It belongs to the history of street photography like no other camera and made the development of the genre possible in the first place: the Leica M was long the camera par excellence in street photography. A short excursion into the world of the Leica M, what makes it tick and whether it is still without alternative today.
The best camera for street photography
No, it doesn't have to be a Leica. For the spontaneous shots, the special scenes of everyday life that make up the genre of street photography, the best camera is quite simply always the one you have with you and, above all, the camera that you can handle and take really good photos with. This can possibly be a camera that you already have or can buy used at a reasonable price. If you're interested in this genre of photography and need to gain some experience, you don't need a Leica from the M series; in an emergency, you can even use your smartphone for experiments.
Those who are seriously interested in street photography and are looking for the best camera for street photography can certainly find happiness with a camera from the Leica M series. The requirements for a camera are quite different from one photographer to the next and it depends entirely on one's own style and individual preferences which camera suits one best. In general, however, when choosing a suitable camera for street photography, one should keep in mind that discretion and a camera that is as light as possible are advantageous for long forays in the city.
Street photography with the Leica M
Not without reason are rangefinder cameras, like all cameras from the Leica M series, by far the most popular cameras among street photographers. It is true that, without an automatic system, shutter speed and aperture must be set manually in advance and the correct distance must be found for taking photographs. Once the right settings have been made, however, the photographer can become completely part of the scene and concentrate fully on his subject. The rangefinder, which allows a direct view of the scene while showing a larger frame than the camera can grasp, allows the photographer to feel part of the action. Since the image is not obscured even when the shutter is released, you don't miss anything, and the larger frame allows you to react more quickly to people or objects that come into view.
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Fixed focal length cameras also have the effect of requiring the photographer to get quite close to their subject, which means less discretion and can potentially lead to reactions, but more importantly, interactions with people in a street photographer's studio - the city. Some may shy away from this form of contact, preferring to remain anonymous observers behind the camera. But if you can get involved in the interaction, you may discover a new facet of your own photography and also develop photographically.
Does it have to be a Leica?
Those with the wherewithal to purchase a Leica M for their own street photography passion will quickly come to appreciate it. The chic retro camera with the small lens is not particularly flashy. Leica cameras are also particularly small, light and quiet, which is unbeatable when it comes to discretion in street photography. If you select a "focus zone" before you start shooting, you can then devote yourself entirely to taking pictures. This manual focus in advance is faster than any autofocus.
Thanks to the particularly small, handy lenses, you can carry the Leica cameras around for hours, even on extensive forays, instead of having to awkwardly stow them away like a clunky SLR camera. The Leica M series is particularly distinguished by its overall design, which is perfectly designed for street photography. Buttons and dials are easy to reach while shooting and quickly memorize themselves, so they can be operated quite intuitively after a short time. Everything about a Leica M is perfectly thought out, providing the creative scope needed for street photography without distracting with extra features and photographic bells and whistles.
Due to their price alone, Leica cameras are often out of the question for beginners. Other mothers also have beautiful daughters, and there are good rangefinder cameras from Fujifilm, Panasonic and Canon, for example, that are ideally suited for street photography. One advantage of buying a Leica is that the high-quality cameras are very durable. This means that you can buy second-hand cameras on the used market that are in perfect condition, easy on the wallet, and perfect for street photography. The same applies not only to cameras but also to lenses and accessories from Leica.
Popular Leica models for street photography
So far it was the M10-Rwhich was the most popular model from the legendary M series among street photographers, but since 2022 it has been superseded by the new M11 is clearly competing with it. Both cameras offer a wide range of lenses, as almost all lenses ever produced by Leica are compatible with them. They have very good color sensors and super resolution. Among the Leica cameras, these M models are certainly the all-rounders. Not only can you take exceptional color shots with them, but you can also take very good black-and-white shots in monochrome mode. Thanks to the aperture integrated into the lens, the camera can be operated entirely without looking at the display and allows a photography experience without distractions.
The M Monochrome is much more specialized. The camera, with which only black-and-white images, may be something for purists, but the may be something for purists, but doing without the color sensor is worth it. On the one hand, it makes it easier to concentrate on what is necessary, and a different awareness of composition and light is achieved. On the other hand, the representation of the finest image details is simply sensational when the color sensor is dispensed with.
If you love working with fixed focal lengths or want to gain experience in this area, you will be right with the Leica Q2 is exactly the right choice. This camera has a fixed lens with a fixed focal length of 28 mm, which, along with the 35mm fixed focal length, is considered the gold standard in street photography. The f / 1.7 lens is particularly fast and takes consistently good photos at night as well as in bright sunlight. Colors are just as beautiful as photos taken with a Leica M, and the Q2 is comparatively affordable since the lens is built right in. If you're not comfortable with the manual focus of the M series, you can fall back on lightning-fast autofocus here.
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