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  Monday  May 5  2003    02: 45 AM

my grandfather's camera

My Grandfather's Leica was made in 1949. I remember him taking family pictures with it. He always seemed to find it a little difficult using this camera. Well.. some of it is difficult, like loading the damn thing. (But I'm getting better at it.) He gave it to me in the mid 70s. I used it for awhile but it started to have shutter problems. I had it fixed but the fix didn't last long and I put it aside in 1976. It has been a display camera for 27 years.

Last Monday night I was in my kitchen talking to one of the members of Sweet Briar, after TestingTesting. David pulled my Leica down from its display perch. I was embarrased because of the layer of dust on it. Even more embarrassed when I discovered he was the owner of a Leica M6. He encouraged me to use it. I explained the shutter problem and he said he could recomend some Leica repair people

That prompted me to clean the little Leica up and run a couple of test rolls though it. What a joy to use! The controls are a little archaic (winder knob) but it felt like no other camera I've used. Nothing automatic on this sucker. I've been shooting a digital camera for 5 years and I'm tired of the "automatic" features that get in the way. This is a 54 year old camera but it is still a very usable shooter. It is like taking pictures with a piece of jewelry. A thing of beauty to look at as well as use. I can understand Henri Cartier-Bresson's devotion to the Leicas.

Unfortunately the test rolls showed the shutter problems were still there and that there were now pinholes in the shutter curtains. Bummer! Need to find those Leica repair people. Once I find some money to get it fixed I can look into some new lenses that Cosina builds for their Voigtlander line of rangefinders. They all fit on the old Leica Screw Mounts.

And there is even a guy that makes mechanical rapid winders that will let this antique shoot 2 to 2.5 frames per second. I'm just kicking myself that I let this little jewel sit for so long. Well...better late than never. It will take pictures again.

[Update: I forgot to mention — when I scan the 35mm negative from the Leica, I get an 8 megapixel image. I don't think Oskar Barnack had digital in mind for his little camera.]