Thursday, October 27, 2016

ODE TO LEICA NO. 1048416

It is no secret that Leica cameras can and will last for a long time, and I thought it would be interesting to see an account from a Leica user that has enjoyed the service of his Leica over many years.  One such photographer is Bob Nandell, now retired from his position as staff photographer for the Des Moines Register.  In January of 1982, he wrote the following article:

H A P P Y  T W E N T I E T H

January, 1982, marks a 20th birthday.  No, it’s not a birthday for one of my children.  It’s a 20th birthday for No. 1048416.

Leica M No. 1048416 arrived at the camera shop as ordered in January 1962, with a 50mm Elmar attached.  Since then, No. 1048416 has produced pictures for five different newspapers.  For several lonely years it was its owner’s only camera.  For one year it worked for the owner’s wife, producing pictures for a small weekly newspaper.  It has had a dozen different lenses attached to it during the 20 years, but usually the tiny Elmar stayed in place.

Only once did it ever visit a repair shop.  The knocks and bumps of covering urban riots in 1967 caused its rangefinder to need adjusting.

Right now it looks a bit tired.  The chrome finish is worn shiny, a bit of brass is showing through, and some of the leather is held in place with super-glue.  Black tape still protects some of the corners, though.

But when No. 1048416 is plucked from its place in the gadget bag, and its film transport handle is turned, it still feels new.  It still has the compact, solid feel that enables it to pick off pictures at 1/15 sec., or blink into a sunset at 1.100 sec.

Retirement?  Out of the question!

Sure, it has an M4-2 to keep it company now, and sometimes No. 1048416 has to share bag space with a big, black single lens reflex Leica, but its place has been permanently earned.

Whether it is on braking news events or taking pictures in the backyard, No. 1048416 still handles a hefty workload.

After all, it still delivers a 100% effort without a complaint.

Definitely an interesting account.  Being that it was written in 1982, one has to wonder how the camera fared over its first 50 years.  Bob Nandell came to the rescue with an update titled…


Hi:  I stumbled across your site and I noticed you had reproduced a photo I took in 1982 of Leica M2 number 1048416 at the time of its 20th year of service. Your cut-line wondered how it would be doing on its 50th birthday.

Well, attached are some scans to answer your question.

Leica M2 number 104816 continues to be most instrumental in my black and white fine art photography. I am now retired from a 45 year career in the newspaper photography business.

Number 1048416 was the prime weapon in the production of my current (4th) book of Iowa themed poems and photographs titled 'Maple Street Stories'(PBL Publishing LTD., Ottumwa, Iowa).


It is always loaded with Ilford HP5.  Its viewfinder has dimmed a bit with age, but mechanically the camera is still perfect although its exterior has literally been worn shiny by my hands over 50 years of use. It is wearing its fourth neck-strap. The little 50mm f/2.8 Elmar continues to be shrieking sharp. (note: it has never been 'collapsed', always left extended.  I prefer it because much of what I do is shot at f/11 or f/16 out-doors. I want depth, not speed.



Special note, I am NOT a Leica collector. I simply have used (and abused) them.
Over the decades I used a number of Leica M and SLR bodies for film work, but through it all this M2 has been the prime battle-ax. The little 50 simply stays put on the front of it. It's just the way I see things for composition purposes. It's that simple. It's how I see photos, through those little 50mm frame-lines in the view finder.




Quite often when I am picture hunting number 1048416 is the only camera I am carrying. Nobody cares about or notices an old guy walking down a small town street with an old worn-out-looking camera in his hand. Yes, I own a couple digital whiz-bangs to chase grand-kids with and make routine snaps. But my serious black and white film and print photography is still done with the Leica. It has been my friend for 50 years now.

Robert Nandell

I am sure I speak for more than just myself in wishing number 1048416 a belated Happy Fiftieth.  May it go for another fifty.


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