I don’t normally write up camera reviews, but I do like making comments on how a camera system works for me. This film weekend, it’s about the difference between 35mm rangefinder (Leica in this example) versus SLR (Canon EOS in this example).
I recently took up my Canon EOS SLRs from my bags again (the 35mm film camera, that is), and I bought a 40mm f/2.8 lens for it, and I got questions from people whether it’s giving a better image than a Leica. The answer is, no, they both are probably indistinguishable when shot at f/5.6 or smaller aperture, and because this is 35mm film, it’s probably the same. I haven’t processed the films yet, but I’m sure the 40mm f/2.8 lens is darn sharp that it can match my 1974 35mm Summicron.
So discussing the image quality difference between the two is meaningless, and they’re probably the same, so set the image quality aside, there are more important issues we can compare. How does the camera feel to your hand? Canon feels more plastic and often heavier than a Leica, but has a nicer ergonomics (grip).
How I compare the two is like comparing a revolver (Leica) and a semi-automatic pistol (Canon EOS). Revolvers are mechanical, manual, there is no “burst rate”, and it weighs lighter than a semi-auto pistol. On the other hand, semi-auto pistol has a magazine to take up its ammunition, has a safety latch (off button), and weighs double of the revolver. Disclaimer: No, I haven’t hold a gun before, but that’s how Murakami described it in 1Q84, so I thought it will be a good analogy.
During my six-months trip in Asia (July 2012 to January 2013) when I only carried my Leica, I often missed using an SLR. From the grip, the finder, the buttons, even the plastic built. According to a friend of mine, it’s only natural because I’ve grown up using an SLR. But truth to be told, I do miss autofocus and auto-exposure. 90% of the time I can get away with the everything-manual Leica, but I do appreciate the automation that saves me time. Case in point, the smart matrix-metering of any Canon EOS cameras are suitable for shooting colour slides, whereas with the centre-weighted-only metering of a Leica, you’ll need to constantly took care of each exposures and do some maths in your head (scenario in my head: “yellow subjects? Maybe open up +1 or +1.5 stops. Dark blue… Err, maybe -0.5 will do. Wait, maybe -1 stop is better…” Etc).
Both types of cameras are different things and serve different purpose - just like digital and film, or boys and girls. There are times when I just want to take happy shots without thinking too much, I’d pick up a Canon SLR for that. I’d love to have something like Ricoh GR1v, but I don’t have the budget for a luxury compact camera at the moment. On the other hand, if I am walking all day in the streets of Hong Kong, then I’d surely pick my Leica.