Leica M-E for snapshots

During my summer break in Paris and London, most of my time was spent shooting with the Fuji GFX 50R as I was putting together the material for a review, which I published here recently.

After clocking enough hours with the Fuji though, I ended up getting tired of carrying that heavy beast all day long in what was actually a family trip.

So in the last few days of my trip I decided to use the Leica M-E instead and try something new: to use it as a snapshot camera in a relaxed and carefree attitude.

The setup

I coupled the M-E with the Zeiss Biogon 21mm f/2.8 ZM and set it to shoot in hyperfocal mode, i.e. using zone focusing.



Mostly, I shot in f/5.6 or even f/8 as daylight in Paris allowed me to do so without cranking up the ISO. With a 21mm wide angle lens, small apertures will give you immense depth of field and I seldom had to touch the focusing ring.

A note on the external optical viewfinder: I have this one from Fuji, with framelines for both 21mm and 28mm. It’s pretty comfortable to use and provides enough accuracy for framing.

Mind me, you are not supposed to expect perfect framing when using a rangefinder camera, especially with such a wide lens and an external viewfinder.

The experience

In hyperfocal mode I see myself shooting more spontaneously.

Most importantly, I can concentrate on framing the photo correctly – as opposed to dealing with the pressure of getting the focus right, which easily becomes a distraction in the framing process when done in a hurry. Even more so on a rangefinder, which has the focusing screen right in the center of the frame.

Not having to care about focusing is quite liberating in the photo shooting process.

The results

Here, click as you wish for full size and EXIF data. Some of these below were cropped and re-framed in post editing.

The take

I guess nowadays camera manufacturers and enthusiast photographers put too much talk on large aperture lenses, subject isolation and bokeh.

I used to be a bokeh junkie myself, but I got a bit sick and tired of all the bokeh talk.

I certainly still appreciate the 3D punch of subject isolation coming from the contrast of extreme sharpness against a creamy-dreamy background. But surely there is more than this in photography, right? A lot more.

At this stage of my life, I rather have a smaller and lighter f/4 lens than a large and heavier f/1.4 lens. Even the Zeiss Biogon 21mm f/2.8 ZM that I used here: Zeiss actually sells a shorter, lighter and cheaper version of this lens with f/4 maximum aperture.

I can tell you, if I could go back I’d buy the f/4 version instead.


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