Home Cameras/Lenses Leica Photographica 2019: Seduced by a couple of blasts from the past

Photographica 2019: Seduced by a couple of blasts from the past

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“I feel a story coming on”, I thought as I spied a neat looking Leica C-Lux 1 sitting serenely in its box. Even today, this 13-year-old didgeridoo looks the business. Moderate lust set in.

Point and shoot

The C-Lux 1 (a re-badged version of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX01) represents a genre that is now almost dead, that of the tiny point and shoot. Just what has happened in those years and how does this ancient and rather basic digital stack up against modern machinery? It’s an interesting question and, as usual, there are two sides to the answer. It might even be better than a 2019 smartphone, who knows? I’ll discuss this later in another article.

Browsing and meeting friends is a large part of the fun in attending fairs such as Photographica, here in the RHS exhibition hall in Victoria last weekend
Three kings from Kent are we: Even clubs set up in business to sell all their surplus gear. These three enthusiastic stallholders hail from a North Kent photography club

I was standing in front of a trestle table filled with photographic relics of the past. Surrounding it were dozens of similar trestles groaning with remnants of yesteryear, overwhelmingly film but with the odd glimmer of more modern technology.

Atmosphere

The occasion was the annual Photographica photo fair in London, organised by the Photographic Collectors’ Club. As usual, I’d gone mainly for the atmosphere and to meet with readers and contributors — such a William Fagan from Dublin and Kevin Armstrong from Surrey. I wasn’t in a buying mood because I’ve learned over the years to take care not to become over-enthusiastic and waste money on trifles. My shelves are filled with such earlier lapses of good sense, although older cameras can make entertaining ornaments.

It’s all in the business: Three generations of classic camera retailing. Peter Loy, centre, is flanked his father, John, and son Elliott

There’s a sort of feeding frenzy that takes over when you see all these ancient goodies laid out in front of you — things you didn’t even know about or had forgotten. Things you don’t need or, even, don’t want. But their Siren call is difficult to resist.

Apple no pay

With this in mind, I took the bare minimum cash in the hope the short supply would deter me from profligacy. They’re not big on Apple Pay at Photographica, which is a bonus for the cash incontinent. I even resisted spending £19 on a fully working Psion Organiser, the world’s first usable Personal Digital Assistant. It would have been fun to play with, but ultimately a waste of money and something else to clutter the shelves.

Meeting the specialists at Photographica. Fancy a used twin-lens reflex?

I spent most of the day chaste, free of temptation. But then, towards the end, I was seduced twice in quick succession.

No.1 of that ilk

First objet de désir to catch my eye was the Leica C-Lux 1, first of that ilk, and a pretty little shooter it is too. Can’t hold a candle to a 2019 iPhone, of course, but I snapped it up for nostalgia’s sake and for the opportunity to see just how we photographed back in 2006. This particular relic has been round the block a few times, judging by the cosmetics, but whoever owned it had been careful to keep all the original packaging, including a spare battery and, even, the massive 64MB SD card that Leica kindly supplied. A true enthusiast had owned it, I felt. It even works.

Coffee break at the balcony cafe presents a good excuse to get a panoramic shot

Then my eyes lit on an Olympus Trip 35, titivated with a rather fetching red crocodile skin. There were dozens of boring old standard Trip 35s to choose from, but this colourful little number grabbed my attention. I’ve always meant to buy a Trip 35 if ever I tripped over one in good nick, so that was added to my cart.

Reskinned

There’s a thriving after-market in reskinning Trip 35s and I presume this is one of them. Both the Trip 35, and the little C-Lux are suitable subjects for Macfilos articles so I’m pleased to have something to research and try out. And I had enough cash in my pocket because both cheap enough rank as impulse buys.

Opportunism

You’ll be hearing more of both these cameras in the future when I’ve had the chance to run a film through the Oly and fill an SD card with some test shots from the C-Lux 1. There’s a touch of opportunism here. I hadn’t set out with any intention of covering either of these cameras but I now see the synergy.

The Olympus is the quintessential point-and-shoot film camera. It’s not as compact as the company’s successful Mju range, but it pleases with manual controls and a satisfying chunkiness. The Leica, on the other hand, represents the type of tiny point-and-shoot camera that flourished in the noughties, only to be obliterated by the smartphone after 2007.

Meanwhile, do you own either an Olympus Trip 35 or a Leica C-Lux 1? Or did you ever own one? Let’s have your anecdotes (and even some interesting shots) which we can incorporate in the story.

11 COMMENTS

  1. The smallest of the digital past I can still do is the D-lux 4, not as tiny as the C-lux, but I’d use it before a phone any day. I took a macro turn round the garden with it last week – totally satisfying to work with, beautifully crisp results and gorgeous colour. Nowadays the Sony RX100iii lives cuckoo-like in the DL4 leather case. It can do more – but less enjoyably.

  2. I enjoyed seeing the picture of the three kings from Kent as the light meter on the table to the side of the gentleman on the left is now sitting with me at home. Another example of the old saying “money talks”; mine says “goodbye”.

  3. I don’t have a C-Lux 1 but I do have a Barnackesque Leica D-Lux 1 (see page 103 Leica Pocket Book 8th Edition) acquired because of its classic UR Leica shape and the fact that MW Classic listed it as a ‘mint condition … original box … etc etc …’ item several years ago. Never used it but I love the styling and it’s one of my digital relics which I’ll not part with … the other being my R9/DMR (with a back-up R8 body). And writing this reminds me: I must charge both cameras’ batteries. The DMR batteries are fine. But I wonder if the c.2003 D-Lux 1 batteries are still capable of accepting a charge?

  4. Mike, it was great to meet up with you and old friends from the Leica Society again as well as Kevin Armstrong for the first time. I also met old friends from the dealer network such as Ivor Cooper and Peter Loy. Lars Netopil was over from Germany talking about his Wetzlar Camera Auction next October and I met up with Paul Henry van Hasbroeck for the first time. I have recommended his books on many occasions and in many places, so it was good to finally meet the author. As well as Leicas, Paul is also interested in the Grubb lenses which were made in Dublin in the 19th Century.

    As for purchases, I bought some film and a Rollei 35 to replace the one I sold 37 years ago. I nearly bought a Zeiss Super Nettel from the 1930s, but when neither myself nor the dealer could close the camera, perhaps due to warping of the back caused by the interaction between the metal and the acid in the leather cover, I decided to let the camera go,

    On the day before Photographica, I visited the Photo London event at Somerset House and, for me, the highlights were the photos by Vivian Maier and a display of 19th Century photos by Roger Fenton. The event had attracted what seemed to be a high net worth group of visitors and while most photos were going for at least 4 figures, many were going for 5 figure sums, with some reaching 6 figures. Leica had a stand, but they seemed to be selling champagne rather than cameras. The fact that the Financial Times had a streamlined silver caravan parked outside the door probably tells you all you need to know about the target audience for the event.

    William

    • I met Paul Henry van Hasbroeck for the first time in 1980, I think. He used to place a 2-line small ad in the back of ‘Practical Photography’ each month, offering to buy old Leicas. I was intrigued by that, so I phoned him up, and asked to meet to talk with him and write an article.

      I went round to his home a week or so later, and while we were talking his phone rang, out in the hallway. I stopped talking, and asked if he wanted to go and answer it.

      He said “No, I’m talking with you. Why would I want to interrupt our conversation to go and talk with someone else? If it’s important, they’ll ring back”. I’d never known anyone else who was able to resist a ringing phone.

      I reckon he’s the politest man in London.

      • I will second that, David. My discussions with Paul Henry have always been very courteous and he has a great pedigree in the Leica collecting world.

        • Yes, he is a most modest and unassuming man. He was even a bit embarrassed when I congratulated him on being the only writer to attempt to classify the variants of the main Leica vintage lenses eg he identified 22 variants of the 50mm Elmar, the lens that ‘made’ Leica and without which it would not exist today.

          William

  5. I still have my mum’s Trip 35. Haven’t run any film through it yet, but the metering works .

    This one is original though . No fancy clothing.

  6. my wife bought me the c-lux (at the time it was just the c-lux not the c-lux1) for my 50th. i still have it and use it.

    if there is a drawback- it is that it is jpg only.

    i keep it in my work backpack and took it on my last holiday and set it for monochrome. I love my Q and the old c-lux as a ‘dynamic duo’

    • Yes, I did notice the lack of RAW but it does seem to be a very handy little device. I’ve started carrying it around in my pocket. It’s more natural (for me) than pulling out a smartphone.

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