Film or Digital: My Current Leica Dilemma

by | Oct 23, 2021

Today’s Post by Joe Farace

“Leica, schmeica. The camera doesn’t make a bit of difference. All of them can record what you are seeing. But you have to see.”—Ernst Haas

Recently on my Film Friday post It’s Film Friday and I’m Capturing Panoramas, I asked all of you to help me decide which of three different 35mm film cameras to purchase. Your overwhelming choice was the Yashica FX-3 and I ended up buying a Yashica FX-3 Super 2000 and zoom lens that were in perfect cosmetic condition. The reality was much like buying a clean-looking BMW with 200,000 miles on the clock; dangers lurked. It’s not your fault, it was mine. I haven’t given up on this camera and if I can get it working (and can afford the repairs*, just like that hypothetical BMW) I’ll do it.

Which brings me to my current question: I have been saving money for both film cameras and a digital camera that would be different from the Canon, Olympus and Panasonic Lumix DSLRs and mirrorless cameras that I’m currently shooting. I thought about getting one of Fuji’s GFX medium format cameras but while I can barely afford a used body I can’t quite swing the price of lenses or even a lens. See my link about camera budgets below.

Then there is Leica. I’ve owned a Leica M6 for some time and also own an M-mount Zeiss Ikon SW with Zeiss 21mm f/2.8 T* ZM Biogon lens and optical viewfinder. Even used, Leica digital cameras, especially rangefinder models, are expensive, partly I think because they’ve become fashion statements in some social circles—not mine though. But some models can be relatively affordable, in Leica terms, anyway, when purchases used. Like the M8.

The  M8 was the first digital camera in Leica’s rangefinder M series and was introduced on September 14, 2006. Yes, it’s only 10 megapixels. My old Canon 40D, introduced in August 2007, also had 10 megapixels and, I thought, made great-looking photographs at that time. Both the Leica M8 and M9 cameras use CCD sensors and a myth has grown up about how wonderful the images produced by this sensor are/were. Like that hypothetical high-mileage BMW, these cameras were not without their problems. And for some, the occasional moiré or color shifts that occur when photographing artificial textiles is a small tradeoff for the overall clarity and detail that is said to be produced by this CCD sensor. I am a sucker for the myth, which is why I continue to be obsessed with Japanese kei cars and the unicorn Nissan Skyline and Silvia automobiles.

So the question I have for you is this: With my new focus is on shooting film cameras, should I spend a huge chunk of my camera budget on buying a Leica M8 or should I rethink the whole digital Leica idea and focus only on a film-based SLRs like the AE-1 Program that I just bought from Roberts Camera. Or maybe a Canon F1, like that Lake Placid Olympics model that I can’t get out of my head? Your opinions are seriously appreciated. Click CONTACT and let me know what you think.

* I just sent my Seagull TLR for a CLA—that’s all I hope it needs—to PDR – Film & Photography in Escondido, CA. That’s my only medium format hope right now, budgets being what they are. If it turns out happily (I’ll let you know) I’ll be shipping the Yashica FX3 and zoom lens to them to see if they can get that combo working properly. If so I’ll let you know how that turns out as well.

If you enjoyed today’s blog post and would like to treat me to a cup of Earl Grey tea ($2.50), click here. And if you do, thank you very much.