Some thoughts on the difference between the Leica T (Typ 701) and the Sony a6000.





I got what looked like a shill post on my facebook page yesterday. Purporting to be a disgruntled Leica T buyer with complaints about the strap, the screen etc. and how the Sony a6000 was a much better and cheaper buy blah, blah, blah..... You know the usual nonsense. 

However, it did strike me that it might well be a question that many would ask. The a6000 is a fine camera, in fact I said so repeatedly, so why the Leica T in preference to that.? Particularly as the a6000 has more pixels, faster AF and is significantly cheaper.

This post will provide the answer to that question.

BUILD AND HANDLING

I just prefer the Leica. It feels so much classier, like the hand finished, individually tested, small-scale manufactured camera that it is. Great stuff comes from those far-east factories and I've certainly bought and used enough of them, but the T is something else again. It's not a mass-produced polycarbonate, robot assembled kit. And I'm past the stage when I care about whether people think I'm indulging myself with a classy, snobby, prestige item. Because if I am doing that, then it's nobody's business but mine. My money, my choice.

LENS

A standard zoom range takes care of the majority of what I shoot. It's the lens I use the most and I've generally had one around or used prime lenses that cover that range. The Leica 18-56mm is a terrific lens, with corner to corner sharpness. It's beautifully built as well as being optically superb. And it's a lens I'll just leave on the camera to cover the vast majority of my needs. 

Sony have their 18-55mm and 16-50mm kit zooms. 
Need I go on!

EVF AND SCREEN

The Leica T is just a revelation in this respect. You'll get an idea of how much bigger the screen is from the pictures above. Contrary to what my Sony fanboy critic indicated, it is excellent in sunlight and the best I've used on a 'conventional' camera. It is also 100% colour accurate without me having to make any adjustments and it's the first screen I've ever used that I can actually use to genuinely assess the sharpness of the images I've shot. It's a pleasure to use.

The EVF is even better. Looking through the a6000 viewfinder is the usual tunnel vision. OK I guess if you've never used anything else, but now I have and the Leica T add-on EVF (with added GPS of course) is again the best I've used. A large image, clear, sharp and once again 100% colour accurate. 

MENUS, KNOBS and DIALS.

Te Leica menu system is all on one page and takes one scroll down on the touchscreen to reveal all. I thought it was going to be complicated, but like all Leica menu systems it actually isn't in practice after about 20 minutes with the manual. I can also customise the order I want it in to fit with what I need to do. In practice when I've been out with the camera it's easy, simple and quick to change what I want and with that terrific screen I can see clearly what I'm doing.

The Sony has pages and pages of stuff, in no particular logical order as far as I can see and there are all those dials, buttons and wheels that do various things. The Leica's menu functions are all in one place and I alter the settings in the same place in the same way. Now I used to be very anti touch screens, but then I never had one like this before. As I've indicated before, somewhat surprisingly, Leica the old-school values, rangefinder company are now right up there at the front of the pack when it comes to touchscreen menu control. 

Basically, what Leica have come up with is simple and efficient. The T is a serious 'non fiddle' camera and you don't need 'hampster fingers' to work it. The Leica T menus system was designed by photographers. The Sony was designed by...... dial and knob manfacturers??

THE LEICA T APP.

Again, very surprisingly, Leica of all people, are showing Sony how to produce a useful and simple camera app. The Sony system is a nightmare. None of my Sony cameras came with the full remote control facility and I've had to update the cameras which is convuluted and complicated. Plus when you finally get the app. to work  (not always guaranteed) it's a huge disappointment anyway with very limited features.

The Leica T system however is simplicity itself. I pressed the wi-fi tab on the screen, put in my home password and I was connected. I then downloaded the app. from Apple and installed it on my iPad. Clicking on the button which comes up immediately the app. loads, I press a button on the camera and I'm connected. I can then remote control the camera, both for stills and video and review and download the images from the camera, either SD card or internal memory. It's quick, it's easy and it works every time.

HIGH ISO PERFORMANCE

The irony of course is that the Leica has a Sony sensor. But it's the 16MP one as opposed to the 24MP version in the a6000. And that reduced pixel density does make a difference at high ISO's. All of the Leica APS-C sensor cameras are good for high ISO noise. I used an X1 as a back up camera when I shot weddings and the images I shot at ISO 3200 were better than the Canon DSLR's I used at the time. The T is better than that however. At ISO 1600 is virtually noiseless and very usable at 3200 as well. There would be no problem at all for print reproduction. The Sony, however is still good at these higher settings, but more noise reduction is put on the jpgs. so they don't appear as sharp. It is interesting that Sony don't always get the best results from their sensors in their cameras. Maybe it's them just coming up with what they think people want, who knows?

Now in the past I really wasn't that bothered with high ISO performance, but using my Fuji X cameras I've seen the benefits of higher ISO settings leading to narrower apertures and sharper pictures. With the relatively slow Leica zoom that is important. The Leica T gives results very similar to my Fuji's, so it is a superb low light camera (as indeed have been all of the APS-C Leicas, including the X-Vario)

THAT STRAP

Yes it's rubber, yes it has these proprietary lugs so you can't connect any other strap, but I just love it. Why has no-one done this before? (If they have I haven't seen it) Rubber actually works. It doesn't twist or snag, it keeps it's shape and it's shock absorbent. It's personal obviously, but I think it's a terrific solution. I've never really ever been happy with any strap I've used before, but this is something different and in my opinion, something better. 

So what of the Sony advantages? Yes the AF is faster, but that's virtually never a problem for me. It also has better video, but all my video needs are taken care of by the Sony RX10 and Panasonic FZ1000. And yes it's cheaper. But only if you are prepared to accept pretty average lens quality. You CAN get a superb high-quality standard zoom for the a6000. But it's the a-mount Zeiss 16-35mm f/2.8 and will set you back £1300 + the cost of the adapter. Oh and it weighs around 1KG. 

Yes the Leica has only two lenses available currently and both are seriously expensive, but the zoom is perfect for what I need. This is a camera I will mainly use outdoors in good light, with it stopped down. Maybe at some point in the future I might consider what else the range has to offer, but at the moment it's that all in one solution that I want. 

So there it is. Why I prefer the Leica T. And regular readers will have realised of course that what I now consider as advantages are what I would have sneered at not so long ago. But then as I'm constantly writing, things change, I change and I want different things and different options.

Finally an example of how I'm working and how this fits in with what I do currently. I took these pictures yesterday.





 
Now some of these were taken in good light, but for the scarecrow pictures it was pretty dark and I was up around the ISO 1000-3200 mark on the camera. The T produced some very clean files even at those settings. 

So I got home, got out my iPad, synced it up with the camera and went through the files on the cameras SD card to see which I wanted to work on there and then. There was little to do since thanks to the excellent EVF and screen I had the compositions I wanted, without much editing. I should also mention that the Leica T's exposures were spot on as well. I then transferred the files to the iPad, edited it them in Snapseed and even ran them through Instagram. I then used the upload apps. for the three libraries I was sending them to and they were online after captioning and keywording within minutes on one site that takes everything I send and a couple of hours later for the other two. So a completely different way of working. Way faster and significantly less of a chore. 

This is how I work currently and the Leica T fits in perfectly with that. Plus on top of all that it's such a pleasure to shoot with. For me the handling is sublime, that aluminium body is just so nice in the hand. And while it probably has no basis in reality I just feel like I'm bound to create great images with it. Since I take pictures every day, my relationship with my cameras is like a musician and their instruments. The Leica T inspires me to go and create the best images I can, to do it justice and while I'm not saying the Sony doesn't, it is certainly more fiddly to use and adjust and in many ways just too small for me to feel really comfortable with it. The Leica T gives me what's important to me at this current time, but more than that it suits that way I feel about photography. That it's important and to be cherished and something that should be respected, worked at and explored. The Leica T fits in with that philosophy very nicely for me and as far as I'm concerned that's worth paying a premium for.

Yesterdays images (and more) already online and for sale at Clashot.

http://clashot.com/davidmartyn.html


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  • N.B. to see more on the cameras and lenses featured in this post click on the relevant labels (tags and keywords) at the bottom of this post
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