Why on earth would you want to shoot film with a camera that is over eighty, yes eighty years old? why shoot vintage glass that is often plagued with imperfections such as dust, haze or even worse fungus? These are questions you sometimes have fired at you when you carry a vintage classic on your travels, like a Leica III or the later M2, in truth I suppose it is strange, after all there must be better, easier, more modern ways to capture images….or is there more to it?
You can argue that all an analogue camera is is a light tight box, a box where your film sits, waiting to be exposed by light, light which has first passed through your lens of choice, therefore the camera does not really matter and therefore any old box or camera will do the job. Statements such as the one above are partially true, ‘any old light tight box may indeed do’, but for many people, myself included, owning and shooting vintage cameras are a multifaceted phenomenon. Firstly, photography has a tactile element, what do I mean by that? well in the 1960’s Pentax had a strap line on their adverts, ‘Just hold a Pentax’, meaning once you held their quality cameras you hooked, for me that is certainly true, indeed, some cameras lend themselves to being fondled more than others, yes l said fondled and this brings us part way towards the answer to the question, why shoot vintage cameras? In sum, despite their quirks, (try loading a Leica III outdoors on a windy day), despite seeming outdated, cameras made up of metal and brass feel good on the senses and many find that experience an attractive experience.
Secondly, when shooting screw thread Leicas, there are many wonderful ‘toys and gadgets’ that add to the Leica experience, gadgets with unearthly names like, “Vidom,” “Viooh,” “Aufsu,” “Wintu,” “Weisu,” names that sound more like registernames in a Jedi school classroom, than the names of earthly finders. In sum, you get drawn in when owning screw thread Leicas, attracted by the all metal ‘flotsam and jetsam’ associated with the cameras, finders, hoods, releases, sockets bush adapters etc, all with unusual names, all beautifully made, all with an alluring patina of age, you are simply drawn in and they do look good, feel good, just take a look at the SBOOI finder below and tell me otherwise!
Thirdly, these cameras are still very usable, a Leica III can be carried all day in your pocket and a camera in your pocket is better than a camera stuck on a shelf at home. Significantly, screw thread Leicas are not intimidating, they are discreet and quiet, allowing you to shoot more candidly:
Lastly, screw thread Leicas allow you access to a sea, no rather an ocean of very usable glass, remember a photograph does not necessarily have to be sharp to be a good photograph, (light blue touch paper and retire to a safe distance), images often evoke many feelings, sharpness is not always needed to evoke emotion, using different types of glass allows you access to a world of experimentation, gives you a bigger pallet as it were.
At the end of the day you may indeed ask, why in the 21st century shoot a screw thread system from the 1930’s? my answer would be, why not? and what I mean by that is I would encourage people to give the screw thread system a try, however, a word of warning….its addictive and it is not cheap!!