Rarely is perfection achieved. But Leica cameras . . . well, put it this way: Henri Cartier-Bresson, the godfather of modern photojournalism, was obsessed with his. So was Alfred Eisenstaedt, who used his beloved Leica to shoot that sailor kissing a nurse in Times Square on V-J Day, 1945. Indeed, for the past 50 years, the venerated M series—known for its super-compact chassis, top-shelf optics, and supremely silent shutter—has accompanied some of the biggest names in the photo business (Sebastião Salgado, Ralph Gibson, countless National Geographic photographers).
Imagine the excitement, then, when the first digital iteration of the series, the M8, debuted in 2006. Camera connoisseurs went wild over its intuitive controls and über-crisp images produced by a 10.3-megapixel sensor, but most of us just gasped at the price ($5,500, body only).
Leica must have heard our rumblings of disapproval: In January a fledgling line of “budget” lenses called the Summarit-M hit stores, shaving about a grand off the camera kit. The new 35mm, for example, costs $1,500, compared with $2,600 for its cheapest predecessor. All four Summarits—35mm, 50mm, 75mm, and 90mm—are still handcrafted in Germany, but they are slightly slower, with the fastest f-stop at 2.5. I’d prefer the original with 2.0, but that’s a price worth paying to get your hands on greatness.
–West Coast Editor Steve Casimiro
- Nat Geo Expeditions