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The Leica Look No More?


wilfredo

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Do Leica photos have a particular look? This subject has been debated often. Back in the film days a lot depended on the film used. Shooting film with a Leica lens rendered (and still does) a certain identifiable look. At least to my eye.

 

With the dawn of digital photography much has changed but over the years I've been able to appreciate mostly those images produced by the D2 and M8. I can almost always tell an image produced by the M9 or MM immediately. The image "structure" of the M8 and M9 are different. I still prefer the M8 personally, but I recognize something Leica about the M9. All of these mentioned cameras produce an unnameable Leica quality image.

 

It seems the new bread of Leicas are starting to fall into the generic digital look with nothing really distinctive about them. The new M comes with a CMOS sensor, and from what I've seen thus far, that Leica "je ne sais quoi" seems to be missing from the few images made available. Nothing wrong with that, I enjoy what I get from my Canon gear, and with PP I can often come close to that certain look that appeals to me, especially in the area of flesh tones, but it's not the same. The X series images don't have that distinctive look either.

 

So, I fear it is time to say goodbye to that "je ne sais quoi" look. For those that continue shooting with analogue Leicas, the D2, M8, M9 and different incarnations of the M9, that "look" will be retained, but this I fear is the end of the trail. The Leica look will soon start fading into the sunset along with the CCD sensor. It seems destined to be no more...

 

Cheers!

Edited by wilfredo
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Guest WPalank

I feel happy for you Wilfredo. From now on their will be no new cameras in your future, possibly a new lens or two (putting my words into your mouth), and you can happily just go out and shoot.

Must be freeing!?

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The 'look' has always come from the photographer as far as I can see, using one camera or another simply refines the ability to attain it. But refining that idea, a Leica body has never ever dictated a 'look' more than using a particular focal length of lens. Garry Winogrand with an M4 body and 28mm lens would still have done the same thing as using an M9 body and 28mm lens. It is the photographer that people should look at, and only as an aside the camera that enabled it.

 

Steve

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Sorry Wilfredo, but I think you are talking about something which doesn't / has never really existed.

 

Which lens gives the Leica look? the 5cm Elmar 3.5? A Summar? The original Summicron? An ASPH Summicron? Summilux? or the Noctilux?

 

At what aperture do you get that Leica look?

 

Can you show an example of a photo with the Leica look and one without perhaps? (same subject matter etc).

 

If ever a Leica look existed it must surely be from the original Barnacks and Elmar or other contemporary lens.

 

When people talk of the Leica look I actually think they mean the style of photography which the Barnack cameras and later the M3/2 lead their users to adopt. Certainly from my own point of view I produce different results generally when using a rangefinder camera compared to using an SLR. A 'looser' more spontaneous style I'd say.

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I can almost always tell an image produced by the M9 or MM immediately.

 

I could show you a 100 prints (by me and by others) and you would have zero clue about the camera or lens used, not even the format in some cases. There are too many variables at play, from subject lighting, to equipment and equipment settings, to myriad processing and editing possibilities (including toning), to papers, to framing and matting, and to lighting and display conditions. And the most important variable, the photographer. I could even fool you on prints from film versus digital in some cases, and I have fooled some other experienced photographers.

 

The Leica look? One link in a vast chain.

 

Jeff

Edited by Jeff S
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Perhaps some of you need a more discerning eye. LOL If you don't see it, you won't see it, it is the difference between the ordinary and the sublime.

 

Yes of course style and PP factor in, but it makes a difference when you have the right starting point at the stage of exposure.

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For me it's a question of a balance of qualities in the image, a particular combinatioon of the unavoidable imperfections and compromises (if you can call these "qualities"). I'm talking about a three-dimensionality, about detail within shadows, about colour balance, about a "natural looking sharpness" (for want of a better term). In other words the sort of things that a lot of people scoff about, but which I don't always see with other manufacturers' products. As a hitherto exclusively film user, I think these qualities seem to transcend the particular film stock, or print process. So I've always put them down to the glass, and I hope that in some sense these qualities will also transcend any one particular digital sensor. Otherwise there would have been no reason, for example, to go to a lot of trouble to use Leica R glass on Canon or Nikon SLRs. I'll soon find out, having ordered an M + EVF2 + R adapter finally to go digital!

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@ William,

 

That's a great way to look at it. I was seriously considering selling some gear to purchase the M240 but after seeing the images it produces I decided it wasn't for me. So, I will hang on to the older technology of the D2 and the M8.

 

BTW, I was one of the early buyers of the M8 after seeing the B&W images that were being posted on the old Leica Forum. I wish some of those guys would come back. The images did all the talking and the camera sold successfully regardless of UV/IR filter issue.

Edited by wilfredo
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Maybe... But why do these M pictures still look more generic than most good M9 pictures? It cant be the photographers, it cant be their lenses, it cant be their pp skills.

 

I'm hoping it will change with better raw profiles, but I'm actually thinking these new profiles might even generalise the files from the M.

Sure we can just say that nothing matters anyway, because its about how you pp the files or how you expose them or whatever, but even between the M8 and the M9 people see different characteristics. Is it really such a stretch of the imagination to think that the new M will have charactristics that mirror canon or nikon more that previous ccd leica's?

 

Try pp'ing M8 files to consistently look like canon 5dIII files... It cant be done. And maybe the new M files will never be able to consistently look like M9 files. It will have its own characteristics. Whether that is better or worse is subjective, but the differences are real.

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Perhaps some of you need a more discerning eye. LOL If you don't see it, you won't see it, it is the difference between the ordinary and the sublime.

 

Your imagination likely serves your photography well then.

 

And if you've decided on the new M 'look' based on screen shots and not prints, by others and not you, using a prototype camera, and without final firmware or RAW developers, then your requirements for discernment are indeed different than mine.

 

I've seen wonderful work using relatively modest gear, and crap using some of the presumed best. The sublime is not rooted in Leica.

 

Jeff

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Jeff:

 

I repeat, it was the talented work of photographers on the old Leica Forum sharing their B&W M8 images on the screen that sold me on the camera. That was the starting point for me.

 

Perhaps the sublime is not be rooted in Leica, talent and skill play the definitive role in this, but again, it makes a difference when at the point of exposure, you know you have a file that will render a certain "look" and will give you the perfect starting point for your print. In that regard, the difference between the ordinary and the sublime remain.

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A good sensor has no look, it is transparent. Thanks to Chris, Jono and Ulrich, we've had the opportunity to develop DNG files from the M240. Enough so to check that the new sensor does not add significant things to the qualities of the lenses. BTW there is more "look" in a raw developper than in any sensor. People who don't like the look of M240 pics dislike that of the raw developper in fact or the lack of dedicated profile of the latter. Or, even worst, they don't like jpegs developed by others and they make their mind up on that. Sorry for them but so much the better for the waiting lists of the M240.

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If such a "Leica Look" existed and if Leica were able to replicate that same 'look' through the hundreds of different films (made by dozens of manufacturers) and lenses from the M3 through the M7 and the digital sensors of the M8, M9 and MM, then continuing to replicate that look through the mere transition from a CCD to a CMOS sensor would seem to be child's play.

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Jeff:

I repeat, it was the talented work of photographers on the old Leica Forum sharing their B&W M8 images on the screen that sold me on the camera.

 

I got your point the first time, Wilfredo. And with all due respect, I suggest that you broaden your horizons and look at prints in hundreds of other places. You'll see lots of wonderful work by folks using gear of all kinds. And if you're really moved by the photos, you won't give a hoot about what gear was used, and probably won't know anyway.

 

Jeff

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James:

 

The answer to your question is found in my original statement at the start of this thread.

 

Jeff:

 

I also use Canon gear and still keep a couple of Nikkormats and one Kowa camera handy. I have lots of wonderful work myself done with different cameras. My book shelves are loaded with books on the photography of the great masters. None of this negates the fact that the Leica CCD sensors on the cameras I mentioned earlier produce a distinctive look.

 

For those of you who don't believe that such a thing as a Leica "look" exists, then you won't miss it when the new M240 hits the streets. No need to fret. For some of us, it's real.

 

Good luck to all, whatever your choice. I'm sure stunning memorable images will be produced by photographers using the M240 along with the likes of Canon and Nikon shooters etc.

 

May the photographic force be with you.

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Guest malland

(1) Surely this thread is premature, considering that the final version of the M240 firmware is not out and the final M240 profile for LR4 is not available.

 

(2) In addition, the assertions here are not precise enough to get at the real issues, which cannot be resolved until item (1) is true.

 

But in terms in framing the issues, it seems to me the discussion should be whether: (a) the color rendition from the M9 is different enough from that of the M240 so that processing software, let's use LR4, cannot make up for the difference — some people think that the processing can make up for the difference; and (B): if (a) is true does the (different) color rendition of the M9 look more like slide film while that of the M240 looks more color negative film — but, then, if (B) is true, ©: is there any reason to complain if the M240 color rendition is, say, like Portra 400 and 800, depending on the ISO used?

 

Now, I made my bet last Friday, when I bought, to complement my M-Monochrom, a new black M9-P that was still at the promotional price that expired on December 31, so that I paid, ex-VAT, only a few hundred dollars more than the cost of an M-E, which is what I would have bought otherwise. That is to say my bet is that propositions (a) and (B) are true — but I wouldn't try to determine that until we have the final version of M240 and of the LR4 profile. But if I lose the bet, I won't be disappointed because I like the color that I'm getting from the M9-P, as shown in the following two pictures:

 

 

 

Leica M9-P | Summilux-50 pre-ASPH | ISO 640 | f/4 | 1/180 sec

8502456929_e4ec8a2934_b.jpg

Paris-St. Ouen

 

 

 

Leica M9-P | Summilux-50 pre-ASPH | ISO 640 | f/1.8 | 1/750 sec

8505471415_6c84265808_b.jpg

Paris-St. Ouen

 

 

 

—Mitch/Paris

Paris au rythme de Basquiat and Other Poems [download link for book project]

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Mitch, I stressed point one already, but regarding point two, Wilfredo was initially commenting about his looking at b/w M8 images on the forum, without any reference to color rendition. And there are dozens of other aesthetics that come into play beyond color.

 

If your two pics were posted on another forum, or shown as prints to a live audience without mention of camera or lens, guesses about which were used would be all over the map. The fact that you're pleased, though, is all that matters.

 

Jeff

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