Thursday, 16 May 2019

NOT a Focomat-what next?

Regular readers - Yes, both of you, will know that this Blog has relied heavily on the enlarger products of E. Leitz over the period 1927 to about 1990. The peak of production in terms of reliability and operation was reached with the last Focomat 1c shortly to be followed by the innovative v35 which marked the end of the line. Over the years there have been many autofocus enlargers and, interesting to note, the auto focus design was well developed by others in pre war days. One important point being that the enlarger was only truly 'auto' when used with the original factory issue lens for which it had been adjusted. Any other lens would require a touch of  manual checking before printing. In practice many users would complete a series of prints before changing size and so any lens of the nominal focal length could be employed.The Focomat achieved this by use of a superb brass helical screw.

With this in mind I was interested in a very inexpensive used enlarger acquired in recent days. This is an Italian product - but not a Durst. The name is the Aurigon Automatico from IFF Turin which is an incredibly heavy machine of 1970's design based on the general layout of the Focomat.The late Barry Thornton had one in his Darkroom but suffered the same lack of original lens as mine does. We have all seen Leitz substitutes and blatant copies which rely on a supply of steel bar stock to achieve a autofocus machine and two at least appeared in the UK after the war. The Aurigon takes this to extremes with vast solid arms for a 35mm machine.  I have managed to get back to more or less original functions with either a Leitz Focotar LFE or a late Componar -S 2.8/50. The whole cries out solidity and stability and will form an interesting addition to the stable of machines here.The base board has a  magnetic surface but I have not used this at present. Optical system is a clear condenser with a 75 watt bulb being adequate. The carrier is well made and opens when still in place to allow insertion or movement of film.

Autofocus operates via a cam in the Leitz manner but can be disengaged to allow manual focus through a vernier scale. A bellows is used as shown in the pictures, but no helical focus- probably one of the most costly parts of a Focomat to produce.An interesting touch is a sliding red filter which opens rather like a drawer above the lens safe from damage.

Monday, 13 May 2019

More Mirfield

Previous Blogs have mentioned the Mirfield award which goes to the top score in each of the Leica  Print Circles on an Annual basis, presented at the Annual Meetings. In recent years this has been a certificate-and the satisfaction- only. I am glad to say that a small token award is now being made to winners. This practice reverts to spirit of the original scheme where an engraved lens cap was given. (See the earlier Blog with a photo of that won by T.C. March).

For a time a small engraved shield was given and I have one here awarded to Mrs M.Sheppard of Circle 11 in 1995. Margaret and her husband were members of the Society for many years and are still active in Leica Photography in the world of Bromoil and PCCGB. I do like the engraved image of the little man with a camera first seen in the 1930's.This is the 1995 award in Circle 11:

Also recently come into my hands are two engraved caps, In this case I have been unable to trace original holder and so have obscured the name .................................

Tuesday, 19 February 2019

NOT a Leitz code word.

Today we are 59 years after the introduction of Leitz Code Numbers for their multitude of products, rather than the code words which had been composed for the 1920's until 1960.  Despite the lapse of time it is common to hear the alphabetic word quoted rather than the number throughout the Leica World.  It would make a quite separate Blog to give all the odd quirks of the code word system, the New York additions and the (slightly) amusing rhyming poetry that resulted.

In my early days as a Leica user I bought a venerable Focomat 1 from Cheltenham Cameras which came with a strange spring loaded negative carrier that worked well and raised little attention until I noticed that it was made in France- which made me do some research.  Of course you will by now have noted that the name SUMMOR, although similar to a code word, is not from the Leitz stable. Frankly,  I wondered if I might have a 'Monte en Sarre' product and was disappointed to learn that this was one of several utility domestic products of France which immediately followed the Second World War. These were advertised widely in the UK Amateur press as were French cameras which seem to have been only available for a short time. Another product of similar name was a plastic cassette loader and small bulk magazine both of which have turned up in this country in recent years.  A later Blog may deal with them.

The negative holder I have illustrated came in a hammered gloss black finish which had almost entirely worn through. It has been resprayed in matt black( baked on my oil cooker) on the exterior but the interior and film channel is pristine, save for some poor chromium on the spring plates. The unit is about 8mm in thickness and will fit all the German Focomat enlargers that I have handled, both I and Ic but not the FILOY which has a narrow aperture for glass plates. It will fit the Focomat machines even with a anti-newton plate in place. In case anyone wonders the chrome plates are located well below the black aluminium surface of the exterior. Stange to say,

the SUMMOR can, at a pinch also fit the v35!

Tuesday, 8 January 2019

Unusual Leica Enlarger accessory-two turn up at once!

One of the more unusual Leica accessories associated with the Enlarger range is the light cover for 32 mm columns which appears to have surfaced under the retail code of  YOOSV added to VIWOO which is the '40 inch' upright. This part is in the 1936 General Catalogue on page 78  by which date the Focomat was on the market. I am unable to trace any mention in the 1933 edition.

I suggest that the listing of such an item may well follow the experience of early users of the enlarger range who found that reflections from a polished enlarger column were printing into their results. We all know that this can be an issue with many makes of enlarger. Chrome is probably the worst choice of finish here. I have mentioned in past Blogs that a finish with black satin aerosol spray paint can be very long lasting and hide the chrome effectively. It can also be removed if wished.

I find I have two of these items illustrated below and had doubts as to their authenticity until I found the reference in the Catalogue. Despite their age of 80 or so years the black felt and spring steel still works well. I have been unable to trace a similar item for the 40 mm column and of course the guide rail on the Valoy 11 prohibits such a fitting. A small but interesting part of Leitz history.

Tuesday, 27 November 2018

Early Leitz enlarger surfaces alive and (fairly) well

Regular readers will know of my interest in enlargers which goes back a long way and often threatens to overtake my ability as a black and white printer.  Long watching of the well known auction site has provided some odd machines but this week I acquired a Leitz enlarger that predates the Valoy and seems to date to 1927.  Not the first 35mm vertical enlarger from Wetzlar but I think, a  FILOY of the the smaller type with a variable iris f3.5 lens scaled in numerical values.  This lens is located in a sliding mount of exquisite smoothness which almost makes one wonder why the expensive and complex helical thread ever saw light. On checking the mount for wear and tear I found it unworn with no need for any lubricant and bright plating evident.

The lens is intended to remain fixed but had to be detached to fully clean both sides. The outside surfaces as received, were dirty and gentle attack with a cotton bud damp with lighter fluid had no effect at all.  As a last resort a bud with tap water was tried which made the lens as good as new or at least as good as any Elmar type at 90 years old.  It was just good old dust and nothing worse The Iris is smooth and multi bladed with a circular aperture. Having done this clean up, I produced a bright, sharp image of the frame on the base board rather than the foggy patch I started with. Turning to the bulb as supplied, was a 75 watt 210 volt Siemens opal bulb of a great age, the original had a smaller 60 watt bulb which I do have in stock.  I suspect the 75 watt large bulb was a help in getting even illumination as the 'reflector' is matt black and the bulb holder cannot be adjusted.

Clues as to the model name are provided by the type of electrical connection and this one has no connection via the column, which is a simple and logical method.  The later, more complex, internal systems are certainly stylish but can give some problems in maintenance.  The second distinct feature of this model is the negative carrier, which was missing! but is in fact a hinged glass carrier made of two glass plates with a flexible material joining the glasses.  The image size is determined by a cut out below the condenser so there is no need to make a mask but a card or red plastic foil will help prevent Newtons rings. I made my carrier out of two Durst AUDA 70 AN glasses but glass of good quality, perhaps in NEWLO finish, is not hard to find. Another source is old coated photo plates from which the coating can be removed with hot water. Needless to say the edges of all should be smoothed off or taped for safety of hands and film

Greatest problem so far has been the column which is of the 32mm size as expected for the time. The corrosion was unsightly rather than a real problem but I have have a bright, longer, column of the same size from a Valoy that I thought of using. In fact I could go up to the optional extra of a 1000mm column but problems arise from the intrusion of this into the projected frame. Column reflection can be an issue and a Leitz felt shield was available,which I have, but is not shown. I may settle for a coat of matt car spray paint on the original column which I have applied in other cases. This can be readily removed if a chance of re-plating at a reasonable price comes along.

One amusing oddity about this model is that the magic dimple that locates the upper and lower sections of the lamp house is found at the back of the lamp house rather than in plain view at the front! The lamp house is much smaller than that adopted for years of Valoy and Focomat machines that were to follow and the dimple is in the fixed lower half so that there is no doubt which way round is intended. The interior of the lamp house is matt black.

The wooden baseboard has posed rather a problem in that a thin plywood board was supplied with the machine. Obviously not original, this was removed and replaced with an early Focomat type from the 32mm column days, retaining the original column until some suitable timber is available.

I found that identification was aided by the illustrations in 'Leica Handbook' (Fritz Vith) Pub. Technisch-Padagogischer Wetzlar 1933 and the detailed history given by Dennis Laney in Leica Collectors Guide, 2nd Edition, Hove 2004. Strange to quote from the earlier book but it is quite often found in English in Leica Circles.

Now, the long awaited photographs of the enlarger -results from using the machine will follow.

Monday, 26 November 2018

The First Camera of Christmas

Previous ramblings ( blog Passim) have dealt with the wealth of Leica related merchandise available at this time of year. Well, the first spotted this year is the Primark tree decoration illustrated below.  It has taken almost 100 years for the Leica to become the automatic first choice of design guide whenever a camera has to be reproduced -  and this one has several features that are probably protected by Wetzlar patents!  Available now at Primark-  £1.99. Get yours now.

Friday, 4 May 2018

Leica- ' Who Done Its' - Yet more works of fiction

The last book I have come across recently that has mention of the Leica in  detail is by Jacqueline Winspear in the 'Maisie Dobbs' series. I have been reading  'A Dangerous Place' set in Gibralter during the Spanish Civil War.

                      The Leica is key to the whole plot. A local aspiring photo - journalist in Gibraltar is found dead with a Zeiss folder round his neck. In the climate of the refugee situation during the Spanish Civil War not a great deal of surprise is generated BUT along comes our heroine, young widow of the English aristocracy, who has lost a baby, and has British Security background('' They never let you go''), and an inquiring mind. She quickly finds a Leica in the undergrowth of the crime scene which contains a film revealing photographs of a Submarine - probably German - off Gibraltar.

The tale revolves around relations between the Rock, the Spanish conflict, the English Aristocracy, and relief workers and has no connections with the school of 'denouement in the Library' with that sort of plot that we have all come to know and hate.

The writer provides a most humanitarian climax reflecting the views of both  parties to the conflict and the support given from liberal supporters overseas.This could have degenerated into a 'Biggles' style romp over a well trodden background of Spain in the 1930's but grows in strength to reach a rather surprising end. A good read.

Sunday, 15 April 2018

Yet more Leicas in Fiction

I suppose that setting a novel or Detective yarn in the 1930's makes  the Leica easy copy to give authentic background to your story. The first of two such cases is the recently published works of Ian Sansom. His latest work is a series called the County Guides, not a Petrol Company promotion but a series of Crime fiction works in an unusual presentation. Illustrated from Arthur Mees Kings England series they pose as records of the preparation of a series of Guide Books by-

                                   Swanton Morley- The Peoples Professor, a highly sucessful self taught  journalist and author on any subject under the sun with hundreds of books to his credit                                         

                                 Stephen Sefton- Emotionally damaged pennyless
  Veteran of the Spanish Civil War who is Morley's Secretary and assistant

                                 Miriam Morley-Attractive socialite daughter of Morley who drives Morley's favourite car,a Lagonda.

A number of real life characters pass through the pages, Amy Johnson for example, and Morley's friends in high places will be well known. In each book the Leica plays a part- in  Westmorland Alone , quite a large part. A Good Read.

More Literary Leicas

Not a work of Fiction but just a very brief magazine cover to back up a story on the artist Humphrey Spender, 1910-2005.  In 1999 Country Life published a comprehensive article based on the Studio/House built by Richard Rogers at Maldon for the Artist.  For the cover of this issue a picture of our favourite brand of camera was used which appears below.  I bought the Magazine at the time but only re-discovered it in the past few days.

Readers are directed to a Search of the Internet where a large number of Spenders prints are shown - almost all in our Leica format.

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Monsieur Pamplemousse's Leica and Trinovid

A very short Book Review of a fairly short, old, book by the late Michael Bond published in 1989 which has just come to my attention through a gift of Detective novels from an old friend. In short, a light hearted romp called 'Monsieur Pamplemousse Aloft.'  The sort of thing that the late Peter Sellers would have rejoiced in playing.

The story is of a touring restaurant critic based on the Michelin pattern of grading by awarding 'stars' in the form of 'stockpot' symbols in a food guide. This one happens to be a retired detective with a large bloodhound that follows him everywhere. Our usual brand of German camera follows him almost as faithfully as do his Leitz binoculars. Subsequent adventures include an encounter with an India Rubber lady and her rubber crocodile with whom the detective becomes inextricably entangled in a small Circus caravan! Also, a unit of the British Special Forces who are dressed as Nuns- an efficient disguise seeing that the scene is set in Brittany at the time of the pardon. Subsequently an Anglo-French Dirigible is saved from terrorist attack based in a fibreglas menhir-get the drift? He uses a motor drive to map the coast and the following brief extract shows,I think, some real research has been undertaken.A quick and easy read that was most enjoyable.

In an earlier book( Monsieur P and the Secret Mission) the Leitz Binoculars are seen again-in a lockable case-and a specific reference is made to the use of a Leica R4 with extra lenses.A very British view of France but a superior light read of some humour and the author has done his homework!

Sunday, 28 January 2018

Rara Avis - The Focomat 1b in captivity

 A Focomat 1b has emerged available on Ebay. It is most unusual to see one of these enlargers on offer in the UK and it would be interesting to learn how it came to the UK at a time when imports were  restricted. In fact I have never seen one on Ebay in many years of Leica enthusiasm.

The machine is covered in detail in my Blog of 23rd September 2017, but only by use of magazine reviews and advertisements of the immediate post war period. Now, by the kindness of a UK photographer, I am able to show a few detailed shots of the machine now on sale. For greater quality try Flicker which reveals all the series.


Yet another Book Review. James Ravilious.

It would appear that only books I like -a lot- are reviewed here, but I hasten to say that there is no trade influence in my choice of reading.  If I waste some valuable time reading a book I do not like then it will not appear here and may well appear in the local paper recycling.

This is a book I have long awaited , the Author spoke at a Leica gathering a year or two ago and her subject is one of  the most interesting photographers of the last century in British Leica circles, linked as he is with the great Edwin Smith and being the son of Eric Ravilious. To me as a collector of  The Saturday Book, Leica cameras,  Photographic work of Edwin Smith, and the writing of Olive Cooke it is a 'must have' It is a bit early in this Blog for references but a superb background of the times, and far better than I can attempt, is at which provides a superb overview of the subjects early context.

For many years we have had  books of Devon photographs based upon the farms and farmers of this home area. They include some that have become world famous through postcards and greetings cards but real personal detail in a logical form has been lacking. This latest publication corrects that and coming as it does from his wife the source could hardly be more appropriate.

We are taken from the earliest days of James' memory of his father departing to Iceland, never to return, the loss of his mother at a young age, his own subsequent ill health, and his gentle approach to life and work. A vast talent cut short.

Title: James Ravilious  A Life.  By Robin Ravilious  Wilmington Square Books - An Imprint of Bitter Lemon Press. London 2017. ISBN 978-1-908524-942  248 pp. many monochrome illustrations and Index.

Sunday, 14 January 2018

Further notes on the Focomat lamphouse

In a previous Blog- Wednesday 26th July 2017 titled 'Thoughts on the First VALOY enlarger' I wrote at some length on the need for electrical safety which seemed lacking in the early days.

I have now been able to disect a late Focomat lamphouse in detail. This is one of the last Colour models which had signs of the modern age with a magnification indicator lit from within by a gas filled bulb (of a type that has not been seen recently). I think a 'fridge LED will fit as long as the final figures are lit in red by a gel filter, but the gas bulb is still live.In fact there is little need for this in the intended Black and White use that I plan.

The lamphouse is of a degree of sophistication not seen in past Leitz heads. It can be taken apart by a series of fine screw threads and the three spring fittings that locate the bulb have captive springs and are a perfect and logical development of the past designs that had faults in the service department. The wiring is three core with a lead to an earth screw fitting within the lampholder. All the wiring seems to show a continuity of earth with a separate earth wire to the screw on the column. They have really tried on this one.

Tuesday, 26 December 2017

A Happy Christmas to all our Circle 6 friends and followers

Happy Christmas everybody!  As a special Christmas Day posting I have added a picture of the gift received from my son Rupert. who has made a tremendous selection of family themed decorated cookies for us.

Sunday, 10 December 2017

The First Leica of Christmas has appeared

Christmas is a time of goodwill toward men, and what better gesture of goodwill toward your Leica mad man than a giant model Leica for the festive hall- and investment.

True to past years, several have appeared in the press and in particular the colour advertisement in Country Life  of  November 29th shows several  fine specimens including a tantalising glimpse of a Leica 250, and as a first for this year a Summar or Summitar lens.
You may find it easier to move house in order to accommodate the classic Nikon but that lens looks very lifelike. Happy Shopping!

Sunday, 26 November 2017

More of Reece Winstone-Bristol and Somerset-Vanishing Lives

Recent mention of Reece Winstone on this Blog has reminded me that a further book of his work is readily available-quite apart from his many compilations of historical work regarding the Bristol scene.

The new acquisition is titled  Bristol & Somerset- Vanishing Lives, compiled by John Winstone, which covers the 'lost' trades and scenes of the area during and after the last war. To me this book is a nostalgic revelation of the Bristol I recall when Naval vessels and Cargo ships were able to access the then City Centre and submarines were moored alongside the shops and churches. Sadly, this was made possible by combinations of bridge opening, traffic hold ups, and lock gates-all anathema to 'planners' and no longer physically possible. In the General Hospital boatloads of sand were moored under the windows, which certainly took one's mind off the loss of tonsils also involved, and dock trains ran below the wards.

The pictures cover the years between 1930's and the 1960's with lost scenes of town and country taken in the Reece Winstone style which always involved exceptional use of natural lighting. Comprehensive notes are included both on the pictures and the photographer but the emphasis is more on the historic scenes recorded than on West of England photography which was dealt with so well in the last of his books noted in this Blog.

The book is published by  Reece Winstone Archive under ISBN 978-0-900814-77-8 in horizontal format size 270mm x 210mm and is available by contacting  www.reecewinstonearchive

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Back to my own efforts-new shots

Taken with a Leica R4s and 50mm Summicron on Rollei RPX 25 film. Developed
in FX-39 liquid at makers time and standard dilution -  the time which needs cutting down This figure is at the Gortmore Viewpoint  on  'Bishops Road' above Loch Foyle in Northern Ireland.

Purton Hulks on the banks of the Severn. I regret a rather familiar subject that has attracted several photographers but was the subject of an afternoon walk with friends as quite close to us.For these  I used a Leica 111f with a 50mm Summitar f2 lens - coated- on T-Max 400 in D75 1:1.

This is another shot of the above barge which is a record of the two 12 inch nails used to attempt to hold the crack on the timber at top right. Same camera used.

Deal Pier in Kent. A cloudy day at the seaside. Leica 111f  with 35mm lens Kodak T-Max 400 in D76 1:1

A late afternoon at the one time  Broad street railway site adjacent to Liverpool Street,London.Taken on a leica 111f camera with a f2.0 Summitar (Coated) As in meny cases D76 1;1 to develop Kodak T-Max 400

Evening scene in Alaior,Menorca, in June 2016 using a Leica R4s and 50mm Summicron  Lens, Film was Rollei RPX 25 in FX-39.

And more of Alaior, one of my favourite hunting grounds for long light scenes,  as it is exposed on a hill circled by lanes.Same Leica R4s as in last shot above with Rollei film in FX-39. Please click on any shot to enlarge on a black background.

And here is the Church Entrance in Alaior-

Saturday, 23 September 2017

Books you should read- even from an Ikonta user!

The short book review which follows relates to a publication of great interest to me and which would I feel interest many film camera users.

                                                         The title is-

                               'Reece Winstone   Rambles in the Darkroom'

                                By  John Winstone.ISBN0900814 73X    1994

                                Pub: Reece Winstone Archive and Publishing

The name of Reece Winstone will be familiar to many in the West of England through his collections of historic photographs of the Bristol area dating to the dawn of Photography. Now highly collectable, these cover some 200 years in about 37 volumes. In addition  publications by his family take this to 44 editions. His name appears in almost every magazine one picks up from  club reports of the 1930's onwards.

As the book makes clear Mr Winstone had a distinguished career as a freelance photographer and as a prime mover in the formation of Photographic Clubs in the Bristol  and South West area which led to  the  Western Counties Photographic Federation  of 1932, established while he was but young . At that time the line between Amateur and Professional in Club circles was, it seems. rather more relaxed than today. Throughout his life he actively promoted Photography and the preservation of the Bristol of past years which had suffered badly in the Blitz, and far, far, more up until his passing in recent years.

However, this book contains some really fine photographs of photojournalistic subjects, typical of his time, but possessing  a great attraction for the darkroom worker of today. By the way, a number of his fine prints appeared in circulating portfolios from the late 1920's - Join one today!

To me this is a far more attractive book of photographs than many which appear in full colour today, His Colour output was limited but examples are available from the Reece Winstone archive website. Get one and see for yourself. Other books available are also listed on the site which is at :-

*For a later publication of the work of Reece Winstone see my post of November 2017

More on the Focomat,European and US versions.

Among the history of the Focomat enlarger is the strange cul-de-sac styled the Focomat 1b which some might consider better styled informally the ' Focomat 1.0.1' in that it built on the basis of the last pre- war European machine while introducing the groundwork of the true Wetzlar second version.

It would appear that the revised design was brought to the market during the period that ownership of the New York Company was vested in the Alien Property Custodian which did not expire until a sale of 'stock' in  August 1952 returning the company to private ownership although not owned by Leitz family or  Leitz company interests. The firrst new owner being The Dunhill Corporation.This was not quite so simple as it seemed as more or less the same procedure had been enacted during the First War and of course the New York branch developed some products and practices of it's own while controlled by, indirectly ,the US government,including a fair copy of the Focomat.

The point of all this historical preamble is to highlight the Focomat 1b which was the subject of two whole page features in the company published magazine 'Leica Photography' of Summer 1948 (Volume 2 No 1) This is one of the the earliest of my collection of this magazine which only goes back to vol 1,No.1 from Spring 1948 which was I think the first post war issue and which appeared without any note of the nine year interruption since it's predecessor disappeared for the War. Format is much the same as the pre war editions. Production may have commenced in the US to a US modified design in 1946 (Laney) with a matching lens produced in the States.

The main features in which the 1b differs are-

The conspicuous name/number plate on one parallelogram arm,  reflected on each side at a point where some weakness might be expected from the locking mechanism.All arms appear to come from the same pattern.

The rather modern (Radio Age) design of the ends of the condenser lever and the, seemingly, superfluous knob on the lower lamphouse.

Lack of a name plate facing forward. The column appears to, still, be 32mm.

The precise form of head lock on the right (facing) did not pass on to the later model.

However,  it is in the introduction of a tilting lamphouse that the machine adds a feature to become long lived and much appreciated!

scan here

Is it going too far to speculate that the 'limited supply' of negative carriers  in stock  for less popular sizes were left over from 1941? Three Index stops is generous indeed.

Apologies for the limited scan but my scanner misses the 'gutter' of bound books.

It is noticeable that the first Advert I have traced is 1946 in another publication and in bold type below the Leitz classic logo appears 'American Made' No logo is shown on the lamphouse.
By Summer 1950 the 'New Focomat 1c' from a, partly, rebuilt Europe was featured with the traditional swans neck condenser lever and a column of, still, 32mm- not yet 40mm,  with the much improved foot of asymetrical shape which endured until the very end. This appears to have marked the end of the 1B.

Noteworthy on the American 1c is the strange logo set in an unknown typeface with an overscored name and a sloping font.  It just occurred to me that this may have been in response to the 1950 legal case over the use of the Leitz classic trademark.  ( More than fully reported on the Internet if you should wish to research, but now of rather arcane interest.)  This might also explain the lack of a name plate on the 1b.

Introduction of the 1c-a poor scan but  from Summer 1950 when New York had stocks of the German made enlarger, However the odd logo is still seen in Fall  1952 advertisements but not,  I think, in the UK.

This first Ic had a 32mm column just as before and was advertised in company with the traditional Valoy unchanged since pre war days. Rather disturbing to a UK reader is the wiring schematic which omits any reference to earthing- the old problem.

Monday, 4 September 2017

Recruitment............ again!

Any visitor to this site who is interested in joining The Leica Society, or this Circle, which operates as a part of the Society, will be made most welcome.  Just an email to the address at the head of this site will be enough to get details. Due to the postal basis of print distribution we are forced to limit this Circle to Great Britain and Ireland but other Circles exist as set out in the Leica Society Website.

Sunday, 3 September 2017

LPP in the last weeks before Sept 1939...........

In their manner of the time the Amateur Photographic press of pre war days devoted a good allowance of space to 'free' copy in the form of reports from the clubs around the U.K. Hidden among these prosaic notes were some real gems that reveal the activities of L.P.P. at the time. In 1939 the country had passed through one heightened fear of War and while it seemed inevitable the words 'Keep calm and Cary On' we truer than ever.

The three examples below illustrate the activity of the day fairly well-what we lack is a report of the response but they anticipate a type of activity which has become more and more frequent in the present day - 76 years later-with some of the same cameras!

Click on entry for a better view-the spelling of Barnack is supposed to be an error.

Friday, 1 September 2017

Monday, 28 August 2017

Hektor...long lived lens... or not?

The classic Leica reference books have the Hektor f2.5 50mm standard lens as appearing in 1931 , peaking in 1932, and tailing off in production in 1940. There was a possible  revival in 1946-1948 when 71 may have been made which may be due to using up of surplus production in stock after the War,  BUT the very fact that these later lenses were made cannot be substantiated according to reliable sources.  I wonder if the post war 71 units were older lenses returned for coating?

Now  l have come across a comment by Fr. Willy Frerk the Editor of Photofreund who was a correspondent of English Magazines in pre- war days. This is dated January 1938 when it is reported that the Hektor has been so much surpassed by the faster Summar f2.0 standard lens the'it is hardly ever asked for now' and has been discontinued. Given that Leica made some 27000 Summar lenses that year it certainly seems to have had it's day.  Not only that but the company made 11000 of its new and so much better Summitar only the next year!

Guess Who?- It's that man again......

The name I refer to today has gone from the London  LEICA scene in recent years but from the 1930's until recently could be relied upon for specialist Leica advice and sales.  At one time there were associated stores in provincial cities and in fact I bought my first 35mm camera in one of these in 1960, in fact from the Bristol branch. The name is of course R.G.Lewis, famous for the traditional address of  202 High Holborn, London.

It was only recently that I learnt that the proprietor was the son of the named 'R.G.Lewis' and is more correctly named as Norman Lewis. Born in 1908 Norman enjoyed a long and diverse life  and passed away in 2003, aged 94.

My reading of  pre-war magazines concerning amateur photography often show up articles and features written by R.G. Lewis chiefly concerning travel in, for that time, exotic places such as the Balkans and the Middle East. He was an A.R.P.S. under the name of his father. While he produced many excellent photographs with the Leica in a distinctive style the true nature of  his work comes to light in a massive Biography minutely researched and written by Julian Evans. In fact,  a photo essay of Arabian buildings in the M.C.M ,  August 1938,  with technical details,  is revealed as an intelligence gathering expedition of a year or two prior to that date, on behalf of this country. One presumes the seven kilometer drive up the bed of a river in the Balkans which wrote off a Ford V8 was also at the public expense!

Lewis' long life enabled him to have raced Bugatti cars at Brooklands and yet travelled in South America with Lord Snowdon. His exotic lifestyle having been, in part, financed by the Leica Shops and associated photographic business ventures, which enabled  him to act as a part time British Intelligence agent- a spy. His War was spent in the Intelligence Corps and his post war writing in novels and travel were copious. Nothing of the extra curricular activities appears in the Wikipedia entry but I recommend the 792 pages of 'Semi Invisible Man' by Julian Evans ( Pub, Jonathan Cape 2008) for much, much, fuller detail.

The reason I have set the scene for the Blog today is the complete anonymity  he enjoyed for years and appeared to never seek recognition. However the pictures in the Biography are distinctive and he could hardly be confused with anyone else as a very smart dresser with distinctive facial hair, Leading on from this is a portrait which appears in the  M.C.M. of December 1937.credited to Leo.A.Leigh A.R.P.S.(later F.R.P.S). who was sadly killed in a motor accident early in the War.It is part of his essay on copying and forms an end-piece.It cannot be anyone but 'R G Lewis'