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Updated: Sep 16, 2023

How many of us have just picked up a camera and muddled through; hoping that we will somehow 'get' the camera we have chosen without actually making any formal effort to learn of its full capabilities - despite the vast amount of literature available?

All the great makes of camera have been written up in huge detail - a vast treasure trove of history, theory and practice...

Leica iiia on top of a Leica manual

Let’s look at the Leica manual published by Morgan and Lester way back in 1935. Oscar Barnack may have invented the Leica but it was his disciples Willard D. Morgan and Henry M. Lester that carried it out into the world. From the outset, their manual - which would eventually run to 15 editions - became the holy scripture for Leica users everywhere. My grandfather had a copy which he eventually bequeathed to my father who then left it to me...

Leica manual the complete book of 35mm photography

The last edition is a must-have... And not just for Leica users. Everything needed to employ a 35mm camera to maximum artistic expression and commercial success can be found in its pages.

...But even the very first edition of the Leica Manual is still worth having because it makes you think about just how much can be achieved with a 35mm film camera. Morgan and Lester thought long and hard about their readers desire for knowledge and did everything they could - as one edition followed another, to lay that information before us. For example, the sections on lenses and colour filters feature a great deal of very precise information that will still benefit any photographer learning the art of black and white photography today. And, I guess, that's the key point with these manuals and other associated literature; you can fumble your way through a photographic life; wasting a whole lot of time, accidentally learning the effect of a certain filter, film stock, lens or whatever it might be - OR... You can spend a whole lot less time and save yourself a whole lot of pain simply by reading the manual devoted to getting the best out of your chosen camera.

The Leica Manual, constantly updated and refined for decades is the Bible for any Leica user - in fact, it is the Bible for any 35mm photographer - digital or film.

Find yourself a copy. Put down your camera, pick up the manual and give yourself the chance to learn well and learn fast... Because if you don't you are going to spend an awful lot of your time just re-inventing the wheel.

....And if you still can’t be bothered to read the manual after you have left it sat on the shelf for months (if not years) then at least, take it down, place your hand on top and say ‘I swear to the almighty Oscar Barnack that my camera will seek the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth’

swearing alligence to the ways of Leica

...Ok - I’m joking about swearing an oath but seriously, you owe it to yourself to really know your camera and become the photographer only deep knowledge of your camera can make you be.

And we can help -

We are starting our photography courses again soon. These are a real chance to learn together - no oath needed.

...Oh, and if you don't know what RTFM means, I'll let WIKI explain - 'RTFM is an initialism and internet slang for the expression "Read The Fucking Manual" – typically used to reply to a basic question where the answer is easily found in the documentation, user guide, owner's manual, main page, online help, internet forum, software documentation or FAQ.'


...So, my fellow photographers, if you want to get on, Read The F***ing Manual and come and join us on one of our courses!!

Blog copyright Matthew Whiteman 2023

Camera images copyright The Latent Image 2023

Historic images copyright various

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