Film Friday with the Leica M7 and Noctilux F/1 By John Tuckey

Film Friday with the Leica M7 and Noctilux F/1

By John Tuckey

Hi Brandon, hope you’re well.

Hands down, most of what I shoot is digital. But I always make an effort to shoot film ‘in between’. I frequently screw it up, but that’s the point. I believe that screwing it up with film makes me a better digital photographer as well. Especially in the case of B&W which I insist on developing myself – double jeopardy, double dust!

Anyway, here’s just a few shots to share from a recent shoot with the lovely Frankii Wilde. Bar one, these shots were taken on an M7 with a Noctilux f1 at f1.4, the film is Kodak Portra 400, drugstore developed and scanned by me and then converted to B&W in LR5.

The one exception is the shot in the window, which is ilford delta 400 shot on a Rolleiflex 3.5f, developed and scanned by moi.

For those interested in comparing film to digital the corresponding digital shots are on my 500px gallery at, all the digital shots are with the Leica Monochrom and the same f1 Noctilux lens at the same aperture and ISO.

All the best

John Tuckey







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  1. Got my M6 and Summilux f1.4 out a couple of weeks ago and finished off a roll that has been in there for years. Love one or two of the results. Have bought more Ilford 400 and maybe even a new 35mm voightlander. Was contemplating Fuji x100 for street shooting, but I have the perfect camera already and the 50 at 1.4 is great for portraits. M

  2. Are you sure it’s the lens that is the issue? It seems something should have been sharp shooting a 1.0 lens at 1.4. I’m wondering if it’s your scanner. Even the Rolleiflex shot is a bit soft. Have you looked at the negatives on a light table using a loupe to confirm? What kind of scanner are you using?

  3. Re: focusing wide open: it’s just incredibly difficult.

    If you are using a tripod and doing still life you can just decrease the aperture, focus and then dial up — I have had to do that at times. Usually I focus on something vertical in the same plane and then shift.

    But, any lens close to f1 wide open has but a cm or so plane of focus, so you will get things out of focus. Over and over.

    The bigger problem is that you will need to filter, heavily, the lens in anything but low light — even at 1/1000th (which is as fast as my M6 goes or 1/2000th (the Bessa) you will be overexposed. This is one area where a digital, with the faster shutter speed, is better.

    On the photos, it’s the composition. The fact it is slightly out of focus does not matter.

  4. “Not in focus?” Why not in focus?. If you shoot with film, you can’t get pics looking sharp as made with a digital camera. This is why Silverefex is so popular: because from a digital and sharp pic, you can try to get the nearest softness, the grainy aspect and the feeling of a film. If you want a better “resolution”, go to digital. The digital world has changed our way to consider a picture. Never forget this. To my eyes, these photographies are focus. Maybe the choice of a short dof can give the feeling it’s not focus, so I would have shot with a 1 or 2 less steps of aperture: better contrast, better overall sharpness, but that’s all.
    I like these pics, even if it could be considered an “exercise in style”, it’s a well done one: they sublimate the model and if they give some nostalgy of a lost era, I think they have hit their spot. Obviously, this is only my way to see. Good shots.

  5. I have been researching about rangefinder base length and how it’s hard to focus wide open and with portrait lenses. Haven’t had the change to shoot with RF camera before. Can someone make a video that displays the focusing problem with wide open? What i don’t understand is how can longer base length make the focusing accurate.
    50mm f0.95 with M9 base length of 69,25 mm will give you 78,8% focus accuracy.
    But when i input in calc base length of 200mm then the focus accuracy is allready 226,2%

  6. What about illunination scheme? I always think that it’s far more important than film/digital debate or lens/camera, especially for thumbnails web shot like these. Very nice works :).

  7. Great shots John. I actually like the colour one the best. I clicked on the images to view them full size and there is a lot of ‘debris’ on them. Is that from the scanning or is that intentional?

    Best regards

    • Part of the charm of film to me (the little film I’ve shot) is that you take the good with the bad. The debris is probably dust from scanning or the development process. These are reasonably clean, I’ve had worse. Film generally gives you an older grainy vintage look and I think the odd imperfection adds to that.

    • Lovely stuff, John. But I second Huss regarding the “debris”. I use this same work flow and scan with a V500 – which I find to be just fine. And dust on the film is a major problem – I’m as clean and careful as I can be and still usually wind up with 5-10 minutes on each shot removing dust spots in LR. Is it as convenient as shooting digital? No way. Is it more satisfying? When I get it right, hell yeah. Love it.

      But your debris here does’t seem to be dust. These are tiny amoeba like spots that look like they’re from evaporation. Maybe processing? Or maybe a weird artifact from your dust removal function on your scanner (I leave mine off; never works well). I wonder if they’d still be there if you wet wiped the negs? I’m very curious, and would love to hear your thoughts.

      Cheers and thanks for a great post, Jim

      • Yeah, upon closer inspection there are scratches, but those blobs look like air bubbles in processing…Dust and some imperfections are going to happen no matter how careful, but a good professional processing (or doing it yourself if you practice) solves the majority of my blobs and such. and then a good cleaning before scanning, and it really only takes a minute or two to hit “J” in Photoshop to heal the little bit of imperfections that are left.

        I would actually love to see John use some Pan F 50 with this same model…that film would look great with her!

    • That debris is why drug store processing is not a good idea. They usually scratch up your negs. Also, most people don’t clean their negs before scanning. Get a bulb with a brush (for both sides) and a micro-fibre cloth (only on the non-emulsion side) and clean those negs before scanning! And if you’re scanning color, use ICE!!!

      These are great shots, and interesting shooting color and then converting to BW. I am guessing you shot color because you don’t process your own, or was there another reason.

      • ah, all the digital material from the shoot was on the monochrom, so it was exclusively b&w. so for the film i went for colour as a contrast to the monochrom work, i also suspected she’d look good on portra, and i wanted to find out.
        why convert back to b&w for my keepers…. well i’m just b&w obsessed 😉

    • that will be drug store crud followed by a dust fest in the scanning. if im shooting film that ‘matters’ i send it off to palm lab in birmingham for dev+scan to keep it crud free. don’t forget, up until now my stuff that ‘matters’ is usually the digital shots. my ‘in between’ shots i do myself in b&w or just drugstore dev and then scan myself. i’m just not worried about scan quality on this stuff, its more about getting exposures manually, getting a feel for film characteristics, and generally learning so when the day comes i do want to shoot something that matters, its there 😉

  8. John,

    Lovely model, but running down your images I stopped at the one with your model sat in the window bay as something struck me about its IQ which wasn’t shared by the others. Then your narrative revealed why, it was the Rollei negative. I have an M6/R7 and Rollei 3.5f from the days when I did my own d&p, and there is no way even Leica neg can compare.

    My enlarged Rollei negs were streets ahead, and even today when I scan both formats, 35mm doesn’t stand a chance in comparison. The good big ‘un always beats the good little ‘un any day.

    By the way, I’m in the UK and your link didn’t work.

    • thanks terry, yes I agree it is a massive difference between medium format and 35mm, i can see me doing a lot more with med format, I have a shiny ‘new’ Contax 645 to play with over summer!

      looks like the link has a comma or space tagged at the end above, if you copy and paste it rather than click it, it will work 😉

    • I’m with Terry here – love this shot, love the contrast and the pose. Very classic. Likewise have a Rollei 3.5F and it can deliver some lovely negs and shots.

      Lovely series overall.

  9. Well, the shots are gorgeous! But the process of shooting color film and then converting to bw is weird, i have to say. Why bother, if you can shoot bw(even c41, if this is the only thing they do at your lab)film in the beginning ?

    • ah well, my digital shots where on the monochrom, so it seemed a nice idea to get some colour on film rather than with the M9… and the colour is nice, but im very focused on b&w so for me i converted them just as id have converted M9 shots.

  10. At this point we get that focus this lens is a pain in the a**
    Almost non of these pictures are in focus…

    • Theres just no denying it, focusing at f1 is harsh with a capital H! on the digital M’s i can review on a big screen, check and rerun if needed, but no such luxury on the film of course. My own end conclusion was that the lens needed recalibrating and its off with leica having that done now, so no excuses next time – just practice, practice, practice 🙂

    • Reading comments like the one Harold is making just gets me laughing. Obviously he is a gear head and not a true photographer. The beauty in the photo’s goes past all the technical BS that clogs our brains when it comes to cameras and lenses. Great job John and keep on doing what your doing.

      • Noticing an entire picture being out of focus does not make one a gear head and disqualify them from being a photographer. It is true that artistically one may want out of focus images to convey something but that should determinable by the viewer. Standard portraits usually do not fall into that category.

        • This is my point exactly. The way that you addressed the photo was what I would consider the right way to critique an image. I was just being an ass to Harold because he did not pick out any positives to the photo’s. The technical aspects of photography are important and yes the photo’s should have been in focus a little more 🙂 All in good fun!

  11. Goodness,these are fantastic. The model is gorgeous. Love the 5 and 6. If this is film, i dont know why I bother with digital.

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