March 7, 2016

Finally, the perfect Leica Handgrip / M-Grip for the Leica

super compact and more functional version of the Leica Handgrip M or GMP M-Grip
Maybe it's that I'm getting older, I'd like to think that I'm getting wiser but recently (that's the last two years or so in my world) I've been working to make my gear (and my stuff) smaller and lighter while doing more.  I pulled the large battery grips off my full frame Canons in favor of smaller Arca Swiss mounts, I just finished a beautiful composite 4x5 point and shoot camera (I'll be posting it soon) and I'm working on what I hope will be the lightest full feature 4x5 camera out there.

Less is more. More slows you down, when you carry less you think more and shoot less too. If everything aligns properly you'll emerge with better, more compelling and more interesting images.  A group of fellow photographer/friends are doing a picture a day project throughout 2016 and someone who couldn't commit to the project said something that stuck with my, 'if your goal is to create interesting images...'  forget the rest, that statement really stuck with me and I suspect the others in the group.  Days have passed where I haven't shot a frame, then all at once, creativity flows through my veins and I'll shoot several images on my theme in a single day.  If I was carrying a large camera or a ton of gear, I this wouldn't be practical or even possible.  But downsizing everything has payed off big time.  Because I've stuck with an M6, I can carry it over my shoulder or in my backpack just about everywhere I go and it's at the ready when the situation presents itself.
even my backup 'trunk-tripod' has an Arca-Swiss clamp
Nice, I've downsized everything except my words, sorry...lets talk about the Leica grip.  A while back I bought into the Arca Swiss Quick release system, super fast, crazy solid and easier on my gear then wrenching it on and off the sticks all the time.

Which brings me the grip. I've always had a Leica or at least it seems that way, first got an M2 as a student at University of Missouri St. Louis, upgraded to an M4-2 when I was at Brooks, added an Abrahamsson Rapidwinder and used that combo for years before upgrading to a gorgeous M6 Panda, the same camera I'm using for my 2016 picture-a-day project.

Shooting film today is completely different then it was ten or fifteen years ago before digital was the norm. You shoot film slower, more methodically, it's's expensive! Motor drives really aren't as critical as they used to be, if you need to shoot quick, digital is better or more economical for sure. I still have a winder on my original F1, the electronic shutter release is smoother then the manual shutter release, I feel my images are sharper with the winder. While its nice to always have then next frame advanced, the added size and weight of the winder and 4 AA's is a downside, but sharper images makes it worthwhile.

I don't need the fast advance or added weight of the Rapidwinder so I picked up the Leica Handgrip #14405 (pictured above on the overpass) which is designed for most all Leica M film cameras except for the smaller CL or larger M5. Its a nice addition to the camera and ironically it will work with the Arca-Swiss system but not fantastically. The width is perfect allowing it to fit into the Arca clamp. It holds tight for horizontal shots and while I've used it for verticals, I'm constantly worried it will slip. Looking for a compact solution with both an Arca dove tail and handgrip, I was coming up dry. I found the original M-Grip from GMP products on eBay which I thought could be machined down but after a trip to the machine shop it wouldn't work.
the completed grip, Leica Handgrip M and the Really Right Stuff plate

My next idea was to remove the hand grip portion from the GMP grip and tap a Really Right Stuff B30 grip to accept the upright. The placement of the screws were off and in all honestly, I was surprised how big the B30 plate is. Being close to giving up, I thought I'd opt for a small Arca Plate and after some trolling I found beautiful and compact Acratech plate which additionally was less then $40.00!  The plate fits the bottom of the camera with half liner the protrusion of the Really Right Stuff and less height of the original M-Grip. Super small and rock solid on the tripod. I wish the 1/4-20 slot was not recessed but its the best plate out there by far.
it probably wont win a beauty contest but its a perfect match for the camera
Talking with friend, I noticed a grip for the Sony RX100 called a WAG-RX100 that's available on Amazon or eBay. It finally arrived a couple days ago and between my Dremel and a couple files, my M6 is FINALLY sitting pretty. I wish it looked more 'Leica' and less 'MacGyver', but it does exactly what I wanted, a grip that's smaller and lighter then anything commercially the is compatible with my Arca Swiss clamps. 
screws holding the handgrip between the plate and the Acratech plate 
You will need a couple cuts of sheet aluminum (available at the hobby store), stainless steel M2-4 (ironic right?) machine screws which are now available at Home Depot and you are in business.  
If you wanna build one and have specific questions just drop me a line.  In the meantime, I'll be emailing Scott Dordick, photographer, machinist and CEO of Acratech to see if can make a prettier version, you should too, here is the company email, I can't find a direct one for Scott:

March 5, 2016

sad day for experimental camera builders :(

Yesterday Ric Globus, one third of the powerhouse known as the Globus Brothers, suddenly and unexpectedly passed while creating art in his Florida home. Many camera builders still look to the accomplishments that came from this powerhouse trio for inspiration. The SpinShot and Travelwide are just two recent examples that can be directly linked back to the Globus Brothers.
I was just getting to know Ric after he bought the Globuscope 4x5 that I refurbished and sold at the end of last year.  Through Facebook we chatted several times a week about cameras both new and old.  I regularly shared the cameras I was building with him and he was generous with support and encouragement. 

His passing is a loss for the photo and art community, may his creative curiosity and enthusiasm live on...