So lets talk about gear. On this page you can see what is in my camera bag and why.
The Leica M9 was the smallest digital camera with a full frame sensor until the Sony A7 series hit the market in 2013. It is a rangefinder camera, meaning that there is no mirror box inside but it still has an optical viewfinder. Looking through that viewfinder you can not only see what is in the frame, but also what is right outside, cause the size of it is larger than the frame lines displayed for the lens attached. That not only helps for composition with objects moving into your frame but also gives you a better overview of the whole scenery. The viewfinder is so bright and clear and i prefer it over any EVF, even the latest and greatest. It is more like a window between you and the world around you and less like watching television. It never shuts down. Not when you take a picture, not with a lens hood on, not even when you turn the camera off.
Being a rangefinder the Leica M9 is a manual focus only camera. So the lenses are all manual focus also. Like the camera itself they are all very well made and will last. There is no plastic and no electronics, just glass and metal. That is part of the reason why these lenses hold their value much better than any other lenses.
The Leica M mount has not changed for more than half a century allowing you to use legacy Leica glass even from the fifties. Those lenses were made for analog M cameras but work impressively well on modern digital cameras as well (not only on Leica but with adapters also on other brands like Fuji or Sony). Because there is no mirror box between the lens and the sensor and no auto focus system, both body and lenses are very small and reliable. When Oscar Barnack constructed the first 35mm film camera almost a century ago the main purpose was to build a small, light and durable documentary camera. This core idea still lives in every camera from Leica up to their latest model.
Because of the small size and the superb image quality the Leica M is the best travel camera for me. I have a little camera bag smaller than 25x20x15 cm that has enough room for the camera with a lens attached plus two additional lenses and accessories. All that i need on my travels.
Although i am very satisfied with my Leica setup i bought the Sony A7r to accompany it. Honestly, it was more the lust after that camera than any compelling reasons 😉 But now that i have it, i can certainly say that it is a great camera and whats more important, it has it’s rightful place next to my Leica. Let me explain …
The Sony A7r, like the Leica M9, is a full frame camera in a compact body. It can even mount Leica glass with an adapter. In fact there is an adapter for almost any other mounting system as well. The camera has tons of resolution with it’s 36mp sensor. The Sony sensor also has a great dynamic range which really helps to get all the information in your lights and shadows. Something that can become important especially in landscape photography. It lacks the AA filter of some other cameras today. While there is a risk of getting moire into the shot, the images are much crispier without that filter. From what i saw, the color rendition is also beautiful. Colors are rich and punchy without looking odd. All this makes the Sony A7r a good landscape camera and if you like to print big even more so. Shure it is no sports camera with a semi fast auto focus, but in good light it gets the job done and in some situations i really appreciate an auto focus lens. I can also mount super tele lenses on the Sony and shoot wildlife, something that is not possible with my Leica. Last but not least, live view makes it possibe to use filters on my lenses and see the results before i shoot. There are even more features the Sony has to offer but i dont want to dive into that to deep.
So why not selling the Leica and go with the Sony only ?
No way. The Sony is a completely different beast. If feels different, it shoots different (even with the same lenses) and you get different results. For one it is a fact that Leica lenses work best on a Leica body. Yes, it is true that they work on the Sony quite well, but there are problems, not only with wide angle lenses (corner softness, color shift, etc.). Then there is that noticable different look from the files coming from either camera. Modern and sometimes steril, versus organic and pleasing in a way hard to discribe. No pixel peeping nessecary to distinguish images from both cameras. Not to mention the fact that i prefer the way you manual focus on a rangefinder and the EVF is nice but it is still like watching television in comparison.
And then there is a reason that counts more than any other – i am impressed of what the Sony can do, but i love my Leica.
Update ! I finally replaced my M9 with the M (type 240). Please read my short article about the reasons behind. Images will follow.
Update ! The Leica M (type 240) got replaced by the Leica M10. Maybe there will be a review with my thoughts on the latest M 😉