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Leica Film Test: Three cameras, one film, two camera nerds and a Winkelsucher

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 On the starting grid: Three film cameras, one roll of film and two rather mad camera nerds. Left to right: Leica III and 5cm Summar, plus Winkelsucher (1936); Neil the M7 (2004) and 50mm Apo-Summicron; Leica M3 double-stroke (1957) with 50mm Summicron dual-range (with Sekonic light meter on top), Ilford FP4 and Adam
On the starting grid: Three film cameras, one roll of film and two rather mad camera nerds. Left to right: Leica III and 5cm Summar, plus Winkelsucher (1936); Neil the M7 (2004) and 50mm Apo-Summicron; Leica M3 double-stroke (1957) with 50mm Summicron dual-range (with Sekonic light meter on top), Ilford FP4 and Adam’s classic Ikophot light meter

Always on the look out for a new wheeze, I decided to recruit Adam Lee for one of my more bizarre photo outings. Earlier today we rendezvoused at the Covent Garden Apple Store with a trio of cameras and one type of film, Ilford FP4. The three cameras were Adam’s 1957 M3 and 50mm dual-range Summicron, my 1936 black-paint III (with 5cm nickel Summar) and the long-suffering Neil, the a la carte M7 manufactured this century, wearing the sharpest knife in the drawer, the 50mm Apo-Summicron. So there was first a 20-year gap between the two older cameras and a further 60-year gap to the M7. Along for the ride came the original Barnack digital, the plucky little X1, to record the three film cameras in various poses.

 Adam takes a picture of me wielding the iPhone using the Leica
Adam takes a picture of me wielding the iPhone using the Leica’s Winkelsucher. I wouldn’t have known he was there, so discreet and crafty is the Leica III. Eat your heart out, Eric Kim: This is true wabi-sabi

A few minutes later a table at the Caffe Nero in Long Acre was strewn with photographic impedimenta. Three rolls of FP4 were loaded and the cameras primed for action. The 80-year-old Leica III had a smart trick up its shutter: The Winkelsucher (corner viewfinder) which permits both focus and composition from the side of the camera.

This little device is straight out of James Bond: Q would definitely have approved. I suspect it was once used by private detectives to poke round corners and catch snaps of co-respondents in flagrante delicto. No such excitements today, but we discovered it is a great little device for unobtrusive street photography. Eric Kim doesn’t have one of these, please note. 

It rained. And it rained. Unfairly, I was saddled with two cameras and the Billingham Hadley Pro, constantly wiping off the 50 Apo Summicron for fear of permanent damage. Adam, as usual, was sailing along with his M3 capturing all the best shots. On a clear day this would have been much more fun. But, as it was, we managed to fill three rolls and Adam has now borne them off to his bathroom for some hugger-mugger mutual processing. On the way home he collected a three-roll developing tank just to make things fairer.

You will have to wait for the results. What we’re looking for are differences between the three cameras. Largely, we suspect, this will be down to lens, with the latest 50 Apo giving the sharpest results. We could also get some nasty surprises on focus, particularly from the Leica III and Winkelsucher. More later. 

  • Leica M7, Leica III and Adam’s 50 DR Summicron supplied by Red Dot Cameras
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3 COMMENTS

  1. I reckon that you might be surprised at the DR re. sharpocity Mike, it’s only a guess but all the lenses are recording to film, so it kind of levels the playing field, particularly in relation to the APO… Looking forward to the result.

    Are you sure the Winkel whatsit wasn’t designed for people with strabismus?

    • Ah! Could be. Had to look that one up. Both you and William seem to think that the DR will win. Of course young Adam has steadier hands, that will be my excuse.

  2. My money is on the 50 DR. I would take the M3/50DR any day over any more modern combo. I’ll also be interested to see how the Summar does; its my favourite pre-war lens.

    William

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