Home  Donate  New  Search  Gallery  Reviews  How-To  Books  Links  Workshops  About  Contact

Cartier-Bresson
and the LEICA
© 2009~2012 KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.

Please help KenRockwell..com

This free website's biggest source of support is when you use any of these links when you get anything, regardless of the country in which you live. Thank you! Ken.

 

November 2012 (Feb. 2009)   LEICA Reviews   LEICA Lenses    All Reviews

Adorama pays top dollar for your used gear.

B&H Photo - Video - Pro Audio

I use these stores. I can't vouch for ads below.

Photographic icon Henri Cartier-Bresson was known for using only one camera, a Leica rangefinder, and one lens, a 50mm, for almost all of his life's work.

Photographers have always realized that this allowed him to focus his attention so that he always knew exactly what would be in his frame without needing a viewfinder. He could walk the streets, draw his camera up to his eye and shoot, all in one smooth, unobtrusive motion.

That's what photographers who've never shopped for Leica lenses think.

Someone sent me a Leica M4-P so I could review Leica M lenses. It came with a 50mm lens.

It needed repair, so I sent it off. The routine overhaul cost me more than a brand-new Nikon D40 with lens!

I started shopping for lenses out of curiosity.

The most basic and inexpensive Leica 28mm f/2.8 manual focus, manual aperture lens costs $1,500, after temporary rebate. For a 90mm lens, luckily Leica makes a stripper line of discount lenses. The most basic Leica 90mm f/2.5 lens only costs $1,295, after temporary rebate.

It's easy to frame a fixed-lens photo by walking forward and back. Weak photographers, who have gotten too soft shooting zooms, have usually forgotten this. I started thinking how I, too, might wind up like Cartier-Bresson and just use the one lens I've got for my own shooting, and just borrow the other lenses as I test them for you.

Then the light turned on. After many decades of thinking Cartier-Bresson shot with just one lens because it let him shoot faster and smoother, I realized that Cartier-Bresson was, duh, a journalist. Journalists don't get paid anything. They aren't the rich hobbyists who buy Leicas, romanticize about the fascination and unique "Leica look," which is how the cameras look sitting in their glass display cases and Danish Royal Wedding presentation boxes.

Cartier-Bresson obviously went to a Parisian camera store, and bought his Leica and lens after much saving and scrimping.

He liked it, and when he went back to get another lens, found out the price, shouted "Merde!" and promptly waked out. Cartier-Bresson never again dared to return to a camera store.

That's why he only shot with one lens his whole career: it's all he could afford, and he came from a very wealthy family!

Why then did he shoot what seems like such an expensive camera? Cartier-Bresson started shooting in the 1930s. In the 1930s, Contax was the good camera, and most serious impromptu photojournalists (all three of them back then) had to settle for Leica instead. Nikons and Canons hadn't been invented yet.

When Cartier-Bresson walked into that camera store in the 1930s, a Leica was all what most people who had to work for a living could afford, if anything. Cartier-Bresson was a just a journalist, although he is now an icon. For all I know, his portrait may already grace the 100 Euro note.

But wait - the initial asking price of 2008's Nikon D3X was so absurd that even Hitler came back through history out of astonishment.

Think about it: you could flush $8,000 down the toilet into a Nikon D3X. A D3X can't even take pictures until you've bought a lens and memory card, and charged the batteries.

For just $8,080, you could buy a brand-new Leica M7, and 28mm, 50mm f/2 and 90mm lenses. You'd have a complete Leica setup for the same price as a stripped Nikon body. You could pay $200 less and opt for the 50mm f/2.8 instead, or save $1,000 and not even bother with a 50mm lens. You also could pay a lot less finding these items used.

You could shoot with the Leica system for years.

In three years, the Nikon D4 should be announced. By then, the D3X body will have a resale value of about $775. Your Leica system? Well, it will still be cranking out great photos, and from what dangerous little I know of Leica prices, with inflation, the same system will probably be worth about $10,000 with inflation, not $775 like the D3X with digital rot.

Leica may be expensive, but it's a bargain compared to digital.

 

Help me help you         top

I support my growing family through this website, as crazy as it might seem.

The biggest help is when you use any of these links when you get anything, regardless of the country in which you live. It costs you nothing, and is this site's, and thus my family's, biggest source of support. These places have the best prices and service, which is why I've used them since before this website existed. I recommend them all personally.

If you find this page as helpful as a book you might have had to buy or a workshop you may have had to take, feel free to help me continue helping everyone.

If you've gotten your gear through one of my links or helped otherwise, you're family. It's great people like you who allow me to keep adding to this site full-time. Thanks!

If you haven't helped yet, please do, and consider helping me with a gift of $5.00.

As this page is copyrighted and formally registered, it is unlawful to make copies, especially in the form of printouts for personal use. If you wish to make a printout for personal use, you are granted one-time permission only if you PayPal me $5.00 per printout or part thereof. Thank you!

 

Thanks for reading!

 

 

Mr. & Mrs. Ken Rockwell, Ryan and Katie.

 

Home  Donate  New  Search  Gallery  Reviews  How-To  Books  Links  Workshops  About  Contact

February 2009