by Larry St. Lezin
“My” first Leica was not actually mine, but a loan. I was a 16-year-old with lots of enthusiasm for photography and no money. I had recently managed to cobble together enough birthday and Christmas cash to buy a Fujica Compact Deluxe rangefinder camera. It was a great camera for what it was — but definitely not a Leica.
One evening my family had dinner at the home of one of my dad’s business associates. When he heard that I was interested in cameras he asked if I wanted to see his collection: a Rolleiflex TLR, a Nikon F with lenses, a Minox C, and … a bag of Leica equipment.
Images by Larry St. Lezin
All of his cameras were fabulous, but I probably salivated more noticeably at the sight of his Leica camera bag: two M4’s, a 135mm Hektor, 90mm Summicron f/2, Dual-Range Summicron 50mm f/2, 35mm f/2.8 Summaron, 28mm Super Angulon, light meter, filters, and other gadgets.
He said he hadn’t done much photography lately and asked if wanted to borrow his Leica gear.
Did I? Did I??? YES!!!
My parents gave the OK, knowing I’d be very careful with it, and I took his camera bag back home.
It was about three months before he asked for his cameras back. And I loved every minute of that time as an erstwhile Leica user.
That did it for me. The camera bag went back to its owner, but something was now etched into my psyche. It said, “Some day I’m going to own an M4!”
When I was in college in the 1970s I added up all my pennies and nickels and bought a IIIf. It was (and is) a great camera, but it wasn’t what I yearned for; it was what I could afford.
Finally, in my mid-30s, with a bonus in hand earned from overtime work, I felt I could justify a selfish splurge and finally bought myself an M4!
That was three decades ago, and I still love (and use!) my M4, along with an M7, the IIIf, and a recently acquired 1931 Leica Model C.
My dad’s business associate obviously knew what a thrill it was for me to use his Leicas. But he probably never knew what a change it made in my life. It turned me into a lifelong Leica guy!