The Legendary Leica Camera
When one thinks of Leica, the first thing that comes to mind is the M-series cameras. Many of us held a Leica in our hands back in the film days. I had an M3, M4, M6, and my final film camera was an M7. These were my most treasured cameras. I must admit I also owned Nikon DSLRs and Hasselblad 500 series cameras.
There was and still is something about the M–series cameras that makes them so special. Those of you that own one or have ever held one know exactly what I mean. The feel of an M camera in your hands is truely an amazing experience. The latest iteration of the M camera is the M10. I did a review on the M10 a while back.
The experience of shooting the M10 brought back an emotional feeling that bordered on instinctual. I felt at home with the camera. I had fun shooting with it. I was reminded very quickly how much I have come to depend on the AF and AE and zoom lenses of the modern day‘s DSLRS and mirrorless cameras. I felt rusty, that I had lost an edge I once had when shooting with an M camera back in the film days.
It took a day or so, but I got my groove back. I could quickly focus manually with a rangefinder again, and I adapted to getting closer to my subject to get the shot I needed. The results were pretty damn good. Plus, I was reliving my younger days of shooting with this type of camera.
I sold all my Leica film cameras and lenses back in the mid-nineties. Then in 2006, Leica introduced the Leica M8 digital camera. Without a second thought I jumped right in and purchased the M8 and several lenses, and I immediately regretted it. The M8, while it was a lot like one expected from Leica, had one serious flaw. For whatever reason, the infrared cutoff filter for the camera was not correct and all the early adapters quickly found out that all the images with black in them were being seen by the camera with a magenta cast. It was a very serious flaw, which resulted in plenty of embarrassment for Leica. They scrambled to offer a solution and learned a good lesson from that ordeal. (The Leica M8 Revisited)
Those days are firmly behind us now. Such problems have been fixed, and with the M240, as well as the M10, Leica finally has its mojo back. Sales for the Leica M10 have been huge, and ordering one will put you on a waiting list.
On my recent trip to the Leica Headquarters in Wetzlar, Germany, I had two discussions on the M–series cameras. My first discussion was with Stefan Daniel, the Global Director of the Photo Business Unit. Stefan shared the interesting history of the M–series camera and how it was nearly discontinued. I then spent some time with Jesko Von Oeynhausen, the Product Manager for the M system.
The challenges in developing a camera like the modern M–series cameras were numerous. Personally, I find it amazing that Leica has been able to retain the original look and feel of the M-series camera and move it from analog to digital while allowing the use of any M lens ever made.
As Stefan explains in the video, Leica offered an M240 camera. This was the first full-frame camera using CMOS technology and allowed video and all the other features that CMOS is known for. He goes on to explain that for many this was not what photographers wanted from the M–series cameras. So, with the introduction of the M10, Leica made a choice to discontinue the video features and to concentrate on making a still camera. The results speak for itself, as the M10 has been positively reviewed, and based on sales, has exceeded the capacity for manufacturing them for quite some time.
Video – Discussion With Stefan Daniel On The M-Series Camera
Our second video features a discussion with Jesko Von Oeynhausen. We dive a bit deeper into the details of the current M10 camera and how key decisions were made to actually remove features to deliver a camera that photographers wanted.
Video – Discussion With Jesko Von Oeynhausen On Designing The M10