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Thursday, March 19

The LEICA Diaries - Part Six



There's just something about a Leica film camera, isn't there? I took my 84-year-old mother for a coffee the other day and, while we were tucking into some carrot cake, I brought out the M2 and Summicron to show her.

"Oh, that's a beautiful camera!" she said. "And feel the weight of it." I focused on a window about ten feet away, set the aperture and shutter speed, raised the camera briefly to my eye, reframed and took a photograph of some other customers around the same same distance away.

"What are you doing?" my mum asked. I told her what had just happened and she could scarcely believe the process had been so quick, unobtrusive and quiet. "What a camera," she repeated, oblivious to the skills of the operator! Haha. Mums - dontcha love 'em!

The Leica excels at people photography and it seems to me that by far the biggest proportion of Leica enthusiasts use their cameras for that. Take the pic I posted above from the cafe. Not my sort of thing at all and just a quick snap but you can see pics like that all over Flickr and it's surprising how many of them were taken on a Leica film camera.

On the way back to the car, I glanced in a charity shop window and saw a Canonet QL19 rangefinder sitting next to an old cine camera. Well, I had to go in and check it out. It was only £8 but it appeared to have some serious issues so I decided not to bother.

The elderly lady serving me said she didn't see many film cameras in the shop nowadays and added, almost as an afterthought, "My uncle lived near Stirling. He was an artist and he had a Leica."

"That's what I have hanging in this case on my shoulder," I said, lofting it up for her to see.

"Ah, well. You'll know what a good camera is then'" she said. People of a certain generation, even though they might be non-photographers, obviously know of and appreciate Leica film cameras.

On Wednesday, I had a trip back to a nearby beach hunting for pics as usual. I exposed a few frames almost just for something to do. I put the M2 and Summicron on the front passenger seat of the car and off-loaded my jacket in the back. Then I caught sight of the Leica and had to agree with my mum that it really is a beautiful camera.

Photographers are supposed to be all about the image with the camera there as a necessary tool but I can't help it: I love well-engineered cameras and they don't come any better than the M2. And what's the upshot of these musings? Just that, almost regardless of how The LEICA Diaries leaves me feeling about the M2 as a camera, as an object it's just too wonderful to give up. I can't say for sure if I'll keep the entire outfit but I reckon the M2 and Summicron are here to stay.

4 comments :

Regular Rod said...

It's all perfectly understandable. As an artist you have an idea of when something "looks right". In engineering there is an old saying "If it looks right it probably is!" You've landed on one of the many crossroads where art and engineering meet. :)

Bruce Robbins said...

Wish I'd thought of it like that, Rod. You make my gut reactions seem as if they are guided by some underlying intelligence. :)

Dr. Elliot Puritz said...

Yes, "A thing of beauty is a joy forever"...and indeed there is nothing quite like holding a Leica M and lens. Some think Leica users are irrational. Perhaps we are.....:}

Elliot

DavidM said...

An interesting thing seems to be happening to the Man/Leica partnership. It's teaching you what sort of pictures it likes to take.
Food for more thought here.