Updated: Sep 16
William has spent this morning stripping down and cleaning a lovely Leica Standardised 1a from 1933. When the camera arrived, the poor thing looked like it had suffered some serious neglect over the last several decades. Time for a resurrection! William loves this kind of work - 'It's like opening up a tomb when you take these cameras apart; peeling away the layers of dust to reveal the beauty hidden within'.
By the time you read this, the freshly restored camera will be for sale on our site.
We all love these early cameras - and, so it seems, does the film camera community. Over the last year, there has been a significant upturn in interest in these very early Leicas... Which is no wonder really; these cameras are exquisite little jewels that are still capable of producing quite fantastically good images.
The Elmar lens found on these Leicas is a beautiful painter of light; with exquisite 'bokeh' and a remarkably high level of sharpness. And this 'look' is further enhanced by the uncoated lens which gives a wonderful 'bloom' in the highlights and, always, those gorgeous 'sooty' blacks in the shadows.
Whilst William stripped down the camera, I put the Leica's Elmar on our 'works' Monochrom to photograph Will and Josh at work.
How wonderful it is, that, with Leica products, you can take a lens from 1933 and, with a simple adapter, use it on a modern digital Leica. The Monochrom is a great camera to test old lenses because of its very high definition sensor. The results speak for themselves.
To shoot the portrait below of Will with the newly restored Standardised Leica 1a camera I used another lovely old Leica lens - a rigid Summar from 1933. This lens is from the first batch - another rare and exquisite lens.
Monochrom with first batch Summar and William's newly restored Leica Standardised 1a
When the Leica first fell into the hands of photographers, it revolutionised photography. In England, Humphrey Spender, brother of the great poet, Stephen Spender, discovered the camera and rapidly developed a series of ground-breaking techniques that would lead him to becoming a master of street photography. He is often called the 'British Cartier-Bresson' - a label the very humble Humphrey rejected with a despairing tone when I interviewed him back in 2001.
see - https://vimeo.com/685549408 (use the password biogon)
Humphrey passed away in 2005. His cameras remain much treasured by his family - but one got away... During my interview with Humphrey, he told me that he had used two Leica 1 cameras - until one of the two was stolen from his car. The stolen camera was a Leica Standardised 1a. Exactly like the one William has just spent hours restoring. Whenever we get a Leica standard in stock, we pause and wonder if it could be the one that Humphrey lost so long ago.
Humphrey struggled to take photographs in lighting conditions that were challenging to say the least; dim interiors, dusky streets and gloomy landscapes. I wonder what he would have made of using his Elmar on a Monochrom. I imagine he would have loved the huge gain in film speed and the ability to shoot more than 36 frames before reloading... But then again, given the great artist that he was, he would no doubt have also been very vocal in the film versus digital debate!
Let me end this with the man that started it all: Oskar Barnack, inventor of the Leica. Along with William's newly resurrected Leica 1, we also have in stock one of the rare and lovely 1879 - 2004 Oskar Barnack Edition O series replica Leicas.
This camera is as beautiful as it looks - and it comes with a print made from an original negative taken by Barnack. Don't miss this lovely set!
Blog copyright Matthew Whiteman 2023
Camera images copyright The Latent Image 2023
Historic images copyright various