Over the years I have heard many accounts of how tough Leicas are. The most memorable one that sticks in my mind is of a photographer who took his Leicaflex SL2 along on a ride in an Air Force fighter jet. As it turned out, the jet developed problems and he and the pilot had to bail out. When the parachute opened, the sudden deceleration caused the camera slip out of the photographer’s hands. It fell several thousand feet to the Mojave Desert. It wasn’t until a year later that a hiker found the camera. The camera back had remained closed which allowed for the film to be removed and developed. With the help of the pictures the original owner of the camera could be found. He in turn sent the camera to Leitz. They determined that it actually could be repaired but decided to keep it in its battered condition and offered the photographer a new one in exchange. The camera had apparently fallen in an angle onto the lens with the result that the lens mount of the camera had been pushed far into the camera housing on one side. I saw the camera in the Leica museum at Leica Camera. It definitely looked sick.
But not all accounts of Leica toughness are this extreme. Here is an account from the
BB MAGAZINE FOR LEICA OWNERS from 1981:
ARE LEICAS TOUGH?
By Bob Nandell
Staff Photographer Des Moines Register
It was what every photographer dreads.
One minute I was driving along looking for harvest pictures with my Leica R3, an R3-Mot, a 250mm f/4 and a 400mm f/6.8 Telyt nestled on the seat beside me, ready for color or black and white.
An instant later, after taking the ditch to avoid collision with a truck, my car was upside down.
After getting out of the seatbelt and hastily exiting the car, to my astonishment I was not badly hurt. But what about the cameras?
The gadgets bag with 35, 50, 135 and 19mm R lenses nestled in its pockets was fine. It had been in the foot-well.
The R3 with the 250mm attached was in a sea of mud and glass that had been the windshield. The R3-Mot and the 400mm were next to the roof, also in mud.
Disaster? Not so.
A quick inspection showed that the bodies were functional. In fact, I took photos for insurance purposes at the scene with the R3-Mot.
Back home again, I found that the all equipment was useable. The meters worked, the lenses worked, the motor worked. The thick plastic lens covers, which Leitz supplies, had saved the glass in both lenses. Both lenses were shipped off for tightening and cosmetic repair, and a few pieces, such as a replacement for a bent rewind knob, were ordered.
Tough Camera Tough Photographer
The cameras, although battered like their owner, had survived. In fact, on the way home from the accident scene, the badly scratched R3 produced a nice color harvest picture, which had been the original goal of the day.
I had purchased Leicas for their value and durability.
I know the list can now include indestructability.
To this I can add a personal account. I was shooting an architecture assignment for a client. As with most of this type of photography, especially indoors with available light, I used a tripod. This tripod is a rather compact Gitzo model for easier transport, about 3 feet tall without any of the legs extended. I have no idea how this happened, but trying to attach the camera, a Leica Digilux 2, it slipped out of my hand and fell at least three feet down onto a concrete floor. That makes a rather ugly sound. I picked the camera up, quickly checked its functions and proceeded to shoot the assignment. All worked well and the camera has continued without any flaws to this day.
Other articles by Bob Nandell:
Other articles by Bob Nandell:
THE 90 ELAMR THAT NOBODY WANTED
ODE TO LEICA NO. 1048416
LEICA M2 No 1048416 - HAPPY 50TH BIRTHDAY
For more on the legendary toughness of Leica cameras go to:
DID YOU KNOW THAT...?
LEICA RELIABILITY AND SURVIVABILITY
SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST