“I’m never going to buy a Leica!” … Except …

Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by brad cloven, Apr 18, 2016.

  1. “I’m never going to buy a Leica. They’re too expensive,” I would tell myself and others. I would really only be happy with a good shooter from the early days, probably the M3. An M3 deserves a good Summicron, so that would really be around $2K for a complete setup. I’m never going to spend that on a single camera. So I satisfied myself with the Canon P and its very nice 50mm f1.8.

    EXCEPT … I was in an “Antique” store on Saturday, and there was this nice old looking leather camera case behind lock and key. So I had them open it up, I took the never-ready cover off the front, and the first word I saw was “Wetzlar”.

    Now, I’m no aficionado. I’ve only ever held two (2!) Leicas in my hand. So I didn’t really know what I was looking at. The lens was a 50mm Summarit f/1.5, which I recognized as “not a Summicron”, and it looked old. The lens filter was trashed, but an original Leica filter. There was a big light meter bolted on top, and I had no idea of how to remove it.

    The tag on the hippie camera strap said “Leica M2” (so I was somewhat interested) and they wanted $695 (more than my budget for an M2). I double checked the innerwebs to confirm my understanding that the M2 was essentially an M3 with a lesser viewfinder. Okay; I could live with that I guess. And the Summarit is known to flare and be less sharp than even my Canon 1.8. Oh well. It’s an interesting setup.

    Without the filter, the lens looked clean and clear with just a minor scar or two on the front. The focus was a bit gritty, but I know that can be CLA-ed. The camera’s shutter speeds all timed correctly to the ear, and there were no light leaks to be seen up against the sun. The darned thing didn’t fire every time I cocked the shutter until I remembered, “Oh yeah! Double Stroke!” The whole unit was pretty clean.

    The light meter didn’t work at all, but I couldn’t figure out how to remove it. So, I think I’ve got a pretty good M2 and a Summarit, not the M3 and Summicron that I really want. But I think about it for a while, and the shop owner says, “I’ll give you 20% off for sure.” Interesting; that makes it $560. I’m a wheeler dealer guy, and I could even pick up an M2 / Summarit if I got a no-lose deal.

    So I check the prices on an okay M2 … and $560 looks like a fair deal for an M2. Plus, there’s the lens. I couldn’t find a price on the lens right away, but I figure it’s probably worth $150.

    But I’m feeling like there is a better deal here. If the shop owner is asking $695, and dropping to $560 without thinking, what cost does he really have in it? What cash offer would make him take the offer to walk away with a nice profit, and not wait another year for a top-dollar offer?

    I took $450 out of my wallet and waited to get his attention. While I’m waiting, I’m thinking, “I’ll bet his cost in this thing is $200. He will snap up a 100% profit. The shop is busy, and he’s not going to go look it up too closely, so I put the extra $50 in my left pocket.

    When I finally get his attention, I pull the $400 out of my right pocket and say, “I have $400 green cash money for the camera”. He looked at the tag, said “Deal”, took the cash, and I walked out of the store feeling like I had scored a solid deal on an M2.

    So I get back to the truck and I’m struggling with the light meter. Dangit that’s hard. You have to align this line and that line and it still doesn’t come off until, Aha! You have to pull up on this unit and slide out at the same time and Voila!

    It’s an M3.

    I was shaking. I just got my dream Leica with a usable lens for $400.

    It’s in user condition, needs a CLA, and I’ll still spend too much on a Summicron someday. But for now, I’m one happy camper! It has a test roll of TMax 400 in there before I send it off for its spa treatment.

    And now for the obligatory Camera Porn:




    Top With


    Top Without

  2. Excellent find, Brad! The double stroke should have given the game away :) - I don't think any M2s had double stroke advance. Also the bevelled edges around the VF/RF windows.
    Enjoy this beauty! I got my body in almost mint condition for under $500, which is one of the best camera deals I ever made (makes up for the numerous ones in which I got fleeced!!) But the DR-Summicron that followed made up for it!
  3. Nice aquisition. Can't wait to see some images.
  4. Wow! That's what I call good trading...Great acquisition, Brad, and I'm looking forward to the pictures. Thanks for a nice little essay on how to buy a camera you were never going to buy!
  5. SCL


    Brad -welcome to the club of "I'm never gonna....." . Once hooked, most of us are fans for life. Once CLA'd you'll never want to let it go. BTW the Canon P is a fine camera as well. Make sure and pick up an owner's manual (www.butkus.org) for your body and meter. And if you haven't been there yet, join the Leica Forum to keep yourself busy for a few years http://www.l-camera-forum.com/ . I chose an M4 for my first one in 1968 and used it for 43 years. Ran into some financial issues during the recession and wasn't shooting much, so sold it. Ended up missing it, got a Canon P dirt cheap and a CLA, stumbled onto an M2 at a pawnbroker, and then got into a Barnack iif, which I also love. I can't definitively say that Leicas are the best cameras ever...but once you have one and get used to it...never let it go. You got a really sweet deal...now go and enjoy it!
  6. Nice story and such a good deal! Get that baby CLA'd and get ta shootin'. Like Stephen, I went the Canon route but for that price I'd be a Leica guy very quickly, too.
  7. 400 for an M3 with a lens. A great deal! Enjoy and post photos!
  8. That Summarit looks to be in great condition -- which is very unusual. It's a fine lens stopped down, but pretty dreamy with weird bokeh wide-open. The filter obviously saved it's life. The coating is normally very soft, and the front glass is very soft flint glass (same thing as lead crystal).
    Yeah, the Canon 50/1.8 is a sharper lens. But the Summarit is "interesting."
  9. John:
    You're right; that is one clean lens. It is as if one guy once took the filter off to clean the front of the lens, made a mistake, and put it back on for the rest of its life. No internal dust, no haze, the rear element is perfect, and only the front has a couple of minor scratches.
    I picked up an odd 40mm modern filter for the Canon which did not fit due to pitch problems, I think. But I used some plumber's tape (which has no glue), the white stuff that basically fills cracks nicely, and fit it reasonably well for a jerry-rigged 40mm filter on the Leica's 41mm hole. So, while I've got the Summarit out and about for shooting, it does have a respectable cover. I'll go get myself a proper filter after the CLA.
  10. Do much for you Fed with the Canon 1.8
  11. I believe life is too short to not try a Leica, especially the M3 with a period appropriate lens like Summarit or Summicron. I guess you don't need us to tell you about the finder and the mechanical feel in your hand. Have fun!
  12. Brad, we all hate you. With a passion. You know that, don't you. Yes, we HATE you!
    I am of course joking. If love and hate are like brother and sister, then it must be that envy and hate are, at the very least, close cousins. I will draw the line at envy, having never really hated anyone in my almost 70 years of life.
    I had an M2 with a Summarit in the 1980s, but had to sell it for quick cash to cover a family emergency. If not for that unfortunate event, I know I would still have it today. I found the Summarit sharp beyond belief. B&W negs with a K2 yellow filter were sublime, and color negs and slides were wonderful creamy and contrasty with superb mid tones, a truly unique look. Deep blue skies. Pristine whites. I also had a 50mm 2.8 Elmar, a fine lens and almost as good, but the images I made with it didn't quite reach the level of the Summarit.
    The M2 was by far the very best 35mm camera I have owned, and handled, in this life. M3s are, I believe, just as good. The later Ms, well, others can say.
    Add a few filters (if you shoot B&W, otherwise a Leitz UV, expensive as it is, will suffice), a lens hood, a case, and see if that Leicameter can be repaired. I would add a Leitz adjustable viewfinder, as I had one in the 1980s and it suited me absolutely. You will then have, in every way, the perfect film kit.
    Like its close cousin (here we go again with those family connections!) the Rolleiflex TLR, Leica Ms love being used, and thrive on minor servicing (the traditional CLA is often as not all they really need) every ten years or so.
    OK, so I no longer have my Leica. But no matter what happens to me in this life, I will never, ever sell my Rolleis.
    Lucky man, you are. Now go out and shoot film and shoot film and shoot film with it. Join the club...
    JD somewhere in Sarawak.
  13. I meant to add, but forgot: Brad, a truly well written story with a happy ending. You had me spellbound to the very end.
    As a possible saga, you should go back to that shop, and see if the owner has an original Barnack Luxus in a box full of old Kodak Brownies...
    JD again, still somewhere in Sarawak.
  14. I've been out in the sun too much today, I think. Meant to say M3, somehow converted it to M2. Apologies.
    The sun and light at these South China Sea beaches in Sarawak can be... overpowering. A Tiger beer will cool me down and help the healing process for the eventual sunburn.
    JD again, same place.
  15. The lure of that red dot got to me, and as M's were outside my budget, so I "make do" with an R with a few nice lenses (found "relative" bargains, but it's expensive no matter how I look at it) - ....but darn, those lenses are so lovely that the itch just only grows worse.
    So maybe just stick to the Summarit you have now, hope it disappoints, and leave it at that. Your bankaccount will be eternally graceful for that!
    Great price for a very droolworthy camera. Enjoy it.
  16. I remember once I was out on my deliveries and I came to somebody's house and we started talking cameras. He went inside and came out with an M6 and a Summicron. He let me hold it... I was afraid to touch it. He let me take a picture with it. I never got to see the result as I got transferred somewhere else shortly after that. That's my whole Leica experience. It felt great. It looked great. I wonder...
    It's nothing like your story... dammit.
  17. Great deal!! Lucky you. Having had the M3, I prefer the M2 or M4, but...you'll need to look out for another bargain to get one of those.
  18. Lens looks clean. Try to find a lens hood. The original is quite expensive. Maybe you can get a clamp on hood for 40.5 filter type lens like Contax 50.
    So the filter is no good? 41mm is hard to find, but someone makes them new.
    Great deal. That was the earliest M Meter; unlikely to still work anyway, but nice to have.
  19. Beautiful condition. Wonderful price. Hog heaven!!! Enjoy.
  20. Brad,
    What a great deal. You get that puppy CLA'ed and you will have a sweet shooter for a long time.
    I can't wait until you find a sweet deal on a Summicron.
  21. I seem to have picked up the last new 41mm B+W uv filter
    on the planet from a guy in Hawaii.

    Next up, a lens hood...
  22. Heavystar, a US based eBay vendor, offers 41mm filters at times although these are not B&W.
    Congratulations on finding a real bargain. You may be quite pleased with the Summarit when stopped down a bit.
  23. Congrats! That's on my list but unless I find a great
    deal like you, I don't expect to ever get one.
    What a great camera and story to go with it!

    I've had a couple of nice finds myself. Most of which I've
    resold. But I'm kinda kicking my self now because it's so
    much more fun telling the story of how you scored a
    great deal, than saying "bought it on the internet".
  24. Heliopan offers new 41mm UV-haze filters. I assume they are coated, and there are ads out there for screw in lens hoods. Best to get the Leica XOONS hood, but they are a bit expensive.
  25. Those are the days we dream of , glad they still exist !! congratulations , now go out there and shoot it !
  26. Tiffen #611 filter ring for using series VI filters on the Summarit and Xenon! (you can get lucky on Ebay, I use the series VI
    filters with a vented hood on my Summarit.

    Congratulations. I love the M3, mine is made the month of my birth. The Summarit is a fine performer, it is optimized for
    F2.8 close-up. At F4- cannot tell the difference from a Summicron. It will slightly front-focus at F1.5, you can learn to
    compensate- but with Film, not really noticeable.

    Youxin Ye is very good for CLA's, fast and reasonable.
  27. What a great deal! I just sold my M2 and rigid Summicron for $600.00, so your buy is a good one. The Summarit has a bit of a collector following and will fetch more than a Summicron. If the lens has no haze or scratches then it will be a nice shooter, with a nice soft Leica glow at full aperture.
    I always preferred the M2 because I used a 35mm lens quite a lot, and the M2 has the frames for that. Look forward to seeing some images....and don't be afraid to open it up wide!
  28. Congratulations!
    Enjoy. Next year my m3 is 60 years in use..
    Yours looks great.
    To remove meter, set to "B".
    You can then lift the dial that moves shutter.
    See there are two milled wheels sections.
    The dial is then moved, lifting a coupling pin.
    It should easily lift up.
    The meter ill slide off, often enough, scars the top of camera.
    Look up on "YouTube/Vimeo" remove Leicameter.

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