Eric Kim published a full Leica M9 review on his website and tells us, why he favored Leica.

What is a rangefinder?

Before starting off, I think it is important to discuss what exactly a rangefinder is and how it differs from a DSLR or any other camera out there.

A rangefinder is a type of camera that is much smaller in form factor, yet still has interchangeable lenses. Leica was the first company to produce the modern 35mm camera as we know it. It also doesn’t have a mirror in it, which results in a quieter shutter and less vibration when you are taking photos.

Rangefinders use optical viewfinders that don’t go through the lens. Therefore what you see through the viewfinder is not what your lens actually sees. Also the focusing mechanism is through two patches that you can stack up with one another. Oh yeah, and it is only manual focus. There are other technical differences, to consider but I will not go into detail about this in this article. 

Why rangefinders?

Leica isn’t the only company that produces (or has produced) rangefinders. You can find old film rangefinders by Contax, Canon, and several other companies.

The benefits of a rangefinder for a street photographer is primarily size, ease of use, as well as being discrete. The form factor is far less threatening than a modern DSLR, the shutter is quieter, and you don’t have to deal with a lot of functions or settings. Everything is done through dials.

As I am writing this, Leica is the only company to currently produce a digital rangefinder. (Epson made one in the past—the RD series, which is currently very difficult to find). 

Focusing on a Leica

For those of you who have never shot with a rangefinder before, it is very intuitive but difficult to get used to. Pretty much to sum up the experience, when you look through the viewfinder you will see two little boxes. To focus, you want to stack the two boxes on top of one another to get your subject in-focus. Some people claim that they can manually focus as fast as an autofocus camera, but I feel that this will only be possible after decades of practice.

When it comes to street photography, I never focus. I pre-focus my camera to 1 meter using a 35mm and use an aperture of f/16-f/8 and zone focus my camera. When you are shooting street photography, everything happens so quickly so you don’t have the time to focus.

read the full review: The Leica M9: The Ultimate Street Photography Camera or Just Hype?

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