Leica Monochrom & Fuji X-Pro1 & How Insane I Am

While my shopping addiction and camera insanity knows few limits, I have somewhat accepted the fact that the Leica M-9 (and its future successors) will be forever beyond my budget, short of winning the lottery or having some rich relative I never heard of die and leave me all their money.  Nevertheless, the announcement earlier this month of new Leica cameras of course caught my attention, in particular the new black and white only Leica Monochrom.

The Monochrom is essentially a special version of the M-9.  Presumably because it’s being produced in smaller numbers than the M-9, it also costs $1,000 more.  That’s right, the body alone costs $8,000.  There but for the grace of Buddha go I.  Yes, I don’t do a lot of street photography.  I want to do more.  And I love black & white photography, just as I love black and white films (especially when properly transferred to Blu-Ray by companies such as Criterion).  But none of this justifies selling my car in order to be able to afford this camera plus a Leica lens.

Because it’s black and white only, it means it doesn’t need a filter array to collect color information when shooting.  Without that array, what you’re left with is apparently outstanding sharpness not to mention unmatched high ISO performance.  Just how good is it?  Hit these links to see some sample photos.

Shoot Tokyo – these are my favorites

Eric Kim – link in this post to a some outstanding photos done by a Magnum photographer in Russia

Eric Kim again

Photography Blog – here and here 

Steve Huff  – here and here

Leica makes some odd choices though, don’t they?  Stunning lenses, stunning sensor – and then they equip their cameras with the cheapest LCD screen possible.  A friend of mine who is blessed with a Leica M-9 says he doesn’t care, he doesn’t use the LCD screen for shooting.  I suppose that might be true but to me, that’s not the point.  The point is, you charge $8,000 for a camera, everything there should be top of the line.  It makes no sense to charge this sort of money and then slap on an LCD screen that’s inferior in just about every possible way to the screen you get on the back of a $200 Casio.

Doesn’t matter.  I cannot afford a Leica camera body and I also cannot afford Leica lenses.  (Not unless more of you readers start clicking on some of the ads and links here and start actually buying stuff!)(Oh, here’s the link to buy the Leica Monochrom from B&H Photo.)

That being said, I do possess a pretty darned good camera for street photography, the Fuji X100.  The only limitation is that it is a single, fixed focal length lens – 23mm (35mm equivalent is, er, 35mm).  And so because of that, I also have the Sony NEX-7, which of course has interchangeable lenses.

What happened last week was I took a weekend trip, only wanted to carry one camera and one lens, and so I took the Sony rather than the Fuji, and I took the Sony 18-55mm lens, which is not a good lens at all on the NEX-7 but is the only zoom lens I have for this camera.  I didn’t have too much opportunity for shooting during the weekend but I did manage a couple of nice shots here and there.

(Taken at the Greenbelt Mall in Makati, Manila, they were setting up the outdoor area for an event that night.  These guys, a local band that specializes in Brazilian Batucada music, were posing for pictures taken by a friend and I ran over, waved, and got a few shots of them.  They asked me if I wanted to be their manager.)

Actually, looking at the above picture in Lightroom, I’m pretty unhappy with it.  It’s not tack sharp anywhere (cheap Sony lens) and there’s a surprising amount of noise consider it was shot at ISO 200.

It got me thinking, might I be better off with the Fuji X-Pro1?  I mean, if I sold off the X100 and the NEX-7 (and the three lenses I have for it), that would almost give me enough money to buy the X-Pro1 and the three lenses that are available for it so far.  I know that the X-Pro1 has not received universally good reviews – mostly on its handling quirks and not its performance, and since I find the X100 a joy to use, I suspect I’d have a similar experience here.

(Hey! You!  You can click here to buy the Fuji X-Pro1 from B&H Photo. Or you can click here to buy it from Amazon.)

There is no zoom lens available for this Fuji yet, just three fixed focal length lenses – 18mm, 35mm and a 60mm macro.

What there is though is a new adapter from Fuji to put Leica lenses on the X-Pro1.  This adapter includes electronic contacts for passing info about the lens back to the camera.  Pretty sweet and at $200, not too expensive.  Which brings me back to the “I cannot afford Leica lenses” bit.  And also the fact that, so far at least, Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop cannot handle X-Pro1 RAW files, though I expect that will change in the relatively near future.

So relative sanity prevails, at least for now.

Here’s a shot of those batucada guys rehearsing.

They actually sounded pretty good.  Maybe I should have taken them up on their offer to manage them.

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3 Comments

  1. davethevet May 27, 2012 at 5:45 pm #

    IMHO I really think you can afford a leica, just dont look at the specs and you dont need to buy leica lenses. You could probably get an m8 and a voigtlander 35 f1.4 for a lot less than the xpro. If you like shooting with a rangefinder, and it is a completely different experience, there will be lots of m9s in the midthirties hkd when the m10 comes out.

    • spike May 27, 2012 at 7:59 pm #

      Mid thirties HKD? Thanks for the compliment!

  2. davethevet May 28, 2012 at 1:02 pm #

    Yeah ok that is pretty freaking expensive, Ive been working nights, am a bit tired.

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