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the lure of the Leica

Discussion in 'Leica Camera Chat' started by John Tarrant, Dec 29, 2017.

  1. John Tarrant

    John Tarrant Member

    When I was a fledgling professional photographer I worked for a couple of seasons at a well known holiday camp as a photographer. The standard issue camera was a Leica M1 with a 35mm lens. During that time I learned a lot! Not least being that the camera had to be used without thinking about the mechanics. Composition, speed and salesmanship were paramount!
    I quickly became accustomed to the camera and found it straightforward and perfect for the job n hand. These were the 1960s however and budding photographers were dazzled by the Nikon and Hasselblad. Years flashed by and I found myself using all sorts of photo kit until in the last few years finding things exclusively digital.Recently a Leica M1 came my way: I grabbed it attached a 35mm lens and the magic of photography returned! So powerful was the magic that a new developing tank was acquired and the joy of peeling nice looking negatives from the spiral was rediscovered!

    The Leica is such a simple instrument that my mind is taken up solely with examining my surroundings for images and suddenly realising their possibility through that bright seductive viewfinder. I fear that I might turn into a Leitz nerd, the camera just feels so good in use that I am tempted to acquire a more modern model, perhaps an `m2 or M4, then of course, I can feel my feet on the slippery slope as I contemplate the lenses available. I fear that I am lost!
    steveandthedogs likes this.
  2. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Well-Known Member

    Dear John,

    Ah... Leicaphilia. The link explains why I've used 'em for rather over 45 years. The 1959 M1 is however a LESS modern model than the M3 (the original), and is contemporaneous with the rangefinder-equipped M2.

    Classic Leicas are all getting a bit old now, though.

    Good to find you here.


    Last edited: Dec 29, 2017
  3. Andrew Flannigan

    Andrew Flannigan Well-Known Member

    Early Leica M chronology: M3 introduced 1954; M2 introduced 1958; M1 introduced 1959; M4 introduced 1967.
  4. gray1720

    gray1720 Well-Known Member

    I fall into the "not having enough money to spend on one" category, and had always assumed they were rich mans toys until I had the opportunity to take a couple of photos with someone's recently refurbished IIIf (I think - it was a III of some sort), when I realised what a beautifully engineered thing it felt. Similarly a friend of mine (if I remember I'll plug his blog at the end of the post) who, unlike me, is a very good photographer was a hater until he tried one - and now uses one, an M2*, a lot. Even my FrankenLeica, an MDa with a Voigtlander viewfinder and a Soviet lens, is a pleasure to use.

    Here's the blog - seems he uses an M6, I could have sworn it was an M2, but as he has nearly as many cameras as I do...

  5. John Tarrant

    John Tarrant Member

  6. John Tarrant

    John Tarrant Member

    The "FrankenLeica" or Mad is a pretty good idea. After all there is a long history of Leica without built in viewfinders. The only drawback to the MDa is that it is a slightly large body to start with and a "universal" type viewfinder makes it into a slightly ungainly shape. For use with a 35mm or even a 50mm lens one of the small Leitz (if you can afford them!) bright line finders the Mad becomes a very workman like piece of kit for many types of photography. The Russian lenses are a story in themselves: some seem to perform very well indeed. The snag, as with much Soviet era kit seems to be quality control. You can never be sure until you use the lens as to whether you have a good one or not! I use a Jupiter 50mm lens and whilst it is not a Summicron, it does perform pretty well!
  7. Andrew Flannigan

    Andrew Flannigan Well-Known Member

    The nicest rangefinder style camera for use with external finders I found was the Cosina/Voigtlander Bessa L. The very low profile top plate means the viewfinder sits much lower than on other cameras plus you get the advantage of a very effective TTL metering system and the whole thing handles very well. I had a lot of fun with the 15mm lens.

    Bessa L - FP4 8393.JPG
  8. John Tarrant

    John Tarrant Member

    I think that when the Best L was first introduced it was often supplied with the 15mm lens and viewfinder and that the "British Journal of Photography" described it as an "instant classic".
    it is certainly a useful alternative to the Leica 1g which had the advantage of two accessory shoesn as well as the classic Lietz/Barnack "feel". I also have a memory of Wallace Heaton (the Bond Street photo dealers) selling off a batch of Leica 1g cameras for around £20.00 in the mid 1960s. if only I had kept my old "`amateur Photographer mags I could look up the advert. Wallace Heaton were certainly a very useful dealer android from time to time offer bargains. (Possibly in an effort to compete with the all conquering Dixons
  9. Andrew Flannigan

    Andrew Flannigan Well-Known Member

    ...which it surely was. With the 15mm fitted it was a a direct replacement for the Contarex based Hologon at an affordable price. It was originally sold as a body only though for a while it was bundled (only in Britain so far as I know) with the 25mm Snapshot Skopar. Even then it came in separate boxes for the camera and the lens/viewfinder. So far as I know there was never a 15mm/Bessa L deal because the first version of the 15mm was in such huge demand that the dealers could sell more than they could get. There's a story that an American dealer sold a 15mm to another dealer at full retail during a camera show. The second dealer is then claimed to have sold on the lens for twice the retail price to a punter at the same show. The story's close to the bottom of this page: https://www.cameraquest.com/voigtbl.htm
  10. PeteE

    PeteE Well-Known Member

    Reply to Roger H : I read your piece about 5 Leicas and found the answer to a question I have been pondering for over 50 years at least -- the meaning of 'PC Socket' for flash -- the PC stands for 'Prontor/Compur' ) --- OF COURSE !! I learn something new every day. Not so long ago I learnt that a 'Mouse' was NOT a little furry creature that ran along the skirting board in the lounge and which I could shoot with an Air-Pistol but something to do with Computers !
    PS -- not really cruel -- I always MISSED !

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