The new Leica M (type 240) is probably the most rewarding camera I have ever used and have had the opportunity to have a considerable amount of time with. It is, to date, my favourite and most desirable camera available on the market.
Leica is a strange brand. Unlike Ferrari, Bently and the like, Leica is a luxury brand that is ridiculed by those in the profession, heralded as the bastion of photographic elitism, or brushed aside; but at the same time, it is used successfully, perhaps even better than other brands in the field. That being said, Leica is a difficult camera brand to learn, as it is almost completely Manual in function and for its price, you pay the same price of a flagship camera from Canon and Nikon but for a fraction of the features available.
To continue the Luxury Car analogy, Leica is a Ferrari, with just tyres, seats, an engine and the frame. Not only is a Leica stripped back, it takes it to the point where it can become frustrating and I begin to long for some kind of Automation. Unfortunately, the Leica can be seen as a Bently, extremely luxurious, dearly expensive and losing its mystique - because people who love cars don't give Bently the same kind of awe as it did Fifty years ago... Could this be the same for Leica too? I guess their current sales of the M Rangefinder is reassuring the brand will not be going anywhere, but I question if Leica really actually cares about its heritage, or just the 'shiny' heritage. There is definitely no shortage of disgruntled Leica owners and ridicule in the industry.
Either way, I have followed the famous red dot, and I appreciate the legacy, but as a new user, I demand a little more than just legacy, I also want value. Time will tell when Leica will also trade legacy for value... The M represents a step to the later, they traded a little bit of legacy for a truly Digital camera. Unlike the M8 and M9, the M represents Leica understanding the need to survive. Sales, for now, have proved them correct.
What upsets me the most about Leica is that it doesn't forgive bad composition, does not forgive poorly selected settings and most of all, having a Leica in your hands as a new user, adds to the pressure to produce excellent images. This is the teaching I needed 10 years ago when I took up Photography seriously.
I had always believed I was a good photographer until I had to shoot an event with a Leica, and it was difficult. Out of the hundreds of shots taken, only a handful were useable and I knew at that moment, I relied too much on technology, just as almost 99% of photographers out there do as well. It's hard to admit, but when you are forced to not only compose, expose and shoot with nearly no assistance at all, that is when all those years in school, the years of experience, all the accolades given to you as a photographer for your quality work, reminds you that its not the camera, its you... You took a bad photo. It's an exhilarating experience and one I will expose myself to often in the future as I plan to master the craft of manual photography. I have relied on automation for far too long.
It is in that one moment, that moment I realised I nailed that shot, took that one image that I desperately worked for that made me realise that I had scored one extra mark in the test. When that image is earned and earned well, that is where, I believe, the Leica brand shows its true colours and qualities that has made it unique and the only living brand that has stayed true to its roots. The image is not only sharp, its probably some of the sharpest images I have seen; quality I thought only capable by Photographers hired by magazines, but its there, with noise replicating grain-like structure and colours I have only seen in Kodak Portra 400 or Fuji Velvia. Unlike an SLR, I can still see the image taken, I can easily envisage by sight only if I know I captured the shot, especially when I know it will not arrive again. The scene through the viewfinder is fluid, and I finally understand why Henri Cartier-Bresson meant when he said that his Leica was like an extension of his eye. Putting a Leica to my eye was almost placing a filter with 35mm frame lines to see the world in. It is truly a beautiful experience, and one I wish I can share with more people through this site and through my work.