Why I still use a Leica

Discussion in '35mm Cameras and Accessories' started by df cardwell, Oct 30, 2005.

  1. df cardwell

    df cardwell Subscriber

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    They are old school. They are expensive. They are clunky, out of fashion, and worst of all, collectable. No cool photographer would use a Leica, because you can own 421 Holgas instead. Maybe more.

    Here is why I still love my Leica: as I get old, older, and older still, I can still focus because the photographer's vision doesn't determine the focus accuracy, which outstrips an SLR or AF anything by a factor of Really Big.

    Here is a film test / old lens test while waiting for Vancouver to go down in overtime Saturday night.

    M camera, 50/1.5 Sonnar (circa 1945), APX 100 in Xtol, 1/15 @1.5. Just an 'at home kinda picture', focussed exactly where it was supposed to be. And another snapshot for the family book. A little thing, at best. But a nice one. And that's why I still use a Leica, for the little stuff.

    .
     
  2. Lee Shively

    Lee Shively Member

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    Simplicity. Tradition.

    I like simple and traditional, so I still use a Leica as well. I'm using 35mm less these days but when I do, it's almost always a Leica.

    Another reason is that I can carry two bodies with four lenses and 20+ rolls of film and other stuff in one small shoulder bag. As I get old, older and older still, I'm paying for those many years of daily carrying a big bag of motorized Nikons. My neck, back and left shoulder hurt. They hurt less when I carry less.
     
  3. SuzanneR

    SuzanneR Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Love those photos. I'm a fairly new user of Leicas, mine's not quite as vintage, and Canadian made, (somewhat less collectible), and I'm so glad I took the plunge!
     
  4. rbarker

    rbarker Member

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    Now you tell me! I bought a Leica a few years back because I heard they were chick magnets! :wink:

    [​IMG]
     
  5. dphphoto

    dphphoto Member

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    I used to have a double stroke M3 with the 35mm f/2 Summicron with "eyes." Wish I still had it.
    I've got a Contax G1 (that's probably blasthemy on this thread) but print the negs with an old Leitz Valloy, with an Apo-Rodagon. Gotta have the enlarger, too. Dean
     
  6. LeonardT

    LeonardT Member

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    The Leica is giving me pride in my pictures again. I'm back to doing my own B&W after 25 years. The camera forces me to take the time to evaluate the light and pay more attention to composition. Even though I have 4 Nikon film and 2 digital bodies and more lenses I'll admit to plus my Hassey stuff, I've only used my Leica in the last month. I'm enjoying it immensely.

    Len
     
  7. df cardwell

    df cardwell Subscriber

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    Thanks all.
    dph: I don't think there is blasphemy if we take pictures.
    Lee: you make my shoulder's hurt. They get a little better every year.
    Suzanne: have fun with YOUR pictures.
    Ralph: I don't know if it IS a chick magnet... but I'M impressed :surprised:
    Len: shoot, shoot,shoot

    My big challenge, as a recovering professional, is taking pictures for the joy of it, again. When I was, well, younger, I always ran to develop film after the roll was done. I grew away from that, and for a long time, the 'image making' was too sophisticated to encourage being impetuous. My ultimate self - assignment is to shoot short rolls, in a simple system, and have dry, developed film 12 hours after shooting it.

    Happiness.
     
  8. Dan Fromm

    Dan Fromm Member

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    df, I didn't need to know why you still use a Leica. Why you do isn't really anyone's business but yours. But since you've raised the issue, what puzzles me is why you felt it necessary to justify your practice in public.

    Cheers,

    Dan
     
  9. Lee L

    Lee L Member

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    Perhaps because it's instructive to know why people who have thought about it carefully, or are very happy with what they've chosen, have made a particular choice. Like the Contax G2 threads, or the "Nikon F? is the best camera ever made" thread this is informative for those who don't have a chance to actually handle some of the cameras you don't see every day.

    The Leica marque pushes some hot buttons because of expense, the people who hoard them rather than shoot them, and because of the snotty behavior of some who own them. I could name several other brands some of whose owners fall into that last category. Both Canon and Nikon intimate in their advertizing that you're not a real photographer unless you use their equipment.

    I took the initial post as a factual representation of why one might choose a Leica, with a bit of humor thrown in. It comes on the heels of remarks in other threads about why the Leicas are not worth the money (to some folks), and I interpret that as an attempt to start a neutral new thread instead of a flame war.

    BTW, my father developed cataracts and had trouble with a detached retina, and the camera he chose to use was a Minolta CLE (Leica mount rangefinder) precisely because he could still focus and frame accurately with that finder, and it was compact for travel.

    Lee

    P.S. I've met a lot of Leica users. The collectors are often the preposterous ones. I've never met a Leica user who's pretentious, but I'm sure they're out there.
     
  10. Fintan

    Fintan Member

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    What I love about APUG is reading posts by fellow subscribers about their love of photography, be it a specific brand or genre. So nice post df, glad to read you're enjoying your Leica.

    I hope to get one for my 40th birthday in two years, I've dropped enough hints for one anyway :D

    In the meantime I'll be glad to read other users stories.
     
  11. Claire Senft

    Claire Senft Member

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    You can focus you Leica faster than a unskilled user can focus their Holga?

    You will be hard put to use a Leica camera and a Zeiss lens to secure the type of result that is so certain with a Holga.

    Say what you want but only Holga and Lomo produce negatives that are deserving of Rodinal. This combination which will give an unexcelled redition of mush with grit.

    Well I guess if you are the kind of low-life photographer the prefers the beauty and clarity produced by a highly skilled photograher using Zeiss, Leica
    with all (3) entities having much experience than so be it. I can not find it in my heart to have any pity for you whatsover.
     
  12. rhphoto

    rhphoto Member

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    A guy I worked with at a camera store long time ago said "If you take a Nikon, a Canon and a Leica to the top of Mt Everest, the only one that will still be working is the Leica. Now, whether that's true is to me a moot point. What I think he was saying is that the Leica is just one the most well made machines of any kind, ever. I have never owned one, but have always respected the craftsmanship of the camera bodies (many years of innovation) and of course the legendary glass, which as I understand comes from one unique deposit somewhere in East Germany (Wetzlar?).

    And last but not least is the very long list of great photographers who have chosen to work with these cameras, and the remarkable results they have acheived.
     
  13. jvarsoke

    jvarsoke Member

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    Perhaps he's citing Leica's higher machinist standards. I once saw a documentary on a German machine shop for some product that was renoun in that industry (might have been BMW or something lesser known). The interviewer was asking the machinest what "high quality" machining meant, and why the price of their widgets were so excessively higher than the competition. The machinest took a piece of metal he was working with and slipped it through the mouth of a vice. Then he held it in his palm for about 5 seconds and slipped it through again and it stuck.

    On a personal level, I finally figured out what all the hubbub was about with BMWs when I got in one and the door closed: sounded like I was being locked in a vault. A very satisfying "thunt".

    Leica probably holds its machinests to a very high standard, and accepts a very low variance on their parts.

    Hmm, now that I re-read the above and match it with the Mt. Everest story, they seem out of kilter. But for some reason I still believe the point it right on target.

    Whether it's worth the price or not is another matter, but there is a palpable difference between high quality and over-the-top quality items of the luxury sort. Pens that are perfectly balanced, suits that feel like pjamas, gloves of hand-cut leather fit to order, cameras that give you exactly what you asked for when you pressed the shutter.

    A friend said that there are so many things that can go wrong in photography; if you're doing serious work, why not put the money down to eliminate the variables you can and purchase some peace of mind.
     
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  15. 127

    127 Member

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    Prompted by this thread I did a biot of searching: The cameras which actually did go up Everest first were a Contax, a Kodak and a Rollei (of course!).

    Ian



    Shooting in Everest

    (image and text, excerpt from 'Alfred Gregory's Everest'. by Alfred Gregory)
    . . . . . .

    My 35 mm cameras were a Contax and a Kodak Retina 2. The Contax, with 50 mm and 125 mm interchangeable lenses, was my main camera for colour but when I went high on the South-East Ridge, to almost 28,000 feet, I carried the more compact Retina up to the highest camp. Throughout that day I only shot Kodachrome from which excellent blank and white negatives were made later.

    I also took a twin-lens Rolleiflex which I used for black and white. Despite being more bulky than the Contax and Retina it was extremely easy to use and with its superb Zeiss lens it was capable of producing pictures of exquisite qualityl I took it as the South Col and the final results made the extras effort well worth while. When in recent yers these three cameras were stolen I felt I had lost a very real part of history.
     
  16. jvarsoke

    jvarsoke Member

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    hmm, remind me not to take a Kodak then.

    :wink:
     
  17. Claire Senft

    Claire Senft Member

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    The Leica is the result of a fine design, proper materials and first rate manufacturing.

    The Leica M is designed so that the winding and shutter mechanism is good for an easy 250,000 exposure and wear is nearly impossible to measure after 100,000 exposures. Whether tthe Leica M makes economic sense to the photographic user who purchases it will depend on is if he has the funds, will get good use out of it and can resell at some point in the future with a reasonable return and what value is to be placed on the joy of ownership.

    For the same amount one can purchase more than one of most film cameras that have a higher level of technology.

    It is sort of similar to buying one Mercedes vs several Chevorlets.

    The right answer is determined by the purchaser. You pays your money and you takes your choice.

    Quite frankly, I much admire Leica cameras. I used to own 2 M5 bodies with a visoflex and 21 f4, 35 f2, 50 f1, 50 f2, 65 f3.5 black, 90mm elmarit, 135mm f4, 180mm 2.8 Tele Elmarit and a 280mm 4.8 Telyt in foco-rapid mount and some accessories. I found no reason for dissatisfaction thru several years of regularly using the camers and lenses. The products are of good quality.
    The recession of the late 70's and early 80's bit me on the ass hard enough
    that I was forced to sell by my foolish desire to be a responsible husband, father and a greedy desire to eat. At that time I made more use of my camera for people pictures..perhaps 30% with the remainder being static subject matter.

    These days I have switched to a Contax RTSIII with 9 LENSES... 8 Zeiss and 1 Leica. I have found no reason with regular use to be dissatisfied. The products are of good quality. These days perhas 2% of my photos contain moving subject matter or find me so lazy as not to use a very heavy tripod. Anal is as anal does.

    I know of no other cameras as likely to be satisfactory to me for the way the cameras were applied to the tasks I wished to tackle.

    GOOD STUFF WITHOUT A DOUBT.
     
  18. Lee L

    Lee L Member

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    On the Mt. Everest thing:

    I've heard this as well. IIRC, this was in reference to standard issue SLR cameras, and dated to the late 60's and through the 70's. If you wanted to take a Nikon or Canon up, you needed to send it in for winterizing; lighter and lower viscosity lubricants, etc. Leicas were said to be ready from the factory. I've shot with a factory standard R3 in Minnesota winters with no problems for many hours on days that had highs of -20 F. The camera was kept exposed to the air for hours at a time with no warm-ups (causes condensation problems), and electronics, metering, and mechanicals all worked perfectly, shooting Kodachrome 25 so you'd know if you were off a significant portion of a stop. I've also shot with the R3 and R4s in 110 F degree weather all day with no problems.

    Shot a job for Amhoist outside (the river flats in St. Paul) in -20 F with a Hassleblad 500 C/M(?), and after a short while 1/60th second became about 1 second, then longer.

    Lee
     
  19. david b

    david b Member

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    I'm about to buy a M4-P. My negs keep getting smaller and smaller.
     
  20. gnashings

    gnashings Inactive

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    Please note the part I took liberty to put in Italics.

    I looked at those "other threads" - I assume it is the recent ones that are being referred to - and I see that I, myself, may be the sole voice of financial restrictions being a thumbs down for Leica.

    I thought long and hard about posting in this thread, writing what I am about to write. I really, sincerely hope it is taken as an explanation and further elaboration of my initial position - NOT a confrontational move, etc.

    I resent the comparison of what many of us choose to buying "421 Holgas". And this is perhaps were the conflicts usually arise - assumption that not purchasing a Leica puts one in the category of an absolute moron who is basically cutting off his or her nose to spite his or her face.

    It is simply a matter of the prices of this equipment being so astronomical that most either flat out can not afford it (myself in this category) and others are very hard pressed to justify it - a case of paying exponentially more for an incremental, and often very small, improvement.
    I personally love Leicas of all shape and iteration - I am also a doctor certified Porschephile (can't afford one of those either), and I can spot a suit tailored on a certain street in London from across a room. I know and respect the value of these things - to me, they are worth every penny for their unfaltering devotion to excellence which exceeds anything in their field, even if by a small margin. There is a reason why these names are legends - and a big kudos to them for earning that status.

    But tell me this: I can not afford a Leica of any sort - the closest I can come is an old Leica SLR body... but no lens. Please advise me: should I just quit? Should I give up photography? Or at least not embarrass myself with my meagre failures until my piggy bank allows me to buy a Leica and so it "properly"? Have I been a giant moron for running around with my Lubitel SLR, when it was the only camera I had, and attempting to make the best picture I could using what I had?

    Also - tell me one more thing: lets say I can buy that Leica SLR body (which really is not to other SLR's what the Leica RF's are to their ilk, excellent though I am sure they are). Now lets say I have enough money to buy a 50mm f2 lens, but just barely, maybe if I skimp on gorceries. Would I be better off doing that, or using that money to buy an excellent, reliable SLR from (you insert brand here) along with three or four lenses that will allow me to take the picture that the 50mm, no matter how miraculous it is, simply couldn't? Am I still an idiot converting Holgas to Leicas?

    Owning a Leica is a pleasure and a luxury - not a necessity. One day, I really hope I can have one of these legendary cameras - but it will only be, and I mean ONLY, after I have no other needs to assign that money to. And frankly, if you need to know that you are holding x thousands of dollars (not that anyone will actually admit to this) in your hands to "rediscover the joy of photgraphy" then... nah... I stop here.

    Peter
    (hopefully, a future Leica owner:wink:)
     
  21. Claire Senft

    Claire Senft Member

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    Unless one is making a living with a camera all of them are a luxury item

    You need a camera that is worth your investment that will accomplish what you wish to do. If you can do that with a Lubitel or Holga then either one would make a good choice.

    If you want a good camera with a minimal investment then I would recommend a manual focus Pentax or Minolta with 3 or 4 good lenses. I would shop carefully for a clean used camera and clean used lenses. This I believe will do more for your photography then a used Leica R camera with a 50mm f2 that requires such an onerous use of available funds. In choosing such a camera I would hope you can get a 2 week rerurn priviledge from a vendor of good reputation. Be careful that you choose something that will cause you gno rief when trying to find batteries that meets the camera's requirements. Be very careful that the lenses choose are built with sufficient durability.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 31, 2005
  22. david b

    david b Member

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    Own the next best thing....Voigtlander R2 with a 35mm lens for $399
     
  23. firecracker

    firecracker Member

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    Hi, there. I own a M3 with a 50mm cllapsible lens and have used it on some occsasions. I'd like to use it as much as I can because of the quality of the pictures it produces, which hardly takes much work. But there was one event in the past that kind of changed the way I handle my camera.

    My experience with the repair service at Leica USA years ago left me thinking about finding an alternative. To get my M3 repaired, I remember it took close to one year with a few check-ups with the service response unexpectedly unprofessional and cost me and more than 500 USD to replace the sutter parts. Prior to that time, I also had heard there was also a woman who used to work for Leica, living in Upstate New York or somewhere and does Leica repair. I kind of regretted afterwards to see what would've happened if I had asked her instead. I might simply have had a bad luck, though.

    So, while waiting for my M3 to come back, I just needed to do a little thinking on the side. I had a Nikon SLR with its old (non-Ai) lenses, but that was hardly able to fulfill my needs.

    Since then I've been mostly shooting with Canon New F1, a SLR with NFD lenses, but it's not just any camera I picked up for the replacement of the M3 to use in the field. The optics of NFD lenses are quite good, producing very satisfying results with its contrast being rather low. It has also taught me to learn to see with different types of lenses from very wide to telephoto without losing any quality(at a moderate cost and time), and I can't think of any other camera for the most part.

    But years have passed and I feel like I can explore more with a Leica rangefinder again. I missed the feel of it when I carry around a camera. Now I have a good buddy-camera Canon on my side for the quality of my pictures in consistency, so I guess I'm ready to take another chance a bit higher. Yes, I'm ready to fall in love again, but this time with perhaps a (beatup) M4-P or M4-2 (to primarily use a 35mm lens) and travel around with it. The chrome M3 will stay home for taking portraits because of its gentle look that appeals to the subject I choose. And I'm sure there are other cameras to come along, but I just haven't started to look for any.

    Thanks for reading my story.
     
  24. Fotohuis

    Fotohuis Member

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    I do not think my M7 will ever see the top of the Mt. Everest :cool:

    But indeed there is a lot of difference with camera's under difficult circumstances.
    In the past my EOS gave up at -22 degrees C. and my M645 Pro did it till the beginning of the night at -27 degrees C. I was already afraid that the film emulsion would tear off or so and further it was already impossible to use it afterwards, because my hands were too cold already to operate with the two camera's.

    Leica M serie's are nice camera's and I do not think you will find something better in RF 35 mm. But best quality has it's price. Unfortunately this is quite high for this nice piece of German craftmanship.

    Robert
     
  25. df cardwell

    df cardwell Subscriber

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    Once, I had a student.

    He wanted to learn something about picture making because he liked photographs and was going to become a Dad and wanted to take pictures of his child-to-be.

    He learned how to expose Tri-X and develop it in D-76. He learned how to make a picture in the the window light cast of an open sky. And, he learned how to make a good, straigtforward print on fiber paper. He bought a simple camera, an inexpensive enlarger. And, when the baby was born, the little girl was photographed on the 3rd step from the bottom of the stairs to the second floor of his little home.

    He made a picture of his daughter on her birthday, and made a small enlargement, matted it and framed it, and hung it in his office.

    He made a picture of her again on her next birthday, and on every birthday until she became a mother herself. The, she was photographed with her little girl.

    Today, he has 30 framed photographs in his office.

    He makes one picture every year, in the same place, of the same person. It is developed in the same developer, printed on the same type of paper, with the same old enlarger and camera.

    He has a body of work that surpasses mine by any measure, and is one of the finest photographers I have ever met.

    Thirty years ago, he was my student. Today, I am his.

    That is the subject of this thread.
    .
     
  26. Ara Ghajanian

    Ara Ghajanian Member

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    A little joke between my girlfriend and I regarding the price of Leicas:
    If we ever decide to get married, we're planning on getting matching mint M3's instead of wedding rings. They cost about the same, but at least there is a practical use to a Leica.
    Ara