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3frd8.jpg (119965 bytes)Can Art, Form, Function, Philosophy and Style Meet in a Camera?

Leica IIIf Red Dial Self Timer




    If you really know your way around cameras, it's proof of a mis-spent youth.....eh I mean you start to develop a sense of photographic style not only in images, but in cameras.   This can work in a lot of different ways.  At its worse and most distorted, you see the over-spent and under-artistic photog who has to have the latest and best First Flex to outdo  fellow photogs (at least in their own mind).   At its best, you find photogs who put together a system of cameras to suit not only  the pics they want to shoot, but also the style they want to shoot them in. 

Does the type of camera you carry really say anything about you? Yes, and No, and Sometimes, and Maybe.  A lot depends upon how the photographer sees it.  Wow, what a metaphysical statement, I really must be on  a roll here. 

The camera as a style statement?  Yes.   

A bottom of the line Nikon or Leica or Contax,   might mean that you are on a budget, but at least you have good taste.   A top of the line Nikon or Leica or Contax shows you are fairly serious about photography.  A Canon shows you liked Nikon, but made the wrong choice (just kidding Canon fans, any of these comparisons are arbitrary fill in the blanks).  A cheap schlock camera shows you don't know -- you know what -- about photography, and  that you don't care much about it either.  The message here is that different cameras send different messages about the photographer to the viewer, whatever those message are, and whoever the viewer is.    A lot of photogs choose to control that message, or at least try to.


All this photography philosophy stuff aside,  are there are cameras that somehow send the best messages, combining Style, Art, Function, Beauty and Timeless Class??  Well, yes.

One of the cameras that really stands out to make that all time photographic statement about the photographer is the immortal Leica IIIf Red Dial Self Timer of 1954-7, with collapsible 50/3.5 Elmar.   The reason? 

Incredible beauty. 

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The Leica IIIf RD ST scores points in several areas. First of all, and perhaps most importantly, it has a unique LOOK.    It has lots of little dials and knurled edges, of beautiful chrome and craftsmanship, emphatically NOT the stuff of modern plastic cameras.  If Leica management was smart enough, they would update this camera with TTL metering and easier loading while keeping its looks THE SAME. No, I don't mean cheapened and similar look,   I mean the SAME.  All they would succeed in doing is producing a much needed best seller. Leica, are you listening? 

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Do you remember the various "retro" cameras like the Olympus O product? Essentially they were trying a new road to the IIIf RD ST.   Compared to the original, it didn't begin to measure up.  Now some might ask, why do you rate the IIIf RD ST over the more feature laden IIIg?  Style, this discussion is about style.  The IIIg's larger front viewfinder window and front top plate aren't as aesthetically pleasing to me.

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These pics show the Elmar lens collapsed.  Pull the lens barrel out and lock it into extended position for shooting.   Look at the top plate engraving, a thing of beauty long missing from modern Leicas.

Am I serious about this Art stuff or am I just baiting the reader?

Well, Yes.

Art is beauty, and cameras like the IIIf RD ST are an Art Form.  While Art is in the eye of the beholder, it can also be on the arm of the holder.

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Revised: November 25, 2003 Copyright  1998-2002  Stephen Gandy. All rights reserved.    This means you may NOT copy and re-use the text or the pictures in ANY other internet or printed publication of ANY kind.  Information in this document is subject to change without notice.  Other products and companies referred to herein are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective companies or mark holders.