I’m not impressed with your Leica

I’m not impressed that you own a Leica. Or a Hasselblad, or a Nikon F series, or any other fine, expensive camera.

Far be it from me to say you shouldn’t own one. I own a Nikon F2 and an F3 myself.

But if you want to impress me, show me your work.

67 Ford LTD
Argus A-Four, Fujifilm Neopan Acros 100, 2010

I never tire of looking at this photo. I made it with my Argus A-Four, a 1950s 35mm viewfinder camera made of bakelite and aluminum. It packs a surprisingly capable 44mm f/3.5 Coated Cintar lens. I paid ten bucks for it.

I paid closer to $100 for my Nikon N2000 and a 35mm f/2.8 AI Nikkor lens. That’s a bargain compared to a working F2 body. Yet there wasn’t anything I could capture with that 35mm lens on my F2 that I didn’t capture when I recently shot that lens on my N2000.

That’s not to say I enjoyed using the plasticky N2000 as much as I enjoy using my solid, smooth F2. It’s wonderful to experience such a fine instrument. An Argus A-Four feels cheap in its own right; it’s ridiculous to compare its usage experience to that of any Leica. Cameras so fine deserve their devoted and fawning followers.

Yet so many of those followers treat their cameras as museum pieces. If you’re among them, I refer you to the work of John Smith, who shoots his Nikons and Leicas all the time. He makes wonderful photographs of the northern California coast. Check out his blog here.

Some of these followers even look down their noses at cameras they consider lesser. If you’re among them, I refer you to the work of Mike Connealy, who uses simple gear to make stunning photographs. Check out his blog here.

Consider this a challenge to make good work — especially using simple, inexpensive tools.

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15 responses to “I’m not impressed with your Leica”

  1. Andy Umbo Avatar
    Andy Umbo

    I bought Mike Connealy’s book on your recommendation, and since I’m mostly a film person, I’m sold! Even tho I was a pro, I always had a bunch of oddball photo gear around I was trying to shoot with, but Mike’s book made me realize that if I treated it like a decent camera, I’d get decent results! I’m looking for a decent 120 camera when I retire, and I’m keeping only the nostalgic stuff from my gear and shooting with whatever old box I decide is great!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Two easy-breezy 120 camera recommendations for you:

      Agfa Clack: https://blog.jimgrey.net/2012/10/15/agfa-clack/
      Kodak No. 2 Brownie: https://blog.jimgrey.net/2014/08/18/kodak-no-2-brownie-model-d/

  2. pesoto74 Avatar

    I went through a spell of reading old photo magazines a couple years ago. One of the things that I noticed is that up until some time in the 50’s the camera or film used to take an image was seldom mentioned. Instead they would talk about what makes a worthwhile photo. Then it got to be that the technical details for the image was the only thing mentioned. I suppose that what happened is that camera magazines began to play more to their advertisers and help to sell the idea that the equipment you use is that most important part of taking a picture. I think it worked pretty well since it seems that a lot of photographers seem to believe that better equipment makes one a better photographer.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Gear is fun. If it weren’t, I wouldn’t buy so many old cameras! My gripe is with people who think gear is everything. People who look down on me for shooting an Argus.

      It’s not that equipment doesn’t play a role. There are shots I can’t get with my simplest gear. On the other hand, it’s supremely satisfying when, working within a simple camera’s limitations, I make a great photo.

  3. Joshua Fast Avatar
    Joshua Fast

    I guess I haven’t ran into this as much. I shoot with a Leica and a Hasselblad but I don’t look down at anyone for what they use. I also shoot with a $20 Holga and a beat up Pentax SP.

    I ran into another photographer from Bloomington when I was shooting with my wife in downtown Indianapolis. He was shooting a Rollei TLR, saw my holga and we struck up a conversation. Both of us were ecstatic that we had found another film photographer.

    You’all always have snobs in whatever hobby you get into but those people are a small percentage. Sometimes I just shoot for the therapy and seeing what things look like on film. So a lot of my work isn’t impressive unless you look at it from the perspective that it’s transferring stress from life to a permanent medium.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I see this kind of snobbery almost exclusively online, in the photo forums. Walking around with a camera in my hands, I experience what you do: other film photographers are just glad to bump into one of their own, regardless of the gear in their hands!

      1. Joshua Fast Avatar
        Joshua Fast

        That’s unfortunate. How many beginners have the money to buy an expensive camera to start out with. My niece makes phenomenal images from a Canon AV-1. That’s a model even the canon family rejects. It’s just a tool.

  4. bodegabayf2 Avatar

    Brand names on cameras or clothing or…whatever…don’t impress me. Well made, finely crafted things do. I appreciate the thought and work that went into designing and making them.

    These old cameras are fun to use. And the fact that these “almost antiques” still work so well is always amazing to me.

    Leica M, Nikon F, Brownie box, Holga, old folder, pinhole…whatever gets you out, shooting, experimenting, making mistakes, putting your little frame around the world and sharing it with others, that’s what the joy of photography is all about.

    Thank you for the nice things you said about my photographs Jim.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Thank you for clarifying my point. It’s not the name that matters — its how much you enjoy using the camera, and whether the images you get satisfy you!

  5. Joe shoots resurrected cameras Avatar

    Well-said! The longer I go on, the more I come to realize that I owned the only camera I really needed right from the beginning when I bought that Spotmatic. But I still *want* more…

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      New old cameras are a lot of fun to try!

  6. kevinallan Avatar

    Totally agree with your sentiments Jim. At the moment I’m getting most enjoyment from shooting pinholes, focussing only on content and composition, since there’s nothing else to adjust.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Now that is elemental photography!

  7. Bob Dungan Avatar

    Luv your title and post. Just because you can afford a expensive camera does not mean you take great photos. A better camera makes it easier to take great photos, but, the camera does not ensure you will produce great photos.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Thanks Bob! Succinctly put.

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