When asked, Jonathan Desmond replied:
1. If you were to choose a favourite film camera from your collection which would it be?
My Leica M6. After finding out that I really enjoy being a documentary photographer and using film, I went on the hunt for a camera that was both super accurate in focusing in low light, small and quiet… and used film. This camera meets all those needs. Also, it’s a beautiful piece of industrial design!
2. How long have you owned this camera?
I’ve owned this camera since 2013 and it has been in constant use ever since. I’ve taken personal and professional work photos with it and it has been in places I probably should not have taken it.
3. How did you come to own this camera?
I was in Japan and I remembered that Japan had (and still has) a vast inventory of used cameras. I knew I had my mind set on a Leica but was having trouble finding one within my price range. I checked a few stores and had found a Leica M5 but the shutter curtain had been fixed as it looked like it previously had holes in it, so I passed on it. I then went to MAP Camera in Shinjuku and saw a vast array of used cameras (including a Pentax 645D and a Leica M9… both of which were tempting). I looked in the glass case and saw this camera sitting amongst all the other M6’s that they had but I noticed it was slightly cheaper than the others. Upon a visual inspection, I noticed that there were some scuffs on the back. I asked the clerk (Ryusuke) if it worked and he said “absolutely!”. A little bit of cosmetic scraping to save a few hundred dollars? Heck yeah! I was sold and ended up buying a Cosina-Voigtlander 35mm F1.2 (Version 1), which probably weighs more than most SLR lenses but was the perfect pairing for my Leica M6. I have used this combo ever since, occasionally trying other lenses but always coming back to this setup.
4. What things do you enjoy most about this camera?
The Leica M6 brought me to a place where I came to realize that better equipment wasn’t going to make me a better photographer. I had this mentality in my head that buying the coolest and most awesomest camera as described on forums and the interwebz would make me better than Salgado and H.C. Bresson and somehow instantly make me a Magnum-calibre photographer. The first few shots I took with the camera told me otherwise… I learned a few things from that. First, the Leica M6 is limited in it’s scope in terms of focal lengths and abilities, but for the abilities it does focus on it is EXCELLENT. Generally, the Leica M6 is best used in the 28mm – 50mm or so (maybe 75mm if you really need) and for quiet, unobtrusive photography. Second, it’s a camera you really need to learn to use due to its limitations and strengths. There are quirks and things that need to be overcome and learned and trained on before you can master it. I would honestly say it has taken up to about 2016 (3 years) before I managed to work through its quirks and make it a part of me. Third, having the most greatest camera in the world (according to forums and interwebz) brought me down to Earth after realizing my images still sucked. It’s been an entire learning process of learning the camera but also learning about myself as an artist, my own limitations and how I have to overcome and push through these limitations (as well as the camera’s) to get certain photographs. A good camera makes pictures better but a good photography mind makes the pictures in the first place.
The Leica M6 for me has been a journey. That’s what I enjoy about it most.
Attached is the image of my Leica M6. The red button is the Tom Abrahamsson Leica shutter button. The Canada flag cloth sticker is from when my wife and I visited Banff and I purchased it from a tourist shop.