How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Circle of Confusion (Pt. 1)
My best friend Joe is an interesting character. He grew up on a farm in west Texas, served his country in Southeast Asia during a shooting war, studied at the University of Chicago with Aaron Suskind, taught photography at a University level, rode motorcycles from an early age, turned a job making screen-printed faces for oilfield gauges into a vocation as one of the USA’s premier sign craftsmen, and helped to found the Letterheads along the way.
He’s also a horrible, wicked enabler of my worst compulsions: my love of old things, my tendency to collect stuff, my technology fetish. A few years ago he gave me a rusting pile of parts that’s turned into a multi-year, $8000+ scooter restoration. 4 years ago he gave me his Hasselblad 500C with 2 film backs and a Distagon f/4 50mm lens, along with a few rolls of 120mm film. 3 years ago he gave me his 1957 Leica M3.
It was an early model with the double-stroke film advance lever, in good mechanical and cosmetic condition, except for a tiny bit of vulcanite missing near the lens mount. Along with the camera came the only sub-par lens Leica ever made, a Hektor f/4.5 135mm, and some 35mm film. And, like the ’blad, the Leica sat unused on a bookshelf until this past May, frustrating me due to my
- ignorance & fear of screwing something up
- difficulty focusing the Hektor lens, even with the M3’s high viewfinder magnification
- lack of a light meter (& not knowing how to use one)
Beyond that, I hadn’t used a manual film camera since a 1-semester class in art school 30 years ago — the whole thing was pretty intimidating. I wanted to use the camera; I just didn’t know where to start. Then Joe took a trip to Roswell …
M-mount lenses do not provide aperture information to the camera body, either electronically or mechanically. Therefore, f-stop settings are approximate, and are probably wildly inaccurate. For what it’s worth, I usually shoot with my lenses wide open.