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Which film Leica? M2? M3? Another?


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Morning all

Am looking at getting a film Leica but, despite / because of reading so much around which one of the M2 or M3 is better, I am now thoroughly confused. I know there is also the option of an M6 but my budget won’t stretch to that given the need to buy glass as well. I like to shoot 35mm and 50mm.

I know that no-one can decide which is the better (best if a further M comes into play) for me but some pointers from day in day out users would be very much appreciated.

Many thanks in advance.

Ben

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Hello Ben,

Very easy choice.

Please think of my last word (now is the key)

M2 for 35mm use and SO usable with 50mm and other lenses.

M3 better with 50mm (the best if you happen to own Noctilux 😇 for wide open "must").

 

Anytime, each M is unique and the choices are so large that I always wrote/said the best one is the one choising now.

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27 minutes ago, Loomis77 said:

Morning all

Am looking at getting a film Leica but, despite / because of reading so much around which one of the M2 or M3 is better, I am now thoroughly confused. I know there is also the option of an M6 but my budget won’t stretch to that given the need to buy glass as well. I like to shoot 35mm and 50mm.

I know that no-one can decide which is the better (best if a further M comes into play) for me but some pointers from day in day out users would be very much appreciated.

Many thanks in advance.

Ben

If you like to shoot both 35mm and 50mm then the M2 is the only choice. I have both M3 and M2 and, in my opinion, the M2 is a much better camera. The M3 has gained "Cult Status" but as a useable camera the M2 wins hands down.

If you are just looking for a camera as a "collectable" then it has to be an M3.

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Ben, to help you choising one M (or not it's up to you).

- I have had some M4 to be repaired, after use for a while, contrary of other people who never had problem with their M4

( for me this one is not more reliable than other M)

- the other good choice for reliable M ( if well maintained ), M4-2, M4-P : my units never went to be serviced, incredible when I read that other users had troubles with them

- M5 is reliable and pleasing in use but not for everybody taste (mostly the non-users ! )

- M6, nothing to say more, those I use are reliable if needing regular maintenance (adjustments once every couple of years) if use the hard way

- newer M second hand, or new M-A/MP/Mx (the next one 'rumored' to come), while we can buy, of course

 

 

 

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Every M Leica camera made to date with a rangefinder (note that there are some without a rangefinder, such as the M1, and even some without any finder, such as the MDa) will be lovely to use, if in good serviced condition. Mind you, quite a few of those cameras are more than 40, 50 and even 60 years old by now. So make sure you buy a copy that has recently been serviced (within the last 5 years or so). Alternatively, figure in the costs for having the camera serviced by a professional mechanic.

The M3 is perfect for lenses of 50mm and above (up to 135mm), but is a little more inconvenient to use with 35mm lenses, as you have to use either a separate 35mm finder (to be mounted in the camera's accessory shoe) or so-called 35mm goggled lenses, which were specially made for the M3 to modify its 50mm frame to work with a 35mm lens.

M2, M4, M5, M6 and up are all good to go with 35 and 50mm lenses. Mechanically, there is not that much difference between M2, M4, M5, M6 (M5 and M6 and most younger models have a built-in light meter, which the earlier models do not have), so I would choose based on price and condition rather than model if I were you.

Cheers,

Andy

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Guest Nowhereman

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It is an easy choice if you know what is important to you. If you want an in-camera meter, the M6 makes sense, with the proviso that the original viewfinders flared out easily in very bright light: I found, shooting in Thailand, that often the rangefinder patch and the meter diodes were not visible in the flare. I ended up having Sherry Kreuter replace the original 0.72x viewfinder with an 0.85x MP viewfinder, which solved the flare-out problem. I chose the 0.85 because I like the larger view of the 50mm frame that you get, and I don't mind using an external viewfinder for 21 and 28mm.

Now , after shooting some years with the M6, I found that the in-camera meter was not as important to me as I had thought and, when a good buy came up, I got the M3 pictured below. While a couple of people above have stated that they prefer the M2 for lenses wider than 50mm, I still prefer the M3 with its larger 50mm frame and its frame counter inside the camera (compared to the "outside" one on the M2) — and don't at all mind using an external viewfinder for wider lenses: the picture below has the Voigtländer 28/35 Mini-Finder, which I originally bought for $85. No longer made, CameraQuest has used ones listed at $595! For 21mm, I use a Zeiss finder.

So, going by my experience, it's easy to choose if you know what is important to you — but what is important my change over time. For this reason, I would buy whatever M comes up as a good buy.

_______________________________________
Frog Leaping photobook and Instagram
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Like others said, M2 if 35 mm is your primary lens, M3 if your primary lens is a 50. I went for the M4 for the 1st Leica (43 years),  thought M6 would be great, but I really disliked it, came back to an M2 and have been delighted with it shooting mostly 35 and 50 lenses and occasional 90 and 135. It is a very personal thing and if you can try both an M2 and M3 with your favorite lenses the choice will become much easier.

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I had a black paint film MP (2003 vintage) and it served me well for 10 years before I released it into the wild.  I have an M4-P now, which serves me well. 

Do not overlook the M4-P.  It is a great camera even though it does not have a built in light meter.  I meter with my Sekonic L-508 when using my M4-P.

Since there is an app that can let any cell phone work as a light meter, I would think the M4-P not having an onboard light meter is probably not so much of an issue these days.

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Hello Loomis,

Welcome to the Forum.

I have a slightly different perspective I would like to share.

At the time that the M3 was designed there was more of an interest in medium telephoto lenses and normal lenses, that is: 90mm & 135mm lenses and 50mm lenses, than there was in wide angle lenses, that is 35mm lenses. Because at the time the M3 was released (1954) there were not that many high quality, large aperture, wide angle lenses available.

An M3 appears to have a range/viewfinder system that is designed to be a camera that uses a 90mm lens as a main lens. A 90mm lens on an M3 is the camera at its best with its 0.91 X magnification range/viewfinder.

It has a frame line system that has enough area out of the portion captured on the film to be useful in anticipating what will come in to or go out of the scene being photographed.  A 135mm lens has more uncaptured area visible outside of the frame & a 50mm lens has frame lines that pretty much fill the viewfinder. The last 2 both work well also. There is the possibility of using a 35mm lens with "goggles" on an M3 with 0.6 X image magnification.

Later, as high quality, large aperture, wide angle lenses became more available Leitz (The maker of Leica cameras at that time.) introduced the M2 with a 0.72 X magnification range/viewfinder apparently designed around using a 50 mm lens as a main lens. With the 50mm, 90mm & 35mm lenses pretty much mirroring their M3 siblings of 90mm, 135mm & 50mm lenses above as far as viewfinder coverage is concerned. 

All "M" film cameras work pretty much the same mechanically & conceptually, including the sometimes overlooked M5. So, whichever 1 you end up with: It will have more similarities than it has differences with the 1 that you did not choose.

So, which is better:  M3 or M2?

Will probably depend on which angles of coverage that you think will be more important to you. 

You might try looking thru the range/viewfinder windows of both & adjusting the frame line changing device under the viewfinder window to see what is right for you.

Best Regards,

Michael

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2 hours ago, a.noctilux said:

Ben,

The first step counts,

 

so any Leica M and one lens to begin with.

 

The journey may be short or long, but you can say "I've tried it " 😉

@Loomis77    That's very true - start with one M camera and one lens and see where that camera takes you in the Leica world.

For a first lens, I would say consider a 35mm or a 50mm.  The 35mm is a great universal lens.  Some people tend to shy away from the 35 at first, thinking it's too wide.  The thing with the 35 is learning to use it correctly.  Learn to tale a couple of steps closer to your subject in order to fill the frame.  "Zoom with your feet" as the saying goes.

The 50 is also a good choice, and a lot of people are already familiar with the 50mm focal length.  A 50 is the other side of the coin with regard to the 35 - you still need to zoom with your feet in some cases, but in reverse.  Back up a couple of steps.

With fixed focal length lenses, it is an absolute must to learn how to properly frame your subject by moving the camera and your body closer or farther away from your subject in order to get good composition and proper framing.  This (in my view) is one of the most basic yet most important and valuable skills a photographer can cultivate

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An M3 with a rigid Summicron 50 was my first Leica. Then I got a button rewind M2 with rapid load kit.

My wearing glasses probably kept me from enjoying the M3 as much as I wanted to, but I took some of my most memorable photos with that combo.

In the end, I found the M3 a good home and kept the M2 as it is simple, elegant and suits my needs.

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5 hours ago, Herr Barnack said:

@Loomis77    That's very true - start with one M camera and one lens and see where that camera takes you in the Leica world.

For a first lens, I would say consider a 35mm or a 50mm.  The 35mm is a great universal lens.  Some people tend to shy away from the 35 at first, thinking it's too wide.  The thing with the 35 is learning to use it correctly.  Learn to tale a couple of steps closer to your subject in order to fill the frame.  "Zoom with your feet" as the saying goes.

The 50 is also a good choice, and a lot of people are already familiar with the 50mm focal length.  A 50 is the other side of the coin with regard to the 35 - you still need to zoom with your feet in some cases, but in reverse.  Back up a couple of steps.

With fixed focal length lenses, it is an absolute must to learn how to properly frame your subject by moving the camera and your body closer or farther away from your subject in order to get good composition and proper framing.  This (in my view) is one of the most basic yet most important and valuable skills a photographer can cultivate

The zoom with your feet is a good piece of advice. Many (like myself) walk around until they see a subject they wish to capture then stop dead at that very spot and try to decide what lens gives the perspective they want from that initial spot rather than step forward or back with the lens already on the camera.

Edited by Anthony Miller
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I'm an idiot, I had a perfectly CLA'd, new skin SS M3 for many years. Why oh why did I sell it? 🤪Then I suffered thru 2 more M3's that I could never get "right". So I bite the bullet and bought a new M-A black chrome. I'm poorer but happy.

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