Using a Small SM 35 & 50 Leica System

Jan 20, 2021  By Dick Gilcreast

These are the sort of pictures you can get from the side of the road if you have a camera with you. And the small SM Leicas are well suited to this role — in this case a couple of Illc cameras with 35mm Elmar and 50mm Summitar lenses on them to show the beginning stage of the replacement an 80 year old red-listed Main Street bridge in the small town of Peterborough NH. The vertical shot shows one of the first jobs for the tall crane in suspending a cage over the river with a worker in it taking dimensions and marking some of the larger stones to be used in the reconstruction. The project is estimated to take more than a year, and shots will be made of the demolition and rebuilding, maybe to be used by a local newspaper or magazine.

The two Leicas in a Tenba shoulder bag make up a small system that can do a lot without any backup, and will be used to record this continuing replacement. Either lens can do a whole story working solo, but having both together already mounted on cameras offers more total capability, as well as providing a quick alternative if one camera runs out of film at an inopportune moment.

Viewfinders used for both lenses are the brightline types shown. The 50mm finder is the Leitz SBOOI (chrome, covered with black masking tape), and the 35mm finder is the black plastic finder by Voigtlander-Cosina. Both show just about the same large size frame to the eye so they work well together, and they also both show their whole fields of view when I’m using glasses — dark glasses in bright sun or clear ones in dim surroundings such as a theater — in many situations the bright framelines seem an advantage. And both finders are small and without any sharp edges that can catch on the clothing when the camera is carried under a jacket.


To round out the system in the bag there is also a 135mm Hektor, with its own Leitz brightline SHOOC, and a small auto-flash for impossible light — both very handy when needed — one of the Illc bodies having had internal strobe synch added.


Film may be old style, but once in a while for personal work I still enjoy making photographs manually, without a lot of technology calling the shots. I also get to see tangible results in the form of negatives to make the prints from. So I keep carrying and using this small film outfit, ready to be used anytime, anywhere. I can just grab it and go, with no advance preparation needed before going out the door.


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