It’s Leica, stupid!

The cover image courtesy of Jonas Rask.

As a moderator of a few groups and engaged in many others, one subject, gear-related of course, always triggers violent reactions. That’s nothing new in this industry, but I have to admit that the logic cited in this particular case is dangerously absent.

You can probably guess which company I’m talking about. Yes, it’s Leica. Go to any non-Leica forum and mention the name and an avalanche of angry, offended and fired-up experts will descend on you ready for the fight that’s about to ensue. The trigger is always the same. Let me give you just a few examples. “Leica is stupid to charge so much,” “only naïve people buy their crap,” “only an idiot would buy their cameras”—you get the idea—and these are only the more civil comments. 

Of course, there is nothing wrong with someone not liking their cameras or even thinking that the cameras are expensive. However, suggesting that “Leica is stupid” and attacking the brand and photographers who use it just on the basis of price is not only illogical but to use the favourite word of the critics, it is plainly “stupid.”

I will try to be precise here. 

The fact that any company could make their products sought after by so many great photographers and could charge for those products, in some cases, double what the competition charges AND actually sell them is pure genius! Let me repeat the point. In the industry, which is clearly in trouble and running itself into the ground from external pressure (iPhone) and never-ending price wars, being able to produce cameras and lenses and charge more for them is something that should be applauded, not condemned. 

Of course, you are free to dislike their cameras but there is a difference between arguing about the merit of the cameras, for example in terms of a sensor or shooting experience and going after the company because you can’t afford their products. The envy and nastiness are so apparent in some posts that it sometimes reaches epic proportions. I have seen someone criticizing an image because “it was shot with a Leica.” 

This behaviour is connected to the prevailing mentality of “cheap.” Many photographers do not realize that in going after Leica’s pricing (or any premium pricing) they are shooting themselves in the foot. The same mentality of lower price quickly catches up to them when they meet clients and hear that “John across the street” could do the same work for me for half the price (feel free to apply this logic to your own profession). Hypocrisy! It’s not uncommon nowadays! The outrage is real. 

Another observation: Even though we claim we are all for seeing and imagery and the gear doesn’t matter, it’s a big lie. Any post about gear will attract an army of commentators. Try to do the same with composition. No, thank you very much. Does it surprise me? Of course not. The photographic world is overwhelmingly a technical crowd which doesn’t give a damn about imagery. Most photographers are in it for the thrill of the gear, even though many of us don’t want to admit it. Don’t misunderstand. There is nothing wrong with admiring gear and being in photography for the sake of it (actually it could be quite fun sometimes). However, running around with the “CAMERA DOESN’T MATTER” T-shirt and spending days arguing about gear is perplexing to say the least.  

I get it. For many people the aesthetics of a camera have no value. For many Leica buyers it does matter. I am not a Leica shooter, but it matters to me. I personally like beautiful cameras and yes, I am willing to pay more for beautifully designed and crafted products. At the same time, I respect people who say, “It doesn’t matter to me, it’s just a tool.” I absolutely understand but…if you are going to call me “stupid” because I like the design of camera (among other things) you clearly have some serious, non-photography-related issues. I hope that more companies come up with premium products and beautifully designed cameras that focus on photography rather than the never-ending specification lists. I understand that most likely I won’t be able to afford them but that’s fine (my friend once told me a very good line, “it is not expensive Olaf, it is just YOU who cannot afford it”). I am happy for those who can. After all, there are plenty of gear choices out there.    

Last but not least, the recent trend to go after successful companies (and photographers) that are able to charge more and become profitable in this brutal industry is strange and worrisome. If camera manufacturers charged more, their employees would be better off, there would be more money to hire photographers, to invest more into new products…it would change the entire equation and eventually help YOU as well. The alternative, well…you can figure this out, just take a look around.

Paraphrasing James Carville, Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign director’s famous quip, “It’s Leica, stupid!”

P.S. I have no connection to Leica or its partners. 

2020 © OLI Publishing Inc. All rights reserved. 

16 thoughts on “It’s Leica, stupid!

  1. I’m a Leica user. Why? Because I like the simplicity of the tool which allows me to concentrate on the photo I desire to make. Small size and simple controls, it’s all I need! My M10 can be used exactly as I did with my M7 which I still use when in a film mood 🙂

    Is it expensive? It depends. I bought my first digital camera 9 years ago. It was a simple Leica X1 aps-c which arrived on the market a few months before the Fuji aps. Friends were saying the comments you can imagine, “you are crazy, so expensive…” But I still use that camera 9 years later when I want a small camera for istance when hiking in the Alps . Meantime the friends who bought a cheaper camera after two years bought a different one, and after two more years bought…and after…so the question is who spent more money, me or my friends?

    I bought the M10 around 2 years ago and for sure I will not change it in a short time… yes they cost money, much money but you do not need to change them each two years.

    robert

  2. I wonder if the label “stupid” is meant for those who buy Leicas as a luxury lifestyle brand rather than a photographic tool. For better or for worse, Leica has carved out a niche market where owning one has become, for some, a symbol of wealth and privilege not unlike a Porche or Rolex.

    I have owned Leica cameras since I first started shooting 35mm film in the late 60’s, and currently use an M Monochrom for my personal work.

    I’m not sure I could have afforded the cameras and lenses over the years without the well-stock used market bolstered by my well-to-do peers. To that extend, I am grateful.

  3. I think it was Ansel Adams who said “it’s not the camera that is important, only the twelve inches behind it” or some words to that effect. Meaning its not the camera that makes the photograph, but the photographer.

    I’ve used many different types of cameras, Canon, Hasselblad, Leica & more recently,Sony.

    Out of all I like my Leica M10 the best. Yes it cost a lot, but it is robust and well made.

    Does it have the versatility of the Canon system? No.
    Does it have the resolution of the medium format sensor of the HasselbladX1D? No.
    Does it have the dynamic range of the Sony A7R3? No.

    It doesn’t weigh as much as the Canon, or the Hasselblad. Neither does it have a 669 page manual that comes with the Sony A7R3 which I have yet to master.

    What it does have? It has soul.

    It has ISO, aperture and shutter speed. Focus is manual through excellent equality glass. What else do you need.

  4. Personally I’d like to ask the guys who says “It doesn’t matter to me, it’s just a tool” or equivalent words these questions:

    1. What is your smartphone brand and type you’re using?

    Then,

    if the answer is iPhone or Galaxy S series flagship, the nexr question: Why do you choose that instead of Xiaomi, Oppo, Realme, Huawei etc?

    if the answer is any cheaper phone than iPhone or Galaxy S flagship, the next question is either of these:
    For android user: If somebody gave you a current flagship iPhone, will you ditch your current phone?
    for older or non-flagship iPhone user: If somebody gave you a Samsung Galaxy S current flagship, will you ditch your current phone?

  5. Thanks for the idea of a “CAMERA DOESN’T MATTER” T-shirt. Mine will say “CAMERA DOESN’T MATTER // as long as it’s a Leica”. 🙂 (with the second line in a tiny font)

  6. I think Leica is expensive and I don’t see the value for the money but I agree from a marketing perspective, it’s brilliant. Someday I may have budget to purchase a Leica. In the meaintime, I’ll keep using Fujifilm cameras.

    FYI: “it is not expensive [INSERT NAME], it is just YOU who cannot afford it”, didn’t work when I made a similar statement to complaints about iPhones and iMacs.

  7. You are so right and spot on with this article. Finally, a logical article – well written about Leica. I hope we always have high end brands, value brands and every choice in between.

  8. I totally agree and finally a logical article about Leica. I hope there will always be a high end camera brand and everything in between.

  9. Sorry Olaf, I didn’t got the point of this article – it’s about human ignorance or about the Leicas prices.
    But, i just read your previous post with the images you took with GFX50S and Hasselblad X1DII 🙂
    Yes both a little bit cheaper than the Leica M series for the instance but they both are more expensive than their new Qii, that is also extremely crazy in its price, especially here in my country, where the taxes are huge like an average elephant.
    Almost two years ago i decided to lower my bar and purchased a second hand Ricoh GRii, so i put the old horse CAnon 5d mkii to the shelf for the paid works and started to use this tiny pocket “monster” for my everyday photography, include low light band photography in the local music avenues. My life concept is “less is more”, and why i call myself anti-leica photographer – the gear is really not really matter, but the knowledge of managing the one that is in your hand.
    And now i got closer to the question i wanted to ask – what do you say to your PRO program students, when they ask your recommendation what camera they should purchase with the goal to be good photographers. Do you say them the same phrase that the gear is not a main issue in photography ?
    Like Bob sait – they both will get me from point a to point b (well at different speed and a feeling of the comfort of use,)
    I’m not kidding, just interesting to know 🙂

    1. Hello Victor. It is great hearing from you. The point of this post was to tackle envy and hostility toward those who choose to shoot with Leica. I personally like Leica products a lot and I think they have the best menu system in the business. As you pointed out it is our choice what we want to work with and what we can afford. Regarding your question. I don’t make recommendations to my PRO students as at this level they should know what they want to work with (and what they need). In regards to my students who are new to photography and want to learn seeing I have two recommendations: the X100-series, new or used, or for those who can afford it, the Leica Q. Both great products to learn photography. P.S. By the way I tried the Ricoh GRIII and I really made a huge effort to like it but despite my good intensions I just couldn’t. It doesn’t handle well, it feels so cheap, the image quality is so so and most importantly it doesn’t have an EVF – which is absolutely essential in my view. Of course, this is my personal opinion and I am glad to hear it works for you. Always great hearing from you 🙂

  10. Great column. I shot Leica Ms for years. The two decades I did were special. And the feel and aesthetics of the Leica system is why I shoot Fuji today. All of your observations, Olaf, are spot on.

    1. Thanks Patrick. We all should be able to shoot what we think is the best for us without attacking each other for our own choices. Thank you so much for visiting and leaving your kind note.

  11. It’s your money so spend it as you wish. If I had the money I would love to have a highend car rather then the 2004 Mini that i drive. They both will get me from point a to point b.

    1. You are so right Bob. Let’s leave people decide and focus on seeing, regardless of a camera they choose to work with. Thank you for reading and commenting. Next time I will go back to my usual imagery. I promise 🙂

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