What makes Leicas so collectible?

Discussion in 'Collector's Corner' started by Senor Hound, May 9, 2008.

  1. Senor Hound

    Senor Hound TPF Noob!

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    I am a noob to photography, and one thing that intrigues me is the Leica Rangefinder. Even though its not an SLR, it is still very popular, very good, and very expensive. I hear MANY great photographers of the 20th century would rather have one of them over a Nikon F-(insert number here) or Canon.
    What makes them so great? I read about the rangefinder design and it seemed like it wouldn't work as well (so obviously I'm missing something). I know Leica's quality is out of this world, but what makes them so great, and what makes them so collectible?

    This question is asked with respect, and not skepticism. From a purely aesthetic viewpoint, I find them to be very cool (I want one...along with everyone else :) )
     
  2. Helen B

    Helen B TPF Noob!

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    I think that you have asked two questons: one about collectability and one about usability. I don't collect Leicas, but I do use them, so I'll try to answer the questions about 'why a rangefinder?' and 'why a Leica?' - though briefly.

    "I read about the rangefinder design and it seemed like it wouldn't work as well (so obviously I'm missing something)."

    Rangefinders and SLRs have different strengths and weaknesses. It's good to be able to choose.

    With a rangefinder you are framing by using a bright frame suspended in a wide field - you can see what is going on outside the frame. Everything is in focus. This tends to help you to keep a feeling of connectedness with the world. Conversely I find an SLR viewfinder to have a feeling of separation and concentration. Sometimes I want the connectedness, sometimes I want the separation. It's a subtle, difficult to describe thing.

    A rangefinder of the quality and design of a Leica can be easily focussed in lower light levels than an SLR, but you can only focus on the centre spot, so you may have to reframe after focusing.

    There's no mirror box in a rangefinder camera. That means that the lenses can extend closer to the film plane. Wide angle lenses do not therefore have to be retrofocus designs to the same extent as with an SLR. This helps with size and image quality.

    Rangefinder cameras are generally small in comparison to SLRs.

    That's enough for now. There's plenty more I could write, but it would take longer than I have right now.
    Best,
    Helen
     
  3. usayit

    usayit No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Helen pretty much summed it up. You can write volumes to the topic. My personal reasons:

    Why a rangefinder?

    * Flat out.. I just enjoy photography more with a rangefinder than an SLR. It is a different style of shooting that doesn't necessarily mean better. Helen described it best as "connected". For me and my SLR, the joy comes from seeing the final print. WIth my rangefinder, I enjoy shooting as well as seeing the final print.

    * I like seeing the world unrestricted... seeing everything. It is unlike the tunnel vision offered by SLRs. Walk around and observe the environment with just your eyes. You see or invision a picture and imagine how it is framed. This experience is for the most part uninterrupted once you bring the rangefinder to your eye. You are framing a subject. An SLR presents that experience differently since you are no longer framing the subject but seeing it through a restricted and magnified (focal length) manner.

    * Equipment is much more compact and easier to carry on a daily basis. Shortly before selling all my Canon primes, I snapped this photo to demonstrate the differences in size:

    [​IMG]

    (Keep in mind, the rangefinder lenses in the photo are not even the most compact.)

    * Simplicity.

    Why Leica?

    * Glass is wonderful. Even the old 1950s glass has a certain look that can be easily leveraged for creativity.

    * Build quality on all of Leica's M rangefinders is first rate. A brand new M7 will have a very familiar feel of quality found in a 1950s M3. In a world of cheap materials and plastic, I have a lot of respect for Leica and their conservative stance to up hold quality.

    * I have to admit that there is a panache associated with Leica as well. The same shared with BMW and Mercedes owners. The same shared with Rolex owners. Panache alone wasn't enough to sell me on Leica. I didn't like their P&S, their R system SLRs, or the Digital body shared with Panasonics.. hence I don't own them.


    Why Collect?

    * I do not understand the Leica collector's world myself. I find it really bizarre...

    * I do understand the want to collect cameras. The drive is no different from a coin or stamp collector. I find old cameras beautiful. I don't collect "Leica" persay but I collect cameras.. mOstly pentax.




    Keep in mind that there are still some very big advantages SLRs have over rangefinders. The longest lens on an M-mount rangefinder is 135mm, Macro is not really practical, and zoom is pretty much non-existent. FOr those reasons I still shoot with an SLR as well.

    Remember that to you don't have to spend loads of $$$ to experiment with rangefinders. Voigtlander, Canon, and nikon all made rangefinders... You can pickup a Canon QL17 for under $50 (generally $20). Voigtlander (Cosina) has an entire line of new rangefinders and lenses for reasonable prices. A good site for information regarding rangefinders in general is www.cameraquest.com. They are also a voigtlander dealer.



    btw... yes. prices for Leica equipment is insane.
     
  4. Mitica100

    Mitica100 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

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    All that needed to be said, was said! Very well said, might I add...

    I can't really explain "why Leica" but you must hold one in your hand and shoot with it. Try the same with any older or newer SLRs and compare.
     
  5. Early

    Early TPF Noob!

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    So true! Out of all the cameras I let slip through my hands, it was the Leica M3 that I miss the most.
     
  6. Tasmaster

    Tasmaster TPF Noob!

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    This might sound weird, but here goes. I get the thing about SLR tunnel vision, and there are times when i want to maintain contact with the "outside-the-frame" world, so... i just keep both eyes open! It works!

    I haven't used a rangefinder yet so i don't know how relevant the above is, but i can tell you that i do want to use one, and i'm not even sure why. I value the compact size and handling, the more direct approach, but it goes beyond that; i just have to try a rangefinder because it is different in a way that intrigues me.

    Collectibles are collectibles, there doesn't need to be a reason behind that. If enouh people decide that they want something relatively rare, it becomes collectible. Leicas are good cameras, old, rare, so people collect them.
     
  7. usayit

    usayit No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Speaking of.....

    Prices on new Leica stuff just went up 10% across the board (excluding the M8). IIRC, that's the 3rd time in less than a year! Sheesh..
     
  8. frfefarfearz

    frfefarfearz TPF Noob!

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    i also have this same thought as the one who started the thread..

    so you say, basically its the optics on leica's that makes it good?

    hmmm i really want a leica myself since im very curious of the output photos that i will have from it.
     
  9. Mitica100

    Mitica100 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Well... It's not the engine alone or the tires alone on a Lamborghini that makes it fun to drive, it's the whole package. Yeah, the optics are great on Leicas but it's the whole experience that satisfies one, from the moment you load it until you have your pictures developed.
     
  10. shorty6049

    shorty6049 TPF Noob!

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    :meh:I am not looking for an argument or anything here, but i've never used a Leica, and don't really have any strong desire to try one...

    I guess personally, i like the technology of a DSLR. If i want a rangefinder, i'll shoot film and buy a camera for 50 bucks.
     
  11. usayit

    usayit No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    * Deciding Digital versus Film is a completely different discussion from Rangefinder versus SLR. Econobox sedan and a ferrari both can get you from A to B but the Ferrari is more exciting.
    * A Canonet goes for under $50. Its a rangefinder..

    I like digital too... digital rangefinder that is... :p I also own a 1DMII and L lenses for when an SLR is more appropriate.


    So other than to say you like SLRs.. did you have another point?
     
  12. usayit

    usayit No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Could not have said it better myself.

    I'm not delusional... shooting with a Leica (or any camera for that matter) doesn't automatically result in better photos.

    Ferrari or Lamborghini, it doesn't matter.. put me behind either and I will ~not~ turn track times equal to Michael Schumacher. Probably wouldnn't do much better than my 90s miata. I sure will have fun trying...
     

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