Archive for May 15th, 2011

Recently I’ve obtained my first real Leica cam­era — the M7. Two rea­sons are behind this cultist deci­sion. One was price: this par­tic­u­lar cam­era was sold for less than $2000 being graded as “con­di­tion 4″ (fully work­ing with few minor scratches and one insignif­i­cant dec­o­ra­tive ele­ment lost) — you can’t get this price even on ebay or APUG. And that was one of the most expen­sive sec­ond­hand photo equip­ment shops in Moscow (being also Leica and Lin­hof offi­cial dealer).
The sec­ond rea­son is more com­pli­cated and reasonable(sic!). Mostly I do not buy any­thing just because it is bar­gain cheap. And I’ve already got M-​mount cam­era — Kon­ica Hexar RF, which is more than suit­able for every­day shoot­ing. The code­name for this prob­lem is “aban­don­ment”: as Konica’s photo busi­ness was first merged with Minolta and then sold to Sony, the ser­vice of Hexar cam­eras is done only in Japan. The round-​trip for ser­vice would take months, not all spare parts are avail­able, so repair process may not con­verge at all. And Sony ser­vice in Rus­sia is noto­ri­ous for over­charg­ing and time-​lags. So Hexar is vir­tu­ally non-​serviceable cam­era. That is the whole point in desire for spare cam­era in case any­thing goes wrong (and it actu­ally went wrong — there was some annoy­ing glitches with auto­matic film trans­port con­trol). In search of rel­e­vant cam­era to replace Hexar if any­thing goes wrong I’ve explored all pos­si­ble con­tem­po­rary replacements.

  • Voigt­lander Bessa R*M is good fully mechan­i­cal cam­era with TTL meter­ing, but the rangefinder base is so small that is lit­er­ally sucks. Also it has got ver­ti­cal metal shut­ter, sim­i­lar to Hexar RF. In Rus­sia it costs around $900 new (and it seemse that you should not buy used ’cause it’s not very durable).
  • Voigt­lander Bessa R*A has auto­ex­po­sure in addi­tion to R*M, but has no mechan­i­cal speeds at all. And the same crappy rangefinder, wich is cer­tainly not suit­able for Sum­mi­cron 90. Costs the same as R*M.
  • Zeiss Ikon is built around the same shut­ter as Bessa, but has bet­ter rangefinder with effec­tive length up to 55mm. Han­dling is sim­i­lar either to Bessa or to Hexar based on your ini­tial pref­er­ences. Film advance lever is ok. Weight is sig­nif­i­cantly less, than Hexar or M7. But the frame­lines are weird! 85 instead of 90! I know, that if I buy Son­nar 85, then I will use 90 line on my Hexar and M7 and miss noth­ing. But to have frame­line that is larger than actual frame is rather mis­lead­ing. Also it does not have mechan­i­cal speeds, as R*A. Costs around $1200, rare, mostly sold in kits with Bio­gon 21 or sim­i­lar lens (which I do not really need for addi­tional $1000).

I have omit­ted cam­eras, which are older and can not be obtained new (like M5, CLE) because the main point of get­ting spare was to have ser­vice­able cam­era. So the last and most expen­sive vari­ant vas M7.

Wat I con­sid­ered was dif­fer­ent shut­ter sys­tem. The hor­i­zon­tal trav­el­ling cloth shut­ter is more durable and fool­proof than ver­ti­cal metal (you can bend it’s leaf even with film tip not to men­tion fin­ger­tips). With this dif­fer­ence M7 made a cam­era with dif­fer­ence from Hexar, and Ikon and Bessa were just few nuances off from Konica.

Really I did not con­sider buy­ing M7 for reg­u­lar price ($5k+ new and $2800+ for used in excel­lent con­di­tion). But it turned out that i got mine for $1950, which gave it advan­tage even over Bessa, which is just twice cheaper.

Say­ing M7 is good cam­era is stat­ing obvi­ous. But never using Leica before I found some inter­est­ing properties:

  • Film inser­tion looks archaic enough to scare peo­ple off, but all they imag­ine is how to load old Leica with take up spools and so on. That’s because we have to hold base­plate in our hands while reload­ing! It looks way more scary than it is. In fact load­ing it sim­pler than load­ing SLR — just drop film with extended tip into cam­era and close it.
  • Bat­ter­ies are hard to find. Period.
  • No sev­eral frame length AE lock is not that annoy­ing, but some­times you need it so hard you go crazy and switch to manual,
  • No mul­ti­ple expo­sures. Go buy M5 or Bessa.
  • Han­dling is good. Cam­era feels ready for heavy-​duty soot­ing. Con­trols are in good place, except shut­ter dial, which for me feels to be placed rather dis­tant from edge. For me it’s not easy to turn it with index fin­ger of my right hand. But I pre­fer AE anyway.
  • Viewfinder is superb. Indi­ca­tion is clear and bright.
  • In my M7 there is no DX con­tacts but IR sen­sors. Seems that they can make a mis­take in DX, but I could not repro­duce it. And, of course, I did shit bricks when I loaded Rollei Digibase CR200 with­out DX and saw DX of 5000 ISO. Then I dou­blechecked and found no DX was present on film.
  • The shut­ter is qui­eter than Hexar, Bessa, Ikon and so on. And it much less shakes the camera.

As for over­all con­clu­sion M7 became my main cam­era quite eas­ily. Some­thing is just right about it.

And a pic­ture of M7:

2011-05-05 19.17.07

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