M3 and Summitar 50/2
5 frames with...

5 Frames in a Reclamation Yard with a Leica M3 and Summitar 50/2 – By Nik Stanbridge

August 16, 2022

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.

Chains

Chains

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.

MG

Dusty MGB

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.

Street lamps

Paraffin street lamps

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.

Wood tool handles

Wood tool handles

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.

Iron wheels

Iron wheels

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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9 Comments

  • Reply
    Jens Knappe
    August 16, 2022 at 10:54 am

    My favourite shots are the dusty MGB and the wooden tool handles ( i’m a gardener).

  • Reply
    Kurt Ingham
    August 16, 2022 at 3:37 pm

    I’ve always been intrigued by the Summitar-it looks like you’ve put it to good use here! Neither Leica nor Rollei are bargains for the cost conscious-but both share a lovely quality that is approached by others, but never quite matched

    • Reply
      Nik Stanbridge
      August 18, 2022 at 9:44 am

      Thanks Kurt. There’s just something about them that’s hard to define. At the end of the day, the tools do actually matter and impact how you approach photography and how you feel when going about it. I’m no evangelist, but that’s why I have the tools I do.

  • Reply
    Matthew Bigwood
    August 16, 2022 at 8:58 pm

    Great article. I owned an M2 in the 1990s as well as a fairly forgettable Leicaflex SL (didn’t hold a candle to my Nikon F) and I sometimes have a desire to own another Leica M-series, or even a IIIG. Love the pic of the MGB, even if that price tag is a bit optimistic.

  • Reply
    Miguel Angel
    August 18, 2022 at 1:10 am

    Agradezco mucho tu artículo sobre tu experiencia con la leica M3.
    Esta cámara me acompaña desde los años 80s y no la dejo. Tamben tengo otras dos Leicas Barnak antiguas y son también una adicción.
    Pase hace años por la Nikon Fm2 magnífica camara de la cual tengo gratos recuerdos, y la cambie por mi Olimpus OM2.
    Que curioso que algunos fotografos por razones desconocidas, buscamos lo mismo, estará todo esto en las antípodas de la mente?
    No me resta más que decir, que la M3 es la mejor máquina de fotografías jamás inventada, también pase por la fotografía Digital, pero no me atrapó en unos días años..
    Muchas gracias por sus reflexiones
    Saludos desde México.

    • Reply
      Nik Stanbridge
      August 18, 2022 at 9:38 am

      Translation:

      I am very grateful for your article about your experience with the Leica M3. This camera has been with me since the 80s and I don’t leave it. I also have two other ancient Barnak Leicas and they are also an addiction.

      I spent years on the magnificent Nikon Fm2 camera from which I have pleasant memories, and I exchanged it for my Olympus OM2.

      How curious that some photographers for unknown reasons, we are looking for the same, will all this be in the antipodes of the mind?

      I have nothing left but to say that the M3 is the best machine for photographs never invented, also go through Digital photography,

      But he didn’t catch me in a few days.

      Thank you very much for your reflections

      Greetings from Mexico.

      • Reply
        Nik Stanbridge
        August 18, 2022 at 9:42 am

        Hi Miguel,

        Thanks for your supportive comments. As you say/imply, ‘birds of a feather flock together’ and similarly-minded photographers have Leicas, FM2s, OMs (the OM-1 in my case, OM-2 in yours). I know of here photographers (Johnny Martyr for example) who have similar collections.

  • Reply
    toki
    September 15, 2022 at 10:45 am

    Hi I’m curious
    Filters and hoods can be attached to the Summitar at the same time?

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