Viewfinder or LCD screen? Bet Cartier-Bresson would've gone LCD!
Just got the new Canon M shipped in from Hong Kong (no shipping, tax or duty charges!) and it has no viewfinder. For a lot of people, that is a big omission and it weighed heavily on my mind before I decided to purchase it.
I've had compacts before and they are ok but the screens are a little lacking in resolution and the same goes for the photographic output. The M promised to have the small, unobtrusive size of a compact and the power and quality of a DSLR...and, whew, it delivers.
I was fairly hesitant--I like looking through a viewfinder and feeling that sense of precision and command of what I am seeing. It takes some adjustment to rely solely on a LCD screen to compose and set up a shot. Luckily, the M screen is fairly sharp and the manual controls dial very accessible and precise. I was almost sold when I went to a camera store and tried it out for a half hour! The price was a bit steep with taxes so I decided to take a chance on ordering online.
But what really sold me was reading over some stories about Henri Cartier-Bresson and his first experiences with the Leica M those many years ago.
The Leica M was state of the art when Cartier-Bresson took it with him on his first excursions; it was kind of a portable thing that was perfect for street photography and remaining inconspicuous. This is exactly the kind of thing I need for the photos I'm planning to shoot in the next little while: something that fits in a pocket and doesn't need to be held up to the eye to shoot. So the LCD screen is kind of a blessing because you don't draw attention holding something up to your face, you can hold it casually in your hands or place it innocuously on a table. Cartier-Bresson always stressed simplicity and remaining annoymous (he even put black tape on all the shiny parts of his Leica!). He didn't really care about the development process, he just wanted to be in the moment and capture it.
So what finally cemented the deal on getting the M is the notion that I'm going to use it the way Cartier-Bresson used his M: to become one with the environment and the subjects of the photograph. I'm not throwing away my DSLR anytime soon, ofcourse (it is still the tool of choice for most occasions), but there are times I'd prefer not to carry a bag with camera and lenses, I'll simply have the M in the pocket with its 22mm f/2.0 lens and take it out whenever I feel like and capture as best as I can what I'm seeing. And...it feels cool having one...anything to keep photography interesting and new!
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Photo credits: Alphonse Leong.