Most people consider the Leica M series cameras as the ideal rangefinder. Not only are they exquisitely designed, but these cameras are capable of taking outstanding photographs. When it comes to the Leica M4, it’s no different. First introduced in November 1966, the M4 was the fourth camera in the Leica M series line. It was a great camera that featured improvements on some of the shortcomings in the M2 and M3.
For some Leica enthusiasts, the M4 was the best camera in the series—personally, I think the M3 was the best in the line.
Here’s why some consider the M4 to be the best rangefinder in the Leica M line.
Features of the M4
One of these features is the film loading mechanism.
In the M2 and M3, loading the film entailed taking off the bottom part, removing the spool, and then loading it. On the M2, the process was made even more complicated because you had to set the film counter manually.
Loading the film on the M4 was however easier. All you had to do was to remove the bottom plate, open the back, then load the film.
No need to remove the spool.
The other feature that made the M4 a great camera was the faster rewind system. Unlike the M3 and M2, which used a knob to rewind the film, the M4 came with a lever that allowed a quicker rewind process.
Another improvement that came with the F4 was the inclusion of extra frame lines in the viewfinder. The M4 came with frame lines for the 35mm, 50mm, 90mm, and 135mm lenses. Both the M3 and M2 came with frame lines for three lenses. The M3 had frame lines for the 50mm, 90mm, and 135mm lenses. The M2 on the other hand came with frame lines for the 35mm, 50mm, and 90mm lenses.
The inclusion of the extra set of frame lines in the viewfinder meant that it was possible to use all Leica lenses without the need for goggles.
The M4 also came with an impeccable rangefinder. Similar to what you’d find in the M3. It was fast, precise, and flair free.
The M4 also came with an improved self-timer and frame selection lever.
Design and Physical Appearance
Like it’s predecessors, the Leica M4 was exquisitely built.
This hand-assembled camera featured a full brass body that was black and silver chrome, black chrome, or entirely black. The black chrome and fully black body are quite rare, which has resulted in them being much more costly than the black and silver chrome ones.
The M4 also featured a new advance lever with a plastic edge. Depending on who you ask, this was either an improvement or a design failure.
Some users prefer the all-metal lever. However, if you’re like me, you may prefer the plastic lever as it’s less likely to jab your hip bone when carrying the camera.
Competition from SLRs resulted in a need to produce a cheaper version of the M4.
Leica moved production from Germany to Canada; thus, the M4-2 and M4-P were born. Unlike the original M4, the M4-2 and M4-P were made from an aluminum and zinc alloy.
The rangefinder system was also more simplified and was more prone to flair.
However, these later versions featured a motor drive attachment and came with added frame lines for the 28mm and 75mm lenses.
Shortcomings of the Camera
Like it’s predecessors, the M4 didn’t feature a light meter, which makes it hard to use if you’re a novice film photographer.
Although not everyone sees it as a disadvantage, some Leica enthusiasts have bashed the M4 for its use of a plastic film advance.
There you go.
All you need to know about the last hand assembled Leica rangefinder.
Not only was it an impeccable build, but it is also a tremendous mechanical camera thats worthy of your classic vintage camera collection.