The Online Darkroom Store

Thursday, October 12

The LEICA Diaries - Part Twelve


M2 and 50mm Summicron

I get emails from time-to-time from readers wondering if I'll be adding any more entries to The Leica Diaries series. There are 11 posts in the series but the last one was written on June 12, 2015. It's made me realise that my Leica photography just sort of stopped all of a sudden.

The reason for that, as some regular readers might recall, is simply that the M2 needed a service to sort out a shutter curtain issue that can sometimes leave a narrow band of under-exposure down the right hand side of the negative. My Leica lenses are also in need of some TLC. The 50mm Summicron has some fine fungus, the 35mm f3.5 Summaron suffers from haze and the 90mm f4 Elmar has a bit of both those ailments.

Obviously, had the Leica been my only photographic tool then it would have gone straight to a repairer for the necessary work. Regular readers will also know that it's far from my only photographic tool (!) so I just put the Leica outfit aside with the intention of having a service done at some point and bashed on with my Olympus stuff.

However, I finally got myself going, packaged up the Leica outfit - the M2, MDa, Summaron and Summicron - and sent it off to Miles Whitehead who seems to be about the best value amongst camera repairers. Yes, Malcolm Taylor or CRC would have been more obvious choices for Leica work but Miles charges about half of their rates and there's good stuff about him on the forums.

I didn't send the Elmar off because I fancy a 90mm f2.8 Elmarit instead so I'll put the cash saved towards that. I swithered about the viewfinderless MDa as well but it would be perfect for a 24 mm lens with a separate viewfinder. The plan had been to get a 25mm Voigtlander and finder but then I discovered that there's an adapter that allows the fitment of Olympus lenses to the Leica with infinity focus (and no dodgy additional lens elements) so I'm going to give my 24mm Zuiko a whirl on the MDa. There's no rangefinder focusing but it's easy enough to get by with the wide angle's depth of field.

To be honest, it's only the want of a longish tele that stops me using the Leica outfit for everything 35mm related. Visoflex, anyone? For those who aren't familiar with Leica, the Visoflex is a separate reflex system that turns the rangefinder into an SLR. It's used mainly for close-up work and telephoto photography using lenses beyond the 90mm or 135mm optics that are normally the limit for rangefinder viewing. I can't remember looking through a Visoflex but I've read that they're a bit dim and there's no TTL metering but it might be worth a try.

Having the Leica stuff serviced had taken on a greater sense of urgency lately as I've been thinking about embarking on what, for me, would be a rather large two-year project and I quite fancy doing it all with the Leica. I don't want to go into details about the project at this stage as it would be a big commitment and I haven't decided yet if I want to take it on.

But it's a social documentary project that's a big departure for me and the Leica has such a history of this sort of thing that it would seem fitting to use it exclusively. Talking to my pal Phil Rogers about it, he thinks that using more than one format would give a variety to the images when, as my tentative plan goes, the prints are hung in an exhibition somewhere at the end of the project. I can see where he's coming from.

I think so much of photography is based on a romantic notion that, with the right equipment, we can transform ourselves into our heroes and prance along in their footsteps. Personally, I imagine myself as being a latter-day, Leica-totting Eugene Smith. The only thing holding me back is the lack of a pith helmet. I could also be a somewhat less urbane James Ravilious.

Eugene Smith striking a Bruce Robbins pose.

I'm still mulling it over. The project wouldn't get underway until the start of 2018 so there's still time to make a decision. It will take something to dissuade me from the Leica although I can also see the benefit in using a 35mm SLR with TTL flash for indoor shots of people. I got on fine using a basic flash and manual SLR when acting as unofficial press photographer whilst a reporter at a district office for a year but that wasn't yesterday and I hardly ever use flash now unless it's the built-in one on the D700 so I'm bound to be a bit rusty. My last serious flash photography was photographing my sister-in-law's graduation party about four years ago - all on the D700...

But, back to the topic at hand. Miles has just about finished working on my Leica stuff and will be sending it home shortly. There was some interior rust on the M2 that has caused a bit of damage so Miles said it won't feel as smooth as when it was made in 1960. I felt it was smooth enough before it went away so if it's better than that I'll be happy.

So, hopefully, I'll have the M2 back in my chubby hands within a few days and can once again get to grips with its foibles and idiosyncrasies. The OM lens adapter should be here shortly as well although I haven't yet bought a viewfinder for the 24mm. It'll not be long before I'm using the Leica in anger again and perhaps able to add another entry or two to The Leica Diaries.

5 comments :

Herman Sheephouse said...

Good luck Bruce, but please don't go the flash route - I saw something 'contemporary' recently with this guy approaching people, not asking if he could take their photos and just flashing them . . with a Leica and a wide lens, and the results, well they were more akin to assault than photography - I think for that style of stuff, Winogrand had it down pat - advanced technique and observation, a ready smile and a nod and the whole thing was a bit of a lark - the results spoke for themselves.

Really hope Miles has done a good job and you can get out there in anger (or peace) . . and remember, with regards to things like this, there's no time like the present!

Paul Blanchard said...

Delighted to hear of movement on the Leica front. Do report on the use of SLR Wide Angle lenses on the M's. I have been trying a few similar things but find that lack of an accurate viewfinder leads to all sorts of work-arounds ( 'fiddles') such as use of a 28 mm Retina 111 viewfinder! 90mm Elmarit is a fine lens and a good step up from those f4- 90's so well known to most of us. I acquired one last year from the family of a deceased friend so mixed feelings, but glad to make use of it. Take Care/Paul

Bruce Robbins said...

Philip,

I really don't like flash-on-camera street photography at all. In fact, I'm sort of going off street photography altogether. There's so much utter garbage out there that it's difficult finding the decent stuff. If I had to resort to flash it would be under conditions where it was a flash photo or none at all.


Paul,

I'm looking forward to seeing the results of the Zuiko on the MDa as well. It's a very decent lens and providing the adapter is good enough it should do quite well. It's not too big either. Just need to get a 25mm Voigtlander viewfinder now. I can't say I've too many complaints re the 90mm Elmar but I think the extra stop of the Elmarit could come in handy at times.

Kerstin Jonsson said...

Great to hear you have a project plan! I also tend more and more to assign a specific camera/lens/film combination to a specific use, aka "project". A good way to restrict the options and focus on the essentials of image making. I will follow the proceedings of the Leica Diaries with great interest.

Regards
Kerstin

John Carter said...

I will be waiting for the 'Leica Diaries' so good luck with the equipment. I've often wondered why Leica didn't make a leaf shutter lens for flash work. I know it would be complicated with 'T' or 'B' first setting. Still for serious photography outdoors it would work.

If you have a chance ask Miles what actually was the problem with the underexposed area on the right of the film. These Leica experts in the USA are not like your people. Mine has been back three times (IIIf) and still not working.