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Leica M10-R with Leica Noctilux 50mm 1.0 and Leica Visoflex 2

Leica rangefinder cameras - purchase advice

A Leica M rangefinder camera is considered by some photographers to be the "Holy Grail" among cameras - in search of redemption and happiness, which they believe to recognize in this cult object. The "Holy Grail" of photography seems unattainable (and unattainably expensive), as every Leica owner is knighted at the court of King Arthur of Wetzlar and accepted into the illustrious community of the Leician Round Table.

And so myths entwine around these cameras, condense into a claim to truth and manifest themselves in the form of - well - currently a digital Leica M11.

Any ambitious photographer who is perhaps slowly approaching Leica photography over time, Anyone who is fed up with the function-overloaded Sony, Fuji, Canon, Nikon cameras will certainly find the beneficial "deceleration in photography" in the Leica M. The simple design of the control elements and the limited range of functions can be a relief, a trip to the menu system is at least rarely necessary after the initial setup of the camera.

Some desires lead to a purchase and lead to the Surprise, often to the point of disenchantment.

The Leica buyer is like the hero in search of the Holy Grail, who earns respect for his daring use of "weapons" and for his naïve way of simply walking into the "Place of Danger". sets:

Taking photos with a Leica M is something special. But there are some compromises to be prepared for. However, if you accept the special features of Leica M photography or know how to deal with them, you will certainly be rewarded with great photos.

The first images with a Leica rangefinder camera are rarely sharp

Especially with focal lengths from 50mm and open apertures with fast lenses such as a Leica Summilux or even one Leica Noctilux, the focus range is extremely small. With the classic rangefinder (transparent viewfinder), the depth of field achieved cannot be displayed in the viewfinder image, as is the case with electronic viewfinders such as the Fuji X-Pro and the like. is self-evident. That's why practice and experience are part of mentally grasping the achievable sharpness range in advance. In the image result, the sharpness range will still be much smaller than expected. The learning curve is steeper with a digital Leica M camera such as the Leica M9, ​​Leica M10 or Leica M11, since the image results are immediately available for viewing on the camera display or in the electronic viewfinder and the corresponding consequences can be drawn more quickly than in analogue photography with film.

And just focusing with the mechanical rangefinder is a challenge. Despite tolerance ranges and exact fine adjustment, focusing via the rangefinder poses increasingly visible problems for photographers with ever higher resolution sensors. The now 60 megapixel high-resolution sensor on the Leica M11 makes any deviation from ideal sharpness visible, and a modern Leica M also lacks an image stabilizer.

Focusing requires special concentration anyway and it is not without reason that some people wish that the next (digital) Leica M will have an electronic viewfinder EVF (this EFV is already available as an accessory for most digital Leica M as a viewfinder for the hot shoe). Here the Fuji X-Pro series offers a clear, at least technical advantage: You can switch between the optical viewfinder and the digital viewfinder image.

Nevertheless, even with meticulous focussing, there is often a blur in the image result: Focusing is carried out in the viewfinder with precise mechanics via a coupling of the lens with the rangefinder. External influences such as shock or impact often require a correction of the adjustment. This tuning takes place in the Leica factory with impeccable quality, but it is also expensive, because Leica does not only carry out partial repairs such as a viewfinder adjustment, but always the entire program of a factory overhaul. This is complex and expensive, but also correspondingly comprehensive and professional. That's why Leica photography is always expensive. In addition, ideally all the equipment should be sent in so that the lenses and camera(s) are optimally matched. In particular, the classic high-speed Leica lenses such as the Leica Summilux or Leica Noctilux, which are designed for analog film, may require the focus level to be matched to the sensor technology, which fundamentally reduces the tolerance range.

Leica lenses

Leica lenses are the "measure of all things" and less the technology of the cameras. If you buy a Leica M, you should first and foremost have money for Leica lenses. The special "look" of the images from a Leica camera is created by the lenses. Leica optics have the special "Leica look", the special Leica character, characterized by a "three-dimensionality" in the image, a beautiful bokeh and excellent sharpness - and this imaging performance is achieved in the smallest of spaces. Anyone who has ever photographed with a Leica lens will find it difficult to switch to another system, even if the special quality is not able to stand out, at least on the normal contemporary publications such as Instagram or the cell phone display.

Not all Leica lenses are good, but all are expensive. Basically, one cannot expect the same imaging qualities from a Leica lens from the 1970s as from a current Leica lens with modern calculations, especially when it comes to sharpness.Here one speaks more of the special "character" of a lens, e.g. a special bokeh effect or a "delicate enamel".

Leica on the used market

Leica optics are usually a good investment, as they become more valuable over time. Many Leica lenses have increased in value in recent years, so the resale value of a Leica lens remains attractive. So better buy now - the lenses are hardly cheaper. When in doubt, the lenses can usually be resold.

Buying used Leica technology makes sense, as the prices are correspondingly lower than new items. And because most Leica users are very careful with their equipment - and often have it serviced - many cameras and lenses available on the second-hand market are in virtually new condition with top technical condition.

Leica repairs and maintenance

In the case of a Leica repair, one usually does not speak of repairing damage to classic analog cameras, i.e. damage, but of eliminating defects that are typical of age, which more or less limit the functionality of the camera. Typical abnormalities with classic Leica cameras are gummy lubricants and misaligned rangefinders. Decades-old cameras experience a restoration of their practical value through technical maintenance. Mechanical problems can be solved in the repair workshop easily repaired and not every camera has to go to "Leica Customer Care", the factory customer service, just as little as you have to go to the "Mercedes Classic Center" with a Mercedes vintage car to get an overhaul. Only those who want a complex restoration of their Leica are increasingly dependent on spare parts from the Leica factory customer service. Ideally, current Leica models should have the rangefinder checked and adjusted regularly by the factory customer service.

Leica "compact cameras"

Leica M is the most compact full format system on the market. With the appearance of the Leica M9, ​​this was actually a completely new "experience of greatness", 10 years later it looks different again. For example, with the Sony A7, a compact camera format has also been achieved, but the system's own lenses with the auto-focus functionality make the equipment significantly larger than a Leica M system.
Leica M cameras are small but also surprisingly heavy. In particular, the missing autofocus function allows at least extremely compact, small and light  lenses, which reduces the overall weight of the equipment.


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