My Personal Thoughts on the New Leica M, Leica M-E & Sony RX-1

The new Leica M

Leica recently has released a range of new cameras at Photokina, including the Leica M, Leica M-E, Leica S3, Dlux-6, and V-lux 4.

As a street photographer, the two cameras that were interesting to me were the new Leica M and Leica M-E. Here are some of my thoughts of these new cameras as well as the Sony RX-1.

The new Leica M (Leica is adopting the Apple naming convention) has the following changes from the previous Leica M9:

  • 24 Megapixel CMOS Sensor
  • Live view
  • Focus confirmation
  • 1080p HD Video
  • “Thumbs-up”-styled grip
  • Larger 3” LCD screen
  • Improved ISO performance
  • Ability to use EVF
  • Few other cosmetic changes
  • (things I am forgetting)

I know a lot of people are complaining about the fact that it has all these things that are “unnecessary” to street photography. I don’t think the extra features are necessary either for the majority of people out there, but I don’t think it will make the camera so much more complicated that it will be detrimental. I think it is great that the image quality and the high-ISO performance are being improved, while the price-point is still at around the same as the M9 when it was announced ($6,950).

The new Leica M-E

Another interesting camera to be announced was the Leica M-E, which is essentially a new Leica M9 with a few changes. From my understanding these are some of the changes:

  • The framelines for the viewfinder are changed (not exactly sure about the science behind this)
  • The color of the camera and dials
  • A $5,450 pricepoint

Other than that is nearly identical to the M9 (I’m sure I’m missing a few points).

I think this is a great opportunity for street photographers interested in investing in a Leica M-system, as prices for used Leica M9’s are dropping.

If the Leica M-E is going to start brand-new at $5,450, I think it will be a fantastic opportunity to buy a used Leica M9 in the low $4,000 to the high $3,000 range. Of course that is still not cheap, but it is much cheaper than it was ($7k vs ~$4k).

For Leica M9 users, if you have the cash and need better ISO performance (if you shoot a lot at high-ISO at night) and want better image quality, I would say go for the new Leica M. If you don’t find yourself shooting your Leica M9 over ISO 1600, I would just hold onto your Leica M9.

Leica M6, photo credit: Japan Camera Hunter

For those interested in getting a digital rangefinder, I think a used Leica M9 will be the best bang-for-your-buck option. Of course if you don’t have $3-4k just lying around (and you are interested in using a rangefinder) I would highly recommend the Leica M6 and just shoot film!

The upcoming Sony RX-1

Another exciting option is the upcoming Sony RX-1, which is a full-frame sensor with a 35mm f/2 Zeiss lens in a compact camera body. Sure it doesn’t have an optical finder, but I think most street photographers who get used to shooting on an LCD screen don’t really miss having an optical finder. And you can always bolt on an external optical 35mm viewfinder on the top. Starting at around $2800, it isn’t cheap- but I think it is a good deal considering that the 35mm f/2 Zeiss lenses usually start at around $1,000 (so the camera costs around $1800 for the body). At $2800 it is still cheaper than a used Leica M9 at around $4k (and that is without a lens).

At the end of the day, don’t worry so much about the hype of all these new cameras. The camera you bought was still as good as it was when you first bought it. The camera you use in street photography is important (as you want it to personally fit your needs), but having more megapixels or a full-frame sensor won’t make your photos any better (in terms of the power of the image itself).

My personal mantra is the 80% principle: if your camera fills 80% of your needs and you are 80% happy with it (or above), stick with it. If you find it to be anything less than 80% sure go ahead and buy a new camera. Of course everyone has a different internal 80% limit, but try to use your best judgement. If your camera is working for you generally well, just stick with it and save your money to buy experiences to make you happy in street photography (traveling, books, workshops, etc).

Even though I have a phenomenal system which is a Leica MP and a 35mm f/2 Summicron ASPH, I still lust for new cameras and new equipment (medium format cameras, new focal lengths, etc). I try to constantly remind myself of the 80% principle to not get sucked into the hype. Trust me, it isn’t easy – it is something I struggle with a lot of the time (but I try hard not to). Just check out my article on how to cure yourself of G.A.S. (gear acquisition syndrome).

What is your take on the new Leica M, Leica M-E, or the Sony RX-1? Are you stressed out or liberated by having these new options and cameras? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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