Using the Leica SF 20 flash with my Leica M6 TTL camera

Not long after purchasing my Leica M6 TTL, I decided to buy the Leica SF 20 flash as I thought I may use the camera on social night’s out with family and friends or perhaps when watching bands so thought it would be a good investment.

I also thought it would be great to try out the TTL settings of the flash to sync with my camera.

I decided to test the flash out at home and with my dog.

I took these photos using the TTL setting on the flash. Unfortunately I didn’t make exact notes at the time so can’t remember what aperture etc the camera was set at.

I used Kodak Portra 160 film and a 50mm Leica Summicron Lens. Here are some photos I took of my mirror on the TTL flash setting:

Here are some of my dog, Daisy with the TTL setting:

Here is one of Daisy with her favourite toy, Mr Moo, again using the TTL setting on the Flash:

I then decided to take a couple of photos using the manual flash option and the light meter reading through my camera and here are the results:

You will see an immediate difference in these photos in the fact that the TTL metered flash photos all have a yellow tinge to them but the ones shot on the manual flash setting all are a lot more balanced and show the correct white of the room.

Clearly in my opinion, the photos taken with the manual flash setting came out much better and more accurate.

The only issue I can think of with the TTL flash metering was that there was a white balance issue because there is so much white in my living room and perhaps I needed to shoot a grey test card first to get the right white balance?

I’m very new to using flash with my Leica camera so there may be somebody reading my blog who has a lot more experience with this type of flash and camera who can give me some expert advice on whether my theory is correct regarding the white balance and methods I could use to improve this when using the TTL option.

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6 thoughts on “Using the Leica SF 20 flash with my Leica M6 TTL camera

  1. I have considered picking up a compact Leica flash also but have too many of those generic vintage Vivitar and similar ones sitting around to justify it. I also did a similar experiment with my Leica M6 TTL and a Vivitar. Having not used flash very much in the past, I was also surprised by how well the TTL sync on the Leica worked by comparison to standard sync of Nikons, Pentax’s etc. Given the fact that it’s a small, direct, on camera flash and can create nasty shadows, the TTL feature gets the exposure correct easily.

    To comment on your color; this is one of the myriad reasons I parted ways with color film – it’s just too complicated to get accurate for my liking. Your available light shots came out orange because you were using daylight balanced film. Ideally, you’d be shooting tungsten balanced film if shooting indoors, under bulbs whose value is less than a 5600 Kelvin color temperature, but the days of tungsten balanced still film are mostly gone, and even when they were more available, they were all very low ISO because their purpose was more for art reproduction than taking photos of your dog in your living room at night! So your photos came out orange because the film was expecting whites to have the blue tint of sunlight which it counteracts with orange tint in order to arrive at white. But your light was already orange colored (more like 2700K) so your film added orange tint to orange tint.

    The flash, however, is balanced for the color temperature of sunlight, around 5600K and so the film makes white, white again.

    Is it TOO WHITE? Well, that comes down to the calibration of the scanning. The film does what the film is going to do but the editing of the color is expected (by Kodak, Fuji, etc) to be done in the scanning.

    An automated minilab scanner color balances each frame based on the colors of those frames around it. So you might find that if you took photos of a completely different scene on the same roll, that the last shot or two of the living room scans were color balanced differently.

    Some professional labs turn that auto color balance off and manually color balance. But what this means in practice is usually just that they set the scanner to their own in-house determined presets. Not that they are actually looking at each of your photos and calibrating as they think best.

    SOME pro labs will let you, and you have to coordinate this with them, do exactly what you mentioned; shooting the first frame of a grey card and they will set their scanner based on the card for the entire roll. That is the only way that you can ensure accurate AND consistent color through the roll. Of course, the problem is, you’ll note, if you shoot multiple lighting situations on a single roll, you are out of calibration again.

    It’s a lot of work to shoot color and get the colors accurate.

    I do need to pick up one of those Leica flashes though! The old Vivitar just looks ridiculous atop my Leica! And hey, beautiful dog!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Interesting experiment. You might be on the right track in the sense that the all white room is a bit like shooting in the snow – if you don’t overexpose one or two stops it will come out looking grey. It would be interesting if the Leica has an exposure compensation function to try again say plus 1 stop. TTL flash on my Contax from the same era works great, but I don’t think I have been faced with the all white lighting conditions like this!

    Liked by 1 person

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