UK press photographers apparently have a term for Leicas. They call them "Dentists Cameras!" Without wishing to be unfair to the people who keep my teeth functioning in my mouth I think you probably get the implication.
Apparently also when Robert Capa, who the video is clearly about, was blown up by a landmine, he was carrying a Contax.
There is of course also the question as to what he would be carrying if he was alive now and still photographing war zones. Would he be using a Leica Monochrom? Well I don't know about you but I would suspect he would have a Canon 5D Mk III or something similar. Particularly as he also shot moving film on many of his assignments.
So what is the point of the video? That if you buy a Monochrom, somehow you get associated with the glamour of a war zone photojournalist? I'd be interested to know just how many current war zone photojournalists have bought one. I'd also be interested to know how many dentists have booked a flight to Afghanistan to shoot a few snaps!
There is no doubt that when Robert Capa was using his Leica that it worked very well considering the alternatives that he had at his disposal. But now? Surely something like the Monochrom is the same kind of unwieldy slow responding camera that Capa was trying to find an alternative to. Add in that these days the requirement is for colour, speed of focus, versatility and the need to shoot video and its hardly the best choice is it?
So why the video? What does it achieve and more to the point what does it say about Leica who commissioned it?
I've never been sure as to exactly where Leica make their pitch. Part of it is for the well-off obviously, there's no doubt about that. Dentists, Plastic Surgeons, Celebrities and all those with a very healthy bank balance are an obvious market to sell cameras (and lenses of course) to and if not the company just wouldn't survive. "Male jewellery for those who have too much money" is the cliche and though I certainly didn't appreciate it when I owned their cameras (Plus it wasn't true. Too much money - If only!!) the economics of the situation mean that they have to present as a cache, elite company selling premium brand products, with a history and a reputation to those who can afford them. There was a story in the Guardian about one of their female reporters buying an M-E. She took to masking off the red dot after some man stopped her in the street and said "I see you've got a Leica love. Nice camera. Your husband buy it for you did he?"
But obviously there has to be more than this, and the success of the M9 wouldn't have happened if the well-heeled, with a need to have the best, were the only people to buy them. There is no way that Leicas are ever going to the camera of choice for the majority of photographers who make their living with a camera, but there are many, including myself who see (or have seen) them as a very useful choice, even considering the price.
When I bought my M9 I saw it as the best image quality I could get at the time, this side of medium-format, and that was important to me. That camera and the M-E carry that on. What the M will bring us is still unknown and its too early to even speculate. But you can still get pretty amazing quality from a current Leica M and Leica, Zeiss or Voigtlander lenses.
So why make a video about a camera in a situation that occurred nearly 70 years ago? And for which in an equivalent modern situation I would suggest is almost totally useless, at least when compared with the alternatives available today.
I guess it comes down to a question of whether Leica want to be associated with the past or the present day. Why for example didn't the video show a modern day photo-journalist using the Monochrom to shoot pictures relevant to now? I've personally never seen the point of it, but I can see those who shoot exclusively B/W being interested in the camera. But that horrible video does nothing to show it as a camera of 2013, and I would also suggest it might actually put people off. Not everybody wants to be embedded with a group of soldiers with the possibility of being blown apart limb from limb. Its certainly not my idea of a good time, and I doubt its many others.
My reaction to the video was that it was tasteless and above all dishonest. Some mistaken notion that people would be attracted by the macho image of the camera, and lets be entirely clear here who that video was aimed at. It wasn't one half of the worlds population, who seemed to be in there for decoration and "recreation" only.
Maybe I'm wrong, maybe they are shifting Monochroms by the crate load in Brazil because of it, but somehow I doubt it. Interesting choices from Leica, which for me says more about them than the camera they are supposed to be promoting.
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