My Leica M6 system

Long ago in a galaxy far away I once started with a few analog Canon EOS cameras. Thanks to that I learned all about apertures and shutter settings, but creatively I’ve learned the most in photography the moment I joined the digital SLR revolution. However even though I owe much to those cameras, after 12, 13 years for me photography became rather a dull activity and I started to really loose interest. As I like both the product of photography as the mechanism that makes it work, I needed something to get me spiced up again.

In the previous years I’ve toyed with various analog cameras: Mamiya, Hasselblad, Rolleicord, Rolleiflex, Polaroid and even an old Olympus Pen. They were fun (and horribly expensive in the case of the Hasselblad) but they didn’t much work as an addition for the Canon DSLR’s. The Rolleiflex went bust, the Hasselblad cost loads to get into a working system and that and the enormous weight of the darn thing took the fun out of it, even though it’s a beautiful system to work with.

In the mean time Fujifilm -after the initial succes of the X100- released the X-Pro1, an interchangeble lens system that resembles a rangefinder style camera and is a joy to photograph with. I fell in love with it the moment I saw it and it literally saved photography for me as I was about to throw in the towel at that moment.

(Italy 2015, Leica Summicron 35mm, Rollei Retro)

But still analog photography held (and holds) an attraction on me that cannot be fed with digital cameras. A good analog photo has something that’s (often) missing in digital photos. I’ve longed for a rangefinder for a long, long time. Actually ever since I saw a photographer on a festival back in 2001 followed by an assistant carrying a case with two Leica cameras (at least that how it’s set in my mind. The photographer was Thom Hoffman). It was an impressive sight for a starting photographer with his first Canon EOS 300 and a 28-200 Tamron lens :)

And so after all those years and cameras I finally bought my Leica M6 last year. Then with a trio of cheap old lenses and that caused a problem: the ‘magical feeling’ I heard so much about from other Leica users was not there. Focusing the lenses (35mm, 50mm and 90mm, all from 1955) was cumbersome and the results were poor. The photos didn’t sparkle and I started to doubt if this was really what I wanted.

(Italy 2015, Leica Summicron 35mm, Rollei Retro)

So in a do-or-die attempt I bought a 35mm Leica Summicron lens after selling off my Hasselblad and the Leica lenses. That made it a no-money-loss trade (that is: what the Hassy sold for, not the enormous amount of money I’d put into it) and to my great joy I found that that was the combination that I was looking for! The Summicron lens on the M6 was a perfect combination, focussing the lens was exactly how I imagined it, the prints were far better and livelyer then any previous lens I’ve put on the Leica and now I finally felt I had a superb analog camera.

(Gasterse Duinen, Leica Elmar-C 90mm, Kodak Tri-X 400)

Not much later I got a good, cheap deal on a Leica Elmar-C 90mm lens. This for me made sense as the newly released 90mm lens by Fujifilm for the X-system turned out to be huge and expensive. This Elmar-C lens can be used both on the Leica and Fuji camera. The lens was made by Minolta who -together with Leica- made a short lived rangefinder camera, known as the Leica CL in the Leica range. It’s not the best, but for 250 Euros it’s a decent extra.

(Barcelona 2015, Leica Summicron 35mm, Ilford FP4 Plus)

Was I now done? Well, almost. The one thing nagging in my mind somewhere was that I really wanted a 50mm lens. The Leica with a 50mm lens was Henri Cartier-Bresson’s favored combination, it’s a good portrait-lens and together with the 35mm I’d have the two most iconic Leica lenses.

(Groningen, Leica Summicron 50mm, Ilford Delta 400)

I’m not made of money and can’t keep pouring money into a Canon-set, a Fuji-set and a Leica-set, but having a 35mm and 50mm for my Leica makes sense so the past few weeks I’ve been looking for a good offer. A Summilux is going to be way too expensive, a Summarit won’t cut it and between those two you’ll find the Summicron. Which actually is good company for my 35mm Summicron. This Summicron has several versions, the aspherical being the more recent ones and out of my league so I ended up with a really good looking v3 ‘pre-asph’.

The sale included the hood which is a bit of a bonus as many of the more affordable Summicrons I saw miss that particular item. Added a Lenstab TAAB immediately to better focussing and it works like a charm.

(the full Leica family)

The lens was immediately tested on the X-Pro1. It looks good on that camera too and it delivers. Focussing the lens on the X-Pro1 works different to the Leica, but so far I feel it works well on both cameras. I’ve just finished a film on the Leica to test the lens and overall I’m pretty pleased. I do feel I’m missing a bit of sharpness in the final result, much like with the 35mm so I’ll probably send the set in for a CLA early next year.

(Fochteloerveen, Leica Summicron 50mm, Ilford Delta 400)

In finding out a bit on the age of my Leica gear I turned to this PDF-File. It’s a long list with data on the year that a camera or lens was made with starting and ending serial numbers of the batches and the amount of products made in that batch.

(B.J Hegen, Fujifilm X-Pro1 and Summicron 50mm)

In the end it has been a bit of an investment, but I do now finally feel I have a perfect set to satisfy my lust for analog photography. Well… for the moment that is. All in all I still really want a good Rolleiflex and am extremely eager to work with large-format cameras. But for now I’ll simply enjoy my Leica setup.

(Drenthe, Leica Summicron 50mm, Ilford Delta 400)

(Barcelona 2015, Leica Summicron 35mm, Ilford FP4 Plus)