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Does anyone here prefer a Leica film body over the current digital M bodies


petereprice

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On 11/21/2023 at 8:04 PM, Tom R said:

Since the late 1970's I have owned and used Leica M bodies (originally an M2 and an M3). Presently, I have two M4-Ps, one M4 and an M8.2. I have a suite of lenses, from 28mm through 90mm (Leitz glass). Of these, I use the M8.2 only when I need something done quickly--usually for a specific task that requires timely delivery of color images (usually technical applications for others...). 

I retired in 2017 and am doing personal work that investigates the benefits and limitations of film including, but not limited to the photograph as a trace and as an artifact.

Let us know the results of your investigation…!

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  • 3 weeks later...

OP - Interesting topic, thanks for posting it.

The "film" versus "digital" debate will likely continue long after I'm gone, but the perspectives of each are interesting.  Being a "senior" I remember growing up with boxes of physical pictures of family, the typical "Kodak moments" of years past.  These pictures were taken by everyone in the family sharing a single "point and shoot" camera.  The fun of it was that each person taking the picture pretty much just took a "snapshot", and wasn't a photographer creating an "image".  Shots were spontaneous, often joyful (pictures of family events that had meaning to the family), and were simple to take.  No need to be a pro with a simple Kodak camera.

My dad was more into photography, complete with a "setup and take down" dark room in the basement.  He used a rangefinder camera, but it wasn't a Leica.  He showed me how to compose, set aperture, and all the other controls to have more precision in the final image.  I enjoyed the fun of seeing a negative turn into an image, sniffing chemicals that likely would be banned today.  Sadly, as the family grew dad became less involved with "picture taking" and our photos shifted to the same Kodak snapshots as the rest of the family.  Still, having color pictures was a big deal back then.  

For those with memories similar to mine, I believe, shooting film brings back some of that nostalgia, but also recalls a far simpler time.  You chose the film you wanted and shot it.  You never had to be concerned with digital imaging, learning difficult to master editing software, spending hours learning the programs, and even more hours fiddling with the final image until you convinced yourself that it was "perfect".  I learned basic dodging and burning from my dad, but LightRoom and the rest take that to another level, one that involved a far steeper learning curve than is tolerable, at least for me.  So, I wind up with a SL2-S with outstanding image potential, but with cataracts, poor night vision and astigmatism, the ability to capture what the camera offers is more of a hope than a reality.  The digital world offers much, but much is required.  So, I wind up with a bag full of gear, weighing more than is optimal, and I then move to the M line.  

From there I can get a lightweight combo that works well for 28-75mm focal lengths, but the old problems with the rangefinders come back to bother me again.  Parallax alignment isn't perfect, not being able to actually see what the final image looks like through the lens didn't seem like an issue years ago, but with modern cameras it's back again.  Then I have to decide on the ISO setting, deal with LightRoom/CaptureOne and upgraded computers to get the best out of my gear.

Ultimately what seems to happen is that the entire experience has shifted from the "Joy of Photography" to the "Learning Curve of Technology", and I look for something simple and "foolproof".  That's where film returns as a preferred platform.  Only the reality is far different from all those years ago.  Film prices are high (but not a deal breaker), but the bigger issue is that the number/quality of film labs is far different from my youth.  We had several local shops that could take our negatives and enlarge them to whatever we wanted.  Any store could develop real handheld pictures in a day or two, and everyone could hold them and enjoy them.  Today, it's possible, but not as simple.  

So the choices, for me, are remain in the digital realm, where magic is possible if you spend nearly every waking minute keeping up with technology/digital "development" and other tech related topics.  Or, move to film where the changing landscape can make you feel more like a Don Quixote tilting at the windmill.

Sadly, the reality is that my SL2-S kit often remains unused, and my "always in my pocket" iPhone 14 Pro gets called on to take the "Kodak moment" family snaps and videos.  It's also a fully integrated platform that stores images in the cloud automatically, and ports files to my iPad, iMac, MacBook without any effort.  From there a simple "Edit" button makes gross changes in seconds, and my reaction is "Good Enough".  I never thought owning high quality Leica gear would result in a "Good enough" feeling when taking photographs.  My 50+ year hobby has morphed from a fun "recreational/family" focused past time, to a steep learning curve tech focused frustration.

And that doesn't even begin to consider the nearly $15K entry price for a Leica M11 and Summilux lens, or a digital SL(X) body and heavy APO lenses.  I owned the 24-90 lens, a great tool, but also capable of driving nails into a post, or causing me to get yet another hernia.  Yes, I'm an old grumpy grandpa, but Leica should expect that and return to a CL lightweight magnesium body and lightweight easy to use lenses with a 24MP sensor that allows for very acceptable JPEGs with little effort.

Rant over, now get off my lawn!

 

Edited by lencap
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20 hours ago, lencap said:

.... but Leica should expect that and return to a CL lightweight magnesium body and lightweight easy to use lenses with a 24MP sensor that allows for very acceptable JPEGs with little effort.

 

 

Many of us feel that Leica dropped the ball on this. I enjoy my hobby enough not to see the price of the M11 as a show-stopper but I just don't want such a beast. I read your post and it was all so familiar to my experiences. I had the CL for awhile but sold it on when I heard the CL2 was coming... Nowadays I'd prefer a full frame sensor though, because I have nice M lenses.

I'd ask them for an M4 with 'digital film', no bells or whistles. Give me 24Mp with ISO 50 to 800 in a simple internal module that can be factory-upgraded in years down the line. This module will have built in memory, no memory cards, no wi-fi, no phone Aps, no nested menus, no image editing, no video, no burst mode, no lens distortion correction, no shading correction, no file management, no chimping, I'm not even sure I want exposure histogram data, ........ KISS. With so little required of the electronics, the battery life will be days or weeks long, making it actually useful.
 

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I got M4-2 in 2015 and M-E 220 in 2016.

I see zero reason for current digital M while M-E 220 works.

I preferred film M until 2020.

After it I just lost interest in killing of my time by film developing and enlarging. 

But I'm missing the simple and reliable, no electronics, just brain taking of exposures with film M.

It is faster and ergonomics are superior to any digital M.

Leica should consider to offer film M dial on digital bodies. The digital one is not operational without looking on its clutter, film dial is so great I could dial any speed with close eyes.

For split second moments ergonomic are everything.

Film M was stimulating me to take daily life pictures because it was quick to set and no wake up, turning on time waste. With digital M I can't do it. I feel like tourist, not photog with it.

Less keepers with digital ... it is most nice digital camera I ever have, but it is not a tool I trust and confident as film M.

 

 

 

 

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I recently bought a Nikon D5600 "refurbished" kit from Nikon during the Black Friday week.  The camera has a very fine sensor, 24.2MP DX CMOS sensor, and came with the 18-55 kit lens (28-80 equivalent).  It's lightweight, built in flash (very helpful for fill lighting in backlit situations), and weighs less than a pound.  Is it a Leica?  Of course not, but it was $400!! with the lens and Nikon warranty.  I can take it anywhere and not worry about damage/theft/weight.  I would have preferred a Leica solution, but there isn't one.  I had the Q, but the 28mm focal length isn't very flexible, especially for candid family photos.

Should Leica build a CL replacement to capture this market?  Apparently not, or they would have kept the original in the family lineup.  It's not much of an economic impact to Leica, but if I find the Nikon replaced the Q for most uses, and also provides different focal lengths and can fit in my pocket, maybe that makes me less likely to buy other Leica gear.  And since the Nikon is a "real camera" despite the many limitations, it's more enjoyable than the iPhone Pro lineup as well as more attuned to photography as a primary tool.

 

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I have some digital cameras, but the best one amongst them I find is the iPhone 15 Pro, it is cumbersome to use, but at least it can handle highlights okay. The Leica M3 is a joy to use, every day, it never gets in the way, it's me that is the limitation with the M3 in my hands. Such a perfect machine. For me the digital Leica's get worse and worse, slow and just really designed with a mindset that doesn't work (for me). I'm glad others love the digital versions, that's great. I don't see Leica ever designing one that interests me, but if I'm wrong that will be cool as well.

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I’m thinking of selling my M7 and reading this thread reminds me why. I’ve an M10-P and three lenses (24 Lux, 35 Lux ASPH v1, 50 APO) all bought used. I have a pop up B&W darkroom at home but not used it for 3 years. Decided to stop doing colour film a year ago as I wasn’t getting the results I wanted and it just seemed it was getting in the way of the image, especially on a trip to Japan a year ago. Very happy with the 10-P including its black and white conversions. Thinking I should use the space and cash from the enlarger for a good A2 pigment printer, sell on the M7 and maybe get a used Q2 for casual stuff (and really wet weather) as there are a lot around at the moment. 
I don’t feel nostalgic about film M cameras as ‘back in the day’ I used the Olympus OM system and always thought the Ms were a bit of a faf… have learnt to use one properly and I no longer think that, but still no nostalgia. It’s a tool. 

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I have been making photographs for over fifty years. Clearly, this is something that I like to do (on some level). I still make photographs because I am exploring the  possibilities and limitations of film (as a philosophical/aesthetic question (if you will)). And, I will continue to experiment with film images (as opposed to other modalities) until I am no longer capable (for any number of likely reasons) to work. 

RE: Leica digital M bodies; I do own (though rarely use) an M8.2 ... . When that camera body "bricks" I certainly will NOT replace it with any current (or past) Leica digital body. If I were to purchase any new camera bodies, it would be something in medium format so that I could work in the 120 format. I am confident that I could do this without having to mortgage my house, and assuming that film, chemistry and qualified repair technicians remain available. 

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Love the thoughts and comments I read here.  I'm thankful I'm not a pro photographer (too stressful) and have the means to enjoy taking pics with Leicas. 

I think it's a great time to be alive now as we have so many CHOICES.  If you like to shoot film, the new M6 reissue is available as well as two other film Leicas.  M-digital, no problem.  AF digital?  SL line.  Yes, Leica bodies cost an arm and a leg but they're handmade products.  There are other awesome tools from Canon and Sony.

I'm just happy Leica is still around (post pandemic) so we can continue to enjoy their products.

Life is so short.  Go out and take some pics whether it be film or digital; isn't that the point of all this?

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  • 1 month later...

Yes mate, I feel exactly the same way, there’s so much more goin on with digital, so many options, options to think about. I also don’t like checking what I’ve just shot. Judging myself too harshly or getting too excited. Some people say don’t look at the screen, I say, I don’t want to be resisting temptation all the time thanks. I’m human, I will want to and I will.
 

Much of all this takes away from film’s simple quality which for me results in more time spent being in the moment shooting than setting settings, checking shots and possibly trying not to do all those things. I too don’t gel with the new digital bodies and I’ve bought them all and sold them all. I really wish he M11 had the SL2S 24mp sensor. It’s the same technology but much more manageable. As it is I have the SL2S and that will remain my digital option. To be honest I’ve bonded more with it than the digital Ms, despite it being a different format and larger camera. Film for me is about the experience and the anticipation and the pace. I enjoy that. When I need to be a bit more specific about what I need for certain projects I grab the SL2S. And it’s great. To me it sounds like you have what your heart desires and your soul needs. It’s just resisting the marketing and supposed ‘benefits’ which I’ll wager will come at the cost of what actually moves you. 

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I have the same experience as you. For years I shot only film with an M4P and M2. Then I bought an M10 monochrom and a Q2 Reporter. I’ve struggled with both digital cameras, but the film cameras I’ve been comfortable using 

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  • 2 months later...
Posted (edited)

This thread for me reinforces my film M side, which I came to first. However regarding air travel shooting with film being an issue, when I travel I still like to do 'street' type photography (along with landscape) and I couldn't imagine doing that on anything but an M and rangefinder...next best thing for me would be going back to my Fuji X-Pro and adapting Leica manual lenses. However at that point I/you might as well have a digital M! The circle eats itself. 

I could see myself ditching my digital M's and buying an SL variant for travel (with M lenses) if I didn't crave the discreet M style...which I do...

Edited by bdolzani
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Well,

I have this film idea every couple of years. I still own film cameras, Leica M, Nikon and Rollei6x6.

The results are beautiful, but the workflow of developping, scanning etc. is too much for me. 

Also in regards of b+w its a different look, the grainy 24x36 film vs the medium format like transitions of the MMono.

Again, I think the color of film is quite nice and special, but for me I give up after one or 2 films each time because of the worflow afterwards.

 

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5 hours ago, tom0511 said:

Well,

I have this film idea every couple of years. I still own film cameras, Leica M, Nikon and Rollei6x6.

The results are beautiful, but the workflow of developping, scanning etc. is too much for me. 

Also in regards of b+w its a different look, the grainy 24x36 film vs the medium format like transitions of the MMono.

Again, I think the color of film is quite nice and special, but for me I give up after one or 2 films each time because of the worflow afterwards.

 

Film is a lot of work, and if you're hybrid you're still on the computer editing the scans. I get seasick landing on one side than the other about it. Good point on the 35mm vs med format - what I like about film is the grain and depth, and it feels so awkward to add 'grain' to a digital photo, because you're not adding depth. So it's only halfway there.

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I never had a digital camera, only film cameras. I have been photographing most of my life, over fifity years now. I still like so many elements about using film: the mechanical tool that many older analog Leica M cameras ar, the fact that I have to consider taking a picture or not, knowing that a roll has only 36 exposures. But I never have to sort out thousands of holiday pics as some of my friends do because they (like many) tend to shout way too many digital images.

I have my films developed in a lab, where the negatives are scanned, so I can use them on my computer. That combination works very well for me.

Lex

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