A choice of tools

A choice of tools
A strange bug on the wall, Saint-Paul de Vence, Côte d’Azur, France, Leica M (Typ 240), Summilux-M 50mm, f1.4 ASPH, 1/1000 sec., f8, ISO 200

The advantage of choice

I’ve always possessed many cameras and general photographic equipment, keeping everything up to date as new models were released. So I’m quite familiar with something called “GAS”, which stands for Gear Acquisition Syndrome. As time goes by this is changing a little bit, but I’m pretty aware it will not completely disappear anytime soon. It’s part of me, I’m a geek and I like to keep up with new technologies. In fact, this GAS thing slowed down drastically for me since I acquired a Leica camera. Why is that? Good question. Maybe because my passion is understandably focusing (pun intended) on photography itself rather than on the material I’m using to get the job done? It might also be the fact than I transitioned from Commercial photography to Fine Art. I used to do a lot of product shoot for industrial companies and really enjoy. But recent years and life changing experience brought me to do more travel and Fine Art photography. It’s a big change, but very rewarding in terms of accomplishment and satisfaction. I love it! Material is certainly important when you shoot sport with a DSLR as an example. Big zooms, fast cameras, tripods, bags, filters, etc. For the past 4 years I’ve been walking around with a Leica M rangefinder, spare battery and SD card. I think my Canon 1DsMK3 left its case once or twice for studio sessions. It’s a great camera and you really get a lot of satisfaction when you use it, but it’s such a burden to move around with it. Once I started to use the Leica M it became obvious right away that this was the way to go for me. It might be larger than a little point & shoot camera, but it’s much smaller than the big DSLR and I can have it with me most of the time. Being at the right place at the right time also means having a camera with you and this is easier done with a Leica M.


But it is also said that you need the right tool for the job and that’s why there are so many cameras on the market. And that’s also why I do have more than one camera. My point here is that if you can afford to have more than one camera, it would be stupid not to pick the most appropriate tool for what you are doing. Going out for a walk with the family is easier with a small camera than a big DSLR. Inversely, shooting a wedding with a big DSLR is more advisable than with a tiny point & shoot camera. You owe it to the people hiring you, trusting your talent and professionalism.

What I’m talking about today is simply the fact that once you settle on what type of photography you want to do, you’ll know more about what kind of camera you want to use. It might seem obvious, but it’s not. Back then, My life would have been much easier if I had a rangefinder instead of the 1DsMK3. No regret at all because I produced some serious photographs and to the satisfaction of my clients. But for most of what I’ve been doing for so many years, a Leica M would have been awesome. There is a problem however: the Leica M was not a digital camera back then and I was shooting digital exclusively. On top of that, Leica was way behind on that market and Canon was the unquestionable leader. Nikon was slow to get in the professional digital camera market, but had a fantastic come back with its Dx series and FX lenses. Canon slowed down a little bit since then, being more focus on the prosumer market. The Canon 1Ds Mk3, despite the arrival of the 1Dx in 2011, is still one of their biggest model of all time with the 5DMk3. And that’s exactly why I say the Gear Acquisition Syndrome is not totally a bad thing. It is a bad thing if it makes you buy every new model for no specific reason beside bragging about it. But GAS is an effective way to stay on top of everything new. It educates you on your options and with a reasonable amount of maturity will lead you to taking the right decision for your need. I was so lucky to get my hands on a Leica M8.2 a couple years ago and that’s what brought me away from the DSLR. Over the following years, keeping a very close eye on what was coming up with Leica, I knew my next camera would be a Leica M (Typ 240). It was an educated choice and decision. I never considered the M9 or the M-E, not because they are not good cameras but simply because I wanted to skip one generation and get all the good things coming up with the new M. That helped me be a very patient photographer and I’m totally happy with what I have today. Ok.. ok, I admit I still have an eye on the Leica MM which is fantastic. Maybe their next version if I can spare some money for it until. I didn’t seriously consider until very recently when I realized I really like B&W photography more and more. We’ll see. For now I simply learn the ins & outs of B&W conversion from the color shots I make with the M (Typ 240). The Leica M8.2 allowed me to get into Leica and go back to everything manual. Today, the M8.2 is used in conjonction with the M (Typ 240), giving me two options, two different lenses, two different views. Isn’t that why we have two shoulders? :-)


Choice is also a big advantage when you want to explore different ways of shooting. And now I’m talking about lenses. How do you know if you’re a wide angle shooter or if you prefer a long lens? Well, until you try it, it’s almost impossible. Unless you’ve been looking at photography books of famous photographers and came to the conclusion that you knew exactly what you want to use in terms of lenses. But that changes over time too. The GAS isn’t bad for that too. It makes you want an additional lens. Or experiment with something different. Again, if you make an educated choice, it’s all for the better. Especially when you look at the price of Leica lenses these days. I’m lucky enough to own 5 fast lenses ranging from 18mm to 75mm. Experimenting with all of them helped me determine that I was a 50mm shooter. There is absolutely no doubt about this on the M (Typ 240) because it is a full frame camera. On the M8.2, because of the 1.3x crop factor, my favorite lens is a 35mm ( Summilux-M 35mm, f1.4 ASPH) . Looking at the numbers in my Adobe Lightroom catalog I can say 75% of all the shots I made with both Leicas were made using the 50mm (Summilux-M 50mm, f1.4 ASPH). That doesn’t mean the other lenses are useless. No way, I use all of them. But having a choice of lenses helped me define my favorites. It also helped me realize I am not using the 75mm enough. They say you should work only with one lens until you “feel” and “see” naturally with it. I did that with all the other lenses, but not enough with the 75mm. This is something I plan to do soon.

Leica lenses are considered among the best optics in the world. If you never hold a Leica M lens in your hand, you’re missing something. It’s small, looks gorgeous and is obviously meticulously crafted. But you’ll be surprised by its weight. It’s not plastic. When you grab one, you know it’s good. Their Leica M family of lenses is also one of the most compact on the market, which is a big advantage when you want to travel light or stay unnoticed by people on the street.


The advantage of choice is also for when you can go just about anywhere, at anytime in any condition, even with whoever you want. One of the biggest impact of photography on my life is that it makes me curious. It makes me adventurous. It makes me feel free. I think it’s a great thing to have the opportunity to go out and explore the world around, talking to people, learning things and discovering new places you’ve never been before. And I’m not necessarily talking about going around the planet, it could be in your own region or country. When I moved to France in 2010 I wanted to be out and shooting all the time. I wanted to see everything. I went to a lot of places even some local people don’t know about. Photography is the best excuse for going out and enjoy. And since I’m located on the French Riviera, I feel very lucky to have access to the Sea and the mountain peaks within less than an hour. The choice of shooting locations is a big advantage. And at a greater scale, France is really in the middle of Europe too and access to international destinations is just one or two hours away (even more if you want). By car or by plane, it was easy for me to go out a few days and enjoy photography in France, Spain, Italy, Switzerland, Poland, Austria, Germany, Netherlands. Most of it in the last two years.

Photography is a tremendous way of discovering things, people and places. There is absolutely no excuses for not going out and enjoy. There is always somethings interesting to photograph. Get out!

Good Light!


© Normand Primeau