I have been using various Leica M cameras for the last 7 or so years, and until recently it has been a system that I have really enjoyed.
However, limited time to process and scan film has led me to shoot digital more and more. I still ultimately prefer the look of film, but mostly so when it is either in medium of large format sizes.
When it comes to 35mm, I have found that since I picked up an old Nikon F3, I have actually preferred it to using a Leica. It is much easier to focus and I actually prefer the look of the images with the Nikon 50mm 1.4 Ai lens attached. Yes, it’s massively flawed compared to a 50mm Summilux-M ASPH. However, those flaws give the lens a lot of character. It’s also really sharp once you stop it down to F2.8 – F4. The Bokeh with the Nikon lens is also incredible.
Then there is the case of mirrorless, specifically Fuji and Sony. I have picked up a mirrorless system in the last 6 months or so. I resisted it for a long time, as I thought (!) I preferred optical systems. However, the ability to see a scene through an EVF in black and white was a total game changer for me. My main interest in photography is shooting in black and white. I also love to shoot in colour, but’s that easy in some respects. I find having to ‘convert’ a scene into black and white in my mind a pain – actually seeing it in monochrome to start with makes the whole process much more enjoyable and rapid. With street photography seeing and shooting quickly is the name of the game a lot of the time, as once a moment has gone, well it has gone!
Then, at least with the Fujifilm cameras, there is the user experience. They are fantastic and fun cameras to use. The Sony is not quite in the same league in user experience, but the incredible AF system combined with a wide angle lens for street photography, is another game changer for me.
With a Leica, I find that my photos are more distant and ‘classic’ in a Cartier-Bresson sense. With the Sony in particular the silent shutter and rapid AF with reliable face / eye detection, it means that I can get a lot closer. The images are more dynamic and ‘modern’. It’s also a lot more fun to shoot in this way, as the whole process feels more emotive and engaging. I know that I can put a wide angle on a Leica and get a similar experience, but on so many levels for me now, it just isn’t working for me anymore.
I also feel that my photography is changing, in the next couple of years I should see more time on the horizon to do things that have been very difficult now – more family time, more travel, less work! My interest in street photography remains strong, but I needed to mix up my approach and make it more dynamic to keep my interest. I feel that this has started to happen. I am going to keep that area now to digital. I will be keeping film ticking along, but this will mainly sit within medium and large formats for either specific projects or family portraiture.
I also want to do more video work. I am terrible at it at the moment. With having a young family, it makes me wants to capture their experiences on video. One of the things that I never had in my childhood was video or audio-recordings of me, just a few photographs (my parents weren’t big on creating imagery!). I am looking to buy a gimbal to stabilise the camera and create some nice smooth images. I would also like to shoot more videos, incorporating time-lapse, astro-photography, drones, hand held, etc. These would be similar to the sort of videos made by others I have been periodically posting up on this blog over the last couple of years.
So, I feel that it’s time to part ways with what’s left of my Leica equipment (much of it has gone to fund my mirrorless revolution). In some ways, I will be sad to let it go. However, I don’t like having cameras sitting around in storage not being used. I like to have cameras that I use at least on a semi-regular basis. The only exception to this is my Ebony 5×4, as the man who made them has retired and you can’t get them new anymore. Change is good, particularly when you feel that it is in a new and exciting direction! 🙂