In my post, Exploring something new, Chris Klug asked:
Those trees really give the image some nice framing. I wonder: have you come to any conclusions yet about people and their love for Leica cameras? Any insights?
The bold emphasis is mine. Chris seems to have knack for asking those interesting questions that cannot be answered with a simple yes or no, but hey, it keeps me in business.
I’ve been pondering this since he asked, thinking about my own experience with the M6 since I’ve had it. First, a little side step.
When I was in NYC with Tom, The Photo Father, we were walking up 5th Avenue. I spotted a man with a Leica around his neck. Leica’s, it seems, to someone who knows about Leica’s are very noticeable. To those who don’t know, they seem to be nearly invisible. As we passed, I stopped, turned around and called the man back. Not only did he have a Leica, is was the brand new M9. Tom and I engaged him in a short conversation and found that he was from Spain. What I remember most, though, is that he said: I really like the M9. It’s cool. It’s digital, and it’s fun. BUT I will probably go back to shooting with the M6 because I like it better.
My own experience with the camera has been quite favorable. I wrote about it here in September of 2009. Nothing’s changed. Ergonomically, I like my D300 better. It fits my hand better, but nothing that I own, beats this camera for stealth. If I were to compare it the Olympus 35 LC, well, they both get the shot, but the Leica just feels better. It’s heavier, the controls are positioned better, and it just gets out of the way and lets you do your job. Take photographs.
I just read a post on T.O.P. called: Leica, could be worse. Mike asserts that Leica cameras are a Veblen good. A type of product that defies normal market trends. In other words, the desire for the good does NOT decrease once the price goes up. In some cases, it can actually increase. Well, personally, the M9 is priced out of my range and I have no desire for it anyway. I like my rangefinders to be film, I think.
I don’t own this camera because other people cannot own it. That wouldn’t make it more important to me. I bought it because I got a good deal; I could help out a friend, and I was very curious as to what was the big deal. I still cannot fathom what is the big deal other than my personal feelings that when I hold the camera, it feels like a quality engineered tool. Could I get the same shots with my Olympus? Absolutely. I have no doubt about it. I might miss a few more because it is so easy to upset the settings on the Oly, but as far as image quality and the ability to get the shot, I think that I’d be hard pressed to tell.
Personally, I think that people want to believe that it is better because they paid more for it. It’s kind of like going to a retail store and buying $100 audio cables and believing that you are seeing a better picture on your screen than I get with my $25 cables. Maybe you are. Maybe you’re not. Both are conducting electricity. One may have a little more loss than the other, but not so much as to make a difference to the eye. Also, more important, is the legacy that the camera has. History counts! During the time that it was made famous, it was certainly the best instrument made. Now, there are many other cameras that can match its abilities for far less money.
So, Chris, that’s what I think. Now, hang on for the contradictory statement: I don’t think that there is anything special, certainly not magical, about the camera, but I’m glad that I have one.