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Photo taken with my Leica M6 and Kodak Tri-X 400 film using the Leica 50/2 Summicron-M lens. The film was developed with Kodak D76. The negatives were digitized by photographing with Sony A7R and Sigma 105/2.8 macro lens. Post processing with B&W and channel inversion plus slight contrast adjustment.
One of my first photos taken with my Leica M6 and Kodak Tri-X 400 film using the Leica 50/2 Summicron-M lens. The film was developed with Kodak D76. The negatives were digitized by photographing with Sony A7R and Sigma 105/2.8 macro lens. Post processing with B&W and channel inversion plus slight contrast adjustment.
I purchased in January my first Leica camera after using M mount lenses with adapter for several years on my mirrorless camera. Since I am more leaning towards B&W photography, I wanted to try a Leica rangefinder camera. I pretty quickly decided to go for a film-based M camera since I still have my own darkroom and can develop my own B&W film. I further narrowed down my choices by deciding for an in-camera light meter. Full manual was fine for me, and a camera which does not rely to work with a battery plus the well established reputation of the series made me choose the M6 (the non TTL model since I don't do a lot of flash photography). I purchased an used black M6 in very good shape manufactured in 1995 with 0.72x viewfinder. Since then I have used this camera very often - upfront I really like to work with it. There are some pros and cons which I thought are worthwhile to share from my experience. PROS + Great to see more than just the 100% view in the viewfinder. I find it easier to compose with the M6 than with any of my (D)SLRs or mirrorless cameras mostly due to seeing around and outside the framelines. + Focusing: Coming from (D)SLR and mirrorless, I needed first to get used to focus on the small focus rectangle in the middle of the frame - of course I overlooked it a few times in the beginning and forgot to focus accurately, but lesson learned! I am using my M6 mostly between 21 and 50 mm focal length - the focusing is very precise and indeed faster compared to using the same M lenses on my mirrorless Sony A7R body where it takes me longer to focus with the magnification tool in EVF. + Use of color filters for B&W photography: something which really annoyed me with SLRs and mirrorless cameras that I had to look through the lens with a dark yellow or red filter attached or remove the filter first, compose, and then re-attach the filter. With the rangefinder camera, it doesn't make a difference, I only see the difference in the exposure value. The viewfinder stays clear as always. For B&W film photography, this is a huge advantage! + Overall camera size: The M6 with M lenses is a very inconspicuous looking setup. During my shootings with this camera, only very few people asked me about the camera but more in the context of shooting film. The camera blends well in and does make it look like a P&S camera. + Built style of the M6: It is extremely well built. I like the full metal body with limited amount of plastic parts. Well balanced weight-wise with my M lenses, too. + Very silent shutter: at least compared to all of my other cameras which all have a mechanical shutter. Adds nicely to the silent and inconspicuous work possible with this camera. + External viewfinder: some might rather add this point into the cons section, but I see it as a positive for me so far. I am often using my 21 mm lens on the M6, so I bought the newer Voigtlander 21/25 external viewfinder. It is very bright, allows quite accurate composition. I even use the 21/25 external viewfinder with my CV 12/5.6 lens - using the hard borders of the viewfinder instead of the 21 mm frame lines, gives by accident exactly the view of the 12 mm lens. I got very quickly used to focus and expose through the regular camera viewfinder and then compose by looking through the external viewfinder. In dim light, the bright 21/25 viewfinder is really an advantage. + Film frame exposures: Since everything is done manually, I was always able to get 38-39 frames with a commercial 36 exposure film. Not bad! + No battery changes: sure, at some point the batteries also need to be changed to allow the light meter to function, but compared to my other digital cameras this is nothing. No need to be afraid to have Li batteries drained quickly in the cold etc.....you simply shoot and shoot with the M6. CONS (not only M6 related but also M rangefinder in general): - Comparing the film roll insertion with my older Canon FTb SLR, it still takes me longer to do this with the M6. I find the tricky part is to get the film straight laid out from left to right after it is inserted. The manual states that the user shouldn't be too picky about this, so I once added the film more quickly without doing those precautions. After I developed the film, the first three frames had a slight diagonally angled bent because the film wasn't winded straight between cassette and roller. Nevertheless, the film was moved correctly, so the rolling mechanics worked reliably as promised. But I still find the film change harder to do with the M6 compared to my film SLR cameras - especially in the field. I might simply need more time to get fully used to this. - I am often rolling my own film from a 100 feet roll which means that I have to precut the corner of the film to make it work with the roller mechanism. Here the M6 is a bit picky I found - if I cut the edge too much or too less, the camera didn't wind the film correctly from the beginning. After some try and error I found now the "best" size for the film cutout, now it works smoothly. - A stupid error, but it still happened to me several times - leaving the lens cap on the lens and not realizing that it was still on. You get the idea if the light meter always shows an underexposure... . As (D)SLR/mirrorless user, I am so used to look through the lens directly. - Using polarizer filter: Tricky but workable. I adjusted to imagine the desired effect with the polarizer filter by turning it into a position where the camera light meter shows a 1 stop underexposure (fully closed polarizer). Then the effect is strongest, by turning the filter a bit out of this position, I got the desired moderate polarizer effect in the photo. - The rangefinder patch blank-out: In another post here I described my homemade solution to overcome this issue. I personally found it quite annoying when the focus rectangle suddenly shifted into a reddish color in the viewfinder and focusing was blanked out. You need to compose into another area and recompose, or roll the camera to make it work again. - Fingerprints: again something simple but worthwhile mentioning. I normally grab the camera on the top when I take it out of my camera bag. On the M6, I often directly touch with my finger(s) the viewfinder window on the upper left camera side. The rangefinder view is very sensitive to smudge on this window. I got used to always carry a clean microfiber cloth with me to clean this window if needed. - Dual/multiple exposure: I got it to work with the M6, but it is a fairly cumbersome procedure, and you will lose about two frames before and after the double exposure to allow for the correct film winding. And even then, it is sort of luck to overlay two frames fairly accurately onto each other. I only tested this once so far and maybe it is getting better by doing it more often. I really enjoy my rangefinder experience so far! Down to the basics and makes me more to focus just on the compositional aspect. Would you agree - what was your experience with the M6 (and maybe other M cameras according to the context above)? Martin