In the past few months, I have been incredibly fortunate to have had Leica loan me three of their camera systems. (All external links are at the bottom of this entry)
First, I had their X2 compact camera (16.5 MP APS-C CMOS) with a 24mm f2.8 Elmarit (35mm Equivalent) old fashioned zoom (Use your feet!).
During the middle of summer I had the X2 and was having a blast with it. Of course there are limitations when using a fixed focal length but the challenge is in working with it, seeing possibilities, not obstacles. I will say one thing. manually focusing it was a bit of a challenge. Once I got used to how it worked and the subtleties all went well. I didn't need to manually focus very often so it was no big deal. I used this one outside of my studio, in the field so to speak.
I think I may purchase one by the end of the year.
Next came the Leica M9-P. It has an 18 MP full frame CCD imaging sensor (Sorry, no live view) and an almost perfect physical match to the earlier "M" models from the film days. Its a rangefinder, the original "mirrorless" design. One has to be mindful of whats in the viewfinder and within the frame lines shown in order to be sure of composition. Manual focus as well. One part that always makes me laugh- There is no "P" mode on the shutter speed dial. Fully manual exposure control or aperture priority. Thats it. Center weighted metering only. Minimalist design and execution, enabling the creative person behind it to truly use their mind and eye. No "Spray and Pray" here.
I used the M9-P in and outside of my studio and the camera easily became an extension of my eye. It also has a very intuitive menu system and was easily used in any situation that presented itself.
The lenses that came with it were the Summarit-M 35mm f2.5 (Medium Wide Angle) and the APO-Summicron-M 75mm f2 ASPH medium telephoto. I think its hilarious that some Leica aficionados turn their noses up at the 35mm Summarit because its "too slow", too small, too this too that. All I know is that the lens did exactly what I expected of it and the image quality was also as expected. Nothing short of fantastic. The 35mm was used primarily outdoors for various images. As many of you may know, two of my favorite subjects are cars and motorcycles which this lens was perfectly suited for.
I got a little laugh from the thought that some camera owners who refer to themselves as "photographers" would have no idea what to do with a camera like the M9-P.
I want one.
Lastly comes the S2.
The Leica S2 is in my opinion, the finest medium format digital camera on the market. Why? Because of its versatility and usability. Its not only fantastic in a studio environment, but also out in the world. Both the S2 body and the S lenses are weather sealed in order to withstand difficult weather conditions. The level of thoughtfulness that has gone into the design and execution of this camera is amazing. I didn't have to read the instruction manual in order to figure it out, and the controls and menus are about as intuitive as it can get.
By the very nature of the sensor, the high iso settings available to standard and pro level DSLRs' are impossible, so one falls back to the "old" skill set of working within the limitations of the environment and creatively overcoming any potential issues related to them.
Initially, what surprised me the most was the weight. The S2 with the "standard" 70mm lens felt like it weighed just about the same as my Nikon D3x with the 24-70 f2.8 attached. Physically it was about the same as well. I never felt like I had to put it down in order to give my hands a rest. Comparing the weight with the Hasselblad H3d and H4d (I've used both) the Leica S2 is a feather. The other thing I noticed that unlike both Hasselblads' I used, the S2 never required a "reboot". The S2 performed flawlessly in every way.
Image quality was everything I expected from a Leica product. On rare occasions I had to manually focus, depending on the subject matter but nobody ever said autofocus was perfect.
Yes, I want one. Badly. I've been bitten by the bug.
Find me on Facebook to see some of the images I shot with the S2.
The Leica S2 has since been replaced by the "S", a more updated version that looks even better than the S2.
My eternal gratitude goes out to Leica for the use of their amazing equipment.
Leica M9 and M9-P
Leica S System