Eli Kurland: A Special Leica Dealer

Jun 22, 2020  By Steven Copulsky

Pictured above: Steven and Marie Copulsky.

Like many Leica users, I started out with Nikon equipment as a teenager and became an avid photographer. Years later, I inherited an old IIIc from my wife’s father and was totally captivated with the images rendered by a (then) 40-year old 50MM Leitz Summitar. A friend who had been shooting for years with an M4 suggested I go see Eli Kurland at Wall Street Camera when I was ready to get serious about Leica.

So, after some handwringing (I felt like a Chevy driver going to buy a Rolls Royce), I went to buy an M6 from Eli in 1994. He basically spent an entire afternoon with me, being so pleasant, patient and knowledgeable in explaining the advantages of different lenses, camera bodies (he was more than willing to show me used M3’s and M4’s if I might prefer one of them or if I just wanted to appreciate how the configuration and technology developed; he noted very wryly that not all progress is linear).

I came away with an M6, the Solms version 35MM Summicron and a 90MM pre-aspherical Summicron that Eli recommended as a starter outfit after talking to me for hours about what I was hoping to do with the camera. “Try this, see how you like it and how it works for what you are trying to do you can always come back and trade or add to your outfit as you figure it out.” Or something like that.

My kids were young, and the next few years yielded thousands of shots of them that would never have had the same nuance and spontaneity with any other type of camera (everybody reading this has their own version of that story). Three or four years later I did go back, traded in the 90MM Summicron and got a 90MM Elmarit and a 75MM Summilux (whatever’s come out since, I do still love that last lens). Eli was encouraging and more than fair in arranging the trade/purchase. I still have all that equipment (and lots, lots more). No doubt I would have gotten to the same place with other dealers or in later years through the internet, but the trip would not have started in such a happy and positive way.

Not having seen him for years, last December I went to Eli’s Leica Soho store for the SL2 launch. He remembered and greeted me like an old friend. When I saw him in a newsclip a few weeks ago walking through his destroyed and looted store, I felt heartsick. One of the best people in the network (and Leica does have many fine dealers across the country). I pray his business recovers quickly and fully. We need people like him all the more in times like these.

Steven Copulsky
June 2020


Ah, yes, the 90mm Elmarit-M 2.8 and 75mm Summilux! Both great lenses I still use because of their superb and interesting rendering.

The 90 is chrome so both lenses are on the heavy side. My Lux is one of the last so came with 6-Bit Coding. I bought a blank-code bayonet mount for the 90 Elmarit and switched it out with the original un-coded mount. Easier than I thought it would be and very convenient for recording into metadata. I recommend the swap-out.

So sad to read of the looting of the several Leica stores. I, and all Leica users and fans, hope they can get back on their feet soon.

…and might I add Craig, who’s worked with him for years. A more patient and all-around knowledgeable expert you’d be hard-pressed to find.

Oh, wow – I remember Wall Street Camera. I never went there in person, but back in the olden days (haha) they advertised in the photo magazines. I did “online shopping” the old-fashioned way: I clipped the order form out of the magazine, filled in what I wanted (a Yashica T4), wrote a check for $125 IIRC, and mailed it away. A couple of weeks later, the box showed up at my door.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

More Story
LHSA Announces Winners of the 2020 Sweepstakes LHSA - The International Leica Society is pleased to announce the winners for our 2020 annual Sweepstakes.Grand Prize...