Archived posting to the Leica Users Group, 1999/12/05

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Subject: [Leica] What the Heck
From: "Rod Fleming" <>
Date: Sun, 5 Dec 1999 11:21:01 -0000


Mike Johnston wrote

"I think it's just...big and fat. There, I've said it"

Welll, Mike, while I very much appreciate the benefits of small cameras in
some situations, in others the fact is that a bit of bulk does no harm.

Looking round my office right now, it's Sunday and there's no-one around but
me, I see tiny little Leicas, Nikon F3s and F4s, Pentax 6x7s and 5x4 view
cameras. They are all used regularly, both for pleasure and for profit, and
they all have their advantages and disadvantages.

For example, just talking about 35mm, you try slinging a big telephoto onto
a tiny body and see how comfortable it is. It will feel totally out of
balance. No- you use the camera with the big battery pack and the big comfy
grip that can let you tame the monster. Plus the bigger camera will actually
be easier to hold still when using long lenses handheld.

(You don't think you'd want to do this? What about big golf- there you are,
it's hot and you get thirsty, and Greg Norman and Tiger are big boys and man
do they move.......You rush ahead of them to get into position before they
start lining up the next shot, and you are very aware that you're sweating
and breathing hard- not ideal for photography. So you have the 600 f4
(possibly with a doubler on, if the light is good enough) on a body that can
balance it on a monopod, a 300 f4 or 400 f5.6 on a big stable body over one
shoulder for grabs, and you save weight by putting a short zoom or a widey
on your smallest body for candids and scene-setters. Any spare carrying
capacity you have you keep for the bottle of water- a priceless photographic
aid sometimes. And believe me, even travelling as light as you can, after a
day on the course, you are one whacked puppy.)

Perhaps it is the very suitability of the SLR for use with long lenses that
has meant that small SLRs have not done well in the pro market- I mean
they've all tried, with the Nikon FM, the Canon A1, the Olympus, and the
excellent Pentaxes- and what do the pros do? Why, they bolt on motordrives
with big battery packs so they can use teles better. And I wonder how many
pros bought an F4 with the standard battery pack and then binned it for the
great big one? You can't blame the manufacturers for following the market.
And Leica SLRs are putting on the beef for the same reason.

The little camera comes into its own when you're trying to be unobtrusive,
or where weight is an issue- and of course the rangefinder has the SLR beat
hands down in low light and with short lenses. Candids, street photography,
some portraiture- and theatre photography, where the little M is a star.
(Lord I'd love it if Leitz would put a reliable (optional) aperture priority
AE system into an M.......Just now, for theatre, I have to choose between
the Leica, which is easier in low light but which needs to have the exposure
set manually, and the Nikon, which I can leave on AE when the lights are
going up and down so I'm free to struggle with the focus.........)

So, Mike, it's not all about size- that's an oversimplification. It's about
the right tools for the job.