alan little’s weblog

oh my god i want one

4th December 2003 permanent link

I want one of these new Leica digicams.

I have a digicam – a 3 megapixel Canon G1 that I paid far too much money for about three years ago and is now worth hardly anything. It’s a perfectly decent camera in terms of the picture quality it’s capable of producing, but it’s so ergonomically horrible and slow that I have never liked it and hardly ever use it. The Canon S50 that lots of people seem to really love at the moment (including my brother and I’ve had a play with his) is basically a sleeker, higher res version of the same thing. Lovely results, but I still don’t enjoy using it – too slow, and everything controlled by myriads of little buttons and menus that you have to look at to use, when you should be looking at what you want to photograph.

Time between pressing the button and the shutter actually opening:

This Leica, on the other hand, is supposed to be fast. It won’t be as fast as an M Series, and I don’t see them quoting a figure anywhere, but Leica have a history of getting this right. It has proper manual controls as god intended – focus, zoom and aperture controlled by rings on the lens barrel, shutter speed by a dial on top near the shutter button, so you can operate it while looking at things you want to photograph instead of peering at dozens of tiny little buttons and menu options.

It has a big sensor. A pixel does not equal a pixel. For the same resolution, a physically bigger sensor will produce a better image because bigger pixels gather more light, so they can measure it more accurately and are less subject to noise. This is why six megapixel SLRs are capable of producing a lot better images than five megapixel digicams, and is also grounds for scepticism about Sony’s announcement of an 8 megapixel digicam with the smallest physical pixels of any production camera. The sensor on this Leica is somewhere between normal digicam size (tiny) and SLR size.

And it has a Leica lens. There’s a lot of mystique and bullshit about German lenses, and the best Japanese lenses these days are very good. But the very best Leica and Zeiss lenses are still visibly a bit better. Of course, the lens on this thing may or may not be one of Leica’s very best efforts, but if they have any sense it will be. Leica make very expensive high end cameras (I haven’t seen a price mentioned for this one yet); their selling points are lens quality, build quality and ergonomics. They are the Porsche of cameras. They have to stay better than the competition on all of these things to have any hope of surviving.

I found out about this from Tim Bray.

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