The Leica Diaries - Part One
In case you haven't guessed it already, I'm now officially a Leica-man or, rather, a man with a Leica. Leica-man gives the impression that I'm besotted whereas beguiled is probably nearer the mark. Whether it lasts or not is impossible to say at this stage.
I already know I have too many cameras as it is and I know I've gone on in the past about how I'm an SLR man and not a rangefinder person. But if you're thinking of chastising me then you're too late. The stable door is flapping in the wind and the horse's hind quarters can just be seen disappearing over yonder hill.
The Leica thing has been bugging me for ages because I love Leicas. At least, I love the whole notion of Leica cameras and lenses. I love the history, I drool over the engineering and I think they sometimes look sublime in the right light. The problem for me has always been getting to grips with rangefinder photography.
Let's face it, a window - effectively what you get with a Leica - is something you would normally look out of to see what the weather is like. An SLR Viewfinder is what you look through when you want to see precisely (all bar a millimetre or two around the edges and, even then, there are a few 100% viewfinders out there) what you're going to get on your negative.
I always suspected that tackling an M would be more of a learning tsunami rather than just a culture shock. On this occasion, it gives me no satisfaction to be proved correct. I've just started using the cameras but right now I'd feel more comfortable strapped to an F16 afterburner as it climbed to the stratosphere than trying to frame a scene using a rangefinder. I'll go into this in more detail in later entries but there are some issues I'm struggling with but trying to work through.
|1960 M2 with a 50mm f2 Summicron from the same year and MC meter.|
I'm being assisted in this endeavour by my pal Phil Rogers of Fogblog fame who is a Leica
So what did I buy and why? Well, first of all, I've always toyed with "investing" in a Leica - the itch that wouldn't go away. I suppose I should say "reinvesting". I did own an M2 and M3, 35mm Summaron, 50mm Elmar and 90mm Elmar in my early 20s but I didn't use them much and could remember virtually nothing about the experience other than that it left me frustrated and I went back to SLRs after about a year.
I decided to bite the bullet this time because an outfit became available locally and for a very good price. This set-up (it's all there in the pic at the top of the post, an excellent example of why it's a good idea to use a plain background) comprised an M2, MDA and external viewfinder, 35mm f3.5 Summaron, 50mm Summicron, 90mm Elmar, MC meter and a few Leitz filters. The M2 is a year older than me. No, I didn't know they made M2s well into the 1970s either. Fancy that! OK, it dates back to 1960. I always told myself that if I did get an M I'd try to get one from my birth year of 1961. Well, this one was made in the second half of 1960 and might well have stood gathering dust on a dealer's shelf for months before being sold so there's every chance it "came of age" in 1961. At least, that's what I like to tell myself. The MDA is from 1975 (an earlier and similar MD was made from 1965) and the three lenses from the late 1950s.
|The MDA - the world's first blind camera. That's a 1958 35mm f3.5|
Summaron on the front with a light yellow filter.
I'm going to document my Leica experience as I go along. It might be of interest to anyone thinking of moving to an M body from an SLR or DSLR. So if you want to know how I'm getting on with Wetzlar's finest then you'll need to check back from time-to-time. I'll tell it how it is, warts and all. Once I've given the rangefinders a fair crack of the whip I'll decide whether to keep the outfit or sell it on.
The "Leica Diaries" (Why the plural? No reason other than it sounds better than the singular "diary") should be an interesting - for me at least - voyage of discovery that will hopefully scratch that damned itch once and for all whatever the outcome. Will I be able to overcome my rangefinder phobia and reach the same level of comfort I enjoy with my Olympus OM2? Just now, the Leicas and I are all luvved up and doing our best to overlook the other's faults but will it be a lasting relationship or a short-lived romance doomed to end in failure and with a bitter after taste? Who knows? Am I taking the whole Leica thing just a tad too seriously? Absolutely!