The Digital Journalist

Bill Pierce
Nuts & Bolts

"Leicas for Lefty's"

Bill Pierce

Thank God Tom Abrahamsson is left-eyed. Left-eyed Leica photographers are always sticking their thumbs in their eyes when they use the thumbwinds on their cameras. It's not a problem for right-eyed photographers or even left-eyed users of motorized SLRs. Indeed, my EOSs don't even have thumb winds.

But that small, quiet camera, the Leica, that sees so well in dim light, has a thumb wind. And I am left-eyed. And I am tired of taking the camera from my eye to wind my film. Or sticking my thumb in my eye when I forget. Tom has solved the problem.

He has made a rapid-trigger basewinder, in essence an improved version of the old Leicavit basewinder made in the early sixties for the Leica M2. Worked by the left hand fingers that are not focusing the lens, the basewinder can advance the film at a rate of 2 to 2 1/2 frames per second. Yes, faster than a speeding thumb. The best I can do with a thumb wind is about 1 1/2 frames per second.

Far more important, I do not have to displace my camera from my eye and lose my concentration on the subject in order to advance the film.

Certainly, for anyone, left or right-eyed, using the center-mounted auxillary finders with the 21, 28 or 90mm lenses, winding without pulling your eye from the viewfinder is easier and faster with the Rapidwinder.

That can't be a full explanation for the popularity of the winder with you right-eyed people. The best I can fathom from my right-eyed bretheren is that the winder adds a "near-motor experience" without the additional weight, size, noise or dependance upon batteries of a conventional motor.

Oh, and you also get a centered tripod socket in addition to the normal Leitz socket, and a lot of weird looks from Leica collectors.

And, most important, since those collectors have scoffed up all the old M2s and Leicavits, the Rapidwinder fits on the current M6 and the M4-2/M4-P. Tom also makes a version for the M2.

Here are the specifications of the winder as copied from Tom's website: "The current version fits the M6, the M4-P and the M4-2 without modification to the camera. It adds 14mm to the height of the camera and 125 grams to the weight, the multiple pin clutch used in the drive allows the user to shoot very fast. It is possible to achieve up to 2-2, 5 frames/second with experience. The material used in the Rapidwinder is high-tensile-strength alloy, stainless steel, and brass. The drive is a reinforced toothed belt, quieter than the original chain drive of the MPs as well as less prone to stretching. The original Leicavit MP was a very complex design, containing 50+ parts in the housing. The Rapidwinder, on the other hand, contains less than 10 individual parts and can, in most cases, be serviced by the user."

The winder is $425 ($525 for the version that fits the M2).

Tom's email is His address is Tom Abrahamsson, #203-1512 Yew Street, Vancouver. B.C., V6K 3E4, Canada. Tel: 604-731-0036; Fax: 604-731-0868.

Tom travels a lot--Germany, China, Japan, Cuba, and even Boston in the last few months. But you can drop by his website anytime at You get to see a few more things a photographer who is a good machinist can come up with.

My favorite is a "goggled" 21mm lens. Tom designed it. Reinhold Mueller, a Leica legend, executes it. With the 21 on a rangefinder camera, you normally use an auxiliary finder. Leitz once made a "goggled" 35, it had an optical attachment which expanded the 50mm frame of the M3 to one for a 35. Tom and Reinhold add those goggles to a 21mm lens and produce a lens that needs no auxiliary finder on a current Leica. Sounds very useful, but it does pose the question, "What did they do with all the 35mm lenses that were originally attached to the goggles?"

Bill Pierce

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