5 frames with...

5 frames with a Leica M6 and Voigtlander 40mm f/1.4 – by Dean Vuksanovic

G’day everyone, former G.A.S. sufferer here! Although in my case it’s more accurate to call it Gear Experimentation Syndrome since I would typically enjoy using one vintage film camera/lens combination at a time before selling it on and buying something different. With a bit of luck, this process is fairly cost neutral too, given that the new gear depreciation already happened decades ago. My own experimentation trail involved most film formats and brands, until it slowly narrowed to small 1970s rangefinder cameras and TLRs. The trail ended perhaps unsurprisingly at the Leica M6, which was a gift from a close friend of mine.

Much has been written about this legendary camera! One less-known fact is that its 35mm frame lines are actually consistent with a 40mm view for subjects more than 2-3m away. This just happens to be how I prefer to capture the world so…drum roll…enter the Voigtlander! This is a truly exceptional lens. It is fast, tiny, very well-built, plenty sharp from wide open, and quick to focus with a finger tab. It can also be easily modified to show 35mm frame lines on any Leica M camera instead of the default 50mm frame lines. Taking it apart for lens helicoid lubrication is straight forward too with guides readily available. Bokeh is “classic”, meaning that out of focus areas are generally pleasing but can be a bit unpredictable wide open with an outlining effect for some busy backgrounds.

The final puzzle piece was Rollei 80s black and white film. I personally value high contrast, high sharpness and low grain, and this film delivers in spades! Best use is on overcast days or subdued light as contrast can be difficult to tame when sunny. This is due to its extended red sensitivity compared to other films but on the upshot, it has a hidden talent in infrared photography. All in all, a wonderful film!

 

Shibuya, Tokyo

Tokyo Markets

Tokyo City

Todai-Ji Daibutsuden

Very Fancy, Sapporo

This camera-lens combination has been an absolute joy to use and more than anything, it just works. Thank you for your interest!

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15 Comments

  • Dan Castelli
    Reply
    Dan Castelli
    April 28, 2019 at 1:37 pm

    Hiya Dean,
    Another 40mm lens aficionado! Liked your article – we could be ‘twin sons of different mothers.’
    I had the M6, but sold it off because of the LED lights in the viewfinder – I found them too distracting. I eventually replaced it w/the M4-P. I outfitted it with the Leicameter MR that is much more to my liking. I have a M-Rokkor 40mm f/2.0 with the frame index tab machined to bring up the 35mm frame lines. It’s a kit that fits me like a nice pair of shoes.

    The viewfinder in the M4-P is identical to the M6. I ran some sample photos w/a borrowed 35mm lens and the 40mm…as you aptly stated, there is virtually no difference between the angle of view between the two lenses when you’re about 6 ft. away from your subject. Sssh! Don’t tell anyone!

    I like the bold geometry and sharp contrast of shots “Shibuya”, and the expression of the young woman in Todai-Ji” is priceless – like praying her horse will come in first.

    Continued good luck with your photography.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      MrDean
      April 28, 2019 at 2:26 pm

      Hi Dan, thank you for your kind words! I find it funny when people suggest that 40mm is a “weird” lens to use, when this is almost exactly the angle of view of the human eye! I too was surprised that the 35mm viewfinder framelines on the M6 are actually 40mm, that worked out well for us. P.S. I quite like your Ilford Delta street shots on on Flickr, subscribed. Cheers

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Eric
      April 29, 2019 at 10:03 am

      Hiya Dan and Dean,

      I was thinking about you Dan to make a post to your great writing for Leica CL with 40 Rokkor M. I am also a 40 mm man.
      I do not like the 35 mm, I prefer the 28 mm, but I prefer the 50 mm to the 35 mm. By the way, 28 mm could be too wide, and 50 mm sometimes not enough wide. So, 40 is the best because he does the job of 2 lenses : 35 and 50 mm.
      The Rocker is the sharpest on the field. I have the 3 : Summicron-C Leica 40 mm, last Minolta Rokkor M 40 mm, and the Voigtlander 40 mm 1’4. They are both different. I have loved the review of Dan about Leica CL, I still love because I read often like a lot of articles of 35mmc. Now, when one of this 40 mm is not on my Leica M3 black, they fit my Sony A7 Rii with a +5 close up, a Voigtlander 15 mm/4’5 versus 2, and a Leica Tele-Elmarit 90 mm 2’8, a remote control and a table tripod from Manfroto. So with Sony less than 1kg, with Leica M3 and a hand meter for Sekonic also a combo of less than 1kg. At 5’6 to f8, these lenses are incredibly sharp, and colour rendition perfect. With the Sony we have just to focus very well.
      What I like with the Voigtlander : f 1’4, bokeh, and great effects in front of light, especially on night, it works perfectly with Leica Body and Mirorless camera. With Leica Body such M3, in 50 mm position, I just view large, wide, larger than lines, and it works, with other Body such M6 35 mm frames are enough, difference is not big issue.
      So 40 mm is a great choice, like Dan images/pictures, we can see that wise photographers produce great photos with a 40 mm.

  • Dan Castelli
    Reply
    Dan Castelli
    April 28, 2019 at 3:44 pm

    Thank you!
    I don’t think of myself as a ‘street photographer’ in today’s current sense…I like to capture tiny, human moments that bind us together.
    Too much political schit nowadays pulling us apart.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    George Appletree
    April 28, 2019 at 3:54 pm

    Hi,
    Good pics and fantastic lens. I got it for a Leica M8 (it becomes about 50) and later got used to mount it on an M7. By the way how do you modify it to make it frame 35 mm lines (other than making fix the left camera switch).
    It also becomes a pretty 60 with aps-c sensor cameras, that way improving d.o.f. sometimes. Really lovely thing.
    Yes, the 40 sounds likely lack of character for many (not enough wide neither entirely “standard”) and also perhaps some old fashioned: lots of cheap film cameras used it. But it has its own personality.
    Thanks

    • Avatar
      Reply
      George Appletree
      April 29, 2019 at 11:54 am

      Oh, yes not GAS, but GES. Maybe GUES or say GUESS

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Petr Vorel
    April 28, 2019 at 5:23 pm

    Hi Dean,
    this is exactly my combination as well. I have had the lens since it was pretty much introduced and used it on Bessa R3a and Minolta CLE. They do actually have 40mm framelines so it was perfect on them. It bothers me though that it brings up the 50mm framelines on the M6 and I am hesitant to peel the lens mount to bring up the 35mm framelines. I am now thinking about Summarit but it feels sad letting go this lens.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      MrDean
      April 28, 2019 at 9:34 pm

      Good thing about shaving off a couple of mm or so from one of lens mount lugs (to bring up 35mm framelines) is that this action doesn’t effect use on any other camera in any way. E.g. it would still show 40mm framelines as normal on Minolta CLE or Bessa. But I’m sure the Summarit is a fine lens too, decisions…

  • Avatar
    Reply
    M
    April 28, 2019 at 6:10 pm

    That CV 1,4/40 is a tough lens to use; focus shift ruins a lot of images until you really understand it. Much more of a low-mum contrast rendering style, reminiscent of classic lenses of the 50’s & 60’s.

    The new CV 1,2/40 suffers less from theses malady. I have an M6 (0.85 finder) with which a 40mm optics may be more useful than a 35 that fills the entire frame.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      MrDean
      April 28, 2019 at 9:26 pm

      Hi, I haven’t noticed any focus shift with this lens either on film or Sony A7. The Leica rangefinder mechanism does need to be accurate though for these fast lenses

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Peter
    April 28, 2019 at 7:57 pm

    Nice article! I know what you mean about folks thinking the 40mm as “weird” but I love it too. I have a Trip 35 that has that fixed on it and the M-Rokkor for my Leica M2. I like context in my shots and 50mm is just too tight for me. Similarly, I prefer 28mm over 35mm. Really like the look of your shots with the Rollei 80s black and white film. I need to try a roll.

    Good to hear from another 40mm shooter out there!

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Dominique Pierre-Nina
    April 29, 2019 at 1:09 am

    G’day Dan,

    I was just in Japan and bought loads of Rollie film. Great results from your shoot.

    I have thought about a 40mm so I might just give it a try.

    Thanks,

    Dominique.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Sroyon
    May 13, 2019 at 1:25 pm

    Lovely tones, makes me want to try Rollei 80s! If you developed it yourself, would you mind sharing the recipe? Thanks!

    • Avatar
      Reply
      MrDean
      May 13, 2019 at 11:16 pm

      Thanks, I use Xtol 1:1 for 9 mins, inversions every minute. P.S. I wouldn’t bother with 120 film of Rollei 80s, quality control is abysmal unlike the 35mm version for some reason

      • Avatar
        Reply
        Sroyon
        May 14, 2019 at 1:28 pm

        Thanks!

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