After a summer shooting both film and digital, I think I’ve found my balance, even if doubts remain.
Shooting my best lenses on digital has brought me to an important conclusion: good scanning matters. I always had a feeling about my pictures, something I couldn’t explain. It turns out that looking at images taken with both M6 and M8 I see a considerable difference in resolving power. I always shoot ad base iso 160 with M8 and Ektar on M6, to ensure a very fine grain and the best possible detail rendition. I’m not a color maniac, so it doesn’t matter if it’s color accurate or not. It’s important for me to see all fine details the way I want.
Shooting color is totally different for me, I look for a sharp saturated image rather than a gritty/grainy high contrast.
Leica M8 is a 10 Megapixel camera. It’s old technology, but those files are stunning. It has several drawbacks, but none is important to me.
Leica M6 is a film camera. I love the advance lever feel. I can load a roll in less than 15 seconds. Scans from this gem are not on par with M8 files.
What to do then? I’m planning to shoot a lot of film, no doubt, but I’m thinking of a way to have a good scan of my color negatives. No way M6 pictures could be less than M8. It will be a total shame.
That was the last time I used my GR1s. A few days afterwards, shutter died and I came back from Ireland without 28mm pictures.
During the subsequent months, I missed 28mm A LOT and only recently I got it back in the Elmarit-M ASPH form, which is now glued to my Leica, but that’s another story.
After a series of lucky events and some garage sale, I also finalized my gear acquisitions, ending up with a very simple bag. Two Leica bodies, an M6 and M8, with a 28mm and two 50mm (one might be on sale soon, replaced by a wider 15mm) and a set of filters.
This setup has been carefully put together for B&W: the choice of M8 is not random as it’s the perfect companion for the M6. Let me explain why: it has enough resolving power to match 135 film, given the right conditions, it has a very limited IR filter that enables better B&W tonal range than most cameras at base iso 160 and it has a useful crop factor for saving on lenses. I wrote a post on that subject.
Instead, what happened is that I shot almost exclusively on color, even on film, considerably depleting my stock of Ektar (and some MF Astia).
I’m still exploring, trying to define a style that pleases me, that I feel it belongs to me. I love contrasts, gritty noir images, but saturated color as well. This summer I greatly enjoyed shooting city colors as well as the sea, which brings me to the question: “does it make sense to shoot B&W only”? My style isn’t defined yet, and I don’t like to restrain myself into any category.
Shooting without restraints does not mean unrestricted shooting. I want to feel free to shoot, but at the same time I won’t shoot every kind of pictures: wedding, nature or product photography are not for me.
Landscapes are more interesting, but that’s a recent discovery that requires a lot more dedication that I can’t give right now. My travels bring me to visit cities more often, which in turn gives more opportunities for architecture, which is something I’d love learn shooting.
After all, as much as I love B&W (that I will continue shooting, no doubts), color has conquered a place in my bag. That’s why I added an IR/UV filter to my bag and replenished my Ektar stock. I will probably try some Cinestill Tungsten 800, it seems extremely promising.