Through The Looking Glass

If I started the black/white project in 1990 one thing is certain, I would have used my Leica M4 or M6. It's not 1990 and I was in the middle of my six month resolve to use the XT-1 exclusively to really see if I could live with the EVF. A relatively recent announcement of a new camera system from Leica got me thinking a little bit about how strange a world it is. I'm talking about the Leica SL,

When the first X100 was announced the internet was buzzing with comparisons to Leica. Leica, Leica, Leica, blah, blah, blah. Me? I was like ummmmm, no… more like a Canon QL or a dozen other 1970's compact Japanese rangefinders. Then came the X-Pro-1. Again Poor mans Leica, Leica, Leica blah. Again, not really. Not in the way most people took that, most of whom never make work with a Leica M. The shooting experience is nothing like an M. That's not entirely bad. There's all sorts of things about the shooting experience that's not all that great. Close focus sucks, in fact M's do not focus close enough for much of how I like to work. There are a lot of things that are not great. Honestly the X-Pro-1 and early ILC Fuji X system was probably more comparable to the Contax G system. Vague parallels to the M system but not at all alike.

On the other hand you can look at those vague parallels and yes, Fuji might be the Leica of the 21st century. A relatively compact system that delivers great quality and has a enviable lens line-up for a slight price premium. That's what Leica was back thru the 80's and half of the 90's.

Fast-forward to today and the Leica SL announcement. Today one could argue direct comparison but in this case who influenced who? The SL is far far more Fuji than Leica or is Leica more like Fuji now? I hope so, one good sign is the price of the SL. While it's still semi-out-of-control it's not more expensive than M jewelry. It's also not hamstrung as not to compete with the holy M-system either. This might be the first time in way over a decade Leica has done something that puts any risk to cannibalization of the M system in the interest of appealing to a much broader photographic community. I think this is great.

In a lot of ways we are through the looking glass. It's not a matter of Fuji somehow appealing to M-system poor people. Now we have Leica building cameras that are very very much what the XT-1 looks like. Can't see how the SL and very first lens (24-90 f/2.8-4) is a hell of a lot like the XT-1 with 18-55? I can. Now if they bring a lot of the SL down to the T system we have a real race and guess who the current "leader" is. We certainly live in interesting times. I wonder if the X-Pro-2 will have the same EVF component the SL does? It's rumored to have a similar joystick control vs a D-pad which I certainly welcome.