I own a lot of cameras. Both digital and more recently, film. I have enough cameras that any reasonable or even unreasonable person will ever need. So it takes a special device to pique my interest these days. In the recent flurry of announcements, there’s actually two cameras that have hit my radar.
No, it’s not the Sony A7R II or the Sony RX100 IV or RX10 II. I’m sure those are solid updates to already favorably rated cameras. I’m looking for something different. Something that will both challenge me and give me different shooting experiences. That’s why I’ve started dabbling in film — shooting old, cumbersome but wonderfully tactile antiques. It can be difficult but fun.
Last week, Leica announced the Q, an entirely new camera with a fixed 28mm f1.7 lens coupled to a full frame 24MP sensor. It’s expensive, of course — It’s a Leica. But once I got over the $4,250 “shock”, the camera started to look interesting. Why? It’s compact, full frame and with classic controls. I already have my favorite 35mm focal length covered but not so for the slightly wider 28. For cities and architecture, 35mm works but it’s not nearly as interesting as 28mm, which is wide but not uncomfortably so.
There aren’t many 28mm equivalent compacts, the Nikon Coolpix A and Ricoh GR come to mind. Both are crop sensors. The Coolpix A is a dog and the GR is slowish (but faster than the Coolpix A) and point and shoot like. Neither really interested me. With my recent dive into old film cameras, I’ve come to appreciate the classic controls and with options for manual distance focusing. The Leica Q has all of this. From what I’ve read, it has the all the requisite controls, exquisite build, super sharp lens but, surprisingly, fast autofocus and even image stabilization. It’s like they took the classic Leica stuff people like and finally updated the technology for the 21st century. It’s not funky like the Leica T and it’s not technologically behind like the Leica M.
I won’t be getting the Q anytime soon. Not unless I win the lottery, and I won’t since I don’t play the lottery. Perhaps in a number of years, on the used market, the Q will fall to a more palatable price.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, there’s the DxO ONE, announced today. This thing is very intriguing and for a wholly different reason from the Leica. Imagine a small high performance 1 inch sensor mated with a super compact 32mm f1.8 prime lens. It has a lighting connecter that couples with an Apple iPhone. It’s the best implementation of a smartphone / camera hybrid I’ve seen. Unlike the bigger and cumbersome Sony QX lens camera, which uses Wifi for communications, the ONE uses a fast hardware connection. Unlike the Leica, which I like for its tactile, classic controls, I like the DxO for its complete re-imagining of a modern camera. It’s highly connected, modern and thinks way outside the box. At $599, it’s more tempting. But I’ll need to find out more before considering it seriously.
What do these two camera have in common? They both have large aperture prime lenses between 28mm and 35mm, which are my preferred focal lengths. They both offer the promise of a new shooting experience, different from any camera in my vast and growing collection. Finally, they offer, in theory, great image quality in a compact size.
The benefit or curse of having so many cameras is that, more than ever, I look for unique devices that fill a niche rather than worry about going for a more general “safe” choice. The Leica and DxO have certainly gotten my attention in this vast and noisy world of photography.