Leica M – 60 Years

I still have the Leica M2 that I bought around 1977 when it was already over 20 years old. It’s a while since I used it, but I think it is still in perfect working order. Of course it’s been serviced a few times – though not that many. Apparently it is now 60 years since the Leica M series was introduced.

While others preferred the M3, for me the M2 was the perfect camera – within its limitations.  If you were happy always to use a 35mm or 50mm lens and work by available light it could become an almost natural extension of your eye and brain.

Leica made a few minor changes over the years – some improvements, others perhaps less so. I had to buy a specially engineered third party rewind handle as the M2 just had a knob, and later models were faster to load film, though the slightly fiddly system with the M2 was perhaps more reliable.  But there was nothing from Leica that made me think it worth the expense of upgrading, at least not until they went digital.  But then my experiences with the M8 were pretty horrendous, and although they have perhaps recovered now, I’m not sure I have, and I’ve decided that Fuji are perhaps more my style.

Even while I was still using film, it was other manufacturers who took the basic Leica formula and innovated.  Minolta with the CLE and Konica with the Hexars, which led to that M2 spending much of its life in my cupboard rather than my camera bag or hands. But while others made better cameras, Leica continued to be more conservative, tougher and more reliable.

Like most photographers I moved to SLRs for most of my work, largely for their versatility, working with a wider range of focal lengths as well as more accurate viewfinders. In particular to the Olympus OM system, ending with a couple of OM4 bodies, again great cameras to use.  Digital led me to abandon these for Nikon, and by my fifth body, the D700, there too was a camera I liked to use. Now its the Fuji XT-1 with its splendid electronic viewfinder that makes me recall at least something of the old experience of working with that Leica M2 back in the 1970s.

Back to Leica M, Leica UK have been celebrating with a series of videos celebrating the 60th anniversary, in which photographers talk about their  favourite pictures taken with a Leica M – and their thoughts about Leica. As I write you can see those by Peter Marlow, Sarah Lee, Ian Llewellyn, Matt Stuart, Paul Fuller, Olaf Willoughby, Tom Stoddart, Matt Humphrey, Kelly Preedy,  Stuart Franklin (with links to their web sites) and a film of Bill Amberg who was asked to design a new camera bag to celebrate 100 years of Leica.

I certainly can’t see myself buying this bag – or indeed any other of the special Leica camera bags, partly because they are all ridiculously expensive, but also because it doesn’t seem to me very practical, despite the obvious thought that went into its design.  I don’t think it would accommodate what are for me the two essentials for any photo bag, a bottle of water and a paperback book.

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