The New Yorker takes a look at the Leica mystique. I think that using a Leica (I’m fortunate enough to have come by an M4 through fortunate circumstance) is very tightly wedded to the romance of photography. In that light, the article’s description of the cloth shutter’s whisper as a “kiss” makes absolute sense.
I’ve been using a Ricoh GX-100 for just over a month now, and in some ways it represents the sort of camera Leica should be making — small, silent, with a premium placed on quick operation. Even then, however, it cannot compare to my M4 in terms of “seeing” the moment that I want to capture. The article is right to wax poetic about the Leica viewfinder. Everyone who has looked through the viewfinder of my M4 (or even my Bessa) always remarks on how bright it is in contrast to your standard dim (d)SLR finder. The framelines subtly frame the space, instead of sharply cutting you off.
It is interesting that Leica is trapped by the success of the M and its “perfection”, because any change from that template is greeted with suspicion or outright hostility by the Leica faithful. I wish that the company would find a way to distill the M hallmarks — small size, discreet shutter, and that viewfinder! — into a new camera line that is unburdened by the need to hew so tightly to the M-series legacy. Unfortunately, it appears that unless someone visionary like Barnack comes along again, Leica will continue to crank out ever-more-polished versions of the same masterpiece.
A footnote to this is the rumor that Nikon might be introducing a digital rangefinder, an heir to their classic SP. If Leica can’t innovate outside of the M-series box, then maybe Nikon can do it.