Saturday, July 12, 2014

Living Light with the Leica M2

 The only Leica that I have previously owned was a very old Model A - the first version without a removable lens.  That particular camera had been given to me by a woman in her 90s, and she had used it a lot many years before.  By the time it came into my hands, it was a relict of sorts, and as far as I was concerned, no more useful to me than using an Argus A.  So I sold it for a tidy sum on ebay, and bought a camera and other things with the money.  I have no regrets, as it was around 2001, and the camera I bought - a used Nikon F2 was very useful to me.  Another time someone had a nice Leica IIIf that I tried out, and it was awful for a glasses wearer.  The viewfinder was not any better than my Argus C3.  Mechanically a nice camera, though.  I suppose it was one of those things  that you either love or don't on first sight.  I never bought into the Leica mystique, mostly I suppose because I couldn't BUY into it.  Between the obscene prices paid for (used and new)  lenses  and the bodies, and the fact there there are so many "poor man's Leicas" out there, I knew that I would never be able to afford one.  As far as "poor man's Leicas" I think I have used every one of them - Canon QL17, Konica Auto S2, Yashica rangefinders of various models, Fed 5, Olympus 35 RC, Minolta Hi-Matic 11, Contax G1, Konica Hexar, and I am sure there have been others.  Of those cameras, the only one I believe might actually qualify is the Fed 5.  Why?  Interchangeable lenses and the ability to shoot fully manually without any sort of automation. The Fed 5 has a better VF than the Leica IIIf that I tried, for sure. So, where does the subject of the title of this post come in?

If you have read my previous posts, you'll know that I am selling the photo gear from the estate of a deceased photographer.  There have been some very amazing cameras that I have tried out - (a) to make sure that they work and (b) to satisfy my curiosity.One of the cameras - a Leica M2 with a 35mm f/1.4 Summilux has been in my hands for over a month now.  I have shot 5 rolls of film with it, and have become comfortable using it.  Its value is high due to the fantastic 35mm Summilux attached to it, and that is something I have to try and not think about when carrying it.  To anyone else, it's just an old-looking "obsolete"  film camera.  The M2 body has it share of small dings and signs of use, but it works beautifully.  The lens is clear and also works well.  The more I used the camera, the more I came to want it.  So, in lieu of a 25% commission for the gear I am selling, I'm taking the M2 and lens as partial payment.    I would never be able to buy one outright.

My impression of the  M2 so far is that I now understand why this 57 year old camera has such a following.  Yes, there are newer M models, some even have a sensor instead of film -- and cost as much as 3 month's pay (at least for me.)  The M2's viewfinder is wonderfully bright and sharp, and the frame lines adjust automatically for most of the lenses attached to it. I bought a Fotodiox M39>M adapter so I could use the Industar-61 50mm f/2.8 lens from my Fed 5, and it works very well on the M2.

It takes a little while to feel how a camera works in one's hands, and become less conscious about the controls to the point where making a photo is more about what in in your head than what is in your hands.  I get it.  The M2 does this very quickly.  I bought a new Sekonic light meter - Twinmate L-208 which is lightweight and can be attached to the flash shoe on the the camera.  I tried that, and it makes the camera bulkier, so I use the meter on the lanyard.  For sunny-16 lovers like me, I only need to use the meter in tricky lighting situations, or indoors.  I am getting better at loading the film, which I think has been a sore point with the Leicas, but I understand it now.  No film doors flying open.  Oh, and this camera is soooo quiet!

I have always said that I am not a rangefinder guy.  I much prefer the feedback that I get from an SLR and the ability to change lenses, do macro, etc.  However, there are a lot of things I shoot that a 35mm or 50mm lens is all that is required, and the ergonomics and sharpness of the M2 have convinced me that this is the carry-around camera to go to for road trips, etc.  It fits easily into a small bag, and doesn't need batteries.  A few rolls of film, a filter or two, and the meter, and I am set.  Living light?  I think so.  This camera does make me think about light.

So, to close, here are a few photos thus far.  Some are still waiting to be developed.
Mason, MI

Portland, MI

Mason, MI

Charlotte, MI

Michigan League, Ann Arbor

Portland, MI

Lyons, MI

Ann Arbor, MI

basement of the League, Ann Arbor

rural SE Michigan.

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