Archived posting to the Leica Users Group, 1998/10/08

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Subject: [Leica] Available light and leica M
From: Erwin Puts <>
Date: Thu, 8 Oct 1998 20:03:49 +0200

Some of you wrote:
>I'm not going to speak for Ted, but you have to admit that the M6 is the
>"KING OF DARKNESS" and Leica designed the system to be that way. This is
>probably why, generally speaking, the words M6 and flash are rarely used
>together. When a company makes an f/1.0 Noctilux lens, a 35/1.4 ASPH lens,
>a 75/1.4, etc... you can bet that they have given this "natural light"
>"available darkness" stuff some serious thought.

>Again, I have the utmost respect for photographers - including Ted,
>and Tina, and Cartier-Bresson, and Salgado (and on and on!) - who
>use available light exclusively.

The original Leica has been designed for a new style of photography (or
maybe the other way around: the Barnack brainchild proved very effective
for a new photographic style). This style has been mainly influenced by the
Bauhaus philosophy and artists: capturing the fleeting reality in its
microslice of time/space continuum.
Cartier-Bresson is one of the best examples. If you look at his total work,
you will notice that hardly ANY of his pictures fall into the available
darkness class. Most are clear daylight pictures, requiring non such
exotica as a Noct or any ASPH. But they are indeed haunting images of great
imagery and artistry. HCB referred often to a small  book "Zen and the Art
of Archery" to explain his approach.
This approach has also been called the "artless art of the snapshot", for
me the best description of Leica photography.

In the early days of Leica photography the highest aperture lenses were NOT
be offerd by Leica, but by Zeiss for the Contax, the best example of an
anti-HCB style camera (excuse me Marc, no offense intended). It is
interesting to propose the idea that the higher apertures for the Contax
were needed as the camera was clumsier to use. (we need Marc for an answer).

Available light then covers much ground, from exposure levels f/1 at 1sec
to f/22 at 1/1000. The Leica is not designed for some particular part of
this luminance bandwidth. It is the snapshot camera par excellence with
great optics. Leica is pushing the wide aperture lenses to extend the
territory of high quality images to unchartered areas.
But any wide aperture lens of Leica quality also gives the opportunity to
use a lower speed fim in the same luminance slot, resulting in very
improved imagery.
We should not restrict ourselves to some part of the spectrum. The quality
of Leica lenses is also very visible when shooting in adverse illuminance
conditions, low level or not.
The M, in my view at least. is a universal photographic instrument designed
for any kind of high quality photography and can be used in low level
lighting confidently and giving the same high quality results as in more
favourable conditions.