Why Leica ?


Written and compiled by Gavin Mills for the Leica Meet .

Between shooting the streets of Brighton at our last Meet and whilst having lunch and a couple of beers we got into an interesting discussion. No surprises we were talking about Leica and what’s so good about the camera , the experience of using it and how to describe that special or signature Leica look .

Rather than another technical review of the camera which there are already plenty enough of online , instead the following is  a collection of views and opinions written by some great photographers who are passionate about using the camera .  Sharing from a users perspective,  their thoughts about the camera, how they became a Leica shooter in the first place,  and how did  it influence their photography.

What exactly is it that makes the Leica their personal choice .

Enjoy !

1654400_10203116830259865_1231469286_nStephen Cosh

David Lykes Keenan

My first Leica experience came as a teenager back in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

I was a typical teenage photographer at the time using an SLR camera. In my case, I used a Nikkormat and a Nikon F. But my grandfather had an M3, numerous lenses, a Visoflex, countless gadgets, and he was generous enough to allow me to use his kit from time to time.

I wasn’t aware of the Leica mystique in those days but I knew the camera was something special and I found it to be an amazing experience to be able to take pictures with it.

Leaving college, I didn’t become the photographer I thought I was going to be when as I was a teenager. I graduated as a software engineer and programmed computers for 30 years until 2003 when I went out and, on impulse, bought a Leica Digilux 2 primarily because it resembled and reminded me of my grandfather’s M3.

That was the beginning of the end of my software career and the beginning of my new life as photographer.  With the help of eBay, I re-created my grandfather’s M3 over time and had a lot of fun with it.

As time went on, I purchased other Leica’s. Eventually after experiencing what a particular model camera had to offer, I would often resell them and move up the “food chain” to something new. Today, I own a IIIf, an M7, and a Monochrom. And I still have that first M3.

There is something about how a Leica fits my hand. It is truly a physical extension of myself in a way no other camera can match — it belongs in my hands. As such an extension, it spends less time slung from a shoulder and more time in my hands much closer to the next photograph. No wonder it has always been a favourite of street photographers.

The quality of Leica lenses are indisputable but frankly this fact is less important to me than the ever-ready presence of the camera itself — the important thing is that a Leica is so much more ready for the next photograph than anything else I could be using. Of course, the image quality is nice bonus on all these photographs I’d otherwise miss.

It’s safe to say that the Leica camera is in my blood. No other camera gives the satisfaction of photographing as does a Leica M rangefinder. Thanks grandpa.


David Lykes KeenanDavid Lykes Keenan

Olaf Willoughby 

I shoot with a Leica M for one simple reason. With other cameras I’m just taking pictures, with Leica I feel I’m making the picture. This feeling is multi-layered. Rationally, it comes from the solid construction of the camera and its lenses. The simplicity of seeing through the rangefinder, using manual focus and the straightforward menu system means that the camera is out-of-the-way and lets me get on with the job. The size of the components means I can pack an M and 3 lenses into a small bag and walk all day, day after day. And the quality of the lenses is such that there is no dispute that they are among the best in the world. For me, the Leica M outfit offers the best quality:weight ratio on the market.

Emotionally I get a kick out of the image quality. And that shouldn’t be surprising. Like most things in life, the more we put into it, the more we get out. With the Leica M series you engage with the subject matter rather than the camera and that effort is richly rewarded. Like many photographers I’ve been through numerous experiments with most of the popular brands and I found it hard to settle with anything, always looking for the next big innovation. With Leica I feel I’ve come home.


16291_10152352621742796_1208453536_nOlaf Willoughby

Yongki Lie

I’m Yongki Lie,  a photography enthusiast that loves to travel and meet people from different cultures.

Living in Jakarta – Indonesia.

I first knew Leica from seeing its outstanding and unique images in magazines and friend photos. Before I used a Nikon D3 and due to the compact size, discreet and outstanding dynamic range,  I’ve decided to switched to Leica M about 3 years ago.

What struck me the first time using it is how easy it is to operate. I felt with its super fast lens with the magic glass, I can improve my creativity.  I believed my skill in street photography and human interest will be going to a higher new level.

There is some magical visual attribute (Lol..)

I am currently using M240 and Monochrom on daily basis. Furthermore, using manual focus and not worrying about many electronic programs allow me to focus on more essential skills as a photographer. I to love take  human or people photos,  how to approach and make  communication and get an emotion from them.

The feel of photo is important to me. During my travels to take  photos of people I’ve never met before is a challenge.

During my experience with Leica I grow fond and specialize on using wide-angle lenses: Summilux 21mm Summicron 28 mm  and also the magic of Noctilux 0.95.

There is some magical visual attribute that separates  a Leica from ANY other camera , It’s like a  3 dimensional quality with bold colour and offers more detail with larger dynamic range.

Yongkie Lie

Yongkie Lie

Eileen McCarney Muldoon

A few days ago Gavin emailed me a couple of questions regarding the Leica and being a “Leica Shooter”.  The timing was impeccable because I was asking myself similar questions.

I was initially introduced to the Leica M9 through Olaf Willoughby when we met on a photo workshop in Nepal.  I was intrigued with the small, ergonomic camera that he was using.  Of course, I had known of the Leica, but I had never used one before and Olaf offered me the use of his camera for an afternoon, however after about 10 minutes of using the Leica I wanted to return to the comfort of my Canon 5DII.  After all, I was in a foreign land and didn’t want to miss opportunities by spending time learning a new system and I am so glad I didn’t continue using the M9 because not one of my shots was in focus!  ……. So, why did I want to go back for more?  I wasn’t sure why I had an inexplicable attraction to that little camera.  I liked the way it felt in my hands.  I liked the allure of a new challenge and I liked the images that others around the world had and were continuing to produce with Leicas.  I was starting to see differently and the Leica seemed to coincide with my new vision.

The Leica has definitely changed the way in which I work.  I am seeing much deeper or maybe I’m looking much deeper.  It has been years since I’ve used prime lenses.  At first, I found using these lenses to be static and stifling.  I was frustrated by my inability to frame my subjects the way I wanted to.  I had to relearn how to move around my subject, connect with it and create the image.  I cannot say whether the Leica has made me a better photographer, but it has certainly made me an evolving photographer.  I am working harder and feel 100% connected with my work.

The one question I ask myself though is “Can my new work that I am sharing on social media, cross platforms?”  For the past fifteen years my means of sharing work was by entering art shows and presenting in galleries.  Before choosing an image to print and frame, I would ask myself 5 personal questions about the work.  If the photographs passed my own self imposed questioning, I felt reasonably comfortable about presenting them.  Now that I am shooting predominantly with the Leica, the tone of my images has changed somewhat and I am not sure that the same photo that may work for sharing on the web would also work as a piece of art.  Can the Leica photo follow two different channels?

Finally, the question of whether the Leica camera has a signature look?   Yes, the camera itself and the work it produces have a strong signature.  Yet in addition to the phenomenal quality of the lenses and camera there is something more.  Defining that something is hard.  I think it has a lot to do with the camera being a rangefinder that works well with prime lenses, but I also think it has to do with the photographers that own Leicas.  Our work is important to us, we are passionate about it and we work hard to breathe life into our images. Depth of field and lighting are paramount.  So, while the camera produces high quality images it may be the Leica photographer’s vision that truly creates the signature look.

LightEileen McCarney Muldoon

Johannes Huwe

I have been a Leica photographer for almost 10 years; I am currently using an M240 and M Monochrom. As a landscape photographer, I was always out and about with a Hasselblad Medium Format camera, (initially with film, and later digital) and at that time I was looking around for a high quality compact camera. More or less through chance, I came across a Leica. Luckily, a camera shop was also a Leica dealer, and so I got my hands on my first Leica M. At the time, I never thought this meeting would change my photographic life so much. I haven’t used my Hasselblad H3D 39 Megapixel in years since then..

I have a soft spot for high quality optics. In photography that really hits home with Leica, just like with Takahashi in astronomy.

What I love about the Leica M is the combination of highest quality and compact construction. This gives rise to a special feeling when you use it. The lenses alone are masterpieces of the purest kind. For an engineer like me, it’s a real highlight to be able to use the silky smooth focusing of a Summilux or Noctilux.

And with regard to quality my Leica M Monochrom with the APO 50 even surpasses my Hasselblad for black and white photography. And that with 18 mega pixels compared to the 39 mega pixels of the Hasselblad. But pixels aren’t everything.

In addition, I feel a connection with other Leica photographers too. I don’t feel that at all with almost any other brand. You could maybe compare it a little to Apple 7 years ago. When the first iPhone came onto the market.

But when all’s said and done, the Leica M is also just a tool. And everyone has to find a tool that suits them. I don’t think you can take better pictures with a Leica. But I have never had so much fun with photography as I do with a Leica.



Johannes HuweJohannes Huwe

Dirk Vogel 

As a student I always dreamed of having a Leica M6 not even knowing what it meant to shoot with a Leica.

I think I was the myth and the tradition of Leica I wanna share.

In 1994 my dream came true. I sold a lot of Nikon equipment and took some money grandpa saved for me.  I bought a brand new Leica M6 with 2.0/50mm.

The first steps weren’t easy because it was totally different to an SLR as you know. I needed some training.

If I raise a SLR my face is covered by the camera. With a Leica M I have one eye and my mouth free for communication. There is not so much between me and who I want to photograph. So it’s more directly more authentic I think. And the lenses! More contrast more brightness and so on. The shooting was a revelation for me!

A few weeks later we got the task to take a portrait of a VIP by our professor. A good challenge for me and my M6. I chose the author Max von der Grün who lived near Dortmund. A strong character: fought as a paratrooper in WWII, worked as a coal miner after the war and has always to fight for his literature. So I was a little nervous to face the old man with my little cam. I took some rolls of Fuji Neopan 1600 because we met inside his office and I shot a shot whilst we walking around the room and talking. As we finished he said:  “Oh, I did not notice at all, that you photographed…” (below)

I decided the Leica was MY tool. Now I have ten bodies and a lot of lenses.

Dirk VogelDirk Vogel

Stephen Cosh

I started shooting the Leica M system after a decade of landscape photography with an SLR. Quite simply, I was bored and I wanted a change.

I had come across street photography a few times on Flickr and it had always grabbed me. Although I found it fascinating, I had no idea of how to go about it but instinctively knew I couldn’t really do it justice with an SLR.

I knew that I needed a prime lens and I knew if I was going to be walking the streets all day as oppose to sitting in one place behind a tripod, I didn’t want the bulk and weight of a Nikon D90 and three zoom lenses.

My first foray into street type cameras was the Fuji X100, which although a great camera at the time, was very limited, especially as I wanted to work with manual focus. The only way forward was Leica, which to be honest was daunting as it required a completely manual approach, but I went ahead and have never looked back.

The Leica M system is the ultimate street tool. Lightweight, robust, fast and easy to focus. However, it wasn’t until after I had my first Leica body that I started to appreciate Leica lenses. Leica glass is, without a shadow of a doubt, the finest glass available. Super sharp, hardly any drop off and the real bonus is the weight and size. Nothing allows you to focus selectively like a Leica M lens… Nothing!

I now shoot film and digital Leica M’s and couldn’t imagine shooting anything else. I know lots of people say that the final image is the important factor of photography, but Leica is as much a part of my photography as the final image. Picking up an M and wrapping the strap around my wrist is a great feeling. It’s every bit as important to my experience as developing each roll or uploading each shot.

I believe that the forced manual operation of a Leica makes you consider your photography more. It slows you down a little and makes you snap less, considering each shot completely. The Leica M viewfinder also allows you to frame and crop in your head in a way that through the lens framing cannot. I would go so far as to say that the M has helped develop my style of street photography. I have tried other cameras but just don’t get the same result.

You can tell a Leica M shot a mile away. Not only from the dreamlike bokeh and razor sharpness of the fast Leica glass, but also a Leica shot looks more considered, there’s more feeling in it… more soul. I wouldn’t shoot anything else!



Pretty VacantStephen Cosh

Christine de Loe

I started shooting when I was a kid. My first camera which was a Yashica that was offered to me by my father who was also a Leica lover. He had a wonderful collection and I grew up with these cameras around but never was able to shoot with any of them but I was happy with what I had.

Until 2 years ago  my camera system was a Canon DSLR with a wide range of very nice lenses… I was happy with that even though I was starting to find all that gear very heavy and bulky.

One day my cousin told me how extraordinary the M system was.  He wanted to get an M9 and told me all about it.
That stayed in the back of my head for a while.

Then as I was getting more serious about my photography, since I had to justify to myself for spending such an amount of money, I started considering buying a Leica.
My fiancé was kind of pushing me in that direction. It kind of helped me or at least made me feel less guilty about the purchase I was about to make!

I started with a second hand M9 and a 50mm that the Leica dealer lent me. I took it along with me on a trip to Morocco…as well as my DSLR system. I worked with the M9 for a few months and was not 100% convinced to tell the truth.

I was spending a few days in Paris and visited the Leica store.
It was at the moment the M Monochrom was announced. I started discussing with the salesman and told him I had got an M9  and found Leica’s idea of doing a Monochrom kind of weird. I did not see any interest to get one.
He looks at me and says but the MM is a far better camera than the M9…I was kind of upset. Then he showed me some prints… wow, It was beautiful.

Black and white photography is the way I express myself the best, so the idea of getting a camera specifically designed with that in mind,   the idea started to grow more and more every day . I had to get this camera!

But to be honest I said to myself if I am not happy I’ll sell all my Leica equipment. Too much money invested not to use it.

The result is that today I am left with one Canon and 4 lenses that mainly stay in the cupboard…. I sometimes think I’ll sell everything. Am done with all these kilos to carry around. I don’t have the same pleasure I used to have using this system. And photography is, for me, first a huge pleasure.

I am a happy owner of 3 Leica cameras now with a few nice lenses which enable me to do almost everything that  I want . Almost meaning I am not doing sports shots or birds. I use the M system for work as well as for my personal use.
Leica is such a stunning object , never have I seen such a beautiful camera. It’s not an invasive camera..it’s more “people friendly” and people often tell you how that old camera looks nice!
Leica cameras are easy to use, extremely well built and reliable cameras, it has forced me to take photographs in a totally different way. I am now obliged to get much closer to people and therefore have a stronger and more personal exchange with my subject.

I am just finding myself at ease with the tools I have today. I enjoy every picture I take.

L1001130-ModifierChistine de Loe

Win Soegondo

My name is Erwin Soegondo from Indonesia, photography is my life and my hobby.

My first manual camera was Asahi Pentax – Spotmatic with standard 35mm ens, then I moved to DSLR to have more option lenses. In 2006, i decided to change from DSLR to Leica, as I’ve seen outstanding result of Leica’s photos. Prior to that i tried to find out more information thru internet, books, and magazines.

Most of my photos interest are more to human interest and street photography which fit with my current Leica M9P and Monochrome, for wide lenses I always use Summilux 21 and Summicron 28mm, and as for portrait I use Noctilux 0.95 and Elmarit 90mm.

In my point of view, CCD sensor is still better than CMOS sensor.

I like the way camera challenges me, all of my photography projects/works are without autofocus and other electronic/automatic programs.How to stay connected with the objects are more important, it is about how we approach people and communicate to them directly or indirectly, which for me far more beyond shoot and go.



Win SoegondoWin Soegondo

Rod Higginson

I got back into photography about 7 yrs ago being encouraged by staff in Apple store Exeter. New to Digital age I bought a Nikon D80 having had a Nikon FM . The bulk of DSLR and various kit always seemed a little limiting as well as over complicated menus. The sensor had a problem and was away ages for repair, by now I was wanting to photograph on a daily basis and feeling frustrated without a camera. Browsing on the internet lo and behold Thorsten Overgaard site appears showing the very wonderful Leica Digilux 2! I was smitten! Something told me to beg or borrow to acquire this camera and so gambling on eBay I purchased one . It arrived day before my Nikon was returned but in that short time I was blown away by ease of use, image quality, simplicity and the connection to the camera.I felt this was just the beginning with a new love affair with photography. I’m afraid other than to check it was working the Nikon never had more than a few shots fired and to this day remains “on loan” with my daughter. I noticed my photos improving and read up on all manner of things Leica related. I used to watch the Wim Wenders Leica advert on You Tube again and again sharing that feeling of being connected. Well, along comes M8, not great reviews and my bank balance won’t allow but by the time M9 has been out a while circumstances have changed. I realise I have once in a lifetime to grab this opportunity. Off to Red Dot Cameras in London for their only second-hand M9 and 50mm summicron f2. Decide I will give myself a month to see how I get on. Within 48 hours I can’t put it down and know I made the right decision. 35 mm ‘cron soon follows & then 90mm. Stephen Bartel then gets in touch and asks if I would like to join his gallery! Meantime I have had the odd small exhibition were I live , selling the odd photo and receiving positive feed back. Combe house Hotel were I work part-time as their gardener offer me a permanent display in their restaurant and reception area and am then asked to do the photos for their new website. I have always used Flickr to post photos and various spin offs to get comment ( this being where Stephen noticed me). I am asked if I would let my photos along with other selected folk to be shown at Greenwich Maritime Museum Ansel Adams exhibition on a rolling screen basis. I submit more photos and end up with most being picked. When Leica meet site starts I am asked to be Photographer of the week selection. I find all this hard to believe, in the space of 18 months, with no education in the subject and massive amounts of self-doubt to have come this far. The pleasure I get from taking photographs with Leica is amazing. When I stood and looked at my photos on a screen in the Mayfair Leica gallery I wept.

Leica for me means top quality, robust build, easy menus, discrete and glass that’s second to none. The thought of hauling round DSLR kit just doesn’t appeal.I have never regretted for a moment the Leica purchases. As I mainly shoot B&W Iknow I will end up with a mm and probably 50mm ‘lux. I just see it helping improve my work all the time, alters how you see things compared to DSLR & auto everything.



Rod HigginsonRod Higginson

Richard Curtis 

I first started taking photographs in 1980, just as a hobby. Making come progress after that, but not enough, I decided in 2005 to attend a photography school, a weeks deep dive into digital photography in the USA. I chose the America media school, Maine media workshops, due to its reputation and also my influencers are mostly American (Sally Mann, Irving Penn, etc) as well as enjoying the American style and progression of photography.

The year after I had the opportunity to travel to Kashmir on a weeks photography street shooting workshop. It was here that I met my mentor John Isaac, ex UN documentary and war photographer. Working with John on critique and images and the intensity of a workshop, it really pushed my photography harder than ever before. The workshops with John soon opened a whole new world of photography, but soon I realised that I wasn’t getting the shots that I really wanted, something was missing and I felt disappointed by taking photographs. At one of the subsequent workshops, I met a chap called Paul Cohen, it was Paul who would be responsible for my new photographic vision. In a conversation with Paul, I mention that I was becoming a little tired with photography, his response was as simple as “change your camera”. I thought, really is that all it would take?

It was soon after this that the compact systems revolution had started and I had the opportunity to use a Fuji x-Pro 1. It’s always challenging when you move from something that you trust (DSLR) into the world of a smaller sensor, smaller lenses, and I found it concerned me for a while, would the images be as good as a DSLR , something that we have come to know and rely on, to capture that moment that we desire the most.

After using the Fuji for another workshop (along side the DSLR, I realised that the images and quality were just what I was looking for. The Fuji for the first time allowed me to become invisible, taking photographs that I had always envisioned, but not been able to get. Was the image quality good enough though? I was truly blown away with what the smaller cameras were able to provide, it’s almost that the innovation had been happening quietly behind the scenes and would take a leap of faith to be discovered.

It was then that I had an opportunity to use my first Leica for a workshop, this camera would change my photography forever. Not only did it force me think more creatively and imposing a “creative restriction”, having to manually focus the lens and think twice about the composition. Ultimately It was able to re-imagine my photography.

Why did the Leica re-ignite the love of photography once again. I think there are many factors that answer this question,

Being a street photographer and a social character, I enjoy the conversational aspect to photography. Using this camera re-engages with people and their surroundings, it’s not intrusive in any way. The other side of this means you can grab shots without being seen, almost a fly on the wall, or hidden in the shadows.

Its physical appearance and size links to a time gone by, old-fashioned, almost vintage In way, something from the 1940’s or 50’s, this makes people feel comfortable, more relaxed and perfect for a capturing a natural pose.

I like the legacy of the camera, it hasn’t fundamentally had its look or approach changed over time, and that provides a link to many of my influences and classic photographers. using the system, forces me to think more about my imagery and pushes my harder to create great photographs.

The camera adds a creative restriction. Having to manually focus the lens using a range finder and thinkIng about exposure and focus slows the photographic process down, allow more critical questioning to happen. This unique approach to photography adds to making a photograph and finding the perfect picture more challenging, combined with the rangefinder view not allowing me to see the actual scene, but a few inches/feet the other side of it, allows me to only partially compose the image and leave the rest to chance.

When I compare the image in the focus screen to seeing the image on the computer later, always gives me a sense of amazement, almost back to the film days, of not being able to see the actual picture until it was developed, a truly magical experience.

– The Leica system gives an enjoyable experience. The colours that come out of the camera, as well as the sharpness of images forces me to think long and hard about the post processing part of image making. I have always wanted to find a system that was not post process heavy. I like to take many pictures, the Leica solution enables me to think about and create the story/narrative of the series of images, rather than a single image. Which I personally find much more fulfilling.

– The Leica system re-ignites a nostalgia from a time past, the images that are made (even with the new M240 sensor), provide the Leica look, mostly down the “Leica Glass”. Each image has a way to engage the viewer in a different way, a different way to tell a story, even when colour or Black and white is used. But could this be just the photographer? I don’t think so, a combination of the lens, style of shooting and the photographer make the whole picture. A certain thought process has had to happen to capture truly magical moments, a way to foresee what will happen in a scene and capture that moment in time which will never be repeated. It allows me to tell the story, but with more engagement and emotion .

3e7c11237ed3634e11c6abf70f335818Richard Curtis

Wide open f-stops also has an impact on the photographer. Leica lenses are not cheap. A conscious decision for most owners is which lens to buy. They are thinking what they will use it for and how they will use it. most Leica photographers tend only to use a couple of lens to tell their story, even the great photographers (Bresson) shot with just a 35mm or 50mm lens for many years, without wanting to change their perspective. I think this is something else that adds to the magical capabilities of the system. It’s of course another create restriction, which in its wider capability enables maximum creativity. You also don’t tend to think about the what you want to capture, but more about the style you want to depict and want you are able to capture with it.  Most Leica lenses are fast. Ranging from 0.95 with the magical Noctilux to F1.4 summilux, F2 summicron and to the Elmarit’s. The quality at these F-stops is incomparable with other lenses and most Leica photographers enjoy shooting wide open. This I feel is another difference in shooting style, if you are shooting wide open (even with landscapes) the photographer is careful of what to make in focus, out of focus and sharp, using the natural occurring bokeh to add interest and enhancing the story.

– Travel. I really love to travel and shoot street scenes, portraits and environments (landscapes, urban etc) and having a lightweight and flexible system is key to making sure that I have the right access and agility to get the shot that my mind has foreseen. I now think less about which lenses to take,I just take them all without compromise. Having the M240 allows me to capture not only images but video footage later, and saving space in my bag allows me to take an audio recorder and small shoulder video rig for additional context that I may need later for the story to engage and make sense to the viewer, without adding additional weight.

If I had to sum up in words why I use the Leica system it would be:-

Re-imagine ,Bokeh , creative restriction , Natural , A way of seeing, Stories and narrative , Classic, Vintage, Flexible, Precise, Engaging, Social, Immersive, Hidden.

But ultimately, it’s the way that it makes me feel!

Richard CurtisRichard Curtis 

Gavin Mills

Remembering the first time a Leica caught my attention , it happened because of one of my Flickr contacts whose pictures I’d often admired had tagged all their photos with Leica.

I could see there was something different about their images  – the detail, colour and  the depth or perhaps it was something indefinable and difficult to put into words .  I wasn’t exactly sure what it was but I that knew I liked it and that their photos made my stuff from the Nikon D200 camera look flat digital and lifeless by comparison even though I was using some of the best Nikon glass available.

After a couple of late night coffee fuelled researches my mind was made up , I planned to get one as soon as possible !

Initially the thing that stopped me rushing out and getting one straight away was the cost as photography was purely my hobby,  but  an opportunity came when the M9 was released suddenly there was a nice second-hand market for M8’s on eBay and the price dropped to an affordable level for me.   I bought a great condition used M8 along with a 50mm Summicron F2.

It’s a good route to anyone thinking about getting into Leica  with a limited budget – stay a release or two behind the latest version saves literally thousands and makes it a pretty risk free purchase, because if you decide later it’s not going to be for you, then you’ll probably see most of your money back when selling it , and quite possible you could even make some profit on the glass as the lenses keep creeping up.

That first day with the camera, I instantly liked the feel of it in my hands , the size, weight, and most of all the way each dial felt tactile and precise. It was like playing a beautifully crafted instrument .

It took me while getting the hang of using the manual focus . Looking back what’s funny is at first I thought manual focus was going to be a downside of using it ,something I would have to endure to get the look I wanted  , but it turned out to be one of the best things about working with it .

The rangefinder focus and working manually meant I had to be more deliberate and precise when making my pictures helping me to work in a slower more methodical and thoughtful way. Choosing exactly where in the image I wanted to focus made me look harder at what I was shooting and making me interact more with my subject .

The Leica M  cameras and their lenses are discreet and fast , perfect for when I don’t want to be noticed, but when I do  approach people or somebody notices me shooting them I often find the reaction I get is welcoming.  Complete strangers often say ‘that’s a cool camera’ or what kind of camera is that?  Perhaps it has something to do with the iconic  retro design that people feel comfortable even perhaps a nostalgic warmth towards it .

If the Leica camera was a car it would be a Porsche 911 , not because of the obvious German engineering comparison or because both are design classics, but both have undergone continuous development, while the basic concept and look has remained little changed .

But above all else why I choose to shoot with a Leica is simple  – the look of the pictures !

As I said at the beginning its something that’s difficult to put into words but there’s a sense of depth and space to the pictures they seem to have life and soul ,  as if you’re looking through a window at  life, capturing reality .



Gavin MillsGavin Mills

Paul Borg Olivier 

With some tongue in cheek I would dare say that clauses that protect the individual right and freedoms of individuals, entrenched in the Constitution of well-established democracies or treaties that forge International Institutions, must be amended to include not only nondiscrimination on the basis of orientation, colour or creed, but also on the basis of the camera we use, be it of whatever origin, make or brand. I shoot Leica.

I shoot Leica and I am guided by two main principles.

(1)       My eyes are my camera and my Camera is my memory.

(2)       I chose Leica and I demand the freedom of my choice.

In April 2013, I was romantically driven to film and to the Leica III series, buying a Leica IIIC from 1937 and a Leica IIIC model from 1949 with a Summar collapsible 5 cm f2 lens.

I was always attracted to the whole philosophy of Leica and am still deeply intrigued by the humanity and work practice of the Leitz family before, during and after the war. It was a work practice based on the freedom of the individual.

Weeks after the getting hold and shooting with the pre and post was III Series, I wanted more. I wanted something more contemporaneous. I tested and added to the arsenal the DLux 6. This is a great piece. It is a camera that gives super results. However, this super-tech-red-dot camera is not enough to give the full and real Leica feel. This is what pushed me on the M9P and in less than four months I had four Leica’s added to my gear.

Caravaggio developed the use of the lens to project light to his paintings in the sixteenth century giving new dimensions to paintings that have become immortal.

Leica has created a legacy in the last 100 years to provide excellence and craftsmanship in our hands. It is the creation of bare hands and focused minds. Leica is the result of mathematical formulae and fine craftsmanship put together.

With the Leica, the first change that I have seen was in myself. Leica changes you to change your images.

I am an amateur, a pure dilettante in the positive sense with a passion and freedom to shoot. I have no professional constraints that force me to shot. Yet the M series is a masterpiece. Each camera is a unique sculpture on its own in our hands.

The M series is centred around the capabilities of the human being with respect to the laws of nature. It lets the user develop and work with his own tool. It strengthens your sense. It gives you a sense of feel, both through the focus dial and through the cool metal on the face even in environments at high temperatures. The Leica M series gets you closer to the image and gives you a stronger sense of sight in the rangefinder. It sets you a vision. It enhances you goal, and puts you in mission.

Leica tickles the passion to shoot. It paces your shot. It synchronizes you with the subject and lets you build a relationship with it. In a way it is yoga to the eye. It makes you see more and makes you want to look for more.

Leica does not permit its user to mass-produced Hamburger shoots. It lets any user prepare each photo with passion just like a Michelin Chef..

Leica is as elegant and graceful as Audrey Hepburn, and as sharp and discreet as Sean Connery.

Many say it is a camera for snobs. I disagree, though it is not a camera of the people like a Volkswagen. Wish it could be, but then, perhaps it would defeat its own sense of being and what it has been for the last 100 years.

every man has a silver lining lfi version 400kbPaul Borg Olivier 


One Comment

  1. An enjoyable piece of writing, Gavin. I think every photographer should at least try a Leica once in their lifetime – film or digital – to get a sense for what it’s like to use one. I’m no expert, but it is simply fun to take pictures with a Leica.


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