Photographica 2016: Action on the sales floor in London
Photographica, one of the largest photo fairs in the UK, is a firm favourite among collectors. It attracts buyers from all over the world and, as usual with these events, the early birds catch the worms. As you can see from the shots below (all Leica M-D and 50mm Summilux ASPH).
Serious buyers are there at 8am just as the exhibitors are admitted, trundling their groaning trolleys and laden with unfeasibly large bags. Even as the sale items are being unpacked they are snapped up instantly, with money changing hands at a furious rate. I imagine almost all the real bargains had been carried off by 8.30 and, certainly, before 10am when the general public was admitted.
As usual I went with no real expectations but drew a few pounds from the bank in anticipation of something catching my fancy. I found nothing I wanted in the first hour and had more or less given up when I stumbled upon a fine example of a 2.8cm f/5.6 Summaron dating from 1958. I also managed a few Leica brochures, a brick of FP4 and an old Olympus Pen E-P1 which came with a VF-1 optical viewfinder and was a real bargain. Something else to use with my m43 lens collection.
But back to the Summaron. Why the Summaron?
The 1950s 2.8cm f/5.6 Summaron is a lens in the news following rumours that Leica could be introducing a modern version within the next few months.
Admittedly, f/5.6 isn’t everyone’s idea of a perfect maximum aperture. In practice, though, it is right on the nose for general photography where a wider depth of field is desirable. And with the 28mm angle of view, this is a lens that it is hard to get out of focus (I exaggerate, but you get what I mean).
I bought this lens because I want to try it out for street photography. It should be ideal and expect a report within the next couple of weeks. Because it is so tiny and light (150g), it makes the M or even the SL feel (and look) as though you are carrying the body only. It extends only 2cm from the body, an original pancake lens, and makes for a very compact rig.
Another factor in my purchase decision is that any introduction of a new f/5.6 Summicron (it's only a rumour, folks) will enhance values of the original lenses. Fewer than 7,000 were manufactured, all in screw mount, and a rare lens will become even rarer. So maybe I will make a bob or two.
Coincidentally, my colleague William Fagan in Dublin has owned an f/5.6 Summaron for some time and last week (flushed with enthusiasm at the news of a possible modern replacement) he took his version out to the National Arboretum to grab some sample shots. His report and an impressive gallery of photographs will be published on Tuesday.
Crowds in the earlier part of the day at Photographica were lighter than I have seen in previous years. However, after ten o’clock the public attendance made up for any shortcomings and the hall was as busy as I remember it from 2015.
Adam Lee came along, his first visit to Photographica, and had to try almost every M3 on show. Of course, he is an M3 nut. The M3 was much in evidence everywhere. It is still probably the most popular Leica camera among film enthusiasts and there were scores of examples, including a wonderful black-paint model with Summicron lens listed at £3,100 by MW Classics. More general run-of-the-mill M3s occupy the £400-£750 range and there was a roaring trade going on. As one exhibitor told me, buying an M3 is as good as putting the money in the bank at a good rate of interest. Never sell one unless you need the money.
Perhaps the second most sought-after film Leica is the M6, preferred by those who cannot live without a light meter. Again, there were dozens of fine examples for sale.
I confess I love camera fairs. The people, the eclectic mix of treasure and junk, the atmosphere and the ever-present anticipation of finding a real bargain; all add to the occasion.
Next stop on the agenda is Biévres, near Paris, on June 4 and 5. I’ll be there to bring you the news.