[Cover photo by Stephanie Lee]
It’s a popular refrain; “the camera doesn’t matter, buying a Leica won’t make you a better photographer.”
And while it’s true, I think the camera does matter and buying a Leica did make me a better photographer.
You’re LOLing so loud that I think I can actually hear you 😉
If you’re interested, I’m going to tell you the short version of my story. It may not be your story and buying a Leica may not make you a better photographer, but this is what happened with me.
I am an engineer by trade and have always enjoyed tinkering with mechanical and electronic devices. I am endlessly fascinated by vintage devices; cars, milkshake mixers, fans, typewriters, telephones, radios and, of course, cameras. When I got my first K1000 for Photo 101 in college, the classic camera bug bit me (Ken Rockwell hadn’t coined the term “G.A.S.” yet.) I bought up every cheap, cool camera that I saw. The weirder and wilder the claim of greatness, the better. I did some repair work and much of my early photography was really, in all reality, just test rolls.
I always wanted a Leica but, from atop my hoard of mostly functional, non-professionally serviced, sub-$100 Pentax’s, Yashica’s, Agfas, Voigtlanders etc, I thought that I couldn’t afford Leica.
But slowly, I dipped my toe in the Leica water. I bought a cheap 90mm Elmar off eBay. I bought a friend’s Bessa R2. But the watershed moment was selling my old Land Rover to finance the purchase of, from a reliable camera retailer, a black chrome M6 TTL .85 new in box, vintage 1999.
And I remember that when I first opened that plastic clamshell, and saw that tiny, precise, perfect rangefinder staring back up at me, I immediately felt unworthy of such a thing.
I didn’t want to ever feel that way again.
Little by little, I matured as a photographer (or so I think!) and distanced myself from the distractions of repair and collecting. Nothing wrong with either, if those are your goals or you have time for them in addition to photography. But I haven’t. And my goal was to have more good photos to my name, than cameras.
No more Good Will Hunting for bargains. I only bought serviced gear from reliable retailers and only gear I expected to really use. I sold off and gave away a lot of my cheaper, less used cameras and lenses.
And with all the time and money I saved from not buying things I didn’t need that may or may not have worked, I shot more. I shot better.
I stopped reading all the gear reviews, well, not nearly as many anyway! And started reading and re-reading actual advice on taking photographs, processing, printing and displaying them as well as studying the work of successful shooters.
For whatever it means, my most favorited and liked photos on Facebook and Flickr, and most of my more widely known and financially successful, published photographs were taken on Leica or upper tier Nikon bodies. Like I said, for whatever that means!
The camera does matter. Insofar as to if it inspires you to take your very best photos. Not because one camera brand or model is inherently better than another. If you find yourself drowning in a sea of affordable film cameras, telling people the camera doesn’t matter, maybe reconsider your philosophy?
And yes, Leica made me a better photographer. Insofar as its expense and enjoyment of use caused me to focus my time and resources on actually shooting.
When you shoot Leica, unless you’re wealthy, you’re not going to buy, and keep, any Leica gear you don’t absolutely need. And there’s no need to obsess over gear, you already have what is often considered, the best. All that remains is to put your investments to good use! And that is what I’m still trying to do!
Happy shooting, no matter what brand you are running. And thanks for reading!