When I began my foray into the craft of photography in 2007, I shot on a bulky Canon DSLR with a few lenses. As I started to gravitate towards candid and street photography, I realized that there are far better tools for the job. While the DSLR has all of the features I wanted, it also has a lot of features I didn’t need. Hence, the interface, both physical and digital, is far too complicated.
I gradually formulated an equation for my next camera. It would have to be compact with a large sensor and fixed lens. It needed a dedicated physical control for at least aperture, but preferable shutter speed as well. Finally, I should be able to quickly confirm what I am focusing on, a task that wasn’t always easy with the DSLR.
After a year of renting and borrowing cameras, I chose the Voigtländer 40mm f/1.4 mounted to a Sony a7. I configured a custom button near the shutter release to toggle focus zoom. This and focus peaking approximated the ease and speed of shooting with a digital rangefinder at a tenth of the price.
Certainly if measured by the number of different types of shots that it was capable of taking, this setup lost out to any decent DSLR setup with multiple lenses. However, capabilities are useless unless they enable better results. This is where my setup won hands down.
It was simply much more fun to use. As a result, I took far more photos.
I would have been happy with just that, but I found I was also taking markedly better photographs, including this one from Burma that was seen by millions across the globe and stayed on the Reddit home page for a day or two.
From this experience, I know that if I have more fun taking photos, I carry my camera around more and take more photos. Then, both my photographic skill and the quality of my photos improve.
After three years though, the fun I was having had leveled off. The rough edges of my camera setup started to show through and bother me again. The fundamental problem is that the Sony is still trying to be too much. Obviously, this is by design as the a7 series is meant to fulfill the needs of a large variety of photographers. So, I sought out something that is more squarely focused on the way I shoot.
After a few months of renting and buying cameras, I bought a Leica Q from a former US Ambassador (a story worth telling in another other post).
The Q takes the basic equation of my previous setup — a fast, wide lens mounted to a modern full frame body — and refines it.
It doesn’t have interchangeable lenses. There is no mode dial. The MF/AF switch is elegantly integrated into the focusing tab. Aperture, shutter speed and macro mode are all controlled by dedicated physical controls.
The Leica Q has been distilled down to the essentials. With it, I forget about the tool and focus purely on the craft.
In the first two months of owning the Q, I have taken even more photos and have enjoyed the process of creating each one. I was always very skeptical of the hype surrounding Leica. Their cameras are quite expensive and if you compare spec sheets, they don’t offer much.
After two months of ownership, I started understanding the praise Leica has always received. I can’t confirm whether Leica cameras give that “Leica look” to photographs. I can however confirm that my Leica Q is a joy to use. It is immensely capable, yet delightfully intuitive. I find that with it strapped to my body and at my disposal, it enhances my experience of almost any place.
I’ll leave you with my favorite photos from the first two months of hopefully years of ownership. I hope you can enjoy viewing them even a fraction of how much I enjoyed creating them.
Berkeley · Leica Q · f/1.7 · 1/1000 · ISO 100
Berkeley · Leica Q · f/2.8 · 1/60 · ISO 640
Berkeley · Leica Q · f/1.7 · 1/60 · ISO 640
Fort Worth · Leica Q · f/7.1 · 1/640 · ISO 100
Fort Worth · Leica Q · f/6.3 · 1/60 · ISO 500
Dallas · Leica Q · f/1.7 · 1/800 · ISO 100
Dallas · Leica Q · f/1.7 · 1/100 · ISO 100
Sacramento · Leica Q · f/1.7 · 1/60 · ISO 320
Sacramento · Leica Q · f/6.3 · 1/60 · ISO 160
Davis · Leica Q · f/5 · 1/1000 · ISO 500
Davis · Leica Q · f/3.5 · 1/60 · ISO 1000
Davis · Leica Q · f/1.7 · 1/125 · ISO 100