Back to Film With Cinestill 50 and my Leica M6 TTL Millennium

Back to Film With Cinestill 50 and my Leica M6 TTL Millennium:

I was originally going to make this one of my weekly portrait posts, since I haven’t made one of those in a while (I couldn’t really meet anyone during the pandemic).  However, I haven’t shot film in a long time, so this will be a post about my recent experience shooting with my Leica M6 TTL Millennium again, and a film that is new to me at least, Cinestill 50.  Things are getting better in NYC, which also means I am finally going out to shoot more.  It also means I’ll have more content to post again.  This is a recent social distance shoot I did with my dear friend Kristina (Instagram).

So, this was actually my first shoot in like two or three months.  The last time I did a shoot, I think it was either late February or the beginning of March.  Kristina and I had been wanting to shoot for a while, so we decided to meet at a park near my house.  As some of you know, I’ve shot with Kris many times.  She has become a dear friend of mine, and in addition to being a lot of fun to hang out with, she’s a fantastic model.  She’s very professional, so if any of you are ever looking to shoot with someone in NYC, DM her on her Instagram.  She’s always up for shooting.

Getting back to the story here, we met on Memorial Day weekend.  It was a beautiful Sunday, and actually the perfect time to try out Cinestill 50.  50 ISO is not fast, and I was actually shooting it at half speed (25 ISO), so I was a bit nervous at first, since unlike digital, I can’t just change the ISO whenever I feel like it.

Luckily, I have fast glass ;).  I took with my 75mm Summilux and my Summilux-M 50mm f1.4 ASPH.  I was a bit worried about whether I could focus the 75mm, so after a few shots, I switched to the 50mm, and used it for the rest of the day.  I figured that I’ll get these photos processed first, and if most of the shots that I did take with the 75mm were in focused, I would then use it more in a future film shoot.

I know I don’t post that much film, so I’m sure some of you might be a bit surprised as to why I decided to shoot some.  Truthfully, I’m a little tired of editing on the computer.  Before the pandemic hit NYC, I was taking a lot of pictures per week (anywhere from 200 to 2,000+ shots), and also had the editing to do for my reviews.  Believe it or not, I’m still playing catch up haha.  The other reason I started shooting some film is because I wanted to do something different.  I wanted to have a fun shoot…not that my other shoots haven’t been fun but I guess I wanted one where I could experiment, and be a little more carefree.  With digital, I tend to be more particular whereas with film, I feel I can let loose a little bit more.

Anyway, shooting with the M6 was definitely something I had to get used to again.  The SL, and now the SL2 EVFs have, quite frankly, spoiled me to the point where it was difficult to focus, and frame with the M6.  The M6 does have an excellent optical viewfinder; come on, it’s a Leica rangefinder, and they are pretty famous for there OVFs but I’m sorry to say that it is just not as easy to see out of as my SL2.  The funny thing is I grew up with the M system, so I didn’t think it would be that difficult of an adjustment to get back to it.  I was shooting with my great uncle’s M3 from age 12 and up until college when I was able to save enough money to buy myself an M6 and Summicron-M 50mm f2.  I had an M all the way up until the M 240, and then I switched to the SL system.

What was a little scary was I haven’t shot my M6 TTL Millennium in quite a few years, and I actually have never used my Summilux-M 50mm f1.4 ASPH with it.  I bought it for my M9 at the time, so I wasn’t even 100 percent sure everything was going to be in focus with the M6.  Remember, there’s no screen on the back ;).

Luckily, I still have my Leica Viewfinder Magnifier 1.4x, which helped quite a bit.  This little magnifier is like the best thing ever invented for the M haha.  I reviewed it a while back for those who are interested (here’s my review).  I used it during the entire shoot because I shot everything at f1.4, and quite frankly, I did not want to process two rolls of film only to find out my focus was off on most of the shots.  I definitely believe in using the aperture that will suit a photo best whether it’s f1.4 or f11 but in this case, I was really going for the isolated look.

Lastly, I had no meter in the camera because when I opened the pack of new batteries for it, I noticed that they had leaked acid.  Back in my M3 days, I got used to metering without an actual meter over time but it’s been a while since I’ve shot with a camera that did not have one.  It’s not easy finding those button cells for the M6 last minute, especially during a pandemic, so I brought along my Fuji X-T3 to do the metering for me but around the middle of the shoot, I got lazy, and did some educated guessing :).

So, here are the results of that day.  The park that we walked around is humongous.  It covers many, many blocks, and it’s by the water, so there’s always a nice breeze.  Looking back at the photos, I think I could’ve gotten a bit closer for some of them.  Again, I was still getting used to the viewfinder, and I’ll remember this for my next shoot with my M6.  But as I mentioned earlier, I wasn’t necessarily looking for perfection.  I had a lot of fun, and I will probably post a part two from this shoot next week.  I have plenty of photos left that I haven’t even looked at yet.  Thanks for stopping by, and have a great weekend!

4 comments… add one
  • Jed Orme

    Patrick,

    Very interesting to read about this return to film & how much digital has done to change the way that one has to work with it. The images are all quite lovely with excellent focus & a very pleasant depth of field that nicely highlights the model (who is also quite lovely). So I think you managed to recall your past experiences & skills needed for analog work very well indeed.

    Shooting wide open like this, is it possible to employ zone focusing? Also when you use the rangefinder manual focusing system on this Leica, is it setting the focus point at about 2 to 3 meters from the camera? I think that was what it was when I had a Lecia M some time ago. Interesting also that you had some difficulty in using the optical finder as I actually miss the one I had on my Leica M, which I found to be superior to those I use on my past & current Fuji X100 or X-Pro lines of cameras. Much bigger & brighter, but I still also prefer to use the OVF instead of the EVF on my current X100V & X-Pro3.

    Very glad as well to hear that the conditions are improving to allow for more getting out to do your photography in NYC. But stay safe & healthy in doing so. Cheers,

    Jed

    • Patrick

      Hi Jed,

      Thanks for the very kind words! It was a lot of fun, and while I still prefer digital, it was a nice break from it.

      At f1.4 with the 50 or especially the 75mm, the depth of field is so thin, that most times, I have to be pretty precise with focusing, at least that’s what I’ve experienced. This is true, especially with film, since I can’t even see the images until I process the roll. The focus point was about 2 to 3 meters.

      I remember you prefer OVFs over EVFs :). I used to feel the same way but I think now, I prefer EVFs, which is why I found going back to the M after all this time more challenging. The M has an excellent viewfinder but it’s not just with an M that I feel this way; I did have the X-Pro3 in to review a few months ago, and I pretty much used the camera with the EVF the entire time.

      As for conditions in NYC, they are improving but I still take a lot of precautions. I definitely do not go out as much as I used to, and while I have started photo walks again, they are much shorter, happen less frequently, and I go to only in certain locations that are easy to get to, which means a lot of my upcoming reviews will be from the same place ;). How is it in your area? Is it improving? I hope you and your family are doing great, and staying healthy!

      Best,

      Patrick

  • Jed Orme

    Patrick,

    I hadn’t really taken into account the big differences in depth of field between full frame & APS-C, so that really would make it much more challenging to be doing manual focus with film in your full frame Leica. So does that also mean you need to stage your model in the point that is about 2 to 3 meters from the camera for best results with such a thin depth of field? One of the things I am really enjoying with my new X-Pro3 is that the lack of immediate LCD views of what I have shot is already making me concentrate more before hitting the shutter release.

    Also sounds like you are being wise about the care being taken when you are out of doors in this new world of ours. All of this opening up is a bit frightening the way that some people are behaving, like things are completely back to normal. Here in the desert in southern CA we have a lot of this in the Palm Springs area but where I live not so much. Over in the LA county they are moving even faster into the next stages of reopening but also have an increase in infections. Some may be due to more testing results but I have to think that much of it is because of fewer restrictions on what people can do. But my wife & I are being super careful & staying healthy as a result. Most of my photography has been where there are no people, some of it even being taken from my car. Take care to stay safe & healthy. Cheers,

    Jed

    • Patrick

      Hi Jed,

      According to the place I process film, the depth of field is even a bit thinner than digital too. As for staging by model around 2 to 3 meters, I don’t have to do that. I just have to take a little more time to make sure things are in focus, which was a new experience according to her :). She’s more used to the quickness of autofocus and digital. Plus, unlike digital, I we only had like 74 frames (2 rolls of film).

      Yes, I’m still wearing a mask, and not taking any unnecessary chances. I go out usually in the mornings. I’m not in heavily populated areas, and my outings are short. It’s why my next few reviews won’t have a huge variety of pics. I’ve only had one shoot so far, and I know the person quite well. I know she took precautions during the quarantine. I am planning another shoot with someone else but again, I know her too, and like the first shoot, we are planning to shoot at a distance. My sister is a doctor in one of the hospitals in NJ, and she was working during the height of this. Plus, my parents are pharmacists here. So, it is pretty scary, and I’m taking the same precautions as they are. Good to hear you and your wife are staying safe. There’s definitely no rush to do anything until you feel it’s the right time. Take care, Jed!

      Best,

      Patrick

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