This isn’t a Leica vs. Nikon article or an article professing that one camera is superior to all other cameras. This is simply me sharing with you my recent experience shooting street photography on a rainy evening in the 412 (that’s a hip way of saying Pittsburgh, I’m so hip sometimes). Only once or twice in my entire photography career have I found myself as frustrated as I did yesterday evening with the D810.
Disclaimer: Please don’t interpret this article as an endorsement to go out and sell your Nikon gear to buy Leica gear. If I had been shooting anything but street photography the title of this article would have probably been reversed.
First, a little about my setup and style when shooting street. My Nikon D810 was fitted with the NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8G, auto ISO, auto-focus, aperture priority. My Leica M (Typ 262) was fitted with the Leica 35mm f/2.0 Summicron-M Aspherical lens and the same settings as the D810 except its manual focus only (I zone focus when shooting street with a Leica). Had I been able to attach my 35mm f/2D old-school lens to the D810 I could have easily zone focused and been frustration free, but that lens isn’t weatherproof and it was pouring down rain. So why the frustration with the Nikon setup?
In the years since I started PhotolisticLife I have had the opportunity to shoot with almost every great camera/lens that has come about. Everything from a $200 camera to a $7,000+ camera. Never in my life have I had the amount of trouble locking focus as I have had with the Nikon D810. It’s not a lens/camera combination problem as I have used many, many different Nikon lenses and still find that in difficult lighting it can be finicky when it comes to locking focus. I’ve used three different D810 bodies and all have had the same issue. The funny thing is, sometimes they work flawlessly and then in similar situations on a different day (or sometimes the same day) they start acting up again. Thus, the D810 has a solid place in my landscape, still life, and any type of photography that doesn’t rely on speed stable of equipment, but will never be my street shooter.
After spending about 20 minutes with the D810 searching for focus I bagged it and pulled out my Leica, set it to f/4 and ISO 5000, and never missed another shot that evening. Leica wins that round. To be completely fair, if the D810 could easily be set up to zone (or hyper-focal distance) focus it would easily eat the Leica’s lunch on just about every front (specifically low light and frame rate speed).
At the end of the day this article is simply me venting some frustrations with my D810… Your mileage may vary. Regardless, you can shoot street photography with literally any camera, and do it well. You certainly don’t need a Leica to create great street photography. I suppose it comes down to the old “use the camera that is best for you“. Further more, I’ve created some really great street photography with the D810 in tough lighting conditions… Last night was some of the toughest light I’ve shot in due to the rain and low light.
Who knows, perhaps all three copies of the D810 I’ve used were flawed in some way. It’s unlikely but not impossible. As always, feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments section below.