Thursday, September 21, 2006

A Months Wages

That was the cost of my first Leica, a 111c model made in 1947 and with it I purchased a Elmar 50mm F3:5.
Why did I make this insane purchase? I mean why buy what was at the time a 39 year old camera?

I had recently been to an exhibition of photographs by Henri Cartier-Bresson with a photographer friend of mine.

I really loved the immediacy and closeness of his pictures coupled with the feeling of being an observer.

It was the type of work that the miniature format Leica excelled at, being able to take shots unobserved: with the subject showing no or little reaction to having their image captured.
That must have proved very difficult in the days when cameras were not commonplace on the streets of our cities.
At the time I was shooting with a mixture of Pro Canon and Nikon models none of which really are for secretive picture taking, not just because of physical size but also mirror noise.

After using the little camera I found that I had underestimated one thing- the optics.
The 50mm F3.5 Elmar was very similar to the original design first computed by Max Berek in 1924 but with one important change- Lens coatings.

After the initial shock at how sharp the Elmar was, I decided to test it against my two Nikon 50mm lenses a 1.8 and a Nikkor H F2.
I was amazed that looking at the different lenses that there was very little between them once you got to F5.6 with the Leica having marginally better deffinition in the centre at F8 and the Nikor F2 the best at the edge.

The camera has served me well in the 20 years I've owned it, in fact I've never owned a camera for longer.
So was it worth it? You bet!

1 comment:

Charlie Wood said...

I have have a 1946 coated Elmar in VGC. stopped down beyond 5.6 it is extremly sharp and gives the Nikon optics a run for there money.
I always use my Old Leitz lenses with a hood. Have you used any of the soviet lenses I find them very good, The Jupiter 12 will often be found on my Leica. I would like a leitz 35mm and a 28mm but the prices are sky high for a good one. they are so compact.