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.