I cherish my classic Leicas. Nothing will ever replace the pristine single-stroke Leica M3 with 50mm f/2 Dual Range Summicron I use sparingly, the battle-scarred M4 with 4th-iteration 35mm f/2 Summicron I still shoot with quite frequently, or the near-mint IIIf red dial with self-timer and red scale 50mm f/3.5 Elmar I trot out occasionally for street shooting. I still kick myself for unloading the first Leica I ever acquired, a gorgeous “store display” Leica IIIg with its original 50nnn f/2.8 Elmar, more than 30 years ago—though I do take some consolation that it resides with a good friend who still uses it.
Perhaps the most astonishing aspect of the Leica legend is that it continues unabated; Leica is still creating magnificent cameras and lenses that are not only prized possessions but are also capable of capturing exceptional images with that ineffable “Leica look.” Herewith a quintessential quartet of my favorite current Leicas and why I think they’re so special.
Leica MP: Sure, I’d love to own an original limited edition meter-less Leica MP press photographer’s camera from the ‘50s, but its contemporary namesake is functionally quite similar and it’s truly a superb rangefinder 35. It’s a totally mechanical classic M that works without battery power except for metering and it incorporates a superlative 0.72x range-viewfinder with projected, auto-indexing, parallax-compensating frame lines for 28mm, 35mm, 50mm, 75mm, 90mm and 135mm lenses. Its TTL selective center-weighted metering system employs a silicon photodiode in the base of the body that reads off a 12mm spot in center of the first shutter curtain, providing TTL readings of about 13 percent of the frame area. Shutter speed and film speed (ISO) settings are electronically coupled to LED arrows and correct-exposure circle are displayed in the finder; a metering range EV-2 to 20 at ISO 100 is sufficient for low light work. Whisper quiet and vibration free in the Leica M tradition, the all metal MP accepts M-mount lenses from 21mm-135mm and will accommodate super-speed lenses. Since I’m not so hot at estimating exposures and using a handheld exposure meter slows you down, the MP is my top choice among rangefinder 35s. If you’d rather go meterless, by all means check out the current Leica M-A, which is basically an MP sans meter, Finally, I go for the chrome version of the MP because IMHO it has a more “classic” look.
Leica Q2: This remarkable new mirrorless compact qualifies as an instant classic, because it combines the timeless, round-ended form factor of a downsized Leica M with the extraordinary image quality capabilities, speed, and performance of a 47.3MP full-frame CMOS sensor coupled to Leica’s latest Maestro II Image Processor. I love the Q2 because it’s a great walk-around ultra-compact and a street shooter’s delight because of the superb wide-angle lens permanently affixed to its svelte body—a 28mm f/1.7 Summilux ASPH prime that focuses down to 6.7 inches. This is the focal length favored by street shooters like me and its wide f/1.7 aperture enhances its low light street capabilities. Other impressive Q2 specs: DCI 4K24p and UHD 4K30p video capture, Full HD at up to 120p, a 10 fps full-res burst rate, sensitivity settings ISO 50-50000, a hi-res 3.68MP OLED EVF, a 3.0-inch 1.4m-dot touchscreen LCD, a mechanical shutter enabling flash sync speeds to 1/500 sec, and built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth LE connectivity. Stills can be recorded as 14-bit DNG files and as JPEGs, and the added resolution enables high quality imaging even when you’re using the Q2’s digital zoom.
Leica M10-P: The original Leica M10 was the first full-frame digital M with a slim body profile that’s virtually the same as 35mm M-series Leicas of the past and present. To this same elegant form factor, the M10-P adds a redesigned shutter said to be the quietist in any film or digital camera, a rear touchscreen LCD for intuitive settings and playback control, a built-in level gauge for precise alignment, and eliminated the bold red Leica dot to make it more discreet. That’s why it tops my digital rangefinder list. Its superb 0.73x range/viewfinder shows parallax-compensating projected frame lines in pairs, covering focal lengths from 28mm to 135mm, and there’s a frame line selector. Its 24MP CMOS sensor is coupled to a high-performance Maestro II Image Processor to deliver exceptional image quality, it has 3.0 a 1.04m-Dot LCD provides sensitivity settings of ISO 100-50000, burst rates up to 5 fps, and has built-in Wi-Fi, all housed in a weather-resistant brass construction body. Unlike other current Digital M’s the M10-P, like the M10 is a stills-only camera, but that’s not a deal breaker for me. I like this one in cool, stealthy, understated black chrome finish but it’s also available in chrome.
Leica SL2: Leica’s second-generation SL is a lot more than just an upgraded SL. It’s a great crossover camera for that can capture impressive pro caliber stills plus high-end video and has the same compact, well balanced ergonomic form factor and L-mount as its predecessor. It features an un ultra-hi-res full frame 47.3MP CMOS sensor that omits the low-pass filter integrated with Leica’s advanced new Maestro II Image Processor to deliver a sizzling full-res continuous burst rate up to 20 fps, up to 6 fps with continuous AF (AF-C), 5K video at 30 fps, and DCI 4K60 video with 10-bit color sampling. The unique sensor also incorporates the Leica Object Detection AF System that provides 225 selectable AF areas, and a 5-axis sensor-shift image stabilization system to minimize the effects of handheld camera shake. Other key features: a new 5.76m-dot OLED EVF, a large 3.2inch 2.1m-dot touchscreen LCD with Gorilla Glass covering, a top status LCD to monitor frequently used shooting settings, dual UHS-II compatible memory card slots, and built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth that work in conjunction with the Leica FOTO app to provide seamless sharing and remote camera control. The SL2 can capture an amazing 14-stop dynamic range and provides sensitivity settings of ISO 50-50000. All this and more are built into a robust weather-sealed magnesium-alloy body that’s splash-, dust-, and freeze-proof to withstand adverse shooting conditions. If I were going for a full frame mirrorless the Leica SL2 would be tops on my list.