A Pulitzer-winning photographer explains the obsession with Leica by trying out the brand-new digital Leica SL (US price: R118 000), which can fit almost every lens made since 1930.
he first time I learnt about Leica was from a legendary camera dealer in New York City. I wanted to see one of his cameras, and he said, “You’re not ready yet.” All my heroes used a Leica – Cartier-Bresson, Robert Frank. I got my first one in 1982. It’s how I learnt to be a photographer. Leica’s reputation for being the best you can get is well deserved. It always has the best lenses. The glass is ground to the finest specifications, which means that colours are very, very accurate. The photos don’t have the same overbrightness as photos from Japanese cameras.
When I set the new Leica SL to high ISO, so the sensor is taking in a lot of light, there’s no visual noise or pixellation as on other cameras. The image has a powdery feel. That’s something my Canon can’t do. It looks like a film photo, but without filters, which never look quite right. A few weeks ago, I took the SL to a wedding I was shooting in Uruguay. We were in a car going about 80 km/h. I was shooting down the streets, perpendicular to the direction we were moving. I was shocked at how fast it focuses. You click, it focuses, it shoots. It’s incredible. It’s the best digital camera I’ve ever used.
This article was originally published in the April 2016 issue of Popular Mechanics magazine.