Posts tagged ‘Leica M6 TTL’
Yeah, I know, it’s been quite a while since I posted. I have some real excuses, some lame excuses, but mostly, I’ve been very, very busy. And, just when I thought I’d get everything back together,, I had a bit of a health scare that seems to have turned out all right. If anyone really wants the gory details, they can email me and I’ll fill you in, but for now, what matters is that I intend to start posting regularly again as of today.
What I had truly intended before the health scare was re-launch the site on the day that Leica announced the black & white digital M camera, the Monochrom. Needless to say, because of my passion for black & white photography, if I had the funds, I’d already have placed my pre-order for this amazing camera. I’ve read many different reviews of the beastie, but the best (and the one with the best images) is here. I really suggest you look at those images and read the commentary. Amazing.
So, although I am late, I thought I’d post some of the images I shot when I borrowed Paul’s Leica last year in Akron. At least it’s a symbolic gesture.
This week has been rather busy; school is getting into high gear, the Saab needed an unexpected repair, the Aztec needed her rear brakes tweaked. Working at the University in our unique program, life sort of alternates between “steady predictable” and “organized chaos” owing to the nature of the program, mixing class work with outside projects. Some weeks I think I’ll have some free time and then I wake up and discover it’s Sunday again and another week is going to start and that last week just went by in a whoosh. This last week was like that.
This image is a frame from the second roll of HP5 I grabbed when Paul and I were walking around Akron. More images from that roll are below. I confess that even at a few weeks’ remove, I really like the look of the Summicron. I still have to take Mike Peters’ up on his offer to audition the Zeiss lenses (thank you, Mike) but coming back to those images and scanning a few last night (these images were scanned on my home scanner) the tones and look of the images was very pleasing to me again.
Speaking of Scanning, I spent an evening in the university lab this past week scanning various negatives on their Imacon. And then, at the end of the evening, realized that I did not have a DVD with me, so I couldn’t off-load the images onto the disk and take them home. Arrguh! So, I can’t show you what I saw on the screen after those scans, but I can tell you the difference, at least on that screen and in that light, was pretty tangible. Certainly, in the future, if I decide that a particular b&w neg is worthy of a larger print, I’m gonna scan that neg on the Imacon for as long as I have access to it. Later this week, I’ll post some image samples.
Going forward, with each image I’ll note which scanner I used.
Here’s a few more images from that roll; nothing fancy . . .
Oh, and the title of the post was related to last night’s other activity: mixing a fresh new batch of Xtol, stop bath, and Fixer! Whoo-hoo!
Just enjoying the images I captured on my day with Paul.
One more roll to scan. I’m about to go on a business trip to Seattle, so I won’t be able to scan anything until I return.
Before you start reading, just take a look at this image for a sec.
Look some more.
Now we can start the post.
This past Sunday I spent with Paul Lester in Akron, Ohio, and we swapped cameras; he shot with my Bessa R2a mounting my 35mm Zeiss Biogon and I used his Leica M6 TTL with the accompanying 50mm Summicron. As we were parting, Paul said “I can’t wait for your write-up on the Leica, you don’t miss details and I want to know what you think.” So as to not make him wait, I summarized my off-the-cuff thoughts, then drove home, thought a lot more and have ruminated every day since then. Some of those ruminations made their way into my last post, about Brand Loyalty. I finally developed the rolls of HP5 last night, looked at the negs, scanned some, and wanted to share the impressions I have gathered.
Rangefinders in General
I’ve wanted a Rangefinder camera for the longest time, even going back to my FTb days. I had my aim on a Canon Canonet back around 1975. I remember shopping for one in the 47th Street Photo catalog. I can’t remember when I first came across the description of a rangefinder and the sense of “seeing beyond the framelines” when shooting with one but I had always wanted to try that idea. I never got one back then.
When I got back into photography, and realized that, in addition to shooting with my new Canon digital cameras, I would also continue to shoot film, I started to research rangefinders and finally realized what “Leica” meant. In 2004 or so I didn’t even know Leica had an SLR line, and when I read about the idea that one could buy a Leica lens and mount it on their Canon body with an adapter, I thought that *any* Leica lens could do that. When I found out the author was talking about an ‘R’ version of a Leica lens, not the “M” version, I was crestfallen. But I knew I still wanted to audition some of that Leica magic.
But, oh the cost. So, I bought a combo I could afford: a Bessa body and a Zeiss lens. The rangefinder experience is as great as I thought, and there is no doubt in my mind that I’ve captured some very nice images with that combo. But I had always wanted to try the real deal. Especially after I discovered Steve Huff’s web site. His write-ups of Leica gear got my blood boiling again, his passion for the gear comes leaping off the page. So, when Paul let me know we would get together in Akron, I couldn’t resist asking him if I could use his M6 that day. He agreed. I shot two rolls of HP5. So, what did I think?
The M6 TTL body
Solid is as solid does. There is absolutely no doubt that as a piece of camera hardware, the Leica M6 TTL is in a class by itself. The construction and the feel is better than anything I have ever handled. The only camera that even comes close is a Canon F1n, a lone copy of which I owned for a couple weeks a year-and-a-half ago. I had bought a used copy from Adorama, there was a problem with the AE finder, so I returned it for repair. But they took forever to fix it, and I eventually canceled the order. The F1n was as close as anything has ever been to the Leica, but not really. The Leica’s fit and finish is wonderful. It handled great, and it was invisible in my hands. Interestingly, however, the Bessa has one advantage. On the back of the body, where you would rest your thumb, the Bessa has a hump of sorts which allows you to grip the back of the body with your thumb and this does give you a sense of security when you hold the camera. The Leica does not have this hump, and I immediately missed it. So did Paul after he shot with the Bessa for a while and then returned to the Leica. One could buy a grip, of course, to make up for this slight difficiency.
The Leica’s shutter is indeed quieter than the Bessa’s, and noticeably so.
Bottom Plate/film loading
The Leica famously has a bottom plate which must come off to load film. Much has been written about how clunky and weird this is. There is also a back door which opens so you can position the sprocket holes after you’ve dropped the film canister in the body. As soon as Paul showed me how to set this up, I could see how it would be easy to load film time after time after time. Paul mentioned a story about Annie Leibowitz where she can apparently load film in a Leica M while running full-out, and with the set up of the back and lower plate I can absolutely believe it. Why anyone would complain about this admittedly quirky way to load film I cannot imagine, because it is absolutely easier than opening the door, threading the take up reel, etc. The only weird thing I can think of is that there have to have been cases where people dropped the bottom plate and lost it. That was my big fear. But the process was extremely easy.
The Bessa has more exposure info in the frame window than the Leica, but I liked the Leica’s simple right and left arrow much better. The Bessa shows you the proper shutter speed it wants by flashing the speed if the proper one is not currently selected, and it’s kind of annoying, actually. The Bessa has Aperture priority exposure if you want it, which is nice when you DO want it. But I wish they had chosen a more elegant way to display the exposure info.
Overall, while I did truly enjoy the picture taking experience with the M6 TTL, on a pure cost point of view, the price difference between the Bessa and the M6 is large enough that I would stay with the Bessa. You could buy three Bessas for the cost of one used M6 TTL, and while the M6 is a better-made camera, it’s not THAT much better. Do I want to own an M6 TTL some day? Yes I do. But that purchase is not at the top of my list.
Well, here is the deal, eh? I LOVED LOVED LOVED the lens. The lens is as special as I have heard. One reader of the blog confided in me that the 50mm Summicron was his favorite lens ever, and my-oh-my do I see what he means. While the low-res JPEGS in this post are nice enough, they don’t compare to the look of the full-res images on my screen. While I truly love the look of HP5 and Xtol, I have never seen that combo look as beautiful as it does when combined with the Summicron.
Remember, I just developed rolls of HP5 in Xtol from my Disney Hall shoot, shot with the Canon 17-40L, and I can say without any doubt in my mind that I had to tweak those scans much, much more to get the images to look the way I like as compared to the images captured with the Summicron. When I tried the default settings for contrast and clarity I had just used with the Canon images, the Summicron images were too harsh by quite a bit.
The black & white film I shot with the Summicron looked just wonderful to my eye, not too contrasty but plenty sharp enough. I wish I had shot some color chrome or negative film while I had the lens, because the color rendering with the lens is supposed to be stunning, and the lens’ reputation with black&white film was certainly borne out by my experience. I just wished I had some Delta 100 with me that day, because the HP5 is just amazing. Why, Tri-X might even look good! (grin)
I have been looking for a 50mm lens to use on my Bessa for a while, and the search is officially over. I have now begun saving for a 50mm Summicron in an M mount, and I am thinking of somehow auditioning a 50mm Summicron R lens with an adapter on my 5D.
For me, this is a case where the ‘cult’ of the hardware has been borne out by experience. At least in my case.
Thanks so much to Paul for lending me the camera for the day.