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Sunday, 22 August 2010


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I didn't participate for this exact challenge, but did use nothing but a M6 and a 35 Summicron for about 3 years in the early 2000's... Does that count?

I've been taking photographs for around 3 and half years so far. Never took it all that seriously, as I was at University (studying automotive engineering). Around Christmas, I packed up all my digital gear and bought a Leica M6 with a 35mm F1.4 voigtlander lens, after seeing The World's Most Compact Full-Frame Camera article. Main reasons where I wanted to experiment with street photography as I decided this interested me most. Additionally I wanted to go full manual to try and learn the fundamentals of photography. At least more fundamental the aperture priority which my 400D was stuck on.

I've shot around 25 rolls, mostly self developed black and white, which was another new thing. Only using HP5 and PanF from Illford now, self developing and scanning. So far I am very much enjoying the camera and the experience. Ultimately, I just need to shoot more and in a month I'll be moving up to London with the intention of shooting daily to rapidly improve my ability as well attempting to start a career.

Anyway a link can be seen here for one of my photographs;

As well as a small selection of images on my rather simplistic website;


I made a half-hearted attempt at a similar exercise, and ended up shooting a couple of months with a Konica Hexar (I know, way more automated than a Leica) and some Tri-X. Intended to buy an M3 if I got into the swing of it, but didn't have the time to get very far, with a full-time job, a girlfriend, and other interests. I may still buy a Leica one day, just to see if I like it. And I might do a one-year, one-lens, no-light meter exercise, (a great excuse to get that M3).

I did a variation of it a year before the article, primarily for economic reasons. All I had money for was an FE with a 28/2.8. Didn't shoot as much as per the instruction, but over about a year and a half I went from green and foolish to automatic and consistent.

Ironically, a job has brought me financial freedom and with that has come both gear and confusion. A year later I'm still nowhere near as good with the Leica as I was with the FE, and the Rolleiflex keeps distracting me. A lesson is in there somewhere; the question is primarily if the gearhead in me will let me find it. ;-)

It´s funny but I took your advice in 2002 when you used to write The Sunday Morning Photographer. The article was "How Many is Too Many?", great article like most of the others, so since then I´ve only used a 50mm lens or it´s equivalent in medium format and 8x10. It´s a very liberating experience and my eye has totally adjusted to that point of view and I don´t miss any of my other lenses which I´ve sold or are currently gathering dust. I´ve bought a couple of months ago the latest Sigma 50 mm f1.4 DG EX HSM lens, my Canon 50 f1.4 didn´t survive a five storey fall and I wanted to try something a little more up-to-date. It´s quite a monster size wise but it is so very sharp it´s lovely, the bokeh is not bad and I bought for my 1ds II but I´m currently using it with my 1vhs with Tri-X.
Did any impecunious but ambitious youngsters buy off E-bay an Nikon F100 and 28mm or 35mm lens and a brick or two of Tri-X and spend a thousand or 2,000 hours shooting with it?

Your blog post about the Leica caught my imagination. It took a while, but since this summer I carry my FED 3 with an Industar 61 with me almost every day. (A Soviet version of a screw-mount Leica.) I just need to finish some other films, and then I will get on with Tri-x.

50mm was never my favourite, but I’m getting used to it and other focal lengths are increasingly feeling like distractions, so I tend to use a 50 on my Nikons as well.

The Industar is contrasty and sharp, and I just love how this clunky camera and the excellent lens add their personality to the photos. The results are not always technically perfect, but this lends an element of physicality to the pictures themselves, turns them into real objects. Digital photos can sometimes be too technically clean and somehow too abstract, right?

Anyway Mike, I’d like to thank you for your suggestion. The exercise makes me think less about technicalities and more about seeing.

By the way, here is an example of my results: http://erikpetersson.livejournal.com/24036.html


I started shooting film in earnest in March of last year...at the time, my goal was to shoot a roll of film here and there, then develop/scan at home. I had a Canon AE-1, plus a 50/1.8 and a Vivitar 80-200 f/4. I bought a Ricoh 35 ZF to serve as a compact, carry-anywhere camera.

Well, fast-forward a year and a half later, and I'm borderline obsessed...I just developed my 125th roll. It was a roll of 120 film I had to re-spool onto a 620 reel to shoot through a Kodak Tourist 6x9 camera I converted to pinhole. Let's just say that when I started out I didn't even know what that last sentence meant.

None of my film cameras are super high-quality collectors' items...but they're all extreme bargains today. My favorite is an Olympus XA2 which I bought for $15. The rest of the list keeps growing:

  • Super Ricohflex 6x6 TLR
  • Olympus Stylus Epic (the original)
  • Yashica Electro 35
  • Kodak VR35 K12
  • Canon Elan IIe (use your eye to select focus point!)
  • Black Slim Devil (copy of Vivitar Wide & Slim)

I may even be forgetting some. Those cameras listed above are all in rotation.

TOP readers probably know this already, but Freestyle Photo is a great supplier of film and chemicals, plus darkroom needs. I buy their rebranded films, since they cost around $2 per 36-exposure roll. Strong evidence suggests that their rebranded films are actually the following:

  • Arista Premium 400 = Kodak Tri-X
  • Arista Premium 100 = Kodak Plus-X 125
  • Arista EDU 100 & 400 = Fomapan (not bad, and available in 120 size)
  • Legacy Pro 100 = Fuji Neopan Acros
  • Legacy Pro 400 - Fuji Neopan 400

I've learned so much about photography in the time I've been shooting film. I think it slows me down a little, and I get something wonderful now and then.

And best of all, people sometimes donate stuff to me. Next week I'm the proud owner of a Konica Autoreflex T with the 57/1.4 lens. It's safe to say that film has helped spur my interest in this fascinating hobby.

For those who don't own or have access to a copy of "The Decisive Moment" here is an electronic version, with all images included:


In the Introduction Henri Cartier-Bresson says (in the section "Technique"): "The actual handling of the camera, its stops, its exposure speeds and all the rest of it, are things which should be as automatic as the changing of gears in an automobile"

Which suggests to me that Cartier-Bresson would have had nothing against, e.g., an Olympus Stylus Epic for a Year ;)

I've shot with a small manual SLR and one lens for well over twenty years. I'd love to do it with a Leica, but the lens is a 20 and I like to shoot full frame (35mm is way too small to crop) and auxiliary viewfinders are none too accurate. Before that I shot exclusively with a 28, 35 and 50 for several years each.

The upside of the one lens approach (in addition to it being infinitely lighter) is that you really get to know what each lens can do under a host of circumstances, a zoom can really retard that education. The downside is that you can sometimes be restricted in how to approach and navigate a photographic situation.

That said, in a couple of years when I lose any vestige of remaining youth, I will trade in for a Bessa R4m and a couple of dime sized wide angles. I may even switch from the usual beer to the occasional glass of wine, but I won't be trading in the pork pie for a beret any time soon.

Mike, I guess I did, though, inadvertently. My favorite camera store guy made me an offer I couldn't refuse on a well-used M8 taken in trade for a new M9. Bought it on a lark and now cannot put it down.
I've used Leicas before and was impressed, but the M8 is now the camera I carry when I'm shooting for myself. (OTW a Canon 5DMkII or medium format.) I'll send you a jpg of a shot from Venice, my favorite, although my wife likes others as well. Oh, yes, shot with a 25mm f2.8 Biogon ZM -I've always liked the Zeiss lenses on my Linhof and think they are still fab.

Mike, I can report that a number of TOP readers have sent, and are sending me, their B&W film for developing and contact sheets, after you mentioned my availability for doing the processing. I can't show any of the pictures I've processed, but I can tell you that there are quite a few really good shots, and a lot of good work being done by TOP photographers. I would encourage them to send some of their best to Mike -- maybe Mike, you could put together a selection of some of 'A Leica for a Year' work. Best, Robert

Only a year? :-)

I've been using my M6 a my main, and for significant periods, only camera for 15 years now, mostly with a 35 (but a whole year with only a 50/2 just ended). Favorite frame in the last year? Possibly/probably this one.

I'm afraid my attention span is too short and my thirst for exploring too great to have followed the challenge verbatim, but it inspired me to pick up my first Leica last September (an M2 with 50 summicron), on consignment at my local camera shop. I certainly haven't stuck with one film type, or even one camera - I still use my 50D and L primes when the situation calls for them and continue to play around with a wide variety of other film cameras - but the Leica quickly became the one camera I would pick up for the simple joy of taking pictures (which was the reason I got into photography in the first place). It didn't take long before I realized that this wouldn't be a use-it-for-a-year-and-sell-it experiment, but something I would keep for as long as I can get film for it (here's hoping that that gives me enough time to save up for a used M9).

Eleven months and 40-odd rolls of film later, I'm still not as fluid with the Leica as I am with the Canon, but I'm getting there, and I'm absolutely certain which one I'll still have after the other is long gone.

Here's a recent picture, from an evening with my daughter:

Yes, I did it. I shot with my M6 and a 50mm. I started with a Carl Zeis ZM C-Sonnar, but then I switched to a Planar. I have to confess that I cheated. After 3 months, I went to Europe for my honeymoon (I live in Argentina) and there I used a Konica Hexar RF, a Panasonic GF1 and color film as well. But after those 3 weeks I sold both cameras and came back to my M6 and BW film.

I think I shot like 30-40 rolls. Mostly Fuji Neopan 1600. It was a great experience. I used to think a lot about gear. My "Leica year" changed that.

Thanks so much for your post, your idea, your inspiration.

Vinte e dois

I was rather late to the party, only having discovered TOP about 7 months ago. I'm 3 months into my year that started with an M6, 35mm Summarit, and Tri-X last May. Due to a problem with the camera, I had to send it off for repair/adjustment and have been using a Nikon FM with a 50mm Nikkor in the meantime.

I've got a blog dedicated to the project where I post my 2 picks from every roll I shoot. I also write regularly about my experiences, including what I've learned. Feel free to follow along if you've got the time. Click on my name for the link.

Overall, it's been a very positive experience so far and though it may seem a little premature to say this, I'm confident it will make a tangible difference in my photography.

Happy Birthday, HCB. And Mike, thanks for the project, the inspiration, and for TOP.

Thanks Mike, you made my day!

One question, re: view cameras, why did you stop?

What's interesting to me is how the exercise, at least after reading the comments above, made some people more into the vision of photography, while others became even more fixated with their gear as a result. I suppose the exercise could be seen as a kind of mirror of one's true photographic nature in that respect.

"One question, re: view cameras, why did you stop?"

The answer was rather infamously encapsulated in a picture I published in the old "Camera & Darkroom" magazine called "Horses in Field, Miller Road." The picture was of an empty field. The caption explained that even though I'd gotten fairly quick at setting up the view camera, the scene often changed between the time I saw something and the time I was ready to take a picture of it. I guess I wanted to use the camera more like a "note pad," to "jot down" things I saw, and I was frustrated by the slowness of the VC and the level of commitment you need to have to any given image. The very things that other photographers *like* about the view camera....


Your 'hairshirt' prescription inspired me to dig up my FE2 (and well, two lenses- the 50 and 24). For six months I went about photographing the monuments of Delhi, India in B&W and then home-developing the film.

Two of my better ones:





I responded to your call to arms about a year and a half ago. I'd been slowly getting more and more frustrated with digital photography, finding that I was spending more and more time futzing around on the computer and trying to 'coax' something out of boring photographs and less time actually shooting. A friend of mine has shot with a Leica and primes for just about his entire career and remarked about how he didn't want more options on his camera -- when he shoots (he's a street photographer), he wants to concentrate on what's in front of him, not whether or not he should be changing his ISO speed or zooming in or out. What a refreshing idea, I thought. Your post was the final straw giving me permission to put my digital Canon in the closet and return to film. A few weeks later, I had an M6, a Summicron 35, and a bunch of Tri-X. It's been wonderful.

Sticking with B&W and being restricted to prime lens has been a wonderful education. While I certainly have a long way to go before I can claim to have any sort of H.C.-B. "vision" (let's just say galleries aren't exactly breaking down my door), I know for a fact that I see light in a completely different way. The rangefinder has helped superimpose a virtual rectangular shadow over my right eye, and I now usually know before I lift the camera whether there's a shot or not. These are all things that you predicted would happen, and they have.

Instant gratification ain't all it's cracked up to be; there's nothing like the *lack* of an LCD screen to make one stay in the moment: simply enjoying having seen something cross one's path that needed recording, and occasionally finding out later that you did, indeed, capture something special. Every role of film is a potential surprise gift.

I'm a film guy now. Thanks for the help.


P.S. -- My favorite from the past year:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/4918857526/in/set-72157624661860129/

Oh, and the M6 now has a couple of siblings: a used 6x6 Bronica and a beat-up 4x5 Speed Graphic. Wanna sell me your Canonet? : )

Nice work everyone!

Hi Mike,

I did the year with the Leica, although it was somewhat different to what you prescribed. I already had a M6 Classic with lenses and could process black and white film (but could not print). I also didn't use it exclusively for the year as sometimes digital made more sense (i.e. quick sharing and travel for work).

After reading your article I decided that for this year, I would use primarily my 35mm and 50mm (the latter being much harder). About halfway through the year -- a surprise... one of our family friends gave me an enlarger! I had never printed before, so for the second half of the year also included the requisite printing of contact sheets and a couple of test prints a month.

Upon reflection, there were two outcomes of this experience that I think were extremely worthwhile.

1. Facility with a basic camera and seeing the exposure: After long periods of practice, I did get better -- especially by only sticking to one or two lenses. I can pick the 35 / 50 / 90 framelines from just looking at a scene now, and approximate the exposure by sight (although I'm normally out by a stop or so). This really helps in not only "getting the shot" but whenever I crossover to the digital world, I immediately know if something is amiss (like a high ISO setting).

2. Printing is necessary -- it closes the loop: This is just my opinion, but I think I learnt more about getting a good photo (e.g. light, exposure, and moment) in printing than just taking photos. I've got a decent film scanner (a V700), but the smarts in it (it being the software and hardware) take out a lot of your errors -- and hence some of the learning. Printing from negative teaches you a lot about what you REALLY should be taking in the first place. And the fact that it is tiresome and tedious -- adds to the learning because no one I know learns from their mistakes if they don't hurt.

Thanks so much for the idea: I'll be continuing this going forward for a while. For those who want to have a look at my photos, I've got a couple up on flickr (just started a month or two ago) and I'll keep refreshing this...


Cheers, Pak

I´ve done that years ago. It was more like two - three years with M6TTL and 2/35 asph. Anyway, I still wonder why just have to be only one lens.

Btw. HCB used more than one lens too :)

I started to do the "Leica for one year" experiment in October last year, with the cheap CL and a 50mm/2. I went for the really-not-cool-but-very-versatile Kodak chromogenic film. Soon afterwards, I sold my digital camera, and now I'm shooting film alone.
I started shooting around 20 years ago on a Contax, and going back to a full manual camera has been like being back home. A non reflex system is sometimes a challenge, and the not very reliable meter of the CL is sometimes a pain, but it's been a source of inspiration too ("per aspera ad astra", maybe?), and I hope my pictures have improved a lot. Thanks for the great idea! An example.

I finished* my year 2 weeks ago. My poison: M3 (for the finder), collapsible 50mm Summicron (for the size) and Neopan 400 (because it's easiest to get).

I did cheat on occasion: I've been remodeling a house for the past 8 months and used a digital SLR with a WA lens and flashgun to document that, and on request I shot a single swimming match on digital (although I also shot one with the Leica, which was...interesting).

But the important point is, on all those occassions, I didn't really want to `cheat'. The Leica was just so much of a pleasure to use I didn't really want anything else. When I held my 400D, not a very big camera by any means, it felt big and bloated. The same goes for lenses**.

So what did I learn? First of all, to `see' with my `one lens'. Looking around I can frame a 50mm without really trying. This also helps in the second part: Seeing pictures. Even when I'm not actively photographing, for example when cycling, I often look around, and just take `mind pictures' of things around me. If I see one that catches my eye, I stop, take out the camera and take it.
In the same vein, I've started to just take `photography walks'. Not going to a specific destination, but just a walk around the neighbourhood carrying my camera, just to see what I stumble upon.
I also tried to learn GSOTPANWASTOTZSS, but didn't really succeed. (The second half of the year I went back to using a meter, as too many shots were being ruined by bad exposure). The problem here was the same one that limited my creative output*** this year: time. Between the home improvement and work, I had only a few hours left each week for active photography.

To those who are considering this exercise, be warned: It is addictive. The year is over, and I'm left with a 3-lens Leica kit, a closet full of chemicals and I'm setting up a darkroom. It is quite likely some of my SLR gear will find its way to Ebay over the following months.

To conclude: Mike, thank you for helping me find my perfect camera and the joy of photography for photography's sake.


* For small values of finished. Nothing has really changed. The Leica is in my bag and my freezer is full of B&W film.
** Comparing my Canon 17-40 to my 21mm Super Angulon is an excercise in absurdity.
*** All told, I think I averaged a little over a roll a week, though this came in batches. I'd often shoot 4 rolls in a day and then nothing for a few weeks.

Hi Mike,

I did it, kind of. I didn't adhere strictly to the same lens for a whole year, but about 90% of the pictures I took last year was with the Voigtländer Color-skopar 35/2.5 on the M8.

I guess this is one of my favourites: http://www.flickr.com/photos/hultstrom/4826835959/in/set-72157624578715790/

Thanks for the idea,


Well, after careful consideration of your idea (approx. o.o5 seconds) I happily rejected it.

I was one of the people who was going to do this (using the ZI rangefinder I already have). Shortly after starting to think about it, the end of life of Kodachrome was announced. As I'm very fond of Kodachrome, and clearly will not get another chance, I instead bought 100 rolls of that, and have spent the last year-and-a-bit (with some time to go - I'm on roll 92) shooting only Kodachrome, with the ZI and one of two lenses (would have been just a single 50, but it needed to get mended so I have used a 35 as well).

I'm intending, next year, to use only B/W but am not sure if I will continue with the ZI or another (simple) camera.

After a lot of saving, selling and letting the house run down I ended up with a Leica M8. My lens a Rokkor-M 40mm.

There is nothing like the lesson of shooting with one camera and lens for close on 2 years after having practically every bit of gear for my old Minolta SLR.

So I shot mainly in B&W due to the slight IR issue of the M8 but did stray with colour from time to time. Chimping was only to get the first exposure correct and then continue to shoot in manual mode. After a while even the first exposure was not necessary and now I just set the exposure and shoot.

Now I have a few extra lenses but still only take one lens out at a time, and usually it is a medium wide equivalent, it is all I need.

I did! Sort of.

Here's what happened. Just before your post came out, I saw that Wien had put out alkaline batteries that would work in my Dad's old Canonet QL-17 GIII (i.e. the camera Ctein just wrote about). I thought, "gee, some day, I'd like to own a Leica, but before I make the investment, I should see if I can really shoot a film rangefinder."

Truth be told, I wasn't completely faithful. I still used my digital cameras now and again. Also, a friend gave me an old Nikon F with a 55 MM macro lens (I have some great friends. Thanks, Rob).

But I spent a lot of time with the Canonet and Kodak's CN400 monochrome C-41 film.

I expect to learn a little about light, and I have. But what I didn't expect was what I learned about art. Y'see, I hadn't really understood how B&W changes your perspective, until I took a picture of my daughter, then about 18 months, in front of some vertical blinds. She was standing on a colorful booster seat, but the B&W negated the color, so all you saw was the light from the blinds on her face.

That's when it hit me. That's what art is: seeing something in a different way.

I'm going to keep shooting film for a while. It's instructive. It has also taught me how to slow down and think. I doubt I'll do it forever; too many too good digitals out there. But I'm glad I've tried it. Thanks for your suggestion, Mike.

I bought an M6 and a 35mm f/2 probably... 10 months ago. I wanted to shoot with just that, but I had a few projects underway that necessitated other cameras. Some digital stuff about fog at night and some 4x5 shots of every house I've ever lived in. I eventually expanded that latter to include kodachrome slides of the towns I remember as a child. We moved a lot.

So what have I learned? My sense of exposure went from the shoot-histogram-reshoot iteration to a much more intuitive knowledge. I shoot digital for years and never was able to look around and think "this looks like 1/125th at f/8". I learned that I cannot keep the damned horizontal lines horizontal with my camera. It always tilts down on the right. I also started developing my own black and white at home, which was illuminating in a number of ways. I've learned that, despite being small, I'm going to grab my XA in the summer when I don't have a jacket to stuff the Leica in. I've learned that I really like being able to switch "film speed" on digital cameras.

I've probably shot about 120 rolls on my Leica. And I'll probably keep going for a while.

Oh, I forgot to include a photo.


That is my now-fiancé celebrating our first month dating.

The photos people posted or linked to here are a very nice set!

Mike, love the idea of your "Horses in Field" picture :-) .

I tried, with an FM2n and a CV Nokton 58. Shot steadily with it for about a month.

Unfortunately I shoot a mix of subjects, much of which is simply not conducive to a normal or wide normal. So I ended up cheating and soon was back to using a mix of cameras and lenses. I actually did end up doing much of my shooting with a Bessa R and an old Nikkor-S.C 5cm f1.4 though, mostly with HP5+.

The real result of the exercise was going from a primarily digital shooter who still shot a fair bit of film to an almost exclusive film shooter. My K-x sits around lonely and neglected and the G1 has passed on to my girlfriend while my Pentax 6x7, Mamiya 645 Super and Voigtlander Bessa R get all the love.

Inspired by the post (and because I'd never even touched a Leica), I bought a well-used M6 and Summicron 50. Rather than B&W, I started shooting through all the rolls of Velvia I had in the fridge, because I just couldn't justify buying more film when I had 50 rolls of 12 year old film just sitting there getting old. But I recently bought ten rolls of Tri-X and am working through the first roll.

I haven't done the printing (still working up to buying a printer). I still use the D700 regularly. But the Leica is the one that's in my bike bag, and on my shoulder walking the dogs.

I'm looking forward to getting my first roll of Tri-X back. Even when I shot film, I always shot slide film, so this is a new one for me.

The D700 is a wonderful camera. Unlike everyone else, I'm not waiting for a replacement; I expect this one will see me for a few years. But it is complicated, and I often feel like a better picture was right there in front of me if only I had all the settings correct. it's refreshing to pick up the Leica and know that the only settings I get are those three - focus, aperture, and exposure. On the other hand, the D700 really will shoot in the dark.

Anyway, it's a great experiment. It might take me a couple of years to work through it instead of one, but I'll accept an incomplete and keep working towards it.

Michael H.,
That's a great dog picture...speaking as someone who has tried to get good shots of dogs interacting, failed 99% of the time, and now knows it's not easy.


During his recent visit Mike asked me if I use my Leica M9 often, to which I replied, "No". The elaboration of my reply would have been that I use my M9 (or any of my Leica M cameras) for perhaps no more than 25% of the frames I snap in a given year. The distribution of Leica-time for me is not even throughout the year. August through October tend to be my "busy" M months due to the type of photography projects I've been pursuing for several years and the lighting and framing I look for.

(Here's a -very fresh- sample of work from such projects.)

I own several Leicas, film and digital, and enjoy their craftsmanship and their heritage. Unfortunately their design and characteristic limitations are just too confining for me to adopt them as my sole photo instruments. Unlike Olympic high-diving you get no extra points for "difficulty" of camera used; all that counts is the picture.

Still, I very much understand the inspirational nature that a camera can impart. (As would be well-evidenced if you could see the number and variety of cameras I own and use!) I know that at least part of the genesis of Mike's challenge
was to invite folks to minimize the often-distracting aspects of modern digital photography by simply using one of the simplest cameras (although certainly not the cheapest!) still available. Looking through your viewfinder, seeing your frame, waiting for -the- moment...that's the core of photography.

That was a proposition that obviously resonated with many people! So I say Bravo! to those who undertook Mike's challenge. Knowing the path of my own experiences with this camera I am confident in speculating that everyone gained something from the experience.

When you proposed the idea I suspected not many would have the self discipline to stick to such a narrow regimen. I knew I certainly did not. So I am happy to see so many attempt to carry out the exercise. The quality of photography on the www can only benefit from such effort. I feel that at 61, my wonder has dimmed too much. Thanks for the heads up, I needed it.

I'm currently doing something like this, and your post was one of several things that put me on the path of going mostly analogue for at least a year. I use a Leica M6 with a 35mm lens as my main camera. I've shot 14 rolls of film so far, over about 5 months.

I feel that this exercise has slowed down the photography process, and forced me to think more before pressing the shutter, and to learn more between shots. It also made me think more about what I want to get out of and do with my photography hobby. In addition, now I have a camera I like that I carry around with me almost everywhere, which lets me take pictures I otherwise would have missed.

One of my favorites from the project, so far: My mother

Here's the rest of them, on my flickr page: The analogue project

While I didn't do this last year, there was a period of four years when the only camera I used was a Fuji GSW690III with the fantastic EBC Fujinon SW 65mm f/5.6.

I had been using a pretty nice OM system, but had become too frustrated with the limitations of 35mm. Hence I locked the OMs and lenses up - literally - when I was able to pick up the Fuji used for a truly nominal price (less than $200 with only 167 shutter actuations!). I sold it four years later when I felt I was ready for what had long been my dream camera, the Pentax 67. It had 4937 exposures on it, and I sold it for more than I paid for it (wish I could say that more often!).

It was one of the best cameras I've ever used, and it helped me concentrate on previsualizing photos and concentrate on the final image (ala Zone system). Worked wonders for me. Your mileage may vary.

Oh, and it was always an attention getter. Leica on steroids, just like the P67 is a Spotmatic that grew up... :-)

By the way, had anybody noticed that Leica discontinued production of film cameras last year?


Great pictures! Wow.

I feel like I've only gotten my Leica project started.

Your column, Mike, convinced me that there was no point in waiting, and good reasons not to. It took a while, but eventually I found an affordable user M2 and later a slightly battered Voigtlaender Color Skopar 35mm/2.5. Just a month ago, I scored a good deal on a Summicron-C 40/2 --a very interesting lens.

The M2 is all it's cracked up to be--a joy to use, almost addictive. The Skopar turned out to be an excellent lens--highly competent, consistent and forgiving, not to mention tiny and cheap. I'm still learning the Summicron-C, a jewel with a few quirks. I haven't been able to commit to just one camera/lens/film yet, but it's been at least 80% one camera and lens (though the go-to lens has just changed).

I was questioning my film and process when I started this, anyway, but I feel the camera and lens have influenced my choices. I'm still shooting mostly Tri-X, but also looking to use lower-speed films when I can, and finer-grain developers have replaced the Diafine and Rodinal. I seem to be more aware of these trade-offs, and taking advantage. I'll settle on a combo soon. I'm also more conscious of the need to stay in practice (if not all that successful at it).

I've decided that since I'm looking to bring up the technical quality, it's a good time to learn how to make good contact sheets (per Hurn and Jay), something I'd previously thought wasn't worth the bother. (I've been learning more about scanning film, as well.)

Oddly enough, one thing this experience has driven home about taking pictures is that preparation, steadiness and timing trump all else, gear included.

So how about that? The lessons I've learned so far and the changes I'm making to my process, from this seemingly gear-oriented exercise, have nothing to do with gear.

For all of this, Mike, Thank You!

Mike wrote: "I wonder if there are still photographers out there who need to do a year with a DSLR!?"

I do! I did my year with a Leica for six years, starting in about 2000. Liked it a lot, waiting for a reasonable DSLR to work with my old lenses. So now I know how to treat my D700 like it's a giant Leica. I'll finish my year with that in October. Funny that the more I use the D700, the fewer (non-zoom) lenses I use with it. Guess the Leica helped there, too.

I started in October, and have since sold all my dslrs and digital gear. I may have found my thing with the M6 and 35 summilux—a lasting love. As soon as I started getting film back from the lab, I realized that the SLRs made me a color and bokeh aesthete and now I'm way more focused on gesture, light and emotion. Nothing has done more for my photography than this.

When I started photographing 23 years ago, I had little money. I bought a second-hand Nikon FM and a 50 1.8. I settled on that for many, many years. Now earning more money I went crazy on lenses.

Last year I went pro. About the time I wrote my business plan, I read your article and realized I should keep things simple. So I just use a 28mm (for indoors) and a 50mm (for outdoors). It sure helps in acting fast: it's light and I always know when raising the camera to my eye what will be inside the frame.

The best of that first year you can find here.

Well, I did try. Not long after your original post I bought an M6 on eBay together with a Zeiss Biogon f/2.0 35mm lens, and started shooting TriX 400. I put my digital cameras aside, and eventually wound up selling them all, though I did hold on to some of my Nikon lenses.

It didn't last, but I did shoot 18 rolls of film before giving up, and I learned a few very important things in the 5 months or so of my "Leica Year":

1. I prefer shooting colour to black&white, but I love the grainy feel of TriX 400 pushed two stops.

2. 50mm would have been a better choice than 35mm. (I later got a 50mm Summicron, and will likely sell the 35mm.)

3. I hate scanning 35mm film. In fact I discovered that I hate working with 35mm film, mainly because I like to take a lot of shots in one set, one walk, one session, and really appreciate being able to get more than 36 images on a "roll". (The instant feedback of digital is nice, but not much of a factor, since I usually turn the preview on my cameras off, but I do like not having to wait for film processing.)

4. I loved the feel of the M6 in-hand, the weightlessness of the kit compared to the DSLR+zoom I was used to, and I loved the experience of composing and focusing with a rangefinder. As I realized this and realized what I didn't like about film, I was more and more distressed. I didn't want to go back to the D700 (besides, I'd sold it.) I really did not want to get an M8, given all the issues I'd read about with that camera. Micro Four-Thirds seemed like a good idea, and I tried a GF-1 with the Leica lenses, which worked very well, but I missed the rangefinder. And then there was the M9.

My "Leica Year" wound up being very expensive. I haven't shot with the M6 since the M9 arrived in March, and I ought to sell the M6 but I've become sentimental about it. (I'm usually pretty pragmatic about cameras.)

Expensive, but educational, and a whole lot of fun. Thanks, Mike, for planting that original seed that sprouted and grew into something just a bit different than what I thought it would be.

I can't decide which of these is my favourite M6 image, but have a look
here, or here.

And, for completeness, here's one my first favourites from the M9.

(I was surprised to discover that the M9 at ISO 2500 produces images that, when using the in-camera b&w processing, remind me a lot of TriX pushed. I haven't figured out how to duplicate what the camera does by myself in post-processing so when I'm shooting in the dark with the M9 (which I do) I shoot raw+jpeg. For example, this.)


So when are you going to write about the year with a view camera? Inquiring minds want to know.

One of the things I'm always impressed with in Tokyo is how many Leica shooters I run into who are in their mid twenties. The current prices of used Leica gear has reached the point to where a lot of people who haven't previously been able to shoot with these cameras are now able to see what it is all about.

But then again this is a town where I've had 12 year olds notice the MP hanging over my shoulder and say "Leica" as I pass.

Very cool stuff! I have just started "The Leica Year" Project this week last week. I'm using my M4 with my 50/2 Dual Range Summicron. We'll see how it goes!

That's great, Sean. Good luck with it.


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