Leica M Camera Buyer’s Guide!

Leica M Camera Buyer’s Guide! (Film Ms)

Matthew Osborne Photography / Mr Leica

December 2016

Leica M3 Portrait

How did this post come about?

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

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).

  • Leica M3 (1954)
  • Leica M2 (1958)
  • Leica M4 (1967)
  • Leica M5 (1971)
  • Leica M4-2 (1977)
  • Leica M4-P (1981)
  • Leica M6 Classic (1984)
  • Leica M6 TTL (1998)
  • Leica M7 (2002)
  • Leica MP (2003)
  • 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).

Common Featurers to all Leica M Film Cameras

*to my knowledge for the cameras covered in this article

  • Maximum shutter speed 1/1000
  • Flash sync speed 1/50
  • Rangefinder focusing system
  • Uses 35mm film
  • 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)

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

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)

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)

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)

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

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)

Film loading 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)

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!

Related Posts

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 M Typ 240 LCD

Leica M Typ 240 LCD

August 2015

Matthew Osborne Photography / Mr Leica . com

Just finished my first wedding with the Leica M Typ 240. What an amazing camera! I loved the M9 but the 240 is so nice for weddings. 📷 Blog to follow.. #leicam #leicam240 #leica #leicawedding #leicaweddingphotographer #weddingphotography #billingha

When buying the Leica M Typ 240 camera  I didn’t think for a minute that I would be be using the rear 3 inch LCD display for anything other than chimping and changing menu settings.

Leica M Rangefinder

I bought the Leica M camera as I enjoy using and get my best results from focusing with the Leica optical viewfinder (rangefinder focus system).  I now struggle to use a DSLR accurately with manual focus lenses.  I confidently focus my Leica Noctilux 50mm f1.0 v2 lens wide open via the rangefinder system.

I did my first Leica wedding with the M 240 camera rather than my usual Leica M9 (that I part exchanged in for the M).  I suddenly found the LCD had multiple advantages I had never really considered.  I am sure there are more but here are some features that I love about the Leica M 240 LCD.

6 Reasons why I Love the Leica M 240 LCD

  1. Gorrila Glass cover  – The Leica M LCD has super tough Gorrila Glass so it hopefully wont get chipped /cracked liked my old M9 LCD display.
  2. Exposure preview – Pressing the shutter button half way down on the Leica M gives an exposure preview via the LCD live view mode.  I am strange in that I normally guess my exposure, take a shot then adjust up or down as needed.  That is how I used the Leica M9.  The Leica M lets me preview the available light exposure so I can adjust as needed before taking a photo.  The only exception to this is when I am using a combination of strobes and continuous light when I would then do a test photo.
  3. Wide lens composition – With the Leica M9 I used auxillary external viewfinders for lenses wider than 28mm such as the Zeiss Biogon 21mm and 25mm f2.8 lenses and the Voigtlander Super Wide Heliar 15mm f4.5 lens.  For fast shooting I still use the external finders especially in bright conditions but the LCD live view now gives me an alternative option to compose wide lenses without needing an external finder if required.
  4. Shooting height, low and from the hip – I love the waist level viewfinders of my medium format cameras such as the Mamiya RZ 67  Pro II, Mamiya 645 Super and Rolleiflex SL66E.  I shoot low and from the waist with ease. It is not always practical to lie on a dirty floor to line up the optical rangefinder against the eye with a Leica M camera. The M 240 LCD live view lets me both compose but also focus when shooting above head height, waist level and low level too.
  5. Focusing lenses that needing recalibrating – Some of my older lenses need recalibrating to be able to focus them accurately via the Leica M rangefinder focusing system.  The LCD live view and focus peeking lets me focus any lenses accurately and easily.  Using various adapters on the M 240 I can focus a whole range of non Leica M mount lenses such as Leica R glass, Nikon glass, Mamiya glass or any others I have.
  6. Focus lenses closer than the 0.7m rangefinder closest focus distance – I use both Leica glass but also Voigtlander and Zeiss lenses on the Leica M cameras.  One common feature seen on non-Leica glass is that some lenses can be focused at 0.5m instead of the standard 0.7m Leica rangefinder lens distance.  On the Leica M9 I could only focus these lenses accurately at 0.7m.  With the Leica M 240 the LCD live view mode lets me focus these lenses at 0.5m using the focus peeking.  One lens the really benefits from this is the Voigtlander Nokton Classic 35mm f1.2 ASPH II lens as the depth of field at f1.2 and 0.5m is very shallow and gives a slight Noctilux look.

I will post more thoughts on the new Leica M 240 camera as I get to use it more.  So far I have no regrets in terms of camera handling and features vs the Leica M9.

Example images:

Leica M 240 + Voigtlander Super Wide Heliar 15mm f4.5

St Barts Brewery London

Leica M240 + Voigtlander Nokton Classic 35mm f1.2 ASPH II @f1.2

Leica M240 Wedding