I have been wanting to rent a digital Leica for some time now, just to see what all the hoopla was about. To see if it was any different than shooting with my M2, and to see if I could get results I was happy with. Before renting the M-D my favorite camera of all time was probably the RX1r. The images, size, and focal length were all perfect for me. But could I replicate that with a Leica M of some kind? I wanted to find out. My sister-in-law was getting married so I thought the weekend of the wedding would be a perfect trial run. Here are some of the results and some rambling about the camera in general…
SO…could this of been shot on film? I mean thats the real question here – the Leica M-D is supposed to be a film camera shooters digital Leica, right? I would say that answer is yes…maybe…most likely…probably…with a couple of reservations 🙂
When I tend to shoot film I don’t shoot nearly as much, for what ever reason, I tend to be a little more careful about shooting. Which I think in general is a good thing. But I know I would of had a hard time getting through an entire roll before the reception started – I would of felt like I was shooting just to burn through film. There were times I wanted black and white and other times I wanted color. It was like having an unlimited supply of what ever film I wanted rated at whatever ISO I wanted loaded up and ready to go.
If shooting with Portra 400 or something similar it would of been more difficult as I was pushing the M-D up to ISO 3200 some (ok, a lot) of the time. Maybe something like Cinestill 800T would of been OK indoors and out. Yes, yes I do know you can get away with under/over exposing film (especially something like Portra or Cinestill) and still get fantastic results. But thats not my point. I could make 3200 ISO on the M-D look like 400 ISO film – thats a pretty big advantage. My only complaint about the M-D in general is that you get some serious banding at 6400. If Leica would of put a cleaner, no banding, 6400 on the M-D I think it would be nearly perfect. Heck, the RX1r could go up to 18,000 and the results were still great, especially in black and white. Put that sensor in the M-D and call it a day for me. I’d never need a different camera.
The colors with film are just better in my opinion for people photos. That being said, I still really like the M-D sensor – color was good all the way up to 3200, 6400 on the other hand was pretty dodgy. Either I’m an expert processor (highly, highly unlikely) or my eye just isn’t as good as others (more/most likely), but I don’t see anything wrong with the skin tones or colors it produces – and call me crazy, but I actually like working in Lightroom and processing images. In a nutshell, I’d be happy with the files if this was the camera I owned.
I do think my M2 viewfinder had the edge on the new M-D though. I had the M-D white out a few times, and all those frame lines of the M-D are no where near as pleasant as 35/50/90 of the M2.
In the end it had to go back to LensRentals. But this camera is fantastic, and it was a really fun weekend. If you shoot a film Leica and wanted to go digital, then you would be right at home with the M-D. End of story. I didn’t have to open a manual, or go through menus, or worry about settings…attach a lens, turn it on, and go. It acted just like a M7. Would I trade my M2 for this? Probably not – I still like the entire process of shooting film. I truly believe that these all could of been shot with the M2. What I think this showed me is that film is most definitely still viable, and a really, really good option. Film is no better or worse in my opinion, its just different. All these points are really just film vs digital arguments, not really M2 vs M-D arguments.
In that regard I think Leica has something special here – no other camera manufacturer has anything like this out there. And for me, if in the market, would be the M I would choose.