The story of my Leica M6

I have now had my Leica M6 rangefinder for about 2 weeks and can finally put it down for a few moments to tell you the story of how I got it.

I have always had a fascination of German mechanics, which is coined by the 911′s produced by Porsche in the sixties and the M-series of rangefinder cameras produced by Leica. Usually, I don’t use my student income on neither Porsche’s or Leica’s, thus when someone from my local amateur photographers club said that he had a friend who had an M6 that he wanted to sell, I did not think that I would buy this one either (I have seen many M’s being sold on Ebay, but I can easily resist bidding). However, next week at our weekly meeting the guy had brought the M6 with him, and after having hold it in my hands for five minutes, I knew I had to own it!

Luckily, I had been following the prices on Ebay, so when the guy offered me the M6 and a 28 mm Elmarit lens for 7,000 DKR, I accepted, knowing it was a bargain (both are nearly mint condition).

The serial number indicates that the M6 is out of a batch beginning in 1985, but the seller informed me that he bought it (new) in 1991. The lens batch starts in 1983. The seller has not used the camera for the last five years and the only sign of use are some very small scratches in the bottom brass plate. The camera has a mechanical shutter with a white metering spot on the shutter curtain that is about 2/3 the hight of the short edge of the viewfinder; the metering spot is about 23% of the frame. Being a rangefinder, the focusing works by turning a focusing ring on the lens so that the rangefinder-image in the centre of the viewfinder is overlaid with the object in focus. The viewfinder is very bright and much easier to focus than a SLR because of its split-image or double-image focusing. The shutter is almost inaudible, because there is no mirror that must flip up before the exposure of the film can take place. The lens is a 28 mm, f/2.8, with a focusing range from 0.7 meters to infinity and a field of view of 76 degrees. The lens and body weighs about 800 grams.

I have made a small Quicktime movie that shows my very first negatives (which I have developed myself), my first contact sheet, and my first prints. The (wet) printing and development process is very new to me, so the quality is not even decent, but I guess that it takes some practice.

The film also shows the dioptric eyepiece for the viewfinder that came with the camera. It was only yesterday that I realised that the dioptric eyepiece could be screwed off, which also explained why the viewfinder had been so unclear: the eyepiece was a +2.0! After having removed the eyepiece the viewfinder is wonderfully sharp.

Finally, the movie shows a sample of pictures I had developed at a professional lab. The film was a Fuji Sensia 200, which explains the saturated colours.

Genuine retro!

I’ve just added this beauty (see picture) to my camera collection, which now counts two cameras: an Olympus E-500 from 2006 and a Leica M6 from 1991. I intend to use the Leica for street photography, but more about this later. Now I have to go take some pictures.

Update 20.9.2006
What’s street photography all about? To me, this, this, and this should give you a pretty good idea.

And why buy an antique analogue Lecia to do the job? Because it’s small, fast in operation, it’s all manual (it has even got a real aperture ring, something that I miss on my dSLR), and due to it’s rangefinder design, it has no mirror to flip up before exposure, making it silent in operation.

Oh yes, one more thing: I wanted to see what the “wet darkroom” was all about – developing, dodging, and burning the old fashioned way. In Aarhus, there is a place called Huset, where you can do these things. Their darkroom costs 15 DKr. per hour to rent. I tried it yesterday and it was quite an experience to see the first picture appear in the developer – much different than “printing with preview” in Photoshop :-)

I had booked 2 hours in the darkroom yesterday, and to keep it simple (the KISS philosophy I guess) I had decided to concentrate on printing a pre-developed negative (i.e. no film processing yet). Someone in the staff gave me a quick 5 minutes crash course in chemicals, contrast and operating the enlarger and then he left me alone. It turned out that the hardest part was to control the temperature of the developer. It was supposed to be around 20 degrees, but was in fact 25 degrees. I started out exposing at f/4 for 8 seconds and developing for 1 minute – which was much too dark – and after the 2 hours I only had 4 small pictures of very doubtful quality, but it was a very big experience (and I probably told Tina about it five or six times when I got home, so now she is surely tired of the story) and I’m looking forward to going there again.

My Leica

Todays photos: Mindeparken

I took an early walk this morning to enjoy the fresh morning air and see if I could find some nice pictuers. I went out to the park called “Mindeparken” which is right next to the Queens summer residence here in Ã…rhus. The danish Wikipedia has an article on Mindeparken.

Mindeparken has a monument for the danes who were killed in German service during the first world war. The monoment is a circular wall that forms a yard. The wall has engraved the names of the 4,140 danes who were killed during the war. The memorial was raised in 1934.

The memorial.

Mindesmærket

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Low budget photography?

Good news from the photoindustry. Danish digital back manufacturer Phase One and SanDisk has announced that a free version of Capture One LE will be supplied with every SanDisk Extreme III CompactFlash memory card. Read the details here.

Also, Adobe has announced that it will – finally – give student discounts on its famous Creative Suite 2 (including Photoshop) products. Now you can buy Photoshop CS2 for 1,200 DKR if you have a student id. I’m certainly going to get me myself a copy of the mighty fine application before I graduate! See prices and eligibility conditions here.