You know how when you are younger and you despise everything that you used to love but when you get older you put it on a shelf and idolize it?
For example, if you were a kid in the 90’s and had a mullet, the second you cut off your mullet you despised and dismissed everyone with a mullet as a raging asshat? Or maybe if you were growing up in the 2000’s and you loved Linkin Park but now you want to assault any dad dropping his kid off at school blasting Linkin Park?
When you are a kid, the old stuff you loved repulses you as you move. As you age, however, you find that the stupid crap you used to do is no longer embarrassing. Rather, the stupid crap you used to do becomes charming and patinaed. Any dude who has an airbrushed Colnago bike in their garage that they will never ever ride again understands this. Marie Kondo is important because, with the exception of ex-wives, ex-husbands, and Molly Hatchet, adults fail to be repulsed by the things they once loved.
Currently, my Leica cameras are staring at me from shelf and I am staring back. I do not recoil in horror. I know I will never sell them. It appears I am officially old.
This is a story about why, in 2022, my relationship with Leica changed but I fail to be repulsed by the thing I used to use every….damn….day.
Reason #1: I got old AF and using Leica cameras became more of a pain in the ass to use than other cameras.
Somewhere along the way, I got old AF. I now wear glasses most of the time. As I mentioned previously, the great irony is that once you are old enough to responsibly own Leica cameras, your eyeballs harden and you cant focus on the rangefinder patch. Why Leica doesn’t include a variable diopter like every plastic SLR from the 90’s INCLUDING the vulgar Konica Aiborg is beyond me. Nonetheless, they don’t and because they don’t I need 2 sets of glasses to shoot my Leica camera which is more painful than wearing an Invicta and binge watching Emily in Paris.
Maybe I will eventually get used to the glasses. For now, I find myself reaching for something emblazoned with the letters AF. In this case AF stands for autofocus rather than not “As F*&K” although I feel old AF when using them. Every time I do it, I feel the shame of 10 Cersei walks but I do it anyway. My ego is in shambles.
Reason #2: 35mm film is currently more of a pain in the ass than 2 sets of glasses and a rangefinder.
I previously opined that rising film prices aren’t as painful as they seem. Based on the response you would think that essay was as bad as Loius CK masturbating in public without permission. My thesis, however, remains valid.
What I didn’t expect when I wrote that article was that color film would become almost impossible to find at any price just a few months after the article was published. I can afford expensive film. I cant afford the background stress and pain of trying to replace my film when I use it.
Like everyone else, I started shooting less 35mm film. I started using my Leica M7 less often. Because I was using my M7 less I was also using my M10 less. I used to use the M10 as a companion to the M7 and swap lenses shooting digital along side film. Without the M7 I have less of a reason to carry the M10. More on that in a minute. Below is an image from the last roll I shot with my M7….several months ago.
Reason #3: shooting medium format is less expensive than 35mm in 2023 so I shoot my Pentax 645nii when I shoot film.
My wife always raises hell when I put a monetary value on things that probably shouldn’t get number. She thinks it is something that Rain Men and weird economists do but normal people shouldn’t do. For example, if I am busy, walking the dog costs me, after taxes between $40.00 and $80.00 given that I could be doing something else with that time to generate income. According to her, it is a stupid and limiting way to go through life. She is probably right but it is what it is and I don’t have the energy to change the way I think. I am too preoccupied fighting with my stupid glasses to change how I see the world.
Somewhere in late 2022, I gave a number to the background stress of replacing film. The cost of my film replacement background stress is about 15 frames/roll of 35mm film. Right around half way through the roll I started to freak out and try to save frames. I found my number. That number, in dollar terms, fluctuates with the price of film. As film prices go up, that number grows.
This is why I say that shooting 645 medium format (16 frames per roll) costs the same as 35mm film (36 frames/roll). Obviously you get more images out of an equally priced roll of 35mm film BUT when you subtract the cost of the background stress of finding replacement 35mm film which you cant find right now vs. medium format film which is everywhere, the price is equal. That is how it works in my head anyway. Whether I am a good economist or a terrible economist I have no idea but that is why I am currently shooting my Pentax 645nii when I need to shoot film.
Reason #3: Leica isn’t that far ahead on image quality any more so I don’t need “The Leica” for commercial work
My Leica origin story goes something like this. I was an early Sony mirrorless adopter because of the LCD viewfinder. It was game changing if you were working in the field and the cameras were tiny. Unfortunately, the images were kind of kak in the early mirrorless years even with the Zeiss Batis lenses which were hip at the time. The Leica IQ was MUCH better. I had a client who only wanted “The Leica” so I shot Leica when I could.
Somewhere between 2014 and 2023, however, everyone else caught up. When all is said and done, there is minimal difference between Leica images and Fuji or Canon.
The Leica looks and feels super cool when I am on set and it warms the cockles of my heart to talk about Leica cameras but in 2023 but I dont feel that I can justify a digital Leica based on image quality alone. There are loads of other reasons to shoot a Leica but IQ isn’t at the top of the list. I have made the Leica/Rolex analogy before. Nobody says a Rolex keeps better time than a Casio but I would still rather own a Rolex than a Casio. I agree with Shakira. Below image taken with a Contax lens on a Canon R5. In the old days, I would have shot this on a Leica.
Reason #4: When I reach for my Leica I am now reaching for vintage. Unfortunately, vintage is more expensive with a Leica and that is a pain point.
This is a corollary to #3. When I grab the M10 it is mostly to play cameras and lenses doing the whole “character lens” thing while I try to get something filmy out of a digital camera without resorting to presets.
The problem is that vintage rangefinder lenses are stupidly expensive and I cant justify that expense when I know all I am doing is trying to purposefully taking half crummy, flarey, and soft images on a digital camera. The price for vintage rangefinder lenses is insane if your main goal is half crummy images. “Character” is a euphemism for half crappy BTW. We should start saying what we really mean when it comes to character lenses. There are plenty of “character” SLR lenses for a fraction of the cost and I see no benefit of using rangefinder lenses for this purpose. Lately, I have been reaching for old Minolta, M42, Pentax MF, and Contax lenses when I am playing cameras and lenses. I dont care what they say. Contax lenses are still not modern lenses. T* helps but it isn’t magic. Below image taken with a Pentax 645 MF lens on a Canon R5.
Reason #5: I moved and my 5 year photo project came to an abrupt end
I recently left Southern California where I was known to go on photo walks in the sun and where there was a ton of things going. You can see some of the work here. The Leicas were pretty much integral to those years of walking around a surf town.
I currently live in Utah where it is freezing for most of the year and I am more likely to be found hiking and skiing while unironically going gorpcore with cameras hanging off my neck like skin tags off the nipples of a 90 year old on a beach in Miami. Leica is playing a smaller role because when you are monkeying with gloves and snow and rain, a manually focused, UN-weather sealed camera, is your enemy. Brass is fun until you need to lug it up a mountain.
I spend a bunch of time outside going up and down mountains and don’t generally go back out in the weather just to take pictures. Landscapes bore me and, now that I left San Diego, the documenting gene and desire to do nothing photography has gone dormant…. although documenting the deer outside my window was kind of neat for a while.
Anyway, I don’t find myself in a position where I am carrying around the Leica cameras much anymore.
So what does this mean to you and LLFNP?
Not much. I am not going anywhere. You can expect fewer posts but I will still bring the Leica on commercial shoots and I will still be testing and sorting through vintage options as I continue to play cameras and lenses with the M10. I am in the process of reworking The Recommended List with an even greater focus on the vintage. I haven’t seen all that much I am interested in with regard to new/modern lens releases anyway. I am still keeping my distance from the starter lenses and waiting for more feedback/community experience with the Light Lens Lab products before I #fullcommit on Light Lens Lab. Those are definitely on my radar now that they are distributed by Popflash. Who knows, maybe 35mm film will get its act together and make itself available. If that happens, I will start using the M7 again and the M10 more. In the short term, I am going to be purchasing the 2022 Leica reissue of the King of Bokeh and I have a rehoused Russian lens getting worked on by Omnar. Lots of years of playing cameras and lenses ahead. More soon…..