"It literally constitutes the optical extension of my eye," said Henri Cartier-Bresson of the Leica rangefinder camera he used to introduce the world to gritty-yet-lovely street photography more than 50 years ago. Today, the M7 — one of the only analog 35-millimeter cameras left in a field driven by megapixels — keeps that allure (and film) alive with an electronically timed shutter and an aperture-priority mode for faster picture taking. Beneath it all: the ability to go manual. Leica's famed rangefinder shows "what you're photographing, and also what's beyond the frame," says Justin Stailey, Leica's M-system specialist. That means sharp focus while staying "compact and portable," he says, helping capture "life as it unfolds in front of you." (M7 with standard lens, $6,495, bhphotovideo.com)
A version of this article appeared in the March 2011 issue of Fast Company magazine.