Tag Archives: leica film

Barnack Leica Comparison – Leica i,ii,iii,a-g + Leica iiig vs Leica M3

Barnack Leica Comparison – Leica i,ii,iii,a-g + Leica iiig vs Leica M3 + YouTube

This article provides a Barnack Leica comparison and aims to give a basic understanding of the vintage Leica Barnack cameras. It compares the Leica i, ii, iii cameras and explains the common features found with Leica iiia, b,c,d,e,f,g cameras + YouTube video.

Leica iiig Portrait (of the Leica iiia)
Leica i vs Leica ii vs Leica iii

The Leica i, Leica ii and Leica iii cameras all share the same Barnack Leica camera body design but there are differences. Here is a quick summary:

Leica i – No viewfinder/ rangefinder or slow shutter speeds

The Leica i cameras such as the Leica ic (*not the Leica I original or the Leica I Standard) have no viewfinder or rangefinder built into the camera. Instead the Leica i camera has two coldshoe mounts on the camera top plate. This feature is an easy way to quickly identify a Leica i camera. The two coldshoe attachments let you mount both an external viewfinder and external rangefinder. The Leica i cameras also have no slow shutter speed dial on the front of the camera and this is replaced by a patch. (The same as seen on a Leica ii camera)(see below).

Leica ii – No slow shutter speed dial

The Leica ii cameras such as the Leica iic is the same as the Leica iii cameras except there is no slow shutter speed dial. As with the Leica i camera the absence of the slow shutter speed dial is covered with a patch. If the camera has the viewfinder and rangefinder windows and a patch on the front it is a Leica ii camera.

Leica iii – Many versions – Leica iiia, b,c,d,e,f,g

As with the first Leica LTM camera (of this series) being called the Leica i then Leica ii then iii then same is true for the lettering. The Leica iii ‘a’ camera was designed and released first. Next followed the Leica iiib, Leica iiic, d, Leica iiif and finally the last model the Leica iiig.

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Leica iiia vs Leica iiig!

Popular Cameras: Leica iiia vs Leica iiic vs Leica iiif

I have the Leica iiia and the Leica iiig cameras but I think the most popular models are the Leica iiic and the Leica iiif. This is potentially the case because they are ‘refined’ or later versions of the Leica iiia camera but half the price of the Leica iiig camera. The Leica iiic and Leica iiif both have a single eyepiece with a split rangefinder and viewfinder window. The earlier Leica iiia has two separate windows, rangefinder on the left and viewfinder on the right.

The Leica iiia is the lightest of the Leica iii cameras so perfect for my taste. The Leica iiif has the self timer which is absent on the Leica iiic. In most other respects all of these cameras mentioned are near identical. (*They will have slight differences/ improvements over time).

Leica iiia vs Leica iiig

These two Barnack cameras are opposite ends of the Leica iii camera series. The Leica iiia was released in 1935 and is the first Leica iii camera to have a letter . In contrast the Leica iiig was the last Leica iii camera produced, released in 1957. You can read more about the Leica iiia camera on a previous article – Leica iiia (+ vs Leica M3)

Leica Summitar Bokeh

Leica iiig vs Leica M3

The Leica iiig vs Leica M3 are more comparable than you might think even though one camera is a Leica M and the other is a Barnack Leica.  Why?  The Leica M3 was actually released before the Leica iiig and is the camera that killed off the Leica iii series.  The ‘modern’ (at the time) new design of the Leica M3 brought many benefits over the Leica iiif (and the later Leica iiig). 

Here are 3 features of the Leica M3 that I see as an improvement over the Leica iiig (and other Leica iii cameras).

“Improved” film loading

The Leica iiif and Leica iiig both share the same film loading process where you have to physically cut a strip out of every roll of 35mm film before loading it into the camera.  This both wastes a couple of useable frames and is a pain if you use different 35mm film cameras (as I do).  (You don’t want to pre-cut all your film if you may use it in your Nikon FE2 or Leica M film camera (as per this example)).  Non-Leica iii camera don’t need the extra-long film leader (from cutting the film for the Leica iii).

Unlike the Leica iii cameras the new Leica M3 camera design allows the back of the camera to be opened while film is loaded.  This improves visibility when loading film into a Leica M3 (or any Leica M film camera) and you can see if the film is both aligned (loaded straight) and engaged into the sprockets (will advance when you push the film advance lever).  With all that said, after loading 3-4 rolls of film into a Leica iii camera it is just as easy to load film into as the M3.  The only negative towards the Leica iii cameras is having to cut the film before loading.

Leica iiig Model Shoot
Bigger brighter faster combined viewfinder/ rangefinder

The new Leica M3 offer a much bigger brighter combined viewfinder and rangefinder window.  The Leica iiig still has the split single eyepiece design with one window for the rangefinder and one window for the viewfinder.  Combining both into one view makes the Leica M camera much faster to focus, compose and shoot.  Leica engineers tried to improve the Leica iiig (over the Leica iiif) by fitting a larger viewfinder.  All previous Leica iii cameras only show a small 50mm view which is not easy to see clearly for accurate composition. 

Leica iii photographers can overcome this drawback by fitting an external Leica 50mm viewfinder (or say a 35mm finder if they want to mount a 35mm lens).  The Leica iiig is the only Leica iii camera to have a larger viewfinder that displays both 50mm and 90mm frame lines.  Larger than the Leica iiif (and other Leica iii cameras) but still smaller than the Leica M3 viewfinder. 

The Leica M3 viewfinder gives 50mm, 90mm and 135mm framelines and in my view is the best viewfinder of any 35mm film camera. Period.

Leica iiig Portrait
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New Leica M mount lenses

The Leica M3 camera also brought with it a new lens mount to become known as the Leica M mount.  This is a bayonet fit design rather than the Leica screw mount fitting of the Leica iii cameras. (Screw mount is also known as Leica Thread Mount – LTM, L39 or M39).  The older Leica glass from the Leica iii cameras can be mounted to a Leica M camera. You just need a Leica M-LTM adapter which can be found easily on ebay for around £10.

Sadly if you want to work back through history as I seem to be doing, Leica M mount lenses cannot be mounted to a Barnack Leica camera.  You may own a Leica M camera (digital or film) and a few nice Leica M mount lenses like me. You can’t use your M mount lenses on a Leica iii camera (if you were to purchase one).  Like me, you will need to buy additional LTM lenses for your Leica iii camera. (Review on these LTM lenses to follow!)

Latest technology meant these ‘modern’ Leica M mount lenses were new and improved over the older LTM lenses. The modern lens optics and new lens coatings made the optical performance of these Leica M lenses very desirable. This is probably a popular reason why some photographers upgraded. Moving to the new Leica M system and away from the Barnack Leicas.

More modern often means bigger!

As seems to be the case with cars, a modern Mini Cooper seems twice the size of the original Mini. The same is often true for lenses. As lens designers try to fit additional features into a lens the size generally increases. This is also true for the Leica M camera. Compared to the Leica iiia the Leica M3 body is over 25% heavier and has larger dimensions. The Leica iiig is the largest Leica iii camera and is closer in size to the Leica M3 but the M3 is still bigger. For me the compact size of the early Leica Barnack cameras is enough to own one. That is one plus for the Leica iii system vs Leica M system.

Leica iiig Portraits

Leica Summitar 5cm f2 Portrait
Leica Summitar 5cm f/2 Portrait
Leica Summitar 5cm f/2 Portraits
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Barnack Leica Cameras – Recommended?

Understanding the different Barnack Leicas

So if and when you come to buy an old Oscar Barnack design Leica camera you will be faced with lots of model numbers and letters. At first glance most of these LTM Leica cameras look very similar. When looking to buy myself I noticed that the prices vary widely so I knew that there must be some differences. I’m always eager to buy the best camera(s) I can so I did lots more research first. Below is a summary of what I learnt about the different Leica i, Leica ii, Leica iii (a,b,c,d,e,f,g) cameras.

Barnack Leica Comparison Table

*Table includes information available online from multiple sources

Best Leica iii Camera?

So with everything above considered what is the best Leica iii camera? I guess the answer will be different for everyone. If you like small, light and compact you will probably love the Leica iiia that I use. For more features a later Leica iiic or Leica iiif may suit you and these are easy to find on eBay. If you want the ultimate Leica iii camera it would be the Leica iiig. It has the larger viewfinder and offers the most features of any of the Barnack Leica cameras.

I hope you found this useful and i’m sorry there are some gaps in the data table above. Some camera facts just don’t seem to be recorded anywhere, such as camera weight of each model.

Leica iii Clone Cameras

There are lots of copies of Leica iii cameras including those from Zorki and Nicca which can be extremely similar and found for a fraction of the Leica price.

Zorki C (Cheap Leica Copy)

The Zorki 1C is a great example of an affordable Leica iii clone. It is very similar to my Leica iiia camera.

Cheap Leica R Film Cameras

Did you know that some Leica R film cameras can be found as cheap or cheaper than Leica iii cameras! These are Leica SLR cameras so slightly different beasts and they take Leica R lenses which focus closer but are larger and heavier than the small LTM lenses (and Leica M lenses).

More Leica articles

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Leica iiia Review (+ vs Leica M3) + Buying old Cameras/ Lenses on eBay

Leica iiia Review + Buying old Cameras/ Lenses on eBay (+ Leica iiia vs Leica M3)

Do you know what a Leica iii camera is? Me neither until one week ago! This Leica iiia review will explain some of the basics and I will share what I now know. It also accompanies my new Leica M3 vs Leica iiia review video on YouTube (linked below)

Leica iiia + Summitar 5cm f2

Why did I buy another Leica camera!?

If you have seen my YouTube channel or follow this blog you will know I don’t need any more cameras. I was happy with what I had. I didn’t even really know what a Leica iii was other than an ‘old Leica’.

So what happened? Well I blame the Leica Thambar 90mm lens! (Review still to follow!) Why? After using the Thambar lens and appreciating the vintage look rendered by this glass I decided to get on eBay. I didn’t go online to buy a £5000+ Thambar lens though. Instead I thought it would be smarter and much cheaper to just pick up a very early Leica lens. Early Leica lenses often have no lens coating so can create that vintage look straight out the box. A vintage look may commonly be thought of as low contrast, soft corners to the image, risk of lens flare and often more interesting bokeh and with less clinical rendering.

Leica iiia + Summitar 5cm f2

Vintage Leica lenses (Especially LTM Leica lenses)

I already own some of the early Leica M mount glass such as the Leica Summarit 50mm f1.5 lens and Leica Summaron 35mm f3.5 lens. My plan was to therefore look for even older lenses with the early 1930s lens design. Lenses of this period are the Leica screw mount or Leica thread mount (LTM) design. These early Leica lenses screw into the camera body rather than the standard Leica M mount bayonet fit. You can then use a cheap eBay adapter to mount Leica LTM lenses to Leica M cameras (Leica M – Leica LTM adapter).

Leica iiia + Elmar 5cm  f/3.5

Leica lens or vintage Leica camera + lens?

After scrolling through pages of vintage Leica lenses listed on eBay I noticed that in some cases the lens was being sold with the same period 1930s-1950s Leica camera. What surprised me more so was the additional cost to buy the same lens with a camera included was minimal. Why buy just a lens when I could have a lens and a new camera to play with!? “MrLeica should own at least one vintage Leica camera” I told myself! With that I put a bid on and it was happily accepted. Woohoo!

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Risks with buying vintage Leica equipment on eBay

Buying vintage Leica cameras on eBay

If like me you become inspired to check out the old Leica gear on eBay in search of a bargain you need to be a little bit careful. If a camera is 80 years old there is a chance it may be in need of a full service or CLA before it will work as originally intended. The shutter speeds may be slow and not accurate for example. Some eBay sellers state that the camera will work/ “may not work”/ “just for parts”. My seller shared a YouTube video showing the camera working so I felt safe to make my purchase.

If you look at multiple listings for the same camera this will give you an idea of the price range from cheapest to most expensive. My observation was that often for the best deal you should look to purchase a camera with a lens attached rather than buy a camera and lens individually.

Buying vintage Leica lenses on eBay

For vintage Leica lenses the uncoated front elements were very prone to scratches. With an 80 year old lens from this era it is also common to find haze, fungus or dust inside. A 1930s – 1950s Leica lens can be a gamble but you may get lucky. Often the cheaper lenses listed will be in the least mint condition but you may find a gem amongst them. Equally the more you pay the better condition the lens should be in but this isn’t always guaranteed. You may just pay over the going rate for a bad copy of the lens. It is worth checking the eBay seller’s photo and description carefully to try to determine if the lens has clear optics before buying.

Leica screw mount cameras or LTM mount

Before the days of the very popular Leica M cameras there was the original Leica cameras. Oscar Barnack designed the first Leica screw mount camera and these were produced from the 1930s to the 1950s. In the mid-1950s the Leica M3 was released (the first Leica M film camera) and that soon replaced the earlier Barnack-design Leicas. There was some overlap with the Leica iiiG being released after the Leica M3.

Leica Elmar + Nooky Hesum

Leica iiia vs Leica M3 – Build quality

With my background being Leica M cameras I’ve always said the Leica M3 is the best M camera. One reason is it is beautifully made with seemingly no expense spared. If anyone asked me I wouldn’t hesitate to say that the best made Leica is the Leica M3. Then I bought my 1939 Leica iiia. That changed my opinion instantly! I don’t buy cameras to polish and put in a cabinet and for me a Leica is a tool. Saying that I was still blown away by the beauty and elegance of the Leica iiia camera. It is the closest camera I have seen to an over engineered finely crafted swiss time piece. I think I would be happy just to photograph it as a subject and use it as a prop!

Leica iiig Portrait (of the Leica iiia)
Photo of the Leica iiia taken with a Leica iiig (Leica iiig review to follow!)

Leica M3 vs Leica iiia – Ease of use

Yes the Leica iiia camera is beautiful but it is slower to use so will not suit everyone. Unlike the Leica M3 with it’s big bright combined viewfinder/ rangefinder window the Leica iiia has two separate tiny windows. Looking at the back of the camera the left window is the rangefinder, so you can focus you image. The right window is the viewfinder to compose you image. You need to move you eye from the left window to the right window before taking the photo. The Leica iiia reminds me of my vintage 6×9 Soviet Moskva-5 camera in that regard (See here for sample images – Moskva-5).

The Leica iiia viewfinder/ rangefinder design together with the film advance nob rather than a lever makes the camera slower to take photos. The Leica iiia is also slower to load film into as the back plate of the camera does not open. This makes it a little bit more fiddly to ensure that the film is engaged into the sprockets correctly.

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How to load film into a Leica iiia (YouTube)

I have recorded a YouTube video to demonstrate how to load film into a Leica iiia camera (or any Leica iii camera). I will link it here once posted.

Leica iiia portraits / test photos!

Leica Elmar 50mm f3.5
Elmar 5cm f/3.5 Portrait
Leica LTM Portrait
Leica iiia Portrait
Summitar + Nooky Hesum Adapter

Summary of the Leica iiia vs Leica M3 Specs

*I couldn’t find anywhere online about the Leica iiia viewfinder magnification, sorry

Cheap Leica film camera – is there such a thing!?

Actually yes! Yes there is such a thing as a cheap Leica camera. For the price of a second hand Nikon SLR film camera you can actually get yourself a beautiful vintage Leica camera! I know this fact as I have bought both these cameras in the last 12 months. Yes the Nikon F cameras are far more practical but if you really have you heart set on a Leica it is possible on a budget. The Leica iiia is approximately 1/3 of the cost of a Leica M3 camera. Prices vary widely but i’m basing this on paying £200 for a Leica iiia camera body and £600 for a Leica M3 camera body. You can pay more or less for both these cameras on the used market depending on the camera condition etc.

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So what are my thoughts so far of the Leica iiia?

As summarised above, I love the lightweight compact yet elegant build of the Leica iiia camera. Perfect for fitting into a jacket pocket when going out for the day or in my case to fit into a jersey pocket if cycling/ hydration vest pocket if running! The Leica iiia is better suited for when you have time to take your photos. It would not suit a fast paced environment such as a Leica wedding shoot. (Too slow to operate and too slow film loading). I’m very glad to have discovered these older Leica cameras and I look forward to taking it on trips in 2020. (You will be able to see when I do as I will show my’ adventures’ on YouTube!)(I’ve booked a few cheap flights already to try to help keep things interesting!).

Leica M3 vs Leica iiia (YouTube)

More Leica articles

  • See full details of my portrait photography lighting kit HERE
  • See full details of my portrait photography equipment kit – HERE

Leica M3 vs Leica M2 Review (YouTube) – Camera Specs Comparison

Leica M3 vs Leica M2 Review (YouTube) – Camera Specs Comparison (Pros&Cons)

As part of my YouTube Leica M film camera Mini Series here is a Leica M3 vs Leica M2 review. The video covers the main features of each camera and should help you decide which of these Leica film cameras may suit you best, depending on your own personal preferences.

Which is better? – Leica M3 vs M2

The answer depends on how you shoot, what focal length you prefer and what type of light you shoot with. It maybe that neither of these cameras will suit your needs. If that is the case my Leica M4-P vs Leica M6 video might be of interest (coming soon!). The M4-P and M6 cameras are more modern versions of the Leica M2 and M3 and so cater for some of the ‘limitations’ of the earlier cameras.

Existing Leica Reviews

If you prefer to read text and look at images than watch a video here are my existing Leica camera articles –

There is also my one big blog post that is the basis for these new YouTube videos –

Leica M2 vs M3 – Specs Sheet (Cheat Sheet!)

This cheat sheet I put together should hopefully tell you all you need to know when comparing the Leica M2 to the M3.

YouTube: Leica M3 vs Leica M2 Review

YouTube: Leica M2 / Leica M3 Film Loading + Unloading

YouTube: Best Leica Film Camera (Series Intro)

If you missed it –

More Leica related articles



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


Leica M2 Review (+ Leica vs Voigtlander Bessa R3A)


Leica M2 Review (+ Leica vs Voigtlander Bessa R3A) + Leica M2 on YouTube 

Leica M2 review providing key information, hints and tips and example images.  I compare the Leica vs Voigtlander Bessa R3A and against the popular Leica M3 and M6 plus a cheaper Nikon SLR.

If you are struggling to decide between buying a Leica and say a cheaper alternative like a Voigtlander Bessa R3A or a Nikon FM this might be of interest.

leica m2 review - leica camera photo

Leica M2 Review

Leica M2 – My first Leica film camera!

The first Leica film camera I bought was a Leica M2.  What most people don’t realise is the M2 was actually released after the very popular Leica M3 camera.  (The Leica M3 was release in 1954 and the Leica M2 in 1957).

35mm Portrait

Leica M2 Price.. Cheaper than a Leica M3!

The new Leica M2 model was designed as a cheap alternative to the Leica M3.  Even today the used price of a Leica M2 camera is almost always less than a Leica M3.  That was the reason I bought an M2 and not the M3.  I had my heart set on a film Leica and limited money to spend so the Leica M2 was the best option I found.

Leica Elmarit-M 28mm Fashion

Leica M2 Specs – 15 Facts on the M2 (All you need!)

  1. 0.72x magnification viewfinder (Leica M3 is 0.91x magnification so is easier to critically focus)
  2. 35mm, 50mm, 90mm framelines (for 28mm I use the full viewfinder view to approximate)(can add external hotshoe viewfinder for wider than 35mm)
  3. Leica M2 is optimised for the 35mm focal length (if you prefer 50mm buy a Leica M3)
  4. No built light meter (I use a separate handheld Sekonic light meter or do a test shot with a digital Leica)
  5. No battery required – fully manual camera
  6. Built in self timer
  7. Leica M2 weight – 560g (body only)
  8. 1/50 flash sync speed – uses 2 rear flash sync ports and can use with PC sync cable via adapter (1/50 is generally too slow for flash portraits in daylight)
  9. Coldshoe not hotshoe so a speedlight or trigger will not work without modifications (cables)
  10. Maximum shutter speed 1/1000 (for when wanting to use wide apertures in daylight) (again this can be too slow if using a fast f1.4@f1,4 lens on a bright day)(you can you ND filters to fix this)
  11. Leica M2 is a rangefinder camera – like all Leica M cameras (easier and faster  to focus than a SLR camera)
  12. Quiet horizontal cloth shutter (much more discrete than a SLR camera)
  13. Film loaded from the bottom plate (see below for film loading video)
  14. Tripod socket on Leica M2 base plate (3/8″ size so might need 1/4″-3/8″ adapter for most tripod quick release plates)
  15. Leica build quality – compact, solid build with slimline ergonomics

Leica M2 Black and White Portrait

Leica M2 lenses

Different lenses suit different Leica cameras.  The Leica M2 is optimised for 35mm as the view from a 35mm lens fills the uncluttered Leica M2 viewfinder.  If I was to use a 50mm lens I would choose a Leica M3 camera instead.  The Leica M3 50mm framelines paired with a 50mm lens gives the same experience as a 35mm lens on the Leica M2. (Well the same except better as the Leica M3 viewfinder is magnified making focusing easier).

Of the lenses I use the ones I would choose to mount on the Leica M2 camera are –

The other 35mm lens I use is the 35mm f1.2 but it is a heavier lens making the Leica M2 front heavy.

If I could pick one 35mm lens of those listed it would be the super compact Voigtlander Color Skopar 35mm f2.5.  Sharp wide open and flare resistent.

Leica M2 Engineering + Versions

Some people call the Leica M2 the pinnacle of Leica engineering when it was released in 1957. I have one of the later Leica M2 models with a self timer and rewind lever. (You can see the self timer lever on the front left of the camera if you are looking at cameras on eBay).

Leica M2 Film Portrait

Leica M2 vs Leica M3 (Reasons to buy a Leica M2)

I have already covered this above but to summarise I bought the Leica M2 because –

  1. The Leica M2 is cheaper than a Leica M3
  2. It still gives access to all the desirable Leica M mount lenses
  3. The Leica M2 can be used for 35mm and 50mm lenses (easily) and even 28mm,40mm and 90mm lenses (less ideal). The Leica M3 is designed for 50mm/90mm/135mm only (+40mm less ideal)

Leica M2 Portrait

Leica M2 vs Leica M6


I toyed with the idea of getting the newer Leica M6 Classic camera.  Leica M6 cameras have 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 as I was shooting film along side digital for model photoshoots.

New Kodak Ektachrome Portrait

Leica M2 vs Nikon FM

I already own a ‘beater’ or ‘user’ brassed black Nikon FM 35mm SLR camera. The Nikon FM was less than 5x the cost of the Leica M2 camera price.  I asked myself can I do without the Leica film camera?  I slept on it but 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 throw in a bag the Leica M2 wins every time. I still have my Nikon FM to use with some of my nice Nikon glass.

*To see the detailed pros and cons of a Nikon FM (and similar Nikon F cameras) vs a Leica see the seperate review here –

Nikon FM vs Nikon FE vs Nikon FE2 Review (+vs F4/ F5/ Leica M4P)

Leica M2 + Fuji Acros 100

Leica M2 vs Voigtlander Bessa R3A

My Leica M2 camera was actually an unplanned buy.  The weekend was fast approaching and I was excited to shoot some 35mm film during a model photoshoot. When I picked up the Voigtlander Bessa R3A camera I found the shutter 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 Film Photography

I wanted to get back into shooting film for some time after having done almost none for 12 months after buying the digital Leica M9 camera. Getting a Leica M2 film camera was the quickest and easiest way to get my interest in film photography back very quickly!

Leica M2 vs M3 ..follow up

After buying my Leica M2 I got a taste for Leica film camers!  My next camera purchase was a Leica M3 so now I use the Leica M3 for 50mm and Leica M2 for 28mm and 35mm lenses.

Leica M2 Photos – test

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

Leica M2 Film!

Leica M2 Travel photos

Night Street Photography - Film

American Trucks - Tri-X

Zeiss ZM Sonnar 50 + Leica M2

B&W Film Dynamic Range

Leica M2 Portraits

Leica SOOKY-M

Leica M2 + Nokton 35mm

Leica M2 Film

London Photography Workshop

35mm Film - End of theRoll

Leica M2 Portrait – Colour

Kodak Vision3 200T

YouTube: Leica M2 vs Leica M3

YouTube: Leica M2 Film Loading + Unloading

Poor Man’s Leica – Voigtlander Bessa R3A

After buying the Leica M2 I now owned both a 1950s Leica M2 and a more modern Voigtlander Bessa R3A (aka The poor man’s Leica) .  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.

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

Leica vs Voigtlander? So what do I prefer?

To help consider this question first we need to understand what the Voigtlander Bessa offers –

Voigtlander Bessa R3A Specs – 11 Facts on the R3A

  1. Large bright 1:1 magnification viewfinder with 40, 50, 75, 90 framelines (even more magnified than the 0.91x Leica M3!)
  2. 1/125 flash sync speed (better than the 1/50 of Leica M film cameras)
  3. Hotshoe rather than coldshoe (so can use speedlights without adapters)
  4. Fastest shutter speed 1/2000 (for when wanting to use wide apertures in daylight without ND filters)
  5. Vertical metal shutter prone to jamming (vs cloth shutter of Leica M2)
  6. Voigtlander Bessa R3A weight – 430g (vs 560g of Leica M2)
  7. Cheaper more plastic feel build but lighter to carry
  8. Rangefinder more prone to being knocked out of alignment (so you can’t focus accurately).
  9. More affordable (approximately half price of a Leica)
  10. Film loaded from the back door (not via bottom plate)
  11. TTL Centerweighted light metering (vs no light meter in Leica M2)

London Film Photography

Leica or Voigtlander Bessa R3A?  Which is better?

For ambient light photography the Leica M2 is reliable and rugged and hard to beat. For flash photography the Voigtlander Bessa R3A makes Leica M lens film camera strobist work possible and far easier than using the M2.  The large Bessa viewfinder is beautiful to use but the rangefinder calibration gets knocked out of alignment easily (so much that it currently needs calibrating again so I don’t use it for portraits now).  I just use the Voigtlander Bessa when I can have a broad depth of field such as for landscapes.  Having experienced the metal shutter jamming on the Bessa this is also worrying.  If it was my only film camera and I was abroad on a photoshoot I would become stuck.  I find Leica film cameras much more reliable.  The Bessa R3A has the built in light meter which I find useful if only using one camera (and no digital).

Summary – Both cameras are good!

As you can see it is difficult to pick a clear winner between the Leica vs Voigtlander.  Both cameras provide certain benefits but also bring their weaknesses too.  If the Voigtlander Bessa R3A was as reliable as a Leica it would be amazing.  Sadly it isn’t so I guess you get what you pay for as they say.

Bessa R3A + Ilford Pan F 50

Leica M2 Related Posts

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

Best Leica Film Camera Buyers Guide + Detailed Comparisons (Leica Ms)

Best Leica Film Camera Buyers Guide + Detailed Comparisons (Leica Ms) + YouTube

Are you looking to buy a Leica film camera but feel overwhelmed by the choices?  I experienced the same minefield of information when I bought my first Leica camera.  Here I try to help you find the best Leica film camera for you

Leica M4-P

Leica Blog – Leica Camera Reviews

As part of the Leica blog here is Leica M camera buyer’s guide! I own and use multiple Leica film cameras (M2, M3SS, M3DS, M4Ps, M6..) so I put together an easy to follow yet detailed comparison review.  Hopefully it will cover all you need to know but get in touch if you need some help.

Leica M3 Portrait

How did this post come about?

As Leica blog (moreso a Leica film camera blog + general film camera blog) this is one of the key posts on the site to try to summarise some of the main differences between the 35mm Leica film cameras.

Visual Intro to some of the Leica M cameras!

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)
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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 Macro Elmar-M 90mm

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 Photographer

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)
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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
Leica M3 Selfie

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
Leica M6!

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)
Spot the new guy!? 📷☺️👍 #leica #leicam #leicam3 #leicam240 #leicam2 #leicacamera #leicacraft #rangefinder #camera #cameraporn www.MrLeica.com

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)
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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 M3 Model Photography

Leica Film rewind mechanism

  • Leica M3 – Rewind knob (slower)
  • Leica M2 – Rewind knob (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 knob (slower)
  • Leica M-A – Rewind knob (slower)
MrLeica.com

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)
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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

Buyers Guide: Leica M vs Leica iii Cameras

Leica M3 vs Leica M2 Review – YouTube

Leica M6 vs Leica M4-P Review – YouTube

 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.
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Can’t afford a Leica M film camera?

Leica M film cameras are now very expensive but don’t worry you can still get a Leica film camera without robbing a bank. There are cheaper alternatives. I would say look at Voigtlander Bessa cameras but (a) they are not Leica and (b) they are also quite expensive now. So if we stay with Leica you have 3 options:

1. Leica CL / Minolta CL = Cheap Leica M Mount

The Leica CL camera will give you the smallest cheapest Leica M mount camera.

2. Small Affordable Leica iii “Barnack Leica Cameras

These older Leica screw mount rangefinder cameras are beautifully made and much cheaper than the M mount versions. There are quite a few variants so check out my Barnack Leica Cameras help guide.

Leica M3 vs Leica iii (“Barnack Leica”)

This video helps cover the main differences between Leica M cameras and Leica iii cameras.

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3. Feature Packed Leica R Cameras (Leica SLR)

Leica R cameras are SLR cameras not rangefinder cameras. The early Leicaflex models are beautifully made, the mid-period ones were built in collaboration with Minolta and later models were all Leica-made again. Leica R cameras can be very affordable and with all the mod cons verses the basic features on Leica M cameras.

The Leica R lenses are not as cheap as they once were as are popular with cine photographers so get bought and modified to use for video. See my full Leica R lens guide for more info and sample photos.

Leica R Lenses

Pro tip! Leica R lenses can be used on Leica M cameras but Leica M lenses can’t be used on Leica R camera (You have to zone focus Leica R lenses on M bodies as not rangefinder coupled). This works better with wide lenses such as 21mm etc, via Leica M-R adapter.

Related Posts

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Leica Camera Blog Posts – Cameras I use
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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