5 frames with...

5 frames with 5 Leicas – by Per Wilhelmsson

October 30, 2019

I am honored to be a guest blogger on 35mmc – a blog/webpage that I have been reading for quite some time. When I got the question if I could make a post, I thought of what I should write about. 5 pictures is the theme – but what five pictures? Then it struck me, I have had five Leicas. What about if I post one picture of each camera, and write something about what a Leica camera means to me.

At the end of the post I will tell which picture is from which camera. See if you can tell…

Picture no.1

I have been an amateur photographer all my life – starting in the early 1980s when I got my first camera. I shot mostly black and white film, and I did all the developing my self in my fathers dark room. Time went by and in 2003 I bought my first digital SLR – the Finepix S2 Pro, based on a Nikon body. I went on to Nikon cameras – the D200 and then the D300s and so on. As the cameras got better and better I found my self loosing my joy to shoot more and more. It was too easy – just point and shoot. The camera did everything for me – and the result was great (well, at least the camera did it’s part). 

But even though the result was great, my interest in picking up the camera faded more and more. And then in 2011 something happened. I found the Fujifilm X100. That little camera made my day.  Suddenly I couldn’t wait to pick up the camera and go out and shoot. Now, in hindsight, I think a part of the joy was because I had a dream that I someday would own a Leica – the camera of cameras. Many people considered the X100 to be ”the poor mans Leica” – and so did I. Today I have understood the differences between a Leica and the X100, but I still enjoy using my old X100. The great thing is that I enjoy the Leicas even more.

Picture no 2

I bought my first Leica back in 2016. I actually remember that I decided to buy a Leica while watching a game of handball in the Olympics on tv. I knew nothing about Leicas, and I realized that I had a lot to learn. After watching everything I could find about Leicas on Youtube, and checking out prices on ebay, I decided to go with a film Leica. Back to basics! It all came down to the M6TTL, and a 40mm Voigtländer. Why 40mm – well, I had this idea that if I went with a 40mm lens, I only had to have one lens. Instead of one 35mm and one 50mm lens.

Yeah…that went well…of course, the Leica M6TTL has no frame lines for a 40mm lens. That was something I didn’t find on Youtube – or at least didn’t understand. I like to have control as I shoot – and with the wrong frame lines I felt I didn’t. I sold it and instead bought a Zeiss Planar 50/2 and a Biogon 35/2,8 – the two lenses I still use as of today. I have tried a couple of others, but I always got back to these two great lenses.

Picture no 3

It didn’t take long to understand that shooting with a Leica was my kind of melody. After 15 rolls of film I started to think about what it would be like to shoot with a digital Leica. Again I started scouting the internet – could I afford one? The solution was to sell a bunch of old Nikon gear – and my beautiful M6. I ended up buying a just as beautiful silver M8 a couple of weeks later. I loved that M8 – and I still have a warm place in my heart for it. It had it’s flaws – no IR-filter, a cropped sensor and a useless LCD screen – but wow, I loved it.

I loved it so much that I sold it – to buy an M9. I thought – If the M8 was good, the M9 must be even better. It was – but the M9 never found its way in to my heart, the way the M8 did. Hard to say why – but it could have been that I never liked the Gun-metal paint on the M9. A stupid thing, I know, but that is the truth. For me – the look of the camera matters. I must feel attracted to it for it to inspire me.

Picture no 4

In the middle of 2017 I found out that Leica was going to stop the program where corroded M9 sensors were replaced for free. I had found some spots on the sensor, but I didn’t feel like being without my Leica for months. Now I had to do it – otherwise it could cost me a great deal of money to replace it later on. The camera went to Wetzlar in Germany and suddenly I was without a Leica. But just for a few months…perhaps three…or six…oh my god. I had to do something!!

A Leica emergency arose and a plan formed in my head. If I ever should sell my M9, it would never be a better time – an M9 with a brand new sensor direct from Leica in Germany. And in the mean time – if I could find the money – I could find me an M240. The M9 would give me back 2/3 of the price of the M240, as it came back. Well somehow I got the money – by selling of some more stuff and using some savings. I found me a black M240 and bought it. This is the camera I still have today – and I love it. 

Picture no 5

Finally the M9 came back – and I sold it for the same price as I bought it for. Nice. Now this could be the end of my Leica story so far – but there has been one more. The Q. I had this feeling that the Leica Q would be at perfect everyday camera. I always have a camera with me – and the Q seemed to be a perfect. A camera with all modern features and still with that great Leica feel. After some more saving I found me a Q. Another incredible camera, but it never really found my heart as the M-cameras did. 

I can see some reasons for this; I think 28mm is too wide, the pictures were too perfect (!) and the camera did all the work for me. This may sound crazy, but; I like the 35mm focal length – that’s the way I want it to be. I could crop it in the camera, but its still a 28mm lens. I think the pictures from the M has more soul – the pictures from the Q are great, but without that special feeling I find in the M-pics. I love to focus with the rangefinder. I love to be challenged by the lighting as I look through the finder in an M. I love that I have to think about how I want the depth of field in the picture. The Q did all those things for me. Needless to say – the Q had to find another home. Now I have my beloved M240 as my everyday camera – and, for me, it’s perfect. 

Have you figured out which picture is from which camera? The correct answers are:

  1. Leica M240
  2. Leica M8
  3. Leica Q
  4. Leica M6
  5. Leica M9

I think all these cameras produces great pictures. The M240 may be better than the M8 from a technical point of view, but what about the M6? Is a digital camera better than its analogue cousin? For me it all comes down to the experience of shooting. I’m having a great time shooting with my Leica M. If you haven’t tried one already, I can definitely recommend it!!

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  • Reply
    Mark Alan Thomas
    October 30, 2019 at 2:02 pm

    Speaking of the experience of shooting, my 240 has been a great camera, but one of the gripes I have is its reliance on big batteries which have to be charged all the time, and the way the frame lines not only won’t show up without a battery, but also go to sleep and have to be woken up periodically, even when I have the camera configured to not sleep. It makes the camera much less responsive than a film camera. I wish Leica would swap the electronic frame lines for a hybrid system wherein electronic frame lines only come on when the light is low, and the rest of the time they are displayed in the traditional way with a window for illumination.

    • Reply
      October 30, 2019 at 3:17 pm

      Hello Mark! I must say that I find the M240 battery quite good. Perhaps beacuse that I use a Fujifilm X-T2 when I shoot my kids sports. The battery in that thing is not very long lasting.
      I agree on the frame lines. I would much rather be able to see the framelines all the time 😊. Then again – the M240 has such a slow start up time from OFF, so sometimes it is a reminder to put the camera to ON before pressing the shutter…

  • Reply
    October 30, 2019 at 2:49 pm

    Fun read Per! I followed a similar path: capable mirrorless, X100, film rangefinder, digital Leica. I’ve only shot one Leica though, the M-D. I still shoot mirrorless where I need to but like you, I find it absolutely joyless. I liked the images from the X100 a lot. If they made it a real rangefinder I probably wouldn’t have my Leica. The camera that convinced me rangefinders are my thing was the Olympus 35SP. Unfortunately it also convinced me 35mm film is not my thing. The Leica M-D is a gift from my late mother so it is special to me for that reason and is now an heirloom that I intend to give to my son whether he shoots or not. I shoot a 40mm (Voitlander f1.2) with it. I laughed when I read about the framelines and your 40! It was weird at first but I like the freewheeling nature of a rangefinder and honestly, now my lines could disappear and I wouldn’t care a bit! When I first saw pics from this 40mm I’d experience deja-vu. They felt like my memories so I decided it would be the best lens to save my memories with. So mom’s M-D and the 40mm go to every family function or anything I feel is important whether an all manual camera without a screen is suitable or not. I haven’t been skunked yet! Have fun with your Leica!

    • Reply
      October 30, 2019 at 3:24 pm

      Hey Kevin! How fun to hear your story. I have been meaning to keep my analouge Leicas, and hopefully pass on some day. However – I have sold both my M6 cameras to buy another camera or lens…

      Now I have just bought me a beautiful M4, and this one I intend to keep. Perhaps I should buy me a 40mm again now 😃.

      Fun thing, as we talk about passing things on…I now use a Zeiss Ikon lightmeter, as I shoot with my M4. This lightmeter is from my grandfather. I never saw him use it, and I never did either – until now. And it works perfect. I will think I will write about this on my own blog, as a matter of fact 😯. Cool!

  • Reply
    October 30, 2019 at 4:24 pm

    Its interesting to hear you relate your progression through cameras, and its interesting to see your choices of subject and framing, but I don’t think its remotely possible to know which photo came from which camera — except maybe the Q with its notably wider lens.

    • Reply
      October 30, 2019 at 4:32 pm

      You are absolutly right, Dave. That is exactly my point. I have learned that all models I have tried are great, when it comes to technical quality for an amateur like me. For me it is the way of shooting that is most important.

  • Reply
    Paul Turner
    October 30, 2019 at 5:56 pm

    Love my M9s for the right subjects I think there’s nothing better. I do use Fuji for landscapes and I have a Bronica SQ-ai for film plus an M2.

  • Reply
    Dan Castelli
    October 30, 2019 at 11:19 pm

    You’ve presented an interesting, personal narrative of your camera adventures.
    I’d like to offer a different view of the 40mm lens. This is based on my experiences with a Leica M2 (the ‘oldie but goodie’’) and my M4-P. I actually tested the field of view of a 50 & 35mm lens and the 40mm lens using both cameras. I shot a roll of film using a static background with easily measured points. When examining the negs on a light box w/a loupe, I found was that the 35mm frame lines in the Leicas so closely matched the image produced by the 40 mm lens. Stated in another way, there was not enough difference between the two lenses to justify both the 35mm & the 40mm. I sold off the 35 & 50 and kept to 40mm. It’s a M-Rokkor, small in physical size and weight. It’s sharp, fast and I’ve reduced the size & weight of my kit. (BTW – the 40mm lens had the frame indexing tab filed to bring up the 35mm framelines.) It’s not for everyone, but it works for me.

    • Reply
      October 31, 2019 at 7:18 am

      That is interesting! I have recently bought an M4 and is thinking about buing a dedicated lens for it. My initial thought about the 40mm was exactly what you describe. One 40mm lens instead of one 35 and one 50. I will absolutly consider the 40 again now 😃.

      • Reply
        Robert C
        November 21, 2019 at 1:26 pm

        I rock an Love my m system cameras. My favorite I think is my M3 because it is godly smooth operating. the viewfinder patch is soo much bigger in the m3. in truth though I use my m4 and m4-2 the most. The m4 has such a wonderful viewfinder compared to the m4-2 soo much brighter. and both have had CLAs. I have an m9p but I am thinking of selling it to fund a summicron 35 or a summilux 50. if you use a meter less camera for long enough you will find yourself not even using external meters. I have gotten where I just eyeball exposure and 99% of the time I get it right due to the exposure latitudes of film. I actually really enjoy a 28 due to easy zone focusing. its really quick. I usually use a 50mm lens but have 6 lenses for my m system. 28mm f2.8 Ricoh gr ltm lens (does not work well on m9), Voigtländer 35mm f2.5 color skopar, leica 35mm f2.8 summaron goggled version, leica 50mm elmar m f2.8 (wonderful black and white lens), zeiss planar 50mm f2, and a Voigtländer 50mm f1.1. (great combo on the m3) to end my babbling, I just wanted to say I love how simple leicas are like you mentioned. less buttons and added fluff. they really get down to the essence of what photography should be – a relationship between you, the subject, and exposure.

  • Reply
    October 31, 2019 at 2:11 am

    Great article, and good idea to do 5 frames from different cameras within the same brand. I have used many film and digital systems over the 40 years I’ve been into photography, and over the last few years have sold all my other digital gear so that now I use exclusively Leica as well. I find the simplicity of handling (I finally tired of all the buttons and choices from the Olympus, Fuji, and Sony cameras I’ve owned over the years) and ease of shooting paramount, hence my preference for the M4-2, M9 and Q, though I also have a T and X Typ 113. Yes, there is the brand heritage and ethos which I also like, but Leica have the simplicity and fit for the type of shooting I love to do. Look forward to more articles from you.

    • Reply
      October 31, 2019 at 7:23 am

      Thank you Ed. Perhaps I will do more posts here in the future. I will talk to Hamish about that. Meanwhile I have my own small blog. You can fin it here, if you are interested.

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