This is a special year. My trusted M6 turns 20 years old. No, I am not that old. I bought it a few years ago after it had already changed hands a few times. Paying my tributes to this precision instrument of German engineering, I plan to shoot a lot of film this year – yeah, any excuse is fine for shooting film.
But let’s rewind a bit. There was a time in 2012, where I was really burned out from all the camera craziness around me. It almost seemed as if your photographic career was solely determined by the gear that you were using – and there was a lot of crappy work coming out of 5dmkiis. At that point in time I had already shifted away from DSLRs and ventured into smaller setups, mostly because I felt it did not make a difference for my work in terms of output but I gained a lot in terms of flexibility and being able to blend in. Either I was shooting with light setups at (close to) base iso so that I did not care for high iso noise, or I did some urban/lifestyle/street type-of-photography, where even a small compact could do a great job (in fact I used an LX-5 and a GR at that time): I simply had no use case for either ‘full frame performance’ (what ever this means) or crazy high iso performance. However, online, a significant portion of people was obsessed with EXIF data meditation. This OCDness with technical attributes such as ‘sharpness’, ‘micro contrast’, etc and the less tangible ones such as ‘character’ at the expense of meaningful photos annoyed me a lot. I understand that we live in times where Drucker’s ‘only what is measured improves’ is an important component of our lifes, but when obsession with the microscopic level with the entailing reductionism destroys the macroscopic impression of the whole then, I think, we went too far. Every working systems is more than its part.
I got so tired of it that I decided that I wanted to shoot film for a while. I first got myself a Canon AE-1. This was really an amazing camera. Since I had a 35 Summicron back then and I toyed around with it on Sony Nex bodies, it seemed natural to me to get a Leica M body – that was what the Summicron was designed for after all.
So I did some research and I narrowed it down to an M3 or an M6. I hated the fact the M7 was some weird hybrid between mechanical camera and still needing batteries for the shutter (except for 1/125 if I remember correctly). The M5 looked like a design mistake to me. I spent some time on ebay getting an idea for the going rate and ended up with an M6. I tried to track the history of the M6 down a few weeks ago but was only partially successful: the former owner could not really share my nostalgia, as according to his own words, he owned several M6s and couldn’t remember and/or reconstruct where that one came from. The camera is in top condition except for two or three very small marks and sometimes I wonder what’s the story behind those.
I received the M6 right before a trip to New York and here are some of the first shots I ever took with it. I shot Ektar 100 (if I remember correctly) at that point because it was the only film stock I could quickly get a hold off.
I even shot a couple of night shots with it.
By now, I have probably taken several thousands of frames with it and I really enjoy the experience – I do not want to go into the film shooting vs. digital thing again (I wrote about it beforehand). I intend to post several more frames in the next few months.
Here is (one of) my favorite one(s) from New York.
So stay tuned — TSJ.