5 frames with...

5 frames with a Leica M4-P + 35mm Summilux by Marco North

September 15, 2017

The Leica M4-P is as manual and simple as a rangefinder camera can be. To set my exposures, I use a Sekonic L-758 light meter (being a cinematographer, some habits die hard). My 35mm 1.4 Summilux Series VII is the “old” version of this lens (made in 1983). So it is not the “better” aspherical version that came after this one. If you shoot wide open with it, you get this mushy, soft glow that suggests that you cannot focus very well. Every once in a while, that glow works though. I stick to f2 or better with this lens, and it rarely comes off the camera. As I have grown to understand, this 35mm Summilux is how I see the world.

I live in Moscow, Russia and I try to take this camera or a Leica CL with me, wherever I go. Moscow has an inherently surreal nature if you keep your eyes open. A curious pile of bricks at the entrance of a garage, a man passed out drunk in the grass at 10AM, a pile of trees uprooted by a storm – they are practically mundane here, as normal as a plastic bag flipping around in the wind.

These five images were shot in our sleepy little neighborhood, on AgfaPhoto APX-100. The shutter was set at 1/125 or 1/250 and the fstop was between f4 and f8.

You can find me on Flickr here and Facebook here.

 

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19 Comments

  • Reply
    Nick
    September 15, 2017 at 4:11 pm

    Lovely set of images Marco. My eye went straight to that strange pile of stones in the 3rd photo… intriguing! I’ve been meaning to try a film Leica for a while now. Could never decide on which model though!

    Nick

    • Reply
      Marco North
      September 15, 2017 at 4:30 pm

      Thank you, Nick! Well, by all means borrow or rent a Leica – if you are comfortable with a handheld meter, the prices go down quite quickly. You can get an M4-P body for about $900, but it is the lens that costs more if you still want Leica glass. There are a number of great articles Hamish has written for this site about Zeiss lenses on Leica rangefinder cameras, and they are far, far less expensive. I bought my M4-P mint, used in the 90s and it is an utterly cherished object, and I have no regrets about how much it cost. It has given me DECADES of images like these.

  • Reply
    jeremy north
    September 15, 2017 at 7:29 pm

    Hi Marco, thanks for the set of pictures. Given that we share the same family name I had to comment!
    It looks like that tree was rotten inside, no wonder it came down.
    I too use a Leica (M2) and love it for its simplicity and mechanical perfection. I have Zeiss lenses for it, the 50/1.5 and 35/2.

    • Reply
      Marco North
      September 15, 2017 at 7:37 pm

      There are a lot of random Norths in the world, aren’t there! The trees that came down, were after an intense wind-storm here in Moscow. The streets were clogged with them for days, and then they were cut up and sat in piles by the side of the road for weeks, which is part of what got me to take pictures of them – as if they were just forgotten, never picked up.

      An M2 – nice! I have an Xpan and a 500CM so all of my Zeiss glass is there. What you might appreciate is that I have Leica glass for my movie work – I bought a set of vintage R series primes and got them converted for cine work. I have a Canon C300 that they work with, and I cannot begin to tell you how perfect a marriage that is.

  • Reply
    Nick
    September 16, 2017 at 8:07 am

    Hi Marco,
    I guess thats the beauty and simplicity of a film Leica… never needing to ‘upgrade’! The meter-less models do seem to be more reasonably priced, I like the idea of never needing batteries too. I’ve read most of Hamish’s posts on lenses, hence why I have a Zeiss 28mm Biogon lens on my digital Leica, which i love. I tend to stick with just one two lenses really. Not much of a jump to get a film body i guess! You seem have some great subject matter over there in Moscow. Will take a look at your blog!

    Nick

    • Reply
      Marco North
      September 16, 2017 at 8:24 am

      Nick – yes, being completely manual has incredible upsides. I bought a second M4-P body some years ago, so I can work two different film stocks. You know, I love Zeiss glass, especially the older designs – but being a filmmaker, I have a special respect for Leica glass. All of those great films made in the 70s and 80s using Panavsion cameras -they all had Leica glass on them. For my movie work, I have a set of Leica R primes that I had converted, to work with my Canon C300. I cannot begin to tell you how magical they are – sharp without being annoying, color rendition off the charts – skin tone and Leica glass is just a wonder to behold. If you go to my Flickr account, you will see a good amount of color film work with my Leica glass – I think that brings out more of the characteristics of these lenses than the B&W stuff.

      • Reply
        Nick
        September 17, 2017 at 9:59 pm

        Hi Marco, Just took a peek at your Flickr. Incredible colour on those photographs. Like the mix of old/new technology on you movie camera. Not sure how the price go old Leica glass compares with new, might have to investigate!

      • Reply
        Nick
        September 19, 2017 at 10:35 am

        Hi Marco, Speaking of vintage lenses.. have you any experience with either of the Leica super-Angulon 21mm lenses on your Canon C300? The work I’ve seen with this lens seems to ooze the 1960’s. I think Jeanloup Sieff used them to great effect. Not sure which one he used though. I’m thinking of trying one on my digital Leica. There seems to be lot of examples of the f4 around but the f3.4 seems harder to come by.

        • Reply
          Marco North
          September 19, 2017 at 11:09 am

          Nick – That Angulon is a very unique lens, made by Schneider actually? In any case, only R-mount Leica glass can be converted for the Canon C300 sensor. As that lens is an M-mount (or also screw mount I believe) it would not work for me. All of the R-mount Leica glass I bought is from the 70’s, a 24mm Elmarit-R f2,8, a 90mm Elmarit-R f2,8 (2 cam) and a 50mm Summicron-R f2 (2-cam). I cannot say how amazing they work for me. Here are a few actual frame grabs from the project I am using them on. https://www.facebook.com/blackbettyseries/photos/a.607703059403994.1073741829.594426207398346/668618333312466/?type=3&theater https://www.facebook.com/blackbettyseries/photos/a.688474517993514.1073741832.594426207398346/688474907993475/?type=3&theater

          • Nick
            September 19, 2017 at 4:19 pm

            Looking at those stills I can see why you have gone to the trouble of converting those lenses. Theres a lovely vintage quality to the images, gorgeous vintage tone and colour. The mixing of old lenses with digital fascinates.

            Well I pressed the button on my first vintage lens; a Super-Angulon 21mmc f 3.4 .. can’t wait to try it out. I’m hoping it may stave off my Hasselblad SWC craving for a while!

          • Marco North
            September 19, 2017 at 5:37 pm

            Full disclosure, those images are HEAVILY manipulated as far as color, but the raw originals have that ideal sharp/gentle quality that I simply describe as “old Leica”.

          • Nick
            September 20, 2017 at 4:34 pm

            Yes having worked with a few film directors making TV adverts i’m under no illusions about post production! Great to be able to define exactly the look and feel you want and work towards it though. Very satisfying. Definitely like ‘old leica’, would be a good name for an Instagram filter 😉

  • Reply
    Stig Starr
    September 16, 2017 at 12:24 pm

    I loved the way you put those words together, with the photos it really took me to Moscow, thank you

    • Reply
      Marco North
      September 17, 2017 at 7:17 pm

      Ah, thank you Stig! I spend a lot of time finding a way to bring images and words together in some compelling way, looking for those juxtapositions. But somehow, as I work on an upcoming book of photographs I want to just have pictures there, no words.

  • Reply
    Richard
    September 17, 2017 at 7:59 am

    Hey Marco. A lovely set of pictures there. Your description of Moscow made me laugh! Sounds like a lot of UK towns! 🙂

    • Reply
      Marco North
      September 17, 2017 at 7:19 pm

      Richard – yes, there are many odd corners of the world – Moscow is just one of them. Every time people want to say that Russia is different, there is an example of some place in the world that is all too similar.

  • Reply
    Www.Opticalequipmentsupplier.com
    December 12, 2018 at 3:17 pm

    Awesome! Its really awesome article, I have got much clear idea regarding from this article.

  • Reply
    Allan
    January 19, 2020 at 11:24 pm

    this is a great article, Marco – and the M4-P is one of the greatest cameras ever made. In 2013, I took my M4-P and MP to Mongolia. On day 10 of a 14 day trip, mt MP locked up on me and the M4-P saved the day. A screw had backed our somewhere in the clock works of the MP; Icould not advance or rewind my roll of film. I got it repaired wen I got back home (many thanks to my friend Sherry Krauter) and ended up trading the MP away and keeping the M4-P. I have not regretted that decision.

    Anyone who wants a film Leica should really consider the M4-P. They are extremely well made ans priced very reasonably.

    • Reply
      Marco North
      January 20, 2020 at 6:42 am

      thanks Allan! Yes, fully manual with no batteries is the ultimate “simple tool”. I own two M4-P bodies actually, one for b/w one for color film.

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