I’m as much of a Leica fan as anyone but I have to admit, the Japanese reincarnate of Voigtländer seriously one-upped the German Leica gods when they designed their T-Winder.
Let’s begin at the beginning.
Leica introduced a few rapidwinder devices for it’s screw mount 35mm rangefinder cameras in the 1930’s or 40’s. The exact history seems to be a bit muddy as these are very rare. By the time bayonet mount Leica M cameras came about in the 50’s, these several early rapidwinder designs evolved into the more common Leicavit.
A rapidwinder is a mechanical device that fits onto the bottom of a 35mm camera and changes the method of film advance/shutter charging from knob or lever as mounted on the top plate to a trigger that is pulled roughly half the length of the camera from underneath. The trigger features a spring return as well as a means of concealing the trigger when not in use. As a result of the larger size of this mechanism to the conventional charge/advance, it’s horizontal orientation and location under the camera, the photographer can fire off shots in more rapid succession than previously possible.
Nikon and Canon both adopted the idea for some of their 35mm rangefinders and by the 1960’s motorized winders became available for use with professional and upper end 35mm SLR’s. These became more or less standard and even integrated into professional SLR cameras for the next several decades. Yet another modern concept that started with Leica.
I used to buy motordrives for all my capable SLR’s, and still find them quite fun, but as time passed, I grew tired of feeding them batteries and lugging their considerable additional size and weight. Not to mention their noise. Fine if you want to make a bride feel like the paparazzi are after her during pre-bridal, but no good at the ceremony! So the earlier, all mechanical, non-electronic, non-motorized rapidwinders became more appealing to me.
My favorite is not the $500-1000+ Leicavit that fits my M6 but the $200 Voigtländer T-Winder that fits my Voigtländer Bessa R2.
The T-Winder is not made of brass and steel. It’s name is not inscribed and paint-filled. And nowhere on it can one find the cash register bell inducing “Ka-Ching” buzzwords “Leica” or even “Germany”. But Voigtländer’s T-Winder is quantifiably, THREE TIMES BETTER THAN A LEICAVIT. At least for use by an actual photographer, not camera hoarder or salesperson. Allow me to explain!
Reason #1 why the Voigtländer T-Winder is 3 times better than the Leica Leicavit
Voigtländer’s T-Winder provides a small front hand grip.
This may seem trivial but think about it. By mounting a rapidwinder to your camera, you are increasing it’s weight and size. AND, you are going to be working the camera faster. All good reasons to get a more authoritative grip on your camera! Leica M bodies are somewhat slippery with their density, round sides and flat front and back. I sometimes use a Grip M on my M6 when not using a strap. But Voigtländer addressed this by incorporating a grip into their T-Winder.
Very smart. Smarter than Leica.
Reason #2 why the Voigtländer T-Winder is 3 times better than the Leica Leicavit
Hey since we now have this smart, vertical grip added to our rangefinder and have created some additional real estate, why not add, MORE STRAP LUGS?!
That’s right, the T-winder adds two more strap lugs to your camera so you can choose to hang your strap in the conventional way or by the side of the body.
This is a great feature for a rangefinder because the top strap anchors can cause one’s neck-strap to fall in front of the viewfinder, rangefinder, or even taking lens, whilst shooting.
This whole Leica design is just making less and less sense!
With the neck-strap on the side of the body, you can hold it out of the way of the finders and lens. I also find that carrying the camera is a bit more balanced this way and allows me to swing it up to my eye more effortlessly.
You’re on a roll Voigtländer. Keep it coming!
Reason #3 why the Voigtländer T-Winder is 3 times better than the Leica Leicavit
The Leica shooters in the audience who use their Leica on a tripod know the deal, unlike SLR’s, the tripod socket on Leica rangefinders is on the far side of the bottom plate, probably for structural reasons. This is actually handy for vertical positions on the long Leica tabletop tripod head. But when the Leicavit is mounted, the socket moves to the center. It reminds me of watching Robin Hood: Men in Tights and the mole on the Sheriff’s face keeps moving.
The T-Winder declares “no more of this non-sense! Let there be tripod sockets properly positioned for all!” The good people at Voigtländer thoughtfully installed TWO tripod sockets on the T-winder; one in the center position and one at the far side. Use whichever one you prefer. No worries.
Now look, I know what you’re saying, this whole article is a moot point because if you have a Leica M, you can’t use the T-Winder with it anyway, so it doesn’t matter which winder is better.
But listen, if you own a Leica M and are considering buying a Leicavit, you might also consider buying a Voigtlander Bessa model of your choosing AND a T-winder, because you’d be spending about the same amount of money!
There are plenty of other sites where Voigt Bessas are compared to Leica M’s so I’ll let you Google your way over to them for that discussion. But before you do, I’ve gotta tell you, for FAST SHOOTING, the Voigt Bessa body, equipped with a T-Winder MAKES MUCH MORE SENSE than a Leica M! Here’s three quick reasons for that:
1–You can use a T-Winder
2–Loading/unloading a Bessa is much faster
3–Loading/unloading a Bessa is MUCH faster!!!
Thanks for reading, I hope my comments have been useful or entertaining at best!