The second-best classic Leica?
Old 12-30-2016   #1
Dez
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The second-best classic Leica?

I see lots of love in these postings for the M2, which is fine since it's a very good camera. But I never seem to see people raving about their M4, which in my opinion is a lot more desirable. It seems to me that it's basically an M2 with the same top quality plus a bunch of improvements:
- the same excellent finder plus 135mm frame lines since you never know...
- faster and easier loading
- automatic frame counter
- better rewind system

The only downside is the use of chintzy plastic bits in the levers, but that's not all that hard to fix if you are bothered by that kind of thing



The older parts aren't hard to find, and changing them is a trivial job. The things you have to remember are that the self-timer screw is LEFT-handed, and that you will save a lot of grief if you wind the self-timer before changing the lever. So the M4 gets my vote for the second-best Leica. So how come I don't hear more about it on RFF? I know there were a lot more M3's and M2's made, but it's not like the M4 is rare and outrageously expensive.

The best Leica?

In my humble opinion....



No controversy, right?

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Dez
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Old 12-30-2016   #2
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The M4 predates the M2. The M2 is a simplified M4.
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Old 12-30-2016   #3
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I think you will find that the M2 came before the M4. The M3 and M2 were replaced by the M4. I've heard the M2 described as being a simplified M3.

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Old 12-30-2016   #4
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Stirring things up with your M5 reference. Got nomex?
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Old 12-30-2016   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Greyscale View Post
The M4 predates the M2. The M2 is a simplified M4.
I believe M2 was designed to be a simplified M3, sold alongside. M4 came after that.
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Old 12-30-2016   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by coelacanth View Post
I believe M2 was designed to be a simplified M3, sold alongside. M4 came after that.
You are correct. My bad.
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Old 12-30-2016   #7
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The M2R was the interim camera -- an M2 with M4 takeup spool. Leica sold them while the M4 was gearing up...
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Old 12-30-2016   #8
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I would describe the M2 as the "quintessential" Leica, mainly because of the 35mm viewfinder angle of view. It is simply perfect, there's nothing necessary to add, nothing to take away, essentially. Anything else, is luxury...

My beautiful M2 and Summicron 50/2 (1957)
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Old 12-30-2016   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dez View Post
- the same excellent finder plus 135mm frame lines since you never know...
I find the 135 framelines distracting. Personal preference.

If budget permits i'd love to buy an M4 and replace all plastic fittings with older style parts. Oh and cover that 135 frameline also

Cheers and happy new year!
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Old 12-30-2016   #10
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Cleaning looking M4!
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Old 12-30-2016   #11
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My wife has bought me a nice M4 for my 40th birthday. I have used a variety of cameras in the past(I own over 200 cameras), including Leica II,III,IIIa,IIIc,IIIf(red and black dials) and IIIg. i have to admit that I have difficulty putting this lovely M4 down. My wife has gotten me an Amedeo adapter also to use my Contax mount lenses on it. Lovely experience! I have never used another M Leica before, however.
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Old 12-30-2016   #12
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Before my wife got me that M4, I have spent 3 months agonizing over which M I should have. Phil Forrest posted somewhere about his M4, and that post helped me make my decision.
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Old 12-30-2016   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rolfe View Post
The M2R was the interim camera -- an M2 with M4 takeup spool. Leica sold them while the M4 was gearing up...
In 1966 the US Army contracted Leica to build an M2 with a rapid load system. These were contracted as M2S, but were not marked in any way on the body. When the army cancelled the contract, Leica offered the remaining cameras as the M2-R, marked the top plate as such, and offered them to the public from 1969-1970. The M4 was launched in November of 1966.

I own an M2-R along with several M2's. The M2-R viewfinder is warmer where the M2 is blueish. The M2-R rangefinder window optics when viewed from the front look more like those found it later M's.
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Old 12-30-2016   #14
Daryl J.
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My favorite setup in any format, film or digital is the Leica M4 and 1.5/50mm C Sonnar. Currently, the M4 is sporting a 50mm Summilux V.1

If online sources are to be believed, my M4 is from 1967 and had a full CLA by Y. Ye this summer. Because it's in such good condition, I default to my M4-2 which had a rough previous history prior to my ownership. I'm not worried about dinging it up so it gets more use. But, I like my M4 better. Better than my M3 as well. The plastic bits look nearly new despite being nearly 50 years old. The bottom plate has some scuffs and looks as though it came from a different camera. Put a new condition bottom on it and it looks like it belongs on a dealer's display as the demo model.


Now if I can get its knucklehead owner to make images consistently up to the quality of the body and lenses it has availed it......

Last edited by Daryl J. : 12-30-2016 at 22:03. Reason: Edited because the pizza got cold.
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Old 12-31-2016   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Crazy Fedya View Post
My wife has bought me a nice M4 for my 40th birthday. I have used a variety of cameras in the past(I own over 200 cameras), including Leica II,III,IIIa,IIIc,IIIf(red and black dials) and IIIg. i have to admit that I have difficulty putting this lovely M4 down. My wife has gotten me an Amedeo adapter also to use my Contax mount lenses on it. Lovely experience! I have never used another M Leica before, however.
You are a very lucky man, Sam. Not because you have so many good cameras, but because you have such a generous wife!

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She's a keeper.
Old 12-31-2016   #16
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Smile She's a keeper.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dez View Post
You are a very lucky man, Sam. Not because you have so man good cameras, but because you have such a generous wife!

Cheers,
Dez
Thank you, Dez. She is definitely a keeper, even though she is not black paint. 😜
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Old 12-31-2016   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dez View Post

The best Leica?

In my humble opinion....



No controversy, right?

Cheers,
Dez
Definitely.

After the M5, pick whichever Leica you want. Does anyone care about the second place finisher?
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Old 12-31-2016   #18
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Personally M2 and M5 are the favorite two in the entire M range after using most of regular production Ms.
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Old 12-31-2016   #19
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Hi,

Well, I use the CL most as it's a small easy camera to use and has that lovely Summicron-C 40mm lens and excellent C/W metering but manual everything. In second place comes the M2 and that will make me unpopular...

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Old 12-31-2016   #20
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hmmmm, all M's are Yummy
but my two FAVorite M4 , even Miss M4-2 and the M5
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Old 12-31-2016   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dez View Post
You are a very lucky man, Sam. Not because you have so man good cameras, but because you have such a generous wife!

Cheers,
Dez
I was going to ask, "Does she have a sister?"

I think there is a lot to be said for the M5 being the best Leica -- to say nothing of the instant street cred for using a camera that shows one's choosing to not go with the obvious choice. It, and the SL2, mark for me the high water mark of Wetzlar cameras. They're also the ones that did them in financially!

As for the M2, someone in the thread made the comment that its lack of frills makes it the purest of the Ms (my words, not those of the poster). I would agree, and go further to state that the versions (like mine) that have no self-timer are the purest of all!
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Old 12-31-2016   #22
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Originally Posted by Greyscale View Post
The M4 predates the M2. The M2 is a simplified M4.
hmm, not true at all.

The M4 was introduced to replace both the M2 and the M3.

The M4 was long generally considered to be the best of the meterless M cameras,
until Tom A started championing the M2,
and many still consider the M4 to be the best classic meterless M camera.

Many shooters really like not having the 135mm frame line to clutter their viewfinder.
Luckily a tech can easily remove the 135 frame line from any M Leica.
Ditto for the 75mm frame line.

Stephen
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Old 12-31-2016   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KoNickon View Post
I was going to ask, "Does she have a sister?"

I think there is a lot to be said for the M5 being the best Leica -- to say nothing of the instant street cred for using a camera that shows one's choosing to not go with the obvious choice. It, and the SL2, mark for me the high water mark of Wetzlar cameras. They're also the ones that did them in financially!

As for the M2, someone in the thread made the comment that its lack of frills makes it the purest of the Ms (my words, not those of the poster). I would agree, and go further to state that the versions (like mine) that have no self-timer are the purest of all!
My fav is the button rewind with no ST. Couple that with "all in" M5 and you get yourself a dynamic duo.
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Old 12-31-2016   #24
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Have 59 button rewind M2 which Sherry worked her magic on and at the time of purchase she claimed it was one of the nicest M2's she had seen in years. I have to agree. And after wanting to try an M5 for years, I gave into temptation last summer and got a black one from her. I had her add a third lug and recover the camera. I just added a 50f1.5 Bolton and it looks/works GREAT.

So, I would agree M2 and M5.
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Old 01-01-2017   #25
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To put an end to this discussion I think we all can agree that the M4 is THE BEST M Leica
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Old 01-01-2017   #26
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I would like an M4 with knob rewind, old style levers and flash contacts, but without the "quick" loading system and the 135mm frame in the viewfinder. Are these available?

Erik.
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Old 01-01-2017   #27
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The M4 is well-finished, as smooth as the earlier models, can be loaded quickly, and covers the four iconic lenses. I use a 135 regularly and miss those frame lines when I shoot a camera that doesn't have them. There's no meter or other extraneous frippery. A basic rangefinder camera that can, with a good operator, do at least 80 percent of the jobs most of us shoot. The best Leica? That's a personal choice, but if I were to have one M mount rangefinder, it would be an M4.
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Old 01-01-2017   #28
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Wouldn't that be an M2?
You must be joking!

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Old 01-01-2017   #29
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When I first saw the title for this thread, all I thought was that there's no agreement on which Leica is the best, so deciding which criteria to use to decide which one is second best must be exponentially more difficult.

Scott
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Old 01-01-2017   #30
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Erik,

So would I. But I'd keep the 135mm frame lines.

Cheers.
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Old 01-01-2017   #31
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only M users who have not used a M5 do not know the dirty secret of Leica's perfectly architected Frankenstein M5 (playing in most theaters near you)....
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Old 01-01-2017   #32
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In a fit of absolute and complete insanity, I accumulated a houseful of Leica M film cameras and the two oddballs. CLE, CL, M4=P (first), M3, and finally M5.

The M3 is very good...the real deal. M4P just does not feel like an M3 but it is more versatile IMO. It's fun to play with the CL (which works great and with a summicron 40 C)and CLE has the best finder, especially for 28mm. However, if I were to skinny down....to the minimum....all of them would go except the M5 and the CLE. It would be hard, but I think I could withstand it.
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Old 01-01-2017   #33
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Feeling my age but back when cameras, especially the Leica, was the bread and butter tool of working press photographers, the M4 was the best. The M3 was the initial improvement (and a huge improvement) over the LTM bodies. It lacked one important feature for press photographers - ease of use with a 35mm lens. The M2 was released not only with 35mm framelines but cheaper construction. I no longer remember the particulars but it seems steel gears vs brass gears and the like. Given that the M2 soldiers on it hardly seems to matter but the M2 was cheaper. In the 1964 Leica catalog an M3 body listed for $297, the M2 body was only $210 - a huge difference.

The M4 was introduced in 1967, my 1969 catalog lists the price as $309. it was a huge improvement over the previous models. In kept the perfection of workmanship of the M3, improved the viewfinder for working photographers and most of all -da da - added the new angled rewind. Today people love the retro look of the M3 & M2 rewind nob but let me tell you; if you were trying to reload film in the middle of a major event it was a PIA. You could always tell a professional Leica user by the callouses on his index finger.

So my vote for the second best classic Leica goes to the M2.
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Old 01-01-2017   #34
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No practical difference in construction or materials between these cameras. Purists will say the peak of Leica quality is a 1M+ serial on an M3 but that's an old wives tale, IMHO. 40-60 years down the road the original manufacturing is of far less importance than the abuse or lack thereof in the intervening years
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Old 01-01-2017   #35
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Started with an M6 classic (or two), sold those and then went backwards to an M2 and used a sekonic meter. Regretted selling that and wound up buying another M2 (nicer than the first, as luck would have it) and forced myself to learn to work without a meter (didn't take as long as I had feared it might). Just love the M2, it think it might be the purest M for me.

I recently stumbled over a nice and tidy M4, a very early one. I have been very impressed with it. Some of the improvements are nice to have I guess. Still settling in with it but it sure is seriously nice.

I also then found over a repainted black M3 last month in Bangkok (I have since found out that it was originally done by a RFF member here to a VERY high standard) and I picked that up because it seemed strange to have a love of classic Leicas and yet to have never tried the 'magical M3', and a nice BP at that! I guess I managed to avoid it up until now as I am not a huge 50mm user, although that is changing a bit of late. It is a very early one indeed and I am super smitten with it, just still getting used to her. Luckily I have two goggled 35's to use with it!

My 'master plan' was to gradually acquire all three, sample their delights and then choose one as a keeper. Of course, this idiotic plan has backfired massively as I love them all far too much now and can see me hanging on to all of them. If it was gun to my head time, I would still perhaps go with the M2. I could keep the m3 though as long as I have a goggled 35 to go with it. Honestly though, I just grab and go on the day and they all feel equally as good to me in many ways. Leica M's are perhaps the only interchangeable lens cameras to me where the bodies matter so much. I know otherwise it's always 'all about the glass' but not with Leica M film bodies for me, they are also a really important part of the equation as well as the lovely Leitz lenses.

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Old 01-01-2017   #36
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Note to self: do NOT pick up an M5, 'just to try one out' and see what they are like.
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Old 01-01-2017   #37
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Beemermark View Post
Feeling my age but back when cameras, especially the Leica, was the bread and butter tool of working press photographers, the M4 was the best. The M3 was the initial improvement (and a huge improvement) over the LTM bodies. It lacked one important feature for press photographers - ease of use with a 35mm lens. The M2 was released not only with 35mm framelines but cheaper construction. I no longer remember the particulars but it seems steel gears vs brass gears and the like. Given that the M2 soldiers on it hardly seems to matter but the M2 was cheaper. In the 1964 Leica catalog an M3 body listed for $297, the M2 body was only $210 - a huge difference.

The M4 was introduced in 1967, my 1969 catalog lists the price as $309. it was a huge improvement over the previous models. In kept the perfection of workmanship of the M3, improved the viewfinder for working photographers and most of all -da da - added the new angled rewind. Today people love the retro look of the M3 & M2 rewind nob but let me tell you; if you were trying to reload film in the middle of a major event it was a PIA. You could always tell a professional Leica user by the callouses on his index finger.

So my vote for the second best classic Leica goes to the M2.
Enjoyed your comments Mark.

I think 'cheaper' in terms of the M2 might perhaps simply refer to some things having been omitted (for example the nice internal framecounter and window) to reduce cost rather than the use of lesser quality components elsewhere in the camera per se? I had always thought the steel gears didn't really come in until the seventies and the M4 2 and p era?

I will certainly defer to the experts of the forum but to me it feels as though the M2 has the same lovely all brass geartrain and super smooth, solid feel as the M3 or M4 to be honest. I can't see or tell any difference between these three in terms of build quality and materials used etc, with possible slight exception to the M4's slight use of tiny plastic here and there (and even then only outside parts like preview levers and the very end of the film wind lever).

I'm far from an expert, just my user experience so far.
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Old 01-01-2017   #38
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Note to self: do NOT pick up an M5, 'just to try one out' and see what they are like.
Probably wise. The results of that experiment are almost always expensive.

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Old 01-01-2017   #39
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I tried that experiment with an M3.

It has been a beautiful experience in the time following.....
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Old 01-01-2017   #40
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The M5 is the perfect Leica for those who don't like M-series Leicas. Why else do you suppose Leica went back to the classic shape and size with the M6? The M5 is a perfectly fine camera, especially if you are clumsy (coded as "I have big hands") or indulge in strange fantasies about the significance of the size of your hands. The illegitimate offspring of an M-series and a house brick, it isn't really an M-series at all.

The M4 series is fine unless you actually take pictures in other than ideal conditions, in which case the flare-prone rangefinder patch is very bad news. Again, why do you suppose Leica addressed this concern with the MP? Also, the rewind crank can and does bend. You need to be unlucky but it happened to me once in the Julian Alps. We don't all pack our Leicas in cotton wool. Again, why did Leica go back to the knob?

M3s are great if you don't use 35mm lenses. M6-series are metered M4s. M7s are battery dependent.

I've owned/used most M-series Leicas, and the two I've kept are M2 and MP. Well, and M8 and M9.

Cheers,

R.
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