50 Things I’ve Learned in 50 Years With a Leica

  1. Never sell a Leica unless you have to, especially if it’s coupled with an M-Mount W. Nikkor 35mm f1.8 [see #4 below. I weep when I think that I sold that camera and lens some years ago].
  2. The M5 is the best metered film Leica ever produced.
  3. The M4 is the best unmetered film Leica ever produced.
  4. The IIIg is the high-water mark of the Leica aesthetic:

5. Someone should shoot the guy who painted this M2:

6. Take pictures of yourself in windows:

7. The Leicaflex SL is a really nice camera with stunning optics for its day. Unfortunately, it was expensive, the lenses were expensive, and came out in response to the Nikon F, which was better than it in every way:

8. B&W photography is photography.

9. Unfortunately, film photography is all but dead except for quixotic windmill tippers like many of us. And that’s OK.

10. Computerization has killed photography as an indexical medium.

11. HCB was a little too mannered for my taste. Give me Robert Frank any day all day.

12. Leica makes great optics. So too do many other manufacturers.

13. The Ricoh GXR is my favorite camera of all time. Period. I have three which I use all the time. I grab them before I grab a Leica. They are now cheaper than dirt. If you don’t buy at least one – along with the 28mm and 50mm modules, and throw in the M-Mount module, you’re an idiot.

14. The GXR with M-Mount and a 21mm, scale focused, set to A at ISO 1600 is the best street photography camera ever. Not even close.

15. The Leica service department sucks.

16. Photography is basically dead. [see #10 above].

17. This guy is an idiot:

18. The M8 is vastly underrated as a B&W camera. It’s B&W output, while different from the MM, is stunning.

19. Voigtlander, by producing reasonably priced excellent M-Mount optics beginning in the late 90’s, is largely responsible for Leica’s resurrection and subsequent success as it transitioned into the digital age, although almost no one recognizes this.

20. For some reason, not many people think of taking photos out of car windows even though we seemingly spend half our lives there:

21. People at state fairs tend to be fat:

22. Nikon made some killer rangefinders:

23. The Leica Red Dot was, and remains, a terrible idea.

24. Robert Frank groans and rolls over in his grave when he reads articles about photographers like this:

25. Photograph the people you love:

26. Thorsten Overgaard is not cool. In fact, he is the definition of uncool i.e. trying way too hard.

27. Bill Pierce is incredibly cool.

28.”Black Paint” Leicas are a stupid affectation. As such, they appeal to many Leica lovers:

29. Those little Sigma 4 megapixel DP cameras are great carry-around cameras that give stunning film-like output:

30. The fact that nobody buys those little Sigma DP and DP Merrill cameras is a testament to the fact that people are generally stupid herd animals. Their output, done properly, is stunning:

31. Take pictures of your dogs. You’ll be grateful some day:

32. Cats too:

33. Lenny Kravitz’ photographer schtick makes me chuckle, as does his hat:

34. I often think of those poor saps who’ve spent a fortune for a rather useless Noctilux as I’m fondling my rather useless $300 7Artisan 50mm 1.1:

35. The Leica M240 is the best value digital rangefinder Leica has ever made. It’s basically bullet-proof and it’s got a really good battery and it gives beautiful output. In short, there is nothing not to like about the M240. As such, Leicaphiles generally don’t like it:

36. Make sure you take the red dot off your M240 [see #23 above].

37. Canon rangefinders and rangefinder lenses are currently great values:

38. Undeveloped film tends to accumulate:

39. Review your old negatives every now and then. Sometimes you’ll find a former ‘throw-away’ that’s aged well:

40. The Nikon S3 2000 is probably the best value rangefinder currently available. Sell the Nikkor 50mm 1.4 that comes with it for crazy money and couple it with the S-Mount Voigtlander lenses, in particular the 50mm 1.5, the 35mm 2.5 and the 21mm 4:

41. The only serious scholarly book on photography. All the rest aren’t worth reading:

42. Most ‘Street Photography’ is really bad.

43. Juxaposing individual ‘Street Photography’ can sometimes make it more interesting:

44. The chrome M5 is a beautiful Leica.

46. The M9 CCD Monochrom is the closest thing to B&W film in a digital camera. It’s one more reason why I love Leica, even in spite of all the stupid shit they’re constantly doing [see #33 for details].

45. Thorsten Overgaard’s instructional books often go on sale. If you pay attention you can get some killer deals:

46. If your photography depends on ‘bokeh’ for its intrinsic interest, you’re not a very good photographer.

47. Be serendipitous:

48. Leica has made some really cool advertisements for their cameras:

49: Take photos of yourself with the people you love. You’ll be glad you did someday [Side note: It’s interesting that both the photos below were taken with something other than a Leica. What that says is up for debate]:

50. When all is said and done, Leica’s are really cool cameras and you should own at least one M during your lifetime:

51 [Bonus]. Now that I’m not going to posting much anymore, Leica should contact me about buying the rights to “WWW.Leicaphilia.com”.

52 [Bonus]. Never pass up a chance to take a photo of a beautiful girl you know and love:

Hits: 331

9 thoughts on “50 Things I’ve Learned in 50 Years With a Leica

    1. Rob Campbell

      The guy’s voice reminds me of Gregory Peck in The Snows of Kilimanjaro.

      I was digging deeply into Sally Mann last night, so to speak, and going down the list of youtube videos about her, I clicked onto something that turned out to be a friggin’ porn site. This was on the iPad. Try as I might, I couldn’t get out of it. Trying to click the little arrow up on top of the screen didn’t get me back to earlier websites, it just brought on different kinds of porn from, I assume, the same site. I switched the device off and tried rebooting, to no avail. The damned site was still there, refusing to let go. I thought hell, the iPad’s screwed, what do I do? Do I call a computer shop for help; would that just give me an undeserved local profile as the expat perv? It’s no exaggeration to say I was literally sweating.

      The cure, eventually, came about when the screen showed me, as it sometimes does, a row of thumbnails down at the bottom, of recently-seen websites. The porn one was there, and when I canceled that thumbnail, the problem went away. Is there a faster solution to getting out of websites that stick? How I hate these people.

      1. Dan Newell

        You’re asking the wrong guy, I can barely sign on.

        You might want to ask Tim, he’s got all that experience starting that dick pill site.

          1. Rob Campbell

            An offer I can refuse due to lack of purpose. Sic transit gloria etc. 🙂

            Is there no way that such misappropriation of a website can be prevented/corrected by the people who run the Internet once that they have received a complaint from the legitimate owner of the hijacked site?

            The problem still exists with your site, and for some reason I don’t understand, your site comes up properly on this iPad but not so on the desktop computer.

            I have to admit, though, that a yellow Leica is an abomination to both man and beast. How in hell can Leica be so perverse with their own image? That anyone, aware enough of Leica heritage to want to buy one, can go along with this type of sin is truly beyond my comprehension. Of course, many things are, so perhaps I shouldn’t find myself too surprised by this example.

            I don’t suppose it will ever come about, but how nice it would be to live in a world where one can buy a product from any proper source, anywhere in the world, and not face import/export taxation problems. For a while, after digital wiped out the photographic supplies wholesaler I used to use in Mallorca, I was able (before the xenophobic occurrence of Brexit) to buy whatever I needed from Grays of Westminster, Nikon specialists in London. In other words, if I had the dough, I could make the purchase.

            Now, because of the resulting taxation and customs hassles, they have lost me as a customer and I have lost them as a trusted, knowledgable dealer, and with no local, specialist suppliers of such exotica (so you’d imagine it to be), I find myself unwilling to invest in anything else photographic. Nikon didn’t help much either, when it stopped international warranties being truly international. I can’t even buy a camera in London, have it delivered to a relative in Glasgow to bring to me when on a visit! Nikon would only honour their warranty if the product had been bought in Spain! Once, in F days, it wouldn’t have mattered, because everything worked for decades unless it just wore out from use. No mirror ever jammed up on me until the advent of my beloved D700, now no longer Nikon supported. Were it still working, I’d never have thought of replacing it. But hey, where in the new age, respect for a customer?

  1. Andrew Molitor

    I wrote up a review of Car Sick, finally and at last. This comment is utterly irrelevant to the post above,
    so you may moderate it away or publish as suits your whimsy. Feel free, also, to request changes to my review (or that I pull it down entirely) if such strikes your fancy.


    I comment here mainly because it’s the most reliable way I have to contact you!

  2. Henry

    Fantastic stuff Tim ! A leicaphilia.com greatest hits! BTW, I just found out this weekend that Mme. Sontag is in the neighbourhood—she is buried in Montparnasse cemetery, not far from here.

  3. Lee

    I hope you’re doing well. I just heard the news because after taking time off I’m back in the Leica game and man did I miss mine. So much great advice here, for anyone who is reading this, technical and emotional, especially about dogs, cats, family … love that series of your wife(?) having a smoke. So intimate and real.

    I’ve discussed the m5 with you before. I want to throw some things up here about it, because I do love and miss this camera. But … 1. Have big hands. The thing is a rock. Also, if you are a “street” photographer, this thing, even in all black is the opposite of inconspicuous. Everyone will ask you about it. In fact, the one thing I really disliked about it was all the questions about the camera, though there is no red dot. It’s just that big. 2. Have big hands, it’s a brick. 3. The light meter is great, the VF is great, but … it’s like a really great Porsche, it just goes off the rails sometimes. The RF is off and it needs adjustment, the counter is off, the light meter needs some work … It’s sort of like a great race horse or vintage car, unless you get lucky these things need to go into the shop about once every six months. I think the M2s and M3s were made so much better and durable. Their also far more inconspicuous if you want them to be so. But the M5 does take the most symphonic 35 mm photos of any camera I’ve ever shot film or digital. Somehow the frame seems twice the size of other cameras, but not in an obtrusive way. If you’re shooting big scenes, and maybe ones that are more natural or on the landscape portrait side, I can’t recommend this camera enough with even a quality Russian 35 or 28.

    Cheers Tim, Your voice is true.

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