Leica R6 vs Nikon FE2 Shootout (Kodak Vision3 500T Portraits) + YouTube
Have you ever wondered if the more expensive Leica R6 camera produces “better” (subjective I know!*) photos than the lower priced Nikon FE2 camera? I was interested for my own photography so I set about organising two model photo shoots where I could use both cameras side by side.
Camera Test Parameters
I wanted to keep as many variables as constant as possible to make the results more comparable. All images are shot by myself with my own equipment and I shot the photos one after each other so that the lighting would be constant. I asked the models to try to keep still and hold a similar pose and expression where possible (though it was a normal fun photoshoot so it was not set in stone)(It needs to be fun too!).
Leica R6 vs Nikon FE2- Test Criteria
- 50mm prime lens fitted on both cameras and all photos shot at f2 aperture
- No lens hood attached/ pulled out on either lens
- Both cameras had already been recently film tested by me
- Film in both cameras was exposed at ISO 200 (*Overexposed as expired film)
- Film for both cameras was spooled from the same bulk roll of Vision3 film
- All film processed/ developed in the same 3 reel Paterson tank
- Film negatives scanned with an Epson V800 scanner (flatbed) as TIF files
- Film scans processed through Adobe Lightroom and exported as small JPEG
- Images colour corrected + exposure / contrast adjustment in Lightroom
Two Camera Setup
- Leica R6 + Leica Summicron-R 50mm f2 v2 lens + Kodak Vision3 500T film
- Nikon FE2 + Nikkor 50mm f1.8 pancake v3 lens + Kodak Vision3 500T film
Leica R6 Review
Before reviewing the images, if you’ve never come across a Leica R6 SLR camera you may want to watch this Leica R6 review first –
Nikon FE2 Review
Equally if you are not up to speed on Nikon SLR cameras such as the Nikon FE2 you may enjoy this Nikon FE2 review as part of a broader camera comparison –
Kodak Vision3 500T Film (Motion Picture Film)
To better understand the process I went through to develop the film for this test, you might first need to understand more about the film that I used. All images were shot with expired bulk roll Kodak Vision3 500T motion picture film. First I had to spool the film to load into the 35mm cameras. Then once the film was developed I had to remove the remjet layer (see the video) before developing. I cross processed this ECN-2 film using my usual C-41 film chemistry as I the results work for me. As the film is expired, I exposed the ISo 500 speed film at ISo 200 to give me good exposure and shadow detail. (From my previous results this works well for my taste).
Leica SLR vs Nikon SLR Shootout – Images Compared
First I share pairs of similar images so you can compare the Leica R6 photos vs the Nikon FE2 photos. All images on the left are Leica R6 portraits, all images on the right are Nikon FE2 images.
Gallery – Leica R6 Portraits
As mentioned above, all Leica R6 portraits in this series were shot with a Leica Summicron-R 50mm f2 v2 lens at ISo 200 (In camera metering – I use the Leica R6 spot meter not matrix). The 50mm Summicron-R design has a built in slide out lens hood (which I didn’t use) and a recessed front lens element. Leica R lenses are said to render images warmer than their Leica M siblings. This seems to hold true from my results. Perhaps due to the lens design or lens coatings, I saw very little lens flare or loss of contrast in these images.
Nikon FE2 Portraits
The Nikon FE2 portraits were taken with the Nikkor 50mm f1.8 version 3 pancake lens, with no hood and the lens set at f2 for all images. The Nikkor glasses looks to give a cooler tone compared to the Leica Summicron-R 50mm f2 lens. This makes sense as the Leica R lenses are known to give a warmer look. Perhaps due to no lens hood and the lens design (a more exposed front lens element), the images seem to show more lens flare and less contrast verses the Leica images.
Leica R6 vs Nikon FE2 – Verdict?
I know I will state the obvious, but sometimes for us photography GAS sufferers I need to. Both cameras and lenses can take very nice photos and either setup is capable of making both you and the model (in this instance) very happy. The lens is what makes the image (+ the film) not the camera, but you need a camera that lets you focus and meter accurately to complete the task. Different lenses will transform the look of the final images even using the same camera body. Again stating the obvious. Let me break it down into two conclusions –
Leica R6 Performance – Conclusion
The Leica R6 is the more expensive camera with the more expensive lens so in theory you would expect it to perform better (based purely on cost)(“Better” is subjective so I expect the results to give mixed comments from readers). We know that cost is usually not directly proportional to performance but the lens showed better flare resistance and higher contrast. The Leica R6 camera lens setup is bigger and heavier than the Nikon with less camera functionality so that is worth noting too.
Nikon FE2 Performance – Conclusion
Despite calling myself MrLeica, I am a big fan of the Nikon FE2 camera too. I went out of my way to find the version 3 pancake lenses used in this test because of it’s performance and close focus ability. I feel Nikon SLR cameras offer exceptional value for money and the lenses available are almost endless. Being a smaller lighter camera-lens setup and lower value it is my ideal SLR setup for overseas photoshoots when I have to pack light.
Leica R6 vs Nikon FE2 – And the winner is..?
This is where we may disagree. Most Leica photographers want perfection from their camera(s) (in terms of build quality) but also perfection in terms of image quality. We could class perfection in this test as accurate colours, good contrast and sufficient detail in the images.
But there is a difference between perfect and perfectly imperfect. As a creative who used to paint and sketch before picking up a camera, I like imperfect images often more than perfect. Those ‘happy accident’ photos or end of the film roll photos are often my favourites. And with that said, I prefer the blue hues and lower contrast, and perhaps more ‘grain’ of the Nikon FE2 photos in most cases over the Leica R images. (*Note – see below for more Leica R images with a different lens).
Which camera was the winner for you?
Comment below or on the YouTube video – which camera do you think performed the best? Or I guess I should say, which set of images do you prefer?
Pimp your Nikon camera!
Die hard Nikon fans may not agree, but many of us appreciate that the Voigtlander SL lenses in Nikon mount can really improve the performance of your Nikon camera in terms of optically. I realise this is a sweeping statement so here are two videos to back up my comment. First I compare a few Nikon lenses vs Voigtlander lenses and second I share the results from the Voigtlander SL lenses.
Nikon lenses vs Voigtlander lenses
Voigtlander SL lenses for Nikon cameras
More Leica R6 Portrait Images – Summicron R 35mm
Lastly, here are more Leica R6 portrait photos from the same shoot with Jada but this time using the Leica Summicron-R 35mm f2 lens (Not 50mm).
I think the colours vary slightly as from the different scanning sessions (and me adjusting colours by eye). I prefer the these colours with the 35mm Summicron R lens (when the blues are blue), verses those shares with the Summicron 50mm R lens above. The blue top and blue eyes against Jada’s red hair and freckly skin gives a really beautiful contrast. (You might think it was a lucky accident!)(or perhaps just careful planning!) These are some of my favourite images from the day so i’m not saying Nikon is great and Leica is bad.
Digital Photos with Leica Summicron-R lenses
To see how the Leica Summicron R lenses perform on a digital sensor you can also check out this post. Here I use the lenses on the Lumix S5 camera –
Leica R6 vs Nikon FE2 (Part 2)
From memory I also shot similar images to these with the Leica R6 and 35mm lens with the Nikon and a 40mm Voigtlander SL lens. That film might still be in the camera as I’ve not seen the images yet. If I find them I will aim to post a part 2! (Leica glass vs Voigtlander glass on the same cameras).
More Nikon FE2 Portraits – 2 Model Shoots in B&W
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10 thoughts on “Leica R6 vs Nikon FE2 Shootout (Kodak Vision3)”
I agree with your assessment. As I was going through the image comparisons, I was thinking what you wrote. Great content, thanks for posting it.
Thank you Henry! 🙂 See you on Patreon again soon!
Ok, interesting idea, however tests like these only work well in the digital world. Longtime film shooters know that cameras don’t differentiate film because everything after exposure happens between processing and development. even in the digital world different scanners produce different results. The only main difference between the two cameras has to do with price, ergonomics and availability. As for meetering you might have tried using a hand held meeter using the same reading of which you would probably have gotten the same results on both cameras. The end result is personal choice and experience. Film is very misunderstood by the digital generation and film cameras are just the start of a long process ending with the final print.
Thank you well said. I don’t use digital Nikon cameras so I was just interested to see how I enjoyed the processed of the Nikon setup compared to with the Leica. The experience was similar with both and the images close enough so now I know I can take the Nikon if I need to pack lighter and still be happy with the results.
Thanks Horace! Yes agreed a film camera is not the best way to test a lens but I was more interested in testing the full camera-lens setup (as a user). Does camera A plus lens A work for me, both in use and the final images or do I need to use camera B plus lens B. As it turned out I would be happy with either setup so that’s good for me to know for future trips overseas.
Nice report! I had a few paragraphs in reply, then the power went out and lost it all. So let me redo some of it.
In short, ergonomics is what matters to me. A DSLR is not conducive for the type of street shooting I do. I prefer a small footprint and a camera I can put a shutter button on to ‘palm’ for shooting from the hip.
This is a candid photo made with a Leica. I took it as I got up from sitting next to her and walked away. It is zone focused, estimated exposure and palmed shutter release. You don’t take candid photos like this squatting down in front of them, framing, focusing and shooting. You shoot them on the fly…in a blink of the eye!
Auto focus will beat a rangefinder for fast focus…unless it wont focus in low light or focuses on the wrong thing. That is where the Leica shines…for zone focus and for a smaller footprint. You can also focus a Leica or Zeiss lens just by feel…you don’t even have to look at it. (But feel focus is for zone focus and not critical focus.) Yes, you can put a manual lens on a DSLR…but it is still a giant DSLR. The ergonomics is what makes the Leica a better street camera for me. I carry the camera all day in my hand. No shoulder strap, just a wrist strap. The Leica works better for that type of shooting than a giant DLSR.
But if I was shooting sports…I’d go with a DSLR. And if Fuji made a Leica knockoff rangefinder 1/4 the price of a Leica…I’d probably use it. I’m not in love with Leica. It is just a tool to bring home the goods. It just so happens that Leica is the only game in town with digital rangefinders.
I was hoping Olympus would someday make a mini-rangefinder M4/3 like the old half-frame Olympus film cameras. All manual like a Leica. Now that would be a great street cam! The M4/3’s produce nice IQ photos, but are too hard to adjust manually on the fly.
Thanks Daniel, yes zone focus is fastest, then good AF, the RF I would say, though I prefer RF for weddings as like street I like to see what is going on both inside and outside the frame. SLRs are great for my portraits but i’m still a RF guy at heart!
Out of date film, adjusted ISO to counter speed loss, scanned and then manipulated with digital software. Yeah, a great scientific test.
Thanks Terry! I’m comparing like for like and it was for my own interest so it worked well for my needs. All images from same bulk roll, exposed the same, developed in same tank, scanned the same so I was more than happy with my results.