1970's Leica

Leica M5

Leica M5

The story of the Leica M5 is similar to that of the ugly duckling.

First introduced in 1971, the M5 was initially shunned by many Leica enthusiasts. Similar to the ugly duckling, the M5 was different from other Leica M cameras.

Despite the backlash, the M5 was a pretty incredible camera that came with features never seen in a Leica rangefinder.

This is why years later, the camera is slowly gaining popularity among many young film camera enthusiasts.

So, why is the M5 gaining popularity?

Keep reading to find out more!

Features of the Camera

One of the most unique features of the Leica M5 was the introduction of an inbuilt Through-the-Lens metering system. 

One of the most notable shortcomings of earlier M cameras was the lack of an inbuilt metering system, which made it hard for novice users to use the camera.

However, with the inclusion of a needle metering system in the M5, novice photographers and people who aren’t comfortable with estimating metering with their eye, can enjoy the benefits of using a classic Leica camera.

The Leica M5 also came with a big and bright viewfinder.

Similar to what was in the M4, the M5 viewfinder could achieve a magnification of .72X.  The viewfinder also came with four sets of frame-line optimized for the 35mm, 50mm, 90mm, and 135mm focal length lenses.

However, the M5 viewfinder had one difference from the one used in the M4. At the bottom of the viewfinder, there were two bars used to measure metering. The viewfinder also featured a display of the shutter speed and selected aperture.

The M5 came with a quiet shutter that was able to achieve a maximum speed of 1/1000 sec. Thanks to the large shutter speed dial, setting the speed was easier and faster.

And that’s not all!

The Leica M5 was the last of the traditionally made Leicas before Leica moved production to Canada. The M5 was hand-assembled and was the last Leica to have a brass body with interior components also composed of brass. Later versions of Leica cameras used fabricated steel and plastic parts.

Design and Physical Appearance

Do you consider yourself a rebel? Someone who does things differently from the norm?

If so, the M5 is your ideal camera.

One of the most notable features of the M5 was the shift from the standard Leica M series design. The M5 doesn’t look like any other Leica M camera.

It came with added controls, with some being moved to other places.

For starters, the M5 came with an ISO adapter located in the middle of the top plate.

It also came with an oversized shutter speed dial that was perfectly positioned for easy adjustment. While holding the camera to your eye, it was possible to adjust and set shutter speed with either your index or middle figure.

This feature made the M5 the easiest M camera to adjust shutter speed.

Another difference in design came with the film rewind crank that was located on the bottom plate.

The M5 however, had several similarities with its predecessor.

One such similarity was with the bottom loading film mechanism. Like its predecessors, the M5 came with a removable base plate

Similar to the M4, the M5 film advance lever was made of metal with a plastic tip.

Shortcomings of the Camera

One of the most significant shortcomings of the M5 is the battery. The M5 used the now-defunct PX625 1.35V mercury-oxide battery. However, you can use the camera without batteries but will have to give up on using the metering system.

The M5 is also incompatible with certain Leitz wide-angle lenses. 

The other shortcoming of the Leica M5 was that the camera was heavier than its predecessors. This was one of the reasons why the camera was so poorly received.

Final Thoughts

The Leica M5 is a camera that some people love and some hate.

For some, the M5 was an ugly camera that almost killed the Leica rangefinder line. To others, it was an industrially beautiful camera. It all depends on who you are and what you like.

But if you like the unusual styling, enjoy using the light metering system and can ignore the naysayers, you’ll love the M5.

1960's Leica

Leica M4

Leica M4

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 the reasons why some people consider the M4 as the best Leica rangefinder is that it resolved some of the shortcomings of the Leica M2 and M3.

One of these features is the film loading mechanism.

Loading and unloading the film in the M2 and M3 was a slow and tiring process.  The M4 however came with a new film loading mechanism that was faster to use.

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.

The M4 also featured a hot shoe as opposed to the accessory shoe, which was found in the Leica M3 and M2.

Other Versions

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.

Final Thoughts

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.

1950's Leica

Leica M3

Leica M3

The Leica M3 – the first camera in Leica’s M series.

A masterpiece that has stood the test of time. A camera so good that it was advertised as a “lifetime investment in perfect photography.”

Introduced in 1954, the M3 went on to become the best-selling Leica camera ever.

It’s a known fact. Germany’s prowess in engineering is undeniable.

Machinery, industrial equipment, and vehicles from Germany are known for their precision, power, and impeccable build quality. German engineers don’t cut corners.

Which is why it’s no surprise that the best 35mm camera comes from Germany.

Even Steve Jobs compared the revolutionary iPhone 4 to this camera.

And for good reason.

Not only was it well built, the Leica M3 came with a multitude of features that made it a true masterpiece in photography.

Here’s why the Leica M3 is so highly regarded.

Features of the Camera

One of the most notable features of the Leica M3 is the big bright viewfinder. Not only is it big, but the M3 viewfinder is the world biggest and best finder.

With a magnification of 0.91X, the M3 viewfinder is able to achieve more precise focus than any other 35mm or 50mm camera.

And that’s not all!

The M3 comes with a large flare free rangefinder.  The snappy and fast rangefinder ensures more precise and accurate focusing—better than any other camera ever made.

As if that’s not enough!

The viewfinder came with three focal length frame lines. The M3 viewfinder is able to automatically select frame lines for the 50mm, 90mm, and 135mm lenses. Thanks to this feature, your view is never polluted with irrelevant frames—something that modern-day Leica’s are unable to do.


The M3 is optimized for the 50mm, 90mm, and 135mm lenses. However, this doesn’t mean it can’t use other lenses.

The Leica M3 is perfectly compatible with all Leica M-mount lenses made since 1954 till today. And with a special adapter, it becomes compatible with every screw mount lens made since 1933.

Talk about versatility.

How does the M3 perform?

Using this camera is simply a joy. The M3 is a simple and straight forward camera. With this camera, you don’t have to worry about menu, settings, and other distracting features.

Its simplistic design and singularity of purpose allows you to only focus on the photo.

And that’s not all!

The ultra-smooth, quiet, and precise mechanics make using this camera a joy. Every photo you take with this camera is a masterpiece.

What about the shutter?

Like many cameras produced in the 1950s, the M3 has a top shutter speed of 1/1000sec. The M3 is not a camera for fast motion photos. However, for still photography, it’s a great camera.

The Leica M3 is also a fully mechanical camera. With this camera, you don’t have to worry about batteries, or electronics that may need replacement over time.

Talk about a camera built to last.

Design and Physical Built

Just like the Rolls Royce, the Leica M3 boasts of being handmade and of supreme quality.

For starters, the M3 body is fully metal with a silver chrome and leather exterior.

Its classic vintage design makes this camera a joy to hold. It fits right in the palm of the hand and all the controls are perfectly placed.

The shutter button is smooth to push and does not wiggle when pushed—unlike the plasticky shutter buttons in modern day Leica’s.

And that’s not all!

The viewfinder is made of plain glass, which is clearer and easier to clean

With all these features, The M3 should be a very heavy camera, right?

Well no!

Unlike Nikon cameras built at the time, the M3 was relatively light with the body weighing 610g – half the weight of a Nikon D700

Shortcomings of the Camera

The M3 has one major shortcoming. It doesn’t come with a light meter, making it hard for novice photographers to use.

The other shortcoming is that the camera isn’t optimized for 35mm lens. To use a 35mm lens, you have to add “goggles” to convert the 50mm frame lines into 35mm.

Final Thoughts

There’s no doubt that the Leica M3 is the best Leica camera ever made.

All other Leica cameras have been a stepdown from the M3. Despite being introduced more than six decades ago, the M3 is still a great camera to use.

With the M3, you will never need to purchase any other camera in your lifetime.

1950's Leica

Leica M2

Leica M2

What comes to mind when you hear the name Leica? Probably the high price tag associated with these cameras, right? Well, the Leica M2 was a bit different.

Although not the cheapest camera in the market, the M2 was Leica’s answer to the need for a more affordable and versatile rangefinder camera.

First introduced in 1957, the M2 was the second camera in the Leica M series, after the M1. It was a simplified version of the M3, built for people with a tight budget.

But despite its relatively lower price, the M2 was well built and featured some pretty amazing features. Here’s a lowdown of those features.

Features of the Camera

One of the first features that make the M2 such a great camera is the fact that it’s a rangefinder. When compared to SLRs, rangefinders are better at focusing.

With the M2, you’re able to achieve better focus than with most SLRs.

The second feature that makes the M2 such an impeccable camera is its lesser magnification viewfinder. Unlike the M3, whose viewfinder had a magnification factor of 0.92x, the M2’s viewfinder had a 0.72 magnification.

The lesser magnification makes the M2 the perfect camera for wide-angle photography.

And that’s not all!

The M2 was also the first Leica camera to be optimized for the 35mm lens. If you’re like me (I love using the 35mm lens), this is the camera for you.

As if that’s not enough!

The Leica M2 also came with three sets of frame lines that made focusing and framing with different lenses easier.

With this camera, you could use the 35mm, 50mm, and 90mm lens for wide-angle photography.

Other Features

The M2 also came with a horizontal cloth shutter, which made it quieter and more discrete compared to SLRs. Shooting with this camera is simply a delight.

Talking of shutter, how fast was the Leica M2 shutter?

The M2 didn’t have the fastest shutter. However, it’s able to achieve a maximum shutter speed of 1/1000 sec.

The Leica M2 was also a fully mechanical camera. To use this camera, you don’t need a battery, which means a less bulky camera.

Speaking of weight, how heavy was the M2.

Unlike most cameras at the time, the M2 was a light camera with a weight of 560g.

Other features of the camera included:

  • Built-in self-timer
  • 1/50 flash sync speed
  • Cold shoe, not hot shoe (You have to use an adapter if you want speed light)

Design and Physical Build

One of the first things you’ll notice with the camera is its classic design, which features a silver chrome and leather finish.

All controls are metal, which makes this camera feel sturdy.

The full metal body makes this camera durable and usable in different environments. You can use it in extreme cold or hot conditions. With the M2, you don’t have to worry about carefully handling it. You can toss it in your bag without fear of damage.

Shortcomings of the Camera

One of the most significant shortcomings of the M2 is the lack of a metering system, which makes this camera unsuitable for most novice photographers. You can go around this shortcoming using an external viewfinder.

The other shortcoming is the use of a manually set external shot counter.

Loading the film is also an annoying and time-consuming process.

Final Thoughts

Leica cameras are often referred to as the Rolls Royce of cameras. They are exceptionally built and packed with numerous features.

The M2 wasn’t any different. It was elegantly built and unlike its predecessor, was relatively cheaper. The M2 is an accurate representation of the German engineering prowess and a worthy addition to your classic camera collection.

1950's Leica

Leica M1

Leica M1

Introduced in 1959, the Leica M1 was a minimalistic and straightforward camera. It came with everything necessary for shooting and nothing you didn’t need.

Often referred to as the forgotten Leica, the Leica M1 is probably one of the rarest cameras ever made.

It didn’t have a rangefinder and also lacked a metering system. However, it also had some pretty incredible features that made it stand out.

Here are some of those features.

Features of the Leica M1

One reason to add the M1 to your classic camera collection is its rare nature. With less than 9500 bodies made, the M1 is a genuine collectable camera.

One of the first noticeable features of the M1 was the lack of a rangefinder. Unlike its predecessors, the M3 and M2, the Leica M1 featured a parallax-corrected viewfinder.

This bright and clear viewfinder came with permanent frame lines for the 35 and 50 focal lengths. The inclusion of these lines made it easier to frame your shot.

Another noticeable feature with the M1 is the ability to turn into an SLR. Designed to be a general-purpose camera, the M1 could be fitted with the Visoflex mirror lock-up system which turned the M1 into an SLR.

And that’s not all. It was also possible to add an external rangefinder to the Leica M1.  

Talk about versatility. A camera that could be both an SLR and a rangefinder.

And that’s not all!

The M1 also came with an incredible lens. The collapsible Elmar 50 f2.8 gave the camera a sleek vintage look and also took excellent photos. The collapsible nature of the lens made the M1 portable since it could easily fit into the pocket with the lens collapsed.

Leica designed the lens to be used with other M body cameras. I’ve used the lens with my M6 and have gotten spectacular results.

The M1 is also compatible with wide-angle lenses like the 21mm and 15mm

What about the shooting experience? How is it?

The M1 was an impressive camera to work with. The lack of a rangefinder made focusing a challenge. However, the lack of automation made shooting with this camera easy. The photographer didn’t have to worry about countless controls which may at times be confusing.

Shortcomings of the Camera

One of the main reasons why many rangefinder enthusiasts rarely talk about the Leica M1, is the fact that the camera lacks a rangefinder, despite being classified as a rangefinder. The lack of the rangefinder results in less precise focusing. 

When shooting with this camera, a photographer has to either use zone focusing or an external meter.

The M1 is also frustratingly slow, making it a terrible camera for street shooting. However, when speed isn’t essential, the M1 is a great camera to use. 

Final Thoughts

Despite the various shortcomings, the Leica M1 is a worthy addition to your camera collection.

Not only is it rare—less than 9500 bodies were made, it’s also a great camera to shoot with once you get used to it.

Its rare nature, coupled with the sleek vintage look makes this camera a valuable collectible—one worthy of your vintage classic camera collection.