Review: Leica M6

Leica M6

In a previous post (the one regarding the Canon Eos 1n) I asked if it still makes sense nowadays to use a 35mm camera.

The Leica M6 (and for what matter almost every Leica Ms) demonstrate that actually yes, it still makes sense.

The M6 is at the same time a fairly specialized camera and a multifunction tool.

And no, I’m not suggesting to use it as an hammer, even if the toughness of the construction may make you think of trying.

The presence of the rangefinder pose a limit for using the Leica for close-up or tele pictures, but at the same time this makes it extremely well suited for reportage work.

And it’s a great tool, given the marvelous quality of the Leica lenses, for landscape photography if you are an hiker that likes to travel light.

Sure, is not autofocus.

But with a little practice focus a rangefinder is quite easy and way too faster than focusing an SRL.

And you could use the hyperfocal technique.

I must confess: I ended up selling my first M, an M4p, and regretting ever since the decision until I stumbled upon an M6.

And at some point probably I will spring the money for an M8, that performance-price wise I think is one of the best digital camera out there (but I haven’t tried one by myself yet…).

The Ms share a unique attribute, in common with few other cameras like the Hasselblad 500 series, that is the almost zen experience in using them, without noise, beeping and whirs to watch out.

Just framing and shooting.

And frankly, even if I were to hate this camera (and at the contrary, I love it), the lenses that it mounts are so wonderful that they are worth the eventual troubles.

Like every thing marked as Leica is pricey (from 600 to 1200€ street, depending on sub-models and conditions), but it is worth every penny if you are a rangefinder-guy and / or if you will give it enough time to get used to.

Rating: ★★★★★

FEM: Film Equivalent Megapixels

How many megapixels does film have? And I mean: for real, not the bazillion that the “experts” ascribe to it. The complete and yet unfulfilling answer is: depends. Mostly by ISO and by the format size, both of the film and the digital sensor.

Because two, for example, 12 megapixels sensors are not equal if one of it it is full frame and the other it’s the tiny tiny sensor of a camera phone. The rule of thumb, both in the analogue and in the digital word, is “the bigger the better”.

Those you find in the table below are my own findings, after over a decade of taking pictures. They are not results extrapolated by reading someone else opinion on some forum. So you may agree or disagree, but I’ll stick with my findings…


And by the way: even if a camera like a Canon 5D Mark II or a Nikon D3x (or better yet, if money are no object, a medium format digital back) it’s equal or better than film in most situations I STILL SHOOT (also) FILM.

Keep this in mind reading the results, because shooting film is more cumbersome, costly and time consuming, but has its unique advantages: it’s fun, it’s handy when if you don’t feel comfortable using a 2.000+ € electronic equipment under pouring rain, it has its look and it still yeld wondeful results in proper hands.

And some cameras like the magnificient Fuji GS645 or the Olympus XA serie (the review is coming) still don’t have a proper successor in the digital world.

For your convenience I have listed the results in the table below where you’ll find the format, the approximate diagonal size in cm (and I remind you that an inch is equal to 2,54cm) and a FEM (Film Equivalent Megapixels value) minimum, medium of maximum.

I have had to make this distinction because, for exemple, you may shoot with a crappy lens and shaky hands, or with the camera screwed directly onto a granite boulder (this actually it’s the setup to perform the MTF tests).

Heavy rain

By the way, under “handheld” I collect all the non-optimal situations, like heavy wind, diffraction limited lenses, blurred images caused by photographer movement, blurred images caused by movements of the subjects (during long exposure time, for example), curved film, focus not spot on.

So you can interpretate the three levels as such:

MIN (handheld and / or scanning on a flatbed and / or high ISO) = calculate roughly 1,5 Megapixels for cm of format diagonal

MED (low ISO, tripod and / or scanning on Imacon and high-end scanners) = calculate roughly 1,85 Megapixels for cm of format diagonal

MAX (really low ISO, tripod, mirror lock up and  scanning on a drum scanner) = calculate roughly 2,3 Megapixels for cm of format diagonal

FormatDiagonal (in cm)MinMedMax
4×5″ / 9x12cm15,6232936
5×7″ / 13x18cm22,2334155
8×10″ / 20x25cm32485974

And please, please, please take this results with a grain of salt: obviously you can go further with any format using special equipment, like shooting on ultra-low-iso-with-almost-no-grain-film and scanning on the SuperUltraMegaDrum @ 1.000.000ppi and so on. I made this reference table with an average user in mind…

UPDATE: please check the following two posts for a better and cheaper way to scan your films

Canon 5d Mark II vs. Drum scanner vs. Epson v700

How to-scan films using a digital camera

Review: Canon Eos 1n


Canon Eos 1n

Does it still make sense to use an analogue 35mm camera?

While few people this days shoot film, it is still a pleasure, at least for me, to load a little metal canister that holds only 36 exposures.

And if the camera in wich I load the film is a top-grade one the hussle of developing and scanning the film after the shooting session it is worthwhile.

The Canon Eos 1n is an excellent camera, obviously, with tons of features. But, again, it was the flagship of the brand so this is expected.

The thing that could shock a photographer born digital or that doesn’t have used a flagship camera before  is the instantaneous responsiveness of every command and the immediate “click and wirr” that follows the pression of the shutter button.

It’s a feature that all the flagship cameras of major brands have in common, and that make almost every other camera, in comparison, feels sluggish!

canon eos1n

The next surprise will came from the finder, big  and beautiful (even if not up to the levels of the Minolta SRT 101 or of the Nikon F4s, but this is another story of wich we will talk about later).

Now I feel ready to give an answer to the question that open the post, and like almost every thing in this world is not so simple…

If you want play around with an almost perfect camera go ahead.

If you are expecting results in the same field of a 20 and + megapixel camera you will be disappointed.

If your target is making prints no more than an A4 (20x30cm) with great quality go ahead.

If you are going to take pictures in an ostile environment, maybe without the possibility to recharge batteries and / or with the risk of being robbed than a 35mm camera makes a lot of sense, and this one is one of the four / five best cameras ever made that now you can have for a bunch of euro (150€ street, booster included).

From my own point of view I think that, nowadays, a 35mm camera still makes sense for limited tasks (others that having fun, of course) or to use cameras that have hardly an (affordable) equivalent in the digital world (like the Leica Ms or the Olympus XAs).

Long story short: get one!

Rating: ★★★★½