I’ve been shooting film for about a year and a half now, mostly when I don’t feel like using my Fuji X-H1 with, predominantly, the XF 56mm f/1.2. It started when I walked into a second hand electronics shop and asked the guy if he had anything in on a whim. He riffled through the boxes and out came a Pentax MX complete with the 50mm f/1.7 and a half filled roll of Fuji C200.
Since then, I’ve been really enjoying the simplicity of the all manual camera, and I’ll readily accept the missed focus and dodgy exposures on a fair few of the shots. This camera became more and more of a go to when I have family events (which for my family is usually a walk or generally being outside). But the lovely Pentax I have, whilst lovely it is, doesn’t quite have a crisp enough feel or glorious shutter sound that I’ve been dreaming of. I promise I’m not too superficial in my life outside of photography…
And then the hammer dropped and I felt the need to try a Leica, I’m sure mostly prompted by posts and reviews of the various rangefinders on 35mmc and YouTube, but it could easily be a case of G.A.S. However, with the world the way it is and not actually having a full time job, I thought it best to test the waters first with the cheapest/best budget/least outrageously expensive combination I could find. So cue a decent condition Leica CL body from Poland with a broken light meter, and a used 7Artisans 35mm f2 arriving at my door, as well as a roll of HP5+. So a few hundred quid out of pocket I became, and I had probably doubled the amount of money I’d spent on film photography thus far, my wallet seemed a bit emptier than I had planned.
To sum up where I had got myself to: first time with a rangefinder, a lens notorious for needing a touch of calibration here and there, and a roll of film I’ve never used before. Not sure about you, but I think I’ve nailed the conditions for this controlled experiment. Oh, and before going any further, it’s worth noting that the Leica CL only has framelines as wide as 40mm, so there was a bit of guesswork there too with the 35mm 7Artisans lens I found. But the shutter and build quality are sublime, so I nailed that criteria already.
The five frames I’ve selected are a small group that lend themselves best to what I’ve learnt, let’s call them the best learning curve style shots from the bunch. Starting with the best of best then, the third shot on the roll, a portrait of my sister. This has actually become one of my favourite shots. The depth of field works nicely for me and the focus was dead on, the guesswork of composition turned out alright too. So far so good.
The next was my friend and one of her new cats. Same as before, I really like this shot. It actually looks like she’s happy to have her photo taken, even if the cat is thinking otherwise. Maybe there’s something to this rangefinder-Leica-guesswork combination after all.
The other shots didn’t turn out quite as nicely. I missed the focus on the cats, which is actually bugging me more each time I look at it. Oh, what could have been. Same goes for my dog sitting in the boot of the car, a very soggy dog at that. Body in focus but not his head, I’m still happy with it as a memory though and feel like if I had spent a little more time on it I could have come away with something better.
Lastly is an OK shot of some trees… a kind of shot I take plenty of times on digital but I think the lack of framelines reared its head at me. I’ll point upwards a bit more next time. All in all I am happy with it, and thankfully having written down my settings along the way, I now have a good reference going forward.
I only included a range of shots from this roll as I was trying to find my favourite use case for a Leica, and luckily I think I have. I never had a need for a rangefinder, let alone a Leica, my Fuji X-H1 covers all my bases, and Pentax MX is good pretty much anywhere I point it. But in using it, my little CL has become my favourite, or at least the one I want to shoot with the most until my stock of film runs out. Which it does, very quickly. As for the photos, the two portraits seem to pop out at me quite nicely and suits what I try to get out of film well. Seeing as the film camera comes out for more memorable occasions, I’m pretty comfortable picking up the CL in these instances. The other 3 shots were hit or miss for me (and unfortunately mostly the latter). I’m more than happy to take the woodland shots, the landscapes or anything else on digital, or maybe the Pentax, where the EVF/SLR viewfinder will be a nice plus over the Leica.
Thanks for reading this far, here’s a little bit more about where I’m going with photography this year. I have started a shot a day project, which the CL will be the go-to so I can get it in my hands everyday regardless of whether I want to shoot or not. Learning from the rolls I’ve shot so far is, apparently, optional as I have disregarded my own findings and started with some landscapes anyway, it’s all for fun though isn’t it. The project as a whole probably won’t be posted online but a lot of my other shots will be and I’d love for it to be seen by more people, these are all here on my Instagram. There may be or may not be a nice M6 0.85 on my horizon too, who knows…
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12 thoughts on “5 Frames with the Cheapest Leica I Could Find & a Roll of HP5+ – By Lawrence Pitman”
I like your shots, the one of your friend and her cat is my favorite. It might not be you, the rangefinder was off when I got mine, and a service also got the meter working. Now it is my favorite Leica, and probably the only one I will keep. Enjoy.
Thanks mate, I’ll have to convince her it’s a good shot too!
Might not be a bad idea to get it serviced, if I keep it around long enough I’m sure I will.
Try it with the 40mm C lens that was made for the camera. It is small, super sharp and has nice contrast. While I never hade the Leica CL, not to be confused with the current CL which I do have, I used it on the M4, M8 and M9. I modified the cam so that it brought up the 35mm frame and then made mental adjustments since the lens is 40mm. I think you will prefer the images to to your lower contrast 7 Artisans.
Thanks for sharing.
I did have my eye on the 40mm, budget couldn’t quite stretch that far at the time though. I think I’ll try a 50 and/or 90mm next, but more experimenting to do
Nice write up!
I have the Summicron 40 (fantastic lens) as well as the 7A 35 that you have. The 7A is a super lens and not low contrast at all. I think your images are low contrast/slightly murky due to lighting conditions and perhaps missing the correct exposure a bit. Easy to do with no meter!
This is an example of what the 7A can do with good light (shot with Kodak ProImage 100 and Tri-X)
Cheers. Your points about contrast could be right, could be a combination of them all! That’s a great shot of the GTO, looks superb
Great photos. A camera with a broken light meter (a Ricoh something or other SLR) was my start as well. Do use a meter or sunny 16? Oh, I know that look you’re getting in the first photo all too well, I’ve never got a family pic without the forced smile if any at all. : )
PS. Don’t worry about the blurry cats. I often wonder if the ones I’ve had over the years weren’t put on the earth just to frustrate my photographic goals.
I usually use an app on my phone (called Lightme) but sometimes I take a general reading an play it by ear for a while. Perks of wearing masks ey!
If I could blame the cats for moving I would but alas I had all the time in the world haha
Oh boy, you’ve been bit by the werewolf (aka Leica!) Too late, you’re doomed!
I have had two (film) CL’s. Sold them off and regretted it. Now I’m trolling slowly on eBay to by another one. Why? Just because. I have the 40mm m-Rokkor that I kept. I use it on my M4-P. Brings up the 50mm frame; I call it a ‘loose’ 50mm. The Rokkor & the Summicron 40mm are essentially the same lens. The Rokkor gives you 40.5mm accessory thread so you can easily buy filters & a decent lens shade. The Rokkor cost less. Great lens. Meters can be repaired, but will run a few bucks.
I like the shot of your sister…she’s giving you the same ‘look’ I get from my wife when I take a pic of her. The dog shot is a keeper…sums up how dogs are. I acknowledge cats are living beings and your friend obviously loves her cats, but…
Wishing you continued good luck with the CL.
Haha fully and completely hooked it seems, well made things that do good things always wrangle their way to my heart. I think I might end up keeping this little guy, keep it running until the sun goes out.
haven’t got lucky with the same setup (Leitz-Minolta), & another lens the 90/4 (never got a sharp focus); both need serious calibrations????
once it’s done one day, my other film SLR’s may have long waits
Ah that’s a shame, hopefully they can be sorted out easily enough