Here is where I find myself. I’ve walked with my old friend, the Olympus EM5 for around four years now and truth be told. It’s getting a bit long in the tooth. Not quite at the end of it’s lifespan, but it has began giving signs of creaky bones. It’s got some years in it, but my work is nagging me for a new approach. It’s time to seek a new daily carry…. Or rather an old one.
With a new purchase, I was considering a jump to Fujifilm, with a x100T or the gorgeous new XPro2 (tried it out at Looking Glass Photo, in Berkeley, very nice)…. But, truth is, over the last few months’, I began rekindling a friendship with my old Minolta x700 and film, in particular.
That rekindling, compounded with some recent inspirations by guests of the StreetPX like Rey and Kristi, I started to remember that fascinating allure of shooting film again.
There is something about the pull of that advance lever, the simplicity of the gear. You just connect with the moment, with the subject at hand. It’s like the responsive stroke of a nice analog watch… or the perfect scratch of a well made pen.
All of these items, it must be noted, have a wide spectrum of craftsmanship; from shitty to decent, adequate, nice, damn nice and those that many (including myself) aspire to own.
That said, here in lies the trouble. I am my father’s son, through and through. Especially when it comes to my photography equipment. Where for instance, many would consider a 2×4 strip of lumber adequate for the job at hand, my father sees the need for a 2×6. So, I guess it’s no surprise, that while my Minolta is more than up to the task… my nature implores me to seek a finer and by association, more expensive tool.
The point at which this all came to a head, was over the holiday break. Where I found further feeding of the flame, by friends and family who know me all too well. I was gifted a couple more Minolta bodies to add to the growing collection – one a reacquisition of an old friend and the other from my awesomest cuz – and a fun Nikon FM from my father-in-law.
To top it off, my dad (who was recently bitten by the film bug himself) tracked me down a great Voigtlander Bessamatic and handsome little Vito B w/half-case. A couple of really neat cameras that will certainly get their time in the sun very soon.
Rounding it out, was a healthy dose of lenses and a nice little leather bag. All film, film, film. Nay a memory card, a power cable, a hard drive, nada… Apparently, I’ve developed this reputation as being “the photo guy” of the family… and it’s great. Even better, they follow my work and listen to my stories. So they all knew of my recent interest in analog.
Seriously, life was telling me something… the planets were aligning, gravitating me toward putting my money in a dream purchase.
So, now that everyone had my gears in motion and my “Leica fund” had met it’s necessary goal, I was ready to begin my tireless search through the vast array of various message boards and online stores on these old internets. Which, for such an item, is an adventure in it’s own right.
Eventually, while sifting through Craigslist one late evening, I stumbled upon a fantastic Leica M4 in SF.
Though, I admittedly spent the last few months trying to decide between the M4 and the M6… yet, in the end, I figured a handheld meter was worth it, to get a well manufactured piece of Leica brass and in my opinion, the peak model of Leica craftsmanship.
So, I wasted no time in putting away any desires of that new Fuji and instead pursued this classical crown jewel for my camera collection. I sent off a hopeful email and met up with a really cool medium format shooter in SF. Just holding the camera for mere moments, I knew then and there, I would buy it on the spot. An M4 with a touch of weathering… but shiny all the same.
Birthdate: 12/29/1969 (gotta love serial numbers)
Now, it’s always good to leave a little sliver of that dream open to, ya know, manifest again later. So, instead of dropping another lump sum on the mighty 35mm Summicron (which I will eventually do), I opted to go with the very capable, very well regarded Voigtlander 35mm f/3.5 Color-Skopar. Which has not disappointed.
On my first walk, I can honestly say that I had one of those, “I get it moments” about the Leica cameras. Almost immediate. This thing is like metallic silk. Smooth, gorgeous and exquisitely manufactured by hand. The advance lever is crisp, the weight, albeit hefty after a bit, screams quality and the imagery is truly wonderful.
Getting used to the meterless drawbacks have been a battle. I’ve been using my Nexus 6 for light metering and while there are some decent apps, the accuracy is much to be desired. So, I’ve bounced between risking the inaccuracy, or metering with my E-M5. Neither approach is efficient. But I’m getting the hang of it.
Also, I just put in an order for the lovely Sekonic L206. Can’t wait to get my mitts on that thing.
Now, let me be upfront and clear about this very important subtext. A Leica will NOT make one a better photographer. That is simple fact. It will not immediately grant you +5 in Photographic skills. Nor a double boost to your Street Ninjary. I assure you, there are no secret hidden abilities that will magically go *poof*… you’re an artist now. It’s just a tool, with different tolerances and fittings, like any other. Well, maybe not like any other… but you get the point.
Truth be told, $50 can easily get you going in film and render beautiful imagery… as well as, teach you more about the process, than a digital camera ever could.
So, you might ask, why did I decide to pump hard earned savings into this mere tool. Especially if it’s not gonna make me a better photographer?
It’s simple… We all have things we admire, right? Items, be them physical or metaphysical, that we hold in high esteem. This might be cars, computers, camera bags, sports cards, comics, shoes, liquors, etc… So, for an appreciator of photographic machinery like myself, when given the chance to attain my own personal holy grail.. it’s because I really, really want it. I wanted to get myself something nice, that will last a lifetime and I’m while there is no perfect camera… there are cameras that just make you feel warm as hell inside.
I adore this camera. The sound, the feel, the imagery. It’s just craftsmanship, at its finest.Image above scanned developed at home with some Ilfanol 3 (more on that soon) and scanned with a MacroBellows setup (also more on this soon). Not the greatest scan, but I got me an Epson in this evening and that’s what will be taking on the brunt of online sharing tasks.
Now, as a take away from this rambling and gushing on my new toy, there is something I hope readers think about.
If there is something out there that speaks to you, I mean really makes you say, “That must be Mine”… ignore that natural tendency to talk yourself out of it. For some things out there… the one’s that may seem out of reach… It’s just a matter of time and patience, my friends, oh and an convincing of our significant others. Of course… But above all, Time and patience.
Well, unless what you seek is rationally out-of-reach. A varying form of unobtanium, of sorts. Ya know, the “perfect camera”, an affordable apartment in the Bay Area, on-command invisibility, more episodes of Firefly.
Also, don’t be a stalker, trying to get that unobtanium form of girl or guy. That’s not what I mean either. Not cool.
Anyway, just be patient, toss back a few dollars now and again, talk to people, do your research, sift and search everywhere and you just never know.
Now comes the hard part. Getting my hands dirty, because if I’m going back to film, I’m developing everything and scanning at home… so far, the first couple of go’s have been… well, not a disaster. [see above]
But more on that soon… Now, it’s off to the streets.