Why I made the switch to Leica
I’ve been using the Leica SL2-S and Leica Q2 as a wedding photographer for a full year now, and now that I’m a year in, I wanted to write a quick little post about why I made the switch to Leica from Canon. I get this question a fair amount and figured it’d be helpful to have this post to point back to for those wondering, and to lend some context for upcoming Leica reviews.
Maybe you’re considering a switch yourself and wondering why on earth someone would spend an insane amount of money moving from a perfectly capable system for wedding photographers to a brand more synonymous with street photography and fine art.
Grab a wee bit of whiskey or a cup of coffee and hangout with me for a sec while I unpack the logic behind the switch. This is just going to be a short post about the two main reasons for making the move. Hopefully you find it helpful.
My pre-leica gear
Sometimes context is useful when figuring out how an opinion is formed. It’s worth mentioning that for the ten years I’ve been photographing weddings, I’ve always used Canon. I started with a Canon 60D, a Canon 50mm 1.4 and a Canon 24-70L.
It didn’t take long to learn that I loved prime lenses, but didn’t care for zooms or the cropped sensor on the 60D. I upgraded next to the 5D Mark 3, added a couple Canon L primes, and used those for about four years until the 5D Mark 4 came out. A pair of 5D4 bodies were my main cameras up until the switch to Leica at the beginning of 2021.
Two reasons for the switch
First, because they’re super affordable.
The real reason I made the switch to Leica is sort of two-fold. It’s a mix of feeling like I was in a creative rut and wanting a change, but also the timing of Canon’s release of the new R5 and RF lenses.
I’ve historically upgraded camera bodies every 4-5 years, and the end of 2020 was when the R5 and R6 became widely available as an option to upgrade to. It made sense as a Canon user to progress in that direction.
I built a hypothetical cart on B&H’s website, filled with two Canon R5s, the RF lenses I needed, and a set of flashes. It wasn’t cheap. Sure, the total could’ve been trimmed by getting an EF adapter for the EF lenses I already owned, but I really dislike adapters, and they were backordered into oblivion anyway. For all the gear I had to buy to move from EF to RF, I was basically switching camera brands.
I’m a sucker for German tools, especially those made by hand with tons of heritage, and as a result always thought of Leica as the camera brand I’d enjoy most. But whenever I built a B&H cart filled with the necessary gear to make the switch, I threw up a little bit after seeing the total.
Using Leica as a wedding photographer was never an easy choice in the past. There wasn’t really a viable autofocus offering before the SL line rolled out in 2015. The big sacrifice was choosing that manual focus lifestyle, and autofocus wasn’t something I was willing to give up.
The launch of the original SL was a huge step in the right direction for wedding photographers. It had autofocus, dual card slots, and a bunch of features I typically find useful. The lens selection was made up of zooms only though, which was a no-go for me and my affection for primes.
Then, finally, coinciding with Canon’s launch of the RF cameras in 2020, Leica launched the SL2-S. It had all the features I wanted as a wedding photographer – dual SD card slots from original SL, a 24mp sensor for epic low light photos, fully weather sealed body, amazing EVF, and the ability to charge over USB-C. There were more, but those were some biggies for me. If that wasn’t enough, Leica now had a full range of prime lenses. I could replace all my Canon lenses and find their equivalent focal lengths in Leica form for the first time.
The timing was perfect. I was at a crossroads of switching systems anyway, from Canon EF to Canon RF. The switching costs were as low as they ever would be, so I decided to do it.
The other ingredient that drove the switch to Leica was what a lot of us wedding photographers feel – creative burnout. The actual photographing of weddings wasn’t the thing burning me out. I truly love meeting new couples and consider it the greatest honor to spend such an important day with them. Rather, I was feeling burned out on creativity. I was beginning to feel like just another ‘vendor’, or simply a commodity. It was almost like I was getting lost in the sea of the thousands of wedding photographers out there. I didn’t feel like an artist. Weddings started to feel like I was simply providing a service.
Obviously, this kind of thing isn’t totally solved by loading up on new gear. It certainly goes a bit deeper into the realm of psychology, but depending on your personality, it can help. Personally, I get loads of gratification from good design and attention to detail. If any two attributes define Leica best, it’s gotta be those. At the end of the day, I work so much better when I’m using tools that feel good to use.
This whole explanation is admittedly as subjective as it gets. If you’re considering a switch to Leica, try and find a Leica store and try one for yourself. These aren’t cheap, so it’s worth doing some exploration beforehand if you can to see if they’re a good fit.
A year in, and yep, they certainly have made a lot of weddings and shoots more enjoyable. As cognizant as I am about the gear I’m using, they also seem to get out of the way. There were countless moments I spent fighting the quirks or limitations of the Canon system. It’s a problem I just haven’t had yet with Leica. The menus feel intuitive and the buttons are in all the right places. The resistance of the shutter button is just right. Lenses feel well balanced against the weight of the body. All these little design decisions result in the gear fading away and the craft of photography being all that’s left.
There they are, the main reasons I had for switching from Canon to Leica. There are a handful of less important reasons too. I’ll unpack those in upcoming reviews and future posts. These are the two biggest though and hopefully it was helpful hearing them!