I turned left into one of the many alleys of Chinatown and walked past a bunch of tailors, food stalls and camera stores.
They were the norm for this area and as I looked like a tourist, I fell directly in their target market.
"Mister! Mister!" - I heard from my right.
Great, I thought, another guy wants to sell me a suit. I wish these guys would txt each other so once I told one of them ‘NO’, they all knew I wasn’t interested.
I turned around and saw an employee of a camera store beaming at me. He had just run out of his shop to talk to me.
"Is that a Leica?! Can I listen to the shutter?!"
I held the camera up and pressed the shutter *Click*
"WOW, Thanks" He said, turning on his heels and going back to work.
Last Saturday as part of a Leica/ Invisible Photographer Asia workshop I found myself wandering around Singapore for 3 hours with a Leica M9 and 35 f2.8 lens taking street photos.
I don’t want to discuss image quality or noise levels etc, thousands of people more skilled and more inclined than I have already done that. What is left for me to say on that, the images are amazing and we all know it.
However, I did want to discuss my impressions of using this camera from the perspective of someone who primarily shoots film.
I pretty much abandoned DSLR’s a while ago. They were too big and heavy to use everyday and the menus were complicated and difficult. With that I essentially stopped using digital all together, more for the workflow than the results.
Now having used the M9 I can say that this is the most ‘film like’ digital camera I have used. This is the sort of digital camera that I have been dreaming of.
When I say ‘film like’ I mean the process of taking a picture, the tactile interaction between you and the camera to create an image. Rotating dials, manually focusing and pressing a shutter button that feels like it’s connecting to something mechanical, not an electronic signal board.
The M9 had all of this and actually gave me a similar feeling to using my M5. I had the same connection I do with my film cameras. The feeling of moving parts, cause and effect; the need to interact with the camera to create an image and not just hoping for visual ABS to save the day.
The M9 was light. I walked around all day without a strap on the camera and never felt burdened.
It was quiet, much quieter than they say. In real life on the street situations the shutter is inaudible. I was able to take many pictures closer than ever without the subject so much as registering my presence.
The controls were intuitive. No additional buttons that you don’t need (food mode!?), a very easy to use menu and a BRIGHT viewfinder.
Finally, it was fun to use! I walked around grinning like a tool with this camera. When I met up with the Instructor Kevin and he asked me how it was going, I smiled at him and told him that I loved the camera. He smiled back and said that he understand completely.
For me, the move from here is simple: get one. Probably second hand, and probably after the M10 is released so that prices are reasonable. There is no rush. I can wait. I just know that this camera matched my process for photography and let me take pictures the way I want to.
Recently there has been a big push away from acquiring gear. In some cases given how expensive it can be and the recent economic issues it is a reasonable perspective.
But there is also been a big swell against purchasing gear as some kind of elitist opinion masquerading as artistic integrity.
To use Kirk Tuck’s quote (different to his use, but the same sentiment):
“It’s not the arrow, it’s the indian. Horses for courses. It’s not the camera, it’s the man (or woman) behind the camera that counts. Real pros can make great images with any camera. A true artist can even make art with the camera in his phone, Just shut up and shoot. etc. etc. etc.” And, it’s all bullshit. Just rank bullshit by people who either don’t get the search for the tool, the format and the palette or people who get it but are more interested in following the pack."
And I agree. Search for the tool, when you find one that works use it and that’s what I intend to do.
I will always shoot film but digital has many advantages that film doesn’t and vice versa.
For me, this is what photography feels like.