Best Leica Film Camera? – The Leica M Camera Buyers Guide!

Leica M Camera Buyers Guide! (Film Ms)

Are you looking to buy a Leica film camera but feel overwhelmed by the choices!?  I faced the same minefield of information online when I bought my Leica M2 which I went into blindly.

In this article I try to provide a detailed comparison between the different Leica M film cameras so you can make an informed purchase decision and buy the best Leica film camera for you.  My Leica M camera buyer’s guide!

Leica M3 Portrait

How did this post come about?

Leica M Camera Buyers Guide?  When I think back to buying my first analogue film Leica M camera I’m not sure how I decided to buy the particular camera I did.  Lots and lots of research I guess but I don’t really remember finding any information that summarised in simple terms how each Leica M camera is different or perhaps best suited my needs.  It doesn’t help that Leica M cameras all look pretty much identical to the untrained eye too! In this post I try to list some of the main differences between each Leica M camera which might hopefully make it easier for you if you are looking to buy a Leica M film camera.  Please note I have only covered Leica M film cameras and it does not include Leica digital cameras.

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Leica M Camera Timeline (Leica M History)

Here are all the major Leica M film cameras released from oldest to newest (excluding special edition cameras and showing the approximate release date/ production start date).

  1. Leica M3 (1954)
  2. Leica M2 (1958)
  3. Leica M4 (1967)
  4. Leica M5 (1971)
  5. Leica M4-2 (1977)
  6. Leica M4-P (1981)
  7. Leica M6 Classic (1984)
  8. Leica M6 TTL (1998)
  9. Leica M7 (2002)
  10. Leica MP (2003)
  11. Leica M-A (2014)

Generally speaking the higher the M number the more recent the camera was released (with the exception of the Leica M2 that was built after the Leica M3, the M4-2 and M4-P that were released after the M5 and with the Leica MP and M-A being the most recent).

5 Common Features to all Leica M Film Cameras

*to my knowledge for the cameras covered in this article

  1. Maximum shutter speed 1/1000
  2. Flash sync speed 1/50
  3. Rangefinder focusing system
  4. Uses 35mm film
  5. Leica-M bayonet mount lenses (or L39/M39/LSM/LTM Leica screw mount via adapter)

Leica M3 + Summicron 50 DR

Leica M Camera Buyers Guide

Framelines – bright lines in the viewfinder for composition
  • Leica M3 – 50,90,135 (individual framelines – so only see one at a time)
  • Leica M2 – 35,50,90 (individual framelines – so only see one at a time)
  • Leica M4 – 35/135 pair, 50, 90 (Individual & pair)
  • Leica M5 – 35/135 pair, 50, 90 (Individual & pair)
  • Leica M4-2 – 35/135 pair, 50, 90 (Individual & pair)
  • Leica M4-P – 28/90, 35/135, 50/75 (pairs – see 2 framelines at a time)
  • Leica M6 Classic – 28/90, 35/135, 50/75 (pairs – see 2 framelines at a time)
  • Leica M6 TTL – 28/90, 35/135, 50/75 (pairs – see 2 framelines at a time)
  • Leica M7 – 28/90, 35/135, 50/75 (pairs – see 2 framelines at a time)
  • Leica MP – 28/90, 35/135, 50/75 (pairs – see 2 framelines at a time)
  • Leica M-A – 28/90, 35/135, 50/75 (pairs – see 2 framelines at a time)

Leica M Camera Viewfinder magnification / options

  • Leica M3 – 0.91x (most magnified viewfinder)
  • Leica M2 – 0.72x
  • Leica M4 – 0.72x
  • Leica M5 – 0.72x
  • Leica M4-2 – 0.72x
  • Leica M4-P – 0.72x
  • Leica M6 Classic – 0.58x / 0.72x / 0.85x (0.58x is for use with winder lenses)
  • Leica M6 TTL – 0.58x / 0.72x / 0.85x (0.58x is for use with winder lenses)
  • Leica M7 – 0.58x / 0.72x (0.58x is for use with winder lenses)
  • Leica MP – 0.72x /
  • Leica M-A – 0.72x

Leica M Rangefinder focusing

  • Leica M3 – 1m to infinity (close focus goggles allow focusing from 0.478m)
  • Leica M2 – 0.7m to infinity (can use lenses with close focus goggles)
  • Leica M4 – 0.7m to infinity (can use lenses with close focus goggles)
  • Leica M5 – 0.7m to infinity (can use lenses with close focus goggles)
  • Leica M4-2 – 0.7m to infinity (can use lenses with close focus goggles)
  • Leica M4-P – 0.7m to infinity (can use lenses with close focus goggles)
  • Leica M6 Classic – 0.7m to infinity (can use lenses with close focus goggles)
  • Leica M6 TTL – 0.7m to infinity (can use lenses with close focus goggles)
  • Leica M7 – 0.7m to infinity (can use lenses with close focus goggles)
  • Leica MP – 0.7m to infinity (can use lenses with close focus goggles)
  • Leica M-A – 0.7m to infinity (can use lenses with close focus goggles)

Leica M Camera – Battery required to take a photo?

  • Leica M3 – No – N/A
  • Leica M2 – No – N/A
  • Leica M4 – No – N/A
  • Leica M5 – No – Battery only needed for light meter
  • Leica M4-2 – No – N/A
  • Leica M4-P – No – N/A
  • Leica M6 Classic – No – Battery only needed for light meter
  • Leica M6 TTL – No – Battery only needed for light meter
  • Leica M7 – Yes&No – Can use at 1/60 & 1/125 only without battery
  • Leica MP – No – Battery only needed for light meter
  • Leica M-A – No – N/A

Brass or zinc top plate/ base plate (brass dents / zinc cracks)

  • Leica M3 – Brass
  • Leica M2 – Brass
  • Leica M4 – Brass
  • Leica M5 – Brass
  • Leica M4-2 – Brass
  • Leica M4-P – Brass (earlier cameras) Zinc (later cameras)
  • Leica M6 Classic – Zinc
  • Leica M6 TTL – Zinc (Mostly)
  • Leica M7 – Brass
  • Leica MP – Brass
  • Leica M-A – Brass

Precision components (brass) or cheaper components (steel/plastics)

  • Leica M3 – Brass gears (Least cheap components)
  • Leica M2 –  Brass gears (Some cheap components)
  • Leica M4 –  Brass gears (More cheap components)
  • Leica M5 – Steel gears (More cheap components)
  • Leica M4-2 – Steel gears (Even more cheap components)
  • Leica M4-P – Steel gears (Even more cheap components)
  • Leica M6 Classic – Steel gears (Even more cheap components)
  • Leica M6 TTL – Steel gears (More cheap components)
  • Leica M7 – Steel gears (More cheap components)
  • Leica MP – Brass gears (Some cheap components)
  • Leica M-A – Brass gears (Least cheap components)

Leica Hotshoe or coldshoe (for flash photography)

  • Leica M3 – Cold shoe (can still use a flash via sync cable)
  • Leica M2 – Cold shoe (can still use a flash via sync cable)
  • Leica M4 – Cold shoe (can still use a flash via sync cable)
  • Leica M5 – Hotshoe (can use common flash such as Nikon)
  • Leica M4-2 – Hotshoe (can use common flash such as Nikon)
  • Leica M4-P – Hotshoe (can use common flash such as Nikon)
  • Leica M6 Classic – Hotshoe (can use common flash such as Nikon)
  • Leica M6 TTL – Hotshoe & TTL flash with SF-20 unit
  • Leica M7 – Hotshoe (can use common flash such as Nikon)
  • Leica MP – Hotshoe (can use common flash such as Nikon)
  • Leica M-A – Hotshoe (can use common flash such as Nikon)

Leica Camera Built-in light meter

  • Leica M3 – No
  • Leica M2 – No
  • Leica M4 – No
  • Leica M5 – Yes
  • Leica M4-2 – No
  • Leica M4-P – No
  • Leica M6 Classic – Yes
  • Leica M6 TTL – Yes
  • Leica M7 – Yes
  • Leica MP – Yes
  • Leica M-A – No

Leica Film rewind mechanism

  • Leica M3 – Rewind nob (slower)
  • Leica M2 – Rewind nob (slower)
  • Leica M4 – Rewind crank (faster)
  • Leica M5 – Rewind ratchet on base plate
  • Leica M4-2 – Rewind crank (faster)
  • Leica M4-P – Rewind crank (faster)
  • Leica M6 Classic – Rewind crank (faster)
  • Leica M6 TTL – Rewind crank (faster)
  • Leica M7 – Rewind crank (faster)
  • Leica MP – Rewind nob (slower)
  • Leica M-A – Rewind nob (slower)

Loading film into a Leica camera: Separate take-up spool insert

  • Leica M3 – Yes (slower to load)
  • Leica M2 – Yes (slower to load)
  • Leica M4 – No (has quick loading film mechanism)
  • Leica M5 – No (has quick loading film mechanism)
  • Leica M4-2 – No (has quick loading film mechanism)
  • Leica M4-P – No (has quick loading film mechanism)
  • Leica M6 Classic – No (has quick loading film mechanism)
  • Leica M6 TTL – No (has quick loading film mechanism)
  • Leica M7 – No (has quick loading film mechanism)
  • Leica MP – No (has quick loading film mechanism)
  • Leica M-A – No (has quick loading film mechanism)

Leica Viewfinder condenser / prism (risk of being unable to focus without it)

  • Leica M3 – Yes
  • Leica M2 – Yes
  • Leica M4 – Yes
  • Leica M5 – Yes
  • Leica M4-2 – No condenser removed – risk of flare/ ghosting/difficulties to focus
  • Leica M4-P – No condenser removed – risk of flare/ ghosting/difficulties to focus
  • Leica M6 Classic – No condenser removed – risk of flare/ ghosting/difficulties to focus
  • Leica M6 TTL – No condenser removed – risk of flare/ ghosting/difficulties to focus
  • Leica M7 – Yes
  • Leica MP – Yes
  • Leica M-A – Yes

Leica M6 by Olympus Pen-F

 Small Print

*Please note

  • The information is sourced from personal experience and a range of websites
  • There are many many Leica M camera variants/ specials that may not fit the above
  • Leica cameras continued to evolve so some traits may overlap from last/next model
  • Information is simplified and generalised but there is full detail on other websites
  • I own Leica M3s, M2, M4-P, M6 Classic and have not used other models
  • Non-factual comments such as ‘faster’,’slower’,’cheaper’ is a generalisation
  • This review does not include the M1 or MD models
  • External viewfinders are available if you want to use a lens wider than the frameline
  • Some camera lenses have close focus goggles such as the Leica Summicron 50mm DR
  • The Leica M3 can be used a 35mm lens using 35mm focusing goggles

**Mistakes

  • If I have omitted some obvious information or have classed a camera incorrectly (being for the majority of cameras produced for that model as I know there are lots of camera variants) please let me know and I can update it.

Leica M6!

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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

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Mr Leica - in Action!

***Enjoyable

I hope you find this very simplified guide of some help.  I enjoyed researching the information and I now know how to distinguish the difference between my Leica M2 and Leica M3 at a glance from the front!  The Leica M3 has a plain frameline illumination window and the Leica M2 has a fresnel type illumination window (vertical stripes in the window next to the viewfinder window). 🙂

Matt

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Leica M3 Review (The Best Leica Camera Ever?)

Leica M3 Review – The Ultimate Rangefinder Camera!?

Mr Leica Vintage Selfie!

Buying a Leica M3.. Where it started!

 

Fuji GF670 Rangefinder Camera

As a follower of this blog you will know I am a Leica M9 35mm digital rangefinder shooter.  I recently decided to search for a camera one step closer to ‘perfection’ in terms of rangefinder cameras so invested in a Fuji GF670 Pro medium format film rangefinder (6×6 / 6×7 format).  A folding camera with a medium format size sensor and a super sharp lens. It produces beautifully big 6×6/ 6×7  negatives with tonnes of detail when scanned.  It is portable and I can use it will off camera strobes with a leaf shutter sync speed of 1/500.  I thought it was pretty cool.

Leica M3 Film Camera

I then bought a 1950s Leica M3 35mm film rangefinder with a 0.91x viewfinder.  It looks near identical to my Leica M2 and for the most part all the benefits are the same for the M2 and the M3.  The biggest plus of the M3 is the viewfinder. I have a lot of cameras and it is without doubt my favourite viewfinder of any camera.  Big clear and bright with easy to see 50mm framelines and nothing else cluttering the view.  I paired the M3 with a Leica Summicron 50mm f2 v5 lens with a E39 filter thread.

Leica M3 vs Fuji GF670 Wedding

This weekend I had a Leica wedding here in the UK and offered the couple the option of some film photography in addition to digital Leica M9 images.  They were interested and purchased the film photography wedding package option so I took the Fuji GF670 loaded with colour 120  Fuji Pro 400H film and then the Leica M3 loaded with black and white 35mm film, Kodak T-Max 100.

Coventry Wedding Venue - The Saxon Mill

Leica M3 Review vs Fuji Gf670

I didn’t let the three cameras (Leica M9 + Leica M3 + Fuji GF670) distract me from the wedding photography task so waited and brought them out for the wedding portrait images (plus a few bridal prep shots).  I then had to chose when to shoot colour and when B&W film, and when 6×6 format and when 6×4 35mm format.  What I noticed straight away was the little Leica M3 fitted my hand like it was made to go there.  Using the M3 was intuitive and felt natural (possible because I have used the M9 so much!).  I was using natural light with the M3 but off camera speedlight for some of the GF670 shots.  It made me realise that sometimes you don’t need all the fancy lights, big lenses, and larger camera sensors, I just needed the little M3, the 50mm Summicron and some available light.  The Leica M3 is fast and is kind of an extension from your arm / eyes.  No fuss, no electronics, just beautifully pure photography.  By keeping the setup simple the Leica M3 photos flowed, the wedding couple forgot the camera and the natural poses and relaxed smiles followed. (This was quite an achivement as both the bride and groom really didn’t like being in front of a camera).

Leica M3 Wedding

A “cute” elegant vintage film camera is far less scary than a big DLSR with a 70-200mm lens stuck on the front.  The little M3 actually became a talking point and was a welcomed sight for a number of the wedding guests.

All the above “keep it simple” advantages also apply to my Leica M2 if I used a 35mm lens with the 35mm viewfinder.  I have used the Leica M2 this year for various model shoots.

I wasn’t expecting the Leica M3 to have such an impact but it is letting me appreciate photography in the simplest form.  I can transfer this mentality into the rest of my photography such as using the M9 with one small lens.  It has also let me evaluate how I shoot and how I will approach future weddings when shooting film.

I’m sure I will have a lot more rave reviews to follow for the Leica M3 and more example images too but my review so far is it is a fantastic camera and my new number one favourite camera of all the 35mm and medium format cameras I own.  The viewfinder is just magical! 🙂

Model photography sample images

  • Fuji GF670 Flickr Images

#FilmIsNotDead

FUJI GF670 Analogue Rangefinder

GF670 Kodak Moment

  • Leica M2 Flickr Images

Leica M2 Film Portrait

35mm B&W Film Portrait - Leica M2

Leica M2 Film - unedited

Leica M2 Portrait - Tri-X 400@200

    • Leica M3 Flickr Images

Leica M3 Editorial Film Fashion
Kodak Ektar Colours - Portrait
Leica M3 Window LIght
Leica M3 + Summicron 50

..Don’t get me wrong.  The Fuji GF670 can produce stunning negatives but you just don’t get the same enjoyment you get with the Leica M3 when operating the camera.

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