What is it about Leica rangefinders that inspire countless photographers to create wonderful images?
In Greek mythology, Theseus was the the hero who slayed the Minotaur in the Labyrinth of Knossos.
He then sailed home, on a ship that — having long been in service — was in obvious need of repair. Wooden planks were therefore removed and replaced.
Theseus’ Paradox arises from the following thought experiment: suppose, over time, more and more aging planks were removed and then replaced with new pieces of wood until — eventually — no original plank remained.
Most people would still consider it Theseus‘ ship, but… Would it still be the same ship that served him so well?
There are several potential answers to this question, and one further wrinkle that involves taking all of the old discarded planks and re-fashioning another ship, thus creating two Theseus ships (the one with all of the replaced parts, and a new-old one with the old parts). It’s very mind-bending.
So…what’s this have to do with photography?
I recently purchased a 1963 Leica M3 in completely original condition, and sent it in for servicing. Even though it was working well enough in most situations, several of its optical and mechanical parts were in poor condition and needed to be replaced. The exterior covering was replaced too.
I’m currently waiting for its return.
While I’m waiting, the question I keep asking myself, after all of these changes is:
Is this the same M3 that allowed me take this image?
Or has my ship sailed?
Completing my move back into shooting film is my acquisition of a Leica M3.
This one is from 1963, and it still has the “L” seal intact — which means it has never been opened to be serviced since leaving the factory in 1963.
How well does this 50+ year old camera fare?
Here is a test shot from today (focus is on the angels):
↑Leica M3, Leica 50mm Summilux ASPH @ f/1.4, and Kodak Tri-X 400.
The focus is spot-on, and most of the shutter speeds are working perfectly.
Now, do I get it serviced to get the last ounce of performance out of it, or do I leave it untouched (with the L seal intact)?