Leica M3 on a pile of work prints
Gear Theory Philosophy & Reflections Photos & Projects

The Leica for a Year Project – By Patrick Medd

February 22, 2022

The Venn diagram describing the readership of 35mmc and of Mike Johnston’s blog ‘The Online Photographer’, may not have a huge amount of overlap—on the other hand it may, I don’t have the data. For those of you not familiar with Mike’s blog you may not know that in 2009 he set his class of eager followers an exercise. The premise is described in an article entitled ‘The Leica as Teacher’ and developed in a further article ‘Why it has to be a Leica’. Put succinctly, it challenges you (the aspiring photographer) to shoot a Leica rangefinder, with one lens and one type of black and white film exclusively for a year. You should aim to shoot two to six rolls of film per week and make one to six work prints per roll, without cropping. Every five to ten rolls make one nice print, again without cropping. The idea was that a year of doing this would radically improve your photographic ability.

Michael's party

Have the camera with you, press the shutter at the correct moment—Michael’s 80th, Ilford Delta 400

I read the article with interest and then, like 99.97% of the readers, did not complete the exercise. However, the idea knocked around in my head and never quite left me, time passed and I accrued more and more cameras—some film, some digital and more and more negatives and digital files sat in folders and on hard drives but without any coherent idea of what I was doing or why. The appeal of simplifying things and following Mike’s minimalist approach grew and grew—I decided to take up the challenge.

Reading Hector Kipling

Leica in hand you find yourself looking for those amusing juxtapositions. Ilford Delta 400

Shopping is not the same thing as photography

In order to begin I needed a Leica. No problem there, I had a Leica—an M5 which was my grandfather’s and which I had used on and off for years. Attached to it was the tiny Leitz 35mm f/1.4 Summilux. A perfect set up for such a project, there was only one problem—using that camera would not involve any shopping. Shopping is not the same hobby as photography, but most of us (myself especially included) forget that simple truth nearly all of the time. Like the rest of the 35mmc readership I too had absorbed the endless online opinions criticising the M5—the big, ugly, haptically awful monster that the 1970s spawned. Compare this horror to the Leica M3—the meisterstück, the initial prelapsarian Leica, a paradise of camera design from whence we have fallen and can never return. That’s right, I wanted an M3. A good deal of agonising and eBay scrolling later I owned one. Was this foolish?—yes, do I regret it?—probably not, but it is ironic that an exercise designed to stop endless gear acquisition and focus you on the practice of photography sent me scurrying straight to eBay.

Portrait with daffodils

Daughter with Daffodils—the Zeiss Sonnar is a pretty nice portrait lens. Ilford Delta 400

I won’t dwell on the merits of the M3 or make comparisons to the M5 here, this is covered in depth elsewhere. Suffice it to say the M3 is a different camera in the hand to an M5 and is very usable. It also does not have a light meter, but that’s ok because there are many apps for your phone that will provide this service for you and in many ways that actually speeds things up; arrive somewhere, take a light reading, set the camera up and shoot. As long as the light isn’t rapidly changing you’ll be fine and it’s one less thing to think about before you press the shutter each time. The ‘home’ focal length for the M3 is 50mm, a focal length I like very much and am very familiar with, but not one I owned in an M mount form; a brief trip to Red Dot Cameras sorted that and I left with a Zeiss 50mm f/1.5 Sonnar—well known to be a favourite of Hamish’s. Having equipped myself with a bulk loader and one hundred feet of Ilford Delta 400 I was ready to begin.

Aboard Naos

Who needs colour for their holiday snaps. Approaching the Meganisi channel aboard Naos, Ilford FP4 plus

The experience

I began the project on my birthday, it seemed like an easy date to remember and starting it with my new M3 felt like a birthday present to myself. As always with any new bit of kit there is an initial excitement as you get to try it out that drives a lot of picture taking at the early stages—I was having fun. The strict rules of the project require you to carry the camera with you all day, everyday. This is not feasible in my job (nor I suspect most other people’s, unless your job is an as an aspiring photographer), but I did try to take the camera with me whenever I went somewhere and it certainly covered a lot of ground in the year—at least until the project clashed with the covid lockdown that descended on us two-thirds of the way through.

Wine glasses and curtains

Day two, last night’s wine glasses as day breaks. Ilford Delta 400

The first pleasurable thing to note was that, for someone as indecisive as me, having the choice of which camera to use taken from you was very liberating. I didn’t have to think, I just picked it up, pocketed a couple of rolls of film and walked out of the door. It became second nature to have it sitting on my hip as I walked. The aim of the exercise is to get you to see as the camera sees, so that when you raise it to your eye the picture you’ve already composed in your head is there, right in front of you, already framed in the viewfinder—all you have to do now is focus and shoot (you will recall that you set the exposure at the point you walked out of the door). It is also a blessed relief for your back as one camera, one lens and two rolls of film don’t require you to drag along a camera bag full of gear.

Oak in the mist

Carrying the camera on every dog walk meant that when the mist was right I got this picture. It might have been better on large format, but I took it with the camera I had with me. Ilford Delta 400

Great photographs don’t have bokeh balls

The reason it needs to be a Leica is that the viewfinder experience is not engaging, there is no getting lost in the beauty of shallow depth of field effects in an SLR viewfinder and no standing back to admire the ground glass of your Hasselblad or field camera. The focus remains on the scene in front of you. The temptation to improve bad pictures by resorting to extreme depth of field effects is gone, as the effect cannot be judged through the viewfinder. You’ll find that depth of field catches you out at times when pictures taken at wider apertures suffer from loss of sharpness in a critical element, and you’ll find that you start to favour mid-range apertures (light levels permitting) to get most of that composition in focus. This is all to the good—the great pictures, the photographs that endure, are all about the subject rendered well and not about the optical peculiarities of the way a lens sees the world. That’s not to say you won’t get bokeh balls because when you come to shoot in artificial light and are limited to ISO 400 your lens is going to be wide open, you’re just not going to be aware of them through the viewfinder.

Bokeh couple

Great photographs don’t have bokeh balls, apart from this one obviously. Ilford Delta 400

The second reason it has to be a Leica (and in my case a fully manual Leica with no meter) is that it gets out of your way. I have a Fuji X-E1 which I sometimes use and it produces very nice images, but it has a maddening habit of changing settings accidentally and seemingly randomly at the drop of a hat. There is a button on that camera which engages a macro mode. I don’t know what the macro mode does, as pressing that button doesn’t put a macro lens on the camera or move you closer to the subject, but what it does do is place a large pictogram of a flower in the middle of your viewfinder, obscuring your view, when you accidentally press it—this is not a camera that gets out of your way. The manual, mechanical, film Leica by contrast will let you make as many mistakes as you like and won’t raise a finger to stop you, but it will let you release the shutter whenever you want and that is the skill you are trying to learn here.

Splashing in the river Lyd, Dartmoor

Capture your children with a 60 year old camera—who needs weather sealing? River Lyd, Dartmoor. Ilford Delta 400

The aim of the game is to arrange the frame

You are not allowed to crop, you need to get the composition correct in camera. I’m no purist about cropping, long having taken the view that not all scenes correspond to a 3:2 (or whatever) aspect ratio and you should change the crop to suit the subject. However, once you’ve mastered the basics of exposure and focus all photography comes down to composition. The aim of the game is to arrange the frame and as a learning exercise (which is what this is) this is valuable. Once or twice I was tempted to crop (mainly to straighten horizons) but the vast majority of the time I took what the camera gave me and lived with it. This also helped with my tendency towards perfectionism.

Interior, Hotel Endsleigh

You’re not allowed to crop, but the verticals weren’t straight and I just had to with this one (I can’t bear a wonky horizon). Ilford Delta 400

Producing prints

In the course of the year I exposed 88 rolls of film (mostly Delta 400 but I did allow myself to switch to FP4 plus when travelling to the bright luminosity of Greece, and a couple of rolls of Delta 3200 snuck in during times of available darkness). This is a total of just over 3000 frames and, averaging out at 1.7 rolls a week, this is below the specified target (and certainly not a Garry Winogrand level of productivity), but reasonable for someone with a full time job to do at the same time. I made 364 work prints, Mike allowed one to six prints per roll which is a 2-17% print rate. Mine comes in a 11.5% which is in the right ballpark therefore. This exercise took place before my darkroom was up and running so I digitised the negatives using a DLSR and printed on the Epson, but (nearly always!) without cropping and making all prints at 9×6 inches on A4 paper.

Available darkness on Delta 3200

Beach win the battle of the bands in available darkness, Vounaki, Greece. Ilford Delta 3200

The subject matter varied from children’s parties through holidays and family outings to landscape and pictures taken on my daily dog walks (a genre that has been referred to as ‘path photography’!). Most of the pictures were mediocre, but then most pictures are. At Mike’s recommended rate of making ‘good prints’ (one every five to ten rolls) I should be looking at 9-18 ‘keepers’ from this and I’ll leave it to you to judge if any of the accompanying pictures reach that level. This isn’t really about the quality of the output though, it’s about the benefit of the exercise to the photographer.

Dog and landscape Mawgan Porth

When Ansel Adams meets Elliot Erwitt—a great monolith, and a dog peeing on it. Mawgan Porth, Cornwall, Ilford Delta 400

What did I learn?

Am I a better photographer for it? I don’t know is the honest answer. I certainly came to recognise the 50mm view in front of me and got adept at sliding the camera up, focusing and pressing the button almost instinctively. Whether this resulted in better pictures by the end of the year I’m not sure. I’m not by nature a street photographer and where I live (rural west Devon) is perhaps not natural Cartier-Bresson territory. Some of my favourite pictures from the year actually come from the first few rolls, so on that basis perhaps the exercise should be judged a failure. After I finished I underwent a sort of rebound camera purchasing spree (having restrained myself for a year) and also shot a lot of 120 film (perhaps longing for a tonality that 35mm couldn’t give me) so it didn’t empty my camera cupboard to a level of Zen-like simplicity either.

Summer in West Devon

Hay making in West Devon, this is James Ravilious (rather than Henri Cartier-Bresson) country. Ilford Delta 400

All these objections aside, it does feel good to have a consistent body of work presented in a uniform style and comprising a year of my life. It is more coherent therefore than anything else I’ve done. My desire for simple cameras with direct controls that ‘get out of the way’ has certainly been strengthened by the experience. Above all, the enjoyable feeling of picking up the camera, putting it on like a piece of clothing and walking out of the door without a second thought is one I’m very grateful to have had, even if only for a year.

River Itchen, Winchester

Summer on the River Itchen, Winchester. Ilford Delta 400

Thank you for your kind attention. You can find me on Instagram or my website.

Contribute to 35mmc for an Ad-Free Experience

There are two ways to experience 35mmc without the adverts:

Paid Subscription - £2.99 per month and you’ll never see an advert again! (Free 3-day trial)
Subscribe here

Content contributor - become a part of the world’s biggest film and alternative photography community blog. All our Contributors have an ad-free experience for life.
Sign up here.

You Might Also Like...

54 Comments

  • Reply
    Kevin Pritchard
    February 22, 2022 at 11:18 am

    Great article, Mr Medd! Why did this way of photography only last a year, though? I had a similar year in 2018 when an eye cataract prevented me focusing an slr, so I got a Fed2 and Industar (£25) and took it everywhere, and indeed it was liberating and versatile. Sadly a lot of nice compositions were spoiled by the 70 year old erratic shutter. This was one of my happiest photo years and took me back to 1980s when I had only 50mm for a decade. We should not be surprised by the adaptability of a standard lens – so many renowned pictures from the past were taken with no other lens.

    • Reply
      Patrick Medd
      February 22, 2022 at 12:15 pm

      You’re quite right I should have carried on with my simple life, if only someone could find an effective treatment for shopping. I quite agree 50mm is the ‘standard’ lens for a reason, HCB used almost nothing else I believe.

  • Reply
    Philip Ahlquist
    February 22, 2022 at 12:42 pm

    A fascinating article – thank you for sharing the experience. It’s ironic that I’m now tempted to buy a Leica and do the project, but I suspect that is really missing the point of the project. There’s a lot to be said for persisting with a small set up and really learning to use it well. The phrase that really struck me though was ‘the great pictures, the photographs that endure, are all about the subject rendered well and not about the optical peculiarities of the way a lens sees the world’. That’s a mantra for everyone to repeat every time they pick up a camera!

    • Reply
      Patrick Medd
      February 22, 2022 at 1:40 pm

      Thank you for your kind words! I certainly wouldn’t put you off buying a Leica and doing the project, it’s fun and as Mike Johnson pointed out in his original post you won’t lose any money on owing a film Leica for a year.

      • Reply
        David Dutchison
        February 22, 2022 at 10:52 pm

        There isn’t any reason why the project can’t be completed with *any* rangefinder camera with a good viewfinder. Since it stipulates only one lens, you can even use a fixed-lens RF, which are available for a tenth of the cost of a Leica M. The Cannonet and Olympus SP are two I can recommend from experience.

  • Reply
    Jonathan Leavitt
    February 22, 2022 at 1:11 pm

    Thank you for an excellent article, and for letting me vicariously enjoy something I will never do, which is to exercise discipline in the way one takes photographs. But I couldn’t agree more that special lens effects detract from the art , and that 50 mm is the way to go, at least when outdoors, perhaps 35 mm indoors at it closer range. And thank you for a good motto, the name of the game is indeed to arrange the frame,, And one must constantly be searching assemble the right combination of lighting, subject matter, composition, and so forth within that eternal rectangle.

    • Reply
      Patrick Medd
      February 22, 2022 at 1:43 pm

      Thank you, I only managed to exercise discipline for a year before I went back to my bad old multi-camera toting habits! I do keep arranging the eternal rectangle though (except on 6×6 days when I’ll be found arranging the eternal square ;-)).

  • Reply
    BW
    February 22, 2022 at 1:40 pm

    Thanks for writing this, very well done. It’s interesting that some of your favorite frames were early on in the project. I wonder what someone who didn’t take all the photos would think. The photo on the boat is great.

    • Reply
      Patrick Medd
      February 22, 2022 at 1:45 pm

      Indeed, it’s very hard to assess your own work objectively. I will try and put more of them up on my website (which is hideously out of date at the moment) in chronological order to give people more of an idea.

  • Reply
    JAMES LANGMESSER
    February 22, 2022 at 3:48 pm

    Whatever you do photographically from now on you will treasure this experience. I say this from experience as in the seventies I had only one camera, a Rollei 35, bought new. 40mm lens. f3.5 Tessar lens. Built in lightmeter. Other than that the camera is wholly manual. I used that camera with black and white film exclusively for four years. I still have it. I sent it to Harry Fleenor of Rollei repair fame for a refurbishment. He commented when it was returned that the camera was literally worn out. Good. That is as it should be, My next camera, as I felt I was up to its abilities, was a Leica IIIf…then an M3….then an M6….and then another Leica….it hasn’t stopped.

    • Reply
      Patrick Medd
      February 22, 2022 at 8:41 pm

      Strong work! That’s a nice line up of great cameras, one at at time…

    • Reply
      Paul
      March 3, 2022 at 10:15 pm

      Beautiful story! I’m a fan of rollei 35. It has a gorgeous lens that is almost at the height of the leica lenses. As I wrote in another comment, I would like to do a long-term project of documentary photography and I thought dinusare only the rollei. But everyone advised me against it because of the focus. Would you recommend it to me?

  • Reply
    Justin Kingery
    February 22, 2022 at 3:53 pm

    So well done, Partick! I love the photos you shared, my favorites being the boat and the hay bales. Really lovely, timeless shots. I know you specifically said you weren’t going to compare the M3 to the M5, but as an M5 shooter who has always wanted an M3 but resists because I wear glasses and fear I may not be about to see the entirety of the M3s 50mm framelines, could you briefly speak to the two shooting experiences? I shoot 50 and 35 exclusively. I’ve always been fearful of the lack of a meter, though, regardless of having my phone in pocket. Did you learn to meter by eye? Did you lose frames due to over- or under-exposure?

    • Reply
      Patrick Medd
      February 22, 2022 at 8:58 pm

      Thanks for the kind words Justin, glad you like the pictures. I’ve got the M3 and the M5 out of the cupboard to have a look and try to answer your question. I think the key difference is what lens you want to use. The 50mm is perfect on the M3 and it means that the magnification between your open eye and viewfinder eye is the same, so if you want to try that Joel Meyerowitz both-eyes-open-and-shoot style it’s the clear choice. The M3 is denser, more compact and fits better in the hand than the M5. The M3 viewfinder lines are chunky but I have just tried looking through with glasses on and I can’t see them all in one go in that case, having said that I can’t see the 35mm frame lines on the M5 with glasses on either so you probably need to try it for yourself. The rangefinder patch on the M3 is bigger and easier to use than the M5. However, if you want to adjust the shutter speed with the camera to your eye the M5 is definitely a better bet, as the shutter speed dial overhangs the front of the camera and the speed is displayed in the viewfinder. TBH they both feel great in the hand but if you’ve never had a play with an M3 seek one out and have a go.

      I did guess some exposures and most of the time it worked out, but I did of course lose some to over and under-exposure. It reassured me that I worry about exposure too much most of the time!

      • Reply
        Justin Kingery
        February 23, 2022 at 8:41 pm

        Thank you, Patrick. Your post sold me. I purchased a nice late-model (1.5M+) M3 on eBay last night, so I’m going to keep a 50 glued to it and see how it works out. I’ll reserve my 35mm lens for my M5, which I’m used to already. I’m really looking forward to working on meterless shooting!

        • Reply
          Patrick Medd
          February 23, 2022 at 9:07 pm

          Gosh! Well done. Enjoy it and do let us know how you get on. Brilliant.

  • Reply
    Mike
    February 22, 2022 at 6:56 pm

    I love these shots! Lesson noted… carry camera everywhere

  • Reply
    Jonathan Yuen
    February 22, 2022 at 7:45 pm

    Nice story!! Did you consider an M2 or M4? Either would pair beautifully with that 35mm summilux. I guess I’m a more wide angle person and it’s my M2 that goes out a lot more and the M3 stays at home.

    • Reply
      Patrick Medd
      February 22, 2022 at 9:56 pm

      Thanks. No I didn’t but only because I was drinking in the M3 propaganda that is all over the internet!

  • Reply
    Jacob Christiansen
    February 22, 2022 at 7:48 pm

    This was a great read and interesting project. Did you develop the film yourself? Did you learn anything regarding which developers work well for you etc?
    I think I would have chosen a 35mm, but maybe that’s the boring/easy choice.

    • Reply
      Patrick Medd
      February 22, 2022 at 9:54 pm

      Thank you. Yes I did develop the film myself. I’m not sure I’ve ever found enough difference between different developers to notice. I think I would have used Ilford DD-X for these but have changed to Ilfotec-HC since then. The key thing I find is that my development times are always significantly shorter than recommended, otherwise the highlights block up.
      I like a 35mm but I want to have an 85mm or similar with me as well if I’m using one so as a single lens a 50mm is a good compromise for me.

  • Reply
    Chris
    February 22, 2022 at 7:59 pm

    Very well written and enjoyable article. I did one of these, sort of… Leitz Minolta CL got swapped out for a Bessa R3A because the CL “meter on a stick” thing was just SO annoying. I used a M-Rokkor 40/2 lens throughout (a fabulous lens) and Tri-X, which I’ve always loved and which was affordable then. I confess, I didn’t do the printing bit, hence the “sort of” above. But I still thought I got huge value from it. In my case this was mostly getting my “black and white eye” back in gear after years of shooting mostly in colour and finding b&w hard to visualise. I did the exercise for 6 months, which I felt was enough.

    At the end, I decided that rangefinder lenses were way too expensive to make this my continuing system, so sold all the gear, which it turned out was not exactly “free” (various commissions etc taking a huge chunk of the sale costs). I now regret it, of course, as they have at least doubled in price since then, and for eyesight reasons I would now like to get back to rangefinders again!

    But that M-Rokkor 40/2! What a lovely lens that was.

    • Reply
      Patrick Medd
      February 22, 2022 at 9:57 pm

      Oh no, don’t tell me about another lovely lens that needs urgent internet research on it!

  • Reply
    Sacha Cloutier
    February 22, 2022 at 8:16 pm

    Very interesting read! Thanks for sharing. I wish that I had the restraint and capacity to do this. I don’t think that it would actually impact my GAS. Where my issue with this lies is that I don’t think that I could limit myself to only one format. Many of my photo walks include me lugging around at least one medium format camera and one 35mm. I pick my camera for my shooting on impulse (probably the same that fuels my GAS!) and sometimes the camera I choose is the influence on my desire to shoot. Where I think that I may borrow from this project though is the frequency of shooting and printing. Like you, I have the issue of shooting and then storing with out any physical output. So in that sense, thank you for the inspiration!

    • Reply
      Patrick Medd
      February 22, 2022 at 9:59 pm

      You’re welcome. Now the darkroom is up and running I might do something similar again but run an entirely analogue process from exposure to print. If I did that I would probably use a Rolleiflex or other medium format camera just for the easy and beauty of the prints (and because I love the square!).

  • Reply
    Matthias
    February 22, 2022 at 8:47 pm

    Fascinating project (and beautiful images).
    I could never do this (apart from being too poor to buy a Leica). I almost exclusively shoot color. Photography is all about color for me. I love telephoto and macro lenses and the different view on the world they give.
    But o.k. I’ve been shooting from around 1990 (when I first was allowed to you use my parents Minolta X-700) to 2001 only with a MD 1.7/50mm lens, because there were no other (but in color !). So perhaps I’m through this exercise for live…;-) But I’m still not very good in framing.

    • Reply
      Patrick Medd
      February 22, 2022 at 10:05 pm

      Thank you. No reason that you couldn’t do it in colour, film or digital, in fact as you say, you already have. In fact Mike went on to propose a revised ‘One Camera, One Lens, One Year’ project that could be done with a digital camera on the basis that most people weren’t going to shoot black and white film for a year. As I love the darkroom aspect and I like B&W printing the original project was the one that attracted me.

  • Reply
    Daniel Fjäll
    February 22, 2022 at 9:05 pm

    The versatility of other focal lengths after 50mm diminishes fast as it covers most of most peoples needs. For the greater part of 7 years I’ve been buying, selling and collecting camera gear. Came full circle just this week where it all started after buying a Leica M3 and a 50mm Summicron Rigid again. Together with the 35mm Summilux on the M4-P its hard to really justify anything else honestly. Love the picture of the boat in Greece btw!

    • Reply
      Patrick Medd
      February 22, 2022 at 10:08 pm

      Absolutely! If you can just shut out the siren voices tempting you to add another lens then you can focus on the picture in front of you. Glad you like the Greek boat – it was a great holiday!

  • Reply
    gil aegerter
    February 22, 2022 at 9:05 pm

    Very interesting article. I too struggle with having too much gear, which can make it more diificult to make photographs. But I don’t know that I could last a year with just, say, my FM2 and a 50. Something to aspire to.

    • Reply
      Patrick Medd
      February 22, 2022 at 10:09 pm

      Ha! I’ve got an FM2 as well, with a 50mm E series Nikkor, would be a very good choice for a year…

  • Reply
    Alan
    February 22, 2022 at 10:39 pm

    Dear god! What a stunning set of images. I’m 100% sure that if I followed the same challenge for a year, I would waste film, money and time and end up with 99.99% mundane, banal, poorly composed rubbish. I can’t even get verticals or horizons straight, even if I really, really concentrate on them. The cropping and auto-angle tool are my friends.

    The tonality of these images is gorgeous too.

    • Reply
      Patrick Medd
      February 22, 2022 at 11:23 pm

      Thank you very much. I’m sure you do yourself down shoot for a year and there will be some good ones amongst the mundane. Even the greats had plenty of boring pictures on their contact sheets.

  • Reply
    GARY SMITH
    February 22, 2022 at 10:54 pm

    Despite having too many cameras, I still don’t take 3000 shots a year. Doing so would certainly make me more aware if I took the “no cropping” rule to heart. I just purchased a 50 year-old SLR and shot my first film in 45+ years or so. The camera was a Canon FTb (which was the first SLR I purchased almost 50 years ago). My strategy was to pay to get the film processed and then scan the negatives. I may need to rethink that due to the cost involved. I haven’t run a darkroom for 50 years and I’m not sure that I want to go there. I really liked the shots you included in your article and enjoyed your thoughts. Thanks!

    • Reply
      Patrick Medd
      February 22, 2022 at 11:25 pm

      Thank you. You don’t need a darkroom to develop the film of course, and you can scan with a digital camera pretty easily—which is what I did with these.

  • Reply
    Khürt L Williams
    February 23, 2022 at 1:52 am

    > ..should aim to shoot two to six rolls of film per week

    Mike has a twisted sense of humour.

  • Reply
    David Hume
    February 23, 2022 at 3:34 am

    A lovely article thank you Patrick. Very well written, engaging, thoughtful – and useful! It has inspired me and I’m sure it will inspire many others. Cheers.

    • Reply
      Patrick Medd
      February 23, 2022 at 9:17 am

      Thank you David, very kind. By chance I was reading your excellent articles about the X-Pro 3 last night during an unpleasant GAS attack, the sort of thing this project was designed to stop!

      • Reply
        David Hume
        February 23, 2022 at 9:04 pm

        I still really like the XP3 – these days I don’t shoot much dig for fun and the Fuji lives with the 27 f2.8 on it. I dream of a digital camera to make files that look like Portra 160 through a Nikkor 50 f2, but I think the answer is to shoot Portra 160 through a Nikkor. Doesn’t stop me searching though.

        • Reply
          Patrick Medd
          February 24, 2022 at 8:46 am

          Yes, if that gives you the look you want then go for it. At £14 a roll though I think my colour film days may be behind me.

  • Reply
    PK
    February 23, 2022 at 6:44 pm

    Would love to give this a go. My hesitation is subject matter. In the midst of winter and flat light, little sun and there is work. As you mentioned per your circumstances, no chance in my work of using a camera. Often dark leaving and dark coming home. I would have to personalize it where I shoot only when possible and that would result in far less than the 6-7 rolls per week target. I think I would be lucky to finish 1 roll per week. Shooting for the sake of shooting ( I get the practice aspect of this exercise) is expensive with film and the keeper rate will be negligible. Still….a worthwhile endeavor even if to just limit yourself and find good light for an entire year.

    • Reply
      Patrick Medd
      February 23, 2022 at 9:05 pm

      I definitely shot more in the summer and when on leave from work than when working over the winter, for the very reasons you point out. So the target is an average over the year and Mike acknowledged that in the original terms of reference. I wouldn’t be discouraged by the time limitations, just do what you can when you can, it’ll still be worthwhile.:-)

  • Reply
    Neil McGahee
    February 24, 2022 at 1:49 am

    I bought my first Leica, an M-2 in 1969 and shot M 3,4,5,6,7 then digitals in a 50 year career as a photojournalist. I never even considered any other camera. Alas I’m now retired and can’t afford one. Thanks for writing articles like this. They bring back memories and smiles.

  • Reply
    Paul
    March 3, 2022 at 10:07 pm

    Beautiful article I read in the Right time. I want to start a long-term documentary project with one camera one lens one film. Since I can not afford a leica I ended up with the purchase of a canon 7 (with a problem with the frames that are not seen) and with a pentax slr. Now I wanted to decide which one to use and which lenses to use. I thought the 35mm was the right middle ground, but your article made me rethink the canon 7+ 50mm combo… I don’t know what to do! Anyway I want to try with this challenge

    • Reply
      Patrick Medd
      March 4, 2022 at 5:30 pm

      I don’t think it matters at all whether you use the 35mm or the 50mm, I only got a 50mm because I was using the M3 which has a 50mm viewfinder. Enjoy it whatever lens you use!

  • Reply
    Daniel J Castelli
    March 5, 2022 at 5:20 pm

    Hi Patrick,
    I just re-read your excellent article and would like to add some comments.
    In 1970, I purchased a Pentax H1a and a 50mm f/2.0 Super-Takumar lens. I used that combo until the camera was stolen in 1971. I replaced the Pentax w/a Nikon F and again, a 50mm lens. Over the next 45 years, I used lots of different Nikkor lenses, from primes to zooms. A back injury forced me to seek a lighter load/carry so I sold off the Nikon gear. Tucked in with the Ninon gear was my old Leica M2 w/a 50mm lens. I wondered if I could re-create the years I only worked with a normal lens.
    On January 1, 2016, I started a one lens/one camera project. I shot with my M2 and a 50mm f/2.0 Planar. My film stock was HP-5, processed & printed in my home darkroom.
    I didn’t shoot every day, I probably shot one a week. The situation dictated the output. My nephew’s wedding demanded a few rolls, but mostly it was a pic here & there. I stuck to it up to the end of the year.
    I learned that I didn’t have a 50mm ‘eye.’ My visual sense gravitated toward a wider view. I like to place my subject within their surroundings. The 35 sometimes gave me too much, but the 50mm lens was too restricting. For a long time now, my prime lens is a 40mm lens, with a aux. viewfinder fitted onto my well-worn M2. I also have a Leitz-Minolta CL as a secondary camera and the native frame lines are for a 40mm lens with additional 50mm frame lines.
    The year-long process was not wasted. I didn’t lose any critical shots. It was a great learning experience. I still have both a 50mm & 35mm lens, but they are used less frequently, and only when the situation deems it. The 40 is my EDC lens.
    So, if people have the time, I’d say try this project. You’ll learn so much about you style.

    Regards,
    Dan

    • Reply
      Patrick Medd
      March 7, 2022 at 12:51 pm

      Great to hear Dan, since writing this I’ve started playing with a 35mm on the M3 using an accessory finder and I’m enjoying it so far, the accessory finder does give you a different perspective on the scene, seeing it in a slightly distanced and more ‘complete’ way than the built in viewfinder does. BW Patrick

  • Reply
    Alex Hayes
    March 8, 2022 at 6:02 am

    ‘The viewfinder experience is not engaging’ – surely a typo?

    • Reply
      Patrick Medd
      March 8, 2022 at 3:33 pm

      No, not a typo! If you prefer we could say the viewfinder experience is straightforward, it shows you roughly what you are pointing the camera at and some framelines. It’s not like the optically projected image of a lens on large format ground glass for instance, which can be a beautiful thing to look at in its own right.

  • Reply
    RichardP
    March 19, 2022 at 1:44 pm

    “ The Venn diagram describing the readership of 35mmc and of Mike Johnston’s blog ‘The Online Photographer’, may not have a huge amount of overlap” but it’s not an empty set, I think (not certain) I first came here from TOP.

    Nice set, the snaps, that is!

    • Reply
      Patrick Medd
      March 19, 2022 at 7:08 pm

      Thank you Richard. Mike has very kindly linked back to this article from TOP now so I have now achieved my long held ambitions of featuring on both 35mmc and TOP and happiness is mine!

  • Reply
    Henning Wulff
    March 23, 2022 at 10:19 pm

    A very nice post, and a quite successful project I think. The initially higher ‘hit’ rate usually comes with a new toy, and on top of that you started to take the camera with you everywhere, which will encourage a better photographic vision, I believe. The ‘River Lyd, Dartmoor’ is great, as are a number of the others.
    I inherited some Leica equipment when I was 17 in 1962, and started carrying the IIIg and 50 Summicron everywhere, including school. I got jobs, went to University, travelled, met my to-be wife (yes dear, I always carry a camera, except to bed and in the bathroom). The camera(s) kept coming along.
    Predominantly, I shot B&W and developed it myself. There were some years when I shot less than 3000 frames, but mostly it was more.
    Now, I mostly shoot digital, but I still carry a camera, usually a Leica with a 35mm lens everywhere. People say ‘if you would put down your camera, you’d actually see what’s in front of you’, but I believe they’ve got it wrong. The camera helps my seeing.
    Sometimes, for months or years, it’d be just one camera and one lens and one film, but then that would shift and other equipment would get involved. I like the gadget part of photography as well, and for 30 years I worked as an architectural and construction photographer alongside my main profession as architect, so liking gadgets was a helpful interest.
    And lastly: yes, TOP sent me.

  • Reply
    jason gold
    May 13, 2022 at 12:42 pm

    I thought one year way too long! I read original article on TOP. The M3 was in my possession, the 50mm Collapsible Summicron perfect. I did it. It was a success. At end of year my new out the box was main camera in my portfolio. Ziggy my favorite camera. After 55 years it’s personal. I love using the M3. It kisses my face. It’s part of me. No OTHER Leica does that. I leave home with the roll inside, seldom a back up. Simplicity, ease, no weight(i am 78) and simply see photos. Develop in my kitchen, scan on Canonscan (street find complete kit). It needs XP. So it’s offline!
    Do it! I say shoot less though.. film is precious.

Leave a Reply

This site uses User Verification plugin to reduce spam. See how your comment data is processed.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Contribute to 35mmc for an Ad-Free Experience -Click here to find out more
+