The lenses! Oh me oh my, the lenses…
Let’s get something out of the way up front: Unless you’re a serious professional or amateur photo nerd with disposable income, you probably don’t need Leica lenses.
Ok, now that the disclaimer is out of the way let’s gush about THESE FREAKING LENSES. Oh my goodness, I love these things…
If you asked Photographer Kyle of Yesteryear what he thought about lenses, he probably would have said that they don’t matter that much and the most important aspect is their light-gathering ability at a given focal length. I do still think that’s somewhat true, but the more I’ve tried different combinations of lenses + sensors (or film types), the more I’ve realized how much of an impact the lens has on the final product.
My first “ah-hah” moment in this area was when I tried the Fuji GF lenses. I own the Fuji GFX 50R, which is the cheapest body in that system, and it seriously drives me crazy in day-to-day shooting. It’s spectacular for slow landscape and studio photography, but my goodness it is (relatively) terrible when it comes to simple things like consistently nailing focus on a subject that’s not moving. Nevertheless, the Fuji GF lenses (plus the sensor…but that’s a topic for another day) gave me shivers when I’d pull up the files or the first time in [insert photo editing software here].
Now that I’ve been shooting with Leica lenses on the M10 Monochrom for over a year, I’ve really started to notice how similarly they perform compared to Fuji’s medium format lenses. I think it all comes down to how much micro contrast they have. In other words, they do a great job of differentiating slightly brighter from slightly darker areas, which is arguably the key reason certain lenses/formats yield a “three-dimensional feel.”
Case in point: this 35mm Summilux portrait of Tony combines both this quality micro contrast with a shallow depth of field/gorgeous rendering of the out-of-focus areas in both the foreground and background. Ugh, I love it.