Leica Film to Digital (and back) - Info Request
Old 01-11-2017   #1
roscoetuff
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Leica Film to Digital (and back) - Info Request

I'm looking for information on compatibility of lenses (M2, M3, M4 and or M6 bodies) backwards and forwards in time between these and digital M's, and just more on scanning film, too. I find I like to shoot both 35mm and 50mm for everyday. Portraits I like at 85mm or 90mm. Then the 135mm comes in handy, too.

Background is that I've had a Leica. Twice. One was a film (CL) and the other an early Digilux. Neither did it for me, so I don't have one now. Today I'm shooting a Sony A7II with E-mount Zeiss Loxia and adapted Contax CY glass. But I'm still a manual guy: Focus, Exposure, the whole 9 yards. Love digital's immediacy, post processing without chems, and digital printing so it's a bit quixotic to think of this, but I keep thinking about it.

Price of digital Leica kind of more than I can justify. But I know folks shoot film and scan it... but don't know whether this is worth the bother or not. Probably a bad idea but might be worth a look. And so I do but don't really know where to begin. I find I might be able to warm up to the a film Leica and a couple of primes that didn't break the bank... an M4 or M6 or something might be small enough it'd be worth the exploration. Love the 35mm focal length... or thereabouts.

Any help, suggestions, etc would be appreciated.

Last edited by roscoetuff : 01-11-2017 at 19:42. Reason: Additional info
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Old 01-11-2017   #2
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Lenses are generally and broadly compatible from end to end of the range... I use the same bunch of Leica and 3rd-party lenses on an M2 and M262. There are a few rare instances of mechanical interference behind the mounting flange but these may be corrected by Leica. Optical compatibility is another matter, as digital sensors are different from film in some optical respects. But it's really more an issue of acceptability of optical characteristics that are less than ideal, which may indeed be *preferred* by those wanting more "character" in their lenses! There are more optical "problems" with lenses 35mm and wider than longer ones.

I should add that those few Leica lenses with viewfinder "goggles" work fine on digital M cameras, but with some question about the 50mm dual-range Summicron with which I have no personal experience.

Scanning negatives is a mature technology, not a problem. It's odd, though, as some users feel this approach contains the best of both analog and digital technologies, whereas others feel it combines the worst of both.
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Old 01-11-2017   #3
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Most any lens will go on most any body, with a very few exceptions. M5 has more verboten lenses than the others due to the metering system, which uses a cell mounted on a retractable arm inside the camera and can hit (or be hit by) lenses with large rear elements. With a few of the collapsable lenses it is recommended not to collapse them on the M8/9/M, but they can be used otherwise. And a few of the early wide angles don't support metering on M6/7/8/9/M because their large rear elements block the metering cell. Can't speak about the newer digital bodies in this regard.

If you are after a 35mm lens I believe every one will play nice with any body you might settle on.
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Old 01-11-2017   #4
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Thanks! See the mighty Ken Rockwell raving about the M3... and YYeCamera that seems to retrofit these with M4 loading. This Leica Lore is clearly deep.

But FWIW, as a guy who often carries a Sekonic 758 with a Sony A7II 'cause that's what I did when I got into the game with my dad's old Argus C3... I'm not afraid of metering. That opens up the M3 and I guess various M4's as possibles. Don't know sizes, but guess I'd go for smaller - if there's a difference.
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Old 01-12-2017   #5
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Leica offered a Quick Load Kit in the late 1960's after the introduction of the M4 and perhaps later, for use in the M2 and M3. There's a new take-up spool and a part the fits onto the bottom plate. I have that kit in my M2, makes loading easier, more like the M4.

M2, M3, M4, M6 all the same size I believe, with the M6TTL slightly taller I think, never had one. The M5 is the biggie, and the CL is the itty bitty with the same type of pivoting meter arm as the M5. The CL was a cooperative project with Minolta, made for only a short time. The story has it that Leica declined Minolta's suggested redesign for the CL, so Minolta went ahead on their own, resulting in the CLE, a totally different and more advanced camera. FWIW!
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Old 01-12-2017   #6
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Others say that the CL hit sales of the bigger ones and was abandoned, then Minolta asked if they could develop the concept.

I wonder if a camera limited to two lenses (the 40 and 90 "C" versions) would be bad for lens sales.

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Old 01-12-2017   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by roscoetuff View Post
I'm looking for information on compatibility of lenses (M2, M3, M4 and or M6 bodies) backwards and forwards in time between these and digital M's, and just more on scanning film, too. I find I like to shoot both 35mm and 50mm for everyday. Portraits I like at 85mm or 90mm. Then the 135mm comes in handy, too.

Background is that I've had a Leica. Twice. One was a film (CL) and the other an early Digilux. Neither did it for me, so I don't have one now. Today I'm shooting a Sony A7II with E-mount Zeiss Loxia and adapted Contax CY glass. But I'm still a manual guy: Focus, Exposure, the whole 9 yards. Love digital's immediacy, post processing without chems, and digital printing so it's a bit quixotic to think of this, but I keep thinking about it.

Price of digital Leica kind of more than I can justify. But I know folks shoot film and scan it... but don't know whether this is worth the bother or not. Probably a bad idea but might be worth a look. And so I do but don't really know where to begin. I find I might be able to warm up to the a film Leica and a couple of primes that didn't break the bank... an M4 or M6 or something might be small enough it'd be worth the exploration. Love the 35mm focal length... or thereabouts.

Any help, suggestions, etc would be appreciated.
The only lens that cannot be used at all on the digital M cameras is the Dual Range Summicron.
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Old 01-12-2017   #8
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If you are after a 35mm lens the M3 will limit your lens choices, as you'd need one with goggles, or an external viewfinder. That VF has the narrowest view, 50 is as wide as the framelines go.
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Old 01-12-2017   #9
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Hi,

The M2, M3 and M4 are all simple in terms of viewfinder clutter and manual. The M3 is so-so for 35mm lens choice, the M2 gives 35, 50 and 90 and the M4 (from memory) adds 135mm to the M2's frames but it adds the 135 with the 35 frame...

The M6 is a different style and type compared to the previous three; best considered on its own and there's two versions.

To confuse the matter further many like the M3 and its goggled 35mm lens and you get 50, 90 and 135 framelines.

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Old 01-12-2017   #10
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My advice would be if you don't want a meter go for a m2 and if you do go for m6 classic. Unless you get a good deal on an m4-2 or m4-p but these seem to be almost the same price as a m6.
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Old 01-13-2017   #11
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Struggling here with the whole of it. Pared it down to thinking of a 35mm and M2 but then there's the whole film workflow. Develop to Disk to get back into print has its own costs. Plus there's two echo systems. But I see many M film fans here have a digital camera or two in their regular gear as well... maybe in a few cases, a digital M. So for now... I'm still pretty puzzled whether it wouldn't be just feeding the GAS beast and less for my creative shooting than I think.

Your thoughts on this might help me out here. Can say that the truth is I like digital's convenience, high ISO, etc. and Sony A7II does have pretty low noise. Have to put this in my pipe and smoke it some more. Like I said, your thoughts appreciated. Thanks!
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Old 01-13-2017   #12
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For me, black and white I use film, no scanning. I have an analog darkroom.

For color it's digital. RAW capture, process on iMac using ACR and CS-4.
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Old 01-14-2017   #13
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You might try an M8, or rent some digital M for a little bit to see what it does for you...
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Old 01-14-2017   #14
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Using a Fuji X100 is a lot like using a manual film camera. It's AF of course, and you only get one focal length, but that focal length is 35mm (equivalent). You get manual control over shutter speed and aperture, with the controls being where they would be on a film camera. The viewfinder is a lot like shooting with a Leica M. There's no 50mm or 85mm lens, but maybe you could crop (at least to simulate a 50).

Be aware that the 50mm frameline on the M6 is dreadfully undersized. The 35mm and 90mm frames are a little too small except at minimum focus; but they are close enough.
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Old 01-14-2017   #15
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Sepiaverb... probably a good idea to rent. Get a sense for it. M Monochrom has some appeal as the prices are dropping; the ISO ranges higher; and it might save some time in post. I like to run my Sony with RAW+JPEG and the latter set to monochrome anyway. But I'm sensitive to the argument that for the price, giving up color might be limiting. The real curious thing will be to see whether the lifespan of digital cameras can crank to match the analog. Without a digital darkroom, pondering the whole negatives-to-digital thing has me buffaloed at the moment. But there may be answers.
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Old 01-14-2017   #16
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Rob: Thanks! Have had a Fuji X-E1 (still have), X-T10 and X-PRO2. Found I'm much more about the lenses than the camera, and Sony's IBIS for adapted Zeiss lured me out of Fuji. Fuji's Acros simulation was nice, but at the end of the day, Fuji's chasing a different beast and their packages are growing in size. I found their lenses were getting bigger and bigger and didn't like the way they handled. Tried some Olympus OM Zuiko's and liked the size solution, but not the handling. Zeiss hit the sweet spot, and Zeiss Loxia's manual op did the trick of kicking me to Sony. Today I shoot Zeiss Loxia and a slew of Contax CY's adapted. But Zeiss also makes ZM's and who isn't curious about a Leica M? And it's the prospect of B&W without quite as many post-processing conversion variables that appeals. Still in the early going though... and a rent might be in the cards... even if it's expensive cards.
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Old 01-17-2017   #17
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I've gone both routes with photography, digital and film. For digital, I settled on two cameras, a Fuji X100T, and a Nikon D700. The Fuji is a featherweight camera which performs amazingly well. I love everything about it, from the design to the IQ, to the built in flash, which always adds the perfect amount of light to the subject. The D700 does what it does perfectly. It is dead reliable, fast-focusing, easy to use, and can use a selection of lenses which covers every possible situation.

For film I have many cameras, but I now shoot mainly with an MP or an F2. The MP satisfies my Leica lust very well, the F2 is a film backup for my D700, and allows me to use my Nikon lenses (my lens collection consists mainly of AFD and AIS).

A good film scanner can be had on the used market for a bargain nowadays, and you can get remarkably good results with home scans. As I develop most of my film myself, the home scanning routine is not difficult. But when shooting color print film, my local shop (I live a stone's throw from Fuji's headquarters in the Roppongi part of Tokyo) has no trouble doing scans for me.

I enjoy the routine of developing my own film, the resulting images seem to have a little more value to me due to the extra effort involved in creating them. The cost of the equipment and chemicals is inconsequential (not expensive), and the learning curve is short. Film still has an tonality and texture which digital has not yet matched, and when shooting in the larger formats, vastly higher resolution. It is funny to zoom in on a scanned 4x5 film image, and see just how far you can go. My low-res 4x5 scans create digital images of 120-something megapixels.

For prints, I simply use a large digital printer, and print the files I have uploaded to my computer. I seldom, if ever, do any post-processing. I can develop film easily enough at home, but setting up a darkroom in my Tokyo apartment is out of the question. But one of the good things about living in Tokyo is that there are self-service darkrooms and labs with all the necessary equipment which can be rented by the hour.
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Old 01-17-2017   #18
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Quote:
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Lenses are generally and broadly compatible from end to end of the range... I use the same bunch of Leica and 3rd-party lenses on an M2 and M262.

Scanning negatives is a mature technology, not a problem. It's odd, though, as some users feel this approach contains the best of both analog and digital technologies, whereas others feel it combines the worst of both.
Got my attention on three accounts: 2 favorite prospects: M2 and M262 and potential for scanning film. Thought occurs that an M2 could be an entry point... a platform for lenses. Then step up to a used M262 whenever that begins to happen. The other thought is what sort of scanner are folks using: 36 pics commercially scanned can run $14. Run through some film and you've got a chunk of the way to an M262... over years. But what sort of scanning depth do folks typically use for 17 X 25 printing? Any clues?
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Old 01-17-2017   #19
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For me, black and white I use film, no scanning. I have an analog darkroom.

For color it's digital. RAW capture, process on iMac using ACR and CS-4.
Same almost.
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Old 01-17-2017   #20
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I think that there are a couple of ways to look at this.

One is the process. It costs time, effort and money to shoot a single film frame. This encourages you to shoot more carefully - and, conversely, may inhibit you from taking more experimental or risky shots. I process and scan (via macro) blocks of four 35mm films together. The total task takes about two hours of active time from processing to importing the negatives into Capture One. It also costs about 6€ per roll for the film itself and chemicals.

A second issue is the result. If you like silky smooth glossy images and want to shoot at anything above ISO100, stick with digital. Film has a very distinctive character, particularly when push processed or B&W shot with a contrast filter. Getting accurate colour is also much easier with digital.

There are also more intangible aspects to shooting film. I enjoy the process, and effort that goes in to each frame makes them to me seem more significant than a quick digital snap. However, never forget that a photograph is good or bad depending on its content, and not simply because it took a lot of work.

FWIW, I now mainly shoot and M7 and M262 - the first for grainy B&W, the second for colour and those times where speed is important. However, we also use Olympus cameras for everything that the Leicas can not do - including macro and telephoto. With suitable processing it is difficult to tell the Olympus and Leica digital images apart (other than DOF).
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Old 01-17-2017   #21
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My 2 cents..

I had a bunch of film gear which I considered selling because I decided to give up black and white photography. I was developing and printing myself but work and life got in the way. had this idea, if I wasn't going to shoot B & W, then why bother with film.

However... i was rather attached to my black paint M4. So, sold all my lenses and got myself a 35mm Cron IV and decided to give colour film photography a go. Went to Japan with this 2 combo and a bunch of Portra 400 and it was fun!
Reminded me of the joy of film / rangefinder photography.

I think colour film photography still has a place in film photography. I have them processed and scanned and am lucky to have a good lab nearby.
Sure it may cost a little more BUT with film, I give a lot more thought into every frame.. therefore I get a lot more variety of shots in a roll of 36. Portra is a wonderful film, great latitude and colour - no time wasted post processing.

With film, there is just shutter, aperture, focus and shoot..... simple. I hate choices and menus that comes with digital cameras.
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Old 01-18-2017   #22
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"With film, there is just shutter, aperture, focus and shoot..... simple. I hate choices and menus that comes with digital cameras."

That's pretty much the way I shoot on my Sony anyway.... 'cept add COMPOSE and FOCUS - which I do manually. I set exposure manually... yeah, I could use AUTO ISO, but I don't. All manual, and about 95% shot on prime lenses. Sony let's you set the controls where you want them for the most part. If you don't do that, it's a nightmare. I guess some want all the skin soft, eye focus, blah blah blah complication. I pay for all that.... I just don't use it. I prefer to use my Sekonic 758 handheld meter when it counts... I grew up with a Sekonic Cine and shooting Bolex cine cameras (all manual, all primes) so by comparison still shooting is simple. Hard, but less to fuss with or about. In cine shooting you worry about the angle of the shutter blade's opening your camera rotates for capturing motion the way you want it. Stills? Not so much. Fewer variables.

What I "HATE" about contemporary photography - digital - has nothing to do with the quality of the hardware, but with the prospective obsolesence. At some point, a sensor goes bad and there will be no replacement, or no one who knows how to replace it even from a junker camera. I don't like focus by wire lenses... which is why I shoot Zeiss Loxia. Might this all magically become Leica? That's the question.

The way I shoot... might as well be a Leica. But that's not going to happen now. My interest has been in a Leica M as a 2nd camera. I still have that interest, but for now my 1st camera and working camera has to go to the shop. So the Leica money will go to a replacement body... a Sony A7RII 'cause I already have a full set of lenses for what I need. Leica may happen and remains on the radar screen, but there are any number of options. I may even follow through with ex-Leica shooter Paul Roark's approach to converting the old A7II when it gets back to B&W with a Kolarivision Astrophotography H-Alpha glass replacement to pick up red sensitivity. Stranger things could happen.

Last edited by roscoetuff : 01-18-2017 at 04:11. Reason: missing word; and news of decision
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Old 01-18-2017   #23
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Is that typically digital? I had to dump an Olympus OM set in the early 90-ies because it could not be repaired - lack of spare parts...
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Old 01-18-2017   #24
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I think it explains why folks have two digital bodies. Don't have to be exactly the same, but it helps hold down the lens investment. Did they used to do that with film? Dunno. Maybe. But yeah... with digital you need a back-up body. My back-up body was Fuji, but I've traded all that out in recent months.

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Old 01-18-2017   #25
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... Stranger things could happen.

In mid thirties Dmitry Debabov took Leica to the Arctic expedition. It was only one camera available with shutter working in Arctic cold. In 2016 I read how another photog went to the Arctic with digital camera and solar charger. No problems to get it charged and operate during three weeks on the snow and ice and slipping in tents.


Almost all of the digital cameras we have purchased since 2003 works. Even those made before 2003 and we have found them for free or they were given to us works. Without service and on original batteries or on AAA.
Most of film cameras I have needed CLA, some were better to let go before they fall again...
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Old 01-18-2017   #26
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Hmmm, my M9 and my Digilux-2 went back and for the same reason, and where can I find a film camera made since 2003? ignoring Leica, please...

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Old 01-18-2017   #27
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My lenses are all "low" tech. Either they're current Zeiss Loxia or old film Zeiss Contax CY. I came to Sony to get away from Fuji's electronic lenses. Firmware upgrades in the lenses were "good" on one hand, but unnerving on the other. Meant to update lens firmware so the lens could work with firmware upgraded in the camera, but eventually... they stop upgrading camera firmware for new lenses. Well intended as it is in the whole Kaizen thing, their lenses were getting bigger and bigger. I found Olympus OM Zuikos were just as good, much smaller and less expensive. From there, it was on to Zeiss for nicer handling, and that pushed for a Sony body with IBIS. Digital's appeal is "clean tech" and lower variable costs per shot. Fixed costs are much higher for the hardware, but the hardware itself is not necessarily better per se except to the extent (in my opinion) that high ISO performance now allows some amazing low light / non-flash stuff. Electronic anything... always has a trade off between power and ease of use, and ruggedness. Electronics at consumer prices aren't typically built for ruggedness. There's a reason a military coffee pot went for $30,000 a decade or so...(I think we all remember that) and that's the ridiculous conditions for which they were designed as though cost were no object. Aircraft, boats, normal people ...we get our ruggedness with "spares", following the old saw that if you want something to work you have a backup plan, and a backup for the backup.
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Old 01-31-2017   #28
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Re-reading the replies here after a few days, I'm very thankful to each and every one who replied. Great help!
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