Rangefinder

Views on the photographic universe by Erwin Puts

Essence of Leica RF photography

What is the ‘essence of (Leica) rangefinder photography’? I tackled this question (with an emphasis on the word ‘Leica’) in my book “Leica Practicum”. The most recent Leica M 262 ( an appropriate designation would be Leica M-E II (E for essence?)) tries to embody the purist characteristics of the classical rangefinder photography. Leica itself seems to be unsure what this concept might represent. When reading the marketing texts one gets the impression that ‘pure’ implies simple (no electronic viewfinder, no live view, no video mode)and when one concludes the logical reasoning the other cameras in the M range (M, M-P and MM-II) are not-pure and by implication do not embody the spirit of classical rangefinder photography. I am at a loss what might be the difference between modern, classical, analog or digital rangefinder photography when one accepts that the technology is different but the photographer’s eye is not. If one wishes to write with clarity and precision (as demanded by Strunk and White: The Elements of Style) rangefinder photography is nothing less or more than photography with a rangefinder camera. When I take pictures with my Canon L ( a classical rangefinder camera) I am cultivating rangefinder photography. The adjective ‘pure’ is a difficult concept because there are so many different meanings ranging from undiluted to unadulterated. Pure is often used in relation with simple and then the Canon L (no exposure meter, only a film cassette) is identical to the Leica M-A, also a very simple rangefinder camera. In the past Leica was infused with the engineering spirit, a spirit that may be equated with precision and clarity: you cannot build when you do not have a clear idea what it is what you wan to build.Now Leica is infused with a marketing spirit, a spirit that may be equated with nebulous speak and buzz words. It is a pity that many writers about Leica photography have adopted the same style. It would be nice when the reporting about Leica would become more scientific.
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A study by the university St. Gallen (Switzerland) about the real world market leaders in several segments shows a broad array of companies. The study uses a number of criteria to differentiate between real and self-promoted status as a market leader. On the list you find Jenoptik, Leitz GmbH (Oberkochen) (no relation with Leica, Wetzlar) and Schott AG, but no Zeiss or Leica.
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The Austrian chip manufacturer AMS (austriamicrosystems) produces parts for Apple products and Apple is indeed one of its main customers. AMS has connections with Texas Advanced Optoelectronics Solutions. In fact Apple seems to be the main customer of AMS and now Apple seems to have withdrawn a number of orders. (I write ‘seems’ because the info is from the Swiss magazine Finanz&Wirtschaft and they write that Apple does not comment on who supplies parts for their products). One of the many partners of AMS is by the way Fujitsu! On November 20 this year AMS announced that it had bought CMOSIS (since 2013 owned by venture capitalist TA Associates). This action is seen as a (successful) attempt to balancing their dependence on one customer. The amount of money is not known but AMS has a yearly turnover of about 500 million Euro. CMOSIS’ has a portfolio of low noise, global and rolling shutter, high dynamic range, and high frame rate image solutions serve a broad range of markets including machine vision, medical, broadcast, traffic, scientific and photographic imaging. CMOSIS does not manufacture the chips themselves but the Leica sensors are made by a company in France. Presumably the chip production will now move to Graz in Austria. What impact this move will have on the sensors that are being used by Leica is not yet clear.