My evolving criteria for camera selection and consideration of an old Leica

Revolutionary Olympus - Austin, Texas

Revolutionary Olympus – Austin, Texas

In lieu of photographing fireworks this 4th of July, I invited a couple of close friends over to the house. We had a relaxing get together over drinks, kitchen table philosophy and showing off our latest cameras. We came to realize that our photography has evolved over the years and that we’ve changed how we select our cameras.

Tony brought his newly acquired Leica X1, a well-regarded high-end compact from 2009. It’s the kind of camera that I would have never considered years ago. But with my evolving criteria and used prices dragging even digital Leicas lower, the X1 is beginning to look interesting.

Olympus Reflections - Austin, Texas

For me, color and camera feel are now the most important. Sure there are many secondary considerations. Image quality which include sharpness, contrast and low noise are factors but it’s color which first attracts my attention. Likewise, regardless of the technical specs, it’s the feel of the camera, which includes design, interface and build quality, which ultimately sways me.

It hasn’t aways been this way. When I first got started, high ISO, low noise capability was paramount. I judged cameras by their technical specifications than more subjective considerations. But the reality is today’s technology is so good, most cameras are sufficient. Indeed, for most people, digital cameras have reached adequacy a number of years ago.

All cameras have limitations and I am more apt to work around them if they produce good color and feel right. Perhaps that’s why I’ve ventured into shooting film along side digital. I’ve also realized that the limitations of old film technology is starting to influence my considerations for digital cameras.

Lucky Stares - Austin, Texas

The Leica X1 focuses excruciatingly slow, making the Fujifim X100 seem like a speed demon. But it allows for manual distance based focusing which could work well for street photography. That’s the way I like to shoot my film cameras, by the way.

The X1 colors looks very interesting. Unlike most cameras, the RAW DNG file is actually more colorful than the JPEG. I prefer the RAW. The X1’s colors reminded me of the ones from the Leica M that I shot last year. Unlike the M, which has a modern full frame sensor, the X1 has a smaller APS-C from 6 years ago. But even then, I found that ISO 1600 looked great and even ISO 3200 looked decent. The digital grain and processing on the X1 also resembles the M. Makes sense, they’re both from the same company.

While not inexpensive at $500 – $700, it’s not bad for a German-made Leica, albeit one that’s 6 years old. It’s certainly more accessible than the just announced Leica Q — while compelling — is beyond what I want to spend.

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8 thoughts on “My evolving criteria for camera selection and consideration of an old Leica

  1. My last (only) Leica was an M-3 back in the last mid 1960s. Rangefinder. No built in meter, no automatic anything. Film

    I had three lenses: a 50mm, a 28mm, and a 135mm. It took the most amazingly sharp pictures ever and I should never have sold it. I don’t know about these 2000 and later versions, but the early ones were as good as everyone said they were. Maybe better.

  2. Now you’ve gone and done it, Andy! 😉 Showing Olympus film cameras! If that is actually yours, you should find it a very pleasant change of pace from the typical film body. The viewfinder screens are user interchangeable in seconds. The exposure system is radical, even by today’s standards, as it actually was capable of exposure metering during the exposure in longer exposures. I have forgotten at what shutter speed it changes into that mode from reading off the shutter screen. The OMs are compact and light. The lenses were excellent in their day and not at all bad by today’s standards. Yup, they are manual focus which became increasingly an issue, especially with macro photography, as time went by and my eyes got old on me. My favorite is the OM-4Ti which has the ability to take multiple spot meter readings and average them out and even the ability to designate one reading as the highlight and one as shadow. It is funny that you should have photos of them in your article about the Leica as the designer was a HUGE Leica fan and the OM body is his interpretation of the Leica as an SLR. They are still fun!

    1. Rick, yup it’s my OM-1. Not quite as sophisticated as the OM-4 but beautifully built. I actually now have a fair number of Olympus film bodies. I’ll need to talk about them, some day.

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