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Justin-A

Leica M2 and Vivitar 283 Flash, Need some help!

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Dear Leica lovers!

 

A while ago I bought my first Leica, an M2. And I've been shooting some test rolls on the street. I've connected a Vivitar 283 flash to it (keeping it in my hand, connected with a cord), mostly shooting t-max 400 on a shutter speed of 500 (quite fast?). 

 

Now I keep having some issues with the shutter speed and exposure of the flash on the photos... Maybe there's quite a simple answer to my question... Probably my shutter speed still is too slow or too fast, or could it be my lens (Carl Zeis Biogon M, 28mm)? But I would love to learn from people with more expertise than I have at this moment. What can I do to get my flash properly exposed on my photo's?

 

I've attached an example! Thank you in advance!

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Your shutter speed should be set at 1/50th (between 30 and 60). There is a little red arrow on the speed dial to line up.

 

Do that first.

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Leica M2 and ALL Leica M film cameras sync for flash at 1/50th of a second. Your picture shows that the shutter speed has been set at too high a speed and the flash hasn't synced properly. ALL focal plane shutters will exhibit this effect - it is not Leica M exclusive. The difference is that some cameras will sync at much higher speeds than a Leica M.

 

A DSLR will typically sync at 1/250th of a second in part because the metal shutter traverses the frame vertically and runs faster than the slow cloth shutter of the Leica that crosses the film gate horizontally and therefore has further to travel.

 

The 1/50 th sync speed is because this is the speed when the WHOLE of the 35mm film frame is uncovered and that is when the flash is fired to illuminate the whole of the frame.

 

In your picture the flash is only illuminating a section of the frame because the shutter speed is too high and therefore only partially uncovering the frame when the flash fired.

 

Modern flash systems get over the limitations of the focal plane shutter by using what is known as High Speed Sync or HSS for short. This works by the flash sending out a series of light pulses instead of a single burst of light and therefore the falsh can effectively cover the whole frame at higher speeds than the nominal sync speed of the shutter. The effect though is that that power of the flash is greatly reduced as the shutter speed increases.

 

To your point about the speed of 1/50th of a sec being too slow to arrest movement then this is quite correct and one of the limitations for using a Leica M with flash in daylight. This also effectively prevents the camera from being fully usable with flash for filling in dark shadows on bright days as the flash has to give a very powerful burst of light to be used with the small lens aperture that the 1/50th sync speed gives ie. on a bright day with a moderately slow film speed of ISO 100 will still give a flash exposure of about 1/50th at F22 which is not really viable. A DSLR with a metal vertical travel focal plane shutter would give about 1/250th at F8/F11 which is far more manageable.

 

Having said all this a Leica M is not really a flash camera anyway and it's best use is with available light without flash. This is just one of the limitations that you have to accept when using a Leica M film camera BUT the advantages of the slow running cloth shutter are quieter operation and reliability as the parts are not being so stressed.

 

If you really need to shoot in daylight with flash at high shutter speeds then look for a camera that uses a LEAF interlens shutter that will typically sync at any speed right up to 1/500th of a second for mechanical shutters and in the case of the Fuji F100 range, that use an electronic leaf shutter up to 1/4000th of a second BUT even then at somewhat reduced flash output at such high speeds. Generally with flash 1/500th is a good ballpark figure with a leaf shutter for getting the full power of the flash onto the film/sensor.

 

Medium format cameras will generally use a between lens leaf shutter - Rolleiflex, Hasselbald and Fuji GF670 are all great examples.

 

Hope this answers your query!

 

PS: If you really want to use Leica M's for flash in daylight then the DIGITAL M's sync at 1/180th and if used with the Leica SF58 Flash then the M240 on can use the HSS capability of this flashgun to sync at much higher speeds -again with the loss of effective flash power as the shutter speed increases. 

 

For the OP's use though in street photography you would be relying more on the flash as a fill in so outright power is not essential as you need to have the flash exposure set to be about 1 - 2 stops below the daylight exposure. ie if daylight is 1/250th at f11 the flash should be set to give a power output of about f6.3 -  between f5.6 and f8. Always remember though that flash is NOT an exact science and other than setting the correct sync speed NOTHING is set in stone!!

Edited by paulmac

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Pico is correct. And paulmac stole my glory (I had something similar all written out!

)

 

Some (other) solutions:

 

1) use 1/50th, and count on the speed of your electronic flash burst (1/1000th-1/10000 sec.) to freeze the action. Note in your sample picture (probably at 1/125th?) that the man's hair is already showing some motion blur anyway, but the flash-lit belt and leather thongs are "frozen" and sharp due to the very fast flash exposure - just expand that to the whole picture by using 1/50th so that the flash reaches everything.

 

Here's a shot by Nat. Geo photographer (and Leica M user) David Alan Harvey - very dim light, long shutter time, but his flash still "freezes" the dancer in the foreground.

 

https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5822280c3e00be7d112f2258/5834c0a9579fb34d13dea31b/5840b1098419c2d2cce6a2f0/1480634643526/526142+WEB.jpg?format=2500w

 

You can get as creative as you like combining "ambient" (natural) light and any shutter time slower than sync speed, with a motion-freezing flash exposure.

 

http://www.popphoto.com/sites/popphoto.com/files/styles/large_1x_/public/import/2014/files/_images/201412/converge%2003.jpg?itok=EUyhpUUN

 

2) go really-old-school and get a flashgun that uses flash bulbs. Those "burn" for a relatively long time, and thus their light reaches all the film no matter how narrow your shutter slit is - they will even "sync" with 1/500th second. In that case, your shutter speed setting goes back to controlling the exposure/brightness, instead of the flash controlling its own length of exposure.

 

http://www.donsbulbs.com/bulbs/g623/l/ge1954/09.gif

 

http://facweb.cs.depaul.edu/sgrais/images/Camera%20Flash/DSCN6789.jpg

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Image-google "dragging the shutter" - a stupid "hipster" name for a technique that has been around for decades - even when hipsters were in diapers - but is nonetheless effective for using flash to get razor sharpness when for one reason or another your shutter isn't fast enough.

 

http://digitalphotoacademy.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/17/2010/04/16_-5.jpg

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@Pico

 

Wouldn't that be way too slow for fast handling on the street and create a blur?

 

Sure, but if the subject is close enough to be the dominant element, it would be very clear because the flash has a very short duration. The flash unit in question is very durable, and on automatic it is good. I marvel that my too-old-to-remember 283 still works!

 

EDIT: Back to adan's post. We should make a book of his posts.

Edited by pico

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Thank you all, this is some great information.

 

To Adan: The picture is actually taken on 1/500th, so that's what gives me doubts. But I'll try the 1/50th soon and let you know the results. I am very curious to see what happens. I've shot at 1/125th before with the flash and that just came out as blurry pictures on the street. 

 

What kind of flashgun can you guys recommend for shooting on a fast shutter speed (next to the old flashbulb) for the M2?

 

I sometimes shoot at club venues, which is of course filled with darkness. I haven't tried shooting yet with the Leica M2 and Vivitar 283. These would be shots of fast moving/dancing people, I guess this wouldn't be possible very easy either with my equipment? 

 

Thank you once more, this is very helpful! 

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I also would like to maintain the darkness of the background elements around my (nearby) subject, which result is best gained at a faster shutter speed. This would most likely just be possible without flash (with my equipment)?

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Thank you all, this is some great information.

 

To Adan: The picture is actually taken on 1/500th, so that's what gives me doubts. But I'll try the 1/50th soon and let you know the results. I am very curious to see what happens.

 

Shoot at 1/50th or fail. That is final.

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Another concise post from Paul - part of what makes participation in this forum so worth while - thanks! Those answers will help the OP make photographs that will please them. If I can jump on my 'soap box', if anything can turn people away from the Bruce-You-Know-Who way of working, I cannot thank you enough!

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I also would like to maintain the darkness of the background elements around my (nearby) subject, which result is best gained at a faster shutter speed. This would most likely just be possible without flash (with my equipment)?

To maintain a dark background you need to rely on the flash to expose the film, making sure the camera setting are such that ambient light would be insufficient for exposure.

 

Your shutter speed is fixed at 1/50, there is no way round that, to get a dark background you are going to need a combination of a slow film and a small aperture, your flash will have to be powerful enough to light your subject at your chosen aperture, the dial on your flash will tell you how far away your subject can be at various film speeds and apertures.

 

You're probably going to be limited to overcast days, on a sunny day with iso 100 film 1/50 at f16 is going to correctly expose the background.

Edited by mikemgb

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Shoot at 1/50th or fail. That is final.

 

Hello Justin,

 

Welcome to the Forum.

 

Actually, for electronic flash, with most FILM "M" cameras you can set the shutter speed wheel anywhere from 1 second to the little lightening bolt which is BETWEEN the 30 and the 60 on the shutter speed wheel.

 

Except:

 

With M5 cameras you should set the shutter speed wheel from 1/2 second to the little round point between the 30 and the 60. The 1 second speed on an M5 is a "hand timed" speed. Not escapement controlled.

 

And: With early M3 cameras you can set the shutter speed from 1 second to the 50 engraved on the shutter speed dial. There is no marked 60 on many early M3's.

 

Keeping in mind that the higher the shutter speed within these parameters, the greater the action stopping in the ambient light illuminated portion of your photo.

 

Best Regards,

 

Michael

Edited by Michael Geschlecht

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So one last question before I'm off to try. When shooting at night, would the 1/50th with flash also mostly freeze my moving/dancing subject (nearby) in front the camera? As the background will mostly just be a dark sky, there's no problem with illuminating background subjects like in the city.

Edited by Justin-A

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So one last question before I'm off to try. When shooting at night, would the 1/50th with flash also mostly freeze my moving/dancing subject (nearby) in front the camera? As the background will mostly just be a dark sky, there's no problem with illuminating background subjects like in the city.

 

At night you will get exactly the effect you are looking for.

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