Photo-Philosophy Thoughts on Cameras

No, your Pentax Spotmatic F is not better than my Leica M6! / Don’t be like Frank

I often get accused of writing click bait titles. I’m really not sure what people think the purpose of an article title is if it’s not designed to get people to read it, but nonetheless, I must admit, the title of this article is designed entirely as bait.

It’s designed to bait the sort of people who would comment on another article about a Leica M6 on this very website with the words “If you guys can’t [sic] know that a Spotmatic f with a super takumar lens is better than any Leica , you don’t know shit !”

You see, I want to address this nonsense to anyone who thinks like that head on. It’s not that I want to prove that a Leica is better than Pentax Spotmatic – I wouldn’t dream of starting such a pointless argument. Quite the opposite in fact, I actually want to make a point that’s somewhat the opposite to my own baity title. I want to make the point that Frank’s Spotmatic F is indeed better than a Leica M6. To him.

A useless comment

Let me just start by pointing out that the sort of commentary that Frank shared on Nigel’s post is completely redundant. That is to say, it holds no value at all. He doesn’t qualify his statement, and of course it’s the sort of comment that’s entirely based on an opinion.

But, beyond it’s absolute redundancy – and the fact that it’s more than a little rude to assume that Nigel and all the other commentators on that post “don’t know shit” – it’s also almost-blind myopic. In short, it’s a useless comment – well, at least apart from the fact that it’s given me something to rant and rave about!

It’s all subjective

The fact is, when it comes to cameras and their use, everything beyond basic stats is entirely subjective. And anything that’s subjective is obviously completely personal to the individual. Our personal experiences with cameras, from the moment we pick up our first, to the last time we pressed a shutter button help define what makes the right camera for us as individual photographers.

In fact, our choice of camera, and the narrative we create for ourselves around that choice, isn’t even exclusively defined by specifically photographic experiences. As human beings we naturally create our own narratives as we meander through life. We form beliefs and ideas about everything we interact with based on every other experience we have in life. As such, what makes a camera the right camera for an individual photographer can just as easily be defined by personal attitudes toward material objects, financial situation or physical ability, as much is it can creative goals or shooting styles etc.

One man’s trash…

The cliche “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” holds a lot of truth, and is especially relevant in the world of photography. To some people a basic point & shoot film camera is all they need, in fact it might even be all they want, or even all they can afford. But to others, such a camera might fall short for technical reasons, or even just not give them the satisfaction they want from their shooting. Some might find the use of a point & shoot brings satisfaction through them being able to create their art with something so simple that cost so little, whilst others might find the limitations of such gear means they feel detached from the process by not being able to have full control over the camera’s settings. Are either of these people wrong? Of course not, these things are personal preferences that have been formed by any number of potential experiences and variables.

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Of course, the difference between a point & shoot and a full manual camera is quite significant. The difference between a Leica M6 and Pentax Spotmatic F is less so. In fact, if you compared a Spotmatic F with its TTL metering and 1/1000th maximum shutter speed, the only really significant thing that separates it from a Leica M6 with its TTL metering and 1/1000th maximum shutter speed is the type of camera they are. SLR vs Rangefinder. And as any photographer worth their salt will tell you, the answer to that question is once again entirely subjective.

So maybe my new mate Frank is comparing mechanical reliability? You only need to spend a little bit of time on google to find just as many people who rave about the mechanical quality of either of these cameras as there are people who complain about the opposite. Even if you stripped down a Leica M6 next to a Spotmatic F and asked a group of engineering experts to comment on the quality of the components, I’d bet a lot of money there wouldn’t be unanimous agreement – likely due to all of the varying experiences said group of engineering experts have. Obviously, this is pure speculation, I’m not aware that this specific comparison has ever been made, but if two mechanical objects that are still working perfectly after the sort of years-of-use we are talking about here, it’s fairly safe to assume they were both made to pretty good standards.

So maybe he’s talking about optical quality. A Super Takumar lens vs. (in this case) a Voigtlander. Objectively, I suppose by some measures a comparable Super Tak might well be better than this specific Voigtlander. The Voigtlander in question is known in some circles as not being their finest hour (though personally I share Nigel’s opinion that it’s a cracking bit of glass). But it’s not exactly comparing apples with apples. And besides, he doesn’t mention the lens specifically so he must therefore be claiming that all Super Tak lenses are better than any lens made for Leica M-Mount cameras. That’s a fairly broad stretch objectively speaking, I’d say. But, as soon as it becomes a subjective statement its integrity entirely falls apart. As I talk about in my post about what defines a perfect lens, any lens can be right for the job if it suits the creative goals of the individual phoyotgrapher. In short, when talking subjectively about optics, “better” is a highly flimsy concept.

Don’t be like Frank

So what is Frank talking about? Well of course, like a considerable volume of keyboard-wielding internet-cranks, he’s mistaking his personal preferences for objective facts. He’s taking all of his beliefs about what makes a good camera and lens, and packaging them up into a bundle of irrefutable facts. And in doing so, he’s convincing himself that not only is he right about what he believes, but also that everyone else who doesn’t believe what he believes “don’t know shit”.

So what am I saying; that Frank is wrong…? Of course not, to Frank the Spotmatic F and some Super Takumar lens-of-his-choice probably is the best thing since sliced bread, and for his needs it likely does trounce anything and everything Leica have and will create. I can completely accept that he thinks that, and would never dream of trying to convince him otherwise.

So why, I wonder, does he feel the need to express his views so fervently? Well, your guess is as good as mine – there really is any number of variables and life experiences that can result in an individual becoming so self-assured and blinkered as it seems Frank has become.

But, well, good luck to him I say… I’ve got no real beef with him, and I can’t imagine that Nigel would have been offended by the comment either… Though, if you want my advice – and quite genuinely I don’t mind if you take it or not – I’d suggest you don’t listen people like Frank! His opinion might be as valid as the next man’s, but to be Frank for a second, his apparent attitude and approach to sharing it really sucks!

 

Thanks to Neil T for letting me use half of his picture of his Pentax Spotmatic F

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42 Comments

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Davie Hudson
    July 15, 2019 at 10:11 am

    Whilst I have a spotmatic f it’s not better than my m3, I love the thing and I love the images but technically no. I’d put up my LX for a good fight though

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Andy Shields
      July 15, 2019 at 4:30 pm

      Wonderful bit of writing here (as always). Thanks for taking the time and presenting such a level view of the situation.

      • Avatar
        Reply
        Hamish Gill
        July 15, 2019 at 11:05 pm

        Thanks Davie

  • Avatar
    Reply
    It's Frank !
    July 15, 2019 at 10:15 am

    Spotmatic f with auto takumar 85-1.8 come at me bro 😂

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Hamish Gill
      July 15, 2019 at 12:45 pm

      🤷

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Be like Frank
    July 15, 2019 at 10:20 am

    Auto takumar 85/1.8

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Mark
    July 15, 2019 at 10:33 am

    Your answer, Hamish, lies in tribalism, the need to belong to a wider group, if only on the internet, in these atomised times. This was a simple case of a tribe pitted against another, or imagining itself as pitted against another. Frank needs to belong to Tribe Takumar. Tribe Voigtlander are the enemy. Just like all that childish Sony/Fuji stuff. The trouble in both cases is that it spews over the net, because it can’t be settled in the playground, behind the toilets, as that kind of mind would’ve settled it in childhood.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Nigel Cliff
    July 15, 2019 at 10:39 am

    I certainly wasn’t offended and anything that starts off the week with a Hamish rant is fine by me

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Wildly Insecure
    July 15, 2019 at 11:10 am

    Woah lordy me, talk about kicking a hornets nest!

    I recently sold my “for life” camera, a Leica M6 and bought a Nikon FM3a. Everyone, literally everyone I told about my decision to sell my Leica said it was a crazy decision. The M6 is arguably the high point of one of the best 35mm camera manufacturers, and somehow, some way, I convinced myself that the legendary M6 wasn’t good enough for me. A bit like if I decided that despite my mediocre looks, very average intelligence and ever expanding beer belly, that I can do better than Miranda Kerr.

    The slow flash sync speed was a bit of an issue for me. The M6’s top sync speed of 1/60 meant that no flash work would be practical in daylight. And the viewfinder, whilst large and bright, became tiny when I put a 90 or 135mm lens on the camera. Critical focussing on a portrait subject up close when shooting f1.4 lenses wide open is a bit of a crap shoot on a rangefinder. And I didn’t want to take it to a lot of places for fear of it being damaged. And the film loading, let’s face it, was a bit of a pain in the a$$ compared to most cameras.

    Well then I shouldn’t have got a Leica rangefinder then should I? Thats right.

    So I chose a camera that was a better fit for me. The M6 is a fantastic camera and I’ll always miss that buttery smooth advance, but in the end I sold it and the lenses and purchased a camera and lens collection with less limitations and equivalent quality glass, and had enough cash left over to finance an overseas holiday.

    And it fits me better, so I’m happy.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Hamish Gill
      July 15, 2019 at 12:43 pm

      Quite right too – there’s no point in owning a camera, however “good” or not it might be if it doesn’t suit you

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Will
      July 15, 2019 at 12:48 pm

      If anyone would like to give me an M6 and a Spotmatic to test out, I’ll gladly write an opinion piece comparing the two 😉

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Terry B
    July 15, 2019 at 11:41 am

    Well put, Hamish.

    All his comment seems to show is he “doesn’t know s**t”.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Ashley Carr
      July 15, 2019 at 1:12 pm

      I think it’s amateurism at best to state one camera is ‘better’ than another especially when comparing different types of camera (SLR vs RF). I will say to the previous poster however that the M6 was definitely not the high point of Leica M’s, the most popular…probably, but certainly not the High point (M5 *cough*).

      But anyway, I shoot both SLR’s and Rangefinders and both have their strengths and weaknesses…Telephoto or shift lens..I won’t even look at my M2. Nimble, quiet, zone focussing…I’ll reach for the Leica.

      For people that actually use their cameras day in, day out for more than (dare I say it..snap shots of their cat) then the whole ‘mine is better than yours’ is simply a moot point. You pick the right tool for the job at hand.

      • Avatar
        Reply
        Hamish Gill
        July 15, 2019 at 11:07 pm

        “You pick the right tool for the job at hand” – It’s amazing how easy it can be to boil all this stuff down to simple sentences as this. It’s also amazing how unfathomable these sorts of sentences are to some

  • Avatar
    Reply
    thorsten wulff
    July 15, 2019 at 11:48 am

    Well, while I read Nigel’s text I did not Frank’s comment, but completely agree with Hamish here. The (yet upublished) story I wrote about Omaha Beach references my M6, which I use with the same Voigtländer, but I could have done this with any other camera. Or my phone.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Sciolist
    July 15, 2019 at 12:35 pm

    “But, beyond it’s absolute redundancy – and the fact that it’s more than a little rude to assume that Nigel and all the other commentators on that post “don’t know shit” ” – Implying

    You had to straw man the guy in order to build a polemic (or ‘rage piece’ as they are called today) against him. Shame. Someone less arrogant might have reflected before attacking and provided an argument we would no doubt all liked to have read and could support. As it is, you are two peas in a pod. Keep arguing about your silly little differences, it fills copy.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Hamish Gill
      July 15, 2019 at 12:41 pm

      That was entirely the point of my very last line, perhaps the joke was a little too subtle

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Nick Lyle
      July 15, 2019 at 4:04 pm

      Hamish makes two key points. One is that rating the performance of a camera and the quality of the resulting images is subjective. The other is that apples and oranges (rangefinders and SLRs) are each better than the other, depending on personal needs and opinions. Now you are complaining about the writing style of both the comment and the riposte. It must be said that how effective or entertaining you may find a particular style is also subjective. In this respect, is your chiding tone really any better? These are the pitfalls of criticism.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Adam Laws
    July 15, 2019 at 1:49 pm

    My dad’s bigger than your dad. My dad’s as tall as the moon, as strong as the wind, as wide as the sky. You should see my dad! He’s got stars in his fists. He bends rainbows on his knee. When he breathes, clouds move…..

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Roger B.
    July 15, 2019 at 2:13 pm

    This is a brilliant article, and Hamish’s logical reasoning equally applies to debates about the “best” stereo cartridge, or the “best” pickup truck, or the “best” single malt scotch. It’s echoed in that famous anonymous quote directed at the seller of a used camera: “How much is my old camera worth?” “As much as someone is willing to pay for it.”

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Hamish Gill
      July 15, 2019 at 11:06 pm

      Thanks Roger – quite right! I cut my teeth on the internet hifi forums… I learned a lot

      • Avatar
        Reply
        Roger B.
        July 16, 2019 at 3:48 pm

        Hamish, you must have developed a very thick skin there, from what I’ve seen of the fanaticism regarding various cartridges or preamps or speakers or what have you!

        • Avatar
          Reply
          Hamish Gill
          July 19, 2019 at 10:39 am

          For sure. It was my internet baptism… no rca or speaker cable is better than any other, they just sound different depending on an infinite amount of other variables… I did learn a lot about life on those forums, that’s for sure

  • Dan Castelli
    Reply
    Dan Castelli
    July 15, 2019 at 2:37 pm

    I can understand the frustration the non-Leica users feel when reading blogs that seem to be over populated with Leica praise. I feel the same way about the Kardashians. But, I have the option to tune them out.
    Frank, write a review or post a user experience with the Spotmatic F. Publish some photos. If you’re that passionate about your camera, show us.
    I always felt the Pentax cameras were akin to a fine sports car or an artist’s tool, but not designed to withstand the daily pounding that photojournalists gave their equipment. It might hurt us amateurs to hear this, but the Nikon’s, Canon’s & Leica’s were only tools to get the job done.
    Let’s face it – there is a segment of the population that will always want the best of anything that is offered; there is only one Tom Brady of the NFL, but people will wear his game jersey on NFL Sunday just because they’re fans.
    Don’t worry or lose sleep over an article touting the advantages of a particular camera…if your Spotmatic F makes you happy as a clam in moist sand, then just be content and snap away.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Peter
    July 15, 2019 at 5:56 pm

    I look at my collection of cameras as one might look at a bowl of fruit – some days I want the peach, some days the nectarine, some days the apple and others the plum. The color, the taste, etc…, lead me towards my choice. It really doesn’t matter because they are all tasty!

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Graham Line
    July 15, 2019 at 7:51 pm

    I’ve used/owned both Leica and Pentax systems over a period of years, professionally and for myself. I saw very little difference in reliability, and found little to choose between the best Summicron-M and SMC Takumar lenses in terms of imaging or build quality.
    But I also own both a Mitsubishi Montero (Pajero) and a VW Golf TDi. Arguing one or the other of those is “best” is equally silly, as long as they do what they are meant to do.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    George Appletree
    July 15, 2019 at 8:52 pm

    There is some barrel distortion in that Leitax

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Hamish Gill
      July 15, 2019 at 9:28 pm

      ha… it’s perfect, dunno what you’re on about 😉

      • Avatar
        Reply
        George Appletree
        July 15, 2019 at 10:20 pm

        just both sides don’t marry well😉

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Frank the photographer
    July 15, 2019 at 8:55 pm

    I’m gonna be honest , my spotmatic f , “f” is for Frank in case you hadn’t guessed was my first slr and I’ve went on to have 20 in my box , the point I try to make is that there’s so many people that have a hard on for “Leica this ” “buttery smooth that ” blah blah blah lol , though I can understand there seems to be a hierarchy in the camera world as to the glass , the maker and also the biggest factor ,,, the price !! Mine is bigger than yours type of scenario , I’m not a photographer , I couldn’t even dare to say I’m a decent amateur BUT , i will say this and I want all you “Leica lovers ” to listen very attentively ,,,,, don’t buy a camera you are scared of using and are afraid to take out to the very places and around the very people and occasions you want to a ap and remember and if you are scared ,,, well ,, you would be better off sticking that Leica right up your ass because it’s more useful up there than where you have it LONG LIVE THE SPOTMATIC FRANK !!!!

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Hamish Gill
      July 15, 2019 at 9:24 pm

      Ha, excellent – thanks Frank, this made me chuckle! I couldn’t agree more, btw, an iphone 3gs is a better camera than an unused Leica.
      Thanks for being a good sport about me taking a swipe!

      • Avatar
        Reply
        Spotmatic "f"rank
        July 20, 2019 at 11:41 am

        Makes this place a bit more interesting ,,,, now ,,, who am I gonna take a swipe at next 🤭

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Brian
    July 15, 2019 at 10:10 pm

    I modified my 50/1.4 Super-Tak to RF coupled M-Mount, along with a Canon 50/1.4 FL, Minolta 50/1.4 MC, and Konica 50/1.7 Hexanon. The latter is one of the best lenses you can find, close to a 50/2 Summicron for 5% of the price. But I don’t make declarations that a Konica T3 with 50/1.7 Hexanon is better than my Pentax, or Leica, or Canon, or Nikon. Every camera has strong points, and weak points.

    The SMC 50/1.4 I keep on an Argus/Cosina STL1000.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Kodachromeguy
    July 16, 2019 at 4:38 am

    Well responded, Hamish. That type of tribalism does not belong here. Frank could contribute his keen insights to the infamous Dpreview, where the “experts” and “photographer” frauds have elevated trolling and tribalism to a high art form.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Laurence Kesterson
    July 16, 2019 at 7:26 pm

    I make photos for a living and I am a diehard Leica M user and fan. I also use Canon DSLRs and I can tell you that the Canons (5DmkIV and 1Dx) are unequivocally “better” than my Leica MP 240 or M10P in almost every way that matters. Color balance in mixed light is incredible (Leica is wonky and sometimes hard to fix in post), dynamic range is better, multiple flash is light years better, autofocus is incredible, and the list goes on. However, the I prefer the Leicas almost every time (except pro sports!). The rangefinder camera forces me to be a participant in what I’m photographing. The DSLR keeps me away as an observer. They both have their places and are tools for specific jobs, but I make “better” photos with the inferior Leicas.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Hamish Gill
      July 19, 2019 at 10:37 am

      That’s how I feel too

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Steen
    July 17, 2019 at 2:44 pm

    Sorry – this turns out to be a bit more lengthy, than I intended. Here goes:
    Back in the mid 70’s I had started saving up for my first camera. My father used Asahi Pentax, and had just switched from a Spotmatic to the new KM with the K-mount (obviously). And I was inclined to get an Asahi Pentax K-SLR, too. Then I stumbled upon a test in a Danish photo magazine. The test examined durability and build quality. To that end, the testers took apart the tested SLR cameras to examine the quality of materials, the build, the execution of the technical solutions etc. etc. I remember three of the cameras scrutinised: A Nikon EL, a Leica SL2, and an Asahi Pentax K2.

    After that test I had my camera of choice nailed down: I got an Asahi Pentax K2 DMD (after saving a little longer). With regards to lenses the choice suited me fine: tests in other magazines had pointed in the direction of Asahi Pentax as well (consistent color rendition across focal lengths etc.)

    I was not disappointed. And despite selling off the wonderful K2 DMD in a fit of insanity along the way – a decision I will regret to my dying day – I still enjoy the wonderful feel of some 40 years + K2 cameras along with some other fine Asahi Pentax SLRs and DSLRs

    Recently I acquired digital ranger finder (sort of at least): I realised that I might never get my hands on range finder camera of my dreams – A Nikon SP 2005 Limited. But using the digital range finder has taught me something, though: A range finder camera will never be able to replace an SLR/DSLR for me. It’s a fine addition to my go to cameras, fun to use in some situations – and deeply frustrating in others ( and I do as a matter of fact mostly work with 35mm equivalent lenses and wide angles, occasionally picking up a nifty fifty or a short tele, which is somewhat compatible with the range finder idea).

    All of this said: The Leica M6 is a wonderful camera, the Pentax’s, too. We all have our reasons for choosing our tools, and enjoying the tools we use. There’s no need to turn childish, rude, or ugly at other peoples choices and preferences – instead, learning that other people see things differently is a thing of beauty and an occasion to behold a richness of experiences. And an invitation to share the joy of creating good photos?

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Hamish Gill
      July 19, 2019 at 10:36 am

      Well said

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Brent E.
    July 17, 2019 at 3:05 pm

    Different tools ; for different types of work. Personally, I love rangefinders. My M6 is my favorite camera besides my Widelux. It’s the perfect camera for shooting 35 especially stopped down in a street setting, if you ask it to do that you’ll be happy. For me SLR’s are the opposite, if I’m shooting something further away or trying to get a close frame wide open, that’s where I’d rather have the spotmatic. It’s a shovel and a hammer… If all you do all day is did a bunch of holes you’re gonna love your shovel and talk shit about the guy with the hammer, until the time comes that you’ve gotta hang something up.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Bill
    July 20, 2019 at 5:57 pm

    There are countless online reviews of Leica M cameras out there along with a number of YouTube channels where people are going on and on about these cameras. Quite often the reviewer waxes poetic about the camera and the Leica mystique. When we get to the photos that accompany the review however we are reminded that for better or worse it is the photographer that creates the photos and the camera is only a tool used to do so. It seems to me that for many who own Leica M cameras today, the biggest reason for doing so is simply because they like having them. A Leica M6 is a fine camera. It does not appear to help anyone take better photos but it might help them better enjoy the process of making photographs and that’s okay.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Apelles Pinxt
    July 27, 2019 at 6:53 pm

    In terms of object value the M6 wins, however as to actually taking photos the answer is entirely subjective, the Voightlander lens in the photo is actually made by Cosina in China, so as far as quality is concerned the Super Takumar is probably better. An inexpensive quartz watch probably keeps more accurate time than a Rolex. I think it’s ultimately the skill of the photographer that determines the quality of the photograph rather than the camera whatever they may be using. As an interesting aside Nikon was really introduced to Europe and the U.S during the Korean War as it was Nikon rangefinders that gave good images for photojournalism and were both accessible and easily replaced during the conflict . Thus the beginnings of the Japanese camera industry.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Josef Brugger
    October 18, 2019 at 7:58 pm

    Having talked to some marine and navy photographers who were there (Korean War) it was initially Nikkor lenses fitted to Leica bodies that caught their attention. Interest in Nikon bodies came later.

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