Leica MP and 35mm Summilux f/1.4 ASPH

Leica MP and 35mm Summilux f/1.4 ASPH

Quick discussion/initial thoughts.  First B&W test pics below.


Post-lockdown /personal celebration purchase (!)

First: why this setup at all, given possibility of so many other things for a photography obsessive? 

Bottom line is that I take much better photographs with film than I ever did with digital, especially but not only in colour (it’s almost never been the case that I have a colour digital file that I prefer over one shot on film, either slide or negative).  B&W processing ends up being (digitally) quite similar but the constraint of a limited number of exposures focuses my mind much more directly on composition.

Now that I’ve got a proper grip of my digitzing for 35mm, to the point where it’s easier and quicker than medium format for me, and the results at on-screen and medium print size are pretty similar, I had no desire to further invest in medium format cameras and indeed may get rid of one of them (more than likely the Hasselblad, because I don’t find I’m a natural at square compositions).

Working with the M3 for a year has been fabulous – the camera is a joy and the 50 DR summicron is wonderful.

I wanted to add to my lens options and treat myself to a Leica body that would handle wide-angles, so a black paint MP is basically the dream camera.

The 35 FLE summilux is miraculous and a brilliant complement to the 50DR given the completely different look.  An up-to-date lens also means that if I have the desire to travel with a camera overseas and don’t want to risk film I would be able to find e.g. an M10 – the Leica system is the only one (apart from e.g. Nikon F-mount) where one lens will work brilliantly on both film and digital.

Having a Leica with a light meter is not particularly necessary for B&W but great for colour neg film and essential for colour slide film, and is just good to have, allowing me to avoid educated guesses, mistakes, or fiddling with a phone app.  The light meter is very basic so useful to have as a backup for B&W; having all the fstops and shutter speeds visible on the camera also makes using it very similar to using an external hand-held meter.  My previous experience with the meter in a Hasselblad XPan tells me that this will be fine for slide film, though for complex scenes I can use my Sekonic.

Finally: weight.  My camera bag with 2 leicas and 2 lenses weighs considerably less than my bag for the Hasselblad 500CM with 2 backs and 2 lenses.  Makes a walkabout setup far nicer.

So MP and lens are both stunning.  (But half points off to Leica for not including either a lens cloth or a hot-shoe cover.)

Test pics

First roll: Delta 3200 @ 6400, to test wide-open night-time and also a new Caffenol dev time.  Former excellent, latter producing negs a little thin so perhaps 20mins longer.

Caffenol C/L-S 100mins semi-stand, 20ºC

(5min prewash; agitation: initial 30”, then 3 turns at 3, 7, 20, and 60 minutes)

Second roll: TriX 400 @1600, with orange filter.  A try-out of Kodak TriX 400, maximising the contrast with the filter and rating to see how different it looks from Delta 400.  Orange filter for landscapes with clouds.  Left it on for tree pics unnecessarily and tbh quite surprised that any of the latter worked given far too heavy contrast/thin negs produced – an extreme test.

Ash Tree with Sheep
Walnut Tree

Grain is as nice or better than Delta 400 at 1600 developed in the same way.

Caffenol C/L-S 70mins semi-stand, 20ºC
(5min prewash; agitation: initial 30”, then 3 turns at 2, 4, 10, and 40 minutes)

Also, the lens is mind-bogglingly good, and a totally different look from my DR summicron: no flare *whatsoever*.

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