Leica M3 Post CLA Shakedown

Leica M3 Post CLA Shakedown

Finally, after over a year since having received a thorough Clean, Lubricate, and Adjust (CLA) service by Mr. Youxin Ye at YYeCamera [ http://www.yyecamera.com ] based in Canton, Massachusetts, I was able to take the mighty Leica M3 out for its post CLA shakedown.

Quite honestly, it is shameful to have waited so long to foray out on a long overdue picture hunt with this classic, historic camera, but other projects demanded my immediate attention.

Photography is a wonderful hobby. The problem with being an amateur is your day job conspires to keep you away from what you’d rather be doing…taking pictures. So, I was super excited when we received a coveted invitation to spend a weekend at The Shamba, the quiet retreat of our friends Rick and Jane, nestled in the hills of West Virginia overlooking the Capon River. This is, quite literally, God’s country, where dogs frolic off leash, cattle grazes in the pasture, roosters crow, cats prowl, deer linger in the surrounding forest, and a person can spend a leisurely afternoon reading, writing, or shooting targets along the riverbank, whatever strikes your fancy and ignites your passion. And Capon Bridge is no bumkin town. It is the honored home of the world-famous, award-winning Farmer’s Daughter [ https://www.farmersdaughterwv.com ].

Kodak 400 TX

Kodak 400 TX

Over the course of the weekend at The Shamba and the following week, I ran two rolls of Kodak Tri-X through this machine. The lens I used was the venerable 50mm SUMMICRON f2 with Near-Focusing Range. The leather case I use to protect this, and all my cameras, comes from Luigi Crescenzi [ https://luigicases.com ].

Leica M3 with 50 mm Summicron f2 Near-Focusing Range Lens with Goggles and Luigi Crescenzi Half Case

I normally take along an exposure meter when I shoot with a manual camera, the handy Gossen Digisix, but in my excitement to get to The Shamba, I left it at home and had to estimate the exposures. Using the Sunny 16 rule as a guide, I tended to overexpose the negatives, but for the most part, I was quite happy with the results, namely because, as you can see from the contact sheet, the camera is now firing on all cylinders. Mr. Ye – you did a great job! Thank you! Compare this contact sheet with the pre-CLA version: [ https://www.warrenworks.com/cameras/leica-m3-needs-cla ].

 

Contact Sheet for Film Developed 16 March 2020

I developed each roll individually in Kodak D-76 1:1, which means 1 part stock solution mixed with 1 part water, for 14 minutes. Here are the two pages from my development journal which notes the process I followed and times for each stage for this batch of film. I developed one roll on 16 March having just returned from a fabulous weekend with Rick and Jane. I developed the second roll on 21 March after a wonderful family dinner with my aunt Lois.

Development Journal Entry for 16 March 2020
Development Journal Entry for 21 March 2020

 If you’re not already doing so, I highly recommend keeping a Process Journal. In this case the process I’m interested in improving is film development, so I refer to my journal as a Development Journal, but any activity that involves a process or activity at which you want to improve can benefit from the act of keeping a process journal. You can read more about my development journal here: [ https://www.warrenworks.com/technique/improve-your-practice-through-journaling ].

Jane

To take fullest advantage of the close focusing abilities of the Leica 50mm SUMMICRON f2 Near-Focusing Range lens you’ll need the appropriate optical viewfinder attachment, which Leica aficionados commonly refer to as “goggles”. Refer to the lens instructions below. These instructions are hard to find, so I’ve provided them here as a PDF file for easy download and printing.

The image of John, above left, was made in the near-focusing range mode with the goggles attached. I was about a foot away, perhaps closer, and focused on his right eye. As I recall, it was overcast, early evening, approaching 7pm. I took an incident reading with the Gossen Digisix and set the aperture to f4 to ensure his nose would be in focus. If this image suggests character, it’s the same impression I received when I first scanned the negative. The subject, John, certainly contributes to this impression, but the lens reveals his character in ways other lenses simply can’t. Perhaps, too, it is the combination of lens and camera.

Leica SUMMICRON 50 mm f2 Near-Focusing Range Lens Instructions

You only need the goggles for near-focusing operation to correct the parallax between the range finder and the lens at distances between 48 cm (~19 inches) to 88 cm (~35 inches). You don’t need the goggles for subjects from 1 meter to infinity, considered the normal range for this lens.

Perhaps the secret to this notion of character created by the lens is technically described in the instructions:

“[The 50 mm Summicron f2 with near-focusing range] represents the highest achievement made possible by modern computing optics and the introduction of a novel, highly-refractive type of glass – the so-called lanthanum crown. In this lens, excellent correction in the distant and close-up range is combined with a degree of freedom from vignetting extraordinary for this high speed. Even at full aperture, the Summicron has an excellent resolving power, uncommonly high contrast, and perfect colour correction.”

I’ll just refer to the ability of a lens to render character as Natural Character. The only other lens with as much natural character is the Pentax SMC 67 200mm f4. Here’s an image of my late Labrador Retriever, Schmoogle made with this lens:

Schmoogle ~2007 - Pentax 67 with Pentax SMC 200mm f4

Schmoogle ~2007 – Pentax 67 with Pentax SMC 200mm f4

Weathered Bird Bath
Farmer's Daughter House Burger
Leica M3 Single Stroke with 50 mm SUMMICRON f2 Near-Focusing Range Lens

When employed in the normal range this lens is just incredible. Again, the normal range is anything between 1 meter to infinity. The pictures of the barn, the dirt lane, and fallen tree were all made with the lens focused to infinity. The acutance of this lens is easily perceived. It renders tack sharp images with firm contrast.

Old Wooden Barn with Canoe
Exploring the Barn
Cattails on the Edge of the Frog Marsh
Waiting
Fallen Tree

Leica M10-D: Comparison to an Old Friend

Leica M10-D: Comparison to an Old Friend

Bottom-Line-Up-Front

The Leica M10-D is a remarkable camera. Its minimalist controls provide an uncluttered, refreshingly simple user experience that compliments your creative process. It is my first foray into Leica’s digital M ecosystem and I’m happy I waited until this camera came along to take the plunge. If you’re jonesing for an M10-D, I recommend you move immediately on your impulse.

New Year's Eve

New Year’s Eve – Tinsel & Lights – Leica M10-D w/Noctilux-M 50mm

My Frame of Reference

I’m a child of the film age. My first professional 35mm camera was the venerable Nikon F3HP, which I still use today. I repeatedly read Ansel Adam’s books The Camera, The Negative, and The Print, until I had internalized the wisdom contained within those sacred texts and applied it to my own work.

As a U.S. Navy submarine Electronics Technician in the early ‘80s, one of my collateral duties was Ships Photographer. The primary duty of a ship’s photographer was to ensure images made through the boat’s periscopes were of sufficient quality to extract maximum intelligence. On deployments we took along a portable, automatic film processing unit, which was cumbersome to use and provided mediocre results at best, so I preferred to develop negatives by hand. After one exercise which required taking, processing, and submitting periscope images for review, I was happy to learn the Intel guys had never seen such well-developed negatives.

Rick Miller - Early Navy Days

Standing Lookout Watch – 1984, Nikon F3HP w/Nikkor 50mm f1.8 – Taken by OOD

Ahh, the memories…, uh, where was I, oh yeah, the Nikon F3HP, anyway, what I like about this camera, among many other things, is its 80% center-weighted metering, Auto exposure mode, exposure memory lock, and the ergonomics of its controls. You can, of course, set the exposure manually, but sometimes I like to be spontaneous, and the combination of auto exposure mode, center-weighted metering, and exposure lock allow me to quickly assess a scene’s luminosity and make bracketed exposures without bothering to drop into manual mode. And oh-by-the-way, there’s no chimping on a film camera.

Savannah Riverfront

The Beef Jerky Shop, Savannah, GA – Leica M10-D w/Noctilux-M 50mm

Another critically important feature of the Nikon F3HP is, of course, that it’s a Single Lens Reflex (SLR) camera, and I recall clearly my struggle to decide between it and the Leica M4-P, which is a range finder. To me, peering directly through the lens seemed like a more natural way to view a scene and more accurately judge image composition, a view I still hold today. So, with limited funds of a young navy squid, and being inclined towards an SLR, I chose the Nikon over the Leica, and I’ve been happy with my decision ever since. I use Nikon’s Flagship DSLRs to this day and all my old Nikon lenses work just fine on them.

Blackberry Bush

Blackberry Bush – Leica M10-D w/Summicron-M 90mm

Que the Leica M10-D

It’s the marriage of intuitive, ergonomic controls and a return to a familiar way of image-making that defines the allure of the Leica M10-D for me personally. It compares favorably in size with the Nikon F3HP sans its MD-4 motor winder. Its metering, by default, is center-weighted, and the exposure lock (called Metering Memory Lock) is activated by a slight pressure on the shutter release button. In this regard, the M10-D outshines the F3HP. It’s a bit of a Kabuki dance to activate the exposure lock with the MD-4 motor winder attached, which is my F3HP’s normal battle configuration.

Backyard Buddha

Buddha & Zen Plant – Leica M10-D w/Summicron-M 90mm

A slew of additional features such as focus peaking and two additional metering modes are available with the use of the separate Visoflex 020 accessory. More about the Visoflex later.

The camera’s operation can be customized via the Leica Fotos app, which connects to the camera via the Leica M10-D’s WIFI (WLAN) connection. The Fotos app also allows you to control the camera remotely, a feature I haven’t tried yet, but seems like it would come in handy to reduce touch-induced camera shake or to just let you take a picture with you in it that doesn’t look like a selfie.

I’m still not as fast at acquiring images as quickly with a range finder vs. an SLR, but I’m getting better with practice.

Grave Site Savannah, GA

Grave Site, Savannah, GA – Leica M10-D w/Noctilux-M 50mm

The Visoflex (Type 020) Electronic Viewfinder

This is one cool accessory. Attaching the Visoflex to the M10-D gives you a DSLR experience without the mirror flap. It connects to the M10-D via the hot shoe mount and provides a full-color, heads-up display with information you’d normally find in a DSLR or mirrorless camera with an electronic viewfinder, including a histogram in the upper left corner of the display. It also provides focus peaking and the ability, with a tap of the shutter release button, to zoom in on a subject to focus on a particular detail. This is all fine and dandy, but I find the battery drains about 10 times faster when using the Visoflex, something to be aware of if you decide to add that accessory to your kit. So, I’ve set the M10-D to my favorite settings and with practice I’m getting better at focusing with the optical range finder.

Leica Visoflex

Leica M10-D with Visoflex and Spare Batteries

Actually, in my experience, I can focus more accurately with the optical range finder, especially in situations where extremely accurate focusing is critical, say, when focusing on an eye at wide-open apertures. The Visoflex favors good, solid edges.

Leica Visoflex Rear View

Leica M10-D w/Visoflex Rear View

So, although I shelled out some hard-earned cash for the Visoflex, I find myself using it less often now as I grow more proficient at range finder focusing. Note: My M10-D is always smartly dressed in its Luigi half case with built-in grip, and UPstrap Medium X Crossover Pad camera strap + Quick Release available at UPStrap-pro.com.

Visoflex Up

Leica M10-D w/Visoflex in Up Position

 

The Fotos App

The Leica M10-D has a minimal set of external controls, and since there’s no screen on the back, to make changes to default settings, or access other advanced features not accessible when the Visoflex is attached, you must connect the camera to the Fotos app to access these settings. Connecting my M10-D to Fotos seems like a hit-or-miss operation at times and requires several retries, but it eventually connects.  Maybe I need to update my camera’s firmware. Once in, however, it works great, and you can change settings and operate the camera remotely, as I mentioned earlier.

The following screenshots step through the process of connecting the camera to Fotos.

Connecting Fotos App

Connecting to Fotos App

Fotos App

Fotos App

Fotos App

Fotos App

Fotos App

Fotos App

Fotos App

Fotos App

Fotos App

Fotos App

Remote Operation

Remote Operation

 

Fotos also lets you view and download images from the camera to your iPhone or iPad. One point of caution is in order here – downloading an image from the camera to your device removes the image from the camera. I found this a bit annoying when later I went to import the images into Lightroom and found the ones I had downloaded were missing. I had to import them from my iPhone into Apple’s Photos, then export the original files from Photos then import them into Lightroom. This delete-from-camera-on-download might just be a setting in Fotos. If it is, I haven’t found it yet. Just something to keep in mind.

Something else to keep in mind…using the camera’s WLAN sucks down the battery at about 10 times the normal rate. That’s why you need to buy one or two spare batteries. This leads me to my Tips for All Day Shooting with the Leica M10-D on One Battery:

  • Don’t use the Visoflex
  • Resist the urge to chimp until you get home. (Chimping on your phone is still chimping. Real photographers don’t need to chimp. )

Side-By-Side Comparisons

Leica M10-D vs. Nikon F3HP

Leica M10-D vs. Nikon F3HP

Leica M10-D vs. Leica M3

Leica M10-D vs. Leica M3

Leica M3 Needs CLA

Leica M3 Needs CLA

Over the course of a year (Jan 2017 – June 2018) I ran a roll of Tri-X through this camera, and when I finally got around to developing the film, I discovered it had a serious problem which I’d never noticed before. At shutter speeds 125th of a second and faster the rear shutter curtain quickly catches up to the front curtain and a severe case of shutter capping occurs, as you can see from the contact sheet below. Time for a CLA.

A few hours of Internet research later and I settled on YYeCamera.com. I sent Mr. Youxin Ye an email introducing him to my camera and its problem(s), and asked for shipping instructions. He responded within 30 minutes. His prompt reply assured me my camera would be in good hands. I told him I’d ship it out the following day.

Upon closer inspection, I noticed the shutter release would jam at random intervals, requiring the use of the self-timer to release. At speeds below 125th of a second the shutter curtains seemed to work fine. Cameras, like motorcycles, benefit more from use than neglect. Taking over a year to shoot a roll of film could be construed as a high crime against a classic camera.

The lens used to make these images is the Leica Summicron 5cm f2. This is a collapsible lens and when paired with the M3 makes for a compact kit, although not quite as compact as the Leica Elmar 5cm f2.8.

Update – 28 March 2020

Read about the Post CLA Shakedown here: https://www.warrenworks.com/film-photography/leica-m3-post-cla-shakedown/