Some thoughts on past cameras and future ones

Discussion in 'The Watering Hole' started by biglouis, Jan 1, 2014.

  1. biglouis

    biglouis Veteran

    Aug 4, 2013
    I am currently completing my fourth book of photography - with photographs taken over a period of two and half years in two ancient Jewish cemeteries in the East End of London.

    I started out on the project determined only to use film - and indeed during the project I mainly used a Hasselblad 500CM and 50/f4 lens, as well as a Hasselblad SWC and two Fujifilm cameras, the incredible GSW690 and the more recent GF670W. But despite my desire to make this a film only project in fact I also used a (now departed) Leica M8 and 28, 50 and 90 Elmarit lenses, as well as a Sigma DP2M and now for a few final shots a Ricoh GR.

    I don't know if this happens to you but this has happens to me when I spend time looking through my portfolio: you begin to appreciate the cameras you had and ask yourself the deep question, should I have sold/moved-on from that?

    The camera I am having most nostalgia for is the Leica M8. The 28-ASPH lens gave a cropped eqivalent of 35mm and I use this particular fov extensively. As I reviewed the pictures from the project I am reminded of how beautiful the M8 sensor could be if it was not being stretched and how sharp the little 28-ASPH could be. In fact, the only cameras which I have subsequently owned which at the pixel level can compete with the M8 are my Sigma DP2M (side by side the Leica and DP2M are indistinguishable in IQ) and my GSW690 - which I contend has the best lens in the world permanently attached to it. For practical reasons the GSW690 is not really on a par because to get the best out of the film frames I really need a drum scanner which basically makes working with it uneconomic (which is why I eventually sold it).

    Nostalgia is a funny thing. I spent an hour looking at the price of new and second hand M9s, M9-Ps and even considering the massive investment of the new M. I factored in owning the three lenses I like the most - actually not the most expensive in the Leica line-up. For example, I really rate the collapsible last issue Elmar 50/2.8, as well as the aforesaid 28/2.8 ASPH and what I consider to be the best value-for-money Leica optic, the Elmarit 90/2.8 last model.

    But then eventually my head took over from my heart. Firstly, I am very lucky to own the Sony RX1. I would say that on a practical basis about 80% of all my work involves a 35mm fov. At the pixel peeping level the RX1 initially was not quite as good as my M8 with the 28/2.8 ASPH however I was staggered at the impact of moving to Lightroom 5 and working with ARW raw files made on sharpness and dynamic range of captures. I like working with the RX1 as much as I did with the M8 - it is small, discrete, nicely balanced in the hand and capable of results easily as stunning as the best from my M8.

    Then, I also own both the Sigma DP2M and DP3M which are incredible cameras for landscape work, either hand held if the lighting allows or on a tripod if it does not. I have on my a wall a 30x20 single frame from a DP2M of the London skyline from Primrose Hill which outshines anything I could possible have created with the M8 or infact (as I have tried) with the RX1. Strange and quirky cameras but if you care enough about photography to invest time in it (as I did in any case shooting film) then the Sigmas are incredible value for money. And finally for the last two months I have been creating amazing results using the Ricoh GR.

    So, why the hint of possible dissatisfaction and a desire to return to Leica?

    I really miss not have a 50mm and UWA lens (at least 24mm and ideally 21mm). I like using 50mm for landscape work and I also like the sheer creative possibility of 21mm. I don't think I want more 'serious compacts', e.g. two more Sigma xM's with shorter and wider fov's even if they were available. I think I have reached the limit of my proliferation of serious compacts! So, a kit system is the way forward for me.

    A second-hand M9 with just these two lenses would set me back at least GBP5K at present and therein lies the rub.

    In a world in which you can now obtain an A7r or Nikon Df with their incredible sensors, let alone lens line-ups you could be very happy with spending half or at most two thirds the price of the equivalent Leica kit. I am not trolling Leica or complaining but it is a hard economic fact. Doing more sums, the Nikon Df with its kit lens and either the Nikkor or Voigtlander 20mm comes in at about £3K. I actually would not buy an A7r preferring to work with the A7 - as I know the sensor well from my RX1 - and that with the 55/1.8 and (say) a Zeiss C-21/4.5 is just a little over GBP2.8K.

    My brief flirtation with a return to Leica lies crushed under the thought of the cost of one system versus the other. My musings also come to an abrupt end when I consider what I am going to use a new camera system for. I am quite satisfied with my portfolio (as evidenced in my Flickr stream) over the last 18 months without Leica, so apart from a desire to see the world with a slightly wider or slightly longer view there is not a tearing hurry or pressing demand - until perhaps I start a new photographic project.

    Thanks for reading and if you have any comments on my musings I will be pleased to read them.

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  2. Biro

    Biro Super Moderator

    Aug 7, 2011
    Jersey Shore
    I think this happens to most of us. I know it happens to me. But, as you explain yourself, there are practical reasons why we move on.
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  3. olli

    olli Super Moderator Emeritus

    Sep 28, 2010
    Metro Manila
    Hi Louis. Can you give us some more information on your books - titles, where to find etc.
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  4. NickLarsson

    NickLarsson Veteran

    Jun 24, 2013
    Paris, France
    It's always interesting to read people's thoughts that leads on to selling or buying new gear :)

    What about the 21mm adapter for the GR ? Probably it won't add too much weight to your bag ;)
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  5. Luke

    Luke Super Moderator Subscribing Member

    Nov 11, 2011
    Milwaukee, WI USA
    I can certainly understand your reasoning. If I could afford a digital Leica, I might have one. It wouldn't be for the IQ (as there are others that do nearly as well or better), but for the joy of shooting with a lens couple to a rangefinder. Modern focusing aids are cool (image showing someone focus peaking 10 years ago!), but the rangefinder experience remains an elusive experience for the man on a budget who refuses to shoot film. Maybe this is the year I break down and buy the Epson....they're finally dropping into my price zone.
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  6. retow

    retow All-Pro

    Jul 24, 2010
    In good light and on a pixel level, the Leica M8/9 are still up there with the best. See my thread with a shot taken with the DP2M, Df, A7r and M9. However, except for the RF shooting experience not much speaks for the M system these days, I`m afraid. I caught myself with being over cautious with the M9 and the jewelry like Leica lenses recently. Despite the M body being sturdy, it is a diva after all, with a sensor attracting dust like nothing else and a RF requiring re adjusting every now and then. As far as made in Germany is concerned, two of my Leica lenses needed repair already, although I treat them with care. For me the Df is a purchase for 10 years, the last of a breed, so to say. It`s fun to use, feels very well built and there are plenty of used excellent Nikkor MF lenses available in the USD 100-300 price range. I don`t mind using the Df with these lenses and don`t baby it like the Leica M and lenses.
    The A7r is just the beginning of a new wave of relatively affordable FF compact bodies with significant improvement cycles to be expected probably every 2-3 years (IBIS, fps, integrated flash). It`s not an easy decision, but I will sell the M9 and start thinning the m-lens line up out as other systems have caught up and partly surpassed Leica as far as file quality is concerned. They don`t offer RF shooting nostalgia but are fun nevertheless and have AF and weather sealed lenses and other practical advantages (imagine such simple things like a charger or battery failing on a trip and a replacement is needed). Oh, and besides, for less than the price of a Summilux 50 asph one can buy a A7 plus the very good FE 2.8/35mm (not quite on par with the RX1 and its unique Sonnar lens) and the simply outstanding Zeiss FE 1.8/55mm (which is a s good as the Lux imho).
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  7. pniev

    pniev Student for life

    May 13, 2013
    Louis included a link to his latest book and website at the bottom of his post. I had a similar thought as also missed the last line of his post. When I scrolled back up, I saw it ;-)

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  8. biglouis

    biglouis Veteran

    Aug 4, 2013
    My slippery slide to RF shooting began with an Epson RD1. It was a very good camera and actually outperforms the M8 by at least one stop at high iso. The problem comes with the cost of Leica lenses although if you can avoid being drawn into the snob-value of Leica the Voigtlander lenses, especially the 50/1.5 and the older 28/3.5 (if you can still find one) are exceptional lenses, imho.

    Thanks for all the replies. I am with Retow on the Df - although the up-front cost seems high the access to lots of second-hand glass at very reasonable prices is very attractive.

    • Like Like x 1
  9. pniev

    pniev Student for life

    May 13, 2013
    Your story resonates! My wife recently said that she liked the IQ of the Nikon D200 photos better than the photos taken with the Fuji x-pro. The excitement of buying something new raises happiness chemical levels in our brains. Unfortunately, only temporarily. ;-)
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  10. drd1135

    drd1135 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Jul 13, 2011
    Lexington, Virginia
    The short answer is no, I haven't regretted moving to a newer camera. Some things are easier with newer cameras, and it's hard to see that by looking at old images. The transition from film to digital was a big one, but so few of my film pictures have been properly scanned and I don't see them often. I do pull out the old albums sometimes, but I have more nostalgia for the images than the camera I was using. Maybe it's because, given my age, I have had more money to spend on nicer cameras in the digital age. Leica was never part of the picture, but I never even owned a Pentax LX. My favorite old film camera was the Pentax MX and the EM5 is sort of a modern version of that.
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  11. christilou

    christilou Legend

    Jul 13, 2010
    Sunny Frimley
    Speaking as a person who has recently shelled out for a Leica M and 50mm Summilux I feel your pain. I had it for three months and then decided that it was a ridiculous amount of money to have invested in a camera that will depreciate as fast as a car. With the new Sony A7's I decided that this was they way to go, keep the lenses and use the Sony instead, much cheaper. I found a few things that I didn't like about it and promptly sold it back to the supplier at £1,000 loss. But I missed it. I missed it's slow considered framing method and it's rather stately workings and so I bought it back for what they gave me for it and it should be back with me very soon. I'm hooked I think. Having said that, it's very hard not to look at everything else and wish I had that too! I think perhaps I should spend less time on forums :eek:
  12. LOL! You're as bad as I am. IN. OUT. IN. Welcome to my world.
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