Why I Love My Leica M (Type 240) Rangefinder Camera

My roots, why I gave up photography for a year, dumped my DSLR gear and finally bought the Leica M & 35mm f/2 Summicron ASPH

Nicholas Putz
Mar 25, 2014 · 10 min read

My love of photography started with pinhole cameras as a juvenile. The idea of capturing a moment in time was something of tremendous value to me. From the idea of freezing the moment on paper to the technical methodologies of how to do it—I was hooked. Bear with me for a bit while I give you a little history.

My first Pinhole Camera Shot. Circa 1992-1994

I think I lived an interesting life growing up. I did not have a large group of friends as a kid. You could call me an outsider for the most part. When I would go to my classmates houses for birthdays, or whatever the social occasion was, I never really connected with most of them. Probably because they were into sports and when you’re a kid, if you are not good at sports, you’re not really anyone to anyone (at least where I am from). I was nudged into trying sports and I was never really good at them (basketball, baseball, tennis, running), and subsequently did not have the most enjoyable time around others who were excelling at that kind of stuff. I am more technically and artistically inclined, and I think the few friends I did have were the same way and that’s why we connected so well.

Being the minority in this respect, I would dissect and reverse engineer almost any gadget I could get my hands on that would not get me into trouble for destroying.

This passion for understanding the foundations of what makes the things we love exist and function only manifested itself further into music, cars, technology, and art.

Fast forward about 6-7 years into the future and I find myself in a high school photography class with a Nikon F 35mm Film camera, a box of undeveloped photo paper and tons of rolls of Kodak T-Max B&W 400 speed film.

I am still trying to find my shots from my experiences in this class, but whether or not they went in the trash, what I took away from the class subconsciously brought my passion for art and photography to an entirely new level.

A few years would pass by as I explored different hobbies yet I always found myself gravitating back to cameras and music. After playing with disposables and bogarting my dads 35mm film camera, I finally found myself in the digital space.

My brother received a 1 (one) megapixel Kodak camera with a 3.5" floppy disc drive for storage for what I think was his birthday. I was able to briefly use that until some god damned idiot girl from a nearby high school whom I found out a few years ago actually stole it from our home (by admission of a former friend of hers out of nowhere). I was accused of “stealing” this for years by my mother. Yeah… Your son who loves photography is a thief that would steal his brothers camera and sell it for money… *rolleyes* Brilliant.

Let’s fast forward some more…

Welcome to the Point & Shoot Age!

As I turned 18, I did what every single responsible 18 year old does— I get a credit card.

What’s the first thing I do with my $500 limit Capital One credit card? I go to best buy and pick up a Canon S30 Point & Shoot with a 128mb memory card that I can’t afford.

After this, I picked up an S50 point & shoot, but I found myself wanting more….

Welcome to the age of DSLR

I purchased and sold the following in sequence all through college…

Canon EOS 350D (Rebel XT)
Canon 40D
Canon 50D
Canon 5D Mark II & L lenses galore

To my last DSLR — the amazing and infamous Nikon D3s with all the lighting equipment you could want, every damn lens imaginable and no possible way to transport this equipment with ease or without breaking a sweat.

I began shooting everything from events to weddings and getting paid for it too. It was great—until it wasn’t.

I was becoming really good at what I was doing. People loved what I was producing, but it was becoming a pain in my ass and I was losing focus as to why I was into photography in the first place. I became a gear whore—a person who thinks the more gear you have, the better the photographer you can be. Most of this was conditioned through continuous photography internet forum use.

Having tons of gear making you a better photographer was not my frame of mind, but it was what others expected of me to prove that “I can give them what I want—I mean business. I have $15,000 worth of equipment and gear. You should pay me.” This is everything that is wrong with the art and a big part of what is saturating and de-valuing the flooded market of professional photographers today. Buy a DSLR kit at best buy and some lenses, instant wedding photographer. Don’t get me started on Craigslist Photographers.

I quit.

After Christmas in December of 2012, I sold every bit of camera equipment I owned in an effort to focus on my career and to take a step back and truly think about what I was doing, why I was doing it, and how it stopped becoming enjoyable and enriching to my life.

Everyone needs a break from time to time. This was mine.

I thoroughly love bringing joy, happiness and creating great memories for others. That was my biggest motivation for shooting up until this point. Or at least what it evolved into.

That evolution however had somehow deviated from my roots and pulled the energy from bringing joy, happiness and great memories for myself. Yes making others happy made me happy, but I did not feel whole. It all felt… required.

My wife, Emily. Shot with Nikon D3s and Rokinon 1.4 MF Lens.

After 14 months of not touching a single camera (except my iPhone, but c’mon let’s get serious here, people. lol) and continuous thought toward what camera I would want to buy if I were to ever get back into photography, I decided to finally return to my roots and the roots of 35mm photography…digitally.

Welcome Back

February, 2013 — I made a concrete decision to put my hard earned money into a camera brand that pioneered 35mm photography. A camera brand that made the best lenses and optics in the entire world. A camera so simple and so true to its roots, it was symbolic of exactly what I was looking to achieve in my artistic expression.

This is when the Leica M (Type 240) and a 35mm f/2 Summicron ASPH Lens landed at my doorstep.

A Rangefinder camera with the latest technological advancement of photography, along with what is arguably the best lens in the world for photography? Don’t mind if I do! ☺

It’s the perfect tool for what I was looking to accomplish for myself, and no one else. I feel rejuvenated.

The Leica M Rangefinder forces one to think about the shot before hitting the shutter. You don’t have any ridiculous continuous auto focus or tracking features, aperture priority modes, shutter priority modes, 20 FPS or any of that stupid crap that in my opinion takes away from the ability to improve your art. It’s all fluff and crap you don’t need—unless you are earning a full living with photography and need these features for certain situations where you end up paying off your $6000 DSLR during one shoot.

Dad in Maui. March 2014.

There is a certain feeling of nostalgia and pride you seem to have when shooting with the Leica M which in my experiences so far, boosts my creativity and with all of it’s manual settings, improves my ability to further understand the camera.

I chose the Leica M and one lens only. The 35mm f/2 Summicron ASPH. Some would argue this is the finest lens in the world. So far, I think I would agree. From the standpoint of clarity and precision, I have never used a better performing, higher quality lens. Ever. It is so incredibly silky smooth in its movement and focusing precision — I don’t know how anyone could ever create something better. I suppose their is a pinnacle for everything, and Leica has this one claimed.

Maui Sunset. March, 2014

Why did I choose only one lens? Because life is complicated enough, truthfully. I want to keep things simple and I want to fully master the 35mm and all of its capabilities. Not only that, but I just love the focal length in general.

What I love even more about this camera and its imaging capabilities, is its natural unassuming presence when in public. Nobody really notices if I’m taking a photo compared to lifting a DSLR to my eye with a massive lens. People really look and stare. One might argue you are more prone to “robbery.” With thousands of dollars in lenses hanging off your back or in your Crumpler camera bag, it’s kind of nerve wracking if you are shooting street photography.

Not with the Leica. Most people think it’s an old film camera so they don’t want it, or they have no idea what is in your hands at all so they don’t even bother.

Overall so far: Just an amazing experience.

Don’t listen to the online community

There are a few select individuals who I actively share my photography with online, and I have taken harsh criticism from them over the years. These guys are amazing and they understand what this photography game is all about.

Blind leading the blind—I stay the hell away from photography forums. They are full of nothing more than people who pick apart camera features all day long and rank cameras based on features and the ability for that “camera to take good pictures.” It’s all a joke. (Obviously I am generalizing a massive group of people on the internet so if you feel insulted—you are probably one of the individuals I am referring to. Sorry. As they say… “If the shoe fits.”)

The online community is a great resource for exploring and comparing real life experiences with features to help you decide what you might “need” to “take better pictures” but honestly after being immersed for so many years, it’s all a crap shoot. Especially when you have some of the worst photographers out there telling you how you should be shooting, what you should be shooting with, and how you should have giant white borders around your photos with massive copyright logos slapped on the bottom.

“Why would you buy a Rangefinder??” they ask. Because I want to.

“I can’t shoot with a rangefinder. It’s not accurate enough for me.” No sir, you are not accurate and you don’t know what you’re doing. There is a reason the most prolific photographers in the world used a Rangefinder and still do to this day.

So if you find yourself confused on the internet about what camera you should buy, and you want one with ALL of the bells and whistles and continuous AF and subject tracking, and blah blah blah blah blah, take a step back and take it from me—you don’t need that to take good photographs.

Emily in the cabana in Maui. March 2014.

No Regrets.

I knew going into this that I would never regret my decision. The Leica M Type 240 camera (with its lack of features and creature comforts ) is everything I hoped it would be. I find myself loving it more and more every day I use it with its simple 35mm f/2 Summicron ASPH lens.

It’s simple. It’s natural. It’s perfect. It does what it’s supposed to do— it helps me capture the moments the way I want to remember them.

It works for me for all of the reasons stated above and I would not have it any other way.

To see more of my photos, check out my Flickr Here.

On the beach of Maui. March 2014.

    Nicholas Putz

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    VP Performance & Growth Marketing, Brand Director, Digital Integration, Creative Direction, Strategic Technologist

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