Leica M6 - Elmarit-M 28mm 2.8 - Kodak 400TX
5 frames with...

5 frames with a Leica M6 and an Elmarit 28mm on Kodak 400TX (at EI800) – By Michael Palmer

June 10, 2020

I’ve been shooting film since I was a kid, starting with my fisher price 110 camera. I learned to develop my own black and white in 2001 and have on and off kept shooting film ever since. I went through a big digital phase, when Canon released the Digital Rebel 300D, I picked up my first digital SLR, next, when the 5D came out, I had to have it.

At the same time I was learning digital, in 2005, my apartment burned down, and I lost all of the film I shot between 1996 and 2005, causing me to almost entirely drop film at that point. Years down the road and a few hundred thousand digital shots later, my 5d was getting near the ten year mark (circa 2017), and I wasn’t shooting anything for money, so I went back to film, hoping it would re-ignite my love for photography. It did. It caused me to slow down my process, and actually compose shots again. I’ve fallen back in love with photography, and film, and shot over 75 rolls in the last few years.

In recent years, I’ve also came across the hobby of backpacking, and was backpacking a lot, lugging around my Pentax 645 and/or my Canon Elan7e with a 24-70mm f2.8 and a 35mm f2 IS lens, and wanted something smaller, lighter, less battery powered. I’ve always loved the size of the rangefinder style, but had been scared of the learning curve of focusing and not being able to see through the lens. I was spending a lot of time watching eBay for deals on a Leica M6, and happen to bid on a last minute auction ending at 3am, and won it!

The Leica M6 is a fine machine of a camera, it feels solid in my hands. It’s small. It’s unobtrusive. I could hit someone over the head with the top plate if they tried to rob me. I’ve abused mine pretty well over the last two years, taking it to on hiking trips to Banff National Park, Big Bend National Park, even a trip to Oaxaca, Mexico. It’s held up to being dropped in mud, and subjected to rain and snow, and pretty much just get’s thrown in my bag, as I carry it around every day. My lens of choice is the Elmarit-m 28mm f/2.8, its extremely small, and makes the camera very light and almost perfectly balanced. I also love the look of the lens, 28mm on some of my SLR lenses has noticeable barrel distortion, and vignetting, but even wide open, this lens just performs beautifully.

One thing I’ve done plenty of is Kodak 400TX at 1600 iso. I’ve probably shot 10-15 rolls rated at 1600 over the years. I’ve always figured, okay, I need the shutter speed, so I’ll bump it up to 1600 for this roll. I’ve never rated a roll of 400TX at 800iso before. I tend to shoot 36 frame rolls of film, and unless I have a specific event, it can take me a few weeks to finish a roll, having a roll loaded at 1600, it can stretch out much longer, since I can’t really shoot it outdoors at 1600 on the Leica M6, with a max shutter speed of only 1/1000, i’ll end up shooting everything at f/22, which is not favorable.

I decided to rate a roll at 800 to see what how it comes out. I developed in HC110 B dilution for 8.5 mins at 20 Celsius, and scanned with my Epson v600 using the Epson Scan Software. I love the way the contrast came out!

Marshall Portrait Leica M6 400tx

Overexposed a stop past what the meter suggested here. Due to the backlight behind Marshall.

Barber Shop 400tx Leica M6 Elmarit 28

First haircut since January. Still have great greys and blacks, not such a high contrast as 1600 would have been here.

Aesop Store Closed Down Harsh Sun Kodak 400tx Leica M6 Elmarit 28

Outdoors in harsh overhead sun, I still was able to get a shot at 1/500 at f22 and not be overexposed.

Parking Garage Leica M6 400tx Elmarit 28

Parking Garage. Indoor reflected light, I think f5.6 @ 1/125

Marshall Coffee Kodak 400tx Leica M6 Elmarit-M 28

400TX really shines with indoor light at 800. I feel like I just discovered something new.

I’ve got an unopened bottle of Adox Rodinal, I’d really love to try some 400TX @ 800ISO using the semi stand development process, with dilutions of Rodinal to see what it does for the grain and contrast. The last few years have been using Kodak HC110 dilution B, one shot, because it’s easy to mix on the fly and the concentrate lasts forever. Looks like we have some rainy weather coming this weekend. Maybe I’ll throw another roll of 400TX in at 800 and see how it comes out with some Rodinal and semi-stand developing.


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  • Reply
    Bruno Chalifour
    June 10, 2020 at 4:28 pm

    Interesting experience… thanks for sharing. I just have a question (or two in one) though: why shoot Tri-X at 1600 iso and use HC-100?! To make sure you used 1/1000th s and f. 22 on your M6 and Elmarit? Or just for the challenge? Or just because with HC 110 is an easy one-shot developer and gives you those typical grainy images. It even shows at 800 iso so you must enjoy it). I must say, probably being a generation older, the reason I acquired an M6 was to be able to go down in shutter speeds without any camera shake showing (compared to SLRs and their then noisy and shuddery mirrors/shutters). This approach also allowed me to use film at its nominal speed (400 even 320 iso with Tri-X) for optimal results (details, quality of grays, controlled contrast). I also worked for years trying to find the best combination film/developer that would give me the subtlest and “creamiest” mid-tones —the quality of the mid-tones (grays) was also one of the reasons one used to choose German lenses (Leitz (Leica) / Zeiss (Hasselblad)) over Japanese ones. These considerations made me stay away from HC-110 (too much contrast and grain for my taste and my Leitz/Zeiss lenses), and very often away from Tri-X (although this latter approach was considered anathema among my Rochester (NY) friends and other friends photojournalists/street photographers). As you may have guess, I have no nostalgia or fascination about the power of grain, neither have I about the noise of digital images of the early 2000s (but, who knows, they might become the rage with the next generation ;o). All the best,

    • Reply
      Michael Palmer
      June 10, 2020 at 4:43 pm

      Bruno, thanks for the comments! I push tri-x to 1600 a lot due to having a day job and it seems like most of chances to shoot photos are at night. Which sometimes is a pain, since it takes me a week or so to shoot a roll, then I go outside on a weekend and I have to deal with full sun because I have this unfinished roll at 1600. So the reason for 1600, or even 800 is to be able to shoot indoors at a decent shutter and aperture. HC110? I use it because it’s easy to mix up for a roll whenever I need. I do have some Adox rodinal, but havent used it for a 400 iso film, or even for pushing it. I don’t mind grain. Sometimes I like the grain on certain shots. What developer do you use? What’s your favorite film?

      • Reply
        Bruno Chalifour
        June 15, 2020 at 7:42 pm

        Hi Michael, I tend to shoot HP5+ mostly for 400 ISO, sometimes Tri-X (T-Max 400 when I need a finer grain but I have found it inconsistent in terms of exposure and processing) and Fuji Acros to T-Max 100 for 100, and process them Kodak X-Tol at 1+1 dilution (around 10 mn for developer); it replaced D-76 / ID 11 when it was released about 20 years ago (smoother grain, less polluting).

  • Reply
    Bruno Chalifour
    June 10, 2020 at 4:39 pm

    By the way Michael, have you tried Tri-X or HP5 (I find T-Max 400 often unpredictable so I will not recommend it) or even Fuji 400 (which is quite a good film),… or even FP4, Acros (Fuji), T-Max 100 shot at 100 iso as they should, processed in D-76 (Kodak) / ID 11 (Ilford) both at 1+1 dilutions or even X-Tol (Kodak) also at a 1+1 dilution (the latter having been my developer of choice for the past 20 years after trying the others)? They would probably make you enjoy your Elmarit 28 mm for what Leica used to completely focus on: image quality (by comparison to the recent tendency to cater to a wealthy audience that would rather show off appearance-customized pieces of alternative jewelry rather that take photographs with it—but, let us be frank and honest, without whom Leica may have disappeared.

    • Reply
      Michael Palmer
      June 10, 2020 at 4:46 pm

      I do shoot a lot of HP5 and Tri-X regularly. FP4 is probably my favorite film (only because we lost kodak plus-x!), but tend to save it for outdoor stuff, or when I know the light is good. I used to use Kodak D-76 in the early 2000s, but I stopped shooting film and switched to digital around 2004/2005, and my film photography was very light, so I picked up HC110, because I could just make enough for one roll whenever I needed. I think D-76 would only last six months once I made a batch.

      • Reply
        Bruno Chalifour
        June 15, 2020 at 7:44 pm

        Yes that is the issue with most developers… on the other end, the negative is the source and I’d rather spend a little more for the right developer (for me).

  • Reply
    Bruno Chalifour
    June 10, 2020 at 8:56 pm

    Yes that is the problem with D-76, although 1-you can use 1+1 or 1+3 one-shot dilutions 2- you can keep the bottle full (I use marbles if I have to add too much water).

  • Reply
    June 10, 2020 at 10:06 pm

    A very nice idea using marbles.

  • Reply
    Grady Carter
    June 12, 2020 at 8:10 am

    I have found that Tri-X 35mm film is gorgeous if shot at an ISO 100 using Kodak’s HC110 at dilution “B” 68°F for 5 minutes. You will fall in love with the creamy smooth rendering of that film and will appreciate what that Leica 28mm Elmarit can really do with all that sharpness and tonality. Please try it. I was turned on to that as a secret from a photographer long ago whose work I consider outstanding today as a people photographer!!!

    • Reply
      Michael Palmer
      June 12, 2020 at 3:50 pm

      I’ll have to try that, that’s an overexpose and underdevelop. Should be pretty low contrast, would be nice for people. I’m going to try it on the next roll. Thanks for the heads up.

  • Reply
    Shooting Film. Updates. – mikedaddy.com
    June 22, 2020 at 7:38 pm

    […] with my Leica and a 28mm lens. Oh that reminds me, I wrote a “5 frame with” article on 35mmc blog (here). I think it inspired me to start writing again, or at least rambling […]

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