By Robert Plotkin,
The Miami Herald, writes

Digital technology attracts many photographers, but a small segment is repelled and takes refuge with Leica, a German maker of exquisite manual cameras.

Around the world, photojournalists with pretensions of art, those who dream of being accepted into the Magnum Photo Agency, carry a Leica in addition to their digital SLRs. These battered Leicas, loaded with black-and-white film, are for their personal work–work that will never appear in the publications for which they take pictures, but work that satisfies an artistic need.

To them, Leica is the platonic camera, made from steel and black-lacquered brass.

And now Leica has introduced the MP (short for Mechanical Perfection), which refers back to a limited number of cameras produced for photojournalists in the 1950s.

It costs $2,595 and is available lacquered or plated in chrome. The 35 mm F/1.4 lens with which it was tested costs $2,495.

The MP comes in response to Leica fans who objected to the absence of a totally manual camera after the introduction of the M7, which incorporated aperture-priority metering, a technology widely available since the 1970s.

This should tell you about the Leica owner. The Leica owner does not want an autowinder because that would eliminate the pleasure of winding the exquisite metal lever. Autofocus would eliminate the need for turning the beautifully damped focus ring.

The MP is surprisingly heavy for such a slim camera, but it is the weight of quality, of compact density. The Leica feels like a black bar of gold, but the pleasure is in its use, which has an anachronistic charm.

To learn to use the Leica is to master the art of available-light photography. Leica has some of the world’s fastest lenses, permitting photography in low light that can drape across a subject like couture gauze. The Leica owner rarely carries a flash, preferring to go unnoticed. The whisper-quiet shutter rarely alerts subjects to their exposure.

Many Leica owners disdain the alchemy of the darkroom and prefer to edit images in Photoshop, the premier photo-editing program. (The consumer version, Photoshop Elements, is included with many digital cameras.)

To digitize the image, use a film scanner. The best is the just-released Minolta Dimage Scan Elite 5400, with breakthrough optical resolution of 5,400 dots per inch. This permits the wealthy aesthete, owner of both Leica and Dimage, to produce unmatched 37-megapixel images.

Copyright 2003, Chicago Tribune