Review Ramblings

I’m very inspired by what I experience is a strong focus on content in the film photography community. When I read film reviews or listen to film pod casts there’s always a lot of new content, well worded insigts, and thought-through opinions.

In the digital photography community – at least in reviews – I tend to find so much rambling.

I’ll share some examples here:

This lens is a typical Leica lens. Small, gorgeous, and of very high optical quality. Leica makes some killer 50’s and in all honesty they do not make a bad lens. In the Leica world of 50mm lenses we have the classic and one of my all time favorites, the 50 Summicron (see my review here). I LOVE the 50 Cron! Period! If I had one lens to buy for my M9 and wanted the best all around lens for speed, size, weight, cost and performance it would be the 50 Summicron. Sure there is a more exotic lens like the 50 Summilux ASPH but it is much larger, heavier and costs much more. You can read about the 50 Lux HERE. Now, for those who can afford it and want the best of the best in the 50mm department then the Leica 50 Noctilux f/0.95 is the one to get. It’s a masterpiece. Beautiful. Heavy. LARGE. BUT DAMN, its GORGEOUS and unlike any other lens made today for 35mm. I have written a review for the 50 Noctilux as well (can see it here). Leica also makes a 50 Elmar 2.8 that collapses into the body. I have not yet reviewed it but I have used it and loved it.

I can’t think of a single thing here that tells me anything about any lens, except that all lenses are great/lovable/gorgeous. And this is not merely a random paragraph. I did a count. In an article of 114 periods, 67 where pure ramblings like the above. That’s way of half the content! An additional 12 periods were commercials. And only 35 periods described the product in a meaningful way.

What I find in the film photography community is beautiful paragraphs like this:

Kodak Portra likes daylight: so that means always ensuring it’s around. If you’re shooting with it at night or around Tungsten/Incandescent lighting you’re going to get very orange tones to the scenes you photograph. If you’re shooting in cloudy situations, I also highly recommend using a flash unless your lab is very good at fixing colors.

Not only is the quality of the writing just higher (“Kodak Portra likes daylight” – well worded, huh!?), but it is also describing the product to me. I’m learning here. Or:

Notice how you’re still getting muted tones here but they could be better if there was just more light? I probably should have overexposed it but for this session.

In lens reviews all I see are shots of sons , wives or palm trees without any real comments about what’s good or bad about that particular image.

Different photography cultures

Reading about film rolls I’m struck by the difference in perception from reading about lenses:

There’s no such thing as a “perfect” film. Let’s just get that out of the way. Every shooter has different tastes regarding tone, color, grain, etc. But if ever a film was close to being a perfect all-rounder, Portra 400 just might be it.

From https://www.casualphotophile.com/2015/06/12/film-profile-kodak-portra-400/

This is a fairly balanced way of saying the Portra 400 is a pretty good film.

Now, compare to a lens review:

This SUMMILUX-M ASPH has the best bokeh of any LEICA lens, and it is LEICA’s best 50mm f/1.4 ever, however it is still not as sharp as the LEICA SUMMICRON-M 50mm f/2. Nothing beats a SUMMICRON.

http://www.kenrockwell.com/leica/50mm-f14-asph.htm

And no, it’s not just Ken Rockwell (http://www.reddotforum.com/content/2017/03/leica-summilux-sl-50mm-f1-4-asph-review-a-new-standard/):

The 50mm Summilux-SL ASPH is a formidable lens, offering sharpness at f/1.4 that is nothing short of extraordinary. Combine that detail with luscious bokeh and lovely color rendition and you have the makings of an incredible lens. Leica set out to make a statement with its first prime SL lens, and they have mostly succeeded. It’s not perfectly perfect.

M7 – my first shots

Today I went shooting with the M7 for the first time. When I pick up the M240 after just this one day, it almost feels monstrous compared to the slim M7.

Loading

I read so much about loading the film being super hard. But I think I got it right, and if that’s true, the fuzz about how hard it is feels almost rediculous.

Alright, I’ll park this topic and postpone being cocky until I get a blank roll in return:-)

Shutter and Advance

The sutter release feels more soft than on my M240, and the sound is super delicate.

After I release the shutter, I almost can’t wait to push the advance lever to enjoy the feeling of letting the mechanics bring forward the next frame with a snappy yet demanding imperative.

No ▶ Button

I immediately liked not being able to preview the picture on the screen afterwards.

I like having to wait to see the results, and I feel right away that I’m concentrating more knowing that each frame has some associated ‘cost’.

I’m also looking more forward to seeing my photos than I did with my digital camera. I think I’ll be studying them more individually and putting more thought into why they ended looking the way they did, how I used the light, what my exposure did for the photo, the framing etc.

Anyway – I don’t have the pictures yet. For now, I’ll concentrate on my roll and evaluate later when I have the results.

Worse View Finder

One thing, though.

I found the view finder significantly worse than on my M240. It’s certainly more prone to flare, which makes seeing the frame lines harder when backlit. It’s also less contrasty which makes focusing harder.

I have to admit that it was only today I realized that the M7 ships with and without MP finders. Had I known that, I’d probably have gone for one with an MP finder, but what the heck, I’m still falling in love with this little beauty.

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!