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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!
     
  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.

    Cheers,

    R.
     
    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...
    http://www.simplyoxford.com/

    Adrian
     
  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 !
     
  11. John Tarrant

    John Tarrant Member

     
  12. John Tarrant

    John Tarrant Member

    The leica is such a captivating piece of design/engineering/jewellry that we frequently forget the pure pleasure of using the beast! having used many cameras, both film and digital, over the years I had , until acquiring my M1 forgotten the pure pleasure of holding such a well designed instrument, the clarity of the framing process and the subtle noise of the shutter. The whole process causes the photographer to concentrate purely on the image, the camera becoming part of the photographer and not an intrusive device. It becomes clear as to why the camera made ,and continues to make, such an impact on its users and the wider world of photography. Worse still for a personal viewpoint I have discovered that a "Barnack" Leica fits very comfortably in a pocket and is remarkably satisfying to use!
     
    William Parker likes this.
  13. Andrew Flannigan

    Andrew Flannigan Well-Known Member

    I once bought a M2 outfit (body and 3 lenses) for a very low price. After 3 or 4 films I decided it wasn't for me and sold it at around 100% profit to buy a new computer. Several years later I bought a M3 also at a keen price with just the 50mm Summicron. I really enjoyed using that outfit and only sold it when I decided that 35mm was no longer my thing. I made a 25% profit on the deal. So I learned 2 things from those Leicas: not every Leica is for every photographer and that if you buy sensibly they're more or less the cheapest 35mm cameras to own. Chrome Leicas seem also to have gathered some strange stealth technology with age. No one seems to see you using one especially in London! :D

    1216London Leica M3 30.JPG
     
    Last edited: Feb 17, 2018
  14. gray1720

    gray1720 Well-Known Member

    Annoying I spotted him two seats down from me on the train this morning as it pulled into my station, but there was a lad - a college student by his age and the huge portfolio wallet he was carrying - with a Barnack Leica and a collapsible lens, probably not a 50 as he had an accessory viewfinder as well. I just had time for a very few words before I got off, but he had every right to be chuffed with a lovely looking camera. Hope his photos are good!

    Adrian
     
  15. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Well-Known Member

    Dear Adrian,

    There are VERY few collapsible lenses other than 50mm, and none at all (as far as I know) in screw mount. The accessory finder was probably for one of two reasons:

    (a) He also used another lens or

    (b) It was a 5cm SBOOI finder because it's so much better than anything in a screw-mount Leica, including the IIIg.

    Cheers,

    R.
     
  16. Andrew Flannigan

    Andrew Flannigan Well-Known Member

    I think I came across someone using a 90mm collapsible Elmar on a screw mount body years ago. I just looked it up in Theo Kisselbach's book but he doesn't say there was such a thing and neither does he say there wasn't. Looking at a picture of the collapsible next to the fixed mount it seems clear that the fixed mount is an adapted version of the screw mount model but the collapsible looks designed specifically for the bayonet cameras. This will now bug me until I can clear up the mystery. :(
     
  17. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Well-Known Member

    Dear Andrew,

    Apparently there's a prototype in the Leica museum (I've not seen it); I suspect it's no. 633,008 (Van Hasbroeck, Leica in Colour, p. 133). Otherwise it's generally agreed (cf. Glanfield) to have been made only in bayonet.

    Cheers,

    R.
     
    Andrew Flannigan likes this.
  18. gray1720

    gray1720 Well-Known Member

    Well, I live and learn. It certainly wasn't a SBOOI as it said "Voigtlander" on it...

    Unfortunately it wasn't my usual train (I normally get to the station in time for the through train, but if the stopper is delayed and still there when I arrive I take that as the other one will just be held up by it), so I don't know if I will catch him again to find out more.

    Of course, if anyone has any old Leica lenses they don't want I'll take them off your hands, save you binning the old junk.

    Adrian
    (taking the mick, by the way)
     
  19. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Well-Known Member

    Dear Adrian,

    If recent, perhaps the SBOOI knockoff, about half way down on this page.

    If older, maybe a Kontur.

    Cheers,

    R.
     
  20. gray1720

    gray1720 Well-Known Member

    That one is a pretty close match - didn't spot the focal length in the time I had!

    I'd recognise a Kontur - this is mine:
    [​IMG]Low-Budget Leica rig by gray1720, on Flickr
    (I think you might have recommended the Kontur, in fact, whether directly or indirectly)

    Adrian
     

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