5 Frames with a Leica M6 and Voigtlander 35mm f/1.4 – By Nigel Cliff

Now can I just say that before this M6, I’d never shot a Leica, I’d only actually held one for a few seconds 10 years ago so I came to this wondering if all the hype was really justified. Anyhow, when this nice bloke with a Scottish sounding Christian name said “Fancy borrowing an M6 for a few weeks” I jumped at the chance.

It didn’t have Leica glass but the gorgeous Voigtlander 35mm f/1.4 and so I knew the results optically would be good. But the first thing to do was to load it. I had heard that they could be a pain to load but it only took a couple of minutes before a roll of HP5 Plus was happily ensconced in it’s belly and I was ready to rock.

First impressions: well silky smooth doesn’t even come close, the feel is perfect, the size the same and the winder gloriously smooth! So, as I was down in Devon on business, and it was a beautiful evening. off I went to the little riverside village of Topsham where I knew I would get some good subjects. Right from the start this is a camera that makes you want to take photos, as everything feels right, I’ve shot rangefinders before but nothing with a patch like that in the M6 and even my crappy eyes were seeing everything snap into focus.

Before I new it I was two thirds of the way through the roll. When I returned home it was soon finished off locally, and when the results came back (courtesy of the good folks at AG Photolab) the results didn’t disappoint either. Ok. the shots aren’t world beaters but there was hardly any PP required such was the accuracy of the meter and the quality of the lens.

So it was a great experience. A few more rolls went through it before I sadly had to return it, but I was converted! Would I buy one well if money was no object? In a heartbeat, but as She Who Must Be Obeyed thinks that soft furnishings and carpet are the current priority, it will have to wait! Anyhow as they say absence makes the heart grow fonder…

Thanks for reading

If you would like to find more thoughts on the M6, you can read Hamish’s review here

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17 thoughts on “5 Frames with a Leica M6 and Voigtlander 35mm f/1.4 – By Nigel Cliff”

  1. Scottish blokes with Christian sounding names sound like fine people. Was a whisky also offered?
    The Leica has that intangible ‘feel.’ Much like the perfect wing of a Spitfire, the snap of a bamboo fishing pole or some cars with tuned suspensions, they all just feel right.
    You produced some nice pics; I like the geometry and tones of the village street. You can inform She Who Must be Obeyed that you could produce beautiful, original wall art with a Leica to compliment Her choices of carpets & soft furnishings. A win-win. :-))
    I’d like to buy the 35 f/1.4 Voigtlander for low light work. But here’s a question for the photo community: has anyone shot with the 35mm f/1.4 Voigtlander in low light conditions WITH FILM? I have read reviews where the lens is used on digital Leica’s, but how about with B&W film?
    Since I’m on a limited budget (just finished having some interior painting done) I’d like to read some results to make an informed decision.

    1. This lens was the main companion to my M6 on a 2-month trip to Europe this summer, and it does just fine in low light.
      One thing to consider is its very soft nature at F1.4 and slight glow if direct light and is involved (studio strobes). You can reach me on Instagram if you’d like some examples. I’ve just finished scanning 20+ rolls of film and will have plenty of samples soon.

  2. I’m using this exact combo, and even though I find this lens phenomenal for close-up portraits, it becomes way too soft at wider apertures and longer distance 3+ meters. I wonder if that can attributed to focus shift. Also, the barrel distortion is very distracting if you are photographing any straight lines at the edges of the frame.

    Does anyone else experience these issues? It’s getting to a point that I’m considering getting a different 35mm lens. Unfortunately, the only compact F1.4 lens is out of my price range (summilux), but I’m thinking of replacing the Nokton Classic with a 35mm F2 Bigion. If it’s performance is anything like the 21mm f2.8 Biogion, it should be a near-perfect precision tool.

    1. I have the Voigtlander as well but only used it on an M10. That barrel distortion is distracting, but for the price it’s a great lens. I still keep it around, but I do prefer the 35 Summicron, even though I do lose some light in the process.

  3. Lovely pics, you seem to have got the hang of the camera ok. The trick with loading the M6 is not to overthink it, just drop in the film and wind on. I use a 50mm Summarit-m f2.5 lens, this lens is sharp edge to edge at f2.8 and really has the Leica pop when used at that aperture. I started with an M2 as the M6 is sooo expensive, the M2 does take longer to load and needs an external meter but essentially gives the same user experience, (check the viewfinder carefully before buying, there are a lot of dark fuzzy M2 finders in need of a service out there). I now have my M6 courtesy of a friend and a very favourable price.

  4. If you guys can’t know that a Spotmatic f with a super takumar lens is better than any Leica , you don’t know shit !

    1. What a fantastically blinkered comment. As any photographer worth thier salt will tell you, no camera is better than any other, as what makes a good camera is far more down to the photographer and their ability to shoot with it. My abilities with Leica cameras far outstretch those with a spotmatic, purely because I have used a lot of Leicas and haven’t shot a spotmatic. Therefore, Leica cameras are better (to me) than spotmatics

    2. Ha! Ha! I have an SV and a 55mm f/1.8 Super Takumar, and that lens is the best resolving film era lens I have, except perhaps for a Fujinon of same aperture and focal length. I have next to no knowledge of rangefinder lenses, so I’d be a fool to comment on them.

    3. Frank, are you trying to come across as an insecure Pentax owner with a too-small penis? Because intentionally or otherwise , congratulations, you have.

      Spotmatics are terrific cameras, they could age a little more gracefully, but they are high quality. So are Leicas for that matter, and yes, I think they could stand up to age better, too.

      Whether one is more expensive than another, or a rangefinder instead of a TLR etc isn’t the point. Different people find they get more keepers with a variety of cameras. That’s the point. And if you can’t fathom that, you don’t know shit.

      I don’t own a Leica BTW. I’ve always preferred Contax for various reasons that are unimportant to this discussion. I do have some Leicas here for testing/sale and I may be keeping a couple, but have not previously owned a Leica. I do on the the hand own a Spotmatic. I don’t write as an outraged Leica owner. Merely as a photographer capable of realising that not everybody else has the same preferences or needs in a camera that I do. Next time if you must be contrary when you comment, then, at least be interesting, please.

  5. My Cosina-Voigtlander 35/2.5 color skopar is an excellent lens. Highly recommended for use with film. I haven’t used it on a digital camera yet.

  6. I grew up in Topsham!! Shit, now I need to find an excuse to go back to photograph it. Haven’t been for years.
    tha ks a bunch

    1. I went to college at Rolle in Exmouth. We used to get the train and drink in The Bridge Inn at Topsham. I had a part-time job at Richard’s greengrocers. Being from County Durham, I wasn’t always well understood by some of the clientele! Such a lovely place.

    1. Chris, my mum had a rolling bill at Richard’s. Whenever she sent me to buy anything I’d also buy a bunch of grapes and finish them in the time I could walk home so she wouldn’t know. Best system ever.

    1. I don’t think anyone would disagree. Probably the entire reason CV built the 40/1.4 Nokton was because it became obvious that the 35/1.4 which is a direct copy of the 1960’s Leitz 35 Lux, was going to exhibit some easily addressed problems. But from a marketing standpoint, you can’t just make a 40mm only with 35mm being supported by most bodies. I had some issues initially using the 40 on my M6 and R2 but it’s only taken a few rolls to put the reservations aside. Of course, the very recently released 35/1.4 Nokton II is supposed to put an end to this conundrum.

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