Getting Back into Film... Best Leica Dealers/CLA ?

Discussion in 'Leica and Rangefinders' started by mtoumbev, Oct 21, 2014.

  1. Hello,
    I'm heavily leaning towards getting back into film photography, primarily as I've come to despise sitting in front of a computer for hours on end sorting and editing files - I'd much rather set up a darkroom and develop/process that way; I have all the required equipment for it, and there's something special about it when compared to staring at an LCD screen.
    Specifically, I'm interested in acquiring and learning how to use the old Leica Rangefinders. From browsing this forum, it seems as if a Summicron 50mm lens is the best quality norm, while I'm not too sure on the body. The budget would be $1,000 including CLA (if required). All the photography would be black and white, no exceptions.
    If anyone has recommendations on where to best acquire the older Leicas, and where to service them if, and when it is required, I'd really appreciate it... please limit the scope to Canada and USA!
  2. There are quite a lot of threads on this! My personal classic Leica for b+w is an M4, make that an M6 if you insist on a built-in meter (I've no experience of M6), but the e-bay price for an M4 in Exc++ condition (signs of light use) would be $600. The usual recommendation for a good user Leica would be a IIIc or IIIf (same camera without/with flash sync), you might get one already serviced for $400. Most Leica fans rate the Summicron 50mm highly, particularly the Mark I, but these are getting very hard to find without scratches or mold problems due to the internal lubricant used during manufacture and totally clean examples sell for $5 - 600. In my view a Canon Serenar has much of the same image quality for 50% of the price. A Zeiss Sonnar in a Contax RF mount and an adapter is well worth considering, too. For CLA, Gus Lazzari, who post here from time to time, seems to be well thought of by others PNers.
  3. The M4-2 is a wonderful camera and not as pricey as some earlier and later models. I might go for that if my budget was 1000$ and I also wanted a 50mm Summicron. For that price and an M4-2 camera and lens in very fine condition it might be necessary to go for an earlier Summicron (1960s) and later upgrade to a type IV (post 1979). You may not need a CLA if the camera was well cared for (even though it is about 35 years old) and you can verify RF-VF performance yourself and discover any apparent anonalies in shutter performance, but beware of lens haze or scratching (soft coatings) on the earlier Summicrons. As David says, the earlier Summicrons are starting to increase in price but if you are patient you can probably find a version I through III Summicron at a reasonable price. Otherwise, may i suggest the small classic V-C lens 35mm f2.5 which has a very good performance with B&W film. If you are in Canada, Kindermann or David Yau in Toronto are well thought of for Leica service (but haven't used them since mid to late 2000s).
  4. If your favorite focal length is 50mm, you may wish to look for a user M3 as the viewfinder is designed for that focal length and the image is almost 100%. Its very bright finder makes composing and focusing easy even in low light and I can even use it wearing glasses. In addition to 50mm the viewfinder also has bright image lines for 90 and 135mm focal lengths. If you shoot a fair amount of 35mm focal length, the M4-2 is a good choice as the finder has 35mm bright lines and the body I use for 35mm focal length work. A 50mm Summicron in good repair is a great B&W lens on any of the described bodies. Welcome back to film.
  5. Thank you all for the replies so far.
    I'll look further into the M2/3/4 as until now my focus was only on the screw-mount Leicas. I'm guessing the M-series will be easier to find in good condition, and get spare parts for - when they are needed. Tamarkin seems to have a decent selection, although I'm not sure if they generally sell at the going market prices or higher.
    Also regarding the lens, I will do some more research and see what else is available aside from the Summicron, that won't be fogged up/moulded/hazy etc. On that note, can newer lenses be used with the older M-series from the 1950-60s?
  6. Pretty much any Leica can still be serviced, and there are many screwmount models still in excellent condition. But it's worth going somewhere with a decent selection so you can at least avoid cameras with obvious issues (sticky slow speeds, dim RF images, etc.), even if you decide to have a CLA afterwards. The separate rangefinder and more fiddly film loading make the screwmounts a bit more quirky to use, but they can be surprisingly quick to operate once you get the hang of them, and the smaller size makes them very pocketable. Yes, no problem using new lenses on an old M, or screwmount lenses with an adapter on any M.
  7. As you have experience of digital photography, you'll probably find the view-finder of a screw mount Leica too much of a jump back in time: unless, like me, you only use the camera with an accessory finder. The M Leica finder is far better.
  8. If you want a meter get an M6. If you look really had you may find one for 1k. Normal price is about $1200 not needing a CLA. Go with the 50mm Summicron. It is the all around best lens. This combo is not for photographing landscapes or trees but rather people and does a magnificent job on portraits and street scenes (but you can use it for the other types of photography). No Meter: M4 & download a free meter app on your smart phone. Budgetwise the Summicron third version is the least expensive (notice I said the least expensive) and as far as photography is concerned it is great. There are many discussions on which is the best lens. IMHO all a excellent just different.
  9. Thanks Steve - you mention that the combo isn't good for landscapes... Which one would be better for that purpose?
  10. Martin, traditionally, wide-angle lenses are used for landscapes. You can go from a 35mm down to 21mm when it comes to that.

    The problem is that wide angle lenses get more expensive as they get wider...

    When I decided to buy a Leica, I was told to aim for a model M body and a 50mm lens. Dutifully, I followed advice... and ended up disliking the 50mm focal length. That's when I realized that I had always been a 35mm user because those were the camera framelines that fit my vision. To avoid this mistake, get a Leica camera, look through its viewfinder, and make a choice based on the framelines that you believe suit better the way you photograph. Once you know what this is, you'll be able to plan your purchase and avoid my mistake, which was to feel very dissappointed with the Leica system because I wasn't crazy about the 50mm lens vision.

    Fortunately, if you determine that 35 or even 28mm are your thing, there are several alternate choices in terms of lenses. Leica glass has become incredibly expensive as of late, and if you consider that wide-angle lenses were already pricy before the arrival of the M9, right now, they're beyond the 1K line. The alternatives (Voigtländer, Konica, Zeiss) are not by any means bad or deficient, they're simply not Leica, but one can survive with them and be happy. I know because I am one of the many who use Konica, Zeiss or Voigtänder glass with Leica bodies. Take care!
  11. For LTM, I think the 35mm is not a retrofocus lens, so not big and expensive. But past that, they might be.
    Yes, 35mm was always my favorite. Not too wide, but just enough wider than 50mm.
  12. In your shoes I would pick an M2/4/M6 and pick on price and whether you want a built in meter (M6) or need the 135mm frame (135 never very popular (M4 , M6)) or the 28mm frame (M6). I'd personally go for an M2 if I was buying today.
  13. With the above posts in mind, there is a wide angle Leica alternative that is hundreds of dollars cheaper than the suggestions. Consider the Leica CL with the 40mm Summicron f2.0 lens. It even has a built in meter that when working is accurate. The 40mm Summicron is tack sharp. There is also a Minolta CLE which is an advanced version that still uses Leica M mount lenses. The CL and Minolta CLE both use the standard M bayonet mount which means you can mount any additional M or Leica Thread Mount lenses using the M adapters. Often thought of as a Leica stepchild, I've had very good results after Sherry Krauter rebuilt mine with upgraded parts and a new meter. Although the viewfinder shows the 40mm lines, the entire viewfinder image area covers the 50mm field.
  14. The CL only has 40/50 and 90 frames - not wide angle. The CLE has the 28/40/90 frames and was a great camera, but I am not sure how their electronics are holding up these days.
    I had a CL and it was a nice camera (lovely viewfinder), but, my experience was the rangefinder was easily knocked out of alignment, which is a major disadvantage. The meter also usually needs an expensive repair or replacement to be accurate. The M rangefinder is robust. Also it has to be said, getting a CL usually leads one to want to progress to a "real" M, so why not skip the intermediate step altogether and just get an M?
  15. "find in good condition, and get spare parts for" Martin T.
    Neither is a concern with Leica thread mounts. Plentiful cameras & parts to choose from...

    "separate rangefinder and more fiddly film loading make the screwmounts a bit more quirky to use" Richard W.
    Exception: If a camera combo will be mostly used for landscapes, then speed isn't an issue.

    "Consider the Leica CL with the 40mm Summicron f2.0 lens" Christopher J.
    The Leica CL & Minolta CLE, though "light duty" in their construction, if cared for, are wonderful performers.
    "i suggest the small classic V-C lens 35mm f2.5 which has a very good performance" Arthur P.
    I agree with this as it stays in-line with budget concerns.
    I'll add that fantastic performers in the early LTM line, are the Leica 35mm Summaron f/3.5 and the 35mm Canon f2.8 or f/2.
    If these are "clear" (as in after a service), along with the fact that you can easily use them on M cameras, you've got a friend for life.

    Other budget recommendations would be the feature laden (when compared to the thread mount Leica offerings) Canon P.
    See Louis Meluso's excellent Pnet review of the Canon P <<< click - Also within the scope "camera body" <<< click
    Likewise, while shopping keep in mind one of the most underrated of Leica thread-mounts, the Leica IIIc...
    Finally, thanks to David B. for the friendly mention.

  16. Thank you all for the replies thus far - they have opened my eyes into what the options are and how to best proceed. I'll take some time and consider whether a Leica thread mount, M-series, or other rangefinder such as the Canon P would be suit me. It may also be best to wait 6-8 months until I can increase my budget to get the most practical combination.
    The only thing that I'm still not clear on: If I choose to go 28mm or 35mm, let's say M-mount, how do I know if the camera will support the lens in terms of framelines, and if some external accessory will allow it to do so?
    Best Regards.
  17. The Canon P is a great camera, but be sure you look through the viewfinder of one before buying. The P uses "reflected" framelines, which may have faded and become "flary" over the years. Some P cameras look like the day they left the factory, other P viewfinders are hazy. Check first!
    Any Leica M uses "projected" framelines so the viewfinders are sharp and clear.
    As for what Leicas' show 28/35mm framelines, basically they all do, except for the M3.
    As for the Canon, it depends on the camera. None show 28mm framelines that I know of, but most show 35. Of course you can buy accessory viewfinders for both the Canon P and the Leica M-series.
  18. Here we are. This is derived from E. Puts.
  19. To this list you can add the screwmount IIIg, with framelines for 50 and 90. The IIIf and earlier have no framelines, just a small but clear 50mm finder - you need an accessory finder for anything else, as mentioned above. If you do end up with a screwmount camera, it's worth getting a collapsible 50mm lens of some description no matter what other lenses you buy - it's handy to have such a small, self-contained package with nothing else to carry.
  20. Only the M4P, M6, and M7 show the 28 and 75mm framelines.
  21. The Leica MP (current) also shows 28 and 75mm framelines.
  22. Thank you all for the information - it has been very helpful.
    Right now I'm looking at a Leica M2 and Voigtlander Color-Skopar 35mm f/2,5 combo, both of which seem in good condition. I will see them in person next week. The asking price for the combination is $850.
    The M2 is from 1965, however has a nasty engraving on the top from a previous owner - would it be reasonable to find a spare top plate to replace it with in the future, that won't cost me an arm and a leg? The lens is almost new, but the camera has not been CLA'd. Owner says that the shutter speeds seem accurate and the exposures are coming out correct.
    If this isn't a recommended combination, or seems like it may have something poor about it, I'll probably go with the Canon P and a 35mm lens (lens type tbd).
    Best Regards.
  23. Excellent combination. With a wider lens, though, you'll need an accessory finder. You must also budget for a light meter if you want accurate exposure. Replacement top plates can be found -- but they don't come cheap and are, after all, only a cosmetic consideration. Opaque tape over the offending engraving is the simple answer. The Canon P is a fine camera, but some people do not get on with its finder's simultaneous display of all frames.
  24. You might give Tamarkin a call. He has far more stock than what's on his site. You'll want to ask for a "user" of whatever model you're looking for. Purchase should come with a warranty. Super friendly folks with large Leica stock.
    KEH is another good outfit to checkout. They guarantee their cameras for 6 months.
    Lastly, there are phone apps that can stand in for your meter. I don't use them but know plenty of people who do. I use the Sekonic L-398a: no batteries and built like a classic, because it is one.
  25. Hey, cool thread, Martin! I don't have too much experience with rangefinders. But I do own a Canon P. And I have owned maybe ten Leicas in the past, including the M6 and IIIa.
    My opinion: forget the Barnack (thread mount) Leicas. Just forget them. Back in the 1920s, 30s, 40s and 50s they were great. But really, we have better choices now. I love them but I'd never use them anymore.
    The Canon P and related models are almost as quiet as an M body. The finder is not the best in the world. BUT - rangefinder adjustment is easy to do. Horizontal is easier than vertical, but it is not very difficult in general.
    Canon made other screw mount bodies with either an advance lever or a rapid winder. These include the L3 and VT. Check them out. They are not expensive.
    Some people like the Zeiss 50/1.5 ZM. It is not quite as sharp as the Summicron or the Planar, but has less distortion than the latter. And it's compact.
    If you want to buy a new Leica lens, the previous Summarits have been discounted. I posted a thread in this forum about it. The 50/2.5 can be bought for about $1,300 new. That's pretty good, I think. Here's the announcement on Leica Rumors:
  26. I agree with Jim. Tell Tamarkin what you are planning and your budget and they will give you several alternatives to choose from. I picked up a IIIc and lens from them a while back for about $600. It was delivered quickly and worked like a charm straight out of the box.
  27. Our tutor at college was Euan Duff and he always advocated using the standard lens. It has taken me 40 years to really begin to see how right he is. The standard lens forces you to check what you have in the frame and it's composition. .......personal opinion, of course!

    I've owned screw (111a and 111c) and bayonet (M2) Leicas and was quite glad to pass them on. The viewfinders on the screw ones were very small and I found fiddly to use. I never really got used to them I guess, but they are beautiful cameras. Peter Dechert thinks the last of the bottom loading Canons to be the best of all, so they might be worth taking a look at.
  28. I love my Leica M2. Very simple and reliable.

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