My First Roll With a Leica Film Camera – Guest Post by Aukje

My first year of shooting film Part 4

My fourth post on this website (read Part 3 here), my third film camera… I guess I can be a bit impatient. I started my adventure in film photography with a Minolta Hi-Matic II (post here), just to see if I would like film. After three rolls with the Minolta I decided that I wanted a camera with a clearer viewfinder, so I exchanged the Minolta for an Olympus 35-SP (with broken light meter). But, even before waiting for the results I bought a Leica M2.

Ok, I will explain a little bit. When exchanging the Minolta I found a very nice Canon P in the store, which felt very good in my hands. However, it was a lot more expensive then the Minolta, so I was deliberating for a long time. The technician of the shop had almost convinced me to by the Canon P (metal shutter curtains are his favourite feature of this camera), but the store owner drove me away from the Canon, and told me to start with the Olympus. He was convinced I would want a M2 later (I had already bought a Leica 50mm lens from him for my digital M240). As I didn’t have the cash on me for the Canon P, I took the Olympus (I discussed some results here). But the thought of going for either the Canon P or the M2 had since then nested in my brain. A couple of weeks later my birthday came, and my man didn’t know what to buy, so in came the M2. I decided in favour of the M2 as opposed to the Canon P as I have already three nice Leica lenses (35mm, 50mm and 90mm).

Now on to the photo’s. I just got my first roll back from AG-photolab (a took a bit longer with the Christmas period in-between). I put a roll of Fujicolor Pro 400H in it, and attached my vintage summilux 50mm. The first morning I took it with me there was a wonderful sunrise, no wind, and I found a beautiful spot with a little pond. I had read about over-exposing to get the best color on film, so I took the meter-settings from my M240 and corrected to over-expose. However, I think I took it a bit too far. This is the first shot with the M2, and I am pretty disappointed with the colors, specifically in the sky (aside from the tilted horizon), I think I set the exposure to 1/30 seconds with full aperture of 1.4.:

Leica M2, Summilux 1:1.4/50mm, Fuji Pro 400H

I miss the blues in the sky. Maybe the light was difficult, as the sun was not up yet, so it was a bit dark. For my next shot I used a tripod and a longer exposure (smaller aperture), but the same color (although you can see the sun gets higher as the sunlight hits the trees):

Leica M2, Summilux 1:1.4/50mm, Fuji Pro 400H
Leica M2, Summilux 1:1.4/50mm, Fuji Pro 400H

On my next outing with the M2 it was raining, not the best light again. But I was determined to go out and shoot something, so I took a small ‘walk-around-the-block’. This time I metered with my iPhone app, and focussed on metering for the sky. I think the skies turned out better this time, but now the scene itself is not very appealing to me (I believe the settings were around 1/60 sec at f/8):

Leica M2, Summilux 1:1.4/50mm, Fuji Pro 400H
Leica M2, Summilux 1:1.4/50mm, Fuji Pro 400H

Leica M2, Summilux 1:1.4/50mm, Fuji Pro 400H
Leica M2, Summilux 1:1.4/50mm, Fuji Pro 400H

Leica M2, Summilux 1:1.4/50mm, Fuji Pro 400H
Leica M2, Summilux 1:1.4/50mm, Fuji Pro 400H

I think I had some bad luck with the weather since I got the M2. A lot of grey dull days. But one morning there was a nice sunrise, and this time the colours turned out great. Maybe I am just not an over-exposure kind of person?

Leica M2, Summilux 1:1.4/50mm, Fuji Pro 400H

I also tried the modern Summicron 35mm ASPH lens on the M2. But again no luck with the weather. These next photos were taken close to home during a bike ride. I guess this time I tried a little bit of over-exposure again, but I am not sure it did the images any good. I think the result is a bit bland, but that might be just the weather?

Leica M2, Summicron 1:2/35mm, Fuji Pro 400H
Leica M2, Summicron 1:2/35mm, Fuji Pro 400H

Leica M2, Summicron 1:2/35mm ASPH, Fuji Pro 400H
Leica M2, Summicron 1:2/35mm ASPH, Fuji Pro 400H

Leica M2, Summicron 1:2/35mm ASPH, Fuji Pro 400H
Leica M2, Summicron 1:2/35mm ASPH, Fuji Pro 400H

And then finally the day came when there was sun on my day off. So I drove to a nice forest/park, opted for the 50mm Summilux, and had some fun with the camera. I didn’t write down my settings. I guess I took a reading with the meter-app, but I started ‘guessing’ exposure values as I get too impatient for metering. What I see in the results is some photos with great saturated colours, specifically blue, and some with similar flat colours like my first two shots. I guess now I don’t know if it has to do with the exposure or with the angle with the sun, since I didn’t take any notes. Any thoughts on this are very welcome!

Leica M2, Summilux 1:1.4/50mm, Fuji Pro 400H
Leica M2, Summilux 1:1.4/50mm, Fuji Pro 400H

Leica M2, Summilux 1:1.4/50mm, Fuji Pro 400H

Leica M2, Summilux 1:1.4/50mm, Fuji Pro 400H

Leica M2, Summilux 1:1.4/50mm, Fuji Pro 400H
Leica M2, Summilux 1:1.4/50mm, Fuji Pro 400H

Leica M2, Summilux 1:1.4/50mm, Fuji Pro 400H
Leica M2, Summilux 1:1.4/50mm, Fuji Pro 400H

Leica M2, Summilux 1:1.4/50mm, Fuji Pro 400H
Leica M2, Summilux 1:1.4/50mm, Fuji Pro 400H

Leica M2, Summilux 1:1.4/50mm, Fuji Pro 400H
Leica M2, Summilux 1:1.4/50mm, Fuji Pro 400H

So, some mixed feelings. Maybe exposure is more critical with Fuji Pro 400H then with the Superia 200 that I used before. Maybe a great camera cannot compensate for the lack of great light. The M2 itself is great, it feels really familiar as I use the lenses that I already owned, and the viewfinder is large and clear. I notice that with the M2 I am more occupied with the film and the exposure, and less with the camera. To me that is a good thing!

One other thing that I want to mention, I chose the M2 based on the fact that I already own Leica lenses for my M240. But the down side is that I now have two camera’s for one lens. I often go exploring with both the M240 and a film camera. With the M2 I am swapping more lenses as I might want to use a lens on the other body. I guess that is a luxury problem? Maybe I should choose just one camera per outing, and focus on this one only for that morning?

Conclusion: still lots to learn (did I mention that I can get impatient?). Some mixed feelings, but some nice results to encourage me to move forward. I would love to hear your thoughts and get some feedback.

Thanks for reading, and Hamish thanks for having me!

If you are interested in my digital photos, you can find them on my blog:

Read Part 5 of my journey into film here.

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About The Author

48 thoughts on “My First Roll With a Leica Film Camera – Guest Post by Aukje”

  1. Hi Aukje
    I think you should try over exposing Portra 400. Compared to Fuji 400 where the colours get slightly more pastel, Portra when overexposed gets more vibrant – At least thats my experience!
    You are right though, no camera can make up for poor light! You are so good at capturing the good light too!
    I really enjoy your posts, you are most welcome to keep sharing them!!

  2. Hey Aukje,

    I’m with Hamish: film choice and the light on the day are the biggest factors here. You already have all the film camera and glass you’ll ever need.

    I look forward to seeing your results in black and white… which is here film (usually) beats the pants of digital.

    Ouch… now come the digital fan boys to beat me up. 🙂


    1. Thanks for your comment Ric. About black and white, that’s an extra out-of-comfort factor for me, so I will try that again, but it might take some time…

  3. I like your shots, you definitely have the “eye” when it comes to capturing the shot. I can’t help feeling that you are underexposing a bit – which means that the lower parts of your shots are grainy and the skies relatively ok.

    No photo can capture everything – the general rule is to meter for the highlights when shooting slide film, and to meter for the lowlights when shooting negative film. With negative film you rely on the massive latitude of the film to get the skies relatively normal, whereas with slide you need to be careful of contrasty shots. Having said which, the glorious saturated colours you get with slide film more than compensate for any (perceived) disadvantage in terms of latitude.

    1. Thanks for your comment RJSTEP3. Interesting thought that I might be underexposing as I try to get more colour in the sky. But I will experiment with different exposures on my next rolls. I have no experience with slide film, for now I’ll stick to negative and try to master that.

      1. You know, you have a real eye for the shot – I have really enjoyed looking at your shots in your articles. I wish I had that eye: I sometimes do, but then it disappears on me.

        As others have said here, the thing about film photography is essentially about its limitations – so you have to be careful about each shot based on the light and what film you have and how careful you are with it. You have to get a “feel” as well as an “eye”. That is why I left digital – I saw one photographer’s blog where she said, quite rightly (I think), you end up with an enormous DSLR going around going “clunk! clunk!”, shot after shot – each time thinking, “I will Photoshop that later, I will Photoshop that later”.

        You never do – you end up with a hard disk jammed full of mediocre shots. With film, you have to think – even if you are just using a camera for holiday or family shots, you have to think.

        Ik denk dat u in Nederland woont – een mooi land, met veel mogelijkheden voor fotografie! Het alle beste!


  4. I’ve been really enjoying your guest posts here Aukje. Some very beautiful shots in each one, and especially in this one. I love both misty lake shots as well as the forrest with the leaves on the ground.

    I find your posts extra interesting since I’m on a similar journey myself, shooting more and more with film after about 7 years of almost exclusively digital. I’m shooting an M4-P now (partially I nspired by Hamish’s review of it) & really enjoying it. You can read a bit about it on my site, if you’re interested.

    There’s a lot to learn though. One thing I’m trying to learn now is to tell how well exposed my negs are. Looking at the density of them, and comparing to which scanned frames I like the look of best. I guess that this could be something for you to try as well?

        1. Yes, I just realised today Hamish must have been talking to you KJ. Small indents, missed it before… I feel a bit stupid. But I did find your website 🙂 , and it was good reminder for me….

    1. Thanks KJ. Nice photos on your website. And I agree that there is a lot to learn, but I enjoy the learning part a lot. I will look at my negatives, not sure I will know what to look for, but I guess that is also a matter of practice…

      1. Thanks Aukje, I appreciate it!

        Looking at the negs probably is a science in itself, but for me I try to be pragmatic and keep it simple. I simply look at the negs and compare them to each other and to the scans I get. Keeping in mind that dense (dark) equals high exposure and thin (almost transparent) is the same as low exposure. It also helps if you’re fairly consistent with what film stocks you use. I’ve learned a few (probably basic) things by doing this.

        First that I like the colour of the negs that are slightly dense, but too dense makes them feel a bit bland. Detail also seems a bit better on denser negs. I generally try to expose colour film at +1 or +1.5 and B&W at +0.5 since discovering this.

        Exposing “accurately” according to the meters i use in artificial light results in slightly thin negs with a bit muddy colours in the scans. I try to expose a bit more generously in artificial light now, and that seems to give me better results.

        That’s pretty much it, but I too feel I’ve still got a lot to learn.

        I read somewhere that you can try placing for instance a newspaper behind the neg and if you can’t read the text the exposure is too high, but I’ve yet to over expose by this much.

  5. I’ve been back shooting film for a few years after a decade with digital and your thoughts were exactly mine at some point early on so I just wanted to point out a few things to help you on your way…hopefully 🙂

    Firstly any scan you get back from a lab is just an interpretation of the person scanning it and the machine scanning the negative.

    I went through many rolls of being disappointed with what I got back only to realise later when I bought my own second-hand Fuji Frontier last year that the negatives were in fact great but the person scanning them interpreted them in a way I didn’t like or they were just set to automatic, which is the worst outcome as each film and lens requires different tweaking.

    My Type IV Cron is very obviously a different colour on film than my Contax T3 with a Zeiss lens – the Cron is yellow on first scan and the Zeiss is very cool so when I do my first preview scans I know what the lens is and then I have to manually compensate for that by bringing down Yellow and Cyan on the Fuji scanner.

    The Fuji Frontier or Noritsu scanners can literally give you the same negative in a 1000 different looks and styles. It can dull the highlights, bring out the highlights, blow out the highlights, darken the shadows to black, brighten the shadows to almost a HDR look, turn blue from yellowly blue to pinky blue to greeny blue and on and on it goes. It is amazing the crap I used to get back from labs that I have scanned properly now that I own my own machine and can see EXACTLY what I have to work with.

    Having said all that, film requires good light. Dull light like the shot of the train and the two below it are going to be hard to fix.

    As Hamish says Portra may be what you’re after in terms of look. I use Portra 400 exclusively as it is so versatile and is made for scanning.

    I always shoot it at ISO 100 (eg set the camera to 100 rather than 400) and shoot it like that all day long.

    If I get in to a situation where ISO 100 is too slow I know I have two stops to play with and I ignore the meter and change the SS or aperture accordingly so as not to miss a shot. Since changing to this setup I have been getting much better results.

    My family and friends wonder why I shoot film but it has helped so much with my photography as you have to think about the light and all the parts that it takes to get that on to film – aperture, shutter speed and film speed. On digital with the ability to shoot at 1600 or 3200 ISO, you tend to take photos in bad light because you can but in the end you would get better shots at 400 ISO and a good flash.

    Anyway hope that helps – look at your negs closely, learn to hold them up to the light and see if the exposure you got was actually ok in the first place. Even buy a loupe and check them out that way too. I even shot a few rolls of slide film (Fuji Velvia 50) to see what I was doing was correct.

    1. Hi Jason, thanks for taking the time to give me some feedback, really appreciate it! I have to remind myself now and then that it is ok to post process digital files from my film, as indeed some choices were made during scanning that would not have been my own. I guess scanning yourself will give you all control, but for now I want to leave that to the pro’s (small steps, right?).
      I am going to give Portra 400 a try, would you say that that also works in very bright daylight? I am going to the caribbean soon and I am concerned that 400 asa will not turn out right for this light condition.
      I got a tip from KJ to look at the negatives too, so I guess it is a good exercise, will try that too.

      1. Yes Portra 400 would be ideal. I live in Australia so the light doesn’t get much brighter than it does here in Summer. I’d suggest metering at 100 and then if you need more light at night (than ISO100) you know you have two stops more to play with and adjust aperture and SS to suit. eg if you’re getting 1/30th at f2.8 at night then you really can move to 1/125th and still be exposed properly for ISO400. Portra can handle being way over-exposed and slightly under – I’ve over-exposed accidentally by 5 stops and the image was fine after scanning it.

  6. Hope that I can use a Leica someday, even if I’ll just borrow a camera for a week or two, or for a project, so I can tell myself that indeed, photos taken by a Leica is indeed special.

    1. Hi Erik, thanks for your reply. I am not sure that I understand what you mean though. For me shooting Leica camera and lenses does not guarantee special photo’s, but I enjoy shooting Leica as the weight and form factor feel really right in my hands. I never expected nor experienced that shooting Leica makes me a better photographer. Shooting Leica does make me want to shoot more, and that does help me to improve my skills.

  7. Aukje, I like them all, but the last 2 are really good. It’s so interesting to read about your experiences, and see that a lot of us are on the same road. I recently experimented in Hawaii with 8 different film types including 2 black-and-white (click my name to see the results on my blog). I think it’s a very valuable exercise to try them all and see how they work and pick a couple you like. My experience with Velvia 50 slide film was that the colours are certainly saturated, but the dynamic range is limited and shadows seem to rush to black. But in good light it’s very nice. I have to try Fuji 400H (and Portra 400; my experience has been with Portra 160). Of the color negative films I’ve tried so far, my favorites are Portra 160 and Ektar 100 (the latter gives more saturated colors whereas the former is better for skin tones). I tried the new CineStill 50D, but the halation was more than I expected, and I’m not sure about it. I find I’m increasingly drawn to black-and-white film and photographs and I have a couple of projects in mind for 2016 where I plan to use them!


    1. Hi Tony, thanks for your reply. Your experiment with the color film is really interesting. At this moment it takes me a couple of weeks to shoot a full 36-film, so trying them all is a slow process… Your review comes in really handy! By the way, Maui looks great, and I particularly like the image with the water splash. Great timing!

  8. I actually really like the washed out ones.

    All the landscape shots you see these days are bursting with vibrant colors and over saturation. These muted tones are beautiful and haunting.

    A very slight vignette would be nice too but be careful with it.

    Just a little contrast boost would take them next level I think.

    You definately have a nice eye.

    1. Hi Ryan, thanks so much! I am always looking for the right balance between great colours and elegance (can’t think of a better word at the moment, hope you get what I mean). I notice that I need a bit of time to get used to the look of the photos when I get them back from the lab. There is this though-process of ‘Oh that looks different that might be wrong’ to ‘That looks different it’s really nice’, and variations in between. One of the things I enjoy with shooting film is that it gives me a different perspective for my own images, which also gives me inspiration for processing my digital files. That said, I haven’t made my mind up on the preferred look. One day I like the muted subtle colours, the next I think they are boring. It’s a process… 🙂

  9. Wow – how soon the world forgets! Film requires thought and genuine understanding of the medium, much of which is available in things called books. Before the advent of the Internet this was how information was disseminated … by those with extensive knowledge in film use.

    Far too much internet BS from hipsters on use of film – go to a charity (thrift) shop or flea market and seek out some texts written during the last 100 years or so by experienced users. Most of the answers sought here will be found in their pages.

    Why attempt to ‘re-discover’ that which is already known and recorded?

    1. Thanks for your comment. There are more ways to learn a new skill. Reading books is one, but I actually enjoy the discussion with people, so I am thankful for the opportunity that the internet in general and Hamish in particular has given me.

      1. Vinod Chettur

        Phil Davis’ book on Photography is one of the best instructional books I’ve read. It also has many examples of photographs from many great photographers. Picked it up for a few dollars at a bookstore years ago.

    2. I am happy to receive comments of all types on this blog, especially those offering advice. But being patronising with comments like “…which is available in things called books” isn’t particularly welcome. There are plenty of forums out there if you wish to talk to people in that tone.

      Reading books is still just discovering. What is written in books isn’t necessarily any more right, and certainly no more right for Aukje than anything she might discover on whatever path she chooses to walk. The joy of photography is the discovery, the learning, the finding out for yourself, the successes, and more importantly the mistakes.

      As I say, happy for you to comment, but please use a tone of greater respect to those who put such effort into sharing their thoughts and experiences here on 35mmc

        1. It is internet, but in the little corner or it I’ve no time for such a tone. There is just no need for it at all when most other people just want to help each other out with advice.
          He/she could just have easily said the exact same thing without that tone and it could have been a very useful bit of friendly advice.

      1. FILM 4 5DECADES

        Hamish – the comment re. knowledge ” which is available in things called books ” wasn’t meant to be patronising … simply pointing out that the vast majority of extremely experienced film users are NOT on the internet as they often constitute an ageing demographic (i.e. internet averse, anti-digital or tech-phobic, possibly deceased … ).
        As I’ve always taught my students, knowledge is not restricted to any one source – be it books, internet, electronic storage, spoken history and many other forms of ‘texts’. I’m advocating non-exclusive exploration and attempting to point a user in a suitable direction. I’ve not yet read a really good site on practical film use … but I’ve read loads of online BS.
        Sorry I tried to help – won’t repeat the error. Clearly 50 years of film experience not required here …. sorry for my ‘arrogance’ (sic)

        1. As I say, it’s not the content of your comment, which was 100% valid, but the tone.

          Perhaps you could recommend a good book that discusses negative density of various colour negative films combined with the effects of scanning with various lab scanners. As since that really is the crux of the conversation here, I’m sure many people would get something quite positive out of such a book, not least myself.

        2. If you’re not trying to patronise, why not just suggest some books or authors to look for? Why do you feel the need to explain what a book is?

          Fifty years of film experience and the best you can give is ‘books are what people used to disseminate knowledge before the internet.’

          And then you throw your toys out of the pram when you get called on it.

          1. Film 4 5decades

            RYAN – Aukje made it clear in reply to my first comment that she wanted to interact with respondents and their opinions only … kind of ruled out the idea of ‘formal’ texts by authors own admission.

            No critique from Aukje re. my ‘patronising’ tone. Not sure why you are leaping to defend that which the original recipient seemingly found no offence with.

            Also, as a skilled educator I’m quite happy to let those who want to pursue a different path to do so … we all have individual learning style (as I pointed out in my ‘pram throwing’ response) and in this scenario I think both I and – to date – others have respected that wish.

            Not sure why I need to supply info/source material that was (politely) declined by the actual author of the post ….

            Did you actually read my replies? It takes a leap of faith to misconstrue my simple, logical, measured response to allegations of patronism as ‘…. throwing my toys out of the pram….’ and, I would suggest the initial accusation of being patronising. We all have reading biases based upon our own conceptions of the way the world works, i.e what you see/read is not necessarily what you think was written. Twice you have read into responses your own interpretation of what you think I meant and IMO, misread Aukje’s wishes upon forms/types of information required …

            Would it not be perverse to offer information/advice that was declined or unwanted by the post author – i.e would that not be patronising of, and in itself? I’m quite happy to let others pursue their own (chosen) path without hindrance – to be honest, from the responses here I can see others feel the same so I’ll be deleting the bookmark for this site and let everyone get on with discussion topic in hand (advising the post’s author) rather than waste time ‘calling me out’ as you term it … based on your own biased reading of a ‘sub-text’ in both my original comment – and reply – that never existed

          2. The art of communication…. I sincerely hope that you don’t let some miscommunication get in the way of enjoying most of the content on this website.

            I want to clarify that I indeed read books, and enjoy them too, but my earlier response was an answer to your question: ‘Why attempt to ‘re-discover’ that which is already known and recorded?’ (and the remark that there is a lot of BS on the internet), which did seem a bit patronising to me. Your original reply gave me the impression (but again, how difficult is communication!) that you took offence in my asking an online community for advise, and that you believe reading books is a much better way of learning. And to that I want to reply that I really appreciate people sharing their experience with me.

            But you are right that I didn’t take offence. Yes I do think your reply sounded patronising, but I realise that I don’t know with what intend it was written, and you don’t know what I do besides talking to people on the internet. So I read your reply as a complaint towards the superficiality of the online community in general, not as a personal attack towards me.

            I finally want to conclude that I really appreciate anyone taking the time to comment. And that I would appreciate a reference to a book, or any other tool, that can help me grow as a photographer.

    3. I agree with Film45Decades about the importance of approaching photography from a theoretical or academic angle as well as a practical one. A similar comment was made by Ryan a month or so ago when he was advocating buying books about photographers and their work rather than investing in more gear. For myself, it’s interesting to put photography and photographers in the context of contemporary art, which for decades has been driven more by conceptual art than by what Duchamp basically dismissed as ‘retinal art’. I haven’t seen many websites where those kinds of topics are discussed, and if anyone knows of any I’d appreciate links. But whether it’s the technical aspects of different film emulsions and their characteristics or a study of the work of contemporary photographers, there’s certainly a lot to absorb and I agree that formal texts, be they books or journal articles or reviews in leading newspapers are essential reading for any serious student of photography.

  10. There are days when I feel a digital cameras higher ISO capabilities makes more sense when I want to shoot in low light. Read up on different films and learn what films look its best in what light. I would also recommend you to search Type in your lens followed by any film and you’ll get an idea what it might look like. If you see a picture you like shot with the lens you own, try that film out! That’s how I ended up with my 35mm summicron and T-Max 400 and love it!

    1. Thanks for your comment and suggestion Daniel. I do look for information on film to decide what will work for me, but it is difficult to translate other people’s images to my own situation. How much of the look was film, how much lens, how much light, exposure, scanning etc.. So in the end you have to try and see for yourself, right? But the process itself is enjoyable enough.

  11. It’s amazing the broad stretch of advice you get isn’t it. The key, as you know is to find your own path… The joy I get from your posts seeing you walk it!

  12. Aukje, the technical stuff means nothing to me, but I do love your images! And that’s what it’s all about, I’d say. Good photographers can do good things with bad light, poor film and bad cameras. Not that you had poor film or camera! Keep at it!

  13. Pingback: My First Roll(s) With A Leica Film Camera - Part 2 - Guest Post by Aukje - 35mmc

  14. Aukje,
    Not sure if it was mentioned above, or in subsequent articles, but the rendering of the sky is an issue readily resolved with a graduated neutral-density filter. They are a bit of a challenge to use with a rangefinder, but still quite helpful for holding back exposure in the sky. You could easily use one with your M240 in Live View. This is how us old-timers had to do it before digital 🙂

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