Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Leicas, And The Rest Of Us...

What I lust for...

Sometimes you just a need a change of pace, however big, however small, and although I've grown up and "matured" on 35mm SLR's, there's always been that green and envious part of me that wants to be the classic 60's Leica toting photog. A lot of it has to do with the handling of said instrument, there's a sensuality and finesse to it that's absent from their larger, clunkier, more pedestrian cousins. Its sensuous, elegant curves and elite simplicity longingly suggest success without compromise- and photographing with Leica in hand is nothing less than a subdued but highly theatrical tour de force. The hands caress, the fingers glide as they focus, release and advance in predetermined orchestration. It's a type of refined athleticism seen in sports at their most fluid and graceful- in basketball we call such a practitioner a "pure shooter." A highly stylized, but highly effective performance.

Lately, the green eyed monster has me ritually ogling every M6 to be found on eBay. Of course, I couldn't afford one twenty years ago, and can't afford one now. So I then began to look at their decidedly humbler kin, the Bessa R4M. And truth is- definitely not as precious, but with a very decided presence all very much their own... next door's MaryAnn to Hollywood's Ginger! Sure the Leica legend is no way present, but at very least you're in the select rangefinder ambiance. And the R4M's have... built in coupled viewfinders for 21mm's!

What I considered.

It's just that I'm really, really sick of large, plasticky DSLR's (even though I've never owned one) and their phallic zoom lenses toting those horrid, lotus petal lens hoods. This is not a digital v film thang, simply a matter of (life) style- and perhaps a bit more. I want to thread film again, advance it manually, feel the certainty of metal pressed against my hands. I miss much of that even with the analogue SLR's I now own.

So, am I selling off the old kit to make a few pennies towards a new Bessa and a couple of razor sharp, dime sized Color-Skopars? Not exactly, at least... not yet. If I was going back to live in NYC and devote myself to street portraiture, if I was going to travel the world relentlessly (if only!)- that's exactly what I'd do (and how my shoulders and back would thank me). But I most likely, probably will- eventually... really.

As precision defined as even the fabled Leica is- it's viewfinder (particularly the auxiliaries) is a mere approximation of the image at hand, as with all rangefinders. I've gotten used to blaming one thing, and one thing only if my picture does not turn out right- me! And I know damn well that even with the coupled WA Bessa, composition will not be as precise- nor will I be able to focus as tight. So I'm "willing" to put off those sexy little RF's- for one more decade.

In the meantime, I've picked up one of these ever so cute and tiny Nikon FG's in near Mint Cond for dirt cheap ($75). Like most cameras this age though, they will need resealing- more on that later. Super compact, mostly metal and just look at them curves- not to mention that classy, cool ass shutter release/shutter speed dial combo with a... double jointed ratcheted film advance lever- does technology know no bounds? It's gonna replace my thoroughly scuffed N80 vunderplastic as my new, everyday, retro chic apparel. And though I'm in no rush to sell off my venerable F100, if things work out, I just may get me a second FG and start a small cult, or not. Hell, they don't even have a DOF preview- neither do Leica's...

Change I can almost believe in.

2 comments:

Mark Page said...

I regret the day I sold my OM1, that was a lovely little thing but at the time I was at collage and I wanted a BIG F90x like Parr used.

Stan B. said...

Dear Lord, Mark! You sold a beautiful OM-1 for one of the most god awfully ugly cameras of all time!!! That is not the kind of thing I'd want to make public...