Lens Filters for Leica M Cameras

Lens Filters for Leica M Cameras

Matthew Osborne Photography / Mr Leica

January 2018

P1050178LR

For model photography and my usual Leica portrait work I don’t normally use camera lens filters that often, and especially not for digital photography (more with film cameras).  I own yellow filters, blue, various ND filters (neutral density), IR-cut, polarising filters, warming filters, cooling filters and lots of UV filters (and Skylight filters) in various sizes.  Each filter has a purpose.

Lens Filters Explained

Quick summary of what I use each lens filter for (plus a few extra filters I have for other cameras) –

  • Yellow filter: Black and white film photography (portraits & landscapes) – to lighten yellows/ darken blues
  • Orange filter: B&W film photography (landscapes) – to lighten oranges/ darken blue skies (higher contrast), and helps penetrate mist and fog
  • Red filter: B&W film photography (landscapes) – to lighten reds more and makes blues skies turn black (very strong contrast), also helps penetrate mist and fog
  • Green filter: B&W film photography (landscapes) – to lighten green foliage
  • Blue filter (“cooling filter”) (shades of blue like 80C & 82B): Colour film photography – to colour correct tungsten balanced film when used in daylight. Film like Cinestill 800T, Kodak Vision3 200T/ 500T
  • Warming filter (shades of amber like 81A & 81C): Colour film photography – to colour correct daylight balanced film when used in indoors with tungsten light. Film like Cinestill 50D/ Kodak Vision3 50D, Kodak Portra 160/400/800, Fuji Pro 400H and most colour film available today
  • Polarising filter (or more specifically circular polarising filter): (landscapes) – to darken blue skies and make the clouds “pop”.  Can also be used to adjust reflections on water / surfaces (to more or less reflection)
  • Neutral density filters (ND filters): For fast lenses (lenses with wide maximum aperture like f1-f1.2-f1.4)(all cameras) – I use ND filters when shooting in bright conditions with flash and also on the older Leica M film cameras (such as a Leica M3) that only have a maximum shutter speed of 1/1000 (vs. 1/4000 for the Leica M240). In practice I only really use ND filters on the Leica Noctilux 50mm f1.0 lens in the UK as the weather is rarely “too bright” for most lenses.
  • IR-cut filter (Infrared cut off filter): (digital Leica M8 colour photography) – Without the IR-cut filter the colours from the M8 are not natural looking. (*See details in link below – Leica M8 & IR-cut filter post)
  • UV filters: I went through a period of getting clear UV filters for most of my Leica M lenses to protect the front element from damage.  I find I attach the UV filters for my Leica wedding photography mostly after an expensive lens was damaged at a wedding (Nikkor 35mm f1.4 G lens – pre Leica days).  Apart from wedding photos and some travel photography I don’t use UV filters too much now.

Using filters on a Leica camera (compared to on a SLR/DSLR)

Leica vs. DSLR – Using filters – Disadvantage

One thing to note for fellow Leica photographers is if you’ve not used a circular polarising filter (CPL) on your Leica camera before you might find it is a bit of a fiddle (I did!).  This was especially the case for me when I was frequently moving locations and shooting in multiple directions (north, south, east, west and all angles in between).  When photographing with a SLR/ DSLR camera you look through the lens to compose an image. This means that with a CPL filter on the end of the lens you can just look through the camera to see the effect of the filter. Easy. (For example if you point the lens at the sky and then rotate the CPL filter you can see the sky get lighter or darker blue and you can stop at the desired look).  With a Leica camera we don’t view or focus an image through the lens like a DSLR.  Therefore to see the impact of a polarizing filter you have to take the CPL filter off the lens and hold it up to the scene/ sky  to look through it and see what angle of rotation gives the desired look. You then need to reattach the CPL filter to the lens and remember the preferred orientation (for example to give a more vivid blue sky might be number 5 on the CPL filter ring at the 12 O’clock position ). To complicate things further, if you are then switching between landscape and portrait orientation when holding the camera you need to turn the polarizing filter each time you turn the camera. If you are then using a clip on lens hood (as I was) that covers the filter you need to take off the hood to see/ move the CPL every time you take an image in a different direction or orientation. Maybe I just like to make life difficult for myself!

For normal/ traditional landscape photography however where you setup a tripod with the camera pointed in one direction and wait for a few hours for the best light to hit a scene, this will not be an issue as you only need to go through the filter “setup” process once.

*Note – Please note this is only an issue with a Leica film camera or an earlier digital Leica camera such as the Leica M8 and Leica M9.  The digital Leica M240 (and Leica M10) both have LiveView so you can review the impact of the filter if you compose with the LiveView option rather as with the viewfinder.

Leica vs. DSLR – Using filters – Filter Advantage

DSLR users don’t always have it easier than Leica photographers though. When it comes to neutral density filters like a 10 stop Lee Big Stopper,  with a DSLR camera you need to focus on the subject first then attach the ND filter otherwise you can’t see anything through the lens. With a Leica camera you view the scene via the viewfinder/ window on the top left of the camera body rather than through the lens so you can leave a ND filter attached throughout a shoot and make various new compositions with ease.

*Note – The only downside to not looking through the lens with a Leica camera is you can leave the lens cap on all day and not notice until you get back to your computer/ dark room that all the images are black.  (This is more of an issue with a Leica film camera as most digital Leica cameras have the rear LCD and default to a preview image after each photo is taken.  With film Leica cameras there is no chimping at the LCD so you need to be more focused and make sure the lens cap is off!).

Filter Rings (Step Up Rings)

A set of good quality filters (such as some of those mentioned above) is expensive so it doesn’t help when lenses come in different shapes and sizes.  Leica M mount lenses come in a variety of filter thread sizes and mine vary from the smallest thread size being 39mm (classic Leica filter thread size) through to 60mm for the Leica Noctilux 50mm f1.0 v2 lens.  Some Leica photographers choose to invest in a set of lenses with a common filter thread size so any filter fits any lens.  An example from the lenses I own is the following lenses all have a 39mm filter thread; Leica Elmarit-M 28mm f2.8, Voigtlander Color Skopar 35mm f2.5, Leica Summicron 50mm f2, Leica Macro-Elmar-M 90mm f4  and Leica Elmar 135mm f4. For this reason a bought a few 39mm filters to retain the small lens size/ diameter/ compactness of the 39mm lens-camera setup.

For my main set of filters I use the 52mm size as I already owned some 52mm filters that I had used on my smaller Nikkor lens (pre-Leica days).  I then bought various low cost Chinese step rings on eBay to step up the filter diameter size from 39mm, 43mm, 46mm and 49mm to 52mm filter size.  This is a much cheaper option than buying a set of filters for every thread size and I can use one set of filters on nearly all my Leica M mount lenses.  The only exception is the Leica Noctilux 50mm f1.0 v2 lens where I had to get a few larger 60mm filters for it but I find I use these on some of my non-Leica camera setups (or with a 52mm-60mm step ring on smaller Leica M mount lenses).  I guess the best tip is buy a set of filters to fit your largest lens and then get step-up rings so they can be mounted on your smaller lenses.

Summary

I’m sure most readers knew 99% of that information already but if you are currently using a DSLR camera and are tempted to make the jump to a Leica rangefinder camera it may be of some use.  Equally if you are just starting out with your photography and have perhaps one camera and one kit lens some of this information might save you some money in the long run.  Lastly if you have never used a film camera but are looking to try film in 2018 I think the coloured filtered used with black and white film photography give some of the most interesting results.

Related Links

 

Thanks

Matt

 

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Hasselblad Fashion Photography – Poland

Hasselblad Fashion Photography – Poland

(Hasselblad 501C & Leica M Typ 240 Model Photography)

October 2015

Matthew Osborne Photography / MrLeica.com

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Intro

I have lost count of how many trips I have made to Poland now. This is model photography visit number 3 for Poland in 2015 I think! I will link the previous trips at the end of this post if interested. Each time I visit I make new contacts and so have more and more models to choose from. This is the first visit where there were 5+ models wanting photos but I was already fully booked.  As my photography matures I get more selective with the models I work with so to try to create the best possible images.

Camera gear for Poland

On previous visits I have packed as many as 4 cameras I think from memory together with an array of lenses. For this trip I decided to try to keep it simple. The plan was two cameras and two lenses and that was all. When packing I found I then had some spare capacity so added a few extras bits! For this visit it was all about the Hasselblad 501C camera! I was so excited to get there and get started!

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Camera bag:

  • Leica M Typ 240 digital camera
  • Leica Noctilux 50mm f1.0 v2 lens
  • Hasselblad 501C medium format film camera
  • Zeiss Makro-Planar 120mm f4 CF lens
  • Zeiss Planar 80mm f2.8 CF kit lens
  • Hasselblad A12 film back (x2)
  • Hasselblad PM 45 degree prism finder
  • Yellow filter, 81B warming filter, 82C blue filter
  • Bellows lens hood
  • Sirui P-326 carbon monopod
  • Shutter cable release
  • 5in1 reflector
  • 120 medium format film (see below)

Colour film:

  • Kodak Portra 160, 400, 800
  • Kodak Portra 160NC (expired)
  • Kodak Ektar 100
  • Fuji Pro 400H

Black and white film:

  • Kodak Tri-X 400
  • Kodak T-Max 400
  • Fuji Acros 100
  • Fomapan 100
  • Ilford Delta 100
  • Ilford Delta 3200

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Leica digital photography

I needed one digital camera to capture instant images to give the models and also to warm them up with poses before shooting on film. The Leica M 240 sensor is quite capable but lifeless so to give myself a fighting chance of creating something I might be interested in I packed the Noctilux lens to be used wide open at f1. The Noctilux captures more filmic looking images even on the modern Leica M 240 CMOS sensor.

Hasselblad film photography

I wanted to pack just one film camera to let me focus on capturing a smaller number of hopefully better crafted film images. The Hasselblad camera slows me down so I have time to think twice before pressing the shutter. With 35mm film photography I find I now fire off a series of shots much faster than I used to. Medium format film in 6×6 format gives me 12 frames a roll rather than 36 frames for 35mm film. I planned to be more selective and therefore have less similar images and hopefully more keepers. Normally I would shoot one roll of film per model so now I want to take less overall images, digital and film per girl but hopefully a higher standard of work. Being able to pack a spare Hasselblad A12 film back was really exciting as I could shoot 120 colour film alongside 120 black and white film with the same model. My preference is black and white film but if models bring some colourful clothing I have the option to capture them in colour too.

Hasselblad Zeiss lenses

For Hasselblad lenses the original idea was to only take the Zeiss Makro-Planar 120mm f4 lens as it lets me do close up portraits in addition to standard photos. I decided to add the Zeiss Planar 80mm f2.8 for three reasons, well four really. It gives me a wider view closer to 50mm in 35mm terms. The 80mm f2.8 kit lens is one stop faster than the 120mm f4 Makro-Planar for when I need more light. (This is often the case with medium format photography as lenses are not as fast as 35mm film camera lenses). The f2.8 aperture also gives me a greater shallow depth of field verses the f4 Makro-Planar lens at the same distance though in practice the 120f4 vs 80f2.8 might be quite similar looking. Lastly the Zeiss Planar is reasonably small and light for a Hasselblad mount lens so was easy to fit in my bag.

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Film and filters

Normally I load ISO 400 speed film into my Hasselblad in the UK as there is often never enough light (well since buying my Hasselblad in September anyway!). The Poland forecast was looking quite promising being colder but more sunny. The hotel is on the beach so the sand can act like a giant reflector bouncing light back up onto the models. As such and with my usual positive outlook I packed a range of film speeds from ISO 100 to ISO 3200. I packed roughly a 2:1 ratio of black and white film to colour film and tried to cover myself for all levels of brightness. Some films where to be shot at box speed, Kodak Ektar 100, Fuji Acros 100 and Ilford Delta 100. Kodak Portra 160, 400 and 800 and Fuji Pro 400H were to be overexposed by roughly one stop where possible and if enough light and if not at box speed. Fomapan 100 is an excellent film with great latitude and can be shot at ISO 100-400 and developed at box speed. Kodak T-Max 400 and Kodak Tri-X 400 are also bomb proof and I can use at ISO 200-800 easily and ISO 1600 if needed. Lastly I packed a roll of Ilford Delta 3200 to try. I read it is better shot at ISO 1600 but if I need to I will try it at ISO 3200.

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Poland visit

I visited Sopot, Poland again for four full days of model photography. I planned to work close to and inside the hotel to make the best use of the time. I looked forward to lots of close up portraits and interesting 6×6 crops using the Hasselblad as this is what I enjoy the most.   I can’t do close up photos easily using a Leica M camera and standard lenses so this is what I really miss from my Nikon days. I am loving the Instagram ready square format of the Hasselblad camera so will enjoy composing as a square rather than the usual rectangular format.

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Polish models

Models include catwalk agency models, non-catwalk specific agency models and non agency models with a mix of perhaps 50:50 new faces and familiar ones. My models were Marta K, Marta M, Marta P, Marta W, Irmina, Natalia, Agnieszka, Weronika, and Teresa. Lots of Marta’s!

I am especially excited to work with some of the girls as we have been planning the shoots for weeks online. It is crazy how many hours of planning are involved ahead of a trip. I dread to think the total number of hours I have spend writing on Facebook to the different girls trying to coordinate everyone so as many girls as possible get to have photos. It doesn’t feel a chore but it does take time.

Leica M Typ 240

I found the Leica M 240 camera much more enjoyable to use with the Leica Noctilux 50f1 lens attached but I always wanted to get closer than the 1m closest focus distance. The original plan was to bring the Leica Summilux ASPH 50mm f1.4 lens that works at 0.7m but it gives a more modern look to the images. Taking only one lens for the Leica M 240 worked well as I could concentrate on using the Hasselblad.

Hasselblad 501C Camera

The Hasselblad 501C was such great fun to use. I found the 120mm Zeiss Makro-Planar lens pulls me in close to the action for most of the photos. I really had to make myself step back for photos further away. My eyes find it far easier to focus more accurately when I am in closer. I used the 120mm Makro Planar lens for perhaps 11 of every 12 images on average apart from the last shoot where I loaded ISO 100 film so needed the speed of the Zeiss Planar 80mm f2.8 lens. I am glad I shot some photos with the 80mm as I am interested to see the Zeiss Planar depth of field at f2.8. I found I had to use my lenses wide open at either f2.8 or f4 to achieve a 1/60 shutter speed inside. Outside we sometimes had more light so I did some close up portraits at f5.6 and even a few at f8 to see how the 120mm Makro-Planar lens performs. For a few photos at the end of one day I shot the Zeiss Planar 80mm at f2.8 at 1/15 shutter to get the necessary exposure so it will be interesting to see if the photos are usable. All photos were taken with the Hasselblad 501C camera mounted directly on the Sirui carbon monopod and with a shutter release cable to try to give me more keepers when at 1/60. We shall see. I didn’t have much experience using a Hasselblad camera ahead of this trip to Poland so I am still working out my limits.

Hasselblad and Kodak film

I asked some models to bring bright coloured clothes and they did so I took the opportunity to shoot some Kodak Ektar 100 film. I think Kodak Ektar film can captures some of the sharpest colour film portraits so I wanted to pair it with the equally high performing Zeiss lenses for the Hasselblad. I also used some expired Kodak Portra 160 NC and fresh stock Kodak Portra 160 and 400 film.

Black and white film and filters

For black and white film photography I paired the film with either the yellow filter or the blue 82C filter if not interchanging with colour film also. When switching between colour film and black and white film using two A12 Hasselblad film backs I used no filter or sometimes the 81B warming filter instead.

Keep it simple

When I am normally juggling multiple film cameras I often don’t use any filters for my black and white film photography as have enough to think about. Using just one film camera is so much better as I can stay more focused and therefore make less potential mistakes. Switching Hasselblad lenses and film backs is a recipe for disaster if I am not concentrating! I made detailed notes (for once!) of what filter and film combinations I was using and the lens choice so can refer to this once the film is developed to see how the results compare. It may be that I start using filters much more again if I like the results better with filters than without.

Available light

To speed up my photography and again to simplify everything I captured all photos with available light only.  I will look to introduce strobes when using my Hasselblad camera for model photography and fashion photography to make use of the 1/500 flash sync speed but for this trip I relied on daylight and worked during daylight hours.

Summary

Without doubt this was my best trip to Poland to date. I was extremely happy with the camera choice. In particular the Hasselblad 501C was just a dream to use and the Zeiss Makro-Planar 120mm f4 lens did all I asked from it. In future I could easily make do with one Hasselblad lens only and if I had to choose it would be the 120mm rather than the 80mm for me. I don’t think I have ever been more excited to see the film photos developed from a trip away. Expectation based on the view I saw through the viewfinder is so high I just hope I am not disappointed. I will get the colour film negatives lab developed and scanned so I will post the results here once received. I develop my own black and white film so tend to post photos one at a time to Flickr as I get chance to work through them. I plan to share the results using the different colored filters, the various film stocks and comparing the 120mm vs. 80mm Zeiss lenses. Fingers crossed the results are OK!

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As usual with my trips abroad I am wondering when next to visit Poland!

Related Posts

(Please note all photos included were using my iPhone and the ‘real’ photos are to follow!)*