This post has been put together over a number days, perhaps weeks. I have no idea when I will post it. It will sit in reserve for a while, I suppose.
A number of you are interested in my impressions of the Leica M6 that I recently purchased and I am interested in the ‘mystique’. First, how the heck did I even get here? A Leica? I must admit that I was influenced by Mike Johnston’s article about spending a year with a Leica and a single lens. I became intrigued. First, I went and purchased a film camera, a Mamiya 645e, shot that for 3 months continuously, then looked in my bag, saw a lot of stuff that I was not using that I could use to finance my Leica purchase, then just did it. Now I have it and I need to use it.
I’ve always admired simplicity in design, which was why I was so comfortable with manual cameras. Simple devices. With the Leica, it’s back to the ultimate in simplicity. It’s nice to know that I have a camera where even if the batteries were to die, I could keep on shooting. Pure mechanics involved here. Truth be told, I could do the same thing with a Olympus 35 LC/RC rangefinder, which I happen to have. But, I really just wanted to know what all the hubbub was about!
I have used the camera a couple of times: Once, in downtown Charleston; The other time when I was at home this past weekend. I like the heft and the feel of it. One of my friends, upon holding the camera, remarked: “It’s got some ass to it! It doesn’t feel cheap.” Translation, it’s fairly heavy for such a small camera. It feels solid. That was my initial impression, too. Although expensive, it didn’t feel like I had to treat it kindly like it was some sensitive, high maintenance prima dona. Nope. This certainly feels like a workhorse, definitely blue collar.
The controls are very few. There is an aperture adjustment, shutter speed, and ISO. That’s about it. However, what more does one need?
The viewfinder is very crisp and bright, save for the times when I accidentally place my thumb on the rangefinder window and leave a smudge, but a simple wiping off of the viewfinder with a part of my shirt brings the brightness right back.
The only issue that I have with the viewfinder is that while using the lens shade for the 50mm lens, the lens shade gets in the way and cuts off the lower right corner of the viewfinder. This is a bit annoying. Now, I understand why pancake lenses would be useful. They’d stay out the way of the viewfinder. This would be especially useful for shorter focal lens that have such wide angles of view.
Many have heard the legend of how strange it is to load a Lecia. Well, it is strange, that is until you read the manual and understand how it works, then it is quite easy to do. Simply slip the film in, guide it into the take up spool, make sure that it is engaged in the sockets. Close the back, put the bottom back on and it never fails. My first load took about 3 minutes. The second about 1 minute. The third just a few seconds. What’s the difference? I found an online manual and read the instructions. Presto-Changeo-Alakazaam! Easy!
I’m getting better at focusing. Rangefinder focusing is a little different, but accurate … I find that zone, or hyperfocal, focusing is the way to go. It allows one to simply frame and shoot. What could be easier? At first, I was rather against it, that is, until I tried it. I’m not doing any sneaky shooting from the hip. I’ll put my camera to my face, frame, and shoot. It all happens in just a few seconds. This kind of shooting is interesting in that lots of times, you’ll be surprised at what you captured in the background. There’s not a whole lot of time futzing around trying to get the elements just right. The moment could be gone before you know it.
This, I think, is the most difficult part to get used to. I’m used to looking through the lens and seeing what my DOF looks like. I rarely use a DOF preview, knowing somewhat intuitively what my DOF will look like at about the first 3 f/stops of my lens; I’m not there yet with the Leica. Looking through the viewfinder, everything is so bright, clear, crisp, and in focus. Nothing is out of focus, so there is no starting point to imagine DOF. You just have to ‘feel’ it. It will take a number of rolls of film and a lot of paying attention for me to figure it out.
So far, I’ve shot about 5 rolls of film. I’m not shooting just to be shooting. I’m taking my time with this. I’ve finally gotten used to how the shutter speed dial vs the exposure arrows work. If the left arrow is on, then you need to turn the shutter speed dial to right to get the other arrow to come on. Of course, the opposite is true: Right arrow on, turn left to make the left arrow come on.
Funny, there’s not a whole lot to say about this camera. It’s very simple in it’s design. My only problem that I’ve had with it is that it seems just a tad small for my hands, but it does feel good. As mentioned earlier, I tend to smudge the rangefinder window with my thumb. This only happens when I’m focusing. If using the hyperfocal method, it’s not an issue.
I’m curious to see how it compares to the Olympus 35 LC, whenever I get it back from its cleaning.