A few weeks ago Leica announced the Leica test drive. I have always been interested in Leica camera's, but never wanted to invest in it before I could test it. So the Leica test drive was the chance to test out a Leica in a real world situation. So I organised a photohoot to test it out and used it on 2 commercial jobs in the same weekend.
The Leica M (type 240) Kit
In the Leica test drive kit was the
- Leica M (type 240)
- Leica Summicron 50mm F2.0 ASPH
- Leica Summicron 35mm F2.0
- Leiva EVF2 Electronic Viewfinder
- Card reader
First Look at the Leica M.
The first thing you notice when you hold a Leica is the build quality. These camera's are build like a tank. They don't look ergonomically, but are very pleasant to hold. The further lay-out is really simple. On top is the shutter time and release button, with the on/off switch. With the on/off switch you can also chance from, single to continuous or timer mode. Also there is a small button voor Movie mode which I haven't used. The Hotshoe has a nice slider to fill it up when it isn't in use.
The back panel has a kind of okay LCD screen, the buttons for LV (LiveView), Play(back),Delete, ISO, Menu, set. On the right side is the D-pad with an info button. At your thumb is a wheel for different tasks, like scrolling the menu and exposure compensation. The viewfinder has a small ring without a diopter, which for me as a glass wearing person wasn't the most comfortable.
If you unlock the bottom plate you get acces to the SD card and the battery. I am not really fond with this, especially when you want to use it with a tripod. Then you have to unscrew everything before you can change the battery or the SD card.
The Leica Summicron 35
The Leica Summicron 35mm f2.0 is delivered in a greatly designed leather softcase. It had a rubbercap to put on the lens hood for if you don't want to use the lens cap, which you can store in a special part of the lens softcase. The little grip makes it easy to focus with. The focus ring is smooth as butter. The aperture ring is nice but has a little bit of a cheaper feel. I have had lenses where the aperture ring felt better.
The Leica Summicron 50 f2.0 ASPH
The Leica Summicron 50mm f2.0 has the same build quality as the 35mm. I missed the little focus thingy of the 35mm! Which made focussing a little harder. For the people who don't know. This €12.000 camera kit has NO AUTO-FOCUS. But the manual focus system with the two glasses works brilliant! Because it is a range finder you get frame lines in the viewfinder representing the area that is in your frame. The 50mm is for me the longest lens to use with this. For longer lenses I would love to have the Hybrid Viewfinder like the Fuji X-Pro1 has. But for working with the Leica Summicron 50mm is good enough!
To really test the camera I organized a small photoshoot. I had a lovely Ballerina (Charlotte Geeraerts, two assistants (Mike Foto and Riet Verwoert), a person who filmed it (Ilse van Gemert) and my MUAH Elvira Korten (Made of Make up). For location I rented the Metaal Kathedraal in Utrecht. A behind the scenes video is posted at the end of this blog!
The most important thing off any camera, the images!
The Leica M has some film simulation. I liked the smooth color the most. It has the "Add the red chanel for contrast" in photoshop look. On the back of the camera it looked great but on the computer the shadows where to dark. Since I always shoot Jpeg+Raw (DNG in de case with Leica) there was nothing to worry about. Below are two images, one is the Jpeg and the other the raw file exported from Lightroom as a Jpeg.
For me the camera worked best in available light. Below are 3 pictures shot only with the ambient window light. Please also notice how much of a difference you can make with just walking around the model!
When I combined flash with natural light the white balance got it pretty right!
I loved working with the Leica M (type 240) with the Summicron 50mm f2.0 ASPH and Summicron 35mm f2.0! Allthough it is manual focussing, it works. The layout of the camera is simple. Everything you need, nothing you don't with a build like a tank body. Everything feels sturdy!
But, is it worth the €12.000 price tag? Well..... for me it's not. That doesn't mean I wouldn't like to have this camera kit, because I really do! But the price is to high for me. I don't see the extra benefit's over my current kit with the Nikon D800 and D610, and my fuji kit. I love the whole feel and look and way of working, but the image quality isn't like, 6 times better than the €2000,- Nikon D610 basic kit.
If I was a fulltime street or reportage photographer this camera would fit like a glove, it is low profile, light, portable. Also for fashion or commercial works it can do the job. It isn't an action camera. Although if you know your technique you can do it!
So my final conclusion. The camera is great, if you have the money, buy it! If you don't, then you don't miss anything. The camera is a tool, the photographers make the difference!
Watch the behind the scenes video of the ballet photoshoot in the Metaal Kathedraal