Gear: Leica M6 w/ Voigtlander Nokton Classic 35mm f1.5 Lens
Film: Fujifilm Superia 200
Dev + scan: Osawa Camera in Ebisu, Tokyo
Shooting location: Shibuya, Tokyo
I was standing outside Lucky Camera, my hands hurting from the cold and my mind running the numbers through my head. I had been in Tokyo for three weeks already, and despite the insane excitement of the film camera treasure troves littered around the city, I had put off actually buying any gear. My dream camera was staring at me from the front window - a Leica M6. I had been dreaming of this camera for over a year now, so much so that I tried to convince myself that I'd be happy with a Voigtlander Bessa R4A. Normally I wouldn't be so keen to drop Y200,000 on such a big purchase, yet today was special. I had just finished my last day of employment after seven years working for a Melbourne-based start-up, and I was heading into the first day of my new job with a start-up in Japan. Seven years of built-up holiday pay meant that I had a surplus in my bank account, and while the frugal side of me was screaming no, the excitement of my new adventure was telling me to do it.
So I did. I dropped the cash, and I walked out of that store into the cold night with the biggest smile on my face. I finally had the camera I had always dreamed of. The next day I loaded up a roll of Fujifilm Superia 400, and I got to shooting with some friends in Shibuya.
I've only been shooting film for a year, so every new camera at this stage brings a whole new set of challenges and learnings. This started right away with the M6. Unlike most cameras, you have to remove the base plate and insert your film there, then open up the swing door back and feed your film through, before meticulously placing it in a sprocket, replacing the bottom plate, and then begin winding. I knew none of this, so there I was on the street looking up YouTube videos on how to load this camera, terribly afraid I was going to break it or ruin my roll.
From there though, shooting the Leica was a dream. It is my first entirely manual camera; normally I tend to shoot Aperture Priority unless I am trying to get a specific look, so being forced to take what I've learned from reading and putting it into practice was a little daunting for those first two shots.
That is one thing that I will say about the M6 - it's a beautiful, unassuming hunk of metal. It just feels good in the hand, and the rangefinder patch is bright and concise. The dials are minimal, and deliberate, and after your first roll, you feel like an expert with the machine. I found that I was getting way more shots in perfect focus than with my Bessa, and I put that down to the fact that it was so much easier to just change my settings on the fly.
The M6 was always going to be a special camera to me, but already it has witnessed some amazing things. It was with me when a drunken Izakaya Master took me around the back streets of Okubo to find the best secret Ramen in Tokyo at 4am. It was there when I witnessed the blessing of a company at a Shinto shrine down by Golden Gai. It was even there when I proposed to my now fiancé, where we were joined by friends and strangers alike in celebration. This M6 isn't just a camera, it's an extension of the places I've been, and all the places that I can't wait to go.
Simplicity is sometimes the greatest. Reading online I found that there are two schools of thought surrounding Leica. One school looks down on anyone who isn't using "the finest in camera engineering", and the other school scorns anyone who is looking to purchase, claiming that "X alternative is just as good, and no one can tell the difference in your shots". I think I understand both thoughts to a degree, but what I can say is that the M6 is really just a special thing to use. It's not an ingenious work of art, any old camera will do, but it's the camera that was right for me.
Connect with Steve!
Steve Heller is a former games journalist (Game Informer, The Escapist, MMGN), current game developer (Surprise Attack Games, Fellow Traveller), and is currently the lead producer at Mugen-Creations in Shinjuku, Tokyo.
All images shown in this post is provided to us by Steve Heller. Thanks Steve!
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