Nov 082012
 

From CL to M6 to M9 to Leica Monochrom by Alexander Getty

Dear Steve,

As you know, I have been an avid follower of your brilliant blog for a couple of years now and I have to say, your “real-world” approach to equipment and techniques resonates better with me than highly technical reviews.

I’m a long time Leica shooter was taught to shoot and develop by my mother who was an amateur and very talented photographer when I was a teenager. Leica’s have always been my favorite cameras and in late 2010 after a 5 year gap, I decided to pursue photography seriously again, I bought myself a Leica CL and a 50mm Zeiss ZM and began rediscovering what I love to do most.

Well, it’s now nearing the end of 2012 and I’m still mostly shooting on film. Your recent three-part review on the Monochrom spurred me to pull the trigger and I am glad to say, I’m so happy I did.

I did own an M9-P for a short period of time but found myself defaulting back to my M6 more as the end result was normally better. I am primarily a black and white photographer and find that there are just too many steps to convert a color image into a decent B+W one. White balance is now a thing of the past! In my mind, metering is far easier as my mind works in B+W (I’m severely colorblind). And finally grain, yes, real native grain, what a relief.

Cutting to the chase, I am a Giants fan and when they won the world series, I had just received my Monochrom, the timing was perfect. San Francisco was having a huge parade for the victory at the Civic Center. For the first time ever, I left my film camera at home and just brought the Monochrom with a 90mm Summicron-APO ASPH and a VC 35mm 1.2 v2 both with medium yellow filters.

The combination worked a treat and the results speak for themselves. You were right, the Monochrom is as good as B+W film and in many ways, even better.

Sincerely,

Alexander Getty

www.alexandergetty.com

www.facebook.com/alexandergettyphoto

Jul 152011
 
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USER REPORT: The Fuji X100 vs the Leica M6? By Frederick Ogez
I can hear the angry comments already, “This is ridiculous! These two cameras were never intended to be matched against the likes of each other… A viewfinder camera with a fixed lens and an interchangeable lens rangefinder??!” And, “Not another FILM AGAINST DIGITAL article!” Before angrily slamming the laptop screen down, please read on!

Working at a small family owned since camera shop in Minnesota, I was recently able to bring a copy of the Fuji X100 home for testing, and a wild idea popped into my head, my primary camera being a Leica M6… “What if I pitted these two wonderful cameras against each other? What would I find I liked and disliked about each, which would I find I liked better as a small concealable walk-around camera?”

Alright, let’s face it. These cameras can never really compete directly against the likes of each other. BUT let’s also face another fact. A used Leica M6 can be purchased for about the same price as a new X100, of course throw in a piece of Leica glass and your talking a difference, but this is undoubtedly a decision many are considering at this interesting time in photographic history as many are again calling for a pure photographic experience. My decision was made. The Leica was loaded and the Fuji was charged…

My first goal was to get the Fuji set up in a way that best fit my shooting style. I turned in-finder image review to off, the rear LCD to remain off unless in playback, and the battery saving auto-off feature to completely off. I was beginning to feel at home already! Next I held the “display” key until the camera went into silent mode. My jaw dropped. Fuji’s shutter actuation volume made my Leica sound like a revolver. Of course this is an exaggeration, but it is outstandingly quiet. If you are a fan of candid style photography, and would rather have your subjects remain in their natural state unknowing that you photographed them at all, you must try the Fuji in a shop. If it’s a bit noisy in there, you may need to press playback to see if a photo was made at all. It’s just that quiet, and much more so than a Leica M. I set out with both cameras strapped around my neck, photographing in my humble town of Forest Lake, MN. But so much for my suburbian Fargo accented small talk ey, let’s get down to sharing real world opinions. That’s what this here site is about der anyways don’t-cha-know?

One thing I found out about the Fuji right away was that manual focusing was not going to be an option. The optical viewfinder is gorgeous and bright, in my opinion a far superior experience to using the electronic one (something I would hardly use) but it can be quite difficult to see the information in bright light! The frame line remained fairly easy to see, but exposure information was difficult if not impossible for me to see, and most disappointing was not being able to see the color of the focus box. This is inside the frame line, and where you place the portion of the frame you want the camera to focus on. It turns green when an accurate focus is attained. One thing I noticed was that indoors, the Fuji did have a very difficult time focusing in certain situations, and that little square would quite often be red, indicating an unattained focus, and I would have to half press the shutter again, sometimes having to recompose to an area of the subject with higher contrast. Now to address the Leica’s finder…

A photographer friend of mine and I were once discussing this very topic, and he did say that when going out into the street he desired a finder that displayed shutter speed and aperture value, which of course my M6 does not show! I have blown this off as unnecessary. Pure necessities! Isn’t that what a camera should be? Two dials, one for shutter, one for aperture and you’re done. But I must admit, it was a welcome addition to be able to quickly fly from f/2 to f/8 or 1/1,000 to 1/30 and know exactly how far I had gone, all without taking my eye from the composition. I now realize that this can be invaluable in situations with varying light levels, and mean the difference between an intelligently exposed great photo, and a missed opportunity. That being said it seems that there is no experience quite like a manual focusing rangefinder experience. In darker situations where the Fuji sometimes took three tries for the auto focus to succeed, the Leica is easily focused in a fraction of a second with its consistently bright and easily viewable coincident rangefinder. For setting a zone of focus, the lenses are intricately engraved, giving you a precise and intuitive way of doing quick reportage style photography. This of course can be done with the Fuji, but to me the in viewfinder bar that indicates a distance from “here” to “here” on a LCD scale labeled either in meters or feet is simply less available, less intuitive and less clear then markings on the lens.

In the hand, both feel phenomenal. The Leica is significantly heavier, but this is expected from a camera that is designed to last a century (with incremental tune ups of course). Both (depending on attached lens) are very small, and even pocket-able, and both are quiet! But the Fuji is simply more quiet. Almost totally silent, and part of its silence is due to its lack needing to advance… Oh I almost forgot about that… The Leica is a film shooter!

Ok, I know I’ve mentioned the shutter many times already, but this is the last time. A quiet shutter doesn’t just mean low volume, it means an incredibly gentle shutter. Now the analog Leica M shutter is one of the best available in this category as well, but the Fuji is able to be hand held like almost nothing else. I’m serious that in my time with it I’ve gotten perfectly sharp results at ¼ of a second, and believe one could go further and get acceptable results…It was very responsive as well, with no noticeable lag between fully depressing the shutter button, and the actuation occurring. Both were able to be swung to the eye, quickly adjusted according to the bright lines, and capture the decisive moment.

The Fuji was such an enjoyable camera to use, and for certain purposes is better than the comparably priced M6. During this test, I loaded the Leica with Kodak TriX, and set the Fuji to ISO 400. After scanning the negatives with a Plustek Opticfilm scanner, and processing the color files from the Fuji to B+W to my liking, I realized one thing. Digital is simply not film. Sure I can add grain and other effects to create a film like look in Photoshop, but the rendition is quite simply different! Famous Leica photographer Ralph Gibson was asked in an interview whether or not he used digital equipment alongside film loading cameras. He said he had tried using digital cameras, and that his close relationship with Leica allowed him the opportunity to test new products. He went on with his personal opinion between the two forms of capture… “Digital photography is about another kind of information…When I’m taking a photograph I imagine the light rays passing through my lens and penetrating the emulsion of my film. And when I’m developing my film I imagine the emulsion swelling and softening and the little particles of silver tarnishing…Digital imaging and photography share similar symbiosis.

I think it’s a mutual coexistence situation. I don’t think they even compare.” He says some very strongly opinionated things besides these in the interview as well, but these are opinions none the less! I find some of his views quite harsh, as you can all see from this excerpt that he makes an implication that digital imaging is NOT photography! I must say that though I find much of his work beyond gorgeous, and his photographic mindset unique and wonderful, I do disagree with him there. But I do find it inarguable that an image created on film, is not like a digital image. They are just different, and each person is going to have a different opinion as to which one looks “better”.

That being said, these cameras are both a joy to shoot! Fuji deserves acknowledgement for doing something so brave as the X100, and shooting it gives a rewarding feeling, reminiscent of a prior time. But a Leica M, is simply a Leica M. Simple, stunning, lovely, ready for generations of use. Chemicals do cost money, and processing adds up. How about a decent scanner as well? Not inexpensive in the least, and expense is the precise reason the M9 is not mentioned until this point in this discussion. But the texture, the grain, the form, the gradation of tonal values… all is different between the two, and this must be a huge deciding factor when looking at the Fuji, and a film loading rangefinder. Personally, the look of Tri-X is enough for me to justify the expense of the chemicals, and I really find the entire film process rewarding to a great degree. But I want to hear opinions of others! Thank you so much for reading, and I hope to hear many replies and much healthy discussion.

Thanks again Steve,

Fred

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Nov 082010
 

Above: Leica M6TTL with 28 Elmarit 2.8

 

Above: Leica M9 with 50 Summicron f/2

Leica M6 to a Leica M9 by Adam Marelli

Setting Our Differences Aside

Change can be challenging, especially with tradition at its back. The newest interpretation of the M line shares the same genes of its ancestors, but has a different way of expressing itself.

When things are going well, why make a change? In Leica’s case, things were not actually going that well. Kodak discontinued its epic Kodachrome film, some camera shops canceled orders for new film, and an era of film photography appeared to be drawing to a close. The fate of Leica film cameras was predicted by many people to be sealed. In an ironic twist of fate, Leica’s full frame digital M9 created a resurgence in film, film cameras, and film sales. This massive contribution is the accidental by product of creating a digital camera that feels like its film predecessors.

When the M8 was announced, I was not amazed. It was an over priced imitation of an M camera with a reduced sensor. People I met, who knew still shot film, could not help but asking, “So what do you think?! M8?” Leica was taking a step in the right direction, but they still needed some time to grow. Fast forward to the release of the M9 and a sigh breathed across the rangefinder community that at last a comparable alternative to our film cameras has arrived.

Many of the M9’s features, are like an inside joke, only making sense in context. The detachable base plate, soft release, and manual dials originated over 50 years ago. The roots of Leica’s film cameras are deep, very deep. So when I got the call my M9 was in stock, I could not wait to see how much re-learning needed to be done.

Above: M6 0.58 finder

 

Above – M9 0.68 finder

x 0.58 finder

In hand the M9 feels like a film camera. The body is slightly thicker than the M6 I use and there was no film advance lever to rest my thumb on. Since there is no film, the film rewind button was also missing, giving the M9 a minimal feeling. Holding the camera up to my eye, the viewfinder has a tighter magnification than I was used to. x0.58 is the viewfinder I prefer, mostly because I shoot a 28mm lens. With the lesser magnification, the 28mm is much easier to compose because the frame lines are visible without having to look around the edge of the viewfinder. The M9’s x 0.68 finder pushed the 28mm lines back to the edge of the scene. This was going to make for a little learning curve when using the 28mm.

Meanwhile the 50mm was perfectly suited for the new viewfinder. As a personal trait, I will admit to resisting convention. Leica has paired their 50mm Summicron with their cameras for years in the “Starter Set”. This lead me to try the 21mm and 28mm as my everyday lens. Over time the 50mm Summicron kept sneaking its was back on to the camera, until I conceded. It is a brilliant lens and a focal length that any camera sommelier would select for a successful pairing. It spends most of its time on the M9.

Above: M6 Shutter Dial

 

Above: M9 Shutter Dial

Shutter Dial

– The “A”

I found a large A on the shutter dial of the M9, which promised to give automatic shutter speeds. Having only used an M6 the A feature, which is available on the M7 seemed interesting. I was super excited to try out this new option, which allows you to meter a scene, press slightly harder to lock the reading and then recompose the shot if necessary. It was the closest Leica has ever come to automatic features typically found in DSLRs.

When is it useful…

Walking around cities, waiting to catch some instant moment, I leave the camera on A, set my aperture to 4.0 or 5.6 and feel ready to fire. If something comes up quickly a picture can be taken without thinking, just focus (or pre-focus) point and shoot. It is wonderful.

- 8s, 4s, 2s

Like a godsend, the M9 comes equipped with a self timer (2 or 10 seconds) and exposures on the dial all the way to 8 second. In “A” the shutter will stay open for up to 4 minutes but I prefer to use “B” and a cable release for these situations. The dial settings, of multiple seconds, adds a level of precision to what used to be a tricky task of counting in my head.

- When is it useful…

The difficulty of long exposures is not moving the camera while pressing or releasing the shutter. A cable release allows for a movement free release, but what if you left it at home? By using the self timer and the multiple second presets, low light pictures are infinitely easier with the M9.

Select self timer.

Set the length of the exposure.

Press the release.

Brace the camera for the exposure.

Hold tight until the picture is complete.

Around the World

The added features of “A”, 8s, and faster speeds like 1/4000 make for a very full dial. Leica managed to squeeze all these settings on a dial the same size as an M6 dial. The trouble is, how do you tell what the setting is when you are not looking?

The M6 dial has a few indicators that allows you to know where the setting is without looking. The “Off and B” and “1/30, 1/50, and 1/60” are spaced closer together than the other settings. For example, if the dial is set to 1/125th and the scene you are looking at is dark, as the dial is rotated to longer exposures you can feel a double click as the dial passes over 1/50. Its a great way to know that holding steady is very important. Since the M6 dial stops at the “Off” and the 1/1000, its easy to tell what shutter speed you are on without looking.

The M9, on the other hand, spins 360 degrees with half steps between each shutter speed. In the M6 days, half steps were only possible in the aperture settings, not in the shutter speeds. So if a scene was half a step off, you had to change the aperture to get the right setting. The added feature is welcomed, but now its impossible to tell the shutter speed without periodically at the camera. Its not a big deal, but it takes some getting used to. When I go back to the M6 its nice to know where I am without looking, but I miss the additional settings. (Moral of the story: Owning more than one Leica is fun. They all have their strengths and weaknesses).

Above: Leica M6 Base Plate

 

ABove: Leica M9 Base

Base Plate

The day I picked up the M9, my immediate thoughts were to open everything up and see how it compared to the M6. When I tried to remove the base plate, there was no catch. Leica put the opening mechanism on the other side of the camera. The new battery position of the M9 is where the old catch used to be on the Leica’s earlier M cameras. Fortunately the M9 base plate does not need to be removed as frequently as a film camera. Instead of 38 images, an 8 GB card usually allows for 422 shots.

The other adjustment Leica made was putting the tripod thread in the center of the base plate. Traditionally the tripod threads were on the right had side of the camera. When I transitioned from a Hasselblad to a Leica, I thought this was a strange place to put a threaded attachment. It meant that the camera was asymmetrically balanced on a tripod. With a full size tripod this makes almost no difference, but when using a table top tripod you must be careful otherwise the solid M body will tip over a light weight tripod. Over the years, the right handed threads proved to be useful. Whenever I would use the tripod against a wall, instead of on a horizontal surface, the M6 would be cantilevered away from the tripod, giving my face plenty of clearance to compose and image.

The M9, has centered itself, both literally and figuratively to some of the trends of modern DSLRs, namely a centrally located tripod thread. This allows the camera to balance on a tripod. With this small change, Leica has eliminated two problems. Number one, the camera does not pull the tripod off balance by being cantilevered out in space. Number two, when the ball head is released the lopsided camera does not drop out of position. Obviously if the ball head is completely loosened the camera will drop all the way to once side, but with the threads in the center of the camera, smaller adjustments are easier.

Above: M6 Leatherette

Above: M9 Vulcanite

Exotic coverings for cameras never attracted my attention. The idea of having some nearly extinct animal wrapped around my shoes or camera does not appeal to me. This is not my rant on animal rights, but I figure, I eat beef. There is no sense throwing the skin away, better to use it. Recently I noticed that Leica said their ostrich covering was not actual ostrich. Good news I believe.

The M6 comes with a standard black leatherette wrap, identical to that found on the M7. It is smooth to the touch and very durable. My camera was built in the 1993, was bought used, and still looks new. On the M9, Leica decided to offer the black camera with the traditional vulcanite wrap used on M3’s. It gives the newest addition to the M line a retro look. For those who do not like the textured feel of the vulcanite, the grey M9 has the smooth leatherette cladding that you will recognize from the MP’s. Vulcanite is a heavily textured mixture of silicone mixed with latex. There was some criticism on the internet that vulcanite was inherently unstable. UV rays supposedly cause it to break down and turn to dust. I trust Leica has solved this issue before wrapping a few thousand M9s in vulcanite.

Beyond the chemical properties of the wraps, I am not partial to one over the other. It is helpful having the M6 and M9 with different finishes. This way their “feel” of the camera is obvious from the first second I pick them up. If I could ask Leica for my ideal camera covering it would be the suede side of way ward calves leather. Andy Warhol once had the Parisian shoe designer, Olga Berlutti, make him a pair of shoes. When she asked him what type of leather to use, he wanted the skins from cows that were rejected from production for inconsistencies. As a result, his shoes were imperfect from the beginning. This is consistent commentary made by the man obsessed with repeating the same picture, slightly different every time, imperfections and all.

ISO

Most photographers who shoot film stick to a handful of film speeds, manufacturers, and film types. My M6 is usually loaded with Fuji Provia 100 slide film. Its a great all around travel film. The color saturation is strong, but not outrageous. Its grain is small due to the relative slow speed of 100 ISO. And per roll Provia 100 ($6.99 per roll) is more cost effective than Provia 400x ($10-$14 per roll). There are occasions where I would prefer to shoot higher speed films, but the draw back with any film camera is, once the film is loaded there is not much wiggle room to change film speed.

Enter the M9. The setting with the highest dynamic range and color saturation is 160 ISO. This is familiar to my brain and helps me estimate exposure when I need to set up for a shot without using the cameras meter. I tried using the “A” setting for a while on the M9, but I just don’t like the metering lock enough to use the feature. Using the shutter manually is just my preference. It does not mean you should do it too. Use whatever system works best for you.

The flexibility of adjusting the ISO is a relief. It has allowed me to to take sharp pictures in darker situations with a greater depth of field. Unlike the popular trend of shooting everything wide open, I enjoy the challenge of creating a picture that utilizes more of the scene. Being able to bump up from ISO 160 to 640 with a quick flick of the adjustment wheel is a welcomed feature. Even at 1250 the images are surprisingly good. Initially I was skeptical and thought, I will shoot the M9 just like the M6. But by trying to aspire to the greatest saturation, I realized that I was missing pictures. Now its more fun to run wild with the ISO.

Notice the magenta around the edge of the image. In Black and White, the cast is less of an issue, but in color it requires some serious correction to eliminate the cast.

Ultra Wides

Some people have asked me, has the M9 rendered the M6 obsolete? By solving the full frame rangefinder dilemma while maintaining Leica’s tradition, why didn’t I sell the M6? Now this can be a difficult conversation to have with someone who has never shot film. Without explaining that film images look different than digital and that the experience of shooting a film camera does not compare to shooting in digital, there is still one area where the M9 cannot compete with the M6, Ultra Wides. The Voigtlander 15mm is not my everyday lens, but when I need it, nothing else does the job.

Because of the close distance between the back of the 15mm lens and the M9 sensor, the peripheral light rays to not make proper contact with the sensor. To explain why that would occur, I will let Erwin Puts explain it. He is much more qualified than me. But, the results of a rear element being too close to the sensor means that the corners of the image go magenta, REALLY magenta. It can be corrected in post production, but it is strong enough to keep me from using the 15mm on the M9 with any frequency. Ultra Wide lenses like the Voigtlander 12mm and 15mm Heliars perform much better on film cameras. Since the 15mm requires and external finder, I leave the M6 set up for wide angle, while I rotate my 28mm and 50mm lenses on the M9.

Conclusion

For those of us who are used to shooting film, the transition to an M9 is easy. It looks and behaves like a film camera with a few bonus buttons. Picking up an M6 after weeks of shooting the M9, is not too shocking. Leica pulled off a remarkable feat, by making a new digital camera that retained almost everything their photographers have enjoyed since the 1920’s. That doesn’t mean its a flawless camera and there are not improvements that could be made.

Like most Leica cameras, it comes with its eccentricities. It will not convert millions of Canon and Nikon users and is by no means the “Best Camera Ever.” That, aside from being a profoundly inaccurate statement, implies a hierarchy that does not actually exist in photography. All cameras, in every format and at every price point, come with their pluses and minuses. For me, Adam Marelli, at this moment in time, it IS the best camera ever. Will this change? Sure, but in the mean time, it is doing its job supremely well. Thank you Leica.

BTW, the M9 is currently available from DALE PHOTO, Ken Hansen and B&H Photo! My most trusted sources for Leica gear!

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Apr 152010
 

Refreshed, Re-Inspired and Re-Loaded!

By Steve Huff

It happens after a while to ALL of us. For one reason or another, we can lose our creativity. We can lose some passion, and even get burned out with photography. With so many websites out there concentrating on tech specs, megapixels, high ISO, and larger than life sensors, I believe that many people out there in this great hobby have lost their way. If we get caught up in all of the charts and graphs, it can overtake us and drive us mad. Then, we lose our creativity. We get frustrated with our images and the end result of this is that we lose interest in shooting. We sell our gear and then later regret it. We buy more gear and start the process all over again.

This happened to me just a couple of months ago. With all of this camera testing and reviewing, I sort of “lost my way” and started realizing I was no longer having fun with photography! I was stressing out when I did not get great shots for a review and started to question why I even bother with it! Yes, I admit. I was getting BURNED OUT! To fix this, I did something extreme…something forbidden..something unheard of in todays photo world. I decided to stop shooting digital for a little while and ONLY shoot film. What a concept!

It was time to go back  to the basics. Back to the simplicity of analog and even take a little break from post processing every image that popped off of a memory card. It all started when Leica sent me the M7 to review and I remembered how much I loved shooting that camera! I used to have loads of Tri-X and Portra and always had great results. I had loads of fun processing my own negatives and scanning a few here and there. It seemed more relaxing. Less stressful.

Have fun and don’t worry about sharpness, softness, color, or perfection. Just shoot! When you do this you can end up with some fun results.

As I shot the first roll of film, I was instantly re-inspired when I cocked the film advance lever. It felt like I was actually working for my image and the thought of it being physically recorded onto film, which is tangible and can be kept for all time, made me think about why we all go so nuts for digital these days. Sure, digital is instant gratification and nice, but I also think it is nice to take a break from all of that and go back to the basics.

After 2 weeks of film, I am now REALLY in deep. I bought the Leica M6, a silver 50 cron to match it, and set my digitals in a cabinet for future use. I also aquired yet ANOTHER film camera! When my wife Mina saw how much fun I have been having with film, she decided she wanted a film point & shoot camera. After some research, I found one from Mr. Ken Hansen. He sent me the camera which is a used/mint Contax T2 and guess what? It’s frickkin’ awesome! Very solid, aperture ring on the lens, auto film advance/rewind, and a great viewfinder/rangefinder. Ken has a few cameras like this on hand all the time, I think. I know he has a Leica minilux and a few others, and he always gives great deals on these used cameras.

If you are thinking of trying out film but do not want to invest in a Leica M, then you can e-mail Ken and he may have something you are looking for. B&H Photo also has a pretty vast used section. When you go to their site just click on the “search used only” section when searching. You can search for Leica, Contax, Nikon, Canon, Olympus, etc. There are THOUSANDS of film bodies out there and available. Even this site is superb for old cameras and yes, I visited them in person a few weeks ago. They were GREAT!

I’M HAVING A BLAST!

Since going back to film, I have been re-inspired and have been having a BLAST shooting and yes, even scanning! I bought the Epson V700 and it is DAMN good and is so close to my old Nikon Coolscan V that I no longer have desire for a dedicated film scanner. I have been getting great results using Silverfast software and I will be putting up a video on using this scanner that will show how you set it up, load the negatives, and the settings I use when I scan. I spent a whole day messing with software, settings, and scans, and am now getting great results with this scanner. To those who have requested this, it’s on the way!

“Roadblock” – Leica M7 and 24 Elmar with Ilford XP2 400

For the past two weeks, I wake up, answer e-mails (I really do try to get to all of them), and usually have my breakfast while I decide what film I want to shoot for that day. I bought 10 different types of film as I want to try them all! The looks you can get are pretty incredible… just by changing your film. Want super saturated smooth files? Try some Velvia slide film. Want a nice print film with great color? Try the new Ektar 100. How about portraits? Portra is the answer for print film, but for something really nice, grab some Fuji Provia. BTW, Here is a link to B&H with my fave print films. Yes, I have shot them all :)

TIME TO PARTY…

I am going to a huge party in Mexico in about 3 weeks and will be on the beach for 2-3 days. I decided to only bring my M6 and 50 cron with some Velvia 50, Provia, and Neopan. Maybe a roll or two of Portra and Ektar as well. My wife wants to bring her new T2 and she may load hers with some Ektachrome. I keep asking myself if I will cave and bring a digital…so tempting, as I could shoot and edit photos at night on my laptop, right?!?!  But that is what takes away some of the fun! When you shoot film, part of the fun is waiting for your images/scans to come back! When you get them, it is like you are receiving a present. Like it’s your birthday or something. Call me crazy, but that is how I feel.

I still love digital cameras and technology, but I think it’s great to go back every now and then to remember how it used to be. If you have never shot a roll of film, you should go out and try it. It can be fun, but also can get addictive. So many film stocks, so many old GREAT cameras to choose from, and so many great lenses. It can be overwhelming, but I suggest keeping it simple. Even a small P&S with a good lens can give you stellar results. My suggestions for quality P&S bodies are the Leica CM, Leica Minilux, Contax T2, and Nikon 28 or 35Ti. These can all be found used if you look around hard enough.

I’m sure I will soon be back to my Leica digital cameras and talking about how much I love them, but for now, in this moment, I am really digging film again. It’s a breath of fresh air in this ever-evolving digital craziness. Plus, I will always have digital cameras coming through here to review. But for my personal images, I think film is here to stay ;)

Some images…

The first set of Black & White were shot with Ilford XP2, an easy-to-use C41 B&W film that even drug stores can process. I had my negatives done for $2 at the local CVS and scanned them on my Epson V700 at home. This first set was also taken with the Contax T2. I had to at least try it out and make sure it was working before I handed it over to the wife :)

I like to find ways to take images of just about ANYTHING!

This film thing is addicting. I enjoyed this T2 so much, I can see myself becoming a collector of great film bodies like the Leica CM, Nikon 35Ti, etc. Even with ISO 400 film and mid-day light, the exposure was great.

My wife said, “HEY!! That is MY camera!”  So she shot this one of me. The lens on the Contax T2 is a Zeiss Sonnar 38mm F2.8. It seems like a GREAT little lens.

My son has decided that anytime I try to take a picture of him from now on, that he will make a goofy face. I just tell him, “FINE! But remember that thousands of people will be seeing you with that goofy face!”

How about some Fuji Reala? This was actually shot 6 years ago. No processing, just a straight scan. Leica M7/35 Lux. Look at how rich the reds are.

Leica M6 and 50 Cron at F2 with XP2. Even with this C41 B&W, the results are great.

Here is a classic shot. I snapped this image of the “Westward Ho” which is a historic hotel that used to be visited by the stars. These days, it’s some sort of retirement home, but there are many homeless who live here as well, from what I hear. After scanning this image, I noticed that the guy in the lower right was flipping me off! To make it even more classic, he is sitting under the “no loitering” sign. Too funny :) This was harsh mid-day AZ sun with ISO 400 film. NOT The best choice, but it still did fine.

One more from the Contaxt T2…

Thanks for reading! If you guys are sick of the film posts, let me know :) More coming soon…

Epson Scanner Overview/Video

Leica 18 Elmar Review

MORE Binoculars…from Zeiss!

Hopefully…the Zeiss Sonnar 1.5 M mount lens re-review!

Samsung NX10 and more guest articles!


Apr 112010
 

I have had several emails asking me about loading film in a Leica M6 or Leica M7. Instead of writing about it I figured “why not show it”??? Here is a short but sweet video showing how quick and easy it is. Enjoy!

Apr 092010
 

Leica M6 with Portra 160NC Film scanned on the Epson V500 Scanner – 50 Cron at F2 – NO PP, straight scan. WOW.

Since I am really into film right now I thought I would post a few film pics every Friday from my M6 and various film stock and call it “The Friday Film”! As an intro to this I wanted to go over some feelings about this whole “film thing” and answer some questions I have received recently from readers asking me why on earth I would shoot an M6 over an M9 when I had the choice of either.

Well, first of all…shooting film is a stress free change of pace from digital. It slows you down. At the end of the day you have 24 or 36 frames, and hopefully each and every one of those frames have some kind of meaning behind them. Film is expensive. Scanning is time consuming. When I shoot digital I find I take a lot of bullshit shots just because I can. I end up with hundreds of shots on my memory card and ask myself “why on earth did you take that photograph”?

With film I know that each frame is costing me money so I am much more careful with what I shoot. Still, with my first few rolls I have caught myself shooting something silly as I am so used to digital. Don’t get me wrong though! I love digital but I am also growing really fond of film again. I recently spoke about a “Leica M9 State of Mind” and now I am finding there is a “Film State of Mind” as well.

Film is tangible. It’s real. You have a negative or a slide with your image…your moment in time frozen and etched for all time. Film has a look all its own and while digital can get VERY VERY close to film these days with filters like the awesome “Color Efex Pro” and “Silver Efex Pro” there is still something about film that tugs at my heart. Maybe it’s in my head, maybe it’s because I am getting older and feeling nostalgic or maybe it is because there is something about it that is special.

No doubt, film is slowly dying due to the digital craziness and it seems like every year we lose another great film. I would recommend that those of you who really enjoy photography to get a hold of a film camera and a few rolls of film and take a week or two to ONLY shoot film. It’s a great experience and even the anticipation of getting your images or your scans back is pretty exciting. When shooting film there is less stress. No worries of white balance, what ISO to choose, color, etc. Just choose your “look” with a film you like and shoot.

You can pick up film cameras these days pretty cheap and something like a used Canon AE1 or Olympus OM series camera can be found for as little as $150-$200. For all of the Leica fans, there seems to always be a used M6, M7 or MP around as well as M3′s and M4′s.

Am I saying film is better than digital? Well, in some ways it is but in most ways, no it is not. A camera like the M9 is pretty much, IMO, close to a medium format quality in a small gorgeous package. With digital you have convenience and that is the #1 reason why it has spread like wildfire over the past 10 years. I love the Leica M9 but you guys know that already!

Anyway, this is not a digital vs film post but more of a “celebration of film” post :)

I’d like to see more people get out and shoot a few rolls of film. If you do, feel free to share your results with me. I will soon announce a film contest with the main prize being my few day old Epson V500 Scanner (I bought the 700 after lightly using the 500). So get your best film shots ready as the readers of this site will be picking the winner. More details on that soon.

Here are some images, all shot on film with my M6 or a Leica M7 (which can still be bought brand spanking new for those with deep pockets – $4595)

BTW, these were all scanned on the Epson V500!

Kodak EKTAR 100 film – M6 – 50 Cron

Ilford B&W XP2 400 film – M6 and 50 Cron

Ilford XP2 – M6 – 50 Cron

XP2 on the M7 – 35 Lux

M6 – 50 Summitar – Ektar 100

Ektar 100 on the M6 – 50 Summitar

M6 – 24 Elmar – Ektar 100

M6 – Ektar 100 – 50 Cron

Apr 062010
 

I’m back at home and hard at work processing images from the Olympus E-Pl1, the Leica M9 and even scanning some film! I bought an EL-CHEAPO scanner to try out, the Epson V500. My thought is that I wanted to see if I could even deal with scanning negatives and if so, i would sell the 500 and buy the 750 Pro or search for a used Nikon coolscan. I am surprised at the V500. When scanning at 2400 dpi the files are very very nice and they seem just as nice as my old Nikon Coolscan V I had years ago. I think I will end up buying the EPSON 750 Pro soon unless I find a nice used Coolscan model.

Anyway, before I sit down to hours and hours of staring at this glaring screen and writing my heart out I thought I would post a “just for fun” pop quiz! Below you will see two images side by side. CLICK ON THE IMAGE TO VIEW IT LARGER and then tell me which one you think is film, and which is digital. One of the shots below was shot with the Leica M9 and 50 Cron. The other was with the M6 and 50 cron using film and then scanned on the V500. The M9 image was converted from RAW. Both were shot at F2 and ISO 160.  I may be posting a few of these side by sides just to see if you guys can guess. Should be fun :)

So which one is film? Which is digital? To me it’s easy to see the differences but at the same time, they are very similar. Just vote in the poll below and choose which one you think is FILM! I will post the answer this evening sometime! Also, feel free to leave a comment about which one you like the look of better and why.

I will say right now that the full size scan looks bad in comparison to the full size 100% M9 shot but my guess is that it is due to the scanner. I have used it for about 10 scans only and am still getting the hang of using a flatbed to scan film. BTW, if anyone has a NIkon coolscan V, 5000 or 9000 for sale let me know! OK, on to the images…

MAKE SURE YOU CLICK THE IMAGE BELWO TO SEE THE LARGER VERSION!

UPDATE:

Well, 533 votes today and 62% of you said that “B” was the film shot and it is indeed the shot taken with the m6 and film. I see a difference in the look but the M9 can pull loads of detail within its files. I’m having loads of fun with film and decided to order the Epson V700 scanner with a bunch of film. Provia, Velvia, Neopan, as well as a few other C41 films. The M6 makes for a great companion to the M9 when you want to get away from digital for a while. Shooting film feels good. It’s classic, it’s nostalgic and it’s fun. It also happens to be expensive and time consuming but also very rewarding. Me, I decided to shoot film for my personal use for a few months. No digital for me unless I am testing a camera or working. :) I will be writing about the Epson 700 scanner soon as well as sharing images taken with various film stock. Of course my digital reviews will still be coming, and the next one up is the E-PL1 THIS WEEK!

Anyway, here are a few from today shot with Ilford XP2. I scanned these on the Epson V500 (which is for sale at $149 shipped, used for 3 hours today) and they look pretty good to me! I just want the 700 for the ability to scan more at one time.

Apr 042010
 

OK guys, I am hitting the road again for a 2 day trip from AZ to Chicago and I leave in 6 hours. For the next two days the updates will be limited but starting Tuesday I will be back full time to the site. Today was AWESOME as my wife and I picked up our Ipads and just after an hour of using it I can tell you that this device will change the freaking world as we know it…I will be writing more on the Ipad soon.

Tonight I wanted to post some images from today taken with the Leica M9, Olympus E-PL1 and the Leica M6 loaded with Kodak Ektar film. The camera I most enjoyed shooting today was the M6 as I have fallen deeply in love with it :) I just have to find a film I really like. The Ektar seems OK but I think I like the Portra better. What surprised the hell out of me was the E-PL1. WOW, this camera gives me MUCH better IQ than the E-P2 seems to give. It’s AWB is better than the M9, it’s results are sharper than the E-P2 and the color is gorgeous. It gives me the best OOC JPEGS I have seen from ANY camera, EVER.

So here are a few for the road! I will try to update from the road but no guarantees! Enjoy!

In Sedona, AZ. Shot with the Leica M9. Very rich and smooth. The OOC image had a yellow tinge to it so this is from RAW. Click image for larger view. UNSHARPENED! Meaning ZERO sharpening!

Now the image from the E-PL1. This is a JPEG as I did not even shoot RAW with this camera! The color is gorgeous and very accurate. My wife and I like this camera so much, we bought it to replace the E-P2! NO SHARPENING!!!


and now, two from the M6 loaded with Ektar 100 film. Excuse the bad scans! Eventually I will have a scanner to (hopefully) produce much nicer results!

Again, I hope to update from the road on Sun/Mon so check back! Also, which images do you prefer here? I will soon have a scanner to scan my own negs so I am hoping to get better results with my film. Thanks for looking!

Steve

Apr 012010
 

Why not? This site is all about passion, fun and THE PHOTOS! How about some Leica M9 and M6 comparisons? In other words, film and digital side by side. I am not out to test resolution but it is more about the “look” of film when compared to digital. We always hear how film has a special look, and I agree that is does but I never did a side by side comparison. Now that we have the full frame M9 I thought it would be fun to do!

So lets get started. Today I had my 1st roll of film from the M6 processed and scanned, a roll of Kodak Portra 160 NC. I did a few side by side comparisons between the LeicaM9 and M6, nothing super scientific but I did shoot the same scene with the same lens at the same aperture and ISO. I have another roll with more comparisons that I am hoping to have scanned at high res by a lab tomorrow.

The following M6 shots were scanned by a local drug store at low res so remember that while comparing them. Drug store scans are usually pretty bad so I imagine these would have been even better if scanned by a lab.

These are straight scans, no PP. The M9 images are the OOC JPEGS, just to make it fair. For those intersted, the film cost me $4, the scans/negatives cost me $6, so film is not cheap! Even if you scan your own film look to spend about $6-$7 per roll just for buying the film and then the processing and that is for a C-41 film.

Here are the comparisons. Which do you prefer? I am not comparing sharpness here but instead the “look” of the film vs digital. To my eyes the color of both the M9 and the film is off (again, no PP to any of these) a little bit but the film shots seem to have more “glow” where the M9 shots seem a little more “flat”.

As I noted the color is off on both of these. I blame the M9 AWB and the cheap drug store scans for this. I am hoping to have comparison #2 up tomorrow but it will be with M9 images processed from RAW and hopefully M6 scans from a pro lab in higher resolution (and better color).

Here are few more M6 shots from my first roll with some slight PP for color…all Portra 160 NC.

We were eating at a Cajun restaurant when I saw this blues man playing his heart out. I shot this at F2 and 1/8th second with the M6 and 50 cron.

My M6 has been untouched since it was made in 1994 but the RF is SPOT ON with focus. I grabbed this shot of my son and his step brother with the 50.

Another quick grab. He looked, then smiled and I snapped.

My wife Mina and her Dad Bob.

I wanted to see how low I could go. Even with Portra 160 I was able to get this at 1/8s with the M6. It was night and my wife was standing near a fire pit. The Leica is a great low light tool, even with low speed film.

Something as simple as work boots can make for an interesting photo when shot at F2 :)

I converted this one to B&W using Silver Efex Pro

With some PP these scans look pretty good and IMO, the film shots seem to have a bit more “soul” and “feeling”. I can not wait to shoot more and also start scanning my own. Fun, fun, fun! Yes, I LOVE the M6!

BTW, some have asked me where I found the M6. It was in Phoenix at Collectible Cameras and you can check their used Leica stock or any of their stock at their website HERE. You can call them at 602-944-2112 and if you do, ask for Bill! Be sure to tell them I SENT YOU!

Check back tomorrow for more!

Mar 312010
 

Hello once again! I’m still out traveling and currently in Surprise, AZ at a friends house for a few days. The sun is shining, the temp is warm, and I just so happened to be driving around looking for some shots when I saw a big sign that said CLASSIC CAMERAS. After a quick U-Turn I was in the door!

The store was full of old classic cameras and it appeared there were hundreds of classics from Canon, Nikon, Minolta, Pentax, Contax and yes, Leica.

I spotted a mint M2, a couple of M3′s and various lenses. When I asked if they had an M6 classic in chrome the salesman went to the back and came out with a white box that looked brand new. I opened it up and inside was an unused 10/10 condition chrome M6 classic. The box, manual, paperwork, and even the strap (still in box) all appeared as new/unused.

As soon as I held it I was hooked. The M6 classic is not as tall as the M6 TTL or M7 and it just fel so good in the hand. Small, sleek, thin and it was oozing Leica quality. It is a gorgeous camera and I have been looking for a nice used M6, M7 or MP and I knew that I would not be able to find one as nice as this, at this price. I also like the fact that the M6 is not full or electronics and can work fine without its batteries. The batteries inside the M6 are only there for the meter and it can be used without them if you know your stuff :)

After holding and inspecting this M6 I knew I wanted it. I had some extra cash from selling a few items lately and I was able to get a GREAT deal on this camera. Yes, now it is mine and it is loaded with some Portra 160 NC so I am excited to get out and shoot some film! I have the M7 here as well but I have to say I am preferring the M6. It just seems so pure.

I almost bought an M6TTL from Ken Hansen as he told me he had a few new in box (new old stock) from the last 500 produced. Due to the deal on this one I could not pass it up and I actually preferred the M6 classic to the TTL as it is the closest to the MP I have shot with or held.

Anyway, just wanted to share my excitement and say the M6 classic is a gorgeous camera and IMO, it looks and feels better than even a Leica M8 or M9. Of course with film you have the cost and expense of buying film, scanning, etc but in the end I think it is worth it. In the next few days I will be posting some scans from the M6 and M7 as well as my review of the super fun Olympus E-PL1.

I will not be home for another week so my posts may be minimal until then but the site will be updated every day this week and weekend.

I have had some people ask me why I would want an “old M6″ when I had an M9? Well, there are MANY reasons to add a nice film camera to your digital kit. My reasons were because film not only has a totally different look, but when you shoot film you also shoot with a different mentality. You forget about chimping, white balance, ISO and sharpness. Basically, no more headaches. I am not saying film will replace digital for me as that will not happen but it is nice  to shoot film every now and then to get away from the digital headaches for a while. For my personal shooting I may just shoot this m6 and 50 cron for a few months and see how it goes. I will be sure to post my experiences and results along the way.

Thanks for looking and if anyone out there has an M6 post a comment and let me know how you like it! BTW, just saw that B&H has a 9 condition M6 classic in stock right now.

Steve

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