MrLeica.com started in March 2013 after Flickr followers asked for my thoughts
Founder / Story
I’m a self taught photographer with around 10 years experience of photographing portraits, models and weddings. After my first 3 years I was teaching photography to fellow professionals in the UK and overseas and after 4 years I bought my first Leica camera. As a child my Grandfather inspired me to draw and taught me to paint with watercolours. As a teenager I taught myself very fine detail acrylic painting but went on to study science (and later finance) rather than the arts.
Photography came to me later after an ex girlfriend kindly bought me a camera one Christmas. I was immediately hooked and 3 months later a bought a better camera and then another. My inquisitive data driven mindset and tendancy to document things inspired me to start this blog as a personal project. When reading about photography and researching new cameras I find it is the perfect place to record everything I learn and I can share it with others.
Mr Leica Photographer Blog
Coventry UK studio based portrait and wedding photographer using digital Leica cameras and a wide range of film cameras. Analogue cameras include 35mm, medium format and large format and film developing is done in house. Cameras, lenses and films are tested during model photography photo shoots both in the UK and overseas. Blog reviews include a combination of technical detail, example images and side by side comparisons.
Before starting MrLeica.com I used to write technical articles for UK photography magazines. As I continue to collect and test cameras and photography equipment I now share the information here. I hope you find the content as enjoyable to read as it is to document.
Where to find MrLeicaCom!
If you want to follow me on social media just search for MrLeicaCom or Matt Osborne. It’s always great to hear from like minded people so feel free to get in touch! You can find me on Instagram and I share images on Flickr and Pinterest too.
The Hasselblad H2 replaced my H3 which sadly died due to water damage. Here is a quick Hasselblad H2 review with sample photos + YouTube video. An amazing camera and reasonably affordable for a Hasselblad camera system.
What is a Hasselblad H2 camera?
The Hasselblad H2 was released in 2006 and followed the first Hasselblad H camera, the H1 announced four years earlier. The Hasselblad H system was the new camera design from Hasselblad and it replaced the classic 6×6 Hasselblad V series cameras (Hasselblad 500 system). Both the Hasselblad H1 and H2 cameras are basically the same with the H2 just having a firmware update. The H1 and H2 cameras are designed to take both digital backs and film backs and have more of an SLR camera design. At the time of the Hasselblad H2 release a film back is said to have cost $2000 and a digital back $20-30,000! Thankfully these cameras are now more affordable, reletively, in Hasselblad camera terms.
You can see my reviews of my Hasselblad H3D-31 camera on the blog already so I won’t repeat myself too much. Using the Hasselblad H2 seems identical to using my H3D camera body. The only difference is on the H3D-31 I used a 31MP digital back and a film back. On the H2 I shoot only film now but I could buy a used digital back if I saw a need. Film is my preference so I’m loving the H2 as it is. It’s worth noting that I use the same Hasselblad HC 80mm lens and film back as I used on the H3D on the H2. The Hasselblad H prism viewfinder is the same model but replacement copy.
Common differences between a classic Hasselblad 500 series cameras and a Hasseblad H2:
Film format – Hasselblad 500 cameras give us the classic 6×6 square images. The Hasselblad H film back is 6×4.5 format (“645”).
Manual vs electronic – The 500 series cameras are fully manual but the Hasselblad H2 is electronic and battery operated/ battery dependant.
Lenses – Hasselblad 500 system camera lenses are made by Zeiss. Hasselblad H camera lenses are made by Fuji.
Lens focusing – The Zeiss lenses on Hasselblad 500 cameras are manual focus only. Hasselblad HC lenses as used on the H2 are autofocus lenses.
Lightmeter – The Hasselblad 500cm and similar cameras have no in camera lightmeter. The Hasselblad H2 has a built in Lightmeter.
Shutter speed – The maximum shutter speed on a Hasselblad 500 is 1/500. The Hasselblad HC 80 lens on a Hasselblad H2 has a maximum shutter speed of 1/800. Flash can sync at the maximum shutter speed on both cameras.
Similarities between a Hasselblad 500 series camera and the Hasselblad H2 are:
Modular design – Both the Hasselblad 500 cameras and the Hasselblad H cameras are modular camera designs. This means the camera lens, viewfinder and film back can all be removed and swapped out. This gives great flexibility for a professional photographer using multiple lenses and film backs. It also allows for upgrades as lenses from your existing cameras can be used on the latest camera body release. It also means you can use digital backs on your existing film cameras (*But please check first for compatibility).
Sharp lenses – Hasselblad HC lenses and the former Zeiss lenses used on Hasselblad 500 lenses are both stellar performers and offer amazing optics.
Expensive – All Hasselblad cameras are expensive when compared to some other film camera options. The Hasselblad H cameras have become cheaper so now the cost is more comparable to a Hasselblad 500 series.
High Quality – You do get what you pay for with Hasselblad. The image quality and functionality of Hasselblad cameras is exceptional (and a joy to use).
Leaf shutter lenses – Hasselblad camera lenses whether for the Hasselblad 500 (Zeiss) or for the H system (Fuji) are leaf shutter lenses with the shutter built into the lens body.
Hasselblad H2 photoshoot – Portugal
The Hasselblad H2 camera arrived to me just in time to take to Portugal for a model photography trip. Below are some photos shot with the Hasselblad H2 camera in Faro using two lenses. The Hasselblad HC 80mm f2.8 kit lens and the older Zeiss Distagon 50mm f4 CF lens from my Hasselblad 500 camera system. I also included a few portraits taken in the UK using the Hasselblad HC 120mm f4 macro lens. Click on any photo for more details.
Lens adapter – Hasselblad V to H adapter
Are you tempted by a more modern Hasselblad H camera but already own a Hasselblad 500 system (aka. “Hasselblad V series”) model? Good news! You can use the amazing Zeiss glass from the Hasselblad V camera on a H body via an adapter. The Hasselblad V to H adapter lets you mount Hasselblad Zeiss glass on your H body. You can use any of the Hasselblad V lens lineup whether the C version, CF or otherwise. I enjoy the Zeiss Distagon 50mm f4 lens on the Hasselblad H2 for a wider lens setup particularly.
Hasselblad H2 portraits
More Hasselblad H2 sample photos
YouTube – Hasselblad H2 Review
Hasselblad H2 review – Summary
I’m loving the Hasselblad H2 camera right now. It is giving me most of what I ask from a film camera. Sharp images shot wide open. Easy and fun to operate. Reliable results (which becomes less easy when working with older film cameras) and the ability to use existing camera lenses. The 645 film format is perfect for my portraits and I prefer this to 6×6 for my model photography. The H2 is a fantastic 645 format SLR style camera that is fast and intuitive to use. A real gem and I would say as good as or better than the very popular Contax 645.
Hasselblad H2 wedding photography
For my analogue wedding photography bookings I can’t wait to treat the clients to some Hasselblad H2 film photos. I like to offer clients the best so I decided to invest in some new HC lenses for weddings (especially). I used to enjoy my Contax 645 wedding photography so here is a sample of what i’m talking about. The following photos were all captures with the Contax 80mm f2 Zeiss Planar lens. The lens I just got for the Hasselblad H2 should create the same look!
120 Cinestill 50D vs 120 Cinestill 800T Film Comparison Review
120 Cinestill 50D vs 120 Cinestill 800T film comparison after shooting one roll of each with my Hasselblad 501C and Hasselblad SWC/M super wide camera in Budapest.
Cinestill 800T film – recap
When Cinestill 800T first came to the market is was available in 35mm film format only. I was an early adopter and you can see my results using 35mm Cinestill 800T shot with a Leica, Xpan and other 35mm film cameras. Without repeating myself to much, (see the 35mm link for more) Cinestill 800 film is a tungsten balanced film.
The T in Cinestill 800T refers to tungsten or tungsten balanced. Most films are daylight balanced meaning the colours we capture are similar to what we see with our eyes. Tungsten light (3200K) is warm (yellow-orange colour) light rather than daylight (5500K) which should appear white. (The middle point between warm light and blue light). At the start and end of each day daylight is more of a blue light hence it is called blue hour. Cinestill 800T is repackaged Kodak Vision3 500T motion picture film (movie film). As with Cinestill the T in 500T relates to the fact that it is tungsten balanced.
The Brothers Wight
The Brothers Wright launched the Cinestill brand after developing a process to remove the RemJet layer from Kodak movie film. The black anti-static RemJet layer is needed when Vision3 film is used in movie cameras but not for still photography. By removing the Remjet this film can then be developed in standard C41 chemistry. (Kodak Vision3 is actually ECN-2 film so if the Rejmet layer is still on it should be processed in ECN-2 chemistry. (*To obtain the true film colours. Processing Vision3 film in C41 chemistry is cross processing the film).
Developing Cinestill film
Pre-removal of the Vision3 film Remjet layer was a brilliant idea as the film can now be developed in your local film lab. Film labs usually offer the service to develop two types of colour film. C-41 chemistry for colour negative film (including Cinestill) and E6 chemistry for colour positive film (slide film).
Don’t take Kodak Vision3 films to your lab!
If you buy standard Kodak Vision3 motion picture film with the Remjet layer on you can’t take this to your film lab. The Remjet layer on the film will contaminate the labs C41 chemistry. I shoot Cinestill and Vision3 films and you can see how to develop movie film at home (including removing the Remjet). Shooting with Vision3 film stocks and then developing it at home is much cheaper but it takes more time and effort. When I only want to shoot 1-2 rolls of movie film it is easier to just buy Cinestill and get it lab developed.
The Cinestill 800T halation look
Cinestill 800T has a unique and signature look which can be the reason to buy the film instead of Kodak Vision3 500T. A side effect of removing the anti-static Remjet layer is it also removes the anti-halation properties of the film. Halation means if you photograph a point of light (say a street light) you will see a glow around the light bulb. With most films you would just see a bright bulb then quick fall off of light to dark. This effect is also lens specific to an extent. A modern lens with modern lens coatings will show little halation with standard film. Example – Leica Summilux ASPH 50mm f1.4 lens . A vintage lens with no lens coating flares more easily when pointed at a light source so you see a greater halation effect. Example – Leica Summarit 50mm f1.5 lens.
For me the Cinestill halation look is one of the main attractions to buy Cinestill 800T film. *If shooting Cinestill 800T film night. If taking photos during the day the halation look can be less desirable.
Cinestill 800T film latitude
One amazing benefit of shooting with movie film is the emulsion is designed to have greater latitude. This means retaining more highlight and shadow detail. Cinestill 800T latitude is excellent and I rate the film from ISo 100 to ISo 1600. I then develop the film as normal at box speed. No push or pull. For me Cinestill 800T film is better over exposed as there is less apparent grain but that is personal preference.
My first roll of 120 Cinestill 800T
I backed the Cinestill 120 kickstarter projects and I still have some Cinestill 800T Beta rolls in the fridge to use. The Beta film was delivered to my sisters house in the US (at the time) so there was a big delay receiving it. Once received, it was bad timing as my interest had switched more to 35mm film photography – Nikon FE2 (at the time).
120 Cinestill 800T sample photos
So yes I’m very late to the Cinestill 120 film party but I finally shot my first rolls! Here I share photos from my 120 Cinestill 800T test roll shot in Budapest, mostly in daylight. Ideally I would have shot more night photography with the film but it was just the film loaded at the time.
The cameras used to take these photos were a Hasselblad 501C and Hasselblad SWC/M super wide camera. I took two cameras and two film backs then swapped the backs between each body. The Hasselblad 501C was fitted with the Zeiss Planar 100mm f3.5 CF lens. The Hasselblad SWC-M super wide is a fixed lens camera with a 38mm Zeiss Biogon lens attached. The film back loaded with 120 Cinestill 800T was a Hasselblad A16 645 format film back so it gives 16 photos per roll. That is why the photos are rectangular not the usual Hasselblad square format.
Cinestill 800T daylight photos – No filter
I didn’t use the often recommended 85B warming filter when shooting the Tungsten balanced Cinestill 800T film in daylight. This gives the film negatives more of a blue cast that I can correct in post later as needed. I tried to photograph a variety of colours for a fair test including a few portraits.
120 Cinestill 800T Portraits
Cinestill 50D film – Recap
After the success of Cinestill 800T film launch The Brothers Wright also released their Cinestill 50D film. Again this film is repackaged Kodak Vision3 motion picture film. It is Vision3 50D film stock with the Remjet layer removed to allow it to be developed in standard C41 chemistry. Unlike Cinestill 800T, as the name suggests, Cinestill 50D is daylight balanced film. D for daylight. This makes 50D daylight balanced like most colour negative films whether Kodak Portra, Ektar, Gold, Fuji Pro 400H and so on.
I already shoot with both 35mm Kodak Vison3 50D and 35mm Cinestill 50D. I will try to share some of my Vision3 work in future posts. 120 Cinestill 50D is new to me.
Super fine grain and great latitude
Cinestill 50D is an ISo 50 film stock like say Ilford Pan F 50 so offers super fine grain. 120 film photos have less grain due to the film negative size compared to 35mm film. This makes 120 50D film look almost digital in that there is little or no apparent grain. As with Cinestill 800T, Cinestill 50D has great latitude and does particularly well retaining highlight details.
First roll of 120 Cinestill 50D
As I already had 120 Cinestill 800T in the fridge I thought it would be nice to buy a roll of 120 Cinestill 50D to compare. For this film test as mentioned above I used two Hasselblad cameras with two film backs. 120 Cinestill 50D was loaded into a standard Hasselblad A12 film back giving 12 photos per roll.
120 Cinestill 50D sample photos
Cinestill 50D 120 Portraits
Film developing and processing notes
Both rolls of Cinestill film were lab developed in C41 colour film chemistry. The film negatives were scanned at home with an Epson v800 flatbed scanner and processed via Silverfast software. The film scans were then imported to Adobe Lightroom to crop and resize. Small size photos shared have basic edits only and straight from Adobe LR small size. Some of the larger photos shared were also put through Adobe Photoshop to clean up before being posted full size to Flickr. You can click on the large size edited images shared to zoom in via the Flickr website. A two tap zoom lets you see the film detail up close for any pixel peepers out there.
120 Cinestill 50D vs 120 Cinestill 800T – Verdict
Both Cinestill 50D 120 and Cinestill 800T 120 are excellent films. I would happily use either film again. If I could only use one of these film stocks it would definitely be Cinestill 800T. I love the halation effect offered by the 800T film and the ISO 800 film box speed makes it a very versatile emulsion. There are not many films that can be shot at ISO 100 to ISO 1600 on the same roll. If you are looking for a super fine grain colour film Cinestill 50D offers that. The ISo 50 is limiting though so you may need to use your camera on a tripod, use fast lenses or only photograph in good light.
Cinestill 50D vs Cinestill 800T colours
Here is the same scene shot with the same camera. One photo is 120 Cinestill 800T and one photo 120 Cinestill 50D. You can see the blue tones from the Tungsten balanced film shot in daylight without a warming filter.
Cinestill film alternatives?
Cinestill 50D alternatives
There are other fine grain colour films available. You could shoot with fine grain slide films such as Fuji Velvia, Fuji Provia or Kodak Ektachrome E100. If you want saturated colours from a colour negative film you could try Kodak Ektar 100 which can also look near digital.
Cinestill 800T alternative films
When it comes to ISO 800 colour films the options become much more limited. The most popular choice is probably Kodak Portra 800 film but there is also Lomography 800 film. I have been playing with some Lomo 800 film so I will share the results soon.
Budapest trip video – 120 Cinestill film B roll
When in Budapest last year I was just starting my new MrLeica.Com YouTube channel. I had my GoPro with me (Yi4K Plus Action Camera) so I shot some B roll from the time I was taking the above photos. The video shows the location some of the photos were taken, the cameras and the camera bag I used for the trip.
35mm Leica CL Film Camera (Leica Minolta CL) – Review
35mm Leica CL film camera review (also known as the Leica Minolta CL camera). If you are looking for the digital CL see here instead – Digital Leica CL. This article is a comparison of the analogue Leica CL vs Leica M3, Leica CL vs Leica iiia and considers the Voigtlander Bessa R3A camera. YouTube video embedded below.
Leica CL (a film Leica CL!)
My first discovery of the 35mm Leica CL camera was seeing one in a vintage camera store in London years ago. I picked it up as the low price interested me but I put it back. The film Leica CL didn’t impress me enough at the time but my photography has matured since then. Perhaps 5 years later I found myself buying a Leica CL camera on eBay.
This review is based on the Leica CL purchase and compares it to other film cameras -Leica M3, Leica iiia and Voigtlander Bessa R3A.
As I already use the digital Leica CL camera it will get confusing now I also have the film Leica CL. I’ve started to write “digital Leica CL” on my Flickr posts and I will make sure to “film Leica CL” when I start posting film images! Any images posted prior to this review were shot with the digital CL for reference.
Minolta CL vs Leica CL
The Leica CL is different to many Leica cameras in that it was built in collaboration with Minolta. Some of the CL cameras manufactured are branded as Minolta CL or Leica Minolta CL and some, like mine as a Leica CL (or Leitz CL). The Leica-Minolta collaboration is perhaps similar to that between Fuji and Voigtlander when they worked together a few years back. Fuji and Voigtlander joined forces in 2008 to release their amazing 6×6/6×7 folding camera. I have the Fuji GF670 branded version but this is the same as the Voigtlander Bessa iii camera.
OK back on topic..
The Lens – Leica CL 40mm lens
40mm lens (40mm vs 50mm)
The Leica CL is unusual in that it is designed around the use of a 40mm lens rather than the standard 50mm focal length. The first Oscar Barnack Leicas were build around a 50mm lens and all the early Leica cameras have a 50mm (or 5cm at the time) viewfinder window only. This was also true for the first Leica M camera, the Leica M3 which has a 50mm frameline viewfinder as the default design. Other manufacturers followed and most early LTM or L39 mount lenses were 50mm. Examples include the Leica Summar, Summitar, Summarit, Summicron, Elmar, Summilux 50mm lenses and similar designs from Canon (especially), Nikon and others. The 50mm focal length was said to be easy to design compared to wider lenses so that probably explains why 50mm became the ‘normal’ lens on most cameras there after.
40mm is an unusual focal length as it is too close to the popular 35mm lenses so most consumers and manufacturers seemed to skip 40mm in their lens lineup. There are exceptions, the Leica 40mm/ Minolta 40mm (which I will come to), Voigtlander Nokton 40mm f1.4 lens and Voigtlander Ultron 40mm f2 SL II lens (Nikon mount) which I own. There are others such as the Canon 40mm f1.9 pancake lens but generally speaking 50mm is much more common for interchangeable lens cameras.
If you look at fixed lens rangefinder cameras from the same period as the Leica CL (1970s) the opposite was true . 40mm was often the go to focal length for fixed lens cameras as it gives a normal view. 40mm offers the perfect balance between 35mm for say street photography and environmental portraits and 50mm for a tighter portrait crop. Popular rangefinder cameras that favored the 40mm fixed lens design include the Canon Canonet QL 17, Minolta HI-Matic and Yashica Electro 35 GSN (45mm*). I tend to prefer interchangeable lens cameras but these fixed lens rangefinders offer great value for money if you want a cheap 40mm rangefinder camera. The closest camera I have to this is a Olympus 35RC.
Leica Summicron-C 40mm f2 lens
If you search online for the Leica Summicron C 40mm lens you will find it is particularly affordable for a Leica Summicron lens (and tiny!). Almost worryingly cheap when you see the cost of a Leica 35mm Summicron lens.
Leica Summicron 40mm vs 35mm
I hadn’t planned to buy a Leica CL or a Leica Summicron 40mm lens. It was a purchase fueled by photography GAS (gear acquisition syndrome!) when I was looking at the highly regarded Leica Summicron 35mm f2 lens. Summicron 35mm lenses are crazy expensive and I didn’t want to spend that much money. I saw the size of the Leica Summicron 40mm f2 lens and the much lower price tag and I was immediately interested. I headed over to Flickr to find examples of this lens and reviews seems very positive.
The verdict online seems to be that the Summicron- C 40mm isn’t quite as good as the 35mm Summicron lens but it offers exceptional value for money. The 40mm Summicron is said to be the smallest Leica M lens but I’m not sure that holds true. Collapsible lenses like the Leica Elmar M is smaller when collapsed. Some Leica LTM lenses are also smaller and other brands made small lenses such as the Voigtlander Skopar lenses (M mount and LTM mount)(examples – Voigtlander Color Skopar 21mm f4 lens / Voigtlander Color Skopar 35mm f2.5 lens) and Canon LTM lenses.
Minolta Rokkor-M 40mm vs Summicron 40mm
If you come to buy the Leica Summicron 40mm f2 lens you will find there are 3 similar versions. The Leica Summicron-C 40mm f2, the Minolta Rokkor-M 40mm f2 version 1 and the Minolta Rokkor-M 40mm version 2. Optically I understand that all 3 lenses are identical but the Minolta 40mm later version is said to have better lens coatings. Better coatings makes the Minolta 40mm v2 less prone to flare (unlike the Leica Summicron and Minolta v1). For this reason I purchased a later copy of the Minolta 40mm. Being non Leica branded the Minolta lenses also often sell for less than their Leica sibling. That works for me! I called myself MrLeica.com some years ago but I’m not loyal to any one brand. I just try to use the best cameras and lenses I can afford regardless of the name.
Version 2 Minolta Rokkor-M 40mm Summicron
What you get with this lens is a modern lens coating, mine has a blue tint, in a tiny package with great optics. The Minolta Rokkor-M 40mm has pleasing audible aperture clicks and looks a little similar to my Leica Summarit-M 50mm f2.5 lens but is smaller and lighter.
Minolta Rokkor 40mm Portraits
Example photos using the Minolta 40mm lens on digital Leica cameras
The camera – Leica CL first impressions
When I received my 35mm Leica CL film camera I experienced mixed emotions. I bought the CL specifically for a small Leica M film camera setup. Compared to a Leica M camera such as the Leica M3 the CL is lighter and shorter length ways along the camera body. The camera width is similar as is the camera height. Compared to a Barnack Leica such as my Leica iiia the Leica CL is less long but bigger overall and a similar weight.
Leica CL film camera – build quality
If like me you are used to Leica M cameras (and more recently for me Barnack Leicas) you probably appreciate these cameras for their beautiful build quality. The vintage Leicas are particularly beautiful and the Leica M3 is often said to be the best Leica M camera. I understand better now why the Leica M3 is so nicely built. It was build during the 1950s period when Leica iii cameras were still in production. Most people probably don’t release that the M3 was built before the Leica iiig Barnack.
Anyway where was I.. ah yes the Leica CL. So I am used to the best of the best Leica cameras in terms of built quality so it would be difficult for the Leica CL to impress me. Unlike the precision made all metal Leica M and Leica iii cameras the Leica CL is plastic. It doesn’t feel as light and cheap as perhaps a Cosina Voigtlander camera like the Voigtlander Bessa R3A but it is plastic.
Leica CL film loading
Compared to any other Leica camera I find the the Leica CL film loading very easy. I will record a YouTube video on film loading and link it when I get chance. I’m used to Leica cameras and I find the Barnack Leicas as easy to load as the Leica M2 or M3. My least favourite to load are the later Leicas such as the Leica M4-P or Leica M6. As with all Leica film cameras you should be able to get 38 exposures per roll of film with the CL.
If you are comparing both cameras when would you use each. If I had the choice of Leica M3 vs Leica CL and could only have one camera it would be the M3, no question.
Build – The Leica M3 is a proper Leica camera with the expected precision and metal Leica build quality. The Leica CL is still nicely built but is plastic.
Viewfinder – The Leica M3 has a larger brighter viewfinder with 50/90/135mm framelines. The Leica CL has 40/50/90mm framelines.
Rangefinder – The Leica M3 0.91x magnification rangefinder patch is big bright and contrasty giving a much more accurate rangefinder that is very easy to use. The Leica CL rangefinder patch is small and less magnified (0.6x) making it much more difficult for any sort of precision focusing (such as the portraits I enjoy taking).
Leica M mount – Both the M3 and CL are Leica M mount so this gives access to some amazing M mount lenses. If you already have a digital Leica M camera and want to experiment with film the Leica CL could be a great starting point.
Size and weight – the Leica CL is both smaller and lighter (365g) than a Leica M camera. The Leica M3 is one of the heaviest (580g) Leica M film cameras. The M4P is lighter (520g) if you prefer an M camera to the CL.
Price – The Leica CL is surprisingly affordable for a Leica. This is especially true for a Leica M mount Leica as Barnack Leicas are also good value but they are LTM mount (Leica thread mount).
Lightmeter – the Leica M3 is an early (the first) Leica M camera so it has no light meter. Later models such as the Leica M6 do have a lightmeter. The Leica CL has a built in spot lightmeter so this is helpful if you don’t want to carry a handheld Sekonic light meter (or similar).
Film loading – Leica M3 cameras are quite quick to load (no slower than a Leica M6 for me). Bottom loading like all M cameras. The Leica CL is a different design and the whole camera back detaches making it very easy to load film.
Speed of use – For me the older Leica M3 is faster to use as the rangefinder is far better to quickly focus and shoot. The CL can fire off shots just as quick if less precision is required. The Leica CL has a film rewind crank vs the rewind knob of the M3. This makes the CL faster to reload.
Summary – Leica M3 vs Leica CL
I prefer the Leica M3 for everything except weight. The M3 is quite heavy for it’s size. You will not find a better viewfinder – rangefinder experience than the Leica M3. For precision focusing with fast lenses for my portrait photography I will always chose the M3. If I wanted a Leica for travel photography I would look to take either the Leica CL or a Barnack Leica such as my Leica iiia.
If I could only have the Leica iiia or a Leica CL I would chose the Barnack Leica iii camera. Why? –
Build – The Leica iiia is even nicer than a Leica M3 build wise! Such a beautiful camera with a precision Leica all metal build. The Leica CL is a nice looking camera but more plastic and modern in design.
Viewfinder – The Leica Minolta CL viewfinder is clear with 40/50/90mm framelines. The Leica iiia viewfinder is small and hard to see through easily and is a fixed 50mm view without frame lines. I use hot shoe viewfinders on the Barnack Leica cameras for a clear bright viewfinder (Usually Voigtlander viewfinders).
Rangefinder – The Leica iiia 1.5x magnification rangefinder is small but very accurate due to the longer rangefinder base. The Leica CL rangefinder patch is small and less magnified (0.6x) making it much more difficult for precision focusing at wide apertures when up close to a subject.
Lens Mount – The Leica CL has the common Leica M mount giving access to all the amazing M mount lenses whether Leica, Zeiss or Voigtlander. You can use any lens from your Leica M cameras on the Leica / Minolta CL. The Leica iiia Barnack camera has the Leica screw mount (aka. Leica Thread Mount – LTM) so M mount lenses will not fit. You need to use LTM lenses, L39 or M39 lenses on a Leica iii camera.
Size and weight – The Leica CL and Leica iiia cameras are both small and light. Leica iiia – 410g, Leica CL – 365g. Perfect for travel or for a jacket pocket to keep with you all day.
Price – The Leica CL and Leica iiia cameras are both around 50% cheaper than a Leica M film camera (say a Leica M3 or M6). Leica iii cameras are often seen for less money than a Leica CL on eBay so that is the cheapest option.
Lightmeter – The Leica CL has a built in lightmeter (spot meter) but it is a common feature to break on these cameras. My Leica CL light meter doesn’t work. The 1939 Leica iiia doesn’t have a light meter.
Film loading – The Leica iii cameras are a pain to as you need scissors to cut the film leader before loading film. Leica CL film loading is super fast and easy. Probably the fastest Leica camera to load.
Speed of use – The Leica CL has the common film advance lever as found on the Leica M3 and most film cameras. The CL also has a film rewind crank on the base of the camera so it is quicker to rewind film too. Leica iii cameras have a film advance knob which is slower to operate than a Leica CL or Leica M camera. Leica iii cameras also have a film rewind knob the same as the M3 which are slower than cranks.
Summary – Leica iia vs Leica CL
I prefer the Leica iii vs Leica CL as it is just as small and nearly as light. It is cheaper too and with a far better rangefinder (and build quality). Dislikes of the Leica iiia are the film loading (where you have to cut the film leader prior to loading) and poor viewfinder. The Leica CL is faster to use and faster to load. Perfect for street photography or travel photography when stopping the lens down a little. The Leica iiia is better suited to slower pace photography but I have used it for model photography too.
If you want a cheap Leica M mount camera the common two options are a Leica CL or a Voigtlander Bessa camera. The Voigtlander Bessa R3A is the closest Bessa to the CL as it comes with 40mm frame lines. It was the Bessa R3A that made me buy my first Leica so don’t rule out this camera. The Bessa R3A kit lens the Voigtlander Nokton 40mm f1.4 lens is also excellent. The Nokton 40mm will mount on a Leica CL body for a fast 40mm lens setup (f1.4 vs the Rokkor f2 aperture).
So not to repeat myself with another Leica CL vs camera X list instead I will share 10 facts about the Voigtlander Bessa R3A.
Voigtlander Bessa R3A Specs – 10 Bessa Facts
Viewfinder – Large bright 1:1 magnification viewfinder with 40, 50, 75, 90 framelines (even more magnified than the 0.91x Leica M3!)
Flash sync speed – 1/125 (better than the 1/50 of Leica M film cameras or 1/60 for the Leica CL).
Hotshoe – rather than coldshoe of the M3 (so can use speedlights without adapters – the same as with the Leica CL)
Maximum shutter speed – 1/2000 (for when wanting to use wide apertures in daylight without ND filters)(vs 1/1000 for a CL or M camera)
Build – Cheap plastic feel but light to carry (Leica CL feels better made)
Rangefinder – Voigtlander Bessa Rangefinder can be knocked out of alignment easily (meaning the camera will not focus accurately). (Mine is out of alignment again).
Affordable – Approximately half price of a Leica M at time of buying
Film loaded – Back door film loading is very easy (not via bottom plate)
Lightmeter – TTL Centerweighted light meter that works unlike most Leica CL meters.
Summary – Voigtlander Bessa R3A vs Leica CL
The Leica Minolta CL and Voigtlander Bessa R3A are both nice cameras with their own pros and cons. If the Voigtlander Bessa R3A rangefinder was less prone to mis-alignment it would be a fantastic camera. The Bessa R3A combined 1:1 viewfinder rangefinder is lovely to use and the LED display light meter gives a modern touch. The Bessa R3A dimensions are near identical to a Leica M but it is light weight. Both the CL and R3A cameras offer 40mm framelines if that is your thing. If you want better build quality in a smaller slightly lighter package get the CL. If not get the Bessa. Some Voigtlander Bessa camera prices have gone crazy in recent years, especially the Bessa R4M.
Other cheap lightweight cameras for Leica lenses
There are a few hidden gem cameras out there to consider. If you are only looking to buy a Leica CL to get a lightweight Leica lens setup there are alternatives. If you only shoot wide lenses stopped down and just want a super light camera I can help! Check out the Voigtlander Bessa L if you use LTM lenses – an amazing camera! If you don’t use Leica thread mount lenses look at the Voigtlander Bessa T. The Bessa T camera is a Leica M mount version of the Bessa L.
Leica CL film – Test roll
Here are some photos from my Leica CL test roll shot out exploring in Romania. Photos were taken mostly using 2 lenses – Minolta Rokkor-M 40mm f2 and Canon 28mm f2.8 LTM lens. Film is expired 35mm Kodak Portra 160 exposed at ISO 100.
Leica Minolta CL or Leica CLE (Minolta CLE)
I must be confess. I messed up when I bought my CL and was a little disappointed. My main interest of having a Leica CL was for the 28mm framelines. 28mm framelines in a small Leica camera body for the perfect travel camera. After reading many reviews on both the Leica CL and CLE I bought the CL. I wanted a manual camera that didn’t rely on batteries to operate so that ruled out the CLE. The Leica CL is also around half the price of a Minolta CLE which also helped my choice!
What I overlooked was the fact that the Leica CL doesn’t have 28mm framelines. Doh. Only the Minolta CLE has 28mm framelines. I wish Leica-Minolta had made a CL2, just a CL with 28mm framelines included. Sadly they didn’t. You can get the mentioned Voigtlander Bessa R4M or R4A which have 28mm framelines but they are expensive. The cost of a Bessa R4M is more than a Leica M6 camera that I already have. For 28mm lenses on the CL I had to settle for using an external 28mm hotshoe viewfinder. This gives me a precision composition or I can just guestimate by using the whole CL viewfinder area. (The CL viewfinder area is closer to 35mm).
Reservations of the Minolta CLE
My main reservations is the Minolta CLE is an electronic camera that needs batteries to function. I worry about buying a camera where if the electronics suddenly die it’s a dead camera that can’t be repaired (most of the time). One of my Fuji GA645 electronic cameras suddenly just died one day without warning. I much prefer fully manual cameras or as manual as possible. Even the Mamiya RZ67 Pro II can be a pain due to it’s electronics. A Hasselblad 500 camera is better in that regard – nice and simple.
Conclusion – Leica CL film camera
So to conclude. Will you like the Leica CL film camera? If you don’t own any other Leica cameras then probably yes. For those people that enjoy small cameras then yes the CL will probably interest you. If you own Leica M cameras and lenses and want a lighter setup then yes the CL is a good choice. Cost wise the CL is a bargain compared to most Leica cameras, as is the 40mm Minolta Rokkor-M 40mm lens (recommended!).
How will I use the Leica Minolta CL?
I will probably not use the Leica CL film camera for portraits too often and that is bulk of my photography. The CL is a good camera to have for when wanting to travel light and use Leica M mount lenses. If I stop the lens down I could have a killer travel camera setup using the Leica Macro-Elmar-M 90mm f4 lens, the Minolta 40mm and say the Leica Elmarit-M 28mm f2.8 lens. For wider lenses I will probably use the Voigtlander Bessa L camera or the Leica iiia.
YouTube: Leica CL film camera review
Summary table / Spec sheet
Leica CL vs Leica M3 vs Leica iiia vs Voigtlander Bessa R3A
Here is the key information about each camera for a quick side by side comparison. There is no clear winner for all categories so it is about using the right tool for the job, or compromise if only using one camera.
This article provides a Barnack Leica comparison and aims to give a basic understanding of the vintage Leica Barnack cameras. It compares the Leica i, ii, iii cameras and explains the common features found with Leica iiia, b,c,d,e,f,g cameras+ YouTube video.
Leica i vs Leica ii vs Leica iii
The Leica i, Leica ii and Leica iii cameras all share the same Barnack Leica camera body design but there are differences. Here is a quick summary:
Leica i – No viewfinder/ rangefinder or slow shutter speeds
The Leica i cameras such as the Leica ic (*not the Leica I original or the Leica I Standard) have no viewfinder or rangefinder built into the camera. Instead the Leica i camera has two coldshoe mounts on the camera top plate. This feature is an easy way to quickly identify a Leica i camera. The two coldshoe attachments let you mount both an external viewfinder and external rangefinder. The Leica i cameras also have no slow shutter speed dial on the front of the camera and this is replaced by a patch. (The same as seen on a Leica ii camera)(see below).
Leica ii – No slow shutter speed dial
The Leica ii cameras such as the Leica iic is the same as the Leica iii cameras except there is no slow shutter speed dial. As with the Leica i camera the absence of the slow shutter speed dial is covered with a patch. If the camera has the viewfinder and rangefinder windows and a patch on the front it is a Leica ii camera.
Leica iii – Many versions – Leica iiia, b,c,d,e,f,g
As with the first Leica LTM camera (of this series) being called the Leica i then Leica ii then iii then same is true for the lettering. The Leica iii ‘a’ camera was designed and released first. Next followed the Leica iiib, Leica iiic, d, Leica iiif and finally the last model the Leica iiig.
Popular Cameras: Leica iiia vs Leica iiic vs Leica iiif
I have the Leica iiia and the Leica iiig cameras but I think the most popular models are the Leica iiic and the Leica iiif. This is potentially the case because they are ‘refined’ or later versions of the Leica iiia camera but half the price of the Leica iiig camera. The Leica iiic and Leica iiif both have a single eyepiece with a split rangefinder and viewfinder window. The earlier Leica iiia has two separate windows, rangefinder on the left and viewfinder on the right.
The Leica iiia is the lightest of the Leica iii cameras so perfect for my taste. The Leica iiif has the self timer which is absent on the Leica iiic. In most other respects all of these cameras mentioned are near identical. (*They will have slight differences/ improvements over time).
Leica iiia vs Leica iiig
These two Barnack cameras are opposite ends of the Leica iii camera series. The Leica iiia was released in 1935 and is the first Leica iii camera to have a letter . In contrast the Leica iiig was the last Leica iii camera produced, released in 1957. You can read more about the Leica iiia camera on a previous article – Leica iiia (+ vs Leica M3)
Leica iiig vs Leica M3
The Leica iiig vs Leica M3 are more comparable than you might think even though one camera is a Leica M and the other is a Barnack Leica. Why? The Leica M3 was actually released before the Leica iiig and is the camera that killed off the Leica iii series. The ‘modern’ (at the time) new design of the Leica M3 brought many benefits over the Leica iiif (and the later Leica iiig).
Here are 3 features of the Leica M3 that I see as an improvement over the Leica iiig (and other Leica iii cameras).
“Improved” film loading
The Leica iiif and Leica iiig both share the same film loading process where you have to physically cut a strip out of every roll of 35mm film before loading it into the camera. This both wastes a couple of useable frames and is a pain if you use different 35mm film cameras (as I do). (You don’t want to pre-cut all your film if you may use it in your Nikon FE2 or Leica M film camera (as per this example)). Non-Leica iii camera don’t need the extra-long film leader (from cutting the film for the Leica iii).
Unlike the Leica iii cameras the new Leica M3 camera design allows the back of the camera to be opened while film is loaded. This improves visibility when loading film into a Leica M3 (or any Leica M film camera) and you can see if the film is both aligned (loaded straight) and engaged into the sprockets (will advance when you push the film advance lever). With all that said, after loading 3-4 rolls of film into a Leica iii camera it is just as easy to load film into as the M3. The only negative towards the Leica iii cameras is having to cut the film before loading.
The new Leica M3 offer a much bigger brighter combined viewfinder and rangefinder window. The Leica iiig still has the split single eyepiece design with one window for the rangefinder and one window for the viewfinder. Combining both into one view makes the Leica M camera much faster to focus, compose and shoot. Leica engineers tried to improve the Leica iiig (over the Leica iiif) by fitting a larger viewfinder. All previous Leica iii cameras only show a small 50mm view which is not easy to see clearly for accurate composition.
Leica iii photographers can overcome this drawback by fitting an external Leica 50mm viewfinder (or say a 35mm finder if they want to mount a 35mm lens). The Leica iiig is the only Leica iii camera to have a larger viewfinder that displays both 50mm and 90mm frame lines. Larger than the Leica iiif (and other Leica iii cameras) but still smaller than the Leica M3 viewfinder.
The Leica M3 viewfinder gives 50mm, 90mm and 135mm framelines and in my view is the best viewfinder of any 35mm film camera. Period.
New Leica M mount lenses
The Leica M3 camera also brought with it a new lens mount to become known as the Leica M mount. This is a bayonet fit design rather than the Leica screw mount fitting of the Leica iii cameras. (Screw mount is also known as Leica Thread Mount – LTM, L39 or M39). The older Leica glass from the Leica iii cameras can be mounted to a Leica M camera. You just need a Leica M-LTM adapter which can be found easily on ebay for around £10.
Sadly if you want to work back through history as I seem to be doing, Leica M mount lenses cannot be mounted to a Barnack Leica camera. You may own a Leica M camera (digital or film) and a few nice Leica M mount lenses like me. You can’t use your M mount lenses on a Leica iii camera (if you were to purchase one). Like me, you will need to buy additional LTM lenses for your Leica iii camera. (Review on these LTM lenses to follow!)
Latest technology meant these ‘modern’ Leica M mount lenses were new and improved over the older LTM lenses. The modern lens optics and new lens coatings made the optical performance of these Leica M lenses very desirable. This is probably a popular reason why some photographers upgraded. Moving to the new Leica M system and away from the Barnack Leicas.
More modern often means bigger!
As seems to be the case with cars, a modern Mini Cooper seems twice the size of the original Mini. The same is often true for lenses. As lens designers try to fit additional features into a lens the size generally increases. This is also true for the Leica M camera. Compared to the Leica iiia the Leica M3 body is over 25% heavier and has larger dimensions. The Leica iiig is the largest Leica iii camera and is closer in size to the Leica M3 but the M3 is still bigger. For me the compact size of the early Leica Barnack cameras is enough to own one. That is one plus for the Leica iii system vs Leica M system.
So if and when you come to buy an old Oscar Barnack design Leica camera you will be faced with lots of model numbers and letters. At first glance most of these LTM Leica cameras look very similar. When looking to buy myself I noticed that the prices vary widely so I knew that there must be some differences. I’m always eager to buy the best camera(s) I can so I did lots more research first. Below is a summary of what I learnt about the different Leica i, Leica ii, Leica iii (a,b,c,d,e,f,g) cameras.
Barnack Leica Comparison Table
*Table includes information available online from multiple sources
Best Leica iii Camera?
So with everything above considered what is the best Leica iii camera? I guess the answer will be different for everyone. If you like small, light and compact you will probably love the Leica iiia that I use. For more features a later Leica iiic or Leica iiif may suit you and these are easy to find on eBay. If you want the ultimate Leica iii camera it would be the Leica iiig. It has the larger viewfinder and offers the most features of any of the Barnack Leica cameras.
I hope you found this useful and i’m sorry there are some gaps in the data table above. Some camera facts just don’t seem to be recorded anywhere, such as camera weight of each model.
Ilford Pan 400 Review + (Kentmere 400 vs Pan 400 film)
Here is my Ilford Pan 400 review after shooting my first few rolls of this budget B&W film. I compare Ilford Pan 400 vs Kentmere 400 after buying a 10 pack of each film. (See the Kentmere 400 review for full details but I include the Kentmere 400 vs Ilford Pan 400 YouTube video here too).
35mm Ilford Pan 400 B&W film – Specs
Ilford Pan 400 film is said to be a reasonably fine grain emulsion with good sharpness and contrast. As the name suggests it is a panchromatic film (like most film stocks) which has good latitude and is easy to develop. Like with Kentmere 400 film Ilford Pan 400 is a budget black and white film priced lower than the other Ilford branded films. It is a cheap alternative to 400 speed films such as Ilford HP5, Ilford Delta 400 or Kodak TMax 400.
Ilford Pan films – Pan 100 and Pan 400
Ilford sells two Ilford “Pan” branded films. Those are Ilford Pan 400, as reviewed here and also it’s sibling, the amazing Ilford Pan 100. After I discovered the Pan 100 film it was instant love! I would compare it to Kodak TMax 100 film with it’s fine grain, good sharpness and strong contrast.
Here is a taster of Ilford Pan 100 if you are interested in a 100 speed film –
Pan 400 Street Photography
Here are some edited Ilford Pan 400 street photography images from my first roll. The film did all I asked. No complaints at all! (See below for more examples).
My first roll of Ilford Pan 400 film – more samples
As with my Kentmere 400 review, for my first roll of Ilford Pan 400 I tried some street photography (or photography in the street). Here are a few more film scans from that roll. Nothing special, I just wanted to finish one roll of each film that days so I photographed anything that caught my eye.
All photos shot with the 35mm Voigtlander Bessa L camera and Voigtlander Super Wide Heliar 15mm f4.5 lens.
Ilford Pan 400 vs Kentmere Pan 400 review
After buying a 10 pack of both Ilford Pan 400 film and Kentmere 400 film I was keen to see how each compared. Both films are manufactured by Ilford and both are 35mm 400 speed black and white budget-priced film. To complicate it further, the latest box design now calls Kentmere 400 “Pan 400”! Time for a Ilford Pan 400 vs Kentmere review / shoot out comparison test.
After exposing my first roll of each film I would say the Ilford Pan 400 is worth paying the very slightly higher price tag (vs. Kentmere). To my eyes anyway. I’m not a pixel peeper but Pan 400 just looks ‘better’ or at worst no different. Both Kentmere 400 and Ilford Pan 400 films perform great and I have no concerns but I think Pan 400 has that edge. Pan 400 looks slightly sharper or with higher resolution from my test. You can decide for yourself from the sample images I share.
My conclusion findings is very much as expected after using Kentmere 100 and Ilford Pan 100 films before. Pan 100 is an awesome film that is well worth trying and Kentmere 100 is nice too.
Shooting more Ilford Pan 400 on a run in Poland
Each morning during my Poland trips I get up early and out for a run (and explore) before breakfast. It works well for me to see more of the area before the models start to arrive. I was running with different cameras (YouTube video to follow on that) but on this day I had the Voigtlander Bessa L with me again.
The Voigtlander Bessa L is an unusual camera in that there is no viewfinder or rangefinder. I just love that it is so lightweight it is perfect for my needs when running. For this run I used the lesser known and probably even more less popular lens, the Soviet Orion-15 28mm f6 lens. (I need to review this too!) Why this lens? Because it too is crazy light weight (and also I like to experiment!) I used a cheap and broken 28mm hotshoe viewinder taped together to give me an approximate composition but I later wished it was more precise. (I will get a proper 28mm finder for next time). To focus I guessed (often badly) via hyperfocal distance. Looking at the images in some photos I forgot to adjust focus but it adds to the imperfect vintage look I guess.
So this is a series of images as they unfolded as I discovered this cool place. It was around 7:30am on a Sunday and strangely empty. There were security cameras on every post but no people, just me (dressed like a weird keeno runner in leggings and my ultra bandana). I’m guessing I was easy to see and after I got onto the road I realised I was being followed by an unmarked car. After a bit I think they realised I was a harmless weirdo tourist and moved on / I think I turned off and ran away from his area (heading towards the power plant).
Then I got lucky..
Lucky to me is like yawn to most people but I loved it! So in the sequence of frames below you see me photo the building with the power plant behind. Next I cross the new bridge and see the loco beneath and then the wagons on the tracks. After this I run further to the plant in the distance. Once I get there I see a loco pulling the same log wagons into the power plant. It’s not a sight I see in the UK and I like the idea of documenting some history. (Before we have a clean green planet and this is all gone). I fired off more shots then crossed the bridge to see the train with the power plant back lit by the sun. My compositions were poor as I was guessing but I love the last photo especially (the edit). What a great morning! (I need to cancel all models one day and then I will have time to run further/ longer and discover more new cool stuff. I’m usually limited to around 3 hours tops before the first model starts.
Scans + Lightroom
As with most my photos I only have time to edit like 1% of them so the first and last image shared below are edits and the rest are just scans cropped and aligned in Lightroom. I might edit a few more for Flickr at a later date like the bridge shot (shot in the road). I love a good bridge!
Pan 400 Photos
Photos shot with Voigtlander Bessa L + Orion-15 28mm f6 @f6 + 35mm Ilford Pan 400 film (scanned with Epson v800 scanner)(tone as scanned).
Ilford Pan 400 Portraits
Don’t worry after all these ‘boring’ street and exploring photos I shot some portraits too! Sadly I’ve not had time to edit many yet but check back soon and I’ll keep adding them in here.
Here is my first Ilford Pan 400 portrait and I’m loving the look of this film (or maybe it’s the look of the model!). No but seriously this film is good and well worth trying if you can find it. I shot a few portraits in Poland with Kentmere 400 film too and I prefer the fine grain and contrast of Pan 400.
Ilford Pan 400 review – First impressions
So to summarise, if you read my Kentmere 400 review my first impressions are nearly identical to as stated there. Kentmere 400 is a good film but if I have the choice of both films at similar prices I will buy 35mm Ilford Pan 400.
As with Kentmere… from seeing the results of Ilford Pan 400 film I can say that I will be happy to use it as my new go to 400 speed black and white film. As already stated I love the tone, the fine grain, the contrast. To me it reminds me of Kodak TMax but with a slightly more classic look (from less resolution and detail I think). Ilford Pan 400 is easy to develop and no different to Kentmere 400 in that regard. Pan 400 is slightly more expensive vs. Kentmere but the price is still reasonable for a 400 speed film.
As with the Kentmere 400 film I bought, I plan to shoot Ilford Pan 400 at ISo 400-800 and maybe 1600. When there is sufficient light I will still use Fomapan 100 as my main 35mm B&W film for ISO 100/200 (upto 400). (Fomapan 100 Classic is cheap but it is not quite as good as Ilford Pan film (100 or 400).
Where to buy Ilford Pan 400 film
In the past it was difficult/ impossible to buy Ilford Pan 400 film in the UK. I had to import my Pan 400 from Germany. This is also true for Ilford Pan 100 film. Thankfully Pan 400 film is now listed on Amazon in the UK (but it doesn’t seem available outside of Europe). Sorry. (*Pan 400 film is also not listed on the Ilford UK website so make of that as you will).
35mm Ilford Pan 400 film – Amazon UK (Europe only)