Leica As Teacher

This is a discussion on Leica As Teacher within the Film Photography Equipment forums, part of the FILM PHOTOGRAPHY FORUM category; Hi all, This is my first post, and my first tentative steps toward film photography.... so be gentle I've had a DSLR for 3 years ...


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  1. #1

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    Hi all,

    This is my first post, and my first tentative steps toward film photography.... so be gentle

    I've had a DSLR for 3 years (my first ever camera), but found the size and weight was a disincentive to photography. I found myself never taking it out, so never taking pictures and never learning. When I did take it out, the "ones and zeros are free" attitude meant I took numerous pictures without really thinking or engaging with the process/subject.

    To cut a long story short, I have sold my gear, so I can pause for breath, take stock and start afresh.

    At the same time I was selling my gear, The Online Photographer posted an excellent article on his blog back in May...

    Leica As Teacher

    It suggested that if someone was to use just a Leica with B&W film and one lens for a year, they would learn far more about photography than using a digital camera.

    I am very tempted by this idea, but having never used a film camera have a few questions...

    1. One of the advantages of a DSLR is that you have a permanent record of the exposure settings used. However, shooting film… I won’t know how the photo turns out (in terms of DoF and Motion Blur) until it’s printed. By then I will forget what settings I used. How can I learn like that?
    2. Can anyone recommend a UK mail order film develop who could provide negatives and a CD of high quality scans?
    3. Any recommended specialist UK website/shop for buying a secondhand Leica?


    Thanks all

    Neil


  • #2
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    Welcome to the forum, Neil. Best of luck on your journey.

    I haven't bought a roll of film in over 10 years... but used it for a long time before that. I hope you find the answers you're looking for.


    “Try and penetrate with our limited means the secrets of nature and you will find that,
    behind all the discernible concatenations, there remains something subtle, intangible and inexplicable.
    Veneration for this force beyond anything that we can comprehend is my religion.”
    (Albert Einstein)


  • #3
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    hello wow! this is a hard one! while Leica is hands down a top shelf camera. i don't think this is the answer to you
    problem. in the end i think it will only ad expence to frustration. in that you will be at the mercy of what ever "new kid"
    they have hired that week to do your prossesing! not to mention the time involved in the turn aound! i teach a basic
    photography class and make them shoot in manual mode for a week with one lens only!! this makes them take more
    time to set up the shot and makes them more familiar with the camera. B&W is fine but! it won't make you a better photographer!!
    in the past 25 years i'v shot every thing from 110 to large format 8x10. and i think to ignore color is to
    limit your photography. some shots are just better in color! and some better in B&W!! the whole reason i went digital
    was so that i have total control over the shots from start to print. what shots i don't print my self i send out to Mpix.com
    we have a very good repore. and they do just what i tell them too! and thats hard to find. but in the end it comes down to this

    #1 i think the more it cost's you the less you will use your camera! which ever one you have!

    #2 storage and deterioration of film and negatives or slides is a pain!!

    #3 if your ded set on going with film. don't fool with 35mm! go with a good med format! 2 1/4 or larger!! for the cost, you will get a much better print and can go sooo much larger in printing! you can always go with a digital back for it down the road!!

    this is just my two sents worth hope this helps....rick
    JUST BE NICE THATS ALL.
    Richard Olson
    http://www.photographixms.com
    email photographix08@yahoo.com

  • #4
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    Yogi- I totally understand your sentiment here. I just switched to digital, and am having a very hard time just slowing down, watching the frame and being selective. Often I will find a good subject and botch it because I no longer feel liek I have the incentive to pick the very best framing option. I find one or two that merely works and move on. The whole process is so much faster, yet, I forget about the features that digital offers, such as immediate viewing and adjustable ISO.

    However, I agree that film is very, very expensive. More than you might think. But being that you are considering a Leica over other, less expensive VF this might not be as much an issue. Still, I know for me justifying nearly $0.50/frame, knowing that on the best roll only half will even be useable and maybe a half of those even considerable was very difficult. It's hard to justify $12 for three or four shots good enough for my portfolio.

    If you really want to "learn" maybe you shouldn't even bother with interchangeable lenses. Save a few grand and buy a Canon G-III QL with a fixed 45mm lens. You'll get to learn how to use a light meter, too since they don't make the batteries it took. But learning on a fixed lens I think is one of the best thing you can do, digital or film. Zoom lenses teach beginners that focal length is about convenience rather than composition. Limiting your lenses will also encourage you get closer to the subject and to realize that some images just weren't "meant to be" - this latter point is a hard concept for me to maintain now that I am using digital.

    I do agree with Ricky on medium format, but I'd take it one step further and go large format, provided that you have the facilities to have the film processed. Nothing will slow you down like $2.50/exposure and lugging around a 4x5 camera (8x10 is a bit excessive). Even at processing the film myself at $0.50/exposure of b/w 4x5 film was incentive enough to learn the zone system.

    After a month or two carrying around a tripod, light meter, dark cloth, film holders, polaroid film packs and "donating" your life's savings to polaroid and fuji, you'll come running back to your DSLR. (Actually, I joke, but I am serious about this. Learning to use large format will dramatically improve your work).

    In all, though, I don;t think that there is a need to use film here. I think the bigger problem is that your dslr is just too bulky. I'd suggest getting one of the many digital rangefinders available, getting a good, fast normal prime, maybe two, use manual focus and manual exposure, perhaps a good spot meter, and just slow down

    http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/leicam8/
    http://www.olympusamerica.com/cpg_section/...sp?product=1461
    http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/PanasonicGF1/

    I also don't think there is a need to get a Leica, perhaps a Leica lens, but in the film world the body doesn't mean a whole lot... Some of these suggestions will cost as much as a used Leica, others cheaper and all but the Contax can/do take M42 thread lenses:

    http://www.voigtlaender.com/
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Contax_G
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canon_7
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canon_P
    http://imaging.nikon.com/products/imaging/...8s2-e/index.htm

    bear with me. i don't have an escape button...

  • #5

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    Thanks Ricky for offering an alternative perspective on things.

    I see the use of the Leica (or similar) as a 1 year project to teach me about photography, rather than a permanent state of affairs. I really did love my Canon DSLR, but felt that the technology and "ones and zeros" made me lazy and less creative as a new photographer. By using B&W film for a year it should teach me a lot and kickstart me into being a much better photographer.

    I think although the cost of my DSLR was a factor, it was actually the sheer size of it that prevented me using it. It was too big to sling in a rucksack/bike pannier, when really I want a camera with me all the time. In the end the lack of use meant I resented my camera, especially the amount of money I felt I had wasted. Just to put it into context, it was Canon 5D with 3 L Series lenses.... which comes in about £5k above the cost of a Leica. So in context, the Leica (with it's future resale value) should actually work out cheap/free/great value.

    As an aside... the new Panasonic GF1 looks very tempting, and could be used in a similar way to the Leica project - e.g. one lens and B&W jpegs only for one year.... just a thought.




  • #6

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    Currently there has never been a better time to snaffle a bargain with regards to film cameras.

    Firstly, why Leica? You can pickup a top notch Nikon F5 or F90 for peanuts and the choice of lenses and accessories is mindblowing.

    As Rick points out medium format is now a good alternative.

    With regard to having a record of settings - write it down. Also get yourself a good lightmeter.

    I use Peak Imaging for my film developing and scanning. http://www.peak-imaging.com/



    Hope it helps
    Am I jumping the gun, Baldrick, or are the words "I have a cunning plan" marching with ill-deserved confidence in the direction of this conversation?

    Edmund Blackadder

  • #7
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    Yogi - on the Contax G2, I've used this once on a train from LA to SF, another passenger kindly let me handle it. It's an intriguing camera, but I would deff. recommend that you try it first. They are a odd to use, especially in MF, but people who own them seemed happy enough. Plus having AF might be appealing.

    I almost forgot:

    http://www.zeiss.com/zeissikon

    And the Hasselblad xPan is a great choice in between medium and small format photography. It takes 35mm film on a 24x65mm frame which is is wider than 6x7 or, if you prefer, a standard 35mm frame.

    http://www.luminous-landscape.com/reviews/.../haselbla.shtml
    http://www.ephotozine.com/article/Ha...d-XPan-II-4187
    bear with me. i don't have an escape button...

  • #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by ricky.o View Post
    #3 if your ded set on going with film. don't fool with 35mm! go with a good med format! 2 1/4 or larger!! for the cost, you will get a much better print and can go sooo much larger in printing! you can always go with a digital back for it down the road!!


  • #9
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    Hi Yogi 2009,

    My husband is a huge Leica fan and has only just moved to digital with the latest M8(he'd have an M9 if money were no object )
    One of the things about Leicas is that they retain their second-hand value and in some cases even increase in value.All the skills he learnt with his film cameras he now brings to the digital world.

    You could always use a notebook to keep records of your shots.

    You asked about dealerships...I've dealt with both of the following companies(when sorting out presents) and recommend them both

    www.robertwhite.co.uk

    www.ffordes.com


    There are also lots of Leica forums to look for inspiration and help...you could try Googling "Leica user Group" or "Leica user Forum"


    Good luck!
    Karin


    Taking photos that please me, but if you like them too then it's a bonus!

  • #10

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    Thanks to everyone for the various things to think about.

    Thanks for all the camera suggestions.... but my aim of this post wasn't for help in choosing a camera. Of course, if I decide to go ahead with the project, then I will indeed be back for advice on that subject. See the end of this post for info/context on why I am set on a Leica (for now).

    I guess my main concern is if I look at my prints and my shutter speed is too fast/slow for freezing motion (or not) or my depth of field is too deep/shallow for my desired effect, I won't know what settings I had used. A couple of people mentioned using a notebook to log settings.... that sounds like the only feasible way, but do people actually do that? Maybe a record of settings is just a DSLR luxury, and people with film cameras don't even need/bother such a record?

    On the subject of metering - If I had a Leica M6 (for example) would I still need a Lightmeter... or does the camera have built in (reliable) metering? My only camera exeriene is the Canon DSLR which of course has built in & complex metering, plus the abilitiy to chimp the histogram/jpeg.

    Thanks for the recommendations for film processing... I'll check them out.

    So, for some context....

    In case you're wondering why I am set on a Leica (for now)... it was triggered by The Online Photographer:

    Leica As Teacher

    In response to numerous questions about why it had to be a Leica, he responded with...

    Why it has to be a Leica

    And then to numerous comments about other ways to complete the project he posted...

    Variations on a theme

    I recommend those 3 posts for context and just because they're very interesting


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