About a month ago, I started being curious about the Fuji X-Pro 1 and possibly using it as my backup/secondary camera at weddings, while being my primary camera for everyday street photography because of its smaller (than my 5dmkii) size.
So I stopped by B&H Photo on 34th Street (I won’t go into how much I love B&H… I think you can already tell by how often I update my Facebook status of my goings-on there) to see if the X-Pro 1 was up to par with how I shoot both street and weddings. Needless to say, as soon as I tried the autofocus, ALL desire to use that camera disappeared faster than you can say “I do.” I guess it’s more like, “I don’t.”
So I quickly ditched that idea but the thought of a smaller camera for street photography kept nagging at me. And then the possibility/novelty of going back to film started leaking into my head. And then the word LEICA appeared, and once that word shows up, all you end up thinking about is LEICA LEICA LEICA… a camera company whose products I lusted after before I even discovered girls. Okay, that might be a little far-fetched.
Maybe this was the perfect time to get one… not a $7,000 body and $7000 lens outfit but something a little more… affordable. Something I wouldn’t need an upgrade for every couple of years when the new 60 gazillion gigapixel, 6,966,423,000 ISO capability digital camera gets released.
And that led me to research Leica M3’s and M2’s. Eventually, I decided on the M2 because its more 35mm lens friendly than the M3. The M3 is more 50mm friendly. And I’ve always shot street at 35mm so the M2 made a lot of sense.
Then I went where no one should really go to purchase expensive stuff… ebay. Sure, there are lots of horror stories about purchasing camera equipment or electronics on the site… countless tales of counterfeits and ripoffs. But I’ve honestly never had an issue with either buying or selling online.
So I looked and looked and finally found one that cosmetically, looked to be in fantastic shape. And in speaking with the seller, I could tell he was a serious photographer and wasn’t one of those that just buys a LEICA because of it’s a top of the line camera. (Do you know how many people I run into at weddings who shoot with LEICAs and have no idea how to use them but can throw around the term chromatic aberration like it was something they use in their everyday vernacular? Too many.). He also had documentation that stated the M2 was recently CLA’d (Cleaned, Lubricated and Adjusted) by a well known Leica restorer (yes, there’s such a thing).
Anyways, I offered what I thought was fair value for the body, the seller accepted and ended his auction early. I also picked up a used Voigtlander Nokton 35mm f1.4 lens along the way. This particular body was made in 1963… a full 16 years before I was born.
It wasn’t until I had the entire outfit in my hands that the true meaning and symbolism of this camera took hold for me. You know me, I’m originally a writer so everything has gravitas when it comes to moments like this.
I had written a blog earlier this year about my father’s Contax IIIe. It was the camera I wanted to use to get back into film photography – not because film is better than digital (it’s not, really… I can’t imagine anyone that started out in digital would want to get into film… they’re just saying it to sound cool, trust me… film for me is just nostalgic… it’s like going back to your roots, but no way is it more practical than digital… don’t kid yourself). It’s not that the Contax was a great camera (it is), it’s not that the Zeiss Ikon lens is bad (it’s not)… I wanted to use it because it was my father’s. It was a way to break the 32 year old glacier that stood between us; something that we could actually have a conversation over.
And I took this rejection very hard. And I took it as a challenge. I had set a goal for myself the moment I handed the Contax IIIe back to my father – that I’d get a camera that was even better than his stupid Contax. Something that 20 years from now, I can give to my son/daughter if s/he were to show some inclination towards photography. It is what clearly differentiates me from my father… which is something I am always striving for. I had actually forgotten all about that promise until I was holding my Leica in my hands, when it all came back so suddenly.
Anyways, before this turns into a full fledged therapy session (I pay someone for that!), here are some shots of my beautiful Leica M2 and a few sample shots from the camera.
All of the photos shot below were from black and white film expired in 2003 (unsold film from my dad’s one hour photo lab, ironically) which is why the contrast is a little off on some. But that’s okay for me.
I was actually just showing someone how amazing the Leica M2 shutter curtain sound is when I took this photo. She said it sounded like any other camera shutter, which I was highly offended by. =P Turns out this is one of my favorite photos from that roll!
I broke my own rule of not taking photos of homeless/poor people because well… I just thought this was nice that although the two people are obviously down and out, there’s still some humanity, dignity and grace in love.