Digital Rangefinder Envy
Most of the time I take pictures with a Canon 5D Mark II. It's a great little camera and I really have no true gripes about it, but there are times when taking pictures with a SLR feels one step removed from the subject. I don't know if it's the fact that you're peering down a little viewfinder or maybe the mirror black-out when you actually press the shutter or maybe just the front to back depth of the camera itself. Something about it makes it feel like I'm playing a taking pictures videogame. Taking pictures with a rangefinder is another thing entirely. There's no mirror blackout, the cameras are smaller, and if you're right-eyed you can even keep your left one open as well so you're viewfinding in 3D. I've got a 70's era Leica M4 which I usually only really shoot on trips nowadays (film & processing is too expensive to do it all the time), I just wish I could get the same satisfaction from digital.
Well there is the M9, which is a very nice body which at $8000 I just can't justify for the amount of time I'd actually use it. The M8 that proceeded it was right out due to the fact that it was a cropped sensor. If I'm going to spend that kind of money on a digital Leica, it should work with my lenses just like my film one does. Another little thing that gets me about these digital Leicas is that the shutter is electronic in that it re-cocks with a motor. One of the best things about old Leica Ms is that they're nearly silent and cocking the shutter with you thumb is part of the ritual as well as giving your thumb somewhere to hold on to while you shoot. They should have left the thumb crank in.
So into this landscape comes the new Fuji X100 that everyone is clamoring for. It certainly looks pretty sweet from the front and top (not so much from the back in my opinion), and most photographers can't get enough of it's retro styling. At $1000 it's not cheap, has a fixed 35mm equivalent lens, and the reviews seem to be mixed. People want to love it, but apparently there are some flaws. Shutter lag, battery life, and good but not great image quality especially at high-iso. Come on guys, shutter lag in a camera that's supposed to mimic some of the most responsive cameras ever made? The cameras which defined the concept of The Decisive Moment. That should have been goal Number One on the list.
Either way apparently Adorama can't keep them in stock. Not that that means they're selling a ton of them, maybe they aren't making too many. But it does prove that there is a market for a small responsive rangefinder body with great sensor. Why won't Canon or Nikon stick the 5D II sensor in a little rangefinder body with a mechanical shutter and a Leica M lens mount. People would eat that up. I'd buy two. Alas it looks like we're stuck with either crazy expensive Leica or mediocre Fuji. Some people are loving the micro 4/3rds for this kind of use, but I prefer a viewfinder to a screen, and I know you can get hot shoe viewfinders, but still these camera feel more like a super-digicam than a digified film camera. Two different things.