6.22.2013

I made a critical error in judgement today. Only my relative poverty is preventing a stumble into the German fantasy world of cameras.

Cigarettes are totally addictive and the best way to avoid addiction is to never pick up the habit in the first place.....and now the Leica story.

A few days ago I wrote a blog about the new Leica X vario. While I waffled a bit and admitted that the camera may have some appeal to a tiny demographic I was, for the most part, dismissive of the value proposition. The camera looked pretty cool but the slow lens wasn't sexy and the lack of a built in EVF gave me pause (as it always seems to do..). I could have spent the rest of my life never thinking about it again and the impact of the void would never even amounted to a blip on my gear lust radar.

But that was before I went searching for a ten dollar part with which to fix a six hundred dollar flash. I hadn't been in my favorite camera store in a while so I did a fearsome amount of looking around and self-directed tire kicking. I considered a new monopod and rejected it. I considered a really enormous and rock solid $1800 video tripod but in the end its lack of portability kept my credit card in cold storage. So after a hard target search of the entire inventory I headed toward a friendly and professional sales person to make my meager purchase. As I stood on one side of the glass case and, Ron, my sales guide and camera crack dealer stood on the other side and worked the controls on the cash register, my eyes wandered behind him and came to rest on the Leica display. 

Now, the new Leica X Vario was just announced a little more than a week ago so I thought that accessible inventory would be months away, but there on the shelf was the latest toy in its dark, dark gray finish. I should have turned my head and looked at cheap video sliders instead but in the moment that I hesitated Ron could sense my weakness and he pounced like a mongoose on a dizzy cobra. Yes. He handed me the camera.  And that was all it really took. Now I am in love.

I won't go into details. I haven't bought one yet. I haven't even committed to buying one, but on the way home I was looking for refundable soda bottles beside the road and when I got home I started looking behind the couch and chair cushions on the outside chance that someone's $2700 pocket change had fallen out of their pockets and come to rest, sub-cushion. The camera is that seductive.

It's much more beautiful than these photographs might indicate. The body style is right in line with the "M" tradition and the heft and balance of the body are remarkably seductive. I didn't want to let it go back on the shelf. I started snapping images and the shutter had the old Leica snicking authority combined with enough body mass to dampen any kinetic effect of shutter travel or acceleration/deceleration. 

Do you remember the movie, "Wayne's World"? In it Wayne (played by a younger and more talented Mike Meyers) is smitten by a Stratocaster guitar at a local music shop. Each week he stops by to look it over and play it. His mantra is, "It will be mine. Oh yes, it will be mine."  Substitute the Leica for the Stratocaster and I'm right there with Wayne Campbell. "It will be mine. Oh yes, it will be mine." It's so nice I'm not even sure I care if the files are great. Really good will be enough.  The flesh is weak. My only question is whether or not the Olympus VF-4 will work in the EVF plug.....

Warning: If you love beautifully crafted cameras (way beyond the Fujis, Nikons and Canons) and you don't want to impoverish yourself, don't ever handle the camera. It must be coated with heroin, dusted with nicotine, and finished off with a bit of Xanax. Addictive and dangerous.


37 comments:

Howard said...

Darn...!!!Just when I thought it was safe to go back in the water.

Bob Dein said...

Your writing style and humor slay me. If I give up photography, I will still follow this blog.

Mr said...

i think shuff said the vf4 does NOT work with the leica cameras... mebbe that was the 240 tho? worth checking out

arg said...

Very entertaining essay -- but I have to say, about the way the Leica sucked you in, I kind of resent products that are made to have irresistible showroom appeal, more than they really do the thing we buy them for. I feel like they are trying to 'dupe' me. The marketing department wins, instead of the engineers.

Marketers realise the qualities in a product that seduce us with a perception of quality -- the 'look and feel' parameters like shininess, heft, thick panels, solidity, 'premium' materials, and a price to match -- and they shamelessly integrate these qualities (or at least a perception of them) into the product to entice us to buy something that doesn't actually meet our needs beyond our need for 'specialness'.

ron said...

very funny post, and thought provoking

Wolfgang Lonien said...

Maybe you should also (not) try and look at the Olympus E-P5? It will mount the VF-4 (which was made for it actually), it may even help with focus peaking your old Pen lenses, oh yeah, it takes interchangeable lenses like every proper camera, and it costs half of that Leica even together with the VF-4 and the 17mm/1.8. Plus - like people say (haven't tried it myself) - it also has that premium magic fairy dust feel...

As much as I'd love to try an "M" - maybe that one is the Leica for the rest of us.

MarcosV said...

At a party last week, a guest who turned out to be a Leica dealer, let me shoot with the X Vario for a hour. There's a lot to like about the look of it. There's a lot I don't like about how it is not ergonomic in that I couldn't get a good grip on the camera with my right hand (camera was so new, there wasn't a strap attached to it yet). I ended up carrying it by the lens barrel --- it's length and diameter fits nicely in my left hand.

I wasn't too crazy about the controls --- I like using EC and ISO a lot. A pet peev is the markings on the aperture dial requires me to think a little on what aperture the unnumbered hash marks are associated with.

As for the pictures I took with this camera? They were OK. I liked the shots I took with my X100s more.

By the time I thought about the X Vario's price tag: it was just an affirmation that no way will I be lusting after this camera.

Jeffrey Minch said...

Haha, Kirk, great story telling. Love your style.

Hey, get two of those babies. Haha. You deserve it.

Only "snicking" can be understood by camera and gun enthusiasts.

Jeff Minch

Anonymous said...

This way lies madness...and poverty.

Tom Barry

Biro said...

Kirk... just walk away. All Leicas are lovely to behold and handle. Of that there is no dispute. But think: Will you really use this camera all that much after the brief honeymoon? I submit that your infatuation will be a passing thing because you require more substance in your camera relationships. And this isn't the kind of camera that you'd just hand off to Ben after you become bored. Save yourself the expense and disappointment and forget it. Or call me with an offer to sell me the Leica at half price when you lose interest.

Corwin Black said...

VF-2 does, no clue about VF-4..

Simon Lupton said...

You might as well go the whole hog and crash onto one of its bigger brothers

Nick Giron said...

It could very well have been told from the vantage point "The seductress sat at a dark lonely curve at the bar. I had been working late and was only stopping in for a Scotch. . ."

Claire said...

A little temptation of my own here. I assisted a paid gig and got to shoot an old A900. Guess what ? I want the A99 now !!! And I mean, I WANT one... Yeah, I'm in trouble...

Anonymous said...

...M Monochrom?

Claire said...

Couldn't have put it better, really. Who wants that slow boring zoom anyway ?

Jason Hindle said...

By all means, buy one of these lovely cameras. Of course, it feels amazing. And then, you will take your first proper photos with it, look at those files, and wow. During subsequent uses of the camera, you will desperately try to attain that same wow factor you experienced first time round. This is known as chasing the dragon......

Still, at least (I think) it takes your VF-2. Now that could be a killer combination for a small, quality walk around camera.

Ron Nabity said...

I waffled on the Olympus OMD for almost a year and finally caved...twice. One silver and one black. I'm a popular guy on craigslist now as I clear out shelves of other gear to make breathing room for the new stuff.

After all the technical rationalization, it was the retro design that did me in. That, and the Olympus sale + Amazon 4% discount.

arg said...

Biro, you would pay $1350 for it, used? That's a big endorsement!

Gregg Mack said...

You've got to learn to watch out for those camera crack dealers... they know exactly what they are doing. This should be a fun time this summer following your new Leica adventures!

André Balsa said...

That model has "Danger!" in her eyes - what a great portrait! And a great way to introduce the matter of the essay too! Temptation...

Robert Hudyma said...

Kirk:

I thought that you posted an earlier entry saying that you would not make any more posts about gear and talk instead about lighting and image making from now on.

I was delighted!

What happened?

I think you got GAS!

I was told a long time ago that when it comes to women, men, from the age of 10, have two Brains (you can use your imagination to figure out just where they are located). The same is true for gear. You are thinking with the wrong brain!

Case in point: About this time last year, Nikon Canada hosted a wonderous “show and tell event” about how wonderful their new D800 product was. They had products, videos and “professional photographers” jumping up and down telling us all why we all really needed one (or more of these).
I watched the show (reminded me of Snake Oil), and waited for the Q&A. I asked how big the 36MP files were and they told me 70 megabytes each. I said to myself if I make 1,000 images in a wedding, it would take me a really long, long time to process the workflow.
No thanks. And, I would have to spend $5,000 if I wanted the f2.8 lens too. Yikes!

Then I asked another question, to which I got no response: How do the D800 images compare to the D3200 images? No-one responded. Silence. I could buy 7 D3200’s for the price of 1 D800! Something is wrong here.

Kirk: before you buy the Leica, do a blind taste test: compare the “beginner” A58, the “discounted” Nikon V1 and “introductory” NEX-3 to the newest Leica. Oh, and while you are doing that the D7000 prices are in a tailspin too; you can try that one too.

The thing here is once you get to about 20MP then you have the resolution that you had with film more or less and so there are a lot of inexpensive choices here to go with.



Tell us all which is the better imagemaker.

Anonymous said...

Back in the day people were always saying that for the price of a VW in America one could pay for plane fair to Germany, have a vacation, but a VW there, and ship it back to the U.S. for what it cost to buy a VW here in the states. I wonder if the same is true of the Leica? If so, then maybe.......

cfw

Biro said...

Well, perhaps if it was Kirk using it and it was only a few short months old.

Carlo Santin said...

It's called MMBS (More Money than Brains Syndrome). I sure hope you don't develop this affliction Kirk. The silly cost of that camera would buy an awesome trip somewhere for you and your NEX 6, or the Samsung NX300, or any of your Sony Alpha gear, a pretty darn good trip at that...don't forget the wife too.

Kirk Tuck said...

Satire......I forgot to post the disclaimer...

Biro said...

I think most of us got that. :)

arg said...

Oh I see! The statement "I made a critical error in judgement today" coming from KT could only be satire!

Howard said...

No you didn't. Well done

Anonymous said...

What should I do with the 112 empty soda bottles I collected for you?

Anonymous said...

Hey ol' chap, you have gear lust, aka GAS. Must be the Leiagra kicking in.

Anonymous said...

Nah, wait for the Panasonic-branded version.

Anonymous said...

The biggest error is your promotion of smoking by using photos like this.

Kirk Tuck said...

I guess you were too busy being self-righteous to read the caption... Yawn.

Ron said...

I tested the Olympus VF-2 and VF-4 viewfinders on the X Vario at my dealer. The VF-2 works and looks just like Leica's, except for the labeling and exterior shell which is less rounded (and the Oly as a result is a bit less eye candy than the Leica). The VF-2 works flawlessly and is optically identical. The VF-4 does not work at all. One imagines a firmware upgrade would allow it to work (similar to the OMD-5 firmware upgrade which enables the VF-4), but one suspects that Leica would have no interest in doing this without their own clone VF-4 ready to ship. Possible? Yes. Likely, given Leica's need to focus its resources most efficiently? Probably not.

dierk said...

you better don't touch a Leica M Monochrom!
dierk

Anonymous said...

And one side of the brain busy humming oumm...yogi