Discovering Lisbon with a Leica M2 – part 1

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New Sidekick

During my staying in Lisbon I spent some good time in the streets, taking pictures of strangers and getting lost in a wonderful city. When my good friend Diogo told me about his Leica M2 I was thrilled. I played with a Leica M9 in the past, but never with an M2.

He gave me the camera equipped with a Voigtlander 35mm f2.5, a couple of rolls of Kodak Tri-X 400 and I was totally set. I have to confess that I had to cheat a little bit during this street session but I’ll explain to you later.

The first thing to do was to load the film. A bit tricky for a complete M2 virgin like me.

Loading the film

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First thing you have to remove the bottom part of the camera and take out the spare roll.

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Then you lock the film into the spare roll and you put it into place.

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You put back the bottom part making sure the film is correctly aligned and after a few empty shots you are ready to go.

Metering the exposure with a Leica M2

The Leica M2 does not have an internal exposimeter. This means that you really have to be good at guessing the shutter speed / aperture of your pictures. Of course I’m not that good: given an exposure set I can roughly evaluate differences in terms of one or two stops, but I always need a reference.

For example if I’m in the middle of a street where the sun is directly hitting on one side of the buildings and there is open shade in the middle and dark shades on the other side, I can successfully adapt my exposure for the three different light zones depending on what I want to shoot. But only if I use a meter to determine one of the three zones. But I’m totally unable to wild guess the exposure just looking at my subject. I will one day, but now I can’t.

It’s also true that the Sunny-16 Rule always applies!

The Sunny-16 rule

“On a sunny day set aperture to f/16 and shutter speed to the [reciprocal of the] ISO film speed [or ISO setting] for a subject in direct sunlight.”

This means that if you are using a 400 ISO film, the exposure of a sunny day is f16 at 1/400sec (and equivalents). You can then apply some adjustments in order to correct expose if you are in the shade, or the sky is not completely clear.

The iPhone way

Here comes the cheating part I was telling you before. Just download the “Pocket Light Meter” app for your iPhone and you’re done. Now you have a digital meter with you and your life is much easier.

It’s pretty much it for today, next time we’ll see the development of my film rolls we did in house and the final images I was able to pull off. Stay tuned and drop a comment if you like!