Leica's digital discovery

Much has been made of Leica's decision to produce a digital rangefinder camera, the M8.

Frankly it's all a bit of a storm in a teacup. Leica have long been making lenses suitable for various digital SLRs, particularly those manufactured by electronics companies with no history in optics. What's different here is that Leica are acutally manufacturing the body itself and it's a rangefinder rather than an SLR.

So will a rangefinder make you a better photographer? No. Whether it's digital or film, the machine is not the art.

Back in August Wired News's Tony Long argued that artists continued to eschew digital in favour of film, a point of view with which I feel some sympathy despite my inherent laziness when it comes to the technical side of imagemaking.

But whether Long is right or wrong, having a decent camera is always second to being able to compose and shoot a decent photograph.

Still, for years now I have toyed with the idea of going digital, as it were. The convenience is hugely attractive to me. The only problem is, I already have some really nice 35mm SLRs and medium format cameras. Were I to buy a digital camera, it would certainly not be of as high a quality. That such cameras might indeed exist is a moot point - I can't afford one.

My father, a longtime photographer, who used his camera to document civil strife on the streets of Ireland during the 1960s, dutifully carrying it with him as he went about his business, recently bought a digital SLR. It's OK, but it's not perfect. One of the cheaper models, it features a built-in lens and is no match for his old Pentaxes or Canons.

The answer, it seems to me, is to buy the cheapest, nastiest digital camera that I can find - hello E-Bay - and revel in sheer pixilated joy at its blocky pixelated natures. Well, elfin alcoholism aside I may just do that but it still doesn't solve my problem: a crap camera is perfect for some kinds of things, but it's not perfect for everything. The Leica digital rangefinder is therefore rather attractive to me but at £3,000 they can keep it. I'm not a professional photographer.

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