Six Months with the M2 and My Struggles with the Myth of Leica

Author’s note: The Leica M2 is an interchangeable lens rangefinder introduced in 1957 by German optical powerhouse Ernst Leitz Wetzlar GmbH. It is the successor to the famous Leica M3 used by Henri Cartier-Bresson, among others. It uses the M-mount lens system. It is very famous and expensive. None of this is new or noteworthy. Let’s get to the heart of things.

I awoke one morning to the sound of my phone vibrating. I flapped around trying to get ahold of it. It took a while, but I eventually held the glowing screen close to my bleary eyes.

“You’re finally writing the M2 review?” the text message read. It was James. He’d seen the recent update to the note I’d posted on the editorial calendar six months earlier, when we first discussed writing a piece on the Leica.

I looked around my room and spotted a too-familiar silver camera. I sighed.

“Yeah,” I replied.

“Good luck with that, dude,” James said, knowingly.

“Thanks,” I replied dismally.

A few hours later, I found myself on a train headed downtown. The forecast said it would be hot, and the sun conspired with the broken air conditioning to turn the train car into an oven. The heat started to disturb the other passengers. A distraught woman three rows down shouted something about “burning up like a motherf-er,” to which another man simply snorted in response. The rest of us held blank stares, mine squarely at the ground.

The greenish cast of the overhead lights reflected off the silver chrome finish of a Leica M2 which sat in my lap. At least I had something pretty to look at. I inspected the camera for the hundredth time. The top plate, rewind knob, and shutter dial all form a straight, flat line. The body curves in the hand; the advance lever slides to standoff position, smooth and precise. The windows on the front plate are clean-cut and free of unnecessary bezels. My eyes lazily follow the lines as they trace the M2’s understated, elegant figure. Even the timer and rewind lever look and feel like they were perfectly designed. A reminder to never underestimate the Germans.

Minutes later, the lady still sat grumbling; the man had fallen asleep. Others passed the time by gazing listlessly at open books, others at phones. Some simply rested their heads on dirty plexiglass, looking out at nothing. I started to raise the Leica to my eye to capture the scene, and decided against it. Too depressing.

A bell rang and I was swept up in a wave of humanity on its way out of the train, up a few escalators, and into the main concourse of Los Angeles’ Union Station. Travelers of all sorts raced to and fro, the roar of their collective motion echoing off the station’s cavernous, wooden ceiling. Light streamed through the giant glass windows that lined the hall on one side and illuminated a piano which was tucked into a far corner. I noticed a man emerge from the bustling crowd, sit at the piano bench and straighten his posture. He began to play Beethoven.

This would work. I raised the Leica to my eye and spun the focusing ring of the Nikkor lens until the spectral image of his head aligned with its more opaque twin in the rangefinder patch. The shutter issued an almost inaudible noise, the film advance lever slid back and forth with muted precision. Tik. Tchk, tchk.

For the hundredth time in the few months I’d been shooting the camera, I waited a few moments for the rush of physical and spiritual fanfare that one expects to feel, if we believe what we read from Ken Rockwell and Instagram repost accounts, when shooting a Leica. I waited for the sweet satisfaction that comes with capturing the decisive moment. I half-expected the spirit of Henri himself to come down from heaven and anoint me his rightful successor.

But nothing happened. The crowd kept moving, the pianist kept playing, and life kept going. Maybe this wasn’t a decisive moment. Maybe I don’t have the right lens. Maybe photography isn’t for me. After all, everyone told me the Leica is the best camera in the world. I bought it for this reason. And even if the photo isn’t very great or the subject very exceptional, I should at least feel some joy from simply taking a picture, as is the case with my other cameras. But I felt no joy using it. That was disappointing. The photographic bliss and purity promised time and time again by Leicaphiles the world over remained conspicuously absent. All that came to me were the distant intimations of an antiquated machine. It clicked quietly and cooly. The Leica seemed not to care about what I expected to feel from it. As always, it remained completely indifferent.

Which makes sense, if we’re being honest. The Leica M2 is a hunk of metal. It doesn’t know or care about the endless, excessive accolades photo geeks lay upon it. It doesn’t thank its worshipers on social media, intend the cachet it bestows on its owner, or defend its reputation as the greatest 35mm camera ever made. And it couldn’t care less about the naysayers who hold nothing but disdain for the camera and its brand, a hatred born mostly as a reactionary counterpoint to the excessive praise.

After six months of shooting and filtering out as much of the noise as possible, I’ve found only one thing to be true; the Leica M2 is a camera. How good a camera it is, is a challenging question.

I stepped out of Union Station and was met with painfully bright sunlight. A Nikon F hangover had me squinting through the viewfinder looking for a familiar light meter needle, but I found nothing. The M2 gives no quarter to those who depend on a light meter for proper exposure, making this machine inaccessible to the novice, and sometimes limiting even to the professional. I felt around for my old Sekonic light meter. No dice. I’d left it at home. The sunny 16 rule would have to do.

I walked around looking through the M2’s bright, lower magnification viewfinder (0.72x compared to the M3’s 0.91x), perfect for a bespectacled shooter like myself. I flicked around the frame line preview lever for fun, switching between its 35mm, 50mm, and 90mm frame lines. Compared to later, cluttered Leica viewfinders, which display combined frame lines, the display of the M2 is blissfully minimal. But on this day, frame lines didn’t matter. I only had a 50mm Nikkor.

One advantage of the M2’s lower magnification at 50mm stands out – I can see potential subjects come in and out of my frame. What’s more, the frame lines are parallax-corrected, meaning that for the most part, I didn’t need to worry about significant framing inaccuracies. These are nice features that aid composition, albeit features to be expected from a machine at this price point.

I soon found myself walking Grand Avenue, an opulent Downtown street which holds three concert halls, two museums, and countless financial firms within a quarter mile. In other words, it’s a place for rich folk. I found some shade on the steps of the conspicuously styled Walt Disney Concert Hall, a favorite destination for fans of classical music in Los Angeles. The hall’s modern, flowing silver lines complemented the M2’s own streamlined Bauhaus design and chrome finish. If nothing else, the M2 is a gorgeous camera.

And I suppose it’s also luxurious. Leicas are often referred to as the Rolls-Royce of cameras, and for good reason. The M2 is packed with tactile delights; the shutter speed dial moves with mechanical certainty, the shutter button depresses with perfect resistance, and the film advance lever sports one of the smoothest actions among all cameras. Throughout the entire afternoon, the Leica ticked beautifully in my hands until, inevitably, the clockwork stopped at the final frame.

Any elegance the M2 might possess evaporates once we get to unavoidable chore of rewinding and loading the camera. The rewind occurs by knob instead of crank, and loading occurs through the bottom of the camera and involves a removable spool, making reloading an annoying and time-consuming process – a signature of Leica’s early film cameras. Adding insult to injury, the M2 is the only M camera whose frame counter must be reset manually. Disappointing.

So yes, the Leica M2 is a thing of beauty and luxury but like a lot of beautiful and luxurious things, it’s impractical. And as I shoved the M2’s removable spool back inside its body and reset its frame counter, I imagined a cumbersome Rolls-Royce struggling to make a U-turn on a busy street. Impractical indeed.

I walked further down Grand Avenue and saw splendor turn quickly into squalor. The sidewalk became a scar of settled smog mixed with motor oil and spilled beer. The foul steam of the city’s asphalt billowed upwards, combined with the sweat on my hands, and seeped its way into my clothes and the Leica’s controls. Seeing this residue invade my camera was alarming, but the alarm died off quickly when I remembered that photojournalists once took these cameras to environs more hazardous than a hot, dirty L.A. street. They respected the cameras enough to put them through hell, so I decided to as well.

And this was nothing new. In my months-long adventures with the Leica, I wore it outdoors, in the extreme cold and the extreme heat, and swung it recklessly about whenever a new photo opportunity presented itself. It’s taken a spill on hard concrete, been scratched up by whatever I tossed into my bag, and I even spilled some salsa on it. You’d think it would need a CLA, considering some people get these things serviced as often as they clip their toenails. But much to my surprise, my M2 still worked perfectly.

But why should I be surprised? As an expensive and professional-spec German rangefinder, the M2 should be able to take whatever we throw at it, even if we’re told an M is a delicate instrument by people in the know. Still others say they’re indestructible. What does this discrepancy mean? Are Leicas durable or fragile? I fanned myself with the collar of my shirt, and wondered why I was spending so much time thinking about what everyone else says about Leicas. The sun really started to burn. I took refuge on a shady bus bench, annoyed.

I pointed the Leica upwards at a mildly interesting high-rise apartment. I pressed the shutter with some disdain, realizing that the money needed to buy an M2 and matching Summicron 50mm f/2 lens could pay a couple month’s rent inside that very building. Perhaps that’s the real reason for the overblown reputation – they’re expensive cameras, and we tend to expect more of expensive things. And even though the M2 is cheaper than most other M series cameras, they’re still incredibly expensive. Good copies often run near $850, and that’s just for a body.

And if you thought the bodies were expensive, the Leica M2’s M mount fits the most expensive lenses in 35mm photography. Genuine Leica lenses cost as much as their bodies do and even more still if you want to enjoy fast apertures. That being said, older, cheaper Leica Thread Mount lenses can be adapted to M-mount with full functionality, which can soften the financial blow without sacrificing image quality too much.

I sat and wondered, does the Leica M2 deserve this high price tag? It’s hard to say. Its build quality is incredible, but the Nikon F-series is just as well-built. It can reduce photography down to the essentials but then again, any old school Pentax SLR does that just as well or better. It’s renowned as an especially quiet and small camera but most fixed-lens Japanese rangefinders are quieter and smaller still. And if we wanted that entire package of attributes plus M mount compatibility, the Minolta CLE does all that with added functionality that’s superior to any Leica M camera. And yet, one genuine Leica M and a fancy lens costs more than all of these options combined.

As these thoughts passed through my brain for the hundredth time, the heat reached a fever pitch and my frustration with the Leica started to boil over. Blinding lights flashed from passing traffic. Horns blared, tires screeched, and obscenities were traded between driver and pedestrian. The foul stench of the street fused with the dry, hot air and held my throat in a death grip. I looked down at the M2, hoping for just a glimmer of excitement or happiness as a result of owning such a legendary camera.

There was none. Why did I spend so much money on this camera? Why didn’t I just keep shooting my Nikons, my Minoltas?

I couldn’t take it anymore. I fumbled around with my phone and began typing a text to a friend, a text I’d nearly sent a number of times over the past six months. Any interest in taking this M2 off my hands? I had no business shooting this indifferent, entirely too expensive camera.

But midway through, I stopped and erased the text. And once more, and against my better judgement and budget, I decided to try one more time. I Ioaded my last roll into the M2 and trudged further along the boulevard.

I’m so tired of thinking about this camera. I grumbled internally. Why can’t James review this one?

I was overthinking it. The heat was getting to me. I relaxed my grip on the M2, cleared my mind of all the nonsense, and focused on taking pictures. I soon found myself walking Broadway boulevard, a lovely street filled with old movie palaces and discount clothing marts. Images started to loosely form in my head and I found myself adjusting my exposure without thinking. It looked like I was getting more comfortable with the Leica. It was a start.

I started to shoot without thinking, throwing caution to the wind and focusing solely on composition. Soon, images started to form and break apart within the confines of the M2’s frame lines. I could see people walk in and out of those illuminated borders and could place them with precision throughout the frame. Composition became fun, and I wound on shot after shot as if photography itself was an addictive video game.

While I was framing up the last shot of the day’s film, I forgot I was even shooting an M2. I wasn’t thinking about the machine I held in my hands; I was just taking pictures. And maybe that’s the secret. Maybe you have to forget that you’re shooting an M to really appreciate one? But if that’s the case, wouldn’t any camera do? And besides, it’s pretty difficult to forget you’re shooting a Leica. Let’s face it, it’s a flashy, archaic film camera that costs about a grand-and-a-half with a lens. It’s a luxury item, and everybody knows it. Sure, it’s nice to have and to shoot, but it isn’t completely necessary if what you really care about is making excellent images.

Photo culture has elevated this camera to the point of unassailable royalty. People stop you on the street to ask about it. All the Instagram camera repost accounts bait followers with a never-ending supply of Leicas as the wriggling worm on the end of their social media hook. This is a camera we’re all supposed to love, and when you don’t love or want it, it’s inferred (at least in certain circles) that your tastes are less refined, your pockets not deep enough, or you’re simply a newb.

Oh well. Forget all the bullshit that comes with it, ignore the hype, and don’t expect too much, and the M2 is a nice camera. It’s a good tool for walking around a city and capturing your daily adventures. It’s streamlined, sleek, and beautiful. It’s pretty well-made. After long debate, I’ve even decided to keep mine as one of two daily shooters, the other being my F3. But should it be put on a pedestal and proclaimed the Supreme Ruler of All Cameras, ad nauseam? I don’t think so. I’m just as happy shooting the F3, or any number of other cameras I’ve owned and tested.

Maybe if some of us were more honest with ourselves and more thoughtful about our reasons for shooting, we wouldn’t see these cameras as objects to lust after, as status symbols or membership cards into a silly, exclusive club. Because at the end of the day, the Leica M2 is just a camera. And yeah, it’s a pretty nice camera. But the only way it’ll change your life is if it takes a long fall out a third-floor window and lands on you.

Want your own Leica M2?

Buy it on eBay

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27 Comments

  • Reply
    float
    June 21, 2017 at 12:48 pm

    given my (limited) camera repair experience, I wouldn’t call Leicas durable or indestructible after seeing ones guts. What they are, however, is infinitely repairable. It is VERY hard to a Leica to be so far gone it isn’t repairable. The thing that always puts me off early M-mount Leicas is when I compare them to another very well known camera, the Pentax K1000. Here is a camera that will run you about $100 at more, is fully mechanical, is very durable/indestructible and is actually EASIER to repair than the M3/M2/M4 while having the advantage of their being literally millions of copies to use for spare parts. Oh, and it has a rather good light meter and is exactly as good at firing the camera from B-1000 as a Leica. It lacks a self timer but I don’t know anyone who uses the self timer on their Leicas since they are notorious for breaking. When it comes to film, many of Pentax’s primes from the K, M and A series can stand up to Leica lenses of a similar vintage. On film it is as near as makes no difference, honestly.

    Am I recommending people buy K1000s instead of the meterless Leicas? Well, not exactly. Some peoples gear lust can ONLY be sated by a Leica. I know I was hurting for a Leica really badly thinking I needed that ultimate mechanical camera experience. My main camera at the time had broken and all I had on hand that worked as a K1000 I had from when I first started shooting film. 3 frames in I no longer lusted after the Leica. My mechanical camera cravings had been met. The pictures from that roll came out BEAUTIFULLY despite the fact that the entire combo in my hands could be picked up for around $150. In all situations it could perform the same job as the Leica I had craved.

    What I am recommending, then, is that people TRY other older mechanical cameras FIRST to see if they still want the Leica afterwards. Besides, by the time you buy a Leica body and lens you could have purchased a much cooler rangefinder, an Xpan + 45mm lens. My daily shooters now consist of an Xpan or a Spotmatic F (same as a K1000 but M42 mount).

    I know it is easy to catch Leica fever, lord knows I used to have it and I came about 5 seconds away from swiping my card on an M5+Summicron. Thank goodness I didn’t

    • Reply
      Josh Solomon
      June 21, 2017 at 1:24 pm

      Thanks for your insight! Funny you mention the K1000; I toyed around with the idea of doing a K1000 vs M2 comparison article. Like you said, B-1000, fully mechanical. Not much to separate the two. You could probably frame more accurately with a K1000 as well!

    • Reply
      Lars
      June 22, 2017 at 5:42 am

      Yes, interesting you mention the K1000 (and I would love to see that K1000/M2 comparison review :)). Out of all the 35mm cameras I own/owned, the two I prefer are the M2 and K1000. As different as they are, they are also remarkably similar to hold and use, both being all-mechanical, solid, minimalist no-nonsense cameras. The M2 is whisper-quiet, the K1000 has a solid satisfying mirror-clunk that I totally agree with. The M2 is a range-finder, the K1000 an SLR that can easily be used for close-ups. I love to use both of them but sometimes the M2 is just right, sometimes the K1000. A lot of people seem to struggle with the re-winding/loading of the early M-cameras, but as a lot of other things much of it comes down to personal preferences and attitude. I actually find it calming and enjoyable, a little ritual to focus my mind, part of the experience of shooting film with a 60-year old camera.

  • Reply
    yashicachris
    June 21, 2017 at 12:52 pm

    Great review Josh! Plenty of laughs along the way too. You could insert almost any overhyped camera into your review – which takes nothing away from your exceptional writing and powers of observation. I felt your pain on those hot, smelly streets. We’ve all held a disappointing camera from time to time but don’t often admit that we don’t like them. Honesty, like a well executed photograph, is a good thing.

  • Reply
    Wilson Laidlaw
    June 21, 2017 at 1:27 pm

    I seem to be travelling in a reverse time machine. I do use digital for business, for the airline magazine travel articles I write from time to time but for enjoyment, I have reverted to using film. Initially it was easy, I had owned an M4 from new in 1967. I sent it to Peter at CRR in Luton, who returned its VF/RF to as new, stopped the rear door sounding like a frenetic flamenco dancer’s castanets and made sure the shutter speed I dialled in was the speed I got. I have an MR-4 semi-coupled Leicameter which sits on top. It all seemed a bit easy, along with my CL for when a pocket sized camera was needed.

    So I then resurrected a couple of my LTM cameras and added some to the pool, a beautiful Reid & Sigrist Model III Mk.2, the best made of all LTM’s. I was then offered an immaculate IIIg which looked like it had never been used and at a very reasonable cost. I have also expanded my LTM lens pool from far too many 50mm/5cm lenses from f3.5 to f1.5 and have added a 21mm Voigtlander, a 3.5cm/2.8 Leica Summaron and an 8.5cm/f1.5 Leica Summarex. I get more satisfaction from using the tiny LTM cameras than the M type cameras. They just exude quality. They are not totally easy to use, with an interesting rangefinder. The RF is much improved by using the coloured filters ORAKO for my pre-war Barnacks, OKARO for the post war. Is the time machine going to stop there or in another five years, am I going to boiling up mercury to make Daguerrotypes?

    • Reply
      Josh Solomon
      June 22, 2017 at 4:01 pm

      I agree with you on the LTM cameras! I reviewed the IIIc last year, and its quality is on a completely different level to the M2.

  • Reply
    musickna
    June 21, 2017 at 1:55 pm

    A very entertaining assessment. I’ve never used a Leica while all the while being aware of its reputation and the mystique. Sometimes I wonder if I should. But, as you point out, it’s only a camera and I have plenty of those already.

  • Reply
    James
    June 21, 2017 at 2:06 pm

    I like this Leica negativity, both article & comments! In the same way that I’d like to sit down the world’s oenophiles and demand that they correctly identify a selection of wines by grape, country of origin and vintage whilst blindfolded, I’d also like to seat a bunch of the most vocal camera connoisseurs down and demand that they identify a selection of photos by the lens used, by what capture-box the lens was attached to, and by what stock it was shot on. Failure means indefinite disqualification from the entire photographic community, unless they pin a hugely grovelling account of how it’s all much of a muchness to their website home page. Even so, I’ll still probably buy an M6 some day when the urge overtakes me. Oh well.

    • Reply
      Shaheen
      June 22, 2017 at 6:41 am

      I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought about this. I, too, would love to sit some people down and ask them to compare physical prints made by a variety of different cameras and lenses. Make it even more interesting – throw some prints made from digital files in there as well. The fact of the matter is this – with a little bit of adjustment in Lightroom or Photoshop, you can make an iPhone photo look like it was taken on Tri-X or Portra. Heck, you could even tell people it was taken with a Leica – would they really have any reason not to believe you? We live in a world now where you can make the end result of a digital file look identical, not similar, but practically identical, to film. Couple this with the fact that most people are scanning their negatives in and working on them digitally before sharing them (again, digitally), it really makes you wonder… What’s the point? Well, I’d argue that there is a point, because there is something to be said of the process, which is a rewarding, fulfilling experience. I won’t knock that. But let’s not kid ourselves. Load up a point and shoot and a Leica with the same film stock and compare the results. Chances are, the point and shoot will nail focus better and (gasp) be better able to capture that “decisive moment” because the user is not fiddling with focus, shutter speed and aperture. What we tend to forget, and I tend to forget this is as well, is that the important thing here is the final image. Isn’t that what this is all about anyway? The final image? It’s so easy to get sidetracked by the gear that we often forget the important thing, the whole point of it all…

      • Reply
        James
        June 23, 2017 at 4:38 pm

        I think photography is kinda comprised of two main strands – the interest in photos and taking them, and the interest in the things used to take them. Somewhere, we all strike our own balance between the two, and the level of our obsessiveness.

  • Reply
    Huss Hardan
    June 21, 2017 at 2:21 pm

    “But the only way it’ll change your life is if it takes a long fall out a third-floor window and lands on you.”

    Awesome Josh!
    The only issue I have is saying the CLE is better than any Leica. I have two CLEs, and they are fantastic. But the Leica M7 (the AE Leica M) is better by quite a bit for two main reasons – it holds exposure in auto mode with a half press of the shutter – the CLE has no exposure lock – and it has a metered manual mode. The CLE turns off the meter in manual mode. It also gives you two mechanical speeds if the batteries die, while the CLE goes belly up.

    As for the rest, I love Leicas. But I also love my Nikons, Minoltas, Fujis, Mamiyas -even my Zenits and Lubitel! They are just cameras…

    Best regards
    Huss

    • Reply
      Huss
      June 22, 2017 at 1:45 am

      p.s. forgot to mention, the CLE also has a much shorter rangefinder base length than any M camera, so it cannot focus as accurately as them…

  • Reply
    Chris Harris
    June 21, 2017 at 4:57 pm

    Having been a photojournalist shooting for national and international news publications starting in 1969–largely with M-4s–I really think you miss the point in your review. When people refer to shooting with a Leica…they don’t mean a Leica body with a different (much lower quality) lens. The implication of shooting with a Leica is that you always shoot with a Leica lens.

    And, yes, the M-2 has an awkward rewind…it was made over 50 years ago. From the M-4 forward that problem was eliminated.

    While I appreciate that you did a report on shooting with a Leica M-2…I really think it shows you did not have any interest in the real subject…as you implied in the start of your story.

    • Reply
      Steve Watkins
      June 23, 2017 at 12:28 pm

      This. The article is about someone reviewing part of a Leica. The body is nice, the feel of it, the ergonomics, the build — but that’s a very small part of it. The glass has a character to it, and that’s what you get a Leica for.

    • Reply
      Kent Sievers
      July 23, 2017 at 1:19 am

      Cringed when I saw the lens on that M-2. It’s always been about the Leica glass. Wasn’t a big Leica shooter, just an M-4 with a 35 f/2 Summicron back in the early 80’s. I marveled at the contrast and razor blade sharpness. I also liked the little focus ring tab for zone focus. I sold my Leica gear in 1990 to help pay for a cross country move. Contax G series came close as a replacement with autofocus, but it lacked a decent viewfinder. Wasn’t until I picked up a Fuji X series rangefinder body that I felt like I had my Leica back in digital form. The glass is amazing and it’s a heckuva lot lighter and less intrusive than the EOS gear issued by my newspaper.

  • Reply
    Mark Fisher
    June 21, 2017 at 7:55 pm

    For 35mm, I shot with an OM 1 for many years. Fantastic camera with fairly small lenses. Then I traded a Leitz enlarger (plus a little money) for an well used M2. It isn’t the easiest camera to use. Sometimes I do wish for a light meter. And, who came up with the crazy film loading scheme? Now that I’ve used it for several years, I love it. The viewfinder is great to use. The rangefinder is fantastic for those of us with less than perfect vision. It is so pleasant to use….the shutter is so quiet. I liked it so much I got a Konica RF to compliment it. Sometimes, it is just nice to have a lightmeter. It is a nice camera for those who can’t deal with the basic nature of the M2. That said, if I am doing out, I grab the M2 over the Konica every time. It is funny, though, I had an M6 for awhile and I never bonded with it and sold it. The M2 is a better camera for me…..and a lot less money if you get a nicely used one.

  • Reply
    Huss
    June 21, 2017 at 11:38 pm

    I don’t want to nit pick but… the photos you have shown in your other reviews have had great composition AND were sharp. The ones in this review have great composition, but seem to be lacking sharpness. They seem a touch hazy and out of focus, to which I blame a lack of calibration of the Nikon lens to the camera.
    It is a Leica after all, perhaps a Leica lens could be used? Or an excellent Voigtlander? Maybe a Zeiss?
    I’d be happy to lend you one for a day.. (I’m in LA)

    • Reply
      Josh Solomon
      June 22, 2017 at 3:50 pm

      Thanks for your offer Huss! Shoot me an email and perhaps we can meet up! My scanning technique leaves a bit to be desired, so that may explain it. I doubt the lack of sharpness is any fault of the Nikkor honestly; it’s one of the best Japanese LTM lenses out there! I am planning on getting my M2 spiffied up a little bit after roughing it up for review. It definitely deserves it, considering everything it’s been through!

  • Reply
    Jim Grey
    June 22, 2017 at 2:52 pm

    You perfectly captured both Leica snobbery and reverse Leica snobbery in this article! Well done!

  • Reply
    Joey
    June 22, 2017 at 4:29 pm

    A Leica isn’t magic, but it is a beautifully made great camera. If you like rangefinders (like I do) then impracticality​ isn’t an issue, and if you like rangefinders a Leica is the best of the bunch. Plus, how can you not admire the quality of it? It’s like a Rolex that you can shoot pictures with, the body is perfectly machined and the mechanicals are smooth and very Germanly (yes) perfect. Even the rewind know on the M2, while slower then a crank, is gorgeous. The closest in charm I’ve found was my Kodak Retina iiiC (also a German camera), which despite being made the same year as my M2 is infinitely more odd and old fashioned. It’s as smooth as the Leica and as beautifully made but the Leica is superior in every way from controls to viewfinder.

  • Reply
    bodegabayf2
    June 23, 2017 at 11:24 am

    I have owned, shot with and then later sold most of the Leica M film cameras: M2, M3, M4, M6TTL, MP. Of these five, the M2 has been my favorite and the one I owned the longest and shot with the most. Not sure all the reasons other than it is just a fabulously simple, well built machine. Over time though, I tired of carrying an external light meter with me or guessing exposures. I have just recently picked up a nice black M7. I know what the Leica purists are saying…”What? A Leica with aperture-priority auto exposure!” But honestly, I am enjoying this Leica the most of any of them and the one I might ultimately keep.

    One thing I will say about Leica…be patient when you shop and buy smartly. If you do, when you want to sell, you’ll be able to get all your money back and in some cases, make money. Of the five Leicas I have owned, I broke even on one (after shooting it a year) and made money on the others. Not bad for a camera.

    • Reply
      Mike R
      June 25, 2017 at 9:29 am

      Interesting–I also own an M2 and an M7. I love the M2, but decided to buy the M7 last month for the same reason that you cite: I just wanted an internal light meter. I like both cameras and see them serving different purposes. I’ve been using the M7 for color negative/slide films. I’m curious: I always thought the MP would be a great combination of M2-like ergonomics with the M6/7 metering. I have not used one, and I would be interested to hear your perspective. Thanks.

      • Reply
        bodegabayf2
        June 25, 2017 at 1:59 pm

        The MP was a fine camera. I sold it to finance my M9-P. I like the M7 better than my MP simply because it allows aperture-priority automation, which is really convenient for some shooting situations. I also think that the M7 has a quieter shutter and nicer film advance action, but I am probably just imaging that in a haze of Leica love.

  • Reply
    Belbo
    June 25, 2017 at 5:14 am

    Great write up!

  • Reply
    Harbinger
    July 6, 2017 at 10:24 am

    Outstanding review, it truly catches an opinion o those who don’t find Leica their cup of tea (including myself). Yes, it is good, yes it does its job well, but it’s overpriced. It’s like Apple of photoindustry. I’m pretty happy with my Oly OM-1 which cost me less than 60$

  • Reply
    Gary
    July 22, 2017 at 10:22 pm

    As a long time Leica M user who still has the M4-2 I bought in 1981, here are my thoughts. I think the M camera is fantastic with a 35mm or 50mm lens. The shutter is quiet and the camera is small. If you use it daily (like I did for many years until digital hit the scene), it will be come an extension of you. I am on my second shutter and the body has been recovered. I have used it so much that the black chrome is shiny on many of the edges. Yes one gets used to loading it and unloading it. The camera when adjusted well will produce spot on focused images. Nothing about the camera is cheap. It is like owning a Mercedes or a Porsche. Complicated and expensive.

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