Archived posting to the Leica Users Group, 1998/07/29

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Subject: Re: [Leica] potential image quality
From: Alan Ball <>
Date: Thu, 30 Jul 1998 08:20:12 +0200

Alexey Merz wrote:

> Jim Laurel wrote:
> > There is something very special about the M system.  I don't know whether
> > it's the excellence of the lenses, the accuracy of the rangefinder focusing
> > system, or the fact that the camera ha such low vibration.  I'm sure it's a
> > combination of all three.  But I am not able to reproduce the quality of
> > images that I get consistently from the M6s with any other camera system,
> > INCLUDING Leica R.
> I find that I am often (by no means always, maybe not usually) able to
> tell whenther a particular photographer uses Leica M gear, but I strongly
> suspect that this has more to do with the quality of the image than with
> image quality. That is to say, I think that the M promotes a particular
> flavor of seeing & composition. William Albert Allard's work provides
> one set of examples; Susan Meiselas's work from Nicaragua provides
> another.

Yes, this is the point: the M system, thanks to its unique design,
implies or encourages a very dynamic style of photography. I also
believe I often recognise Leica M shots in a magazine or exhibition, but
not on basis of optical data. More on the basis of deduction: if it is
good quality black and white reporting, there is already a heavy chance
it is Leica M. If it is close-up reporting, there is also a heavy chance
it is Leica M. Especially if there is no fill flash: I don't know why
but the 20-35mm zoom guys seem to ALWAYS use fill flash. There often
seems to be something in the eyes of the photographed people that
suggests there is a caring and discreet M person in front of them,
rather than a row of 'bazookas'. Since there is no alternative to the M
system on the market today, it is of course an easy guess. With 40 year
old pictures, guessing is not as easy, could be a Contax RF, could be
any other RF.

The R line has not such an obvious functionality. It is much harder to
situate. i have no experience with it, but I have had last week the
opportunity to fiddle around with a R8 + 80mm f1.4 (thanks Jay) and
could find great seduction in its ergonomy and tactile feedback. I could
state that I wish to own such a system. But, even if I am beforehand
convinced of the great quality of the R line of lenses, I do not believe
I could justify the level of investment in any rational way: if it is to
get the 'perfect' pic, might just as well invest in MF, if it is to
compete on the very competitive 35mm pro market, it is obvious I should
use more productive systems and technologies. I repeat : if a
competitive advantage derived from using R hardware, this would be known
by now and translate into a very different market share, despite pricing
policies. But if I wanted a very luxurious, smooth, mechanically precise
and durable 35mm SLR system for slow paced hobbyist photography, the R
line sure is desirable.

Friendly regards