The 'Pro' Paradox and The Allure of Style Over Substance

When style trumps substance and size trumps user interest.

Leica cameras are revered for their sleek aesthetics and iconic red logo. But are they the best choice today for inconspicuous street photography?

Vintage models blended in, new ones stand out.

When photography pioneers used Leicas, the cameras weighed 200-300g—perfect for discreet shooting. Modern Leicas tip the scales at over 700g and cost around $10,000. Hardly inconspicuous under any aspect.

This reminds me of how Apple stopped making the iPhone mini and now sells bulkier, pricier models. Leica's rangefinder cameras have also forgotten their original goals.

In a healthy market, some brands offer status symbols, others offer value.

Adjusted for inflation, Leica's original cameras would cost about $4,500 today. Yet, their latest models tack on a 30% premium for trivial tweaks over the previous one. A minor tweak, and it's $9,900 instead of $5,900 (investment firms own Leica, licensing the brand from the original company, which now makes microscopes.)

The Ricoh GR series delivers similar quality in a svelte 260g body for under $1,000. Fuji and Sony far surpass Leica for autofocus, critical for spontaneous street work.

Leicas take beautiful photos, but a heavy status symbol seems at odds with the heritage of street shooting candid shots. Like you don't need a Pro phone to be a professional at anything except doomscrolling, or like Hemingway didn't write his novels with a Mont Blanc, you also don't need a Leica to take great pictures. Especially now, especially for street photography.

That's what many brands now do: they sell you a status symbol, but not the ability to have fun and get better at a craft.

It is easy to see this from the fetishization of unboxing and endless gear fidgeting reviews to the details that won't matter to 99.9% of the users.

Total profit-seeking doesn't serve any user, especially creatives.

Leica seems to focus more on making profits than on making the best tool. Fancy watches are pretty, but they rarely keep time better than any $20 Casio.

Remember that gear and tools should serve your creative impulses, not inflate brand cachet. You can decide to pay a premium for those, but when does that extra cost or status symbol defeat your original goals?

For street work, I'll take a capable, lightweight camera over heavy flashy status symbols.

Unlike with small phones, in this market the choice is still available.

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