A NEW CHAPTER AHEAD: FAREWELL LEICA

Vieri at work at Arnardrangur, Iceland 2018

FAREWELL LEICA, THE LOVE IS STILL THERE BUT THE RELATIONSHIP HAS RUN ITS COURSE…

Farewell Leica, the love is still there but the relationship has run its course. Saying something like that sort of feels like being in a movie, but I wouldn’t know how to put it differently.

As many of you know, in mid-2016 I have been selected by Leica Italy as a Leica Ambassador, and in October 2018 as a Certified by Leica photographer.

The Faroe Islands Photography Workshop

I have been using Leica M cameras for more than a decade now, long before my relationship with Leica Italy started. In early 2016 I started working with Leica SL: it was love at first sight, and until late 2018 I used exclusively my two Leica SLs, sided for months at a time by various other Leica gear, to create my photographs.

During my time as Leica Ambassador, I had the fortune of meeting some great colleagues and some really amazing photographers. More importantly, I made new friendship that I’ll treasure forever. I had the honor of being part, albeit for a relatively short time, of a brand that started 35mm photography as we know it and that have been there for more than hundred years of history of photography.

At the end of 2018, with my love for Leica’s products still unchanged and with various Leica cameras and lenses still in my bag, it was clear to me that my relationship with Leica Italy had run its course. On December 20, 2018 I decided to sever my ties with Leica Italy, and I sent them my notice. It was time to go solo again.

The reasons behind my choice to resign from being a Leica Ambassador and a Certified by Leica photographer, something that most photographers in the world would kill for, are twofold. Believe me when I tell you that it has been one of the most difficult decision I ever made, but I am very happy I did it.

Most of my reasons for leaving, obviously have to do with my business relationship with Leica Italy, and I am sure you’ll understand that I’ll keep this part for myself. Part of it, on the other hand, has to do with my continuing search for the best tool for my job as a Fine Art landscape photography.

For me, equipment choice has always been dictated by what I have to shoot and by the look I have in mind. Leica lenses are fantastic, and together with the Leica SL for three years they helped me create some of the best work I have ever done.

During my whole photographic career, I always loved the look of Medium Format: for me, there is just something there than no 35mm cameras can create.

For three years, the Leica SL system brought me closest to my beloved medium format look than any other 35mm system while giving me the weather-sealed, tough-as-nails, reliable cameras and lenses I need to be doing my job.

I still love the Leica SL, of course, its essential interface and the beautiful, minimalistic camera body were great to work with. The files were very good, best in class for FF cameras, but something was missing, something difficult to describe with words, but something I noticed more and more as time went by. 

As I said, I’ll keep the business relationship part of my reasons to resign from being a Leica Ambassador and a Certified by Leica photographer for myself. Suffice to say that somehow the magic was gone, and Leica Italy didn’t do anything to help me get it back. On the contrary. So, it was time to go solo again.

The Dolomites Photography Workshop

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16 thoughts on “A NEW CHAPTER AHEAD: FAREWELL LEICA”

  1. To be honoust Vierri, I think that nobody really cares with what camera you’re shooting. I am not. In my opinion your credibility as an established and astonishing photographer only increases when you choose to let your art go first and do all the talking. Your stunning work is more than able to do just that. No Leica or “filter brand which I will not name” should be able to influence what you’re trying to create. Keep up the good work, your own work, with and/or without Leica!

    Reply
    • Hello Jeroen,

      thank you for your comment and for your kind words about my work, much appreciated. I believe that the vision and the work all depend on the photographer, and that cameras / lenses / filters / tripods / etc only help you and enable you to realise your vision and ideas. Of course, some tools do that better than others, and for some kind of photography some tools are better than others. In the end, whatever tool makes you happy both while using it, and because of the results it creates, then it’s the right tool for you. Best regards,

      Vieri

      Reply
  2. You make no mention of trying the Leica medium format system? If that’s what you were going to look into instead of 35mm, why not try it before leaving?

    Reply
    • Hello Robert,

      I used the S (Typ 007) for about six months, and I found it not a landscape system at all, at least not for the kind of work I do. You can find some reviews of Leica S gear here on the blog for your convenience. In short: Limited long exposures (was 1 minute at the time, now is 2 min I guess), limited WA options (19mm equivalent) while the X1D has 17mm native and you can adapt anything, the S is bigger, heavier and misses landscape-oriented features such as those you can find on the X1D: countdown for LE and “end exposure” (a truly genius idea), plus the X1D has no LENR, etc etc.

      Hope this helps, best regards

      Vieri

      Reply
    • Well Daniel, it is not if you consider the old film MF format, and yet it is in modern digital camera’s discussion, whether you like it or not. More, since this topic has been done to death I am not even going there. Best regards,

      Vieri

      Reply
  3. Hi,

    I am an X1D user coming up on two years now, as I have had it since it was released. Make sure your camera is 100 percent. When I called for,parts and repairs today, I was told the parts are already being discontinued. Very upsetting to hear as I am almost 30k into the kit.

    Reply
    • Hello Jim,

      thank you for the heads up. Both my cameras seem to be working well so far, but I’ll definitely keep your advice in mind. Best regards,

      Vieri

      Reply
  4. So very interesting that you made the change. I too made a change in December of 2018 from the Leica SL system to the Hasselblad X1D-C. No regrets at all. Though admittedly the Leica and the Hasselblad are two very different creatures. I still have my Leica M10-D (and MP-film) and collection of M and R lenses that I suspect will always be with me. Good luck with your new direction. I am excited to see what comes next. Cheers–lt

    Reply
    • Hello Linford,

      sorry about the late reply – glad to hear that you too made the change, as you I also kept some Leica lenses and a M2, for when I am out in the street… :)

      Best regards,

      Vieri

      Reply
  5. Did you also consider the GSX50S Vieir? I tried the X1D shortly after release ans found the shuttle sound disturbing. I love the ergonomics and wished had worked out. But while the Fuji is quite ugly, it very dynamic camera. Very happy. My M-10 and lens are staying put. A deep appreciation came while in Paris and Roma. Made for the street. Love your writing. Can’t believe English is a second language for you.

    Reply
    • Hello Lucas,

      thank you for your message and for your kind words, much appreciated.

      No, I never even considered the GFX50S or R for my work, not even for a second. I do only landscape and can’t speak for other kind of photography, but I believe the X1D to be simply the best tool for the job out there today – period. Of course, that’s just me – the GFX might work better for different kinds of shooting or for a different landscape shooter, that goes without saying.

      Best regards,

      Vieri

      Reply
  6. I have thoroughly enjoyed all of your reviews. It would seem some of your concerns over the Leica S have been addressed with the S3 (higher resolution and longer exposure times). I understand you now use the Phase One XT. This looks very attractive to me based on my days shooting a 4×5 Ebony view camera with Schneider lenses, but the magnitude of shifts and lack of tilts limits the full capability of the XT. Now I am considering whether to add the Phase One XT to my system. I have all of the Leica S lenses and I often shoot in bad weather or from a National Geographic ship. So the Leica SL2 and S3 have many advantages. Also, as an amateur with a full time job, my best photos are taken in those brief moments when the light is just right, sometimes even taking me by surprise. It seems to me that the Phase One XT requires a more deliberate approach of finding a scene and waiting for the light, as you have shown in so many of your beautiful photos. What are your thoughts on the Leica S3? I occasionally like to include the sun in photos, which from your tests of the XT does not seem feasible due to the flare in the Rodenstock lenses. Leica S lenses almost eliminate flare. The may not be the best of your reviews to post this comment since it is a compilation of reading almost of all of your reviews, which I appreciate for their accurate, data-based analysis and focus on the art.

    Reply
    • Hello Kenneth,

      thank you for your comment. Let me address all your points one by one:

      – Leica S3: maximum shutter speed of 8 minutes (depending on ISO) it’s hardly a solution to my concerns regarding long exposures; I routinely go above that, and so do most long-exposure landscape photographers. While 64Mp is definitely more than enough for most users, the market moved way past that with the Fuji GFX 100 and 100s, not to mention Phase One of course. The Fuji GFX 100s, incidentally, made the “form factor” appeal of the S3 much less appealing. So, in my book, the S3 while a great camera (and would have been even more so if it came out years ago, or at least when it was actually announced) is still way too little, way too late – and way too expensive for what it does, on today’s market. Keeping with Leica’s offer, I would most definitely choose the SL2 against the S3, no questions about it; the slightly lower resolution is more than made up for by the features, lens range, etc. Considering any band today, not just Leica, if I weren’t using Phase One, I would likely go for the GFX 100s.

      – Flare with the XT. While it’s true that large format lenses are much more sensitive to flare, generally speaking, please keep in mind that in my tests I always put them through a worse-case scenario. As well, it’s also true that flare can often be avoided simply by turning the camera a degree or two, or by reframing slightly, or by blocking the sun from hitting the lens – that can be done with something as simple as a hand, and for when that isn’t enough, I always carry a small Lastolite reflector (of the pup-open kind) that I use to shade the lens if needed. I have been carrying this with me and using it for years, by the way, long before moving to Phase One.

      – Limited movements with the XT. While this can theoretically be a concern, as you might have seen in my review here: https://www.vieribottazzini.com/2021/02/simply-revolutionary-phase-one-xt-review.html , the movements actually severely limit use of the whole image circle with the 90mm, limit use but not so drastically with the 70mm, doesn’t limit almost at all with the 32 and 50mm and not at all with the 23mm. In exchange for that, you get a very small and portable package, with full digital automation, etc. It’s up to you to decide whether this is worth the few mm in shift or not.

      – Absence of tilt. This, of course, is a concern. Phase One released the 40mm with tilt, and I assume it won’t be the only lens they’ll release featuring tilt. If you need tilt today, my favourite solution would be the Arca-Swiss Rm3di, used with lenses in Rodenstock aperture mount; you’d lose all digital integration offered by the XT though, so it’s again a matter of compromise.

      Hope this answered all your questions. Best regards,

      Vieri

      Reply

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