Sunday, 11 May 2014

HCB, would you buy a Leica T?

Of course I have no way to reach him in the other world, but I have read enough interviews to impersonate him on minor matters :)

Me : Bonjour Monsieur Cartier-Bresson, achèteriez vous le Leica T?

HCB: qu'est-que c'est ca?

Me : le dernier boitier électronique de chez Leica.

HCB: you can speak English, I understand you know

Me: the first small format fully electronic model from Leica
(I show him the movie about the aluminum ingot)

HCB: remarquable. And how does it work?

Me: Well it has a screen in the back, and two wheels on top. You choose the settings by touching them on the screen. And once the camera is set all you need is to choose the aperture, and the shutter speed on the wheels.

HCB: seems a bit slow, and where is the OVF? 

 Me: There is none, it's the screen.

HCB: formidable. Montrez moi ca! (He tears the camera from me)

Me: All the electronics are stuffed inside the brick from here, before sealing the screen. 

HCB: Vraiment? It's really small compared to my M3

HCB's first Leica

And it's expensive?

Me: € 1500

HCB: more or less what I paid my M3 in the 1950s, less the inflation. Can I use it with my lenses?

Me: Naturellement. There is a € 600 adapter, but there is a magnification factor of x1.5

HCB: Zut alors! That makes them basically useless!

Me: No trouble, you can buy a 35/f 2  in the native format here, or a 18-56/ f/3.5-5.6 zoom.

HCB: les zooms, je déteste. I can still walk you know. But how do you focus them without a RF, un télémètre?

Me: Oh, they do it by themselves. It's called Auto Focùs.
(I let him try it)

HCB: Not sure it's faster than my eye and my hand. Ah la Leica! (He looks like a giant owl eyeing a mouse)

Me: Leica will probably keep increasing speed by firmware.

HCB: Firmware? Qu'est-que c'est ca? (I try to explain. He looks unimpressed)

HCB: not really sure I get the decisive moment with that. As you know le Cardinal de Retz  disait: "Il n'y a rien dans ce monde qui n'ait un moment décisif" ("There is nothing in this world that does not have a decisive moment"). 

Me: never say never. BTW the lenses cost € 1600 and 1800 respectively.

HCB: Zut alors! Costs an arm and a leg! How is the resolution? I use Kodak Plus-X et Tri-X. Et  deux objectifs Leitz. Un 35 e un 50.

Me: Those better than me calculated that film cameras allowed a resolution of 12 Mpx to 16Mpx in the best of cases. 

Leica T is 16 Mpx, so you shouldn't notice any difference with film, rather the opposite, more sharpness. BTW you can also add un viseur éléctronique, an EVF for better targeting...

HCB: Ah, je disais quand meme,

Me: for another € 600

HCB. It's like going to the butcher's. They sell you the cow by pieces! Ca me fait une belle jambe!

Me: … But it works also like a satellite positioning of your shots.
Latitude et Longitude, you know?

HCB: you can't stop progress of course, but I am not sure I want to reveal my watering holes to the layman.

Me: you can tag even an elephant you know?

HCB: for somebody else to kill it? Tsk, tsk…Ca me fait une belle jambe!

Me: Other than this , it connects to your portable.

HCB: I have no portable in Paradise, we communicate by brainwaves, far more practical. But even if I had one?

Me: that is the revolutionary part: it sends automatically the shots to social medias, or to your newspaper. Even if you are in Africa.

HCB: marvelous, but we have no newspapers in Paradise, it all goes through brainwaves, you know. 
BTW it's getting sticky on Earth at the moment, is it?  Killings in Ukraine, girls abducted in  Nigeria... It reminds me when I went to India for Ghandi's funeral - they killed each other by the millions you know - between Hindus and Moslems. None went to Paradise.

Me: so would you buy  le Leica T?

HCB: not sure, it looks more clumsy than my M3, but OTH she is such a sweet petite. You think they'll make it in black?

Me: Yes, absolutely. There it is, with its viewfinder,  called a Visoflex, like the old reflex contraption.

HCB: Visoflex my foot, that's an ugly bout.

OTH such a petite I could use to snap Woytila, and John XXIII, our new Saints, without their taking notice.  Their PR are calling me, allow me to leave, Monsieur, I have a job to do...

(he fades away)

There are a lot of previews, but no decisive tests yet. 
Let's say that the Leica T is in the ballpark of the Vario X, which was quite good without being overly reactive. It surely is a lovely object to own, even at moderate prices for Leica, and so it has reached the Top Ten in many sites.

There's one glitch though. At those prices everybody believed that the lenses would have no electronic correction.

It was noticed by DPR when  downloading the DNG files with two separate programs, one honoring corrections and the other not. By comparing them they concluded  Leica used software correction after all.

No optical perfection - shame and grinding of teeth :) 
Truth is that to keep the lenses small  firmware correction is needed, because of the short register.

Leica is no exception, and after all they warned that the lenses are made in Japan. In fact the new Leica is very similar to other mirrorless small format. The real difference is in the build, the haptics, and the reductionist approach in the menus.

Some call it the Apple of the Leicas.
Not a pyramid of features, but only what the user strictly needs before the shot.

 Lots of things to copy there for the other makers. Olympus take note, your menus need to be revamped, towards the same simplicity. HCB is here with me.

Now the best reviews I found, straight from the horse's mouth

* Review by Red Dot Forum
* Review by Jono Slack
* By Luminous Landscape

Meanwhile witty Leica Apostate (J. Shin) did a review of sorts about the sanding of the Aluminium block

"Giving new meaning to the phrase "manual labor". More captivating than a cat video! I mean, it's 5 am, and I'm actually watching the whole thing!
And now we know why it's $1850, not $1800.
I wanna know how he talked his boss into letting him get paid to do this. Who is his agent?
Can you imagine the ad for the job? "Must have the ability to discern minute irregularities on brushed aluminum surface."
And who is the cinematographer? What patience!
At 10:35, he actually uses a sander. [added later: the only time he does it!] You can hear someone else using something mechanical in the room.
Notice how he has to hold the sandpaper in place. No shortcuts at all.
14:48 The gloves are on! There is water! OK. That's another $50.
Imagine if he messes up one stroke. Or gouges out the lens opening. Back to the start with a 1.2 kg block of aluminum.
I mean, Leica's taking this "jewel" business seriously, aren't they. I'm thoroughly impressed.
Can we just pay him the $1850, not Dr. Kaufmann?
In the US, if a woman did the polishing, it would be worth only $1480. $1665 if she is not on "mommy track". How is wage parity in Germany?"

(The rest is here)

Would I buy it? If I had the money, surely. Just for the sake of caressing sensuously her beautiful anodized (?) body. I'd call her Titania, like in Shakespeare.

However it would still not replace my middle class Olympus E-M5. It has buttons and wheels and also a touch screen, but I never use it, you can't teach an old dog new tricks, they say.

 And the Leica T doesn't have a built in viewfinder, a must, according to me. They say that at Wetzlar, where they sand the body, they couldn't resist to build the Leica T in one block, and so the hump for the EVF had to go.


  1. Enjoyed your HCB impersonation. I know little about his personality, so I'm going by informativeness and humorousness. :-)

    Well, the more I think about it, the less I have to say about the Leica T. It just doesn't excite me, and does not bring in something that other cameras do not do. Is it really an improvement on the NEX7? Now that Sony, m43, Fuji, and even Samsung are introducing some serious sensors and lenses, the T does not seem all that necessary. Of course, Leica will be doomed if they do not catch up on the mirrorless future, so, yay for them. I would have preferred for them to join m43, but, for their prestige, they do need to have their own mount. They couldn't start with full-frame, since the M line would then collapse. So we have an NEX7 replacement. (Notice I'm not saying the L-word.)

    I'll see if handling one in person inspires anything. Leica has always had a leg up on this, but I doubt that the T can match the silkiness of the M3.

  2. Pity you didn't send it before, I would have included your comment in the main text. I slightly modified it by telling Olympus it should draw inspiration from the design of Leica menus, that Steve Huff showed to advantage in a movie.
    Someone added that Leica will show other T bodies. For a first they did quite well and might do a lot better - if you remember how the m4/3 system evolved prodigiously.
    I still think they keep their ammunition dry for the Photokina. Leica also shows that it makes perfect sense to have a FF35 mirrorless the M, next to a 'cropped' line, the T.

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