I can’t really remember the exact sequence of events and thoughts that led to my decision to buy a Leica. However, I think it was around the time that I posted more articles here and spent pleasurable time reading other people’s articles. This latter activity I seem to remember drew me to reading some of the many articles by Hamish on why he bought this or that Leica, his trials and tribulations with those cameras, and his decisions to sell/swap them and so on.
At the time, the only thing I really knew about Leicas were the many stories around HCB’s, Garry Winogrand’s famous one, and the fact that Leicalisti are, to put it mildly, evangelistic about their tools.
I’ve written before about my return to film five years ago, abandoning it in 2008 when I bought a Canon 20D. Looking at it that way, I was digital for only 10 years. Anyway, I got back into film by purchasing an FM2 that would sit alongside my ancient OM-1.
Here I was then in 2021, having decided to retire, which sat alongside my desire to divest myself of possessions that I no longer used or loved or, crucially, could not see me picking up again despite the time I would have in retirement. Cue the sale of things like the bass guitar I hadn’t touched in 10 years and all sorts of other stuff I’d kept for sentimental reasons.
What’s this got to do with deciding to buy a Leica? Or should that read, why/how I concluded that I wanted a Leica? I think it all boils down to two things. One was that I now had some money to invest in one, and two, I wanted to know what all the fuss was about. A third reason perhaps was that I bought an absurdly huge, gorgeous, inspirational book of HCB photographs in a charity shop for £3 (“the man, the image, & the world: a retrospective”). While I own and cherish an awful lot of photobooks, this was my first HCB, and I loved the look of his images. I also wondered if my near-perfect film camera, the mechanical Nikon FM2, could be bettered.
After an enormous amount of reading of articles, reviews, critiques and so on later, I decided to buy an M3. This was after I’d decided to buy an M6 TTL 0.85 based on an excellent article by Johnny Martyr. I chose the M3 over the M6 for several reasons. One was the crazy cost of the M6 (three times that of an M3) and a strong desire to go back to basics with a meterless, all-mechanical camera. However, I have to admit that I was also seduced by the “last camera ever to be built to a spec and not cost” thing surrounding the M3. Only ever planning to use a 50mm lens and liking the idea of the large rangefinder patch on the M3 were, I think, two other big things that swung it for me in favour of it.
It took quite a while to find the right M3, but I did, and a 1965 single-stroke duly arrived. I knew that choosing a lens would be more complicated and potentially far more expensive than selecting the camera, so I needed an inexpensive interim solution to buy some time. And that’s how I came to getting a lovely, collapsible Summitar 50/2, the 1930s-designed precursor to the 1950s Summicron 50/2. My example is a multicoated 1949 model with 10 aperture blades. It was CLAd, in good nick, and a good (ish) deal at £330. I topped it all off with a Leica (of course) pale yellow filter to protect the delicate front element.
These images are from the second roll I took with this combo. They were taken in an architectural salvage/reclamation yard in Oxfordshire here in the UK. Film was Kodak TMAX 3200 developed in Rodinal at 1:25. Yep, they’re grainy. And sharp.
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