5 frames with...

5 Frames with a Leica M4 and Voigtlander 35mm f/2.5 – By Dan Smith

It was inevitable that I would end up owning a Leica at some point, I’ve grown to love 35mm as a format and love nothing more than trying ‘all the cameras’. I’ve come close before, but my indecision always ended up with me walking away. I regretted not buying a lovely old iiif for a good price and numerous M2’s have been deleted from my basket over the last year or so.

After deciding that now was the time to buy, I was constantly looking out for used M2’s, a choice made for me by a combination of the fact that I wanted 35mm frame lines and my limited budget. So when, by chance, a nice looking M4 came up within my budget I did some quick research, decided it was for me, and made the call.

The next day the camera arrived and I gave it the once over – it was freshly serviced, and everything looked and felt good. This was the first Leica I had held, let alone had a proper play with, but I figured it was a good investment and that I had nothing to lose if I discovered it wasn’t for me. Based on the look and feel, I quickly decided that scenario was pretty unlikely, I’m not going to gush about it or anything but I simply liked what I saw and felt. This is primarily what shooting film is about for me.

So, next I needed a lens, I couldn’t afford anything fancy but really wanted a proper M mount lens negating the need for adaptors. I had my eye on two bargain 35mm lenses for a while: the 7 Artisans 35mm f/2 and the Voigtlander 35mm f/2.5. I decided on the Voigtlander after a bit of research and a couple of emails back and forth (thanks Hamish).

I am now 9 rolls in to shooting my M4 and I couldn’t be happier with my choice, the body and lens together just feel great, and I am really happy with my results so far. I haven’t shot any colour yet, as I’m really enjoying developing black and white at home, but I probably will pretty soon.

These were shot using Ilford HP5 rated at 800, developed in Ilford ID11 1:1 and scanned on my Epson V500.

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  • Reply
    Steve Boykin
    October 10, 2018 at 3:06 pm

    This was a very timely review. I just won an M5 and am trying to decide what lens to buy. Great write up!!! I have been bugging Hamish non stop on the lens questions so he owes you one because I won’t have to ask him about this lens. 🙂 I am struggling between a 35 and a 50. I figure one day I will have both, but I need one to start. Usually with 35 I am at F5.6 or above so I am going to take a second look at this lens. THANKS!!!!

    • Reply
      October 10, 2018 at 7:55 pm

      Thanks, I am very happy with the little Voigtlander, I always find 50mm a bit ‘long’ for me so 35 was a no brainer. I have a Flickr album of shots (not loads but a few) taken with the lens, I’ll post a link if you are interested.

    • Daniel Castelli
      Daniel Castelli
      October 11, 2018 at 9:08 pm

      Hi Steve,
      I’ve got both the 35 & 50 (Zeiss – I like ’em.) When I’m out with my wife or a group, I usually carry the 35. It’s good for ‘on the fly’ pics.
      On the rare occasions that I get time to shoot alone, I usually carry the 50. I’ve got the time work at my own pace, take time to try different angles, etc. I learned to make photos using a 50mm lens, so it still occupies warm spot in my heart even after 47+ years.

  • Reply
    Jim Wolf
    October 10, 2018 at 5:16 pm

    A great choice. I’ve had one for so long all the vulcanite has fallen off, but it still works like a champ. Every bit as well built as an M3 with notable improvements – quick load, faster rewind, and the plastic-tipped winding lever. Only four frames, but that leaves a less cluttered viewfinder. I’m glad you like it. Congratulations and thanks for sharing the photos.

    • Reply
      October 10, 2018 at 7:57 pm

      Thanks very much, it didn’t take me long to realise I made a good choice, I do also like the features you mention. Love the sound of yours, sounds like it has a bit of character!

  • Reply
    Francesco Melis
    October 10, 2018 at 6:35 pm

    Thank you Dan for this post; I really like your photos and particularly your attention for the right exposure with lights and shadows well balanced and always readable. You also write about two 35 mm lenses and state that at the end your choice was Voigtlander over the 7 Artisans: could you please give me some more details about the reasons of your decision because I’m looking for a 35 mm rangefinder lens and those two lenses are among the ones I’m more interested in.

    • Reply
      October 10, 2018 at 8:01 pm

      Thanks for your kind comments. The biggest reason for the lens choice was the 7 Artisans still being a bit of an unknown, and the Voigtlander to me gives a more modern look. I am an absolute sucker for tiny lenses too!

  • Daniel Castelli
    Daniel Castelli
    October 10, 2018 at 7:17 pm

    A nice write-up on the M4. I regretted selling mine years ago. I came into some disposable $$ this year, so I wanted to replace the classic. The prices were crazy. I was able to get a ‘like new’ M4-P from Ken Hanson. Very happy with the camera. The Voigtlander 35mm f/2.5 is one of their sleepers. A lot of good optics for a reasonable price, plus it takes 39mm filters. Your pictures show how good the camera/lens combo is.
    I also use the V500, it does everything I need it to do. A question: How did you meter the scenes?
    Continued good luck with your outfit.

  • Reply
    October 10, 2018 at 8:07 pm

    Thanks very much Daniel, I think I’ve kept so many cameras because I would regret selling them one day! This one will stay and I’ll hopefully be able to use it for many years. Congrats on the M4-P.
    I would like better 35mm scans but the V500 is adequate as you say, my colour scans I get from the lab always make me aware of its shortcoming though! As for metering I use an old Weston V to take simple reflected readings of the general scene, it seems pretty good in daylight but when it is darker I tend to open up a stop or so to compensate for the decreased sensitivity.

  • Reply
    October 10, 2018 at 11:25 pm

    Thanks for the writeup and the nice photos. Do you determime your M4 exposure settings by intuition or do you use a separate meter?

    • Reply
      October 11, 2018 at 7:04 pm

      Thanks Glenn, I use an old Weston V light meter, sometimes I’ll make small adjustments depending on the light.

  • Reply
    Graham Line
    October 11, 2018 at 12:08 am

    A 35/2.5 and its LTM/M adapter pretty much live on the M4-P. Very easy combination to handle and rendition seems to be made for B&W. Great with XP2 Super. On my “never sell” list.

    • Reply
      October 11, 2018 at 7:06 pm

      Cool, do you still get coupled focusing with the adaptor? I have got a Fotodiox one but I haven’t used it yet.

  • Reply
    October 11, 2018 at 5:03 pm

    I have this lens on my m4-2 and it is wonderful! it lives on that camera. it has a unique look on color film too. I wish I had saved up and gotten a m4 but the m4-2 is great. I think the m4-2 is a great bargin Leica. I think my m3 is 100% a better camera wish it had 35mm frame lines so I don’t have to use the goggled lens.

    • Reply
      October 11, 2018 at 7:09 pm

      I am really pleased with it, funnily enough I’ve just gt my scans from the first couple of colour rolls, they look pretty nice, new film for me too though so I’ll not really know if it gives a different look!

  • Reply
    Chris Pattison
    October 11, 2018 at 6:13 pm

    My kind of photos. Nice work Dan.

    • Reply
      October 11, 2018 at 7:00 pm

      Thanks very much Chris, I tend to take pictures of thing I just like the look of.

  • Reply
    Brett Soul
    October 11, 2018 at 10:37 pm

    Really like the rendition of the film especially at iso 800, I tend to just shoot 400 in various brands but must try this. Good write up thoroughly enjoyed it , I haven’t the 35mm Voigtlander but do shoot with the 25mm Skopar and have always been pleased with my results.

    • Reply
      October 12, 2018 at 10:51 pm

      Thanks Brett, yeah HP5 seems to work well at pretty much any speed. I’ve shot it at 3200 No problem. Saying that 400 is pretty standard for me too. 25mm sounds like a nice focal length.

  • Reply
    Eric G. Rose
    October 13, 2018 at 2:02 am

    I have an M4 and a M5. Personally I prefer the M5 but the M4 is a pleasure to use as well. I have the LTM version of the VC Color-Skopar 35mm lens. Works like a charm! Vibrant colours, tack sharp and a very pleasing visual personality. I had an M3 as well but gave it away. The finicky film loading drove me nuts!

    Love your photographs. You are doing well with your Weston meter. Keep it up and please do share your Flickr address.


    • Reply
      October 14, 2018 at 9:06 pm

      Thanks very much Eric. I am really pleased I ended up with an M4, for the improvements that some have pointed out, the quick load and rewind works perfectly for me. The M5 appeals to me as it is a bit different and it has a meter but I think I will only have one Leica for some time!

      Here is my Flickr, there is an album for this combination but most of my latest shots have been taken with it.


  • Reply
    Adam Smith
    January 29, 2019 at 12:49 am

    I quite admire your use of shadows and light in arranging your compositions. Great work!

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