The Leica MA is a beautiful piece of equipment (I bought mine from Leica Store Miami).  I have always been partial to the single levers on the old M3’s and M2’s as well as their signature rewind knob.  The Leica MA has both of these and, like most Leica film bodies, does not rely on batteries to function.  I prefer the black chrome model and have a black chrome Leicavit to use in lieu of the bottom plate – a poor man’s winder with no batteries!

Leica MA - Charlotte Avenue, Rock Hill

Leica MA – Charlotte Avenue, Rock Hill

First, if you know me, you know that I love to photograph in black and white film.  There is still something about the creative process when you develop negatives.  Looking at the results well after taking the photograph is very satisfying.   There is also something more forgiving about film than digital work.  Under and over exposing film to a degree still gives a very pleasing photograph.  While digital advances help save shadow detail, highlights can be lost in an instant with high dynamic ranges.

Leica MA - Charlotte Avenue, Rock Hill

Leica MA – Charlotte Avenue, Rock Hill

So, film is fun.  But, it’s not just the development and negative work, the camera is also part of the artistic process.  Yes, Leica lenses are well known for micro contrast and sharp images in the center even with wide open f/stops.  However, the film cameras are equally well built.  Sometimes left in the background, a heavy well-adjusted Leica film camera can not only take the elements, but a fully manual camera like the Leica MA needs no batteries – ever!

Leica MA - Charlotte Avenue, Rock Hill

Leica MA – Charlotte Avenue, Rock Hill

The simplicity of setting the f/stop and shutter speed and listening to the shutter click through the springs is part of the joy of film photography.  The tactile feel and the sound of the image being captured enhances the fun of creating the art.

I have adjusted my film work over the last year because of something I never imagined.  Here is a little history to explain why.

Leica MA - Charlotte Avenue, Rock Hill

Leica MA – Charlotte Avenue, Rock Hill

My first Leica film camera was an M-4 and then later an M-6ttl.  Both great manual cameras, the M-6 with a light meter built-in.  The film loading uses the same method as the current MA and MP.  There is a built in spool with slots and the film catridge drops in with the leader placed in one of those slots.  One-handed film loading is fairly easy.

 

Leica MA - Charlotte Avenue, Rock Hill

Leica MA – Charlotte Avenue, Rock Hill

I used to look at the older camera – the IIIc (which I own and play with from time to time), the M3 and the M2.  Strangely enough, Leica released the M3 and then the M2.  Seems backwards, but that is how it worked.  The M3 uses a spool that must be removed from the camera body and the leader of the film inserted into a clip.  Then, both the film cartridge and the spool must be put into the camera body – definately a two-handed process!  The M-2 was similar, but and M-2R was released that had the first quick loading system installed that later became the current standard.

Leica MA - Charlotte Avenue, Rock Hill

Leica MA – Charlotte Avenue, Rock Hill

Because of the two-handed requirement, I never even considered owning an M3.  About a year ago, I decided to try one and have never looked back.  Even with the odd film loading, the viewfinder is magnified such that a 50mm lens basically fills the frame.  So what, you might ask?  The current viewfinders fill the frame with a 28mm lens – and have since the M3.  So, using rangefinder mechanics, the M3 makes critical focusing, especially with f/stops in the 1.4 range, almost perfect and very easy.   The extra magnification is what makes this possible.  So, for 50mm and above, photographs in sharp focus are easy.  For wider lenses, an external viewfinder is used, but focus is still spot on.  The external viewfinder is also used with current models for anything larger than a 28mm.

Leica MA - Charlotte Avenue, Rock Hill

Leica MA – Charlotte Avenue, Rock Hill

Back to the Leica MA.  I have found using the Leica Viewfinders – both the 1.25x and the 1.40x, turn my Leica MA into an M3.  It gives me the extra magnification for both 50mm and long lenses like the 90mm or 135mm.  Now I guess I can have my cake and eat it too!  Here’s to film photography…

About The Author

David taught film photography and development for 3 years at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (1989-1991). He began using Leica cameras in 2000 and still shoots 70-100 rolls of film through a Leica M3 and Leica MA while enjoying the challenges of the Leica Monochrom and the new Leica MD 262. David has written about photography and is working on several volumes documenting changes and artistic merit throughout Old Town in Rock Hill, South Carolina, USA. His full-time job is as a CPA, but spends free time with a camera at the ready.

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