I had been thinking about my Leica M8 a lot recently. Well, maybe not so much thinking about it but rather evaluating it, in my own mind at least. It's old (by digital standards anyway) so resolution is getting dwarfed by many the camera these days and upping the ISO is a risky business simply because its not too fond of going beyond ISO 640. It's quirky: the battery power indicator might as well be a sticker and it gets a little upset if you put anything but premium brand memory cards in it (sorry Fujifilm, but this M8 chewed up and spat out one of your perfectly good cards). I began to consider how many lenses and accessories I could get for my Nikon equipment for the price of a used Leica 35mm lens. To add furrows to my already troubled brow, Leica unveiled their new range of products last Thursday (May 10th 2012).
Along with an innovative camera that only shoots in black and white two things caught my eye. One was a set of limited edition cameras with Hermes leather priced at either $25,000 or $50,000. Yes, that is FIFTY followed by three ZEROES. I really couldn't care about such trinkets for the rich but then came the bombshell with the announcement of new 50mm "Summicron" lens. For those who might not know Leica name all their models of lenses in the same way Ford have the Fiesta, Focus, Mondeo, etc and this "Summicron" is considered a gateway lens into the world of Leica. Its not the most expensive (by a LOOOOONG way) but its also not the cheapest. If you walk into your friendly camera dealer and hand over 1,700 of your hard earned Euros you will be the proud owner of one of these. Well, the older model anyway. The new one costs a whopping €6,000!!! That's a price hike of over 300%. And I thought Germans were opposed to inflation!! Now I had no plans to go buy one but the upsetting thing is that it more than likely means a lot of their upcoming products are going to be priced so beyond what is feasible for an enthusiast especially one who is sadly not blessed with ownership of an oil-refinery. So by now, my relationship with Leica and my own little M8 was kinda low.
Fast forward to Saturday and we decided to pack Luke and Cillian into the car and drove to Killarney and into the National Park. Luke wanted to walk along with me and brought his own little camera, as did I (without even thinking it was the M8 I picked up before leaving). Cillian would take it upon himself to control proceedings from his buggy and point out all the cows and deer and horses that we saw. After a few minutes walk we got to a small clearing of trees with a host of bluebells in the undergrowth. Curiosity took the better of Luke, as is natural with any 3 year old, and in he wandered. The play of light and shadow within the trees and along the bluebells presented an ideal setting for a few hastily taken shots all the while feverishly trying to keep Luke in focus while maintaining my balance. As I took them I didn't have to look back at the pics on the LCD screen. I knew I had something special. They might not be special to anyone else but for us they were perfect moments of one of our boys completely lost in thought and oblivious to my very presence. I just wish Cillian had been trotting around as well so that I could have got a shot of the two of them together. Chances are, though, they'd have ended up fighting over a twig or something!!
And that's when I remembered why I adore this camera, the lenses and that company. They do things differently but they give you the tools to capture moments perfectly. There are no fancy menu pages to navigate with tons of options. There's no autofocus. There's a shutter speed dial, an aperture dial on the lens, a shutter button, a view-finder and that's about it. But the rendering, the depth and richness of colour. There wasn't much I had to do with these photos once I loaded them onto the computer. Just the usual tweak of contrast and tonality. Add to this a size and weight that no DLSR with a good lens can match.
For the second photo, I lost my balance so there was a slight movement as I took the picture but I think it added something to it at the same time. The loss in detail creates an image that is a little more dreamlike and a little warming of the colors in post-processing did the rest
So after a few minutes shooting all my misgivings seem to have disappated. O.K., it's old but 10 megapixels is plenty and this thing has enough sharpness that you can upscale to 20 megapixels. Poor high ISO? No problem, sure don't I have "fast" lenses. Why would I not want the very best memory cards to record these precious images. And sure don't I have a few spare batteries. Perhaps these and other imperfections in the camera mean I have to work harder to get an image but, man, when it produces images like this I just fall in love with this camera and its lenses time after time, after time. Leonard Cohen has a line in the song Anthem which goes "There is a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in" and it is very true. It's in overcoming little challenges and learning to work around them that we sometimes see the beauty and get the best out of the world around us. So, Leica, I forgive you these imperfections and I am sorry I ever doubted your products. Now, the imperfections in your pricing policies, that's for another day!!