jueves, 27 de noviembre de 2014



November of 1967. Twenty-six years have elapsed since the premiere in New York of Casablanca, starring Ingrid Bergman, Humphrey Bogart and Paul Henreid.

The mythical Swedish actress, one of the greatest in the whole history of the cinema, has been performing the role of Deborah (Simon Harford´s mother), in Eugene O´Neill´s play More Stately Mansions at the Ahmanson Theater in Los Angeles Music Center (inaugural play held on April 12, 1967) for six months and now the production has moved to the Broadhurst Theatre at 235 W 44th, between Broadway and 8th Avenue, in Midtown West, Manhattan (the premiere performance having taken place on October 31, 1967) in the city of New York, where Ingrid Bergmann is living with her third husband the Swedish theatrical producer Lars Schmidt.

Both of them are walking across Madison Avenue holding their hands.

Lisl Steiner, an experienced photojournalist working for Keystone Press Agency and Pix Agency in New York, has just seen them from a distance of around ten meters.

She decides to approach them as much as possible striving after not being detected.

Discretion and speed are key factors as well as choosing the most appropriate instant to press the shutter release button of her Leica M2 loaded with Kodak Tri-X 400 black and white film and coupled to an 8 elements in 6 groups Summicron-M 35 mm f/2 First Version SAWOM.

Ingrid Bergman and Lars Schmidt keep on advancing and have just crossed under the awning of the Publick House restaurant.

Adrenaline rushes. Lisl, who is grabbing her camera as low as possible to foster discretion, realizes it is virtually impossible to get nearer without being seen. Both of them are already at a very short distance from her.

Suddenly, the couple slows down their stroll.

They are now beginning to pass by the shop window of Essex Arts H. & E. Engel, a plush antique, silverware, porcelain and classic furniture boutique located in this area of Manhattan.

Lars Schmidt stares at an old piece of furniture with some china jars and a sculpture with two animals made in marble, while Ingrid Bergman watches different silver objects placed on the lower area of the shop window.

                                                        © Lisl Steiner

It is just now when Lisl Steiner raises very quickly her Leica M2 rangefinder configured in hyperfocal, looks through the 0.72x magnification viewfinder and shoots at 1/45 sec and f/11 going unnoticed, surprising both spouses and getting her first picture.

The timing is perfect and she captures them with their feet very near the lower border of the frame while they look through the shop window. Each one has got the left foot leaned on the ground, while the right one in movement appears tremulous and slightly out of focus because of the slow shutter speed used.

The photojournalist´s know-how, acquired sense of anticipation and the advantage of using a 35 mm format mirrorless Leica rangefinder camera featuring a crystal clear direct optical viewfinder

Lisl Steiner´s Leica M2 eyepiece of the 0.72x magnification viewfinder integrated with the rangefinder featuring an effective base length of 49.32 mm. 47 years later.

Windows of the rangefinder, luminous frame-lines for 35, 50 and 90 mm lenses and viewfinder. 47 years later.

enabling to see exactly what is happening while pressing the shutter release button at the moment in which the image is imprinted on the b & w emulsion (unlike a reflex camera in which the sight is lost when the mirror´s up) and composing in a geometrical way, along with the exceedingly silent noise brought about by the mechanical shutter of the M2 and its amazingly short 12 ms shutter lag, have just proved to be instrumental

Lisl Steiner pressing the shutter release button of her Leica M2 47 years later. This fully mechanical camera has worked flawlessly for more than half a century and keeps on getting pictures.

to hold sway over the control of the moment and make this photograph.

Just an instant later, Lars Schmidt and Ingrid Bergman stop to behold the various items of the shop window more calmly and in greater detail.

In spite of the huge proximity, the photographer (who has modified her position with respect to the previous picture, shifting to the left around 2 meters and stepping back roughly 1 meter and is now behind the large glass of the shop window which makes up the corner with the adjacent one through which Lars Schmidt and Ingrid Bergman are peering) remains being undiscovered, since the couple is deeply engrossed gazing at the shop window.

Lisl is now almost at point blank range, at a distance of approximately 2.5 meters, with an even greater risk than before of being seen. And if that happens, a possible second picture wouldn´t be worth.

But she knows that perhaps she will be able to make them a further photograph before they walk past the corner, endures the pressure and once again waits for the suitable moment, which arrives when Lars Schmidt points out with his finger to Ingrid Bergmann an object that has caught his eye.

                                                     ©  Lisl Steiner

Lisl shoots once more at identical shutter speed and diaphragm and gets her second picture.

Lisl Steiner in Westlicht Vienna 47 years later, sitting behind a vintage copy of the first picture she got of Ingrid Bergman and Lars Schmidt in the Madison Avenue of New York in 1967.

Lisl Steiner in the stairs of Westlicht Vienna 47 years later, holding a vintage copy of the second picture she got of Ingrid Bergman and Lars Schmidt in the Madison Avenue of New York in 1967.

Lisl Steiner inside Hotel Sacher of Vienna (often visited by Ingrid Bergman during fifties and sixties) 47 years later, with a Leica D-Lux 5 Titanium Special Edition given away to her by Dr. Andreas Kaufmann, Chairman of the Supervisory Board and owner of Leica Camera AG.

© Text and Indicated Photos: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

miércoles, 26 de noviembre de 2014



Durante la 26ª Subasta de Cámaras celebrada en Westlicht el 22 de Noviembre de 2014, una cámara telemétrica de medio formato 17.5 x 24 mm Nikon S3M número de serie 6600125 con objetivo Nikkor-S.C 5 cm f/1.4 alcanzó un precio final de 40.800 euros.

La cámara es una de las 50 unidades cromadas de un total de 195 cámaras Nikons S3M de medio formato 17.5 x 24 mm fabricadas por Nippon Kogaku en 1960 y capaces de exponer 72 fotogramas con un rollo de película de 35 mm, por medio de una compuerta vertical para negativo de 17.5 mm de anchura y 24 mm de altura que hubo de ser construida para albergar los fotogramas de dicho pequeño formato expuestos por esta cámara telemétrica.

La belleza de líneas de esta cámara perteneciente a la época de mayor prosperidad de Nippon Kogaku es ciertamente soberbia y resulta difícil de expresar con palabras, así como el acabado y aspecto estético de los diales, botones, palancas y mandos cromados del panel superior de esta herramienta fotográfica profesional creada para durar muchas décadas de uso intensivo.

La Nikon S3M vendida en Westlicht incluía un motor S-72 número de serie 94804 acoplado a la zona inferior de la cámara y con la que podía alcanzar una cadencia de disparos de 12 fotogramas por segundo. En la parte trasera de dicho motor S-72 visible en esta imagen puede observarse el contador de frames que indica 60 exposiciones realizadas.

Esta cámara es un buen ejemplo de la filosofía de una cámara telemétrica (basada en un notable grado de compacidad y peso ligero, objetivos de alta luminosidad productores de gran calidad de imagen, ausencia de espejo basculante que permite la creación de diseños ópticos puros y el disparar a pulso a velocidades de obturación muy bajas de hasta 1/15 seg y 1/8 seg con luz ambiente, funcionamiento mecánico muy fiable, construcción integral con metales nobles y un obturador mecánico dotado de cortinillas de tela y sumamente silencioso al apretar el botón disparador) pero con la ventaja añadida de ser capaz de desarrollar tanto una cadencia de disparos de 12 frames/seg con el por entonces avanzadísimo motor S72 gracias a su formato 17.5 x 24 mm (que al ser un 50% más pequeño que el 35 mm permitía un avance más rápido de frames, ya que las cortinillas del obturador plano-focal horizontal tenían que recorrer menos espacio que con negativos de formato 24 x 36 mm) como de poder hacer 72 exposiciones sin cambiar de película, algo muy importante en el fotoperiodismo ágil y dinámico en el que con frecuencia se perdían imágenes significativas mientras se sustituían los carretes con película de 35 mm expuesta por otros nuevos.

La Nikon S3M, lanzada al mercado en Abril de 1960 y con la que se realizaron pruebas durante competiciones de esquí durante 1959, personifica en gran medida el concepto de cámara fotoperiodística de pequeñas dimensiones, bajo peso y negativos de medio formato que permitían a los fotógrafos captar imágenes durante el mayor tiempo posible sin tener que cambiar de película, así como desarrollar tiempos de reacción muy rápidos durante la realización de disparos continuos, idea que sería puesta en práctica de modo integral por el gran Eugene Smith en 1965 haciendo varios reportajes con cámaras de medio formato 18 x 24 mm Olympus Pen-F todavía más pequeñas y ligeras y con un amplio surtido de objetivos.

Vista superior de la Nikon S3M de medio formato 17.5 x 24 mm. El tamaño muy pequeño del excelente objetivo acoplado Nikkor-S.C 5 cm f/1.4 de 7 elementos en 3 grupos y 12 palas de diafragma sinergiza perfectamente con la compacidad del cuerpo de cámara.

De izquierda a derecha pueden verse la argolla para la correa de transporte, el terminal para flash de magnesio y flash electrónico, la palanca de rebobinado de película, el logotipo Nippon Kogaku, la zapata de accesorios (con el contacto electrónico para flash sin cable justo sobre él), el dial de velocidades de obturación (con el indicador de sincronización de flash sobre él), el botón liberador del obturador, el anillo AR para avance de película (A) y rebobinado (R), la palanca de avance de película de un solo golpe y el gran dial con el contador automático de exposiciones y el indicador de carga de película.

Detalle de la palanca de rebobinado de la Nikon S3M (sobre cuya zona izquierda se aprecia la argolla para correa de transporte así como el terminal para flash de magnesio y flash electrónico) y el legendario logotipo Nippon Kogaku.

Ocular del visor con magnificación 1x combinado con el telémetro de la Nikon S3M y que muestra de modo permanente marcos luminosos de encuadre para objetivos de 35 mm, 50 mm y 105 mm.
Aunque el chasis de la Nikon S3M es el mismo que en la Nikon S3, tanto el espacio para la película dentro de la cámara como el visor hubieron de ser modificados para adaptarlos al pequeño formato 17.5 x 24 mm.

La pequeña palanca cromada acanalada a la derecha tiene por misión el seleccionar las marcas luminosas de encuadre dotadas con corrección de paralaje para los mencionados objetivos de focal fija.

Ventanas del telémetro (a la izquierda de la imagen) y el visor (a la derecha de la imagen) de la Nikon S3M, cuya longitud de base efectiva de telémetro de 60.5 mm y magnificación de visor 1x superan a la ofrecida por una moderna Leica M9 digital (47.1 mm y 0.68x respectivamente) y alcanzan el nivel de la formidable Leica M3 (63 mm y 0.91x).

El visor de tamaño real de la Nikon S3M es muy bueno, carece de distorsión geométrica alguna y permite al fotógrafo componer y enfocar con ambos ojos abiertos, disparando en tiempo real y con grandes niveles de discreción, gracias al extremadamente breve shutter lag (tiempo de retardo del obturador desde que se presiona el botón disparador hasta que se inicia la exposición) de su obturador plano-focal de recorrido horizontal cuyas cortinas están hechas de seda Habutae y genera un ruido de muy baja intensidad sonora, apenas perceptible, al disparar.

Detalle del autodisparador, ajustable entre 3 y 10 segundos.

Elegante panel superior de la cámara telemétrica de medio formato 17.5 x 24 mm Nikon S3M subastada en Westlicht. La configuración de los diales, controles, botones y demás componentes emanan de un sensato criterio: estar directamente accesibles y disponibles al instante para las decisiones y uso por parte del fotógrafo.

A la derecha del todo de dicho panel superior se halla el contador automático con capacidad para 72 exposiciones, que hubo de ser modificado con respecto a la Nikon S3 formato 24 x 36 mm, cuyo contador tenía capacidad para 36 exposiciones.

Esta es una cámara profesional fabricada a mano, completamente en metal y una obra maestra de meticulosa ingeniería, construida sobre el principio básico de posibilitar la producción de manera impecable de fotografías de muy alta calidad durante muchas décadas de duro uso en todo tipo de contextos.

Imagen boca arriba de la Nikon S3M mostrando su base en la que pueden verse de izquierda a derecha el dial indicador del tipo de película (con su sensibilidad expresada en escala fotográfica ASA), el zócalo con rosca para trípode, el logotipo Nippon Kogaku cincelado con pantógrafo bajo el que aparece el número de serie de la cámara y la llave giratoria tanto para extraer como para insertar el respaldo de cámara.

© Texto y Fotos: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

domingo, 23 de noviembre de 2014



A Nikon S3M rangefinder 17.5 x 24 mm half format camera serial number 6600125 with Nikkor-S.C 5 cm f/1.4 reached a hammer price of 40,800 euros during the 26th Westlicht Camera Auction held in Vienna on November 22, 2014.

The camera is one of the 50 units made in chrome of a total of 195 Nikons S3M half-frame 17.5 x 24 mm cameras manufactured in 1960 by Nippon Kogaku and able to expose 72 negatives with a 35 mm film roll by means of a 17.5 mm width x 24 mm height vertical film gate which had to be manufactured for holding the small frames exposed by this rangefinder camera.

The beauty of lines of this camera belonging to the halcyon days of Nippon Kogaku has to be seen to be believed and the finish and aesthetic appearance of the chromed dials, levers and buttons on the top panel of this professional photographic tool made to last a lot of decades of intensive use becomes unutterable.

The Nikon S3M sold at Westlicht came with a S-72 motor drive number 94804 visible in this image, coupled to the baseplate and with which the camera is able to get a shooting rate of 12 frames per second. Here can be seen the frame counter on the back of the S-72 motordrive indicating 60 exposures.

This camera is a good example of the RF camera philosophy (based on remarkable compactness and low weight, top-notch quality small lenses featuring high luminosity, lack of swivelling mirror enabling shooting handheld at very low shutters speeds of up to 1/15-1/8 sec with available light, thorough mechanical working, entire construction with noble metals, and an exceedingly silent cloth shutter resulting in very low noise on shooting) but with the added advantage of being able to both develop a very high shooting rate of 12 frames per second with the then state-of-the-art S72 motordrive thanks to its 17.5 x 24 mm format (which on being a 50% smaller than the 35 mm enabled a faster advance of frames because the horizontal travel shutter curtain had to run less space than with 24 x 36 mm format negatives) and do 72 exposures without changing film, something very important in agile and dynamic photojournalism in which defining pictures were often lost while replacing the already exposed 35 mm film rolls.

The Nikon S3M, launched into market in April 1960 and tested making photographs of ski competitions during 1959, greatly embodies the concept of a photojournalistic camera featuring small dimensions, low weight and tiny half-frame negatives that enabled the photographers to get pictures as long as possible without having to change film and also very quick reaction times during continuous shooting, an idea that would be fulfilled to the utmost by the great Eugene Smith in 1965 when he made a number of assignments with exceedingly compact and lightweight Olympus Pen-F System half-frame 18 x 24 mm cameras and a raft of lenses.

Top view of the half-frame 17.5 x 24 mm format Nikon S3M. The very small size of the excellent 7 elements in 3 groups and 12 diaphragm blades Nikkor-S.C 5 cm f/1.4 attached lens matches the compactness of the camera body.

From left to right can be seen the eyelet for neck strap, the terminal for flash and electronic flash, the film rewinding crank, the Nippon Kogaku logo, the accessory shoe (with the electric contact for cordless flash gun just on it), the shutter speed selector dial (with the synchro indicator for flash synchronization above it), the shutter release button, the AR ring for setting film advance (A) and film rewind (R), the single stroke film advance lever and the big dial with the automatic exposure counter and the film load reminder.

Detail of the Nikon S3M rewinding crank (on whose left can be seen the lug for transport strap and the terminal for flash and electronic flash) and the legendary Nippon Kogaku logo.

Eyepiece of the 1x magnification viewfinder combining VF and RF window of the Nikon S3M featuring always displayed bright-line frames for 35 mm, 50 mm and 105 mm lenses.

Though the chassis of the Nikon S3M is the same as in the Nikon S3, both the film chamber and the viewfinder had to be modified for the 17.5 x 24 mm format in the Nikon S3M.

The small chromed fluted lever on the right is intended for selecting the parallax corrected bright-line frames for the aforementioned primes.

Windows of the rangefinder (on left of the image) and the viewfinder (on the right of the image) of the Nikon S3M, whose effective RF baselength of 60.5 mm and VF 1x manification are better than the ones featured by a modern digital Leica M9 (47,1 mm and 0.68x respectively) and on a par with the formidable Leica M3 (63 mm and 0.91x).

The life-size viewfinder of the Nikon S3M is amazing, lacking any geometrical distortion and enables the photographer to compose and focus with his both eyes open, shooting in real time and with great levels of discretion thanks to the exceedingly short lag of its horizontal focal-plane shutter whose curtains are made of Habutae silk and generates a whispering almost imperceptible noise when shooting.

Detail of the self-timer, adjustable between 3 and 10 seconds.

Gorgeous top panel of the Nikon S3M 17.5 x 24 mm half-frame format rangefinder camera sold at Westlicht. The configuration of the dials, controls, buttons and components stem from a wise criterion: to be instantly available for the photographer´s decisions and use.

This is an all-metal handmade professional camera and masterpiece of painstaking engineering, built on the keynote of being able to flawlessly yield high quality pictures throughout many decades of hard work under all kind of environments.

On far right of this top panel can be seen the big dial with 72 exposures film counter which had to be modified with respect to the 24 x 36 mm format Nikon S3, whose film counter had capacity for 36 exposures.

Upwards image of the Nikon S3M showing its baseplate in which can be seen from left to right the film type (ASA speed) reminder dial, the tripod socket, the Nippon Kogaku Tokyo logo engraved with pantograph under which is the camera series number, and the lock for removing and replacing camera back.

Text and Photos: José Manuel Serrano Esparza