As part of a new '101' series exploring heritage and specialty products, Quintessentially speaks with Leica about their history and ethos to uncover what lies behind the storied lens.
Who is Leica?
Leica Camera AG is an internationally operating, premium-segment manufacturer of cameras and sport optics products, founded in 1914 by Ernst Leitz. The legendary status of the Leica brand is built upon a long tradition of excellence in the specialised construction of their lenses. Still today, the marrying of history with innovative technologies continues to guarantee better pictures in all situations of visualisation and perception—courtesy of Leica.
Having always been passionate about creative photography, Leica has been deeply involved with the culture of photography since the company's inception. Supporting creators and their works is part of the brand DNA. Today that manifests itself in the Leica Galleries. Conceived as the ideal forum for photographers to present and share their work, Leica offers both prominent and emerging talents a platform from which to grow their audience and creativity.
Vintage Vs Modern
Which type of camera is better? Ultimately, this comes down to personal taste. Vintage cameras and lenses themselves have a distinctive 'look' that is often considered desirable by photographers—as do the film photos they produce. Die-hard film camera users believe the images captured on film are unparalleled, and never needed to be advanced in the first place. Furthermore, many believe that the instinct required to take a quality film photo is what delineates true talent. In today's heavily photoshopped world, saturated with digital images, film photos are nostalgic in the best of ways.
Conversely, with exceptional clarity and ease of use, Leica's WiFi-enabled digital cameras have become extremely popular. As technology progresses, so do the cameras. New equipment achieves so much more than that from 50 years ago or even just ten years ago. Image quality gets better and better, and cameras are more intelligent—old cameras can be complicated, and often required training to maximize the usage. Modern cameras are quicker and typically more user-friendly, enabling further creativity.
Is digital vs film a matter of preference, or is there more to it?
Ultimately, the final look and process between film and digital are so different; it's a matter of personal preference. As mentioned, the digital age has led to a reinterest in using film cameras and a rejection of overly perfect digital images.
There is a lot of debate about what is better, but there is no right and wrong—the two are just different. Film allows you to get a beautiful picture straight away; most film users don't do any post-production work. Different types of film determine different colours or tones of black and white, making the result after developing immediately pleasing. Digital images, on the other hand, give you raw files which act as a blank canvas. From here, you can adjust colors, contrast, tonality: the possibilities are infinite.
What makes a camera collectible?
Leica has a very long history, in which it has gathered many passionate fans of the brand. The practice of keeping extensive records about production has made Leica cameras particularly popular with collectors. Now, the brand regularly rereleases limited-edition models of previously-released cameras, usually in editions of 100 pieces. Recently, there was a limited edition release of the 'Drifter' M Monochrome, with snakeskin finish, in partnership with Lenny Kravitz; the Leica CL 100 Jahre Bauhaus, in celebration of the historic art movement's centennial anniversary; and a Leica Q Globe-Trotter edition which came in a specially-designed leather case by the lauded suitcase manufacturer.
Many famous photographers have taken iconic images using Leica cameras, so collectors may seek out the exact same camera, or one produced in the same year. History is in abundance with Leica, and that—alongside quality—is what drives many collectors. Rare specialist cameras and lenses, as well as limited editions, have made certain cameras particularly desirable.
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