Sunday, January 31, 2016

Battle of the Street Cameras - Part 1

Leica, the world leader in photo journalism, documentary photography and street-photography?

True of false? Not sure!

Here are some thoughts...

What's the deal with the hype about Leica cameras? Of course, the company Leitz Wetzlar changed the way of photography forever, in particular what mobility was concerned. But, how much of the legacy is still alive?
Lately, on Dutch broadcast: Eddy van Wessel, winner of Zilveren Camera 2015. Eddy van Wessel uses a Leica with 135 film.

Back to the digital world: one of the local retailers put on of the cameras on sale for a price worth spending, I did just that... and bought a Leica X-E (re-branded Leica X2).
What convinced me?
  1. small package
  2. the price of €699.- rather than €1499.-
  3. leaf shutter (quiet, 1s/2000 sync speed)
  4. I own an Olympus VF-2 which works with the camera
  5. all manual dials

Performance-wise, I will compare the Leica X-E to the Fujifilm X100S and the Ricoh GR. Said cameras were designed roughly around the same time. All sport a 16Mpix sensor (2 have a Bayer array, 1 an Xtrans array).
None of the camera's employs optical image stabilisation, while all are equipped with similar prime lenses and APS-C sized sensors. Also, the cameras employ leaf shutters.

With the lenses, we can observe the first difference. While the Fujifilm 23mm EBC got an f/2.0 aperture, the Leica Elmarit APSH 24mm opens to f/2.8 only and so does the Ricoh GR's 18.3mm lens.
To me, this difference in aperture is negligible, in particular since I usually use f/5.6 and slower for increased depth of field in street photography. Also, the X100S shot wide open tends to be a bit soft for my taste.

One of the criteria I mentioned above was sync speed. The X100S syncs with f/2 at 1s/1000, an aperture not available with the X-E. However, when using flash with 1s/2000 shutter speed, the X100S is usable with f/2.8 only, thereby being equal to the X-E. Despite having a leaf shutter, the Ricoh GR does not do fast sync.

Concerning manual focusing, the cameras have their pros and cons. While the X100S (even more so the X100T) provides great manual focusing aid, the X-E is relatively hard to focus manually.
However, when walking in the streets, the X100S is easily knocked out of focus, should one accidentally touch the focus ring. In contrast thereto, the manual focus of the X-E can be dialed and locked in, similar to the "snap focus" of the Ricoh GR.

In terms of flexibility, the X100S/T clearly wins. Fujifilm offers adapters, so that the field of view can be made either normal, or a wider.
I love the wide lens of the Ricoh GR. Despite the 28mm equivalent, Ricoh offers an attachment that gets the field of view up to 24mm in 135 film terms.
Leica does not offer any changes in the field of view for their X1, X2 or X-E cameras.

Viewfinders: obviously the field of Fujifilm, with their unique OVF/EVF combination. Leica's X2 and X-E offer the possibility to add an EVF to the hot-shoe (the Olympus VF-2 works just fine!), while Ricoh allows for an add-on OVF only. Then again, doing candid photography, how important is a view-finder anyway?

In a further part of the series, I will compare the image quality of the in-camera JPEGs of the X100S/T and the X-E (only), since those camera share the same field of view.

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