An SL Odyssey

Apr 14, 2021  By Charles Garrettson
1


part i

My first Leica was an M2 that I inherited from my uncle. He was a very cool uncle, and we always had a special relationship. After his passing, that specialness was manifested when I learned that he had willed me his Leica collection: an M2, two IIIf ’s, and a range of lenses and accessories.

Manna from heaven. Photography has been one of my greatest passions ever since I was fifteen and asked to borrow my dad’s Argus C3 that was hanging, unused, in his closet. Over the years I was aware of the Leica luster…but I never thought I would ever be able to afford to dip my toe into that sacred water—the Ganges of photography. Well, now I did not just have a Leica—I had an entire Leica system!

I have to admit, when I got the first prints back, I was disappointed. I expected better. But then, I was comparing thirty…forty…fifty year old equipment (and not the best that Leica produced in those years) with my newest Nikon gear. I began to study. And I learned what Leica has achieved and symbolized in its history. The place it has earned in the photo world. And who has shot with them. I was smitten and bitten by the Leica bug. Unfortunately, my mother was quite prescient when, in my early teens, she observed that I had “a champagne taste, but a beer pocketbook.” That observation has uncannily – and cruelly – described my fate ever since. As irony would have it, however, my mother’s passing enabled me to indulge my champagne taste, at least photographically – and with Perrier Jouet!: the M10. The latest M! The holy grail of any Leica addict! And I had a full range of landmark M and R glass that would work beautifully with it. Heaven! And the M10 is heavenly. But somehow, as I pondered this new windfall in my life…I began to notice a shadow slowly creep across my horizon. Something not fulfilled. Something not quite right. As reality set in…painfully…I realized the problem: the M is primarily a street-shooting camera. Henri Cartier- Bresson. Alfred Eisenstadt. While I was completely enamored with the entire Leica mystique and legend…I am just not a street shooter. I think about it, but it rarely happens. What I am is a landscape artist. I am happiest practicing contemplative photography: large format…under a focusing cloth… marveling at that huge, reversed, upside-down image…meter and loupe hanging round my neck. Yes, I know: M’s can be excellent landscape cameras. But that is not what they were intended for. That was not their essence. And there were more suitable alternatives out there, and I owned one of them: a V5 5 x 7 Deardorff. Now that I was no longer shooting professionally, when was I going to use my M? Not very often. How could I therefore justify the enormous investment in my M system? What to do. What to do.

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1 Comment

I am pretty much in the same boat as you were re: :Leica gear. While I LOVE the M10-P I own, it’s really the SL that best matches my type of photography (which is landscape and travel by and large). I bought the M10 with a range of lenses (18, 28, 35, 50, 90) and then on a whim bought a used SL body – love it. Had I to do it over again I would have immersed myself in the SL system. Yes, I love the feel and craftsmanship of the M gear, but truth be told I am better off with the SL. It’s a wonderful camera.



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