August 29, 2008
Lew’s Leica: A Note From The Editor, for Shutterbugs
I have worked on a variety of special projects for Samford, including, years ago, a photographic history of the university. That project immersed me in the work of the late Lew Arnold, Samford’s official photographer for three decades.
I’m a photographer too, so I feel a special affinity for Arnold and the many classic film cameras he used to document life at Samford. It never occurred to me that any of those cameras—always valued by working photographers and now prized by collectors–might still be lying around campus gathering dust, but that turned out to be the case.
Samford’s Senior Photographer, Caroline Summers, recently mentioned to me that the university’s old Leica camera was somewhere in her studio. Sure enough, stored in a file cabinet drawer among photo paraphernalia representing the last half of the 20th century was a 1961 Leica M3 complete with 50mm and 35mm Summicron lenses.
The gear was a bit dirty, as expected, but functioned perfectly, also as expected. That’s precisely why Arnold and other professional photographers value the classic M-series Leica rangefinder cameras, of which the M3 was the first. They are marvels of German mechanical engineering—handmade, beautiful, precise and built like Tiger tanks. A little dust and inactivity don’t faze them.
Devotees discuss M-series lenses with almost religious awe. Some well-heeled M users wear the machines like jewelry, a reflection of popular esteem and the often staggering prices the equipment commands. No wonder this example bears the legend “ARNOLD USE ONLY” on its baseplate.
Forgive me, Lew. I couldn’t resist a test drive of the camera you used to show us ourselves for so many years