Leica M3: The First Photos

The roll of Ektar 100 film (36 exposures) came back from the lab tonight. I am not certain how I feel about any of these first images yet, so I cannot say much about the camera’s relevance in 2011. From the negatives, there seems to have been a bit of shutter drag about midway through the roll. Not surprising as the camera probably was not shot much since 1961, and the grease needs to be used to get things moving nicely.

After about a year of use, I have to admit that I am not much of an Ektar film fan. The Portra emulsions appeal more to me either for vivid or neutral tones, and the Ektar feels flat; perhaps more digital. I do like the colours and cuteness of the machines huddled together for warmth on a frigid Febtober day.

The portrait came from a session I did for Katie Sawatsky that does not seem to be moving anywhere, so I figure I can post this extra shot that I did with the Leica for my portfolio. The lighting is moody and falls off rapidly, which works nicely for the emotive qualities of the portrait. Undoubtedly my favourite photograph from the roll, as it evokes the look I would aspire for all of my individual photographs to possess.

As the Leica is compact, I did take it out in a snowstorm. The old warehouse owned by Loblaws on Lake Shore and Bathurst appears to be in a state of repair or destruction, so I wanted to capture this great sign and rust texture before it disappears in the path of progress.

The final two photographs had to be treated as black and white images due to a weird colour from the sunset. I think that it is fair to say that the M3 is not a landscape camera. Compared to the Hasselblad SWC images, I find the Leica shots to lack presence and depth.

At the end of the day, I would assert that the Leica is designed for people and street photography. It is a camera for travel where the streets are tight and rogues abound, but I found it best for portraits and intimate shots. Over the next few weeks I will try a few different films to see what matches the lens best, but I doubt that it will be the Kodak Ektar. I want to say that this would be best for black and white photography, but the colours that worked really worked while the others fell apart.

Like every new, classic camera I have worked with over the past year, the Leica M3 needs to be adapted to and understood. It is a one lens deal, if only because lenses just cost too much to dabble with and I would only want to carry it with a 50mm on the body due to weight. It is a heavy industrial masterpiece. If I only owned this camera would I be happy? Yes. To have been given such a wonderful piece of photographic history as a gift from nowhere made it all the more special. Fortunately, it is not the only camera I own, and as I learn the M3’s strengths and weaknesses I will be able to use it when it serves the photography best.

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One response to “Leica M3: The First Photos

  1. Once you use a 6×6 or larger, it’s hard to go back to 35mm or dslr. But, they have a place. Mine is dedicated to a Voightlander 15mm, which is one of the most fun lenses I’ve ever used, though it will compete somewhat with your SWC, which is where I am headed, too.

    I don’t like *any* negative color films, they still don’t work as far as I’m concerned. I very much like Kodak E100G, which is not garish like Velvia or E100VS. It tends toward blue, which some don’t like, but I like it very much for color. When you pull out a 6×6 roll from the processor, your heart stops.

    You might look up Youxin Ye in the Boston area for an overhaul. He’s fast and reliable.

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