Leica M2 Review (+ M2 vs Bessa R3A)

Leica m2 review - girl with leica

Leica M2 Review (+ Leica M2 vs Bessa R3A)

Leica M2 vs Voigtlander Bessa R3A

Have you been struggling to decide between a Leica M2 film camera (or any Leica film camera) and a Voigtlander Bessa R3A (or any Voigtlander film camera)?  I tried to do it on the cheap and ended up with 2 cameras!

This 2 part article includes a Leica M2 review and a Leica M2 vs Voigtlander Bessa R3A direct comparison. (Parts A&B below).  After reading this post you should be in a better position to buy the camera best for your needs whether Leica or Voigtlander.

leica m2 review - leica camera photo


Part A: Buying a Leica M2/ Leica M2 Review

My first Leica film camera – a Leica M2!


The first Leica film camera I bought was a Leica M2.  I am now a proud owner of a Leica trio Leica M2, Leica M8 and Leica M9!


Leica M2 Black and White Portrait

Leica M2 vs Voigtlander Bessa R3A

The Leica M2 camera was an unplanned buy. I was ready to shoot 35mm film last weekend but found my 35mm Voigtlander Bessa R3A camera shutter was completely jammed. I tried the usual tricks to rectify the problem per YouTube but no luck. The Bessa’s are well known to be a poor man’s Leica and although they are great when they work I need a camera body I can rely on. For that reason I turned to Leica.

Leica Film Fashion, London

Leica M2 Price.. Less than a Leica M3!

I looked online and the Leica M2 price was the lowest price Leica film camera listed (less than a Leica M3).  I did some reading on the M2 and the rest was history!

Leica M2 Engineering

Some people call the Leica M2 the pinnacle of Leica engineering when it was released in 1958. I have one of the later Leica M2 models with a self timer and rewind lever. It has a bright viewfinder with 35mm, 50mm and 90mm frame lines. If I want to use a 28mm lens I just use the entire viewfinder area when composing a photo.


Leica M2 Film Portrait

Leica M2 vs M6 Classic

I toyed with the idea of getting the newer Leica M6 Classic camera. The M6 has a built in light meter but cost more than 1.5x the cost of a used Leica M2. I did not need the light meter and wanted an affordable Leica film camera to mount my various Leica M lenses.

Leica M2 vs Nikon FM

I already own a ‘beater’ or ‘user’ brassed black Nikon FM 35mm SLR camera. It was less than 5x the cost of the Leica M2 and I asked myself can I do without the Leica film camera. I slept on it but it my M2 purchase decision came down to my Leica M mount lenses (a mix of Leica, Zeiss and Voigtlander lenses). Their compact size, the focal lengths available and most importantly the fantastic image quality made it a no brainer. For a small film camera setup to thrown in a bag the Leica M2 wins every time. I still have my Nikon FM to use with some of my nice Nikon glass such as the Nikkor 200mm f2 AI-s.

Leica M2 + Fuji Acros 100

Leica Film Photography

I have wanted to get back into shooting film for some time and I have done almost none since I got my Leica M9 last year. Getting a Leica M2 film camera is the quickest and easiest way to get my interest in film photography back very quickly!


Leica M2 Photos

My first test photo using the Leica M2.. it even makes rubbish bins look good!

Leica M2 Film!

More Leica M2 photos from my travels

Night Street Photography - Film

American Trucks - Tri-X

Zeiss ZM Sonnar 50 + Leica M2

B&W Film Dynamic Range


Leica M2 Portraits


Leica M2 + Nokton 35mm

Leica M2 Film

London Photography Workshop

35mm Film - End of theRoll


Part B: Leica M2 vs Voigtlander Bessa R3A


After buying the Leica M2 I own both a 1950s Leica M2 35mm rangefinder film camera and a more modern Voigtlander Bessa 3RA 35mm rangefinder film camera.  Both these cameras accept Leica M lenses and are basically just a light box to mount the lens on and to shoot to 35mm film.  So which do I prefer?  Here are some facts for each film camera:


Bessa R3A with it's new 21mm retro viewfinder! :)

Leica M2 Specs – 8 Facts about the M2

  1. 0.72 magnification viewfinder for 35mm, 50mm, 90mm framelines (Leica M3 is 0.91 magnification for 50mm framelines and better rangefinder focus accuracy).
  2. 1/50 flash sync speed – uses 2 rear flash sync ports and can use with PC sync cable via adapter
  3. Fastest shutter speed 1/1000 (for when wanting to use wide apertures in daylight)
  4. Horizontal cloth shutter (quiet)
  5. Leica build quality – compact but solid with nice slimline ergonomics
  6. Leica prices despite the age
  7. Film loaded from the bottom
  8. No light meter (I use a separate Sekonic light meter or do a test shot with the M9)


London Film Photography

Voigtlander Bessa R3A Specs – 8 Facts on the R3A

  1. Large bright 1:1 magnification viewfinder with 40, 50, 75, 90 framelines
  2. 1/125 flash sync speed with useable hotshoe without need for adapters
  3. Fastest shutter speed 1/2000 (for when wanting to use wide apertures in daylight)
  4. Vertical metal shutter prone to jamming
  5. Cheaper lightweight build but lighter to carry. Nice slimline ergonomics.
  6. More affordable (approximately half price)
  7. Film loaded from the back door
  8. TTL Centerweighted light metering


Voigtlander Bessa R3A Film

Leica M2 vs Voigtlander Bessa R3AWhich camera do I prefer?

For ambient light photography the Leica M2 is reliable and rugged and hard to beat.  I use it with a 1.4x magnifier on the viewfinder with my Leica Noctilux lens. For flash photography the Voigtlander Bessa R3A makes Leica M film camera strobist work possible and far easier than using the M2.  The large Bessa viewfinder is beautiful to use but the reliability of the metal shutter is a problem.  I have used the Leica M2 camera more as the Voigtlander Bessa R3A rangefinder calibration gets knocked out of alignment easily (so much that it currently needs calibrating again so I don’t use it for portraits).


Bessa R3A + Ilford Pan F 50

Voigtlander Bessa R3A Review

For a full Voigtlander Bessa R3A Review article see HERE

And Finally..

Leica M2 vs M3!

After buying my Leica M2 I got a taste for Leica film camers!  My next camera purchase was a Leica M3!  See my Leica M3 post to compare the Leica M2 vs M3.

Leica M2 Related Posts

You may also like… What Gear I Use for Portraits!
  • See full details of my portrait photography lighting kit (2018) – HERE
  • See full details of my portrait photography equipment kit (2018) – HERE

Author: matthewosbornephotography

Coventry, UK studio based Model and Wedding Photographer offering both Medium Format Film and Digital Images. 1-2-1 Photography and Lighting Tuition also available.

27 thoughts on “Leica M2 Review (+ M2 vs Bessa R3A)”

  1. I went to a store recently to look at a Leica MP for sale. Whilst discussing it, the owner brought out an M3 which he recently received and needs a shutter repair and service before sale. That appeals more than the MP, and he’s letting me mull it over. I have first dibs if I choose to proceed.

    1. As Matt said the M3 is a wonderful camera with the largest viewfinder of any Leica M. It has framelines for the 50, 90, and 135 lenses, whereas the M2 includes the 35. Pay close attention to the condition of the viewfinder as these cannot be replaced with the original anymore and it is an expensive little exercise. Throw some Black and White film in and you have the original Leica M “Monochrome”. 🙂

      1. I’ll probably get struck down by the Leica Gods for saying this but I actually get more enjoyment shooting with my FM2 than I do with the M3. But then I don’t have any nice glass for the Leica but I’m spoilt for choice for lenses with the Nikon 🙂

      2. (Crack of Thunder heard overhead) 😛

        Steve, I like my FM a lot but I my Leica lenses are far superior (in my eyes for the 15-50mm focal lengths I want to use). They are both great camera. Shoot one colour & one BW! 😉

  2. If you shoot a 50mm then get the M3 with the magnified viewfinder. If you are a 35mm man you may want an M2, M6 or one of the others. The M3 does get rave reviews though. Treat yourself! 😉 I did.. you only live once! 🙂

      1. I am always amazed at what the little Oly’ Trip 35 can do….so simple and easy to use. I liked it that much I bought another with chrome button 🙂

  3. I can’t justify the M9 so have been mulling a Leica M2 and 35mm Cron (or 35mm f/1.4 Nokton). The purchase would be for a year long project covering politics. Eventually, I would like to shoot weddings with M digital. I figure to pick up a 1.25 magnifier and have the best of both worlds. The M3 rocks, but sometimes you need a bit wider angle.

  4. I’ve just bought an M2 and as yet have no lenses for it. Top of my wish list is the Zeiss Sonnar 1.5. I have the older version of the lens on a Contax IIa.
    Second on the list is the Biogon 35mm. I have the 28mm for the Contax G2 which is a stunning lens

    1. M2 is a nice camera if you like 35mm FL. If you liek 50mm get yourself a M3. Amazing viewfinder and my most used film body.

      Sonnar is good but I sold mine as I wanted to get closer than 1m. I use a Lux ASPH mostly now.

  5. I bought an Elmar 50mm f2.8 to get me going for now. At some point I may buy a Sonnar, but probably more likely to get a Biogon 35mm.

    I do like the M2 though, excellent viewfinder an legendary build quality and feel.

    1. I have the Sonnar and I love it. I did some comparison shots at the Leica store in San Francisco and liked the rendering on the Sonnar better than the Noctilux. I have the 28mm Biogon and it is a nicely made lens, but I find it a bit wide for everyday use. I am contemplating the summicron 35….need to save a bit first!

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