Shooting film with a Leica M6 By Kjetil Andre Dalheim

Shooting film with a Leica M6

By Kjetil Andre Dalheim

In my last “inspiration” I wrote some word on my thoughts on going from a state of the art DSLR to rangefinder and Leica. Gear is not all, but changing to Leica is to me more than going from Canon to Nikon. Using rangefinder, manual focus etc change the way I take pictures. Wanting to challenge myself even more, I started to look into shooting film again. Someone once said that shooting film Leica is something all Leica users should do, so then….

I love my M(240), but adding a film Leica had two purposes for me. First the change in the process with using analog medium would challenge me and also give me a final product which I really like. I love to print (as big as possible), and film produces a look that cannot be copied with any digital camera/SW (in MY opinion). The other purpose, was that I wanted a small, cheap (in Leica terms) camera to have with me ALL of the time. I could have bought a Sony, Fuji or even digital Leica that fit in a pocket, but how boring is that 😉

After some research I concluded that M6, and M6TTL particulary was what I needed. Many reasons to choose something else, but for me there where a couple of important things. The M6 has a meter. No need to make the challenge too big! The M6 is mostly mechanical as opposed to an M7. M6TTL have have a way better shutter dial than the Classic. Last but not least, I found a MINT Leica M6TTL for sale here in Norway! It was also 0.72 viewfinder which I find practical as I shoot 28-50-90mm.

I love 50mm, and use my 50 Lux “all” the time on my M. To make things compact and not have to move lenses around I bought a 50 Summarit for the M6. I was now ready for some film shooting!

Analog vs digital

There is a lot of discussions of which is best of digital and analog. My conclusion so far is that I love both! One of them will not replace the other. Both methods have some advantage to the other, and I think shooting both is more “relaxing”, as you will not try to make one method be the other.

First of all analog is not instant. In today society that is almost unheard of, but one of the things I really enjoy. You take the picture, but no LCD to chimp, you wait for the film to be developed, picking the best negatives to go through the scanning process, process in LR/PS and print. All of this really gives you the feeling of creating something. Sitting down a looking at the final print on fine art paper is just lovely. On the other side, seizing a moment and share it online instantly with friends and family is something I appreciate to be able to do, so for me both worlds offer something.

Not being instant also gives another benefit that I did not think off. Taking a picture and not seeing it before it returns from development maybe weeks later, give you a distance to the picture. It really makes you look and make an objective assessment of the photo. Looking at something for a split second on the LCD might not give the best impression, and you might just delete the picture trying to reduce the massive amount to go through afterwards.

Film is more expensive ( if you forget the cost of the camera/lens). Taking photos by trial and error is both difficult and expensive with film. That makes you slow down. I take fewer pitures, but have just as many or maybe more keepers than with digital. On the other side, when conditions are difficult and the result is critical digital is by far the best.

M6 does not have any A mode, so learning manual is needed. The meter is pretty good, but again having no LCD to look at, you start to think of exposures. I have learned the “Sunny 16” rule, and use far more time to get the correct exposure.

Today we get new cameras on the market with new sensors almost every day. With increasingly sophisticated software we can also make the picture look exactly the way we want even before it comes out of the camera. All of that is fine, but with film I have found an even greater joy by the fact that each time you load a new roll in the camera you have a new sensor! The planning and anticipating with choosing a specific film with all its unique look, is far more fun. It is almost like trying to pick the perfect red wine for a specific dish.

Pixel peeping and 100% view…. I am one of them when I shoot digital. One of the benefits of Leica is the superb quality of the files. I love it when it, but with film I do not get the same result in regards to sharpness. It is possible, but I simply do not care that much. Slight OOF pictures… doesent matter. Grain… beutifull. If I only shot film, I might be more concerned, but I am not.


Using film today is for many, including myself, a combination of old and new technology. I get my film developed at a studio close by (for now at least), but use a scanner to digitalize and finally print. I did some research before getting my first roles of film back. I ended up with a dedicated film scanner (Plustek 8200i). From what I see of examples they have an edge over flat-bed when it comes to 35mm film. From what I have learned so far, the software is by far the most important.

My current workflow consists of 4 programs. It might seem like a big job, but it is really quite fast and gives (in my opinion) descent result. I use Vuescan to make a linear scan. Vuescan is easy, fast and cheaper than alternative software. I open the file in PS, where I use ColorPerfect ( Plugin run through Filter in PS) to adjust the image and convert to positive. ColorPerfect is really THE key to get the best output! Finally I import the picture in Lightroom to give it the final tweak. This whole process from scanning is finished takes normally 1-4 minutes, which I think is acceptable.

M(240) vs M6

This is not meant as a product review, but I thought I might give some thoughts on pros/Cons on these two (wonderful) cameras. Both my cameras are in silver, and to be honest the M6 looks and feels like a “slim” M240. Both feel very solid, and the M240 is still a relative small camera, but the M6 has a slight edge in size. Small is not always best, as even the 50 Lux feels a little “big” on the M6. The Noctilux is almost a no-go.. Shutter sound on both are very nice, though most silent on the M6. The only think I consider to upgrade on my M6 is the glass in front of the focus screen (not sure that is the correct name..). In some light it makes the focus very difficult due to flare on the focus patch. This is due to missing coating, but can be upgraded to one with coating. As both mine are 0.72 viewfinder, it is really easy to change between the two cameras.

On the M240 I use A-priority almost all the time. Trying manual after using the M6, I actually find the M6 meter to be easier and more responsive as to signals. Having the opportunity to use A-mode speed up the shooting a bit, at least for candid pictures. But again a did not get the M6 for its speed 😉 I long thought about having a second digital M as backup. Looking at it now I think the M6 with no need for batteries (metering yes, but it still work without), mostly mechanical might be a better choice.

Summilux vs Summarit

The 50 Summilux is surely one of the best 50mm around. It already had a 90mm Summarit and was very impressed with this “low cost” Summarit series. Receiving the 50 Summarit I was exited to see what it would be like. In short, I LOVE this lens! It is SMALL, sharp and very well-built. Compared to the Lux you lack some f-stops, but from f2.8 , sharpness, contrast and colors are just as good as the Lux. Build quality is very good on both lenses, but the aperture ring I would say is even better on the Summarit than the Lux, and the best I have tried on any Leica lens.


To be able to shoot Leica film and digital is really the best of two worlds! I love the process of working with film, and I have already made changes to how I think, shoot, and process my photos. Some examples follow from the first roles in my beloved M6TTL 🙂 Color photos are Kodak Portra 400, and the B&W are from Kodak Tri-X and Fuji Acros 100.













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  1. Hi Kjetil,

    I just recently bought a M6TTL black paint version about 2 weeks ago and so far have shot 7 rolls of film with it. Absolutely loving the experience so far. Just a few questions regarding the development and scanning process.

    While I have only gotten back one roll from the lab, my girlfriend is a film user too and she shot various color film with her M7. I have tried 3 different labs here in Singapore and the results always look a little bit weird to me, definitely not as good as the ones you shared here, both color consistency and resolution wise. I have thought about getting a scanner as well to take more control in the workflow (my buddy recommended the same scanner you are using), but was deterred by a Youtube video introducing the scanner which says the time to scan one frame is about 5-10 minutes, even 20 minutes. And I’ve also read that scanning is just as difficult as developing and as a rookie it is very likely that you’ll make mistakes and mess up the results.

    So I just wanted to ask how long did it normally take for you to scan one frame with the 8200i? What settings did you choose? Will the speed differ if I shoot predominantly black and white?

    Thank you!


  2. Lovely photos Kjetl.

    I have a question about your scanning process. You wrote:

    “I open the file in PS, where I use ColorPerfect ( Plugin run through Filter in PS) to adjust the image and convert to positive.”

    I so far have had labs scan my negatives when they develop the film so I am unfamiliar with the process. When you scan the negatives, does the scanner have a setting to convert it to a positive image? I use Lightroom, does that do it? Sorry for the rookie question.

    Best regards

    • Don`t be afraid to ask, I am also I rookie in this area! I will try to explain my work process somewhat better:

      I start with making a LINEAR scan using the program Vuescan. You can use other software, but I find this easy to use. The point with making a linear scan is to have a “RAW” file that will have as much information as possible from the scan. If you did your adjustments in this part, you will be likely to remove some information from the file, making adjustments later more difficult. I will use 16bit files for B&W and 48bit for color. So after step one, you will now have a .tif file that is a “raw negative file”.

      Second step is to open this .tif file in PS. Having installed ColorPerfect, I will no choose Colorperfect from the Filter menu in PS. The file is open in ColorPerfect and it will look as a positive. Here you can change a lot of parameters. I mainly change just film type and maybe some highlight. Save in Coloperfect and you will be back in PS with positive image. You will then save in PS, and be ready for next step.

      Third and last step for me (you could do this in PS, but I am not that good in PS), is to import the saved .tif which is now a positive image, and do the final tweaking. I find myself doing very small changes to these files, as they are quite good when going through colorperfect.

      So there it is. Hope it is understandable. You might also have a look on this video . I do not do all of his steps for scanning. You will see that he lock exposure, and find the right black level. I do not manage to see any big difference doing that.



  3. Looking at your photos, I don’t see why anyone would need any higher image quality than these. I used an M6 for quite a while, but my scanning experience was not a happy one. The results were good–even from old slides from the 1960s, but I just got tired messing with this extra step. On the other hand, I liked working with the scanned digital files in PS and printing as well. I soon beam aware that I was working with digital photographs of my film images. I was a scanner photographer, and the scanners were falling behind the quality of digital cameras that skip the film step. In your case, you seemed to have found a good digital “camera,” the Plustek 8200i, to “re-photograph” your film images with. Like I said, the final output is quite good, and the images remind me of the best features of my M6 film prints. Alas, my last role of film was a leftover Kodachrome 64 role that I used on the M6 and processed in Kanas on December 10, 2010, just weeks before they closed it down forever. I asked for them to send the canister back to me so I could bequeath it to my kids . . . “What’s that, Dad?” One of the slide images was spectacular and converted well to a digital file. I still liked holding and using that camera that any of my subsequent digital Leica’s, or Olympus M’s. Once I quit looking at that back of the camera after every shot! Very hard habit to break. My wife still wonders why I didn’t keep the M6 (what? to place next to my Pentax Spotmatic?), but I have quickly become immersed in processing 100s of “simple” digital files directly on PS. It really felt good to hold the M6, for sure. Footnote: you still have to take good photographs with whatever camera you use: all your images were good, regardless of the camera, but as usual the Leica added that extra 3-D depth that other cameras lacked and still do.

    • This is a bit off-topic, but…

      I probably shouldn’t say this, however, the first thing I notice when I look at these images is just how much “noise” (read: grain) many of them contain.

      Which raises an interesting point, I think: While folks debate the IQ and noise differential between m4/3 and “full-frame” (or even APS-C), it’s very clear that m4/3 image quality (color accuracy, dynamic range, and acuity) has far exceeded 35mm film, and indeed, is now much closer to a “full-frame” sensor in IQ than it is to celluloid emulsion.

      Not to mention that today’s lenses generally are of a superior optical design and capable of resolving more lines (a tangential benefit of having had to keep up with the advances in digital sensor technology).

      Just an observation.

      We’ve come a long way.

  4. I have both the M 6 (the ONE!) and M 240 typ… I bought a M 7 after the M6 but I sold it after a couple of months…I really prefered the old smaller speed dial…
    Amazingly, I had some inimaginable trouble with my first M6: a twisted main chaft (yes, the thick one supporting all the advancement system) Mr. Neves, the ONE Leica mechanic expert here in Portugal with several Leica awards couldn’t believe his eyes: he sent. the troubled back to Germany and then they sent me a new one…and we ‘ve been happy together eversince!

  5. It’s a cliche to say images look ‘filmic’ but in this case, they look, well, filmic….Lovely tones, especially the third one. Good old Portra – I used to shoot that all the time. I’ll refrain from commenting on the Suarez shirt as it would be in bad taste (pun alert).

  6. I cannot say that I like all of the photos, but the ones in colour have such a beautiful texture – they were obviously not acquired digitally!

    A couple of the images have technical problems. In shot #1, the highlights on the goat’s face are blown; in #5, the highlights in the background look like scans on an old computer – harsh tonal gradation.

    The final image is my favourite, partly because high contrast b&w always looks nicer than medium or low contrast IMHO.

    • Don it seem´s you never used or even know Kodachrome ?
      Just belive me this “was” the only “spectacular” color film ever………..

  7. Than you all for your positive respons!

    @Vlad: SO far I have not sent my camra body to adjustment. I had a M9 that needed adjustment, but did it myself. Found a tread on Leica User Forum that took me through it step by step.

  8. well done!! for me it is really not important which i like, because we all have different taste. i am not, digital-less. sold all my digital cameras and lens. i do have 4 film cameras, 2 of which are Leica. I just started shooting today with the m6, had only planned to shoot b&w, but i see i may need to buy a few rolls of Porta………today i went on a car related tour. out of 30 people, i was the only shooting film..why be like everyone else? when my father in law gave me his m3 at Christmas, he also gave me a Christmas card that read…………i hope you have as much fun shooting this as i have for all these years….and i plan to. hopefully show some of my photos soon……i agree with Mike..fantastic colors

    • I did not need to have the rangefinder adjusted in the last 17 years – working with 35 ‘Lux, 50 ‘Cron and 90 ‘Cron on the M4P and M6…

      It seems the need to readjust is mainly driven by the way you treat your camera. The cameras have been to four continents in these years…



      • Now Michael take a seat – I work with a Nikon F Photomic build in 1966
        even the long speeds run after all the time like a swiss clock.
        The Nikkor P 2,5/105 is on of the sharpest lens I ever used and best example for unbreakable craftmanship.
        Want a amazing wide-angle ? Take the Nikkor N 2,8/24.
        Want a universal standard lens ? take the Nikkor P 3,5/55 Micro.

        Total cost for the full mechanical equipment – 350 Dollar or less.

  9. Good pics, if you like the M6, and are only shooting 50mm then you will love the M3 , a more accurate rangefinder and with out the flare, plus a far less cluttered viewfinder.

  10. Hi Kjetil.
    I have to admit (not having, nor wanting children 🙂 ) that I generally have zero interest in photos of children (but I do like goats!). HOWEVER, I REALLY enjoyed looking at all of your images. The color and exposure (and focus) is really great and your composition is nice throughout. You have made me a believer. Congrats on your fine submission.
    Best regards,

    • Thanks a lot! I am not sure if I made you a beliver i kids or shooting film, but I can highly recomend both 🙂

  11. Beautiful photos. I had the same trepidation when using MP and sadly, I sold it. Not because of inability to learn, in fact I was actually getting better with it, but my wife started cursing every time I handed her the camera to take a picture of my and my kids. Once she mentioned: ” why can’t you spend a few hundred more and use a camera that can focus “? !!!! I’ve been thinking of getting the m7 recently.
    Nice photos btw. very well exposed. The last one is a winner.
    Best, Saty

    • Yep, my wife hated my m9 for that. Sold it a few years ago. The only thing that bugged me using M9 was rangefinder adjustment I got to send the camera for once in awhile.

      • I’ve had another experience! My wife said”Please! Not the Nikons, just your M3..”
        I was way quicker with usually only the 50mm Collapsible Summicron, rather than a full complement of Nikon gear..No choices.

  12. I must say I’m pleasantly surprised by these! Good work. I thought it was going to be another bunch of analog garbage I’m used to seeing posted from people trying to keep film alive.

    • Although a bit rude I totally agree with you. There is nice composition in the photographs and are quite different from the bunch taken for people that thinks that shooting in film is going to save their photographs from be “soulless” and are just the same photographs but shoot in film… (btw nice portfolio)

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