ME breathless! Film did do better back in the vintage analogue days.
Leica babies are there to have their black soul carried around in dark corners, street-whoring … high ISO capabilities are very much desired
Well, on bright sunny days with a lot of light available, your mood isn’t that grainy and you do a bit better. But, are you born to document the Djinns of Arabic deserts at high noon? For me, as well as for many others, Leica babies are there to have their black soul carried around in dark corners, street-whoring, your bitchy soul is best at sniping shadowed scenery. You are made for low lights, understated, unremarkable, silent, less flash … snipe and bite!
But, up to now, your ISO capabilities don’t team up with us. Room for major improvement. Dear Mrs. Leica – be a bitch, act like a slut in our hands. We would love it and worship our warship.
3.) Autofocus? No way! Better to invest time to explain what the M stands for to people who are asking for it? Manual focus is the very most important feature of any Leica M. No other digital competitor can do it (in a usable way.) Add Autofocus, dear Mrs. Leica, and you can lipstick-through the M on your pretty face. Period.
Add Autofocus, dear Mrs. Leica, and you can lipstick-through the M on your pretty face …
4.) People are asking for higher display resolutions. Photographers are concerned about scratched displays (and decreased resale value). The display is the weak point in your backbone. Get rid of the display and you are done!
There is really no need for it. Myriads of photographs have been done for decades without any display control. If one couldn’t take a picture without a display one couldn’t do it even with the best display. Leica M photographers are very well able to take pictures without it – believe !
Dear Mrs. Leica, you are a stunning beauty. A hottie. Attractive retro styled silhouette, a great waistline. When examined from the front, from the sides, from the top and, hey, even when peeped from the bottom up. But, your back view doesn’t come close. There is this ugly ‘rectangular thingo’ embedded in the center of your back. And, dear Ma’m, it makes you broad in the beams! Fat Lady, wouldn’t you like to share again the slim design of your predecessors? Well, a beautiful body doesn’t take better photos. But beauty sells! Would you agree on that, dear Mrs. Leica ?
Mrs. Leica goes fashion – A beautiful body doesn’t take better photos. But beauty sells!
Well, simply to remove the display will not do the trick. If so, I already would have sent in my Leica M9 baby for a rebuilt. Unfortunately, the display also is in charge to control a camera’s settings. But, most of the (Thank God) sparse settings must be done once only. An initial setup. This also could be achieved by a remote connection to any computerized hardware (e.g a PC). A slim software (a light version of Leica’s diagnostic software ?) might do the job.
Still too complicated? A small “settings-file” uploaded via SD-card to the cam (similar to a firmware update) would be fine also. Changes can be made by editing and re-uploading the file. And/or to store a few user profiles with different setups to have it selected via buttons,etc …
Less display there is a lot of space available to add easy accessible buttons. In other terms: to add functionality! Any user would prefer buttons over menu-scrolls. But it might not be overdone. Formatting should be done by pressing two (already existing) buttons.
Three parameters are responsible for a correct exposure. Shutter speed, aperture and ISO setting. One the most important benefits of digital photography over analogue: to have ISO settings adapted without replacing the film. But it’s function is still buried in a menu. Auto-ISO function is quite advantageous. Again, access via menu only.
Dear Mrs. Leica – be a bitch, act like a slut in our hands. We would love it and worship our warship.
No display and – Voila! – space to add an old-fashioned ISO wheel. Shifting ISO gears manually – a (digital) photographer’s dream! After a decade of digital cameras, would Leica be the first to re-introduce it?
Just place it there, on the back, where it always has been on some analogue M’s. A pretty fine ratcheting wheel to state A (for Auto-ISO) / 25 / 50 / (some landscape photographers would go crazy about this low ISO numbers) /100 /up to whatever the sensor is capable of. I would be happy with noise-free ISO 800, anything above I would not consider very realistic for Mrs. Leica at this time. 1/3 or 1/2 steps are fine. But 1 steps would be faster and quite OK (at least for me) .
No more fear about scratched displays, added beauty for the Lady, added functionality (!), less power consumption, added retro style and more similarity to film Leicas, maybe even a decreased price (?) and more reliable to due the fact: “What’s not in can’t become faulty”. What else could one ask for ?
Not to mention the vanity effect! You run a red-dot Leica and a digital Leica-Lady less rear display! Wow, what good a photographer must you be! (What sounds like a joke is not necessarily meant as one!)
Mrs. Leica, as a vain women, wouldn’t you love to look pretty for years to come and to camouflage the harsh usage and the abuse of your masters? Back to resistant chrome make-up?
5.) Vibration reduction. Although an industry standard nowadays, and benefitial in regard to the low ISO capabilities of Lady’s heartless sensor, I agree it would not be the first choice for a Leica M. In no way any existing Leica lens should be sacrificed. It would make the lenses (even) more expensive, larger in size (we don’t want that) and, maybe, less reliable.
To have VR solved right in cam might not be that efficient. Especially with wide angle lenses. Maybe a step or two will be gained. I personally would prefer reliability over any additional fancy electronics nested in the cam. So, dear Mrs. Leica, don’t touch yourself this time. A sensor capable of higher usable ISO setting would be by far the better technical solution. And fast prime lenses are already there.
6.) What else to criticize, my dear? Are you still listening? Just some minor things to mention. What’s about a higher battery life, especially for photographers who travel for months with a salt-caravan through any deserted wilderness without access to a power plug? Well, in the meantime, we are fine with a spare battery.
White Trash – photographing in deserted locations may call for a higher battery life
Dear Mrs. Leica, I would love to carry you out on rainy days and make use of your body in bad weather conditions or to bring you down to dusty Russian coal mines. I even like to drop you sometimes (shame on me). So, weather-sealing would be a nice feature. On the other hand, as long as the lenses are not sealed it will not make much sense.
Mrs. Leica, I’d love to make use of your body in bad weather conditions, but no weather-sealing for lil’ Mrs. Leica? So, better to stay away of splashes …
A black bodied Leica Lady for “political correctness” and for the ones who like to work in stealth mode. For others a shiny attitude is preferred. But, please note, just a slutty grey make-up is (in no way) a substitute for a resistant, hardened chrome finish. Too easily your faked face is scratched and the truth come to life. And, as a vain women, wouldn’t you love to look pretty for years to come and to camouflage the harsh usage and the abuse of your masters?
Let me do a final statement. You have pioneered photography. All your comrades from the good old days, Kodak, Contax (among others, just to name a few) are already gone with the wind. You are the last Girl-Scout!
How many famous and iconic photographs have been done with your help?. How many white-walls of well-know galleries and museums are covered with ‘your’ work? Just due to the fact that you were there whenever needed and easy to handle. No bells, no whistles. Just sheer, simple and stupid functionality.
A Leica ‘just for the birds’?
This fact adds responsibility – like it or not. Responsibility to produce equipment to enable the last real photographers out there to produce real images. Imagine a Magnum photographer using a live-view enabled Leica in his stretched out hand? What a horrible visualization!
Dear Mrs. Leica, your market share is about 1%. In other terms, 99% of photographic enthusiasts out there are thinking you are outdated or feature-less, or whatever. For others your kisses are just too expensive. Don’t care about it. Don’t try to draw level with the fancy, electronic heavy products by Japanese multi-concerns. Most of their stuff is built by engineers for engineers, not for photographers. Refine your niche in quality and functionality as best as you can.
Dear Mrs. Leica … I’m sitting on a park-bench eying little girls … (from Tokyo?)
Well, dear Mrs. Leica, you are a stubborn female and you never ever will listen to me. But, hey, at least I tried!
Please, don’t force me to cheat you with a ‘woman from Tokyo’!
KISS (keep it simple and stupid),
Reinfried Marass, March 28, 2012
Note: this little essay is written with a winking eye and shall not be taken too seriously.
All images shown in the article were done by Reinfried Marass. All photographs, except for one, were taken with Leica M9 and Summicron 2.0/35mm ASPH.
Update: The removal of the dye. Leica M9M – Leica M9 Monochrom(e). Bleached Mrs. Leica
Well, in the meantime the rumors are unveiled and the (not that shocking?) truth is out. The awaited Leica M10 is just a Leica M9M Monochrom(e). Mrs. Leica is now dressed in simple Black & White only. The display is still there on Mrs. Leica rear end. Of course, the removal of the color calls for a higher price tag. Is the shift of the base ISO setting from ISO 160 (Leica M9 / M9P) up to ISO 320 (Leica M9M), to get lower high-ISO noise, really a technical solution or innovation? Dear Mrs. Leica, do you like to fake us? Low base ISO 320 setting is a bit high in some cases, not to mention the reduced dynamic range.
The now bleached Mrs. Leica promises ‘nearly’ noise-free images up to ISO 10000. I didn’t test-kiss the new discolored model, but I don’t see it that promising. As can be verified by some (serious, non-biased) test shots the higher ISO images are looking like the first Daguerreotypes – not very 2012. But, yes – of course! With the newest M9M Leica likes to drive us back in time to the roots and to the beginnings of photography. Hello Monsieur Daguerre!
Leica – the youngest generation : fishing in muddy waters for new customers?
The GOOD: the Leica M9M is NOT a replacement for the Leica M9 / M9P – it is just an additional model in the line. One can decide if the new model is worth an affair.
Technically seen, to take the color out of Mrs. Leica’s hair should also add more details to the image. As far I was able to verify from some high-resolution test shots this seems to be true. Although, most pre-release tests were done with the new Leica f2.0/ 50 mm lens. According to Leica this shall be the best and sharpest 50mm lens the world ever has seen. Ok, this new lens comes with a price tag to lift the eye-brows of even the most addicted Leica enthusiast. Personally I’m not interested in this new Leica model and therefore I did not investigate further if the new image quality is notable as soon as comparisons to ‘standard’ Leica lenses are available.
The BAD: compared to digital competitors, the Kodak sensor of the Leica M9 was already a bit outdated at date of birth. Image quality is really great, but the noise at high(er) ISO numbers always was behind the industry. Note: I’m talking about usable (= noise free) ISO numbers of 400, 800, maybe 1600. I’m not referring to ISO settings in the high range of 125.000 or whatever. Who does need it?
So how did the German manufacturer not let grass grow under Mrs. Leica feet? What innovations did happen since the birth of the Leica M9 years(!) ago? Besides various ‘limited editions’ for collectors there was a Leica M9P Professional. Well, pretty nice. Primarily a new face with less make-up. Nothing else. Next, valuable time was invested just to take the color out of the sensor and to bleach Mrs. Leica.
This will be missed with the bleached Leica M9M Monochrom (the colors, not the girl)
The UGLY: When the Leica M9M Mochrom(e) was presented to the public back in May 2012 , Leica’s CEO stated that the engineers are working on video capabilities for the ‘real’ M10. Maybe life-view too? Maybe auto focus? For me this was the really shocking truth! Those features are the least important ones in a Leica M body.
During it’s development Leica’s M9M Monochrom(e) was code-named ‘Henri’ (after Cartier Bresson). How will the new M10 be encoded? Steven (after Spielberg), in anticipation of all the new block buster movies that might be done with the video enhanced Leica M10?
Probably the Leica M9 will stay in the product line. With the now decade old sensor? No, sorry. Forget it. Instead of working on an improved sensor, Leica again spends time to introduce useless gimmicks.
How many flops can a small camera manufacturer like Leica handle? In Leica’s digital history there was the digital data back for the Leica R SLR line. Just for the birds. In the meantime the whole SLR line is discontinued.
Just precious jewels in a glass cabinet. Leica’s future?
Who is interested in the consumer Leica cameras? Seriously, any Japanese manufacturer offers by far more competitive camera models loaded with more features. For a fraction of the price.
The Leica S2? Just shaking head. Maybe the most absurd camera ever produced by Leica. Apparently, it did find some buyers. In the meantime the new Nikon D800 series features similar resolution and image quality (at lower noise levels) in a smaller and tougher body, loaded with numerous additional features, an unbeatable line of lenses and accessories and many, many advantages more. All for a really bargain. Imho, the S2 was already matured at time of presentation.
And the digital Leica M series? It sells like crazy. Leica can’t produce enough units to fulfill the orders in time. But it seems that the producer doesn’t understand why this model sells that good and why it is that loved by it’s owners. Instead of improving it, Leica sacrifices this great product by adding sportive and unnecessary bells and whistles.
Unfortunately, I don’t see any bright future for this great old German cam manufacturer and no future at all for the Leica M line. The upcoming Leica M10 will not have my name on it and, as already mentioned above, Mrs. Leica will force me to cheat her with a woman from Tokyo.
I was looking for a replacement and I did test shoot the new Nikon D800e. My impressions and shooting report under real world photography conditions can be read here Nikon D800e Review, Field Test Shots, Sample Images