6th May 2015…
…During the previous installment of this review, I got to know the M Edition 60 a little better and gained a clearer understanding of what it can offer photography today. Now in this, the final chapter, I took the Leica M Edition 60 out and onto the streets of Chester and Manchester, where I could properly put the camera through its paces.
The brief was simple. Evaluate whether a digital camera can function as an everyday ‘shooter’, without a screen – just myself and the Leica M60 enjoying a relaxing stroll through the sights, sounds, smells and inhabitants of two popular, sprawling and rugged cities in the North West of England.
How in fact is it possible to spend an entire two days shooting street photographs and using only a camera that provides just the bare minimum of options necessary to capture a picture – those being shutter speed, aperture, focusing and ISO sensitivity?
After all, how can one be expected to do so without the facility to check your previous shots, or to set the white balance, or without referring to a histogram, or defining the AF points, or setting the multiple exposure bracketing, or checking the focus, or formatting the SD card, or…
Hang on a second – did I not cover all of that in my previous M Edition 60 articles?
Surely a camera of such minimalist design and operation, shouldn’t require a thousand words in order to get its point across?
With that in mind, I shall now stop typing and simply let the images tell the story…
”…and that was back in May – another place, another time. Now (6/11/15) I feel I can finally come clean with a little piece of the truth that’s been ‘pecking away’ at me since writing that series of articles.
You see, the M-Edition 60 wasn’t entirely the street-photography-bed-of-roses I’d made it out to be. At the time however and as I’ve said, things were different then – I believed my photography and writing were finally ‘going somewhere’ – Leica’s new best friend and all that. What with seeing, using and discussing the new Leica SL a full 5 months before its release, and being the ‘only’ photographer / journalist on this here planet given the opportunity to spend a lengthy amount of time with the M-Edition 60 and actually use it in a real-world environment. Silly me. 🙂
Two problems arose during my time with the camera but it wasn’t until I’d hit the streets and spent a couple of days really getting to know it, that these ‘gremlins’ emerged – the M60 isn’t really suitable as a street photography camera, on call and ready to shoot at a moments notice.
Specifically, the M60 (and due to it’s extremely limited menu options), likes to go to sleep every 2 minutes. As indicated, this can’t be changed, at all. No menu options (even in the viewfinder display) means that unless you make it a habit to give the shutter button a quick half-press every minute or so, the camera will ‘nod-off’.
Of course this wouldn’t usually be an issue – after all, I have my own M9 set to ‘sleep’ after 2 minutes of inactivity. However, with just a light touch of the shutter and by the time the camera reaches my eye, it’s awake and ready to go.
Except with the M60, the camera is in fact rather like myself – it takes an eternity to wake up.
As an example, on one occasion I encountered one of those photography moments that you know is going to make a picture that will quickly become a classic (in my eyes at least). Instinctively I lifted the M60, focused, checked the metering and hit the shutter…nothing. “Oh heck” I thought, “the camera’s gone to sleep”. I tap the shutter again…nothing…nothing…nothing…nothing…etc…
Only after approximately 7 seconds, the shutter clicked. Of course, by then the opportunity was long gone – not to mention it was now blatantly obvious I was trying to ‘discreetly’ photograph the people in the scene.
If this had happened only once it probably would’ve been a non-issue. Sadly, it happened again and again and again…I lost track of the number of shots I lost over the 2 days with the camera.
The second issue was one that has plagued every digital ‘M’ at one point or another…Freezing.
Yep, locked up, seized, dead, unresponsive, useless – and as per usual, the procedure with a locked Leica is to pull the battery.
With the M60 that can be a bit of a faff and is as a result of the fact that it doesn’t have any strap lugs – unless you fancy dropping your prized and expensive camera onto the pavement, it has to be kept in its half-case.
So it transpires that on the 5 occasions that it became unresponsive, I would have to unwind the knurled nut on the base of the camera securing it to its case, remove the bottom plate, pop-out the battery, then reassemble the whole lot – all of this being done whilst balancing components under armpits etc, of a very valuable test camera and in the middle of a busy street.
Naturally, whilst all of this is going on, I’m not taking pictures.
‘Ah but surely this can be fixed in a firmware update’ I hear you say, ‘after all, that’s what Leica did with their other digital M’s that showed the same issues?’
And ordinarily that is what would happen. However the M60 is a limited edition of only 600 pieces. Most now live in hermetically sealed chambers as investments by their various owners. For Leica to release a firmware update for a camera that is no longer in production (nor was it ever in fact), would take time and money.
Despite emailing my findings to Stephan Daniel of Leica himself, the necessary alterations will never see the light of day, which is a crying shame.
The M-Edition 60 is an incredible idea (in concept) and despite missing out on a raft of photographic opportunities in the process, I was able to take some pictures that I’m quite proud of.
However, it is rendered totally useless as an all day, every day shooter in the one area of photography its design and marketing claim it to be inspired by, ie. the M3 and Street Photography”.