Lenses, they say, are forever. Not so with camera bodies… especially in the digital age. They are essentially electronic devices, ultimately to be disposed of – regardless of the initial purchase price.
Despite this, last year I purchased a Leica M9 – a decidedly expensive digital camera. The obvious question, in light of the above, is: Why?
Well, the M9 has the form factor, sensor size, rangefinder focusing, performance at base ISO, and accompanying M lenses that make it a formidable photographic tool. To the point: it was the only camera currently out there that had all the traits I valued… it was the only game in town, so to speak.
But I know that one day it will fail beyond repair.
And, as an avid Leica “M” platform shooter, one of the things I think about is whether I’ll be able to afford another Leica M camera when my M9 eventually fails. Every year, the good folks at Leica increase their prices and – in one fell swoop – prove wrong all those reasonable folks who believed the gear was overpriced in the first place. I don’t know when the M10 will arrive, but I can guarantee you that it will cost more than the M9P, which cost more than the M9, which cost more than M8.2, which cost more than the M8… you get the “picture”, right?
Given this, I’ve tried to build some security into – tried to future-proof – my M camera system by securing film Leica M bodies that will last “forever” (or at least my lifetime… or for as long as film continues to be manufactured :) ), but let’s face it, sometimes the convenience of digital calls out like a siren song.
But now is an exciting time for photographers. New mirrorless interchangeable lens camera systems are being introduced at a quick pace that – via an appropriate adapter – will work with all of my beloved M lenses (Leica, Voigtlander, and Zeiss). The camera in this class that is currently getting the most attention, for a variety of good reasons, is the upcoming Sony NEX-7. Yup – upcoming, as in: it hasn’t even been released yet.
So this is a long preamble to get to the crux of this post, but here it is: I’m not buying into any of the announced systems. Not yet, anyway.
No thank you Olympus, no thank you Panasonic, no thank you Samsung, no thank you Ricoh, and no thank you Sony. All of you are tempting me, but… no thank you.
However, the truth is, you guys are the future and I will eventually turn to you.
Why am I not buying now?
Admittedly, Sony’s NEX-7 and Ricoh’s A12 “Leica M-mount” module represent exciting developments in digital photography. I am genuinely excited about what these manufacturers are doing because – first and foremost – they appear to be listening to the enthusiasts out there. But I’m not buying into any of these systems yet because I believe Sony, Ricoh, and the others can and will do better.
In what way?
At some point, somebody will release a NEX-7-like camera with a “full-frame” (24 x 36) digital sensor – the kind that, similar to the M9, will take full advantage of the optics in the M lenses I value.
Regardless of whether I’m using my lenses on a camera body with a micro four thirds, APS-C, or larger “full” frame sensor, they remain the size they are, so I may as well use them on a body with a 24 x 36 sensor that will exploit them to their full potential. And as good as the new crop of APS-C sensors are, the same technology in a larger sensor will yield better image quality – that’s a physical reallity.
The first manufacturer, other than Leica, who places a 24 x 36 sensor in a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera can count me in as a customer. I have no doubt that at some point, somebody will do it.
Until then, I will resist the temptation to buy. I mean, I already have an M9 so I have no immediate need to purchase another camera body… although I understand the attraction for those who are without a digital M and are just itching to use their old beloved M lenses on a digital sensor, or for those without legacy lenses who plan on buying the new lenses that are being offered with the new platforms.
Yes, I’ll continue to shoot with my M9 – and hope that it doesn’t fail…
…at least until Sony, Ricoh, or somebody else, finally does what we’ve all been waiting for.