The First Roll: Checking out the new film camera
Buying a used film camera requires some faith. Outside condition is a partial guide to the innards, although by no means always. You only really know for sure when you’ve processed the first roll of film. Consequently, this is the first thing I do with any film camera that comes my way.
So it was with the 1964 M2 I acquired earlier this month from Red Dot Cameras. Buying from a reputable dealer such as Red Dot gives great support and confidence. Ivor Cooper will have given the camera the once over to detect any obvious problems such as incorrect shutter timings or viewfinder aberrations. Experts can judge whether or not the timings are reasonably on the dot just by listening. Sometimes, though, there can be hidden problems such as light seepage or, perhaps, a sticking shutter.
I lost no time in loading a roll of Tri-X Professional, which I just happen to have in stock, and clicked off 36 shots in short order. In this case, all appears to be spot on. Although the camera had not been serviced prior to sale there is no evidence of problems and I can now have confidence in using the M2 regularly.
Sometimes there are minor problems. The M6 TTL I bought from the Bièvres Photo Fair in May is another mint-condition Leica that should by rights produce perfect pictures.
The shutter timings sounded fine and, since this is a relatively new device made in 2000, I used the camera for street photography without running a test roll, ignoring my own advice.
I was disturbed, therefore, to find the first 12 shots on the roll unusable. There was serious fogging to the left of each frame which points to a shutter problem. In this case, fortunately, the error disappeared suddenly and frames 13-36 were perfect. It is probably a simple matter of the camera having been sitting in its box for several years with the lubricant getting sticky. So mint condition doesn’t always mean mint innards; you need to check carefully.
Just to be on the safe side I have sent the M6 off for a service to make sure that it is properly lubricated and that there is no likelihood of further shutter problems.
Earlier in the month I described how the pristine M2 and accessories came into my possession. Now I’ve added a few examples from the first roll to enhance the story which you can find here.