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Wednesday, 23 September 2020


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there is one more excellent book which is more of a reference guide called - "Mc Keowns - cameras.. its a thick volume and excellent -packed with camera information and a valuation guide. not cheap. a serious collector or anyone with an interest in old cameras should own a copy.

The collector/shopkeeper phenomenon can extend to all reaches. After we bought our house, I walked into a Gravely equipment dealership looking for the Leica of lawn mowers, blanched at the cost of a walk-behind tractor ($14,000, and this was 25 years ago) and was about to slink away when my eye lit on an old model, like the ones I remembered from my boyhood. When I asked how much that one was, the proprietor archly told me that it was not for sale, but that it was worth $50,000. I have been paying someone to mow my lawn ever since.

The Leica story... that reminds me of a similar encounter I had once in Toronto. There was this used camera store downtown, near Henry's, that had a big wall of FSU cameras (Kiev, FED, etc). I was getting rangefinder-curious at the time, so I checked them out.

I kindly ask the guy at the counter if I could see that particular item behind the counter. He looked at me as if I was a chump, not worth his precious time and cigarettes (yeah, he was smoking in a camera store, so it's not like we were in premium land...).

He gives me a "Show me the money first". Show you the money? Before I look at your smelly crap? Yes, mister smoker wanted to be sure I was a "serious" customer.

I told him to shove it, and I hope he's out of business since. The nerve...

An online reference includes the statement, " ... we are social beings as well as individuals."

My experience with collectors (mostly cars) is that they form groups that extend beyond their collections to include non-collector family and friends. They will toil singly studying, perfecting and using their collected goods. And they will come together in groups and clubs to study, perfect use and admire their collected goods. Strong and long-lasting friendships often develop separate from the collections.

Sometimes they operate blogs.

Your first attempt to purchase a Leica was similar to mine. I picked out a nice looking M4 and while I was looking it over the shop owner asked me if I was planning to use it. He put both hands over it, protectively, as he said it. He ended up selling me an M6 instead.

Pro Photo on Pennsylvania Ave?

I swear I was in that camera store in Bethesda in the '80's sometime. My pals had just moved to D.C and I used to go back and forth between Milwaukee and D.C. visiting them, and for parties (I used to be able to get a round trip ticket on Ozark airlines, from Milwaukee, to St. Louis, to Washington National for $139.00).

I opened my advertising photo studio in Milwaukee about the same time they all decided to leave, or I would have gone with them. I didn't follow until the late '90's.

I remember the store being very 'quiet', and when I asked about certain cameras, he mentioned prices that were far, far out of 'whack' from what I researched. No big deal, because I just "wanted" an M2, but I didn't need one for work. Even when I moved there later, compared to all my experience in Chicago and Milwaukee: D.C. was a huge "photo-journalism town, so all 35mm. For the years I was there, I did a lot of buying in Baltimore...

I was going to say Andrew Heller, and post his obit, but you said DC, not Bethesda. Mr. Heller sold me my first Leica in the '80s. He also convinced me to buy Summicrons, particularly a 35mm to start. I asked him about a Summilux, and he interrupted with his thick Hungarian accent, forcefully saying “Summicron.” I started to say that I read about this or that, and he again cut me off, “Summicron.” This continued for another 10 minutes or so. I bought an M6 and a 35 Summicron. I visited many times over the years, and when he and his wife were too old to keep up the shop, I was one of the people he approached to determine any interest in buying. That likely would have been a disaster for anyone, given what was to quickly change in the industry. I still often think of him as I handle my M10, M Monochrom and SL2 (with some old and new Summicrons!). I wonder what he’d make of all this digital Leica stuff. Probably not much; he was an old school guy, happy to share his well earned wisdom. And he loved Rollei, too.

I think there were a whole lot of 'em. I had an IBM colleague named Andy Heller, too. Not a photographer, though.

I bought a Leica iiia with a collapsible lens at Heller’s. He told me the month it was made from the serial number. I don’t remember the year I bought it but he was moving slowly and had either a cot or a sofa to rest on in the back room so he was not well.

About 25 years ago, I wanted to buy a telescope. Not far away was a one-man-band dealer who had the lowest prices on Meade 'scopes. He also had the reputation of being so eccentric that he would not sell anything to anybody he didn't like when meeting for the first time in his showroom.

Despite cash in hand and 'scope in stock, I left empty-handed.

It was crazy -- the guy used to advertise in the astronomy magazines and solicited phone orders, but used to leave his phone off the hook if he couldn't be bothered. He eventually retired. Or perhaps was dispatched by a disgruntled customer.


You have pushed the memory button in my brain. There was a small camera shop here in bucolic Kansas operated by an older gentleman, whose background was not common knowledge. He was primarily a Nikon dealer, and knew their product like no one else. He had a personal collection of Nikon SLR's and RF's the he often mentioned but were never shown. He had all the little oddball accessories, and as well was familiar with all the oddball Leica accessories identified with letters rather than numbers.

I still have my first Nikon I purchased from him, a blsck F/std. prism with 35mm/2. Call me a hoarder.

Bill Pearce

(why is my collar suddenly hot?)

I'm stealing that line. Best one I've heard in a while.

You're probably right about the collector/shopkeeper phenomenon, but there is another possible explanation. It's possible that Heller's Camera was the photo equivalent of The Piano Shop on the Left Bank (title of a 2002 book by Thad Carhart). You couldn't just walk in and buy a (restored second-hand) piano, you had to be considered worthy, which meant being recommended by an existing customer. It does sound like Andrew Heller was a collector, but I wonder whether there wasn't a touch of the left bank piano shop in there somewhere as well. Tom's comment about the M4/M6 makes me think there might be. Is it part of old-school European culture?

Episode 130 of the Classic Lenses Podcast With Dan Tamarkin of Tamarkin Camera in Chicago is worth a listen for some of the idiosyncrasies of Leica collecting:


So what am I if I have (um - let's say hypothetically) some apparently random boxes full of apparently disorganised stuff but I know where everything is (provided no-one moves the boxes)?

Sadly, Ivor Matanle died in early January 2019. He was perceived in the UK as the authority on classic cameras and featured, or wrote, in many editions of “Amateur Photography”, a long established UK weekly magazine.

I wonder if Mr Judice above is referring to George Lange Cameras in Houston, Texas? I recall the prices there being exceedingly high but nevertheless, he remained in business. When Rollei went through one of its bouts of bankruptcy around 1982 or 83, Mr Lange sold off his stock of filters and little accessories, and I bought a bunch of them at very reasonable price. It is written that astronaut Wally Shirra bought his Hasselblad camera from Mr Lange in 1962.

I think I might have the camera in the top photo on the cover of Ivor Matanle's book. If I'm right, it's a Voigtländer Vito B.

One of these, a f/2.8 Color Skopar with the lovely brightline finder was my first proper camera, about 1958. I saved up my Christmas and birthday present money for what seemed like 2 years, and bought a clean used one in Bond St, London.

It served me very well, and despite exposures worked out by rule of thumb, I still have a few prints I'm proud of.

I understand the desire to collect nice things but I feel it's a terribly shame that such brilliantly designed and made devices as Leicas (and other brands) are not used to for their original purpose - to make photos, even if it's just occasionally.

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