When I was young and a young photographer, I was dreaming of a Leica since the first day I had an M6 in my hands. It was a curious feeling, a thing I want to have but totally not affordable. Decades after, with the rise of the digital photography, the Leica came back in my photographic preoccupations. I started like many by buying an X100. Then, I had more or maybe more less the feeling of the rangefinder. The Fuji was a revolution; it was a real game changer. It was a machine full of quirks. It was slow, with an autofocus close to a nightmare, but the seed was in the ground and only asking to grow.
My second incursion into the rangefinder world was the Fuji X-Pro1. It has at this early age the same quirks as the X100. Slow AF, not accurate frame lines, but what an image quality. What changed the things, is when I purchased a Leica 50mm Summicron made in Canada in 1983. A thirty years old lens on a modern camera, with the official Fuji adapter. The results were simply amazing. This was my beginning with Leica. I started to collect more Leica, Zeiss and Voigtländer lenses. I had a very impressive experience with those lenses on the Fuji X-Pro1. Like the AF was slow, it was not a real problem to focus manually. By the way, I was used to.
I had always the idea to get a Leica M9, that was the camera of that times, 2012 or so. To come close I chose to give a chance to the new Sony A7 and to use it with an adapter. I had the more or less same user experience as on the Fuji, but with the full frame. With wide angles it was sometimes painful, no possibility to use Zeiss ZM lenses, the Biogon formula, was not the right one. But with normal lenses, I had some very interesting results. But I was definitively not in love with the Sony A7 mark I. The camera was too slow, sometimes up to 5 seconds to wake up. With some others quirks, this was too much for me and I started to hunt a new camera. Or maybe should I say an old camera. At that time, the Leica M9 was the lonely choice to upgrade. I was certainly not ready at that time to grab an M8. But what about the M9.
When I grabbed the M9 for the first and saw the screen, I said to myself, what’s that is that Nokia 3210 screen? I made a couple of images with a Summicron 35 and I took may SD cart home. When I checked the images, I was completely blown away. Wow! What amazing image quality. That was what really convince me to enter the Leica game. I started then my hunt for the M9. I get one, not for cheap, but not expensive ether for a Leica. But it was anyway a good amount of money for a camera. The Leica M9 was not easy to master. Like any rangefinder, you need to practice every day. The camera was limited in ISO sensitivity. I’ll say 800 max. But curiously, the high ISO on a Sony or on a Fuji has not the same behavior as the CCD of the Leica M9. My experience is almost a ratio of two. I’ll come back to this point later. But the camera was a real joy to use. The images made with this camera where simply amazing. Not easy in the dark, not easy in bright lights, but when you know your camera, then there’s almost no limits.
Later, I changed the M9 for the new Leica M-P. I rapidly regretted my CCD image quality. Therefore, one day in early 2015 I purchased my first Leica M8. It was a good solution to get a CCD on the cheap. I read a tons of articles about the M8, explaining the problems of this camera, it’s sensitivity on IR, this half fiasco, the low sensitivity. But I also read some articles about it’s fantastic image quality. I took it and I was amazed by its black & white images. This sensitivity to IR, made it very interesting in black white. Larger spectrum, or something else, I do not have the scientific explanation, but the images are fantastic. One thing was not easy to manage, coming from the M9, it was the crop factor. But I’m using an excellent Voigtländer Ultron 28mm f2. A very decent copy, with a quality that makes lie all the review on this lens. I’m not a snob like some reviewer that are saying only that Leica lenses are valuable. They are good, but other choices are “good enough” too. This Voigtländer is one of them. I used this camera for a year and at the end I sold it. I get an M9P with 1800 shots and I decided reduce the number of camera I had.
Recently, I had the opportunity to get a Leica M Monochrom. I sold the M9P and regret it straightforward. But it was too late, no way to get back. I get once again in the same mood. I missed the CCD. Once again I found an M8 to replace the M9P, but this time, the things are different. I place a 1.25 magnifier on the viewfinder and I chose to use some good lenses on it, actually mainly the Zeiss Biogon 35mm and the Voigtländer Ultron 28mm. This is a good combination, it works good. The image quality is simply amazing for a ten years old camera.
But why is a so good camera to me? Maybe because it works like the M9 and I know this camera on my fingertips. Maybe because I do not have to care about it, it’s a cheap Leica. Maybe because I simply like it and I know how to get amazing results with it. I like the colors, they are old fashioned straight out of the camera. Like an old film. The sensor is amazing and it’s not like the modern Sony sensor. It’s the old Kodak and it has the capability of doing things that are different than what we are seeing nowadays. Will I keep my M8 for a long time? This is a good question. I have honestly no idea. I’ll certainly hunt a M9P when the opportunity will be good. This was certainly the camera I shot the most with. But the M8 remains a very cool camera to have on the side. It’s certainly a little bit Spartan for a daily use, but its’ definitively a good challenge for street photography. I like it very much and I’ll keep in a corner of my soul.