Leica recommendation

Discussion in 'Leica and Rangefinders' started by john_mcdonald, May 5, 2002.

  1. In 35mm, I have experience with Nikon and Canon, but am less than knocked out
    by the resulting prints. I think a Leica might be the answer for the more portable
    format, as I have been inspired by the work of Leica users William Albert Allard
    and Roy DeCarava. Of course they are great artists, but the image has that rare
    photographic snappiness.

    <p>

    Anyway, there are so many Leica lenses and cameras available that I am
    confused. I would like a 50mm lens, and a reliable manual body with a light meter.
    I am after excellent image quality. I would appreciate your recommendations, and
    also advice if I am on the right track in expecting a crisper image with the Leica.
    Is the German or other glass to be preferred?

    <p>

    Do you printers prefer a condenser enlarger or cold light?

    <p>

    Thank you.
     
  2. John, Leica may be your answer. I have used Leicas for over 30
    yrs now and it has become a habit so I cannot discuss this
    dispassionately. However, my wife and daughter are using
    Nikons and get very nice B&W results. We have a diffusion
    enlarger. You might want to read Mike Johnston's recent
    discussion of that glow seen in some B&W work.
    <http://www.luminous-landscape.com/sm-02-04-28.htm>
     
  3. here is the url
    http://www.luminous-landscape.com/sm-02-04-28.htm
     
  4. Get an M6 or M6TTL and put any 50mm Summicron on it--Summilux if you
    just must have f:1.4.
     
  5. Depends on what lenses you used probably. I shoot Canon and Leica
    professionally and my best Canon lenses are the equal of Leica's.

    <p>

    However, both Canon and Nikon make lenses to occupy certain price
    points or market niches. They may not all be of the same uniform
    standard as their best primes or "pro" zooms (though they may be
    very good compared to others in their class).

    <p>

    In my experience technique is (usually) a bigger arbiter of print
    quality than lens quality, at least for most users. This may not
    apply to you of course, but I would try to rent a Leica for a few
    days to see if it really makes a difference in your work.
     
  6. If you're "less than knocked out" by the prints you get from Nikon
    and Canon, that's perhaps a clue that the flaw isn't in the
    equipment, and that you should work on your technique more before
    putting money into equipment.
     
  7. ...or to take it back another level, since you're asking for enlarger
    recommendations, perhaps the problem is with the lab you're using,
    not the equipment. If you're not doing your own darkroom work, it's
    almost certain you're not getting full value out of the equipment you
    have; and after you set up a darkroom, you still won't be there for
    several years, probably.

    <p>

    Several times people have noted here that some aspect of Leica
    cameras hasn't come up to their expectations, and then eventually it
    comes out that they're getting prints made at the local one-hour lab,
    so let's get the full spectrum of what you're doing out, first, to
    figure out where the problem is.
     
  8. Thanks all, for answering. I have been printing for years, and have worked
    printing with retired photographer Jack Welpott. I mainly shoot and print 4x5,
    and with hard work I get a print that is up to snuff. I find it much more difficult
    to print a stellar small neg, and as some here have suggested, more dilligence
    and practice is in order. I use a Beseler 45 enlarger with a Zone VI cold light
    head.

    <p>

    I have seen prints that glow at the museums in San Francisco, and I know many
    of them were done with 35mm, including the Roy DeCarava show I mentioned at
    the beginning of this thread. If I remember, most of his prints were at least
    8x10 and up, and they were magical.

    <p>

    Assuming that I need to work harder, what do some of you Leica users see as
    the advantage of Leica? Perhaps it is the way the camera operates, perhaps it is
    lens quality. I have always been curious.

    <p>

    My favorite lens I have used on the Nikon is the 55mm micro. It is quite sharp,
    but it is slower to focus than regular lenses, needing more revolutions. Thanks
    all again.
     
  9. There are a lot of reasons besides the lens quality to use a
    Leica rangefinder. The cameras are small, quiet and have a very
    short shutter lag. They can also be handheld at slower speeds
    due to less vibration.

    <p>

    I have to agree with the others that if you're not blown away by
    your results with the Nikon and Cannon gear, there may be other
    issues besides which camera you use.

    <p>

    Clearly you know your stuff when it comes to 4x5 work. You seem
    to be happy with your results with the larger format. Forgive me if
    I'm off base, but I've had several friends who shoot large format
    and don't get great results with their 35mm. Since the cameras
    are smaller and quicker to use, they don't take as much time
    when it comes to metering or composition, and more
    importantly, really looking at the light when photographing.

    <p>

    The other issue I might suggest looking at is your film/developer
    combination. Since you can't exactly tailor the exposure and dev
    time for each frame as you can with 4x5, you have to do careful
    tests to determine what film and developer give you the right
    contrast and tonal range for your lighting situation. An overly
    contrasty 35mm negative can be a real bear to print (or scan).

    <p>

    Having said all that, I have found a certain magical quality in leica
    glass, and I would recommend trying out an M to anyone. The M
    cameras (except for the new M7) are all manual and I think they
    force you to think more as you shoot, but at the same time they
    are quick and responsive.
     
  10. If you don't want to spent too much money on a try-out and still have
    the leica top-quality, get a 2nd hand R5, R4 or R4s with a 50
    summicron. The 50 summicron is the best lens in history and an R4
    (s)/R5 has all the basic features and is very affordable. The whole
    set shouldn't cost you more that $7-800 and if you're lucky less on
    ebay. If after this you want a more modern body (R8), it is a
    excellent spare that allows you to use the same lenses.

    <p>

    I used to work with an minolta x-700 with minolta 50/1.4. A very good
    combination but I always had to push the corners of my prints when I
    used larger appertures. Since I went for the Leica I never had to do
    that again. Contrast a distortion differences are clear, even on
    contact sheets.

    <p>

    I have a durst605 (condensor), doing very well for me. Again low cost
    for good quality. But the many issue in enlargers is the lens.
     
  11. Given that you're used to 4x5, printing 35mm to any level of quality
    is MUCH more difficult, and you need to drag out more tricks to make
    it work well. It's pretty easy to make 5x7 prints (remember, that's
    the 4x5 equivalent of 20x24!) but beyond that the job gets harder
    faster. For intance, I found ferricyanide bleach to be very helpful,
    even if you didn't want to use it in a way that was obvious, and
    since I've stopped doing silver and gone digital, I've read about
    some interesting masking methods I think would be useful in 35mm. If
    you want to make really big prints, think about how the same
    magnification of 4x5 would look--that's the real direct comparison.
     
  12. I prefer a color head, which is a diffused light source. The dial-in
    filtration makes it a breeze to print on variable contrast papers.
     
  13. John: Before jumping in try renting... My advice would be either
    an M6TTl with 50 'cron or the R8 with a 50 'cron. Work them hard
    for a week or two and then decide. This may save you alot of
    money in the long run. Good luck!!
     
  14. I would recommend either an R4s with 50mm summicron or an M6 with 50
    mm Summicron.

    <p>

    If you always use a meter then a rangefinder M of any series with a
    50mm Summicron would do you very well.
     

Share This Page