Matthew Osborne Photography / Mr Leica
12 months on since my last Leica camera purchase, the Leica M6 Classic, I found myself buying another Leica M film camera. It was completely unplanned (as usual) and I happened to have a free hour researching cameras online. I stumbled across to me what seemed a real bargain. The often less regarded Leica M4-P.
The Leica M4-P is a 35mm rangefinder camera like all other analogue Leica M film cameras. I bought a black chrome M4-P and it has a 0.72x viewfinder the same as my Leica M6. The Leica M4-P was in production from 1980 until around 1986 and was based on the earlier Leica M4 camera and followed the Leica M4-2.
Leica M4, Leica M4-2, Leica M4-P
To take a step back, the Leica M4 was released in 1966 and saw Leica introduce a few new camera features including; a film rewind crank to replace the vertical rewind knob of the M2 and M3 (will make rewinding film so much faster!), a new angled film advance lever and faster film loading by removing the need for the separate take up spool (as used in the Leica M2 and M3).
The Leica M4-2 was released in 1977 and was similar to a Leica M4 but with a hotshoe rather than a cold shoe (The Leica M2 and M3 also have cold shoes). The later Leica M4-P variant was similar to the Leica M4-2 but also had 28mm and 75mm framelines added so it could be used with the newer Leica M lenses. Frameline pairs are 28/90, 35/135, 50/75 meaning you always see two framelines in the viewfinder.
As a Leica photographer and a strobist and someone using a Leica Elmarit-M 28mm f2.8 ASPH lens and Leica Summicron 75mm f2 APO lens three words above have already sold the camera to me – “hotshoe”, “28mm framelines” “75mm framelines”. (OK it was 5 words sorry!) More details below.
Leica M4-P is regarded as not the best Leica M camera
- The M4-P saw the start of Leica using precision parts as part of a cost reduction program and it is said the M4 and later Ms are not as smooth as the earlier Leica M3 and Leica M2
- The Leica M4-P has zinc top and base plates not the traditional brass plates
- The Leica M4-P was built in Midland, Canada not Germany to save cost (with an exception to those cameras made in the last year of production when production was moved back to Wetzlar, Germany in 1986 before being replaced by the Leica M6)
- The Leica M4-P has no lightmeter but is otherwise similar to a Leica M6 so why not just buy a M6
- The Leica M4-P has a “cluttered” viewfinder with too many framelines (vs. the older Leica M3 and M2) but is the same viewfinder as the Leica M6
- The Leica M4-P is said to suffer from flaring in the viewfinder (the same as the Leica M6)(I don’t remember experiencing many issues with my M6)
- The Leica M4-P Leica red dot is positioned on the front right side of the camera rather than front centre to hide the adjustment screw
So why do I need another Leica!?
I guess I don’t really need another camera but I managed to construct a good argument for the purchase! Here is a summary of the Leica M4-P vs. my other Leica M cameras.
Leica M4-P vs. Leica M3
The Leica M3 viewfinder does not have 28mm or 35mm framelines and does not have a hotshoe so I can’t use the M3 with flash triggers and off camera flash. The M3 also has the slower to use film take up spool and rewind knob which are not ideal if working fast at a Leica wedding or on location with a model / client.
The Leica M3 is arguably better built and smoother to operate than the Leica M4-P. The Leica M3 has THE best rangfinder viewfinder, I think, if using 50mm lenses.
Both my Leica M3 single stroke and Leica M3 double stroke cameras currently need recalibrating to be able to use accurately with fast lenses like the Leica Noctilux 50mm f1.
Leica M4-P vs. Leica M2
The Leica M2 viewfinder does not have 28mm framelines for accurate framing with the Leica Elmarit-M 28mm ASPH. (I have just used the entire M2 viewfinder field of view as 28mm to guesstimate to date). The M2 like the M3 does not have a hotshoe so I can’t use it with flash triggers and off camera flash. The M2 like the M3 also has the slower to use film take up spool and rewind knob which are not ideal if working quickly.
The Leica M2 is arguably better built and smoother to operate than the Leica M4-P.
Leica M4-P vs. Leica M6
The Leica M4-P is basically the same as my Leica M6 Classic, just without a built-in light meter. The same viewfinder/ framelines, same zinc top plate and base plate, the same film rewind knob and film loading .
My Leica M6 currently jams at around 25 exposures so I bulk load my own film so not to waste the last 10 or so shots on a standard 36 exposure roll of film. It can be repaired but other than that the M6 is a great camera and I use the M6 perhaps the most of my analogue film M cameras because of the hotshoe. The faster to operate film rewind crank is also a great help.
Leica M4-P vs. Leica M8 / Leica M9 / Leica M240
For completeness, the Leica M4-P is better than my Leica M8, Leica M240 and the Leica M9 I replaced as the M4-P is analogue! I probably don’t need to say any more other than to use the hashtags #believeinfilm, #filmisthefuture ! 🙂
So to conclude, when I saw a used Leica M4-P camera (on sale at a reputable online store in the UK) at almost half the price of my Leica M6 Classic and half the price of my new Leica Elmarit-M 28mm f2.8 ASPH lens (*Blog post to follow) and that I can use with flash and hopefully shoot an entire 36 exposure roll of film in I jumped at the chance!
I buy Leica cameras to use rather than to polish so to get a slightly more used Leica camera at a discounted price is far better for me than a mint boxed camera at full price. I am also not a Leica puriest as for one I use flash photography a lot but also I don’t mind too much where a camera was made or if the top plate is made of zinc or brass.
Leica M4-P, welcome to family! 🙂