Which Leica film camera is the best

The best cameras for analog photography

The good old days of great photos are coming back. Analog cameras from renowned manufacturers such as Leica are becoming hip again, and film manufacturers are posting growth again.

After furniture, beer and LPs, the trend towards precise retro craftsmanship is now also continuing with cameras. The advantages of digital photography are set by professionals and amateurs - autofocus, automatic functions and professional software have done away with analog cameras. The renowned Frankfurt photographer Ralf Braum knows both worlds very well. As a young assistant in the mid-1970s, he worked on demanding assignments and complex advertising shoots. "Back then I mostly photographed my own jobs with Hasselblad and Leica, that was the standard," he recalls.

Working with the tape measure

With the tape measure, he checked the distance between the camera and the model in order to be able to adjust the focus and illumination. "At that time, work was slower. You had to work consciously and precisely, have a precise idea of ​​the picture," says Ralf Braum. "In the art scene, barite prints have the highest value to this day," he emphasizes, "because each photo was developed individually by hand, and each print is different." This craft is back in vogue: The manufacturers of film reels, which for a long time were only bought by freaks, have been posting strong growth figures for two years.

Development laboratories also have young customers again. They want to immerse themselves in a world that is new to them. Because noble cameras like those from Leica and their lenses are nowadays available for astonishingly little money. "My analog medium format camera from Mamiya cost me around 50,000 euros with lenses and accessories. Today I might get another 1,000 euros for it," says Ralf Braum.

Leica or Hasselblad

At these prices, you shouldn't be satisfied with the second best camera, he recommends. "If you have the money to spare, you should buy a Leica or a medium-format Hasselblad." A legendary reference model like the Leica M3, released in 1954, is currently available for 300 to 1000 euros, depending on its condition, accessories and lens.

Good Hasselblad housings, such as the well-known 503CX, can be obtained without a lens for as little as 500 euros. A new, digital Hasselblad, on the other hand, costs around 25,000 euros. With a little luck you can get a lot of cameras for little money.

Stay away from the cameras of professional photographers

Ralf Braum took photos with many Leica models. "They are built with extreme precision, there is hardly any mechanical risk," he says and advises: "The first impression is important: if the camera is very worn and scratched, you have to be careful." His tip: "Who is the previous owner? Was it an amateur who only took photos on Sundays? Perfect. Was it a professional photographer? Hands off. It has been used hard." If the first impression is good, the mechanics are tested: move all setting wheels and pull the film transport lever. "The smallest dropouts, just a slight jam - that's not a good sign." Then set the trigger for one second, press the trigger.

How to Identify a Good Retro Camera

If the Leica hums quietly and without hooks, everything is good. "Then everything is fine even with a short shutter speed." Then loosen the lens and check whether the mount is damaged. It is also worth taking a closer look at the aperture ring: "If the thread is depressed, the camera has probably fallen off." Now open the aperture on the lens completely and hold it up to the light: Is there a lot of dust to be seen at the edges? "Mold and fungus often get in here, and you can never get them away again." Finally, you open the camera to examine the film transporter: "Fine tracks are normal, rough scratches are not. They show that the camera has not been handled professionally."

If you buy a camera, you need films. They are manufactured by Kodak, Rollei or Agfa and cost four to five euros per roll. Medium format films are a bit more expensive. They are available from the specialist provider Fotoimpex in Berlin, in many web shops or at established specialist shops. But if you order prints at the same time as developing the negatives, the digital world will catch up with you: "The laboratories scan the negatives and digitally print the prints on paper," warns Ralf Braum. The unique photos are therefore only available with your own laboratory. The used devices are just as cheap: You can get top professional equipment for less than 1000 euros.

Modern doppelgangers as an alternative

If all of this is too difficult for you: The well-known manufacturers have been producing cameras for some time that look like the legendary, old models - but with the latest technology, the best sensors and good functions. In 2012, for example, Leica presented the new M rangefinder model with a full-frame sensor in the design of the 1950s, which costs around 6500 euros. But without a lens. The recently released M-P set in a retro safari look is also suitable for hard reports and can be had for just under 10,000 euros.

Olympus also relies on the good old days: In the 1970s, the manufacturer had an excellent reputation with the particularly compact OM-1, for example with war and reportage photographers. The design language of the legendary camera is continued with the models of the OM-D E series. The OM-D E-M10 for around 500 euros is light and compact, offers an excellent autofocus, a 16 megapixel sensor and a good lens.

Nikon's retro camera

Nikon's retro camera Df with a 16-megapixel full-frame sensor is to be based on the well-known models from the 1970s and 1980s (housing almost 2000 euros). It immediately reminds connoisseurs of the Nikon F2 - back then a camera for whole guys. Its heavy, robust design gave it the reputation of being able to drive a nail into the wall if necessary. Better not try that today.

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