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Which model of Leica SM Robert Capa used in his work

Esteban Delgado , Jun 02, 2003; 08:29 a.m.

So simple, I have just finished to read "Blood and champagne" but I still do not know which models of Leica Rober Capa used during Spanish Civil War and after WWII. Thanks

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Sal DiMarco , Jun 02, 2003; 08:53 a.m.

Esteban, During the Spanish Civil War Capa probably used either a Leica D or Model II. These cameras were made from Feb. 1932 thru 1948 or a Leica F or model III which was introduced in May of 1933. However, given how poor he was at the time, I don't think he could afford a new Leica. Afterwards, he used Contax cameras. During WWII Contax IIs and post war Contax IIas. WHen he died he was carrying a Contax and a Nikon S with a 50mm lens. I saw the camera (complete with blood stains) at an exhibit of his work at the old Niokon House in New York many years ago. Happy Snaps, Sal

Richard Williams , Jun 02, 2003; 09:10 a.m.

Here's a page that suggests he used a IIIa:

http://www.reportajes-jmserrano.com/t13ij.m.serrano.htm

but the author provides no source for his information, and may be just guessing. 'Blood and Champagne' doesn't look terribly reliable about equipment, either - the author mentions Capa's 'Leica' in one of the WWII chapters, when other sources suggest he was using a Contax, though the Contax does get a mention in the D-day chapter (which draws heavily on Capa's own 'Slightly out of focus'). Even Richard Whelan, Capa's 'authorized' biographer, gets things wrong in his intro to the 'Definitive Collection', where he talks about Capa using a Contax 'single lens reflex' on D-day. It seems Capa continued to use a Contax (rangefinder!) during and after WWII (he's carrying one next to a Leica-toting George Rodger in a well-known photograph), and was fatally injured with one in his hand. He also used a Rollei, used for (e.g.) the pre-invasion pictures before D-day, and in the mirror self-portrait with John Steinbeck.

W J Gibson , Jun 02, 2003; 09:38 a.m.

Watched the recent Capa documentary on PBS, from the images shown there, he used a TLR Rolleiflex or cord, it was a little hard to see which, quite a lot....for instance the shot of him when he parachuted into Germany in 1945 across the Rhine, he is carrying his TLR. That surprised me slightly. The other camera that got shown seemed to be a Contax. It wasnt so clear what camera he used in Spain.

Chad Hahn , Jun 02, 2003; 10:07 a.m.

The only picture I can remember seeing of him with a 35mm he was carrying a Contax. Incidentally, the Contax was the 35mm that Ansel Adams prefered.

H. P. , Jun 02, 2003; 10:33 a.m.

I'm never entirely sure where the idea he used a Leica comes from because everything I've ever seen suggests he preferred Zeiss. There's a shot of him using a Super Ikonta that I saw somewhere, I think it was taken by Margaret Bourke-White.

Funnily enough, in last week's Amateur Photographer, there's an article about George someone or other who was another founding member of Magnum. In it there's a mention that Capa would rather spend his money on Champagne so I wonder if he spent that much money on cameras.

Thomas T , Jun 02, 2003; 11:39 a.m.

Pictures of him shooting Trotsky (with film, I mean) very early in his career while working out of Paris seems to be with a Leica III model (can't tell specific model). The bulk of his work out of Berlin and then US and all subsequent work was with a Contax IIa, 50 sonnar 1.5, and a Rolleiflex (can't tell which exact model). His famous D-Day photos, storming the beach, all Contax. And tragically, he did indeed die with a Contax in hand in Indochina. Brilliant photog and photographs, he really had brass ones. Only photographer on the first wave of landings on D-Day, parachuted with Airborne in Europe.

Ray . , Jun 02, 2003; 02:16 p.m.

One thing that struck me watching the 'American Masters' PBS documentary on Capa was that in photographs of him his own personality was so powerful the camera itself seemed of little consequence. His power as a photographer was within himself, not the camera he used.

Esteban Delgado , Jun 02, 2003; 04:52 p.m.

Dear Ray: I have cried every time I open the book 'Heart of Spain' seeing Robert's work in Spain during the Civil War, the worst one anyone can live, as maybe US people and Spanish people only know. Some times I have asked my self if someone of those persons photographed by Capa was a relative of mine and even one seems my father, but the date is not correct. But as a professional journalist and photographer, as well as Leica collector, is very strange that not even one of all the answers in the forum are sure of which model before and during Spanish war not after WWII was working with, only that he used Contax in Normandy as well as in Indochine. Maybe his brother Cornell could give us the right answer, but maybe is ask for too much. thanks anyway to all of you.

Andrew Hall , Jun 03, 2003; 12:31 a.m.

I think Capa's switch from Leica to Contax/Rolleiflex (both sporting Zeiss glass) is quite telling...If he was alive today, he would be something of a pariah here because of his predilection of everready cases and his "self-excommunication." ;-)

More on Capa the person, not his cameras.


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