LEICA M4

  • Serial Number: 1185 216
  • Built: 1968
  • Purchased July 6, 2019
  • Film count: 95 rolls (as of September 23, 2020)

CAMERA COLLECTION

Here’s another schmuck’s hot take on film cameras and photo gear. Across this beautiful Hellscape of regurgitation we call the Internet there appear to be two prevailing points of view with respect to camera gear. One. Gear doesn’t matter. The camera is a tool. It’s just a light tight box and a shutter. If you invest too much intellectual or emotional energy on gear, you’re a dick. Because, remember Photographer, you are a keen observer, a framer of the world around you. You are the vessel. You are the lightning rod. You are the Eye of Sauron and the Hand of Jesus. If you let your choice of camera interfere with your tantric makeout sesh with Art, you’re a moron. Two. Gear is Life! Gear. Oh, god, gear. Must have all the things! On this end of the spectrum we imagine the proverbial Chinese millionaire wearing an unloaded Leica around his neck as a fashion accessory (this is an actual thing). The suburban oral surgeon who requires 18 minutes to focus a rangefinder. Collectors. Dilettantes and poseurs.

Maybe I’ve overstated the above, but one could get the sense from the “conversation” on the Internet that you can either be a collector of cameras who’s just full of shit, or you’re just so full of shit you don’t permit yourself to collect cameras. Either you’ve never taken your rare collectibles out of the cabinet, or you’re so touched by God you aren’t even aware of which camera is in your hands as you transcends Earthly reality to “make” a photograph. You’re either this kind of annoying asshole, or this other kind of annoying asshole.

My all inclusive hot take is: everyone who likes photography is an asshole. I’m an asshole, too.

When I read on the Internet that the camera is a tool, writers most often compare the camera to a hammer, which is inapt. The cameras is not a hammer. Cameras have more in common with musical instruments. Guitars, for example. The Leica is a Stratocaster, e.g. I would have a much easier time reading these opinions on the Internetz if that one word were changed: “remember, the camera is only an instrument.” The word instrument broadens the discussion, and allows for a more expansive exploration of why we choose to use what we use. The word tool is dismissive and, in my view, disingenuous. To dismiss the camera as merely a tool says more about what you’re trying to say about yourself than what you’re trying to clarify about camera gear. (IMHO!)

But, to the “my camera is just a tool” crowd: I agree. (GROAN) The Leica is an extension of my eye and my hands. Blindfold me and I can reliably load and shoot with the Leica all day long. It’s small, simple, quick. I’ve put hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of rolls of film through these little dudes. They’re the greatest. But also: imagine a bro standing in front of his Ferrari and saying, with a straight face, “Remember, guys. Your car is just a vehicle. A means of conveyance. It’s got an engine, four wheels, and a trunk. It’s not the car, you guys; it’s the ROAD. It’s where you decide to GO.” Listen. I totally agree. But also: go fuck yourself.

And to the people who secretly talk to their cameras and bring them to bed at night and whisper, “I love you, camera,” You’re sick!

ONE OF MY GUITARS

What to say? The M4 does all the same shit as other cameras. But it’s gorgeous, wonderful to use, and it’s somewhat rare (which I note only because I feel fortunate to have stumbled into it). I also love that this camera was already 51 years old when I bought it. Going Full Nerd, I appreciate that the M4 was one of the last “Wetzlar Leicas” and that this particular camera, half a century ago, was hand built and adjusted by feel by an actual human being, and it’s still functioning perfectly.

I may shoot the entire last year of the Decade Project with this M4 and my 35 Summicron.

LEICA M4 LINKS

The Leica M4 enjoys a comparatively wild production history, as far as Leica film cameras go. No need for me to get into it, when these sources already cover it: