Couple on bycicle

On my way home from work a Friday night in inner Copenhagen.

Leica M7 with 50mm summilux on Portra 400 post processed to b&w.

I’m sure this would have looked “sharper” on digital, but I can’t help love the grain here. I’m amazed that I got the shot in these lighting conditions working with an ISO 400 film. I recall this was my last exposure on the roll.

Expired Fuji Sensia 200 slide film

I started up an expired roll of Fuji Sensia 200. My plan in learning to shoot film really is to stay with one brand, but I got this one roll from a friend, so what the heck.

It says expiration date was late 2006. I read that color negative film generally should be overexposed by a stop for every decade. I don’t know if that holds for slide film. I’ll bracket a bit and see where it takes me. I think it’s been refrigerated, but certainly not frozen down.

I did fancy this sunny 16 figure on the inside of the pack.

Finished my first 5 pack

I just finished my last roll from the Portra 400 5 pack that I bought as my first film.

Some thoughts while waiting on the lab.

I clearly have to be better at exposing correctly. I discovered that I’ve been relying on being able to push exposure in Lightroom more than I thought. Often 2/3 stop. A few times more. But it has never really mattered. Film, on the other hand, loves light, and I need to give it more. I did a lot of experiments with the remaining rolls. I’ll pick up my learnings, when they return from the lab.

I also noticed that I enjoy the process of photographing more with the film camera. I am forced to think more about my photography because I can’t check right away if the photos are alright. This also means that I’m learning more.

I enjoy the craftsmanship that goes into taking the photo. With the digital M it felt somewhat impossible to make a bad exposure. The camera and Lightroom pretty much nailed it for me. Now, I have to nail it myself. Perhaps, for the first time, I feel that I’m making pictures rather than taking them. Not brilliant pictures, but pictures I made:-)

Roll #1 Notes (1): Hello Mood

I had my first roll returned from the lab, and now my digital unlearning really kicks off!

I’ll be honest, that running through the 39 frames I experienced both disappointment and satisfaction. It’s not all good, and certainly not all bad. It’s a world of both new possibilites and new constraints.

Learning 1: Hello Mood

I’ll start with one big plus: Compared to Digital, I think my images from this roll are more “moody”, and that they convey more emotion.

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Roll #1. Istedgade, Copenhagen. Leica M7 with 50mm Summilux.

It’s probably got to do with the colors. I think there can be something melancholic over Portra 400.

Learning 2: No Post Processing

Out of the 39 exposures, I post processed just one. That’s a LOT of time saved!

The second picture above has had exposure corrected slightly. I did like the mood of the first one, but the colors were too muddy, I think. I really like the end result, though.

Learning 3: Exposure, Exposure, Exposure

I have to improve. I knew that I should err to the over exposure side, but stil… This one I couldn’t fix in post processing.

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Roll #1. Leica M7 with 50mm Summilux.

I like the picture, but exposure is clearly off.

Learning 4: Goodbye Digital Crispness

The resolution is just lower. This means that the images loose that digital “pop”. Some of the images come close, but especially when enlarged they don’t really compare.

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Roll #1. Leica M7 with 50mm Summilux.

Perhaps this is the clearest “downside”. On the other hand, all those pop’y, crispy, sharpy digital images are beginning to bore me a bit. I wonder how we will perceive them some years from now.

When moving from digital, your eyes are really well trained at pixel peeping. Even if you tell yourself that you aren’t a pixel peeper. I think accepting this, will be my main challenge.

Deciding on a Leica M7

I bought a Leica M7. And today it arrived!

I come from an M240, and even though I knew that the bodies were similar, it still struck me how much they look alike. The on/off buttons on the M240 were invented with the M7. The shutter dial look the same, the width and hight are if not identical, then close.

I’d like to share my research for the acquisition here.

Why a film camera?

I think the colors of an analogue camera are beautiful. That’s what in it for me. Can digital do the same? Perhaps it can come close, but I’d rather just shoot analogue than try make my digital pictures look analogue.

In order to make a decision about which film camera, it was important for me to understand that playing with those film colors was my main driver.

I had other drivers as well. I was attracted by the simplicity – not having a “Play” button and a preview screen, and I was attracted to working with something more mechanical. Also, I’m a geek, and the world of film rolls is now opening up to me as a whole new area of geekery.

Why not an M6?

I was close to buying an M6. I was attracted to the idea that the shutter was purely mechanical, and that electricity was only needed for metering. In the end, I reminded myself that my key driver was playing with colors. Not learning manual exposure or getting better at using Sunny 16. Although that would be nice, it’s not my project right now. I believed that the M7 would help me stay more focused with the apperture priority mode of its electronical shutter.

Why even a Leica?

Well, I already that the M240, so I wanted to reuse my lenses. And I really appreciate the Leica build quality. I enjoy craftmanship, and that’s what Leica is to me (as much as or perhaps even more than the image quality).

Learning points

In investigating the M7 I had a number of learning points that I wanted to document.

Startup time

I have some regrets with the M240. One is that the camera is more than a second in starting up. I’ve speeded this somewhat up by getting the fastest SD card I could, but even so it’s 1-2 seconds before the camera is ready. This contradicts the rangefinder ideology of being ready without any fuzz. I was nervous if getting an M7 would place me worse over an M6 in terms of startup time. I learned that the M7 meter does take a second or two to warm-up, but that the electronic shutter works right away if the camera is not in AUTO mode. So the M7 is always ready, although the meter might be behind.

Battery drain

I can live with batteries, but I also noticed that the M6 classic does much better than the M6 TTL, and that the M6 TTL is know to do better than the M7.

Leica says (in the product manuals):

  • M6 will last 20 hours or 130 rolls at 15 seconds of metering per exposure
  • M6 TTL will last 8 hours or 80 rolls at 10 seconds of metering per exposure
  • M7 will last [6.5 hours or] 65 rolls at 10 seconds of metering per exposure

The 6.5 hours for the M7 is my calculation. For this reason alone I considered going with the M6 classic.

In any case, several people have reportedly had problems with all three models because of “user errors”. For example, they don’t swhich off the camera, and the meter is activated while the camera is in their bag, which drains the battery. Or they have a bad shooting habit of depressing the shutter all the time.

In any case, I just had to accept that the M7 will wear out a pair of batteries three times the speed of an M6 classic. So I bought an extra pair of backup batteries.

But when is the camera actually using battery power?

John Collier investigated this using a Flux 88 Multimeter and posted his findings on a mailing list. He concludes that you can leave the camera on or not. As long as you don’t press or depress the shutter, the M6 TTL is not using batteries. I’m sure the same holds for the M7. He very thoroughly investigated the following scenario’s:

Shutter speed dial set to "off", shutter wound or released and pressure on
shutter release or not // 0.00 milli-amperes

Shutter speed dial at any position, meter not activated and shutter wound or
released // 0.00 milli-amperes

Shutter speed dial at any position other than "B" and "off", meter activated
and shutter wound // 15.68 milliamperes

Shutter speed dial at "B" position, meter activated (no display) and shutter
wound // 14.48 milli-amperes

Shutter speed dial at any position but "off", shutter wound, and meter
activated but allowed to time out // 0.00 milli-amperes

Shutter speed dial at any position but "off", shutter released and pressure
on shutter release // 16.48 milli-amperes

Build quality

The M7 feels great.

You’ll find reports online of M7’s with problematic electronics. I decided to accept that this is a risk as it is with any other electronic camera. Newer camera’s are more likely to break than older mechanical ones. That’s the price of the bells and whistles they ship with.

My take on it was that it’s impossible to know if *you* will be hit by a malfunctioning product. I decided that there are so many good reports on the M7 that I wouldn’t let the negative ones influence my decision too much. However, I did note some general differences between the M6 and the M7 that I considered.

The M7 is supposed to have a slightly more quiet shutter. It should almost be unnoticable, but at least it’s not a bad thing.

The M6 being fully mechanical should have a slightly more soft shutter release.

The last item here did push me slightly back towards the M6.

The decision

Many of these points are really details. In the end I reminded myself that to me it was about working with film and the colors of the film media. I decided that aperture priority mode (AE/auto exposure) was a convenience that would help me stay focused on the composition and colors.

Today the camera arrived. Tomorrow I start shooting!