Why I should always listen to my wife…

Why I should always listen to my wife…

Sometimes I am reminded of why I should always listen to my wife…

I love learning about photography.  I love looking at and researching new equipment.  Much like how I loved learning about building websites and using social media as a results of my photography.   It is all of these aspects that make photography so enjoyable to me.

I have been thinking of getting a film camera for some time now.   I have been considering a few different Leica film cameras; Leica M3, Leica M6 TTL, M7 and MP.   I primarily wanted a Leica as I love my M9 and I didn’t want to have to buy a new set of lenses.

The MP was my first choice as I simply love the look of the camera.   The styling on it is so clean.  It was a little too expensive for an initial film camera for me.  I ended up going with a 1962 Leica M3.   I was able to find one in very good condition both mechanically and visually.   Amazing that a 50 year old camera looks this good!

1962 Leica M3 Film Camera

This camera is as basic as it gets.    It is 100% mechanical, batteries not required.   No ‘auto’ anything.   You set your ASA (ISO) with your film choice, and then manually set appropriate aperture on your lens and shutter speed on your camera for a proper exposure.

The M3 was the most successful Leica M Camera sold selling more than 220,000 units between 1954-1966.   It completely took the market by storm completely changed what a 35mm camera could and should be.  It set a completely new standard for excellence.

The M3 introduced so many firsts in the camera industry and for Leica but a couple of key ones for this camera are:

– M mount lenses which allowed for much faster changing of lenses.

– Significant improvements to the viewfinder with frame lines for 50mm, 90mm and 135mm that automatically change when you change the lens.  You need to use an external viewfinder if you want to shoot 35mm or wider lenses.

The serial numbers on these started at 700,000.   At 785,810 they added a frame selector so you could change your frame lines.  At 844,001 they changed the films pressure plate from glass to metal.  At 919,251 they changed it from double stroke to single stroke to forward the film and added a very simple depth of field cutout so you can see what is in focus at f/5.6 and f/16.

The serial numbers over 1,000,000 are the most desirable and collectable, especially if they are in good condition.

1962 Leica M3 Film Camera

There is a great Camera Store called Popeye Camera near my house.  They have been in business since 1936!    They have a great selection of film for sale.   Japan has a huge film culture and it is relativity easy to get anywhere in Tokyo.  For Black and White I got TMAX in ASA 100 and 400 and Tri-X 400.   For color I picked up Ektar 100 and Portra 400.   I am completely new to film so I will happily take any recommendations you have.

I feel a bit like I am in a new world as I need to re-learn some terminology.


Film is fairly expensive, at least in Japan.   A roll of TMAX ASA 100 is around 500 yen and it is 1,260 yen to develop into negatives.   That brings the cost to 48 yen a picture, or 61 cents.  That alone will slow you down to make sure you are focused on the shots you are taking.

I can’t imagine I will print too much and if I do it will be a proper ‘print’.    For those I will use my the Master Printer Mitsuhiro Matsudaira to help me.   I have used him for the prints I have sold in the past and his work is excellent.

I do want to be able to use my images digitally.  I was so surprised how much they charge to scan your images for you.  To scan a roll of 36 shots for the size I use here on ShootTokyo it would cost 7,800 yen!   I  ended up picking up a Epson GT-X970 that can scan 6400 dpi.  Now I can scan them as big as I want anytime I want.  It can scan a 35mm negative at 6400 dpi in about 1 minute and 20 seconds.

Now…as I was saying, I really liked the MP because of the styling.   As I was weighing the options of which camera to buy with my wife (bless her heart) she said ‘why don’t you upgrade your Leica M9 to an M9-P since you like the styling and it’s your primary camera and then you can get a ‘cheaper’ film camera’.   She’s a genius…

Leica just replaced my M9 so it is basically new.  I was able to get Map Camera to give me the highest trade in value allowing me to upgrade to the MP-P  for a very reasonable amount.   The Leica M9 and M9-P are functionally the same camera.   So what’s different…  There are three major differences;  they have removed the iconic red Leica logo and M9 branding off of the front of the camera and replaced it with the more traditional engraving on the camera’s top place.   They updated the  vulcanite leather grip and…

Black Leica M9-P

Black Leica M9-P

Black Leica M9-P

…and added a virtually unbreakable sapphire crystal LCD screen.  I constantly have my M9 handing around my neck and I have always hated the fact the screen is constantly scraping again my jacket zipper.   I am always putting those little plastic screen protectors on my M9 so it doesn’t get scratched.  They always come off.  I just find the entire experience a bit frustrating.   Now nothing to worry about!   You can tell the Leica’s with the sapphire screens by this little engraving centered in the bottom of the screen.

Black Leica M9-P

Street Legal and ready for action…

Black Leica M9-P with the Noctilux 50mm f/0.95

I already shot off a few rolls of film.    I dropped them off at Popeye Camera and should have them back in a few days.  Shooting film is interesting in the sense that I don’t get the immediate gratification of seeing my images. I am looking forward to exploring the film side of photography…

Now Popeye has my film and I just wait…

Popeye Camera

One of the interesting things about shooting film this week is how back to basics I needed to go.  I have no light meter so I was using my M9-P some times, I tried a couple of iPhone apps and even needed to remind myself of the Sunny 16 rule.  I know we all already know it but let’s review it anyways, you know just in case you are out shooting without an M9-P, or an iPhone and need a proper exposure.

The Sunny 16 rule is a simple guide to help you with setting exposure:

Step 1:  Set your shutter speed equal to your film speed or ISO.   In most cases the numbers aren’t exact so just choose the closest number.  i.e.  If you are using ASA 100 film, set your shutter speed at 1/125 of a second.

Step 2: Set your aperture at f/16 (for a Full Sun day with sharp shadows).   If there is some over case then you can use the following settings;

– f/11 slightly overcast/soft-edged shadows

– f/8 overcast/shadows barley visible

– f/5.6 heavy overcast/no visible shadows

Now that you have a proper exposure, now if you want to adjust your shutter speed you can and then you just need to adjust the aperture accordingly.   OK, let’s review full stops for a second:

Aperture: 1.4, 2, 2.8, 4, 5.6, 8, 11, 16, 22

Shutter Speed: 8 seconds, 4 seconds, 2 seconds, 1 second, 1/2 second, 1/4, 1/8, 1/15, 1/30, 1/60, 1/125, 1/250, 1/500, 1/1000

Let’s see how this works:  I am using ASA 100 film, my shutter speed is set to 1/125 of a second and my aperture if f/16 but I want to open up my aperture and shoot at f/5.6.  If I leave all of the other setting the same my shot will be over exposed.   What do I need to adjust my shutter speed to?

1/1000 will give me a proper exposure, so my camera should have settings of 1/1000 of a second, ASA 100 and f/5.6.   If I wanted to shoot at f/22, I would need to set my shutter speed to 1/60 of a second.

If you need a little more detail on exposures check out my this post.

Thanks for stopping by today…


  • http://blog.timarai.com Tim A.

    Welcome to the fun world of film! Popeye camera, I’m sure, will do a great job with your film. That’s where I go anytime I’m in Japan and I just can’t wait to see my photos rather than come home to the US and develop them myself. They’ve always treated me well and the negs and the printing are superb. Looking forward to checking out your film shots!

  • Tom

    Let’s see using a M9P w/Noctilux-M as a light meter for your M3. That would make it about the most expensive light meter in the world. And I thought I had the hot ticket with a Weston Master V in Vietnam. After many rolls of film I still have the Weston. I lost my Leica Focomat enlarger years ago in a fire. Have fun with film, it won’t take long to understand why the industry left it for digital.

  • tonio

    I come from the film days and have always believed that shooting film gave one the “proper” fundamentals for photography. Proper in the sense that it required one to be more deliberate when shooting, making sure you got the composition and exposure right, otherwise you wouldn’t know until you got your film back, and by then, the magic moment was gone. As a former professional shooter in the days before photoshop, a commercial job required spot on exposures as there weren’t much options for fixes for bad exposures and if you botched the shots, you basically botched the job, particularly if you were using chromes. Shooting film, or having shot film, I’m my opinion, definitely makes one a better photographer, and I’ve always subscribed to the theory of getting it right in the camera before tripping the shutter anyways, film or digital. I suppose that I take this route now as well with digital as I’m not skilled in photoshop at all.

    As to the lightmeter, there are a few reallly good ones for the iphone. I have one called Light Meter, a free app – at least free when I got it a couple of months back, and have found it to be quite accurate. Might be easier than using your M9 to meter and wont require you to bring two cameras if you just want to go shoot film.

    Happy film shooting.

  • Masato

    This is not an ad, but Popeye camera is crowded with young people these days. Some Japanese girls like to use old film cameras now. The shop has fancy stuff they prefer. Dave, I ‘m also living nearby for 15 years!

  • http://www.siddharthsirohi.com Siddharth Sirohi

    Film is so much more fun. I love the anticipation between shooting and getting to see the actual prints. I use a Sekonic light meter as I do spot readings all the time, maybe you can pick one up second hand.

  • http://obliqueexposure.wordpress.com/ Carlos Ferreira

    Sunny 16? Wow, that was really useful. Thank you, Dave. Now, where’s my old Voigtlander?…

  • Dave

    Carlos – I had to dust off my photography basics book but it was surprisingly helpful to review that rule.

  • Jason

    Nice buy Dave. I visited Popeye Camera late last year after reading about it on here – what a great store and suburb.

    With regards to the film scanning, you might want to invest in a dedicated scanner like the Nikon Coolscan series (http://www.nikonusa.com/Nikon-Products/Product-Archive/Film-Scanners/9238/Super-COOLSCAN-5000-ED.html) if you’re going to be doing a lot more film work.

    After scanning thousands of slides and negs on a $1000 flatbed Canon scanner, which I thought was doing a great job, I then saw scans from a dedicated neg/slide scanner and the difference is day and night.

    If you get the chance I would get a few of your negs done at full res in a shop with full scanning gear and compare them to what you’re getting from the flatbed as I think it will change your mind.

  • Matt P

    Yoou gotta love old cameras… Just the feel and the mechanics of it. you feel so much more involved with the picture.

  • Dave

    Thanks Jason. If I end up scanning I will probably just get them professionally scanned. Let me see how far I got with this and maybe I’ll upgrade my scanner in the future.

  • ingsy

    Please post some scans – love to see your film work.

    Also – I suggest you get some slide film, I like E100 VS

  • Bob (Robert) PAPA Degginger

    They made things to last in the 50’s when your camera was made.None of this disposable world crap of today!!!

  • LS

    Hey, I agree with another poster that besides b/w films, you really need to try slides! Fujifilm Provia scans very well, and Velvia, well, what can I say, it totally moved the ground from under Kodakchrome when it was launched. Looking at the slides under a loupe on a light table is a breathtaking experience. I don’t know how long it will take for sensor and display technology to match the awesomeness of the slides on a light table. That experience itself was converted several digital photographers back into shooting films.

    The last reason that you should really try slides is that there are speculations among film retailers that slides will soon follow kodakchrome into history. Unlike b/w, they are difficult to process at home. Unlike color negatives, they are very unforgiving with respect to exposure accuracy. And the beauty of slides cannot be appreciated from a computer display, which is the main display platform for most people. Demands have been dwindling, so no one knows how long they are going to be around. So, you owe it to yourself to experience it when you can!

    Oh, and the Fujifilm Acros 100 is a really nice b/w film too! It’s my favourite ISO100 b/w film! Give it a try!

    Have fun!

  • Pingback: Finding my groove with shooting Film | ShootTokyo()

  • http://www.kfdesign.nl/photography Kevin

    Thanks Dave, for me the Sunny 16 rule was something I never heard before, being a newcomer to photography.

  • http://www.shoottokyo.com Dave

    Kevin – Give it a try while out shooting. It will help you with being able to guess exposures over time.

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  • http://terencesjones.wordpress.com Terence S. Jones

    Congrats – enjoy both the M3 and the M9-P. I love both my M6 and M9-P! Regarding film probably one of the most important differences is that you expose for highlights and not shadows due to the way negatives work. Also highlight roll-off is smooth, so nothing to worry about. Regarding film in general, you might want to rate it about one or two stops higher for better color reproduction (depends on film stock). I rate the Portra 400 at ISO 100 (no pull/push) / for Ektar you can also easily rate it at ISO 50.

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