Leica M4 P Review - Leica M4-P camera with Leica Summarorn 35mm f3.5 lens

Leica M4 P Review (Cheapest Leica Film Camera!) + YouTube Review

Looking to buy a good cheap Leica film camera?  The Leica M4 P is strangely cheaper than the other Leica M cameras and I now use it more than my Leica M3!

In this Leica M4 P review I share 5 points on why I bought not 1 but 2 Leica M4-P cameras including a Leica M4-P vs M6, M3 and M2 comparison and some film portraits.

Kodak Vision3 50D Cross Processed

1. Cheap Leica Camera!?

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.


2. Leica M4-P Intro

leica m4 p review

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. 

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3. 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).

Leica Summarit 50mm f1.5 Selfie Test

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.

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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.

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4. Leica M4 -P: 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
  • 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)
  • Leica M4P lightmeter? No, but is otherwise it’s similar to a Leica M6 so why not just buy a M6
  • 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 M4P 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)
  • 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
Kodak Vision3 200T Film

5. So why do I need another Leica camera!?

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.

5.1 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 (meaning it takes more time to load and unload film) which is 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. But, because I use flash I use the Leica M4-P camera the most unless shooting with available light only.

Imperfect Film

5.2 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 but because I use flash I chose the Leica M4-P.

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Leica M4-P Selfie

5.3 Leica M4P 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.  I bulk load my own 25 exposure 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.  I use the M6 perhaps second most of my analogue film M cameras because of the hotshoe, after the M4-P.  The faster to operate film rewind crank is also a great help.

Leica Noctilux 50mm f1.0 + Vision3 50D

5.4 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 ! 🙂

6. Leica Film Loading (Including Leica M4 Film Loading!)

For anyone that has just treated themselves a new M4 / M4-P here is a good video I found showing Leica film loading for the Leica M4/M4-P, M6 and later models (*not suitable for the Leica M2/M3).

7. Leica M4-P vs Leica M6 Classic


8. Leica M4-P Portraits

I still love Leica M film cameras for my female portraits. I tend to do Leica M4-P portraits when using of cameras flash as the camera has the hotshoe. The M3 is amazing but better for available light portraits.

If you like Leica portraits you might enjoy: 50 Budapest model portraits on film

Leica M4-P + Summilux
Leica M4-P Photo

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9. Leica M4-P wedding photography

As with film portraits I also favour the Leica M4-P for off camera flash wedding photography. It let’s me use 28mm, 35mm and 50mm lenses easily.

B&W Film Leica Wedding

Wait! Do you have film?

After reading this article hopefully you are now ready to get out and start shooting!  Have you got film ready to load?  Here are some of my favourite / the best films that I use in the Leica film cameras for portraits.

Colour film
Black and white film

For a full list of film stocks you can now click here – NEED FILM?

Leica M4P Portrait

Leica M4 P Price

When I saw the Leica M4 P price (used) (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!

Cheap Leica Camera (More affordable Leica camera*) – Leica M4 P

I love Leica cameras (and lenses!) and I love a cheap Leica camera even more (more affordable Leica camera*)!  Perhaps unlike others, 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! 🙂 …I enjoyed the M4P so much I bought a second one and now often travel with a pair of Leica M4-P cameras.  I load one camera with colour film and one camera with B&W film.

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Update: Lens choice in 2022 for the Leica M4-P

As I mature my taste changes. I now appreciate small sharp lenses on Leica M film cameras more than ever and especially 28mm and 35mm for walkabout photography and then the Summilux for portraits. My 3 lenses currently with my M4-P are as follows but if I buy one I plan to swap the larger Summilux for the new smaller Voigtlander Nokton 50mm f1.5 (better balanced)(will not sell the Summilux).

1. New Voigtlander Ultron 28mm f2
2. New Voigtlander Ultron 35mm f2
3. New Voigtlander Nokton 50mm f1.5

Update 2: Leica M4-P prices have gone crazy!

Are you are reading this post today and think to yourself, “Leica M4-P cameras are not cheap at all”? If yes there are cheaper Leica film cameras but I didn’t discover them until years later. Sadly they are not Leica M mount but they do offer you the Leica badge at a much lower price point. See below –

Love small rangefinder cameras? Check out Leica iii cameras
Prefer SLR cameras but want the Leica badge? Leica R cameras!

Leica R cameras offer excellent value compared to Leica M film cameras. Lens for Leica M cameras are smaller and more expensive than Leica R lenses.


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22 thoughts on “Leica M4 P Review (Cheapest Leica Film Camera!)”

  1. Good summary Matt. You didn’t include the M-A which is the one I’d choose over them all. I have an M2 which is just right for me with 35 & 50 lenses.

    1. Thanks Jeremy, yes sorry I only really looked at the older Ms (and those I own so can speak about from experience). The M-A is indeed a fine machine.. if money was no object and I needed a camera to rely upon I would not hesitate. I find i’m shooting more 35mm now so the M2 has become used much more.. for a a time I used mostly 50mm and M3s

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  4. Just for the record, not all M4-Ps have zinc top plates.
    In fact it is only the case with late models (btw, the base plate is brass for all of them). The ones produced in the I think 4 years between the introduction of the M4-P and M6 are all brass. When the M6 went into production alongside the M4-P Leica used zinc top plates for both. Most of these were chrome. You can distinguish them by the windows: With the brass top plate ones they are slightly recessed similar to older Ms (like in the picture above) while those with zinc top plates are flush just like the M6.
    So the majority of all M4-Ps actually have brass top plates 😉

  5. It’s an M6 without the meter, which means it has one more advantage – you can use collapsible lenses without fear. You have to wear cargo pants for it to be pocketable, but … it IS possible.

  6. – Leica using precision parts
    Introduced on the M4-2, early teething issues. Fixed well before the M4-P. Still in use on the M-A.

    – zinc top and base plates
    No Leica has a zinc base plate. The last few M4-2 had essentially prototype M6 top plates, but they are very rare. The rest have stamped brass plates.

    – to save cost
    Actually to save Midland. All Elcan made were M series lenses, so if the plan to scrap the M was allowed, they would likely have been shut down.

    – why not just buy a M6
    Cheaper, better built and no risk of electronic parts becoming unavailable in the future.

    – same viewfinder as the Leica M6
    Not exactly. The framelines in the M4-P are subtly different and unique to that model.

    – flaring in the viewfinder
    This started somewhere in the early-to-mid production of the M4-2, when a condenser lens was removed from the design. It was true until the MP, where a redesign fixed it in a different way.

    – front right side of the camera
    So you can enjoy it when it’s sat idle, but it’s covered by your fingers when out shooting. No duct tape required!

      1. “-to save cost
        Actually to save Midland”… Actually to save Leica. Imagine if Walter Kluck hadn’t promised a profitable M and Leitz went with the R as their one and only. Today, Leica would be a branded lens maker for Sony and little more.

    1. Hi Gray, thanks for your detailed knowledge. Sorry I was relying on technical data I found on various popular website sources. I currently have both M4-Ps and an M6 Classic and use them both alongside M3s and a M2. The M3 is still my favourite for the viewfinder and I’ve had it modified to focus at 0.7m. For flash photography I go to the M6/M4-Ps. Cheers Matt

    2. Gray. Thank you for clarifying the most argued-over points regarding the M4-P. I’ve got a couple of P and an MD-2 for street work in cities using a 21mm F3.4 (2nd version of the 21).

      1. matthewosbornephotography

        Nice setup David. I looked at the MD-2 a few times but went with Barnacks instead – Leica ic/ if

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  8. I think most of the black M4-P’s have zinc top housings. Mine which is a very early one (1st Batch) is certainly zinc. I was told during a visit to Leica Solms some years ago when discussing the M7, is that the black finish both chrome and paint adheres better to zinc, whereas the nickel undercoat to the traditional silver chrome, adheres better to brass. Both my chrome M4, black M4-P and black M7 all have brass bottom plates (as do all my digital M’s). I would suspect that thin zinc alloy would regarded as too fragile and brittle for the rough and tumble that bottom plates tend to suffer.

    1. Hi Wilson, thank you for sharing your in depth knowledge. Despite blogging details as shared here I have not looked closely at my own cameras. I use both my M4-P as working tools along side my Leica M240 and often a Leica M3 and I’ve never noticed a difference between any of the bottom plates so they probably are all brass. Cheers Matt

  9. When I set up my media business in 2007 writing articles for magazines and newspapers in English-speaking countries, I bough two M4-P bodies and an MD-2. The latter is fitted with a 21mm f3.4 Super Angulon (by Schneider) and a 21mm finder plugged in the top. I use the M4-P cameras with 25, 50 & 90mm lenses. All have proved very reliable and now I’m retired I use my cameras to take photographs to help with my new hobby – painting. The MD-2 combination is awesome in cities. Originally intended for use with the reflex housing Visoflex units, or clipped to a microscope or telescope, the MD (1964-67 actually an M2) the MDa (1967-75 an M4) and MD-2 (1977-88 an M4-2 but sold alongside the M4-P & M6) are now being sought out by street shooting enthusiasts for their simplicity and ruggedness. A readily available viewfinder of the same focal length as the lens provides a brighter view than a normal Leica and minus the distractions of rangefinder patch and frame lines. Using a wide-angle lens well stopped down and the Hyperfocal Distance method eliminates the need for focus.

    1. matthewosbornephotography

      Thanks for sharing Toby. Yes my M4-Ps continue to be great workhorse film cameras for me. I used to paint but went the opposite way to you. I discovered photography after. I enjoy the Voigtlander 21mm f4 for its small size but the Zeiss 21mm f2.8 Biogon is great for weddings when there can be less light. Enjoy your painting. Matt

  10. Nice review Matt ! I actually like my M4-P , it is my backup camera, mine is chrome 1813-1983 version with an odd serial number E585, because this number must not be greater than 500, nice camera, very similar to M6. Al

  11. At the end of your review there was mention of the reflex Leicas. These break down into three varieties: The Leicaflex trio, the R3-7+R-E and the R8 & 9. The R series lenses, 1964-2009 fit all bodies but metering systems have requirements. The Leicaflex trio were made in Germany and were 100% Leitz. The R3-7 and R-E were part Minolta. Most were made in Portugal but the all mechanical R6 and the slightly improved R6.2 and simplified R5 variant the R-E were made in Germany. The R8 and it’s slightly improved successer the R9 were Leica designed and built. I now have three R8 bodies as although I think they’re fabulous cameras, I have a dozen lenses. If they pack up, no repairs are possible. I’d be left with my lenses. I have an original Leicaflex from 1964 so could still use the lenses.

    1. matthewosbornephotography

      Hi David, thanks for sharing. I did a Leica R blog post last month which covers some of the basics. I was not aware that the R-E wasn’t anything different to the R3-7 so thanks for that. I use R5, R6, R6.2, R7 + Leicaflex. I’ve not tried the R8 yet. Matt

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