1955 Leica iiif with Voigtlander Color-Skopar 21mm f/4 LTM
The Whole Roll

36 Frames / A Whole Roll with a Leica iiif, Voigtlander Color Skopar 21mm f/4 ltm & Ilford FP4 Plus (metered at iso 400) – By Duncan Gruer

July 3, 2020

I only ‘returned to film’ last summer.  The last time I really enjoyed photography before then was in the late ‘90s; mostly with medium format TLRs.  My film photography rebirth has been a complete revelation to me and I now know what will keep me active and inspired when I eventually retire – something that has been weighing on my mind for some time.

My favourite local viewpoint

View over the local allotments

Brincliffe Woods

Brincliffe Woods

The camera

Since my return, I have gravitated back to medium format, indulging a couple of long-held desires for particular brands and modes.  What I lacked though was a ‘take anywhere camera’, and that’s where this beautiful old Leica comes in.  My timing has been perfect as this little gem arrived in my hands just before the start of the coronavirus lockdown.  It has come out with me wherever I’ve gone on my ‘lockdown exercises’ over the last couple of months; whether walking or cycling.  This is not a gear review – others are much better qualified for those and I haven’t shot enough other cameras to give a reasonable balanced view.  What I will say though is that I am very happy with the results so far.  That said, the real joy for me is in the operation – it feels so beautiful in my hand and is just a constant delight to use.

Swingers welcomed!

Brincliffe Woods

Brincliffe Woods

Brincliffe Woods

The lens

As my Instagram will attest, I have a fairly eclectic approach, enjoying street, landscape, macro and more.  In particular, I have found that I love photographing the buildings of my adopted home town, Sheffield.  I am a firm believer that, wherever you live, there is ample subject material for any photographer, and I much prefer seeing people’s unique environs than yet another image of the Taj Mahal or the Brooklyn Bridge.  During the lockdown, I have been determined to carry on taking pictures and this roll is fairly typical of my output recently – woods, parks and streets!

Brincliffe Woods

Brincliffe Woods

Brincliffe Woods

Brincliffe Woods

This interest in architecture has led me to seek out a wider angle of view.  The Leica has given me that opportunity and this little Voigtlander 21mm is a great addition to my older glass.  Some people might regard it as sacrilege to pair a 1950s body with a modern lens but I like using it and enjoy the results!

Brincliffe Woods

Brincliffe Woods

Brincliffe Woods

Brincliffe Woods

The film

When shooting B&W, I usually use HP5 or Tri-X; both iso 400, but I decided it was time for some Ilford FP4 Plus for a change.  Only trouble was I immediately forgot!  I have never experimented with pushing or pulling film so it was a complete accident when I eventually did.  I shot the roll on a couple of ‘consecutive social distancing’ walks around my neighbourhood, entirely using sunny-16 metering.  I don’t yet develop my own film (another plan for retirement) but the lab that I use (filmdev.co.uk) was very happy to process, compensating for my schoolboy mistake.

Local streets devoid of people

Local streets devoid of people

Local streets devoid of people

Local streets devoid of people

Local streets devoid of people

Local streets devoid of people

The results

I really wasn’t expecting much, but what I got back the following week was full of contrast and strong tones.  The lens is sharp and really does capture everything I could want in the frame, and has definitely given me another string to my bow.  It’s quite hard sharing a whole roll; experiments and mistakes included, but I hope that the results show people what a surprisingly attractive city Sheffield is, and that these old cameras really should be used and not just put on display.

Local streets devoid of people

Local streets devoid of people

Local streets devoid of people

Local streets devoid of people

Local streets devoid of people

Local streets devoid of people

Finally, and not for the first time, they prove to me the importance of serendipity in film photography, and the unexpected pleasures the odd mistake can bring…

Local streets devoid of people

Local streets devoid of people

Local streets devoid of people

Endcliffe Park

Endcliffe Park

Endcliffe Park

Endcliffe Park

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7 Comments

  • Reply
    Soloman khan
    July 3, 2020 at 5:17 pm

    Nice pictures duncan, i’m glad you got your old photo bug restored after a lengthy abscence.do try your hand on developing and printing your own film, you will never look back, and your passion will grow exponentially.shefield is quite an amazing place, with lovely old buildings, friendly people too! Take care and continue with your love of picture taking, and remember to come back and post some more lovely pictures for us all to appreciate. Take care.
    Solly.

    • Reply
      Duncan Gruer
      July 3, 2020 at 8:43 pm

      Thanks Soloman. I did Dev and print my own back when I was a postgraduate but no time at the moment – one day, definitely though!

  • Reply
    Bruno Chalifour
    July 3, 2020 at 5:27 pm

    Great results. Keep the lab for its processing!

  • Reply
    Stala Gavrielides
    July 3, 2020 at 6:03 pm

    Very inspiring piece.

    Many thanks,
    Stala

  • Reply
    Sroyon
    July 4, 2020 at 2:55 am

    I really like how you say “This is not a gear review … I haven’t shot enough other cameras to give a reasonable balanced view.” Too many people are guilty of this, myself included 🙂 User impressions can be valuable, even if the user in question hasn’t used that type of camera – or indeed any film camera – before, but for a well-informed review, I think it’s good to have tried a few other similar cameras.

    The Barnack Leicas really reflect the 35mm ethos, don’t they. I don’t own one, but they are beautiful, well-made, truly compact cameras. They make even the M cameras (which are svelte compared to most SLRs) look bulky by comparison. Such good design.

    I had the Voigtländer 25mm f/4, which is a similar design and construction to yours. I eventually sold it because I don’t gel with that focal length – I prefer wider (20–21mm) or narrower (28mm). But it was so tiny and precise that I literally laughed out loud when I first took it out of the box, and it made me smile every time I put it on my camera. It was well-constructed and tack-sharp. You may know this already, but your lens, like the famous Leitz Super-Angulon from the late 1950s, is a symmetrical design (unlike the 21mm f/1.8 for M-mount which is a retrofocus design). Symmetrical wide-angle designs are only possible for rangefinders (due to the short back-focal distance) and not for SLRs; it enables brighter optics, and better aberration-correction with fewer lens elements.

    Oh, and nice photos 😉

  • Reply
    Castelli Daniel
    July 13, 2020 at 1:25 am

    Hi Duncan,
    I really enjoyed these photos. Being a VW guy, my favorite is the Bug.
    I’d love to get a 3G, but my life is complicated enough without adding another Leica.
    We were in the UK in the summer of 2017, visiting our daughter who was enrolled in a letterpress class in London. I took the 21mm Voigtlander (M mount) along. We spent a day at Brighton and I shot the pier silly with it. Had a blast, but I sold it because it really didn’t fit into my daily work. But, I’d encourage anyone doing travel, landscape/cityscape/seascape to give the focal length a try. Lot’s of fun.

  • Reply
    Bryan Costin
    August 17, 2020 at 12:37 am

    Thanks for this. I was looking at my Nicca/Tower 35 and it occurred to me that the Skopar 21 would be a good fit. I did a search and here are some excellent new examples of a similar setup on my favorite photo site. Inspiring!

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