About three months ago I did something stupid. I bought a Leica. After however many years of saying that I don’t want one, don’t need one, can’t afford one; I bought one.
I made a song and dance about buying my Kiev last year:
“I don’t need or a want a Leica”.
Then I did it again when in the Autumn when I bought a really nice Canon F1;
“I’m all about SLRs, this is a beautiful classic, in great condition, it can the pinnacle of my 35mm collection”.
A few years ago I had a Contax G1 for a bit, I’ve had a few Minolta HiMatics too, all the while I’ve been saying to myself;
“I don’t like rangefinders”
The only problem? My Texas Leica, my Fuji GW690. It’s been a favourite since it joined the band a few years ago and has been whispering; “buy a Leica” for much of that time.
I have had the impression that between Leica’s reputation, a friend’s enthusiasm, and the body of work created with Leicas; I was destined to have one, whether I wanted one or not, at least for a bit.
It is against this backdrop that a Leica M4-P crossed my path. It was made in the Leitz factory in Canada, (so it’s branded ‘Leitz’ rather than Leica), and was was born around the same time I was. I parted with my Kiev and my Canon EOS 1N in order to lessen it’s fiduciary impact and to make room in the hall of cameras.
The M4-P is, as it happens, the Leica that I would have, if I could have any of them, (aside perhaps, from the MA), so much so that I was very hard pressed to turn one down a few years ago. When I bought it, I bought it body only, half-excited and half grudgingly, and then left it on my shelf, where it sat quietly, blind, telling me to buy a lens.
After a while I borrowed a lens from a pal to check that the camera actually works, I found that;
a) yes it does,
b) the frame lines for 50mm are a bit small in the viewfinder for my taste
c) I hate the way the 50mm f/2.8 Elmar handles bokeh.
d) my test roll pictures were crap because I bashed through the roll.
The lens went back to my friend and the camera went back on the shelf. About a month later, (somewhere between luck and contorted logic I bought a 35mm Voigtlander lens).
This time, instead of just knocking out some photographs I actually went somewhere I wanted to go and took proper and deliberate pictures, (with some slapdash metering and an eagerness to finish the roll).
The M4-P has no meter and is entirely mechanical which means it only has entropy and the end of film production to fear; if I decide to keep it, it should last.
What remains to be seen is whether I can make good pictures with it, whether I can maintain a one lens policy, and whether I’m a rangefinder user after all.