Do I buy a Leica M or a Nikon? UPDATE

Discussion in 'Leica and Rangefinders' started by edmund_kean, Jan 6, 2008.

  1. Firstly a very big thank you to all those who took the time to pass on their
    creeds and experiences. Before I go on, I should just single out
    member .[.Z (is it short for - Nosey?)for extra special recognition - I am now
    reading extensively all and any material I can find on psychology and can
    reassuringly convey to you, I am now dealing with my issues and should be, very
    soon, back in top form for my occasional candid shot - thank you, thank you,
    thank you!

    What did I go for?

    The shop I used was brilliant. I explained I would like to try some cameras,
    they duely arranged insurance and I went off around the town with a used Leica
    M P, a FM2n and a F3 all loaded with the same film. Each camera had a 35mm
    prime attached and my game was to try and shoot the same scenes for an eventual
    comparison back at the shop.

    A quick word on how I metered. In the past when using the OM 1, I always
    metered on an area of a scene I thought would give the best possible exposure,
    but for the sake of the test I, rightly or wrongly, followed the cameras'
    information in the viewfinder only altering the shutter speed whilst keeping the
    same aperture on each of the three cameras for every individual scene.

    Whilst remaining a reasonably important element of a camera's function,
    metering, for me, is not the most important. I reckon one can learn and quickly
    adapt to the "idiosyncracies" of a camera's meter, unless of course it is
    erratic. Moreover on the other hand, relying on one's own judgement can be fun!
    More important to me are: How the camera feels (ie balance & weight), Form and
    Function of Controls & (most recently since owning the Canon)Results.

    To the test - thankfully I did have an assistant to help carry and hand the
    cameras to me when required - a bit like a golfer's caddy. To be brief I have
    below rated in order MY preference, for MY key areas of function as I
    experienced them.

    Viewfinder: F3, FM2n, M P

    Info Layout: FM2n, F3, M P

    Focussing: M P, F3, FM2n

    So, I found the F3 the most familiar and comfortable, the M P the brightest but
    the most odd (do I hear a cacophony of "told you so" from the Nikon touts)and
    the FM2n's the most awkward. The problem I had with the FM2n was the film
    advance lever sticking into my right eye. Being a left eyed viewer I found this
    most uncomfortable. I did however like the metering info of the FM2n and thought
    the Leica was a close second and hated the F3 (in manual mode). I instantly
    liked the rangefinder's quick focussing system and preferred it to both of the
    slower Nikons.

    Shutter Speed
    Dial: F3, FM2n, M P

    A S A Dial: FM2n, M P, F3

    Film Loading: FM2n, F3, M P

    Focus Barrel: M P, Nikons

    Aperture Dial: M P, Nikons

    Film Advance
    Lever: M P, F3, FM2n

    Advancement: M P, F3, FM2n

    Film Loading: FM2n, F3, M P

    Fim Rewind: Nikons =, M P

    So, no clear winner in above fields which I guess was to be expected. One
    comment on the shutter speed dial on the M P. As others have stated, I found
    it's position to be a bit ridiculous and given the transition from the M6 to the
    M7 improved both positioning and size, one would have thought this evolution
    would have extended to the M P's development. I liked the definate clicks of
    the F3's shutter speed dial, followed closely by both FM2n and the Leica. I
    liked the grippy material of the F3's shutter speed dial. The Leica's lens is
    beautifully built and a clear winner for smoothness of operation, but film
    loading is a bit of a chore to be mastered!

    General Feel: F3, M P, FM2n

    Again the F3 felt the most familiar, although I am not sure why it should have
    done so more than the FM2n. But there is little doubt to me, when you handle
    the Leica it seems to intravenously feed it's pedigree and brilliance of
    engineering straight into the appreciation and respect area of the brain - I
    reckon nothing else could touch it for this. It's the equivalent of a design
    and build collaboration between Isambard Kingdom Brunel and Pugin - both
    brilliant and beautiful.

    (Any other controls which I have omitted have none or little importance to me).

    Finally the results:

    The Leica exposed most scenes accurately although some of the compositions were
    a bit off. The F3 may have had a shutter fault as most scenes were dramatically
    underexposed (yes the ASA was set correctly) and the FM2n on the whole generally
    very slightly overexposed on most occasions.

    The exposure variations encountered on both the Nikons meant the Leica's images
    were clearly superior.

    I had no hesitations and promptly bought the Leica M P and 35mm F2 asph. I know
    there will be a settling down period for me with it, but thankfully I can cope
    with change normally with ease, so I don't envisage a protracted period of being
    out of sorts with the instrument.

    I am not a professional camera reviewer - that is quite clear. I went out and
    did this and posted as an update as requested by one contributor to my original
    initial question.

    Comments are welcome.

    PS - Please forgive the British humour/sarcasm at the start of the text.
  2. You have narrowly missed the actual win - Leica MP is an obsolete camera with a nonsense
    like film loading and a quite poor viewfinder, plus it is grossly overpriced. You should have
    tried the Zeiss Ikon with the 35/2 Biogon - which, BTW is also a better lens than the Leica 35
    ASPH, albeit a little bit bigger. You would have saved 3000USD and walked away with a better
    tool... However, if you manage to get used to the MP, it will surely give you a lot of joy,
    because at the tactile level this camera is a jewel, and you will be inclined to use it often,
    which is the main point of the story... Enjoy your RF !
  3. Your British humour is unforgivable!

    The MP however, obolete?, troublesome film loading!, hmmmmmm.

    Using as well Nikons ( f100, d200 ) as the Leica MP I can only say that they are different,
    not one better than the other.

    Leica for the primes, Nikon for the zooms.

    Never tested for sharpness or what ever, just use them.
  4. Dear Marek Fogiel

    At the time I could locate no used Ikons (I rarely buy things new, except toothbrushes!), I did reflect on your views but in the end I luckily had quite a deal on the used M P.

    Thanks for your input.
  5. What is this all about?
  6. Enjoyed your systematic analysis. I have had both Nikons and M3's and M6's. I agree that the Leicas are a pain to load, but they feel better in the hands and get better results. I believe you made the right choice.
  7. So you compared a couple old used Nikons with a a newish Leica. They did not even work
    properly. You didn`t notice the exposures were different with different cameras at the time
    of shooting?

    No where did you compare the pictures. If you had, you would have found you made the
    right decision.

    Now if run them through the local drug store, the difference will not be noticeable.
  8. Thanks for a good post with thorough if not entirely scientific analysis. Enjoy your new camera!
  9. Smile, I'm glad you chose the Leica :). I agree the loading of film in the M series Leica has it's own interesting quirks which took me a while to master. NOT a quick load camera. Also not being able to see the entire frame due to part of the lens in the way in the lower right corner was an adjustment.

    That being said, I love using Leica M6 and the image quality it produces. While I entertain the thought of getting into digital capture with the newest Nikon (as if I have that kind of $ for the body alone? Only stating I don't have the funds, not that it is over priced.) I really enjoy the quiet of both the Leica and my Rollei TLR. In addition, as I said in my earlier post - all of my equipment is paid in full and time is used in making images instead of everything that goes into getting into a different system.

    Does the MP auto match up the viewfinder framing marks to the lens? The M6, the body has to match the lens. Be sure to use the correct marks if there is a choice.

  10. Edmund,

    thanks for updating us all.
    Congratulations on your MP, I am sure you'll love it.I never owned one, just the M6.
    Although your test was completely subjective, you are right in the fact that the camera
    must 'feel right', if it doesn't it won't get used.

    What did surprise me is the fact that your F3 consistently underexposed...from my
    experience the metering on the F3 is excellent, whereas the FM2N does indeed tend to
    overexpose slightly, maybe you had a dud or there was some exp.comp set on the

    Anyway all three cameras you tested are great so enjoy the MP and don't wait too long to
    post us some images...

  11. edmund

    Very interesting post but you should take in to account the cost difference between the cameras for the small advantage of the Leica you probably paid 8 times as much, surely this is a huge part of the equation. Most comparison tests are between items of similar value.

  12. You should have used an incident meter on ALL pics to assure equal exposures (given that the shutters were all accurate) since the three cameras' metering patterns are different. Then develop all films the same, which I assume you did. This would have made the final images more comparable at least in terms of exposure.
  13. All that's left, Edmund, is to head out there and take photos with the new machine. Enjoy it !

    Hope you post some pictures with us here.
  14. The fact that you chose the camera that is 8 time as expensive as the others is simply a testament to the strengths of the MP. The same phenomena is not unheard of in other arena. For example, when universities are rated for their "value", the "best buy" school is often 8 times the cost of some alternatives, but I doubt the education is really 8 times better, but a university, like other things, involves a total experience. Given that you were able to afford the MP, I would say you made the right choice in both the camera and the lens for what you previously described as your preferred type of shooting. I enjoy the type of photography that the M facilitates so much that if I could only have one camera (which is a bit absurd), I would keep my M and 35 cron, and simply wouldn't shoot the other kinds of images (macro, telephoto). As an amateur, I have the luxury of that type of choice. Although it is always fun to debate about all the great equipment made over the many decades, there is no doubt that you now have ONE of the finest photographic instruments ever made. Enjoy.
  15. "I instantly liked the rangefinder's quick focussing system and preferred it to both of the slower Nikons."

    You tested the wrong Nikon! Fast focus? The F100 is superb, and only $300 used.
  16. Dear Steve Hughes

    I completely agree with you about the cost aspect, were it to be a test for comparatively priced products. However, my account was more or less based on what most of the commentators had previously advised (ie try some Nikons and the Leica) in my initial post 01/01/08.

    Thanks for your comments.

  17. Dear Edmund,

    I have a lot of cameras, Leicas, Nikons, etc. My MP is my favorite.

    You bought right.
  18. The F100 is good, but the F6 is FANTASTIC! The focusing is fast and supremely accurate.
  19. Good choice (and a difficult one). Have fun in the new year!
  20. I see that you have asked the question "Do I buy a Leica M or a Nikon?" only at the Leica forum, not the Nikon or other. Then as a result of your subjective test regimen you have convinced your mind to buy the MP which I suspect your heart had decided from the start. Therefore, congratulations upon buying that which you desire, and hope for much enjoyment taking pictures!
  21. Two observations-
    1.- Forget cost. You have to be happy with the camera both as a tool for the final result,and for being what makes you happiest while using it. I think the MP proved itself the winner in both aspects.

    2.- Forget using a separate light meter. You were testing the cameras against each other in actual field use, not a laboratory. The results speak for themselves. The MP won by a bigger margin than you may realize at first glance.

    Just my 2c.
  22. Hehe - I appreciate the humor, befitting such a life-defining decision. ;-)

    Out of all the cameras and systems I have tried I, too, think the MP is the quintessential,
    fundamental tool. It doesn't do everything, but it is the core, built without cost-cutting

    About the retro shutter speed dial, film wind-on lever, and rewind knob - these follow
    from the original MP of 1956-58. The modern MP was designed to be sort of a 50-year
    commemoration to that famous model. You'll get used to the small shutter speed dial. You
    can make film rewinding easier with an add-on crank - Leica markets an expensive one,
    and GMP markets a better one.

    Congratulations on your choice, Edmund. Enjoy your new companion.
  23. P.S. Film loading comes easier and faster if you remember that the take-up spool is there to
    hold the film, NOT pull it through the shutter gate. The key is to properly engage the film
    holes in the sprocket teeth, close the back, and let the sprocket pull the film through. Be
    sure to check that the rewind knob is rotating (thus the red dots) indicating proper wind-on.
    After a few times you will find it faster and more reliable than it first appears.
  24. As Ken says, replacing the baseplate is an intrinsic part of the Leica's loading properly.

    As I have mentioned on this forum before, I can reload my M6 from baseplate removal to the winding on of the first exposure in 37 seconds. I don't know how long it takes me to load my Contax S2, but it's probably irrelevant based on the above timeframe.Anything faster required and I would have to carry 2 bodies.
  25. Edmund, go out happy and shoot with your new camera...
    And to reconcile various brands, here are some shots:
    Leica M7:
    Zeiss Ikon:
    Nikon FM3A:

    The trick is to always have your camera with you...

  26. You think that's awkward to load? You should try a M2/M3, or better still an old thread mount Leica!!
    I bet you find yourself caressing it at odd moments!
    The feel of a Leica is different to anything modern. Enjoy it, use it and I bet you will get great pictures from it. Congrats from another Brit!!!! :p

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