A day in the life of a sad old Leica addict, tramping the streets of London in search of a bargain
The Leica photographic world is a small one and I am constantly coming across the same people and enjoying chats about Summicrons and M6s, Monochroms and other such exotica. Today was a rare old day. I set out early morning clutching my M-P with 50mm Apo-Cron and with a Billingham Hadley Pro stuffed full of Evris Papanikolas’s Tie Her Up wrist and neck straps (which arrived by courier from Athens yesterday). Task was to do a bit of market research but I didn’t sell any. I felt like a travelling salesman.
On the Leica front, however, there was sweetness and light. I should mention that yesterday I spied a rather nice Leica M3 and 50mm Summitar, complete with Leica Meter, looking sad and lonely in the window of camera shop in West London. Not a Leica dealer, however. I couldn’t resist having a look and found a good user M3, single stroke, from 1963, with a 1946 f/2 Summitar screw-mount lens attached. Old screw-mount Summitars are enjoying something of a renaissance, I recalled. All seemed to be ok, no problems with the viewfinder, but I was not convinced by the shutter timings. So I took a flier and offered a keen price for the lot.
Today I took the camera to my friend Ivor Cooper of Red Dot Cameras to hear his verdict. Fortunately, he gave lens and camera a good report, valuing the ensemble at nearly twice what I had paid for it. Always nice to get a bargain. However, as I suspected, the shutter timings were out and Ivor is getting the camera serviced at a cost of £125. After that I should have a really good working 1963 Leica. It will join my early 1954 double-stroke M3 which is actually in even better condition.
From Red Dot in Old Street I followed the well-beaten path to Aperture Photographic in Rathbone Place (via the Apple Store in Covent Garden to try to buy a 12in Retina MacBook, no luck as usual, rarer than old Leicas). Had a nice chat, as usual, with Patrick and his staff, including Kiton who happens to be Greek and was very impressed with the patriotic Athenian straps. Bravo, Evri!. Time to move on.
Next door to Aperture is the amazing TAP No.26 café which produces a delicious flat white among other masterpieces. It is a good enough reason to visit Rathbone Place even without the photographic delights of Aperture to tempt.
It’s always busy and I had to squeeze into a tiny booth, the other occupant of which immediately noticed my Leica and produced a pristine M3 from his pocket. Snap, almost, despite the 50-year difference in date of manufacture. With a Leica in your hand you are never short of people to talk to.
My new booth-buddy turned out to be a keen Leica guy, Emmanuel Prodano, who had also been visiting Aperture, perhaps unsurprisingly considering the proximity and the M3. We had a great chat about cameras and the blessed Leica in particular. I was keen to tell him about my previous day’s M3 adventures.
Emmanuel mentioned he had sold a mint 50mm Summicron rigid lens to Aperture the previous week. Since I've been lusting after one for a couple of years I was kicking myself that I hadn’t met him some days earlier so we could have done a private deal. It was, he said, in mint condition and would just suit my new M3. I agreed.
Back to Aperture, where I found the desirable object sitting in the display cabinet with an approximately acceptable price tag. Deal done. I returned home, still with a bagful of straps but also with a pristine 1963 chrome Summicron, feeling I’d had a really good day out.
Tomorrow is shaping up to be even more interesting. It’s the Photographic Collectors’ Club’s annual Photographica fair at the Royal Horticultural Halls in Victoria. This is the biggest event of its kind in England and draws visitors from around the world. It’s a veritable cornucopia of interesting stuff, old and (relatively) new. It’s also a lust-magnet for Leica fans.
Tomorrow (Sunday, May 17) it is open from 10 am but early birds can pay £25 extra to get in at 8 am when most of the bargains are to be found. I shall be there and I already have a bagful of bits and pieces that I hope to sell. It’s great fun and I really enjoyed last year’s event which I wrote about in this article. It’s just a pity I’ve spent my budget twice already this week.
Now I can put my feet up and look forward to chatting myself hoarse tomorrow. It's a hard Leica world.