Shooting film, and welcoming the Leica M2

Recently I’ve really gotten back into film in a big way. It’s not that I’d ever stopped or given up on it, but it’s natural to go through waves where you use it more or less.

For the past while I’ve been invested in digital a lot more, not least because I bought a Leica M Typ 240 – and being able to get pictures up and online quickly is great for blogging when you travel often.

However, film is just a different universe. To me, I think the difference between the two formats is far less about the ‘quality’ of the image than people think, but about the entire philosophy and approach involved. Shooting digital when we were in Italy became a bit of a chore to keep up with; struggling to get the photos processed and blogs written in order to stay up to date with where we were. Switching to film forced all of that out of the window, and there was a definite change in how I felt: being able to just concentrate on taking the pictures, and nothing else.

When we were away I was using a Leica M6, and Yashica Mat 124G (film wise). As much as I love the M6, I’ve had a craving to get my hands on one of the older M bodies. Both the M and the M6 are black, and I really wanted to add a chrome M2 or M3 into the mix – stripping things back to just the most basic elements.

After a while of humming and hawwing, I plucked up and got an M2 for a great price on eBay. I was interested in a M3, but went for the M2 in the end given the presence of frame lines for 35mm lenses. Here it is below, shot on a Leica M Typ 240 with a Jupiter 9 85mm f2.

Leica M2 with Jupiter 12 35mm f2.8
Leica M2 with Jupiter 12 35mm f2.8 (mounted), and Jupiter 3 50mm f1.5

Aesthetically and ergonomically the camera is everything I was after. It looks great, particularly with the chrome Jupiter 12 mounted on it, and it feels just right when being handled. I used to have an old Leica iiia, which was a beautiful wee camera, but the rangefinder window was so tiny that I couldn’t focus it properly with my glasses, and so it had to go. The M2 reminds me of the classic build of that camera, but with a vastly improved optical design. Coupled with a long cordweaver strap to sling over my chest and I can imagine carrying this wee beast everywhere I go.

Part of me is tempted to get an actual Leica lens, rather than using my collection of Jupiters (which are great wee things – and something I’ll blog about soon). I’ve got my eye on a Summicron-c 40mm which is at the more affordable end of the spectrum – but I’m not sure if it’s just gear lust, or if it will actually be worth the outlay yet.

The one slight concern I had about the M2 is the lack of a built-in meter. I used to rely on my own experience to meter everything in my head, but became spoiled by the M6 and M Typ 240. However, the more I thought about it, the more I realised that the exposure from my Yashica and Hasselblad pictures have always came out fine (including recently), and so the worry is probably more theoretical than real. It’ll probably take a while to get back to the level of confidence that I used to have (shooting jobs entirely on film and with no meter), but we’ll see how it goes.

Looking through Flickr, I’ve found so many great photographers who swear by their M2. Now I just need to get out there and shoot some more pictures. Feeling inspired.

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