The Long March: Making peace with the Leicaflex
It was February 2003 and the UK was lurching towards war in Iraq. A series of protests had been organised for Saturday the 15th. I wanted to join the London march and record my impressions, but not worry if my camera got damaged. The Leicaflex SL seemed ideal. It was sturdy and simple to use, with through-the-lens metering. I only had one lens – a 50mm Summicron – but that would have to be enough.
I joined the march on Victoria Embankment, under Waterloo Bridge. It was cold and misty, with an overcast sky. Glad to have loaded Kodak Tri-X film, I took some light readings and set the camera. From memory, I shot at 1/125th of a second and f/5.6 throughout the day.
So how did the Leicaflex behave?
Metering was straightforward. The SL’s meter only reads the central area of the image in the viewfinder (represented by the coarse microprism spot). On an overcast day, nothing more was needed. The meter can be fooled in backlit conditions, but where’s the challenge if you always follow the meter? If in doubt, I take an incident light reading with a handheld meter.
I don’t have a lot to say about focusing. I prefer rangefinder focusing, but the image in the Leicaflex viewfinder, with its microprism in the centre, snapped clearly into focus.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the star of the show was the lens. Beautifully built, it was a pleasure to use. Aperture settings were precise and for me the ‘resistance’ when focusing was just right. Less compact than a rangefinder lens, the 50mm Summicron R is certainly good enough for street photography, although with hindsight 35mm would have been a better focal length. Going with the flow of the demonstration, the 50mm field of view sometimes felt cramped.
At a total cost of £275, the body and lens were great value for money, even when I bought them in 1998. Later, I part exchanged them for a 35mm Summaron lens (one with goggles, to use on my M3). Would I recommend the Leicaflex SL today? For anybody who’d like to try (or return to) film photography on a budget, I certainly would.