Home Features Leica M3: Film photography and a plate of Kaiserschmarrn

Leica M3: Film photography and a plate of Kaiserschmarrn

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  Thomas from Austria with his “new” Leica M3 and classic 1957 rigid Summicron
Thomas from Austria with his “new” Leica M3 and classic 1957 rigid Summicron

The younger you are, the older your camera. One of the oddest photographic phenomena of the decade is the ever-increasing popularity of old film cameras among young people. It’s the attraction of film in itself, not necessarily the make or model of camera. And it is becoming something of a cult.

Those of us who grew up with film often have an M3 or similar tucked away, and we still enjoy film despite the benefits we acknowledge in using modern digital cameras. But for the new generation, film is quaint and, it seems, something to be cherished.

Revival

Somehow, against all the odds, film has enjoyed a revival among young photographers and, if you see an M3 or M6, it is more than likely to be in the hands of a twenty-something rather than a sixty-something.

On any stroll through a city such as London or Berlin, you will see film cameras in use all over the place — old Nikons, Olympus, Pentax or Leicas — but Leica is the brand I notice more than any other.

  Leica Store in Berlin’s Kaufhaus des Westens, KaDeWe, on Wittenberg Platz.
Leica Store in Berlin’s Kaufhaus des Westens, KaDeWe, on Wittenberg Platz.

M3 and Rigid ‘Cron

Earlier this week I met Thomas from the Tirol who had brought his newly acquired M3 to Berlin to grab some good street shots. Like many younger photographers, Thomas started with other film cameras — in his case, Olympus — but he soon set his heart on a Leica.

His M3 was in pretty good nick and the 1957 rigid Summicron lens, the perfect companion for this camera, was in excellent condition. He told me he had paid €1,500 for the outfit — quite a good buy in my opinion, with M3 bodies now nudging £800 and the rigid Summicron going for around £700.

The point about this — if you enjoy film — is that it is a relatively cheap hobby. Thomas’s financial outlay may sound steep, but he won’t lose on this camera and lens. Unlike with a similar amount spent on a modern camera, his Leica is more likely to appreciate than depreciate.

Film, of course, isn’t cheap any more, although processing can be economical if you buy the materials and set up your darkroom. But even with commercial processing taken into account, Thomas’s real outlay is likely to be less than if he’d gone digital. And if you choose a Pentax, Olympus or Nikon rather than the expensive Leica combo, you can be up and running for little more than £50. That’s cheap for full-frame photography.

  Poor old Checkpoint Charlie at Kochstrasse — once a serious and very depressing symbol of the Cold War, now a tawdry tourist trap surrounded by all the trappings that Chairman ‘Honi’ Honecker and his band of hypocrites held most foul. I stood on this spot 29 years ago, the day the Wall fell. And now it has come to this. Taken with the new D-Lux 7 in enforced monochrome mode
Poor old Checkpoint Charlie at Kochstrasse — once a serious and very depressing symbol of the Cold War, now a tawdry tourist trap surrounded by all the trappings that Chairman ‘Honi’ Honecker and his band of hypocrites held most foul. I stood on this spot 29 years ago, the day the Wall fell. And now it has come to this. Taken with the new D-Lux 7 in enforced monochrome mode

Kaiserschmarrn

I got talking because I invariably strike up a conversation if I see a Leica. And I spied the M3 sitting on the Stehtisch at a market stall selling very good Kaiserschmarrn or Emperor’s Mess — a pancake delicacy much favoured by Kaiser Franz Joseph I and Mike Evans. Where better to find an M3? I also had a Leica in my hand, but I felt a bit of cheat since it was only a made-in-China D-Lux 7, the latest compact from Wetzlar. We snapped each other’s cameras, and I handed over a Macfilos card. If you are reading this, Thomas, please send a digital copy, and I’ll add it to this little article.

  My visit to Berlin coincided with the opening of the magical Christmas markets which are dotted throughout the city and all over Germany — here the start of festivities at Gendarmenmarkt (Leica D-Lux 7). Pity it wasn’t in colour.
My visit to Berlin coincided with the opening of the magical Christmas markets which are dotted throughout the city and all over Germany — here the start of festivities at Gendarmenmarkt (Leica D-Lux 7). Pity it wasn’t in colour.

Dummkopf or what?

Since I was in Berlin on business, I didn’t have much time to take photographs. Perhaps, as it happened, this is just as well. When I got back to London and loaded the SD card, I discovered that Lightroom doesn’t yet seem to be equipped to handle the Leica’s RW2 files, at least not in colour rendering.

I had turned off JPGs, foolishly, but I had been confident that since the Panasonic LX100 Mark II had been around for some months, Lightroom would have already included the camera. Unfortunately, all my shots from Berlin rendered in monochrome, although colour did flash briefly and then frustratingly disappear during the import process. I’ll sort this out later; not all is lost of course. This is a prime example of taking a new camera — which arrived just a few hours before I flew to Berlin — on an outing and not getting familiar with it beforehand. If only I’d left JPGs turned on instead of fiddling.

Perhaps it would have been better to take the old Leica X2. Or, for that matter, what about my M3 and rigid Summicron?

I know that many Macfilos readers are probably the exception — older photographers who still use film frequently. But what do you think? Is the popularity of film a passing phase for the younger generation? Will they soon get bored and turn to digital? What’s your view?

POSTSCRIPT: Claus Sassenberg from Germany reports on the Lightroom issue:

When I received my D-Lux 7 a few days ago, I witnessed pretty fast the same Raw-file monochrome issue. I contacted Leica and they told me it’s a bug they had discovered the very day. (Unbelievable! Does no one ever put a raw of a new camera into Lightroom during development?) Apparently the current Adobe Color-List does not support the D-lux 7 .RWL-files. An Adobe Camera-Raw Update is to be expected one of these days.

So now we know. As Claus says, “unbelievable”

15 COMMENTS

  1. My niece, in her 20s uses a lot of film. Originally due to the art/photography degree she was enrolled on insisted on film. Over the years she has acquired more equipment (mainly film) but still aspires to Leica ownership. I don’t think she will give up film.

  2. It is nice to see the younger generation using ‘real Leicas’. Your price estimate for the Leica + Rigid is correct. I was offered one such set on Wednesday with the original makers’s box for precisely that price. I turned it down as I already have two M3s (single and double stroke variants) and a Rigid Summicron. The matching box made it somewhat attractive, but my collecting focus is now on the earlier LTM models. The M3 will maintain its value better than any digital camera, so as well as getting great photographs (even today, the Rigid Summicron is one of the best lenses ever made by Leica), Thomas should probably get at least as much as he paid for the combination should he ever decide to sell it, which he should not, of course. One of the reasons why young people today like film is that the challenge has gone out of digital photography for people who are already ‘digital natives’.

    As for the D-Lux/ Lightroom issue, I am fairly certain that if you have Lightroom CC it should handle RW2 images. Are you sure that you did not click on the ‘button’ for converting colour to black and white on the right hand panel? There are also black and white filters in the profiles area that you might have clicked on. Lumix have a RAW convertor called ‘Silkypix’ or something like that. You might try downloading that if you get no joy from Lightroom.

    William

    • Thanks for the steer on Lightroom CC, William. I confess I didn’t do any checking since I was in a hurry. I don’t think I pressed any buttons by mistake but I will recheck. Usually, if a camera isn’t supported, nothing imports. In this case the import went smoothly and a number of images (but not all) flashed into colour and then returned to B&W. There’s probably a very simple explanation, as you surmise.

  3. Its fantastic to see film returning from the grave. The most astonishing thing so far is the reappearance of Kodak Ecktachrome.

    Most of my film cameras are in storage boxes this year but I do have a Minolta at hand.

    Will it last? I’m not sure it will keep growing, but I do think it’s sustainable at current levels. There’s a beautiful tactility about the old manual cameras in particular that appeals to the "digital generation".

    • That beautiful tactility is what I find in the M10-D. It seeks just like an old Leica film camera. Many people disagree strongly, but it is my kind of M. If I need the bells and whistles I can choose an SL, CL or one of the new TL-mount full frame cameras about to come into the scene.

      • Agree.

        I try to shoot my Pen F and Gx8 in "Leica-D" mode – screen closed, review turned off, single shot etc.

        But there’s something addictive about winding on the film, lol.

  4. Mike,

    Who is processing your film from the LX100? Shouldn’t be more than a couple of days for E-6. I do B&W at home, too, but send the transparency film out.

    • TR
    • Indeed, judging by the mess I made of processing the film, I could probably have done better with an M3 and vintage lens. Mind you, the D-Lux 7 does look a bit like a little vintage film camera…..

  5. I am old, and I still shoot film. It keeps drawing me back after my many flirtations with digital. I’ve sold my digital Ms, having kept only the X2 (a “from my cold dead hands” type of camera).
    In fact, I seem to be going back in time: I’ve got a birth year M2 (see, I AM old), and lately I’ve been shooting primarily with a 1950 IIIc. And my most recent acquisition is an 0-series (the 2000 reissue, not an original. I’m old, and unfortunately not rich). Boy oh boy, is that a change from auto-focus, auto-exposure, instant-gratification digital photography!

    • Hank, with a birth year of the M2 you are far from “old”. First flush of youth, really. Now my birth year is in IIIf or even IIIc territory and I’m still keeping up my enthusiasm!

  6. Dear Mike,

    when I received my D-Lux 7 a few days ago, I witnessed pretty fast the same Raw-file monochrome issue.

    I contacted Leica and they told me it’s a bug they had discovered the very day. (Unbelievable! Does no one ever put a raw of a new camera into Lightroom during development?)

    Apparently the current Adobe Color-List does not support the D-lux 7 .rwl-files. An Adobe Camera-Raw Update is to be expected one of these days.

    Claus

  7. Here you see many people shooting film, although I have only seen people using Leica cameras a handful of times. The most common seem to be old Canon or Olympus 35mm SLRs.

    I am not sure that I agree that film photography is economical: I spend about a thousand euros a year on film and chemicals, plus a disconcerting amount of time developing, scanning and processing – not to mention the prints. And even in the analogue world I still need to hand over money to Adobe/PhaseOne/etc! All told it is a lot more expensive and a lot more hassle compared to shooting with many full-frame digital cameras today.

    I strongly believe that the best reason to shoot film today is simply that it gives you something different, either as a result of the limitations of the medium, or simply because of the characteristics of the film and lenses.

  8. It is a different mindset. I enjoy shooting digital and film, and when shooting digital I alternate between the convenience of auto-everything (Canon DSLR and Fuji X100F) and the near-analog gestalt of my digital Leica Ms (M9 Monochrom and M-D 262).

    Still, there is no substitute for film, and when I shoot film, I am just in a different place.

    Even with film, I enjoy very different experiences, from a Canon EOS 620 that is every bit as automated as the latest DSLR to my old Leica M5, which is an absolute delight to handle.

    The results are different, sure, but for me at least the different experience counts for just as much.

  9. I gave up films and sold my analog cameras to finance my digital equipment and I’ve never looked back. I used to develop, had my own darkroom and processed from developing films to printing photos. I used to spend a fortune on chemicals, paper, water and time of course. You don’t get that special film look and grain for sure but it’s so easy to work with lightroom, choose paper to your liking (Canson paper in my case) just as in analog times. The storage is also much easier. Anyway my digical leica is as simple as its former analog version and you can change iso without having to rewind your film and change it. I’ve shot analog for some 30 years as a serious hobbyist and digital for more than 10 years and I’ve got no pangs of nostalgia for films whatsoever.

  10. I started with my film revival with Mike Johnson’s OCOLOY, as reported here by Mike some years ago.

    As Mr. Johnson says, when talking about the concept, one is likely to learn more about photography in an OCOLOY year than one can learn in three years at college.

    I dunno about that, as an old git, things take a while to sink in, but the thing is, that I sold the M2/50DR and bought Mike’s MP240, but soon missed the hassle of film, and now I no longer have the MP, but I do have piles of old film Leicas and old rickety lenses from Voigtlander, Leica, Nikon (l39), I’ve got four pinhole cameras, a couple of Brownies, a TLR and just the one Leica digital (CL).

    I think I like all the old stuff, because of what goes wrong, during processing, shooting, loading and unloading, e.g. when film is still in the camera and I have forgotten, you name it, I have done it.

    I consider myself blessed if I get one good picture a year, the rest is just the doing of it…

    Better than golf.

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