A Trip With An Old Friend, the Leica M3 by Max Marinucci

A Trip With an Old Friend, The Leica M3

By Max Marinucci

I have recently gotten back from a short trip to South Korea, visiting family, and one of the major () decisions to make before leaving was…film or digital? As you may know, I would rather shoot film any time over anything digital but, when traveling, there are some conveniences (or inconveniences, depending on one’s point of view) to be considered. The main hurdle was to possibly waste time at airport security to have film hand-checked or let it go through x-ray. Big deal..the decision was easy: my old friend, the mighty Leica M3, was taking the trip with me! Well, actually two M3 bodies and three lenses. I have recently bought another M3 body, as I want to have more flexibility by usually keeping a 90mm on one body at all times or go 50/35 without swapping.

The reasoning behind not traveling digital is simple for me: I feel like that with the M9 I would have had to bring my laptop with me to at least back up all the files every day and not risk losing anything and, more importantly, it would also mean that I would most likely find myself playing with files instead of enjoying my time and family. That’s another major reason for me to shoot film when traveling: there is no wasted time while on vacation and I have a lot of fun while looking forward to developing a bunch of film when I get back home.

Security at the airports was an absolute breeze, with no questions asked, and/or issues of any sort. Fifteen rolls in a clear ziplock bag and off I went.

The Leica M3 – Yes, Leica’s pride…and curse. How do you improve on a camera that was released in 1953 and still stands today as a pinnacle of design, functionality and craftsmanship? You really can’t and that has, frankly, been Leica’s problem until the release of the M9, which finally breathed some new life into the company. The M6, MP and M7 are wonderful cameras but, let’s face it, aside from a meter, and the Aperture Priority setting in the M7, I can find more steps backwards than actual improvements. They are merely a follow-up to the M3 and dictated by the need to stay in business and feed the markets. That is the reality of it, no matter how you turn it.

One needs only to look through the M3 viewfinder to understand: a big, bright, .92 finder and the subject is clearly in sight, with no distracting frame lines or flaring of any sort. Composing through that is always an utmost pleasure. With the thick 50mm frame lines and the 90mm/135mm popping up when the lens is mounted, it is uncluttered, clean again, most of all, BRIGHT! The 35mm lenses do need a separate finder but I usually mount the wonderful Summicron or Summaron with the goggles. Looks great and retro and they are absolutely stupendous lenses, which perform spectacularly well, especially for street-shooting.

A solid piece of brass, it makes the M9 feel like a toy (dismount the lens, take the battery out of the M9 and you pretty much got a hollow piece of nothing) while giving you a sense of security: close to nothing can go wrong, no batteries, no electronics, no distractions, and it’s you and the camera, free to take your vision to new heights. Talking about finders, do you want to know THE most annoying thing I can find about all the newer Ms? The finder windows, no matter how hard I try, constantly get dirty from fingerprints. Cannot avoid it and here is a perfect example where the M3 was a pinnacle of design and further “improvements” have actually failed.

In an attempt to give a more “modern” and updated look, newer models have the glass flush with the body. It is a stupid design flaw and most annoying, if you ask me. The Leica M3 has the finder glass slightly recessed with a tiny “lip” around it and I sincerely doubt it is there “just because”. I basically have to go poke in there to get my finder dirty and trust me, it is annoying when trying to focus on something after eating french fries, or a donut, and your fingers have been wiped all over the camera.

Now, before all the gear-heads, Leica-haters jump on my throat, the usual disclaimer:

Gear means nothing! I shoot Leica because that’s my choice and that is what I enjoy and two M3 bodies still cost far less than many of the new digital pieces of junk out there that are worthless within two months and are used to take mostly forgettable snapshots. Just remember: one can take thoughtless, worthless pictures with an M9 and .95 Noctilux ($18K worth of equipment) while others get published or sell prints with images from a Contax T2 and a roll of Tri-X ($300 worth of equipment).

Your vision, composition, paying attention to your surroundings, light, how geometry plays into your shots, a moment, interaction with a subject, is what makes or break a picture and it has nothing to do with the gear you have used to take it.

It is certainly true that different cameras will bring you to shoot differently (a Rolleiflex VS a Leica certainly does) but again that should not be relevant to what makes a successful image.

The lenses: well, this time I went with modern, as I wanted to bring something faster knowing that I would be shooting in a few low light situations. The weather in S. Korea has been absolutely horrendous and I knew I would be facing very hot, very hazy and very humid days with flat lighting. Knowing what I would be confronted with, I also wanted a little more contrast and sharpness so I brought the 35 and 50 Summilux asph and the great 90mm Elmarit. Having the flexibility of two bodies is really helpful, and I kept one with a 90mm on at most times and with a different film stock in each body. Everything performed beautifully, even with all the heat and humidity and it was nice to have that f1.4 for a few night shots with fast film.

Film: choices were simple: again, based on the fact that I would be mostly doing some street-shooting, maybe some portraiture and very little to no landscape, I grabbed a few rolls of Tri-X, TMax 400, TMax P3200 and a couple of Agfa APX 100 (my favorite 100ISO of all times but, as expected, only shot one roll, again due to weather and light condition). I have even brought a couple of rolls of Kodachrome but, again, the weather was so gloomy that it just didn’t make any sense.

What about meters? Screw meters! Kidding aside, there is very little need for metering for street shooting, if you keep a few things in mind and have good memory from experience. I did bring a tiny Gossen Digisix just in case but used it very little.

On a dull, flat day, with a 400ISO film, f8 + 1/125, your golden most of the time. By judging the scene and light, I usually either open up 2-3 stops or go to slower shutter speeds, again depending on the situation.

50mm Summilux asph. Kodak Tri-X developed in HC110

The place is Cheongju, a nice bustling, progressive city that is about 2-3 hours drive from Seoul and a population of about 615,000. The “Avenue Tunnel”, a 5km long stretch of beautiful trees forming a tunnel leads to the entrance of this old city. Koreans are very proud people and their commitment is best summarized by this “Citizen’s Character”:

1.I will work to enhance the nation based on our beautiful tradition.

2.I will fulfill my social responsibility and hew out a career for myself.

3. I will become a polite and good citizen who puts public interests first.

4. I will try to live frugally and diligently in order to achieve an affluent society.

5. I will work with faith in and in cooperation with my local community for its betterment.

50mm Summilux asph. Agfa APX100 developed in Rodinal

There are many old neighborhoods that retain the character of days gone by but much is unfortunately getting swallowed up in the “modernization” phase, which means nothing more than shopping malls, austere 20+ stories apartment buildings and very little consideration for heritage or any architectural direction that I can discern. Not having visited in four years, I couldn’t help but notice quite a few more sprawling new areas complete with Dunkin Donuts, Pizza Hut and Baskin Robbins which, thankfully, still seem to be a mere fringe, with the masses viewing them, generally, as a sporadic “treat” (if you can imagine that) and not a way of life. The most attractive places for a photographer are the older corners of the city with their wonderful outdoor, covered markets filled with old timers, genuine people who have worked extremely hard throughout their lives. Many of them, and especially women, will show it with their arched back, sunburned, leathery skin, and hands that could crush a stone. The oppressive heat (95-100 degrees with a heat index of well over 100) never seemed to bother them. These fabulous markets, filled with all sorts of fresh produce, meats, fish, and other “delicacies” none of us would touch with a ten-foot pole (dried grubs didn’t look so appetizing), represent a wonderful opportunity for candid street-shooting. Unfortunately, the downside at times is that, a westerner, especially in a smaller and non-cosmopolitan city, does stick out like a sore thumb and one needs to be mindful of that. Although I have received mostly smiles, a few people have given me a dirty look and likely told me to go screw myself in a language I did not understand, to which I simply smiled and politely waved goodbye.

50mm Summilux asph. Kodak Tri-X developed in HC110

Wandering through the streets, I did come across a few camera shops that were extremely well stocked with film and lots of old gear, including some sweet looking Leica M2s, M3s and IIIFs. I have even walked into a small shop where there was a guy behind the counter inverting a small tank, developing black & white film for a client. Film seems to be alive well there, although the bigger markets, a la CVS or Costco, only carry digital and the usual Kodak Ultramax etc.

There was also a lot of noise in the skies, as they had military exercises while I was there and Cheongju airport has a major air-force base. Crazy cool war jets were zipping around at low altitudes quite frequently and, although fun to watch and hear, I was hoping a new Korean War wouldn’t start while I was there.

50mm Summilux asph. Kodak TMax400 developed in TMax developer

I came back home 10 days later, very tired after a 20 hours trip and with a nasty case of jetlag, but also 10 rolls of film to develop. All were developt in my go-to guys, Rodinal and HC110, with a little TMax and Iford DDX thrown in there as well, depending on what I had shot and the look I was looking for. Since sleeping certainly wasn’t happening, I immediately got to work on them with the excitement of a little kid. That is the beauty of film, each and every time: when those rolls come out of the tank, it’s like Christmas every day!

90mm Elmarit – Kodak Tri-X developed in HC110

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  1. Overall, my experience of airport security, even after 9/11 & 7/7 (UK) is that if you go out of your way to unpack your camera bag, they are appreciative. I never leave a film in bodies and take things out and hand to them. Leica film M bodies are good to have in these situations as it takes but a moment to whip the bottom off, flip up the back and twist the lens off. I use a pair of MDa bodies with a 35mm f3.5 Summaron and the SBLOO viewfinder. When going abroad I also pack the ROSOL frame finder in case I lose the SBLOO finder. I meter with a Gossen Sixtomat Digital. Its very compact, fits in a shirt pocket and takes 1 AA battery. Film is Ilford XP2 as its fine grained and very flexible. Together with a small Filofax for notes etc in the front pocket, I use the Billingham for Leica Combination bag M.

  2. Max,
    ‘Meaningful’, Ha !
    When I saw ( INNOCENCE ), I stopped breathing for a moment.
    If you have been dabbling in the ART of PHOTOGRAPHY for a
    while, you don’t have to be TOLD ~ MEANINGFUL.
    You have either LEARNED something, or NOT…
    And you sir, were AWARE & READY when Innocence presented itself,
    and you ~ ‘ CAPTURED IT ‘ ! BRAVO, Max ! – – – All SMILES . . .
    What a wonderful & fun medium ~ TRI-X ; & Great glass . . .

  3. I agree with your statements about the M3 being the best analog M around bar the meter.

    When I looked around for an entry into M-land, I actually compared the Ms and couldn’t find any to settle with that ticked enough boxes (and was affordable to me), so I got myself a CLE which is much smaller and more lightweight than most Ms but offers a close enough experience with more convenience.

    If I decide to invest into more M-gear, I would look for a M3 and get a decent 50mm along with it. Done.

  4. Thanks for the nice shot Max.

    Being asian & staying in Asia, I could connect with the sights you experienced.

    The last 2 photos to me were full of emotions… brought tears to my eyes… dunno why, but rest assured it’s in a good way.

    Thank you


  5. Hi Max

    I am still waiting on “Jeurgen S”to see what a “Meaningful Photograph” looks like. Maybe he will not respond.

    Why I am writing is to find out whether – “when the time comes” for me to acquire an M3 (single-stroke, late model, rather than an early S/S model) in Absolute Mint Condition if such exists, whether I can get your experienced-expertise in locating such a M3. Cost immaterial. Thanks Max, and how about some more M3 articles and pictures in the meantime?

    Kind regards to Steve and yourself, Rohan

  6. Interestingly enough, Steve has just published a link for an interview with Ralph Gibson..http://www.bermangraphics.com/press/ralphgibson.htm

    I found this paragraph interesting, in relation to Juergen’s comment:

    “Chris/Larry: Do you learn from the reactions of others to your work as well, or are you completely self-contained in your vision?

    Ralph: Well, what I’ve learned is not to pay any attention (laughs). It’s very simple. I realized that I finally had my audience when I did “Somnambulist”. When I was about thirty I realized that the only thing that recognition would do for you is give you energy to produce more. But you know, I am not working as a professional photographer and I’m not seeking the approval of the client. I’m a much more difficult client, more difficult art director on myself. And I like to think that I don’t care what people think about my photographs. Of course, that takes a lot of discipline to maintain that. Whether or not I succeed at sustaining that feeling is another question. However, I do not consider myself in the business of communications. I don’t have a message. Samuel Goldwin said ‘if you have a message, send a telegram’. I’m doing it for myself to make myself happy and to see how it works. And then Marcel Duchamp said that an artist has a responsibility to his or her work to get it out. And I get it out, and I make a living from it.”

  7. Dear Juergen S:

    I can not disagree with you on your statement that Max’s pictures look quite meaningless to you. I however, think that his pictures are superbly beautiful. But then beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

    But I MUST disagree with you on your statement to Max to think less about his camera. Max is obviously very passionate about his M3’s and why should he not be? The M3 is a TOP camera, and I shall be buying one soon myself, having thought about it for about 2 years now – and in fact I was very encouraged by his article above (AND his pictures). What is so wrong about Max talking so much about the M3? The simple thing would have been for you not to read his article if you take so much exception to his views on the M3.

    Obviously you take some very good, “meaningful photographs”, and I would be pleased to have a look at a sampling of these, perhaps through this website? Maybe I can learn from you how to take ‘meaningful’ photographs, as I was not aware until now that there is such a thing.

    Kind regards

    (real name: “Rohan”)

    • Rohan,

      I always get a good chuckle by comments such as Juergen’s. A “meaningful” photograph…what is that? Meaningful to whom and why? The only person who may remotely find a meaning in ANY photograph is the photographer himself. Anyone else may share that opinion or not, or find different meanings or none at all, or maybe simply appreciating the image for what it is. Take Ansel Adams’ work, for example: flawless, breathtaking examples of fine photography and darkroom mastery but do they “mean” anything? Maybe. To someone, the image of a mountain and some clouds represents untouched nature, wilderness, and to others it just represents a mountain with some clouds. The fact that the picture looks breathtakingly beautiful is likely its strongest selling point, more than any “meaning”, implied or not.
      Or, Bresson’s “Behind the Gare Saint-Lazare”..likely his most famous, celebrated, image. What does that mean? Nothing. The image works because it’s a perfect moment frozen in time and he was lucky to have caught it. The image is appreciated for what it is and not because it means anything. Maybe Juergen’s just used the wrong term to convey his feelings? I’m certainly not going to think “more about my photographic work” because it doesn’t please him. I have a day job which allows me to enjoy photography without selling prints to make a living and, the ones I do sell, actually pay for all the film, gear, and even leave some play money. I’m happy 🙂


  8. Dear Max: When I was an undergraduate at a Uni in the UK in the early 1960’s, I bought (on “Hire Purchase” of course) a brand-new Rolleiflex 2.8 F with a 80mm Zeiss Planar Lens for the then princely of 56 Pounds Sterling. It was a beaut!!! So very precisely made. A richly endowed English Uni-mate had an M3 with many lenses which his parents had given him as a Birthday present!!!. The M3 was so very nice as well and my friend let me use it, but I would never admit it was better than my Rollei. Now, almost 50 years on, with more money in my pocket I am going to buy both an M9 and the best M3 I can get hold of. Your wonderful article has inspired me to get the M3. (I was a Darkroom Freak from age 12 or 13). Now I am hitting 70. But still a lousy photographer, unlike you. Your pictures are as great as your article. Thanks alot Max for for this encouragement.

    • PiRIUS,

      Comment such as yours are an inspiration and I thank YOU. I am not old enough to remember Rolleiflex or Leica being so inexpensive (still pricey for the times though) but I do remember taking the few gems I had for granted when I was in my 20s. Once digital hit, I thought that was the way to progress but I was wrong. It is not because of quality necessarily but because of the photographic and creative processes that happens only with film (in my humble opinion, of course). I really hope you enjoy your time with the classic M3 and that M9, as you will have the best of both worlds.

      My best regards,


  9. Max, in all honesty: Think less about you camera and more about your photographic work. I’m sorry, but your pictures look quite meaningless to me.

    • Juergen,

      Maybe you did not read the article. Gear matters nothing and ME using a Leica is simply a choice. Since this article is about a trip with an M3, it obviously involves a little talk about it. You don’t have to agree with it or read it, if you are not interested in it. I frankly never think about the camera, and that’s one of the reasons I shoot with the M3.
      As far as the pictures, the fact that they are meaningless to you, is also not a factor. There are many incredible pictures by renowned and famous photographers that are completely meaningless to me, while they mean the world to others Ces’t la vie. Like any form of art, it is highly subjective. Someone’s crap will always be someone else’s gold and I take pictures that please ME, and to please MYSELF. If others find them interesting or meaningful, that is great and, if they do not, that’s perfectly fine too.
      Thanks for your comments.

  10. Great pictures. Film rangefinders are wonderful. Anyone who says that it is simply nostalgia I think is missing a lot. Just the virtue of the fact that you cannot check the histogram (repeatedly, and then review your last two shots a hundred times), makes you focus on exposure and slow down. Plus, well scanned film (or, better yet, a darkroom print), just looks amazing. Almost everyone I know who shoots both would agree that film, when scanned, still requires much less postprocessing than digital. It just looks complete. Press print.

    I still don’t own an M3…hopefully soon.


    • Thanks, Jay. That is how I feel indeed. One of the things I have always dreaded was playing with raw files, conversions, etc. Just not my cup of tea. I’m good at it but it’s just too time consuming and draining. I much rather be out shooting. My film scans require much less work and the images always turn out as I envision them.



  11. This is a fine article written with real passion. I can only agree with the comments on the final image – quite enchanting and worth the trip on its own. As a Westerner living in an Asian society (HK) I recognize the challenge of “sticking out like a sore thumb” and photographing “cross culturally” but generally find most people fine if you engage politely and without being pushy. (It helps that my wife is HK Chinese). I have no issue with film or digital – I have an M3 and M9 but mostly use the M9 for convenience. I follow Max on Flickr and admire his work a lot. Wonderful stuff. Andrew

    • Thanks, Andrew! My wife is Korean and I have certainly noticed a bit of a difference when she was with me. Overall, I was polite and people were very polite back. Just a couple of grouches but again, it was 100 degrees and quite unbearable so I can understand being on the edge 🙂

  12. Good one! Couple of questions though —

    I do lot of travelling and after reading your my gear section, I was almost buying MP as you said that’s the best one Leica produced. Now you are saying its M3…..

    Final word – which one is best Leica film camera – M3 or MP or M6 or M7?

    • Hasib,

      The MP is Leica’s best film camera that’s in current production (not that it says much since you only have that and the M7 in production). Like I’ve said to Ashwin Rao, an MP with dead batteries is an M3, but with a worse finder. One choice only…the M3 hands down. The MP would be a second but you are looking at easily twice (or three times) the price and it just isn’t worth it, unless you feel a built in meter is an absolute necessity. The M7..I own one because I got it cheap but I would never buy one again. I’ve had a few things going wrong with it and I just don’t find it as reliable as I need one to be.



  13. Through a series of luck, I have also obtained a near mint M3 with the serial number above 1.1 million for an impossibly low price earlier this year. How low? After I immediately sent my M3 to DAG for a complete CLA, the total including the CLA cost me under 1K with spares to buy some more TMAX 100s.

    The sweet combination of pre-asph 50mm Summilux with M3 has been in my bag everyday ever since. While I feel bad that I have completely ignored my M8 and M6, but I really feel like I am in charge of the camera with M3, and I am not missing anything due to lack of the meter. Even though I do carry an external meter, I have “guesstimated” most of my shots and B&W films have been every forgiving in terms of accuracy of the meter. IMO.

    BTW… an excellent article, Max.

  14. wow,,, what a photo and article ,,well done
    The last picture ,,,, is the whole meaning of photography and love of it.
    love of leica took me here , and it was pure happiness.Thanks Max .
    I am looking for Leica M body to buy , M3 or M 4-p.to get started on film again ,B&W of course.
    After reading your article ,i know what i should get for my upcoming Middle East and Europe tour.
    quick Q :do you use any filter at all?

    • Hi Russ,

      Thanks for your kind words. I am sure you will be very happy with a good M3 body.
      Filters..sure. I normally leave a light yellow on all the time unless there is very little use for it aside from robbing me of film speed. I use orange when I want more contrast in skies and some foliage and red to get darker skies and a more dramatic effect, mostly in the winter. I have used green for some portraits.



  15. First of all, enjoyed the article and the pics.

    Just to put out there for others who might be inclined to choose film over digital for travel:

    Sd cards are far, far more reliable and stable than film is. If you don’t want to bring a laptop, you can just buy a few 16gbsandisk extreme cards and you’ll have far more shots than a bagful of film, in almost no space. If you do want to back up your files (something you cannot do with film), bring a standalone drive or even an iPad, don’t erase the originals on the card, and now you can keep your pictures in two separate locations. And after some months shooting, i make up the cost difference of digital’s initial expense; it’s actually cheaper than film.

    It doesn’t always happen, but I have had film ruined by hand inspection (they decided to use some kind of wet chemical swab on *all* the leaders, and overdid it on many, so the liquid dripped back in the canister and caused it to stick). I don’t trust xrays, either, having had film affected before. Also, bear in mind that exposed film is more susceptible to x-rays and even heat, so if you’re travelling in the tropics for any length of time, you get to decide between someone else’s developing lab, or risking degraded quality once you get back.

    Of course, photogs dealt with much of this bqck in the old days (because they had to), and moreover I happen to love film (and film cameras). But trying to rationalize the decision is pretty hard: it’s more a matter of passion.

    Btw, for overcast but not stormy or dark days, that exposure sounds a bit like you’re underrating your tri-x. Hard to tell without seeing the light though.

    • Considered reply Chris, compliments. Underrated as in slightly overexposed, thus slightly (SLIGHTLY!) muddy/flat look? Mmm; I thought the same thing. Lovely tonality though.

      • Hi Chris,

        Thanks for chiming in..always appreciated!
        Certainly comes down to personal preferences and yes, passion indeed. I thought long and hard about bringing the M9 instead but I knew I was just cheating myself. I just prefer the look of film and was willing to take the risks. I would also rather be developing a bunch of rolls, scan and even crank out a few wet prints than sifting through a 1000+ files that would require b&w conversions, etc. That’s just me and there is absolutely nothing wrong with whoever thinks otherwise (it goes without saying).
        To answer your question and Michiel’s about exposure: I normally shoot Tri-X at box speed in these types of situations and sometimes @ 200 on sunny days (normally medium format though). The weather here was absolutely, horrendous. The light was worse than flat and dull. 100+ degrees with 90% humidity and a TERRIBLE haze. I am not a guy who sweats a lot but my shirt would be drenched within 10 minutes. Considering that I pretty much guessed exposure all the way, most of them came out as expected. In the covered market was even worse, since the only lighting would be the whatever crappy natural made it through and a mix of ugly fluorescent. Pick your poison situation 🙂



  16. Thanks for sharing this, good article. I agree with others here, I love the last shot, beautiful snap.


  17. And yes, Richard, certainly the FM3A. The xpan is cool but I think you are limiting yourself there.

  18. Thanks J..never give up. Being a musician as well, I always felt that, just as composing, images also reflect one’s mood or feedback from weather, surroundings, emotions. And, because of that, inspiration is not always easy to find or it may come from different sources at any given time. Sometimes, it’s light, or shapes, people, things..just keep your eyes open and keep it simple.

  19. @ Dj…Thanks!

    @ Nick…thanks! Wouldn’t have any other way. As long as film and chemicals are around, that’s what I will use.

    @ Stephen..thanks! Slide film fried? I would say it was likely the XRay..unless you left the camera in the sun for a period of time. Also, with the M7, careful changing lenses in full sun, if that’s the case…it is not as light-tight as it should be.
    As far as the Canon shooter..it could be..but it didn’t look that way 🙂

    @ Richard..sorry…I try to make it there once per year so next time I will certainly let you know in advance. Thanks for posting my favorite shot of yours, with silly haircut guy staring at your camera that was planted on his head 🙂

  20. Hey Max,

    I am off to Korea next week. Wish I’d have known you were there earlier I might have been able to switch plans about. I am doing Hong Kong and Seoul next week. Last time I did that trip I only brought one camera and on lens. My FM3a and the 50 1.8. I am now torn between doing the FM3a and 28 2.8 AIS or the XPAN2 snd the 45…..

    I will be using APX100 though – I have a cache of that film and love it. Scan and done – no need to mess about to get the contrast one needs! And I can also leave off the yellow or red filter, get the same contrast and not lose f stops!

    Long live APX (now Rollei Retro)!




  21. Max, great story and photographs. I can’t tell you how much I agree with your thoughts on the benefits of film and ‘delayed gratification’. It makes ending a holiday so much sweeter when you know you have all that film to look forward to. Agreed on the danger of modern life swallowing up history. I took a trip to Cyprus a few months ago and was surprised to find how difficult it was find traditional villages.

    On the heat. I was in New York recently and shot some Ektachrome and found that the heat (between 90 and 100) nuked my slide film 🙁 At least, I think it was the heat, it could have been the 50 x-ray machines that I had to go through each time I wanted to enter a NY landmark building…

    Anyway, my new rule now is when travelling somewhere hot to take C-41 (portra NC, Ektar, Reala (provided my fridge stocks don’t run out) and black and white (tri-x, Tmax, Delta).

    Just loved the comment story about the dslr shooter trying to get the shot in NY and getting the bird instead. You are wrong about one thing though, I bet he got about 9 fps close up of the bird 😉

  22. I would just like to say that some of your best shots are hidden in your flickr set!! Its so inspiring to see someone else working, enjoying, and producing great photographs with manual cameras and black and white film. I will never grow tired of using black and white film and manual cameras. Even though the means of producing art will constantly change with technology, the proven media of film should always have its place in the realm of photography.

  23. OK, where do I start?
    Some nice photos, I admit… But article? Come on! It’s not digital camera’s fault you take laptop and spend time in front of the screen while family is having fun. It’s the “little doubt” in you that does not trust digital at the first place. I shoot M9/M8. For my numerous travels I never took lap top with me. I leave it at home. I shoot. I fill out the card. I put it away, just like roll of film. When I get home I down load it. I started with chemical photography long time ago. Never again! Why spend time with smelly liquids? Darkroom? No thanks!
    Going back to film based photography is just pure nostalgia, nothing more…
    The argument “Just remember: one can take thoughtless, worthless pictures with an M9 and .95 Noctilux ($18K worth of equipment) while others get published or sell prints with images from a Contax T2 and a roll of Tri-X ($300 worth of equipment)….” is so predictable that can be applied on anything and everything and it’s used every time some body picks up an old film camera.

    “Solid piece of brass”! So what? Somehow it’s OK when m3 is “heavy” and weights more than “hollow” m9, but if we discuss modern DSLR most of the people who commented and admired the text above would complain about how bulky and heavy those are. Make up your mind, people.

    Many more points to make, but this would be enough for now. Rant over!

    P.S. Girl in the rain is a GREAT SHOT!

    • Some interesting observations, when viewed in isolation. But what exactly Tata ís your point? 🙂

    • Tata,

      You are certainly entitled to your opinions. If you liked the images, and/or the article, great and if you did not, or disagree with any of MY views, that’s perfectly fine too. None of it is taken personally and no offense is ever taken. My writing is not gospel but simply the road I chose to take, nothing more and nothing less. I’m not going to sit here and argue the virtues of film against the M9 because it’s pointless, and I do own an M9 and I use it when I feel like it. It’s a tool and nothing else. If it fits my mood or what I need it for, I use it and otherwise I do not. I still like the look of film much better and I enjoy the processing, while there are others who don’t..it’s what makes the world go round 🙂

      Thanks for the feedback..


  24. Thanks JH…yes, he’s not kidding. We had a few conversations about that. There is no better finder, ever. The newer Ms are considerably dimmer and harder to focus with.

  25. Thank you all for the kind comments!

    @ Roger..very kind. I actually did title that image “innocence”. Most kids there take pleasure in the simplest of things, with such wonder, and it is so refreshing to see.

    @ Tom B…Do it, Tom! After years of not having a darkroom myself, I am getting back into one soon. I have nothing against digitizing negatives and, without silly post processing tricks, there is plenty of potential there as well. Having said that, not much can compare to a well done wet print.
    Finders…yes, the M4 is great as well. I really have a hard time going from the M3 finder to any of the newer Ms.

    @ Michiel…thanks! I know, the “obsolete”gear still seems to deliver 🙂

    @ Robert..thank you! The thought of bringing a computer on vacation to check, process and save digital images just makes me cringe. Plus, it’s nice not to have the urge of checking emails, do work, and get aggravated 🙂

    @ Ashwin..thanks! The M3 I bought recently is a fairly mint one, with serial number over 1 mil, for $750. No excuses, buddy 🙂
    Yes, the MP is great but an MP with dead batteries is…an M3!

    @ Thorkil..thanks, very kind. The D3 is a great camera but if you point that to someone in the street you’d probably get punched 🙂
    I was in NYC the other day, shooting some Kodachrome (and some Tri-X) and I had the M7 with a Noctilux f1 mounted..funny thing happened. I saw an interesting looking gal with a bright, floral yellow dress on and a feather in her hair. I got maybe four feet away to snap one, she turned around and gave me a smile. Took the picture, smiled back and left. While I was walking away, I saw another sharp-shooter approaching her with what looked to be a Canon with one of those zooms that could kill a bison…she gave him a dirty look and the finger 🙂 ..and he didn’t get a shot off.

    @ David S. Thanks! Yes, I actually do prefer street shooting with flat, dull, lighting in most cases and it always works well for portrait type shots.

    @ Andy J….thanks so much!

  26. Max, thanks for sharing! Your thoughts about the M3 reminded me on KR’s conclusion in his famous M9 vs M3 battle: “The M3 is unquestionably Leica’s best camera.” and, my favourite quote, “After using the M3, looking through the finder of any other Leica looks like something’s wrong with it.”

    • If I am not mistaken you were a burden, with your attitude, on dpreview as well. Now you are here to make trouble? Let’s see some images baby!

  27. Fantastic stuff, Max — both the photos and the article. I would argue that the overcast light really served you well in these shots. You really captured the moment, particularly in your images of children.

  28. Dear Max Marinucci!
    What an fantastic article!
    What a joy of reading your viewpoint, which make me confident of my wish to sell my Nikon D3 (but keep my hassy SWC and perhaps the Hassy 201F) and to grab at my sleeping M6 and the 21mm Elmarit and perhaps supply with an 24mm Elmarit, instead of saving up to an M9. Before the digital period things were much easyer and more uncomplicated and I took a lot of pictures with the M6, with wonderfull big prints at the local enthusiastick fotoshop.
    Save my SWC for Venice and do some streetwalking here in the old part of Copenhagen with the M6….thanks
    No my intention was to not talking gear, but at least also tell you for what heavy apriciating thoughts you got for your political and society-preserving and not-self-concentrating statements.
    That is just what the world desperately need right now…thanks
    Thorkil Brodersen

  29. Outstanding article, Max. Your prose and images have got me thinking M3 again (my first love as an M), since I had to sell off my MP to fund an M9….I have always loved that body, and can only find fault in lack of a Meter, which one can always adjust for via handheld metering, eye meter, or a CV external meter….

    You are so right..Lieca got it right the first time out, and I find that the M3 is only rivaled by the MP!

  30. Max,

    Great story. You have found a kindred spirit here. You had me at M3. I have two of them and usually shoot with one M3 and one M6. Your point about film vs digital on a family holiday is insightful and I never thought of it that way but how true. Having the laptop images processing, etc. with you is the death warrant for really just focusing on the place and the people and the the culture.


  31. These are simply amazing, and proof of a truly great photographer (with a bit of help from the obsolete gear… 🙂 ) !

  32. Thanks Max, for the nice photos and great write-up! Really makes me want to dust off my enlarger and find a place for my darkroom again. (Digitizing B&W negatives just feels wrong!)
    In ’68 I opted for a new M4 instead of an M3 because I had gotten used to the M2 viewfinder, and mainly use a 35mm lens. I used to shoot a lot of sports with Leicas & 90mm, and could use the action outside the smaller framelines to anticipate the right moment.
    Your points about the M3 are certainly valid, and you do have to learn new habits to keep fingers off the later model’s front glass. Yet I think the original M4 (before the M4-2) was about equal quality. I still have my M4, and its viewfinder is much better than my M6. And (unlike my M6) my M4 has never needed repair!

  33. Max, thank you.

    That last image of the girl catching the rain is one of the most wonderful photographs I’ve ever seen. It is so evocative of a child’s inquisitiveness and interest in the world. It is simply beautiful.


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