Was in the Art Institute of Chicago Sunday, viewing the MOMA Cartier-Bresson retrospective. A staff member walked up to me and said, “Wow, a real photographer. We don’t see too many Leicas.”
This is the first ever comment anyone has ever made about my M8.2—you always hope it will be mostly invisible, but people do know what they are.
Not entirely sure I agree with his criteria for “real” photographer though. Ansel Adams said the most important piece of photographic equipment was the “12 inches or so behind the camera.”
That I can agree with.
I enjoyed the exhibit, and feel HCB is a major influence in my photos, but I’m no HCB.
With the unveiling of the M9 Titanium, Leica seems to be moving in a new direction in the evolution of the M camera line. The industrial design has been broadened from a strict, Bauhaus, “form follows function” language to embrace post-millennial style influenced by automotive design. While I welcome a re-imagining and re-working of the M using modern materials and fabrication methods, I think it is important to preserve the identity of the M as an elegant tool of bulletproof reliability and unmatched photographic quality. If we’re going to re-work the M, please let us preserve the best qualities of the line, and improve it where we can. To that end, from the standpoint of an M8.2 user, I offer this ‘wish list’ for what I hope will evolve into the M10.
• High eye-point optical viewfinder
Lots of people wear glasses. Make it easier for everyone to see the frame lines and rangefinder spot.
• Ridged window frames
Small slightly raised ridges on the edges of the viewfinder and rangefinder windows to help keep fingers from smudging the glass, as seen on the M3. Alternately, a ridge that would signify the edge of the optical area, similar to that used on the viewfinder side of the M8, but for the rangefinder window.
• Quiet mode
An optional, significantly slower shutter re-arming cycle that would enable it to be nearly silent, similar to that employed on the Nikon F4. Perhaps offer this in a ‘professional’ model.
• Ergonomic improvements
Recessed buttons on the rear to prevent accidental presses.
• Weather proofing
Electronics have become a fact of life. I shouldn’t be afraid to use the camera in harsh conditions.
• Integral grip
Possibly like that employed in the Concept 3 design study for the M9 Titanium, or the small grip built into the Nikon F3.
• Oleophilic materials
The Apple iPhone uses oleophilic coatings on the glass to help prevent oil buildup. Using similar methods on the viewfinder windows and leatherette could provide a more easily maintained camera with a firmer grip.
Thank you for reading. I welcome your feedback and opinions. It is my hope that Leica will consider these humbly-offered suggestions.
I’m not a fan of people who collect rare Leica cameras and gear. When I was still shooting professionally, I couldn’t afford to buy Leica. I suppose if I really wanted one, I should have made it enough of a priority to actually acquire one.
Back in the day, I was sitting with my friend Matt. We photographers were discussing how much we disliked the fact that people who didn’t actually make photographs drove up the price of professional Leica gear by doing silly things like buying a new Leica and never—ever—taking it out of the box. We talked about how some collectors collected one of every Leica item available for a specific year. Every camera, every lens, every lens hood, lens cap and lens filter Leica made for that year. We talked about how some camera models are considered more desirable than others due to paint finish vs. chrome finish, which optical designer was responsible for which lens, whether the film advance was a single or double stroke, etc. This is all well and good until you begin to realize that these people are buying these ultimate photographic tools because they’re pretty, because it ‘feels good in the hand’, or because it represents the ideal of mechanical design perfection, but not necessarily because it is capable of making striking photographs.
Needless to say, us poor working shooters were most unhappy about this state of affairs.
I had an idea.
"Hey Matt," I said, "What if we held an auction for the scarcest, most desirable Leica collector’s item ever. Like an original Barnack prototype or something." Matt listened as I continued, "We could gather all the most hardcore collectors from around the world and get them frothing at the mouth at the chance to own this penultimate collector’s jewel."
I paused for effect.
"Then what?" Matt asked.
"When they’re all in the room, and that camera is on a raised pedestal, under glass, I would walk into the room… lift the glass case… and smash it to bits with a sledgehammer as they watched helplessly.”
I busted out laughing at my own joke. I do this regularly, actually.
Matt pondered this a moment.
"No, no—you’re taking entirely the wrong approach," he said.
He proposed his own end game.
"At the end, when they’re all in the room?"
"You lock the door. Announce that under each chair is a hammer," Matt said slowly, a thin smile building on his face.
"Why would you do that?" I asked, puzzled.
"Because then you announce… that there is no auction, but the survivor gets the camera for free!”
In retrospect, I’m sure this is offensive to many, especially those who just like to collect cool things. We laughed our asses off anyway.
I haven’t talked to Matt for a long time, not since his wedding. I kinda miss him.
1. Your camera and one lens are worth more than your car.
2. You use black tape to cover up the name and logo on your camera.
3. You regularly make photographs without looking through the viewfinder.
4. You aren’t afraid of hand-holding a 1/4 second exposure.
5. You rarely use more than one or two lenses.
6. You are considerably younger than your camera.
7. You photograph as many strangers as family.
8. You make photographs, often without being noticed.
9. You care more about the subject of your photograph than the process.
10. You’re comfortable working in “available darkness”.
The Leica M4 used by Jim Marshall, 60s and 70s music photographer of Jimi Hendrix, Johnny Cash, Janis Joplin, et. al.
The Leica M4 used by photographer Garry Winogrand.