Tag Archives: leica m4

Musing on film and beautiful machines

A friend asked on Twitter the other day why I seemed to be switching from a very fine DSLR to more and more film. In a nutshell, film and the beautiful machines I use to expose it are more romantic and more involved.

My main film cameras are a Rolleicord IV and a Leica M4. They’re both older cameras (circa 1953 and 1967, respectively) and extraordinarily well made machines — they feel good to hold and use. When using them I’m more drawn in and involved than I am with digital, and much more than my Canon film SLR which is an autoexposing, autofocusing, autowinding wundermachine.

Working in the darkroom is more of the same – making test strips, choosing your exposure and filters, burning and dodging, then watching your photograph slowly appear in the developer is a very visceral experience.

My DSLR still has its place – some of the lenses for it are unique, and others are ill-suited for a rangefinder or a TLR. Even if I had the unobtainable object of lust that is the Noctilux, the DSLR would still be better for night time handheld photography than the Leica. Each tool for the right job.

On the subject of lenses, I’m renting a Leica 90mm f/2.5 Summarit-M to try out on my M4. The Leica is a much more discreet camera than the SLRs and their huge lenses are, and I don’t have a longer focal length for it. I’m pretty sure I would enjoy the extra bit of length compared to my 50mm Summicron (which I am) and I was curious to see how this lens handled and drew on the film.

So far I’m very pleased, but when it comes time to buy finding an older, used 90mm f/2 Summicron will probably be more in the character of the camera.