Leica M: Rangefinder learning curve becomes less daunting
For a new generation of photographers brought up on autofocus, auto everything cameras the idea of manual focus can be alien. And the concept of a rangefinder camera is even more odd. It was surprising, then, that rangefinder newcomers at Leica's current crop of Brick Lane photowalks are producing great results after minimal exposure. Participants are being given an M (240) camera with, usually a 35mm Summicron lens, for a four-hour familiarisation course led by Leica Akademie gurus Robin Sinha and Leo Scott. The loan cameras are limited and are on a first-come basis but owners of Leica cameras are welcome to take part, subject to numbers. You can book here.
On Saturday I went along to join the Street Fashion walk and take a few shots of the course in progress. It was good to meet a bunch of fellow photographers and I was pleased to see one of our regular readers, Treve, joining in as a result of reading the details on Macfilos. All the courses start with an introduction to Leica and the M camera from Robin and Leo followed by some hands-on assistance in using a rangefinder for the first time. After that, there is a 90-minute walk around the Brick Lane area focuses on, in this case, street fashion. Once the shots are in the bag, it's back to the Leica store for a critique and assessment.
At least five of the participants on this particular course had never handled a rangefinder before. And one had only previously taken photographs with her iPhone. So it was a real surprise to find these five producing excellent, sharp shots after the minimal introduction. In fact, they were doing better than some of us why have plenty of rangefinder experience.
So this proves to me that there is no big hurdle to overcome when moving from autofocus to a manual, rangefinder camera. By leaving the aperture on f/8 and setting the speed to auto, the newcomers were producing perfect shots in minutes. Several commented on the pleasure of having direct control of focus, especially with the direct racing-car-wheel movement that is typical of a Leica focus ring. Those who had previously tried manual focus on an autofocus lens were astonished at this precise, rapid control compared with the imprecise fly-by-wire action of the manual focus on the typical DSLR or mirrorless automatic lens.
Leica's pop-up store in Dray Walk, part of the Truman Brewery complex in Brick Lane, is open until next Sunday, October 26, and is an important part of the East London Photographic festival, Photomonth. There are photo walks planned for Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Some are aimed at M users, others at prospective T buyers. In between you will find talks by Bob Mazzer and Tom Stoddart as well as a Matt Stuart masterclass and portfolio review. All the details here.
All photographs by Mike Evans, taken with Leica's new M-P. Black and white conversion in Silver Efex Pro.