The Barnack Way – Why Leica Matters

20131230-220530_©DuaneLPandorf-L1022291Barnack Way | Leica M-E, Leica Summilux-M 35mm

The Barnack Way – Why Leica Matters

If one sits back and examines the current photography market it is easy to see how rapidly this field is changing. The recent quarterly reports from the camera manufacturer’s show a continuing decline in overall sales. Especially in the small point and shoot cameras as, I don’t know about you, about everybody today has a smart phone with a camera built-in. Its become very easy and simple to take a snap with your phone, even make a few edits, and then quickly upload the image to your favorite social media websites.

This is no different from the time that Oskar Barnack wanted something smaller than the traditional, heavy plate cameras of his time. It was his idea to create a smaller negative format which led to the 35mm format (24x36mm). Through his genius idea he developed the Ur-Leica to test exposures for cinema film which then led to the first 35mm camera made by Leica.

With Leica’s traditional and wonderful photographic history I think its very important that they succeed in this new era of instant snap shots and social media. Of course the Leica M is just a digital camera that does what every other camera does. Allows light through a lens and records the image to a digital sensor. But what has attracted me to the digital Leica (maybe someday a film version) is how you the photographer interacts with the camera.

Most all of today’s digital cameras are more like a small computer with their multitude of buttons and settings. Its easy for me to understand why the camera in the smart phone has taken over the point and shoot market. With just a couple clicks you have turned on the camera function and made a photograph. Whereas, from my experience, all of these different options that are built-in to most all digital cameras today are not so easy for the average photographer to manage.

Which leads me to why I make photographs with a Leica. In a word – Simplicity. Ok, they’re expensive. The cameras and the their lenses. Then again Leica has been making products that require optimum optical performance since 1849.

Its this simplicity and compact size that lead me in this direction. My Leica M-E is not the most compact camera but I’m easily able to always have it with me. I never felt comfortable carrying my Nikon D200 DSLR in the same way.

So as I head into 2014 I look forward to learning more about how to get the most out of my Leica and make the best photographs I can.

10 thoughts

  1. What you say is true but I wish the after sales service was better. I sent mine in for a sensor clean in August. They told me I needed a new sensor. It’s now January and I’m still waiting. The gloss is wearing off…

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  2. I aggree. Especially when it comes to simplicity. I had the D200 before my Leica as well and was happy with the M9 then. Now my Sony a7R is here and there is a little competion between the two: ‘who’s next to be taken out today?’ And that it’s actually hard to say… I hope Leica is back in 2014 with a new M (241, 250 whatever) that has all the nice feel of the old Ms plus the advantages the Sony a7R has – but all together in one Leica-like body and simplicity. AND good aftersales service.

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    • Have to agree the new Sony A7(r) has hit the market with a lot of fanfare. The sensor is “technically” better than what’s in the M but in my opinion its the whole package that makes the camera as a complete tool.

      Leica does have to improve their after sales service too.

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  3. I think that when people thought that they could purchase an ” automatic ” camera, all of their images would turn out beautiful and spectacular. Once they found out that it did not work out this way, a certain amount of interest lost or disenchantment occurred with photography and the creation of images. Human nature being what it is ( course of least resistance ) and people now realizing that they are going to have to exert some effort to create something extraordinary … they lose interest. A camera is just a tool, nothing more. Give a person a pencil and ask them to write the Great American Novel and watch their expression. Give someone a Leica, Hasselblad, etc, etc and ask them to create a cover for Time … no problem, a monkey could do it. Enjoy your blog, Frank

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    • Thanks for the nice comment Frank. My Nikon D100 then D200 were my “automatic” cameras that were no more than point and shoots with the green P command set for “professional” photographs.

      Of course the Leica is just a tool. Same as the others in that regard. But I have found I’ve bonded with this kit where I haven’t really with my past cameras.

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