Wikipedia: Drinking the Kool-Aid is a figure of speech commonly used in the US that refers to a person or group holding an unquestioned belief, argument, or philosophy without critical examination. The phrase oftentimes carries a negative connotation when applied to an individual or group. It can also be used ironically or humorously to refer to accepting an idea or changing a preference due to popularity, peer pressure, or persuasion. This is how it felt when I drank the Leica Kool-Aid.
I promised myself (and my wife, Laarni) that I wasn’t going to spend a lot of money on my photography anymore. However, that promise did not hold. I’m not a professional photographer, once upon a time I used to be. The desire to be one was lost when I was shooting for a wedding photographer who never paid us well. In reality, I’m just someone who’s obsessed with traveling around the world and capturing memorable images.
I drank the Leica Kool-Aid. I drank a full pitcher of it. In the quest for finding the perfect tool, a creative extension of myself, I took the plunge. I realized that I should have drank the Leica Kool-Aid a long time ago. I should have saved for it. I shouldn’t have spent a copious amount of money on Nikon, Canon, and even Fuji. While one of these brands could have held the fort for a while, I should have had my eyes on the prize. But then again, purchasing a Leica is a journey that only selected photographers takes. It’s a form of self-reward. Self-reward for what? One might think for sticking with a Canon.
When I entered the Leica Manila store, I already knew what I wanted. Weeks of research, over reading reviews on the Leica Q again and again, I sneaked a purchase. It was on the condition that I would sell all my Fujis (which I eventually did two days after). There were two customers in the store, ones who actually will buy a Leica and the ones who are just glancing around trying to convince themselves that they don’t need purchase. The ones who want a Leica, buys directly, with no questions asked on specifications, just the price. The ones glancing around would ask about specifications, test it out, and leave the store with nothing. I was both the former and the latter.
Whatever cocktail of chemicals Leica had on that Kool-Aid, it was working. I didn’t go for the M (for obvious budget reasons), I went directly with the Q, and I loved it. A lot of friends have questioned the purchase of my previous Fuji X100S and XT1 systems, asking for image comparison samples and even a review. In my head, you don’t compare a Toyota against a Mercedes Benz. You just don’t. While each brand gets the job done, it’s the experience of owning one matters more to me. It’s the ability to shoot with it and capture unique memories over image quality or focusing speed (while the Q easily tramples on any Fuji’s I ever owned) that I paid for. Whether it was even a manual focus camera, the decision wouldn’t change. The only barrier to entry was the price.
As TechRadar mentions, “A Leica user needs to be prepared for his or her photography to be scrutinized and judged by those who cannot imagine or justify paying such a huge amount for a camera.” This has been the case since I owned the Q. I get messages from different readers asking me whether the purchase was justified and proof of the justification.
What I purchased was not a rebranded Panasonic. I’m not interested in those. What I purchased is an extension of my would-be self, a future definition of who I will be. It is a Leica for now. And I’ll hand you a glass of Leica Kool-Aid if you’re not convinced.
(Disclaimer: The above camera is a Leica M240, originally owned by my close friend John Villavicencio, before I bugged him to sell it to me.)