Leica M2: What to look for while inspecting?

Discussion in 'Leica and Rangefinders' started by mechs, Feb 16, 2021.

  1. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    Thank you - very useful!
  2. Looks beautiful. If you're inclined to eradicate the bubbles yourself (at the risk of inflaming some), see if you can gently peel up a corner of the skin from the shell adjacent to one of the bottom corners of the film door. If it looks like there is a rubberised cement/contact glue that is holding the skin in place and the skin is flexible, you'll soon get an idea of whether it can be peeled up. In this case, you can gently (*gently*) remove the skin by cleaning as you go with a few cotton buds and some isopropyl alcohol before applying a fresh thin layer of new cement and smoothing the cover into place.

    Otherwise, leave it as it is and enjoy! Great find.
  3. There's a simpler way: apply heat on the bubbled areas with a hair dryer - then push the bubbles out. Simple.
  4. Thanks. I actually found out that the bubbles were not oxidation but rather hardened air bubbles. I did end up making an X mark on one of the bubbles with a blade and was able to push the excess air out. I did manage to put a couple of scratches on the metal frame underneath (my signature!). Seeing there is no oxidation, I've decided to leave it alone and enjoy the camera instead. It truly is a magnificent camera. I paired it with a Summicron 35mm asph version 1 and all is running smoothly.
  5. "The only problem today was me; I didn't rewind the film enough and, like an idiot, opened the bottom plate mid-roll."

    Been there done that :)
  6. I hope you don't mind me jumping on board this thread.

    I've been thinking about buying and M2 too (!!) and visited a local camera store that had one for sale with an Elmar 2.8 50. This was the first time I have had a Leica camera in my hands or tried out a Rangefinder.

    I tried to test some of the things I had read here. Slow speeds such as 1 sec worked fine and sounded right, however with my ear to the body at all speeds I could hear the shutter open and close but this was followed by some whirring (speed gears ?) that gradually decreased. The salesperson said this was not a problem, just "cosmetic" but could be fixed if needed. Here I'm not sure.

    The viewfinder lines were clear. This was my first time with a rangefinder patch and I must admit I did find it a bit difficult to align the two images. I was inside in a quite dark room testing pointing out through a window on a very bright sunny day. If I pointed at single objects (such as a leaf) it was fine but a bush was more difficult. Hard to know if this was just my inexperience or a dull viewfinder.

    I checked the curtains and they open completely and close completely. They might have had very slight minor marking. A film had been run through the camera and there were no light leaks. The shop is offering 6 months guarantee. Your thoughts are most welcome.
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  7. The after exposure little sound is normal, mine do the same thing. It's probably Leitz elves cleaning up any stray photons that didn't hit the film. ;-! <(tongue in cheek)

    Enjoy the camera, it's a beaut. I couldn't find an M2 back in the sixties and had to settle for a couple M4s.
    jimnorwood likes this.
  8. I had two further questions. The shop has not measured the correct speed timings, just shot a film and checked by listening. What in your opinion should I ask them to check before purchasing ?

    One question I had was regarding the Elmar lens. I can purchase the lens and the body or just the body. Would you recommend this lens ?

    I guess my main worry is the focusing. It's hard to judge what is "normal" for the M2. The viewfinder seemed quite bright, the tramlines clear and the patch too.
    It was just that it seemed tricking to align the two images. Not sure if this is something you just need to get used to ?

    Are there recommendations for Leica CLA in Germany ?
    Last edited: Jun 2, 2021
  9. Probably you need to get used to it, but of course for any old camera it is worth having a CLA. It is possible the rangefinder needs adjustment. The Elmar is a good lens, and you will have to decide whether it is worth it. The Summicrons or Summiluxes of that era are, arguably, more famous and being faster are more useful, but the Elmar is a direct descendent of the original Elmar from the screw mount days so it is nice too.
    jimnorwood likes this.
  10. You may wish to consider the following: The M2 was originally designed for photojournalist use with 35 mm wide angle lenses. Normal 50 v. 35 focal length use is your choice to determine which you like best. If the dealer has a 35, ask if you can try it and then see what you like best. The viewfinder's interior frame lines can be brought up for 50mm focal length, but the image size is smaller than it would be from an M3. due to depth of field considerations, a 35 is more tolerant than a 50 for focusing errors. Regarding the Elmar 2.8 itself, I recommend dismounting the f2.8 lens and shining a penlight through both the front and back of the lens. What you are looking for are any signs of scratch marks on the front element and any fogging or outgassing of shutter lubricant on the interior lenses. Additionally, unlock the lens mount infinity latch and rotate the focus from infinity to closeup, feeling for any focusing mount looseness or a tightness from old lubricant. Remount the lens and see if there is any mount wobble once back on the camera. I do recommend use of a lens shade on the 2.8 Elmar as the front objective is not deeply seated in the lens mount and therefore exposed to sunlight, lowering contrast and in extreme situations, resulting in visible image flare. Of all my 50mm Leica lenses, only a later model f2 Summicron rigid sees more use. Robin's above comments are accurate and I can only add that the collapsible f2.8 Elmar on the M2 makes it very easy to carry around all day. My best wishes for a successful purchase experience.
    jimnorwood likes this.
  11. Hi Jim,

    Here is my experience and I hope you will find it useful.

    I did a lot of research before buying my M2. I learned that there is considerable variation among existing M2s as far as viewfinders and other things are concerned. The viewfinder in mine has a blue tint, is a bit dimmer than other models, has a contrasty and bright focusing patch, and clear and bright framelines. The gear noises you hear are more pronounced in the slower shutter speeds and the shutter is very smooth and relatively quiet yet with a nice and firm click.

    I actually called Youxin Ye and asked him about the viewfinder and other things I thought were issues on mine and he reassured me that the dimness or blue tint were not an issue. He also said there is pretty much nothing that can't be fixed on these models so as long as the camera is in working condition and there are no obvious signs of trouble, I would feel confident proceeding. Also note that it is more difficult to focus in darker environments and with things like leaves in a bush--that's just how it is when you start out with a rangefinder.

    If the price is good (or the budget is there) and the seller is offering a six month warranty, I would have no problem buying it. You could also try what I did: take a roll of film with you to the camera shop or the person selling it, take properly exposed images in or just outside the shop at slow and fast speeds (especially 250-1000s) and really work the focusing patch. Take notes on each exposure (shutter speed, focusing point, frame number). Get the film rush developed and if everything turns as expected, the camera is good to go. If not, then you can either haggle on the price or move on. Also be sure to test whether the infinity focus is accurate on a good and properly calibrated lens. Maybe ask the shop to fit the camera with a Summicron 35mm if they have one.

    Also, make sure you look at this Leica buying checklist: Leica M Buyer's Checklist.

    I have since bought a Leica M6 but am already considering selling it because the M2 is just magical. It is the single greatest piece of photographic gear I have owned. Here are a few photos:

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  12. Thanks so much to all who answered. The tips were really useful. @mechs it was really interesting to read your feedback.

    Today was an exciting day for me. My first experience with a Leica camera. Up to now I have shot film using a Nikon FE2 (my favourite), a Rolleiflex 3.5F and various Rollei 35s. I borrowed the Leica M2 and the Elmar 50mm and shot a test color film.

    First thing I did was drink a coffee and carefully check the camera. It's a real beauty that's for sure. I tested the 1 sec repeatedly which sounded the same each time, the 1/15th which had a very particular sound. I cleaned the viewfinder. Looking through from front and back the image is clear and clean. The only thing I noticed when cleaning the front viewfinder glass is that there is dirt / clouding on one side of the inside of this front glass. I tried to photograph this but it is only visible at certain angles and not visible at all when looking through the viewfinder from the back.

    The RF patch is bright and clean looking through the viewfinder. Looking through the viewfinder window from the front the patch is clear but does have maybe 5-8 what looks like tiny points of dust and what looked like an offset image of each spec. Looking through the viewfinder these tiny dots are almost invisible.

    Ok first the negative (which I hope is not too bad). I noticed the two images in the patch do not perfectly align. Vertically they are aligned at infinity but horizontally one image is a tiny bit higher than the other which leads to a slightly distorted focused image in the patch.

    With the lady from the camera shop I loaded a film. Is there any need with the M2 to trim the film lead in ? Anyway film loaded I took some shots at slow and fast speeds (250-1000s). I'm a glasses wearer and what immediately noticed is that the 50mm lines are ideal for me with glasses on. I love seeing the scene around the 50mm lines. Focusing was fairly easy even with the slight image mismatch. It was odd to wander round a town I know well and try to quickly find 35 images. I found I was really getting into just taking random shots. Winding was super smooth. after winding the arm doesn't return to the locked to body position but slightly cocked but I guess this is normal ?

    I did notice the vulcanite had a particular smell ! Wouldn't have expected this of a camera from 1960. I also had the feeling there was a very slight movement of the back flap when I squashed the camera to my face when taking shots.

    I had mixed feelings about the Elmar 50mm 2.8. It's really a cute looking lens but I found the locking at infinity and using the silver button a bit irritating. Also I noticed that at f16 it was possible to move the dial just slightly beyond f16 and the blades opened further. Not sure if this is normal ? I also found the minimum focus distance of 1 meter to be limiting. Perhaps I just need to get used to this lens. I'm wondering if it's worth spending 400 Euro on this lens rather than investing in something better ? Is there an alternative 50mm you would recommend ? Or a 35mm lens ? @mechs which lens where you're posted shots made with ?

    Ok here's where I messed up. After really pleasant hour or two of shooting I decided to rewind the film. I kept winding and the winding got harder and then seemed to loosen as though the film had finished. So I opened the back and tried to remove the film which was stuck. Then I lifted the back flap and the film was not fully rewound and exposed !!! Arrrrggghhh. Like a fool instead of replacing the bottom and continuing to rewind I just continued rewinding and realised that I had probably exposed all the first shots I took. What a waste. It's odd because I'm used to films being harder to rewind towards the beginning of the film and I definitely felt a loosening as though the end had been reached. I dropped off the film at a lab to see if any shots can be salvaged. I'll post some here when I get them !

    One question I have is regarding the viewfinder. I have a +3 dioptrine glasses. Is there any way to compensate for this in the viewfinder ?

    I have reserved the camera but not the lens. I hope the problems I describe above are minor and not showstoppers ? Your feedback is most welcome. Despite the mishap with the film it was an enjoyable first day of shooting with a Leica. Sorry for the long post !
  13. This doesn't really show the viewfinder marks I describe but shows some marking.

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    Last edited: Jun 4, 2021
    James Bryant likes this.
  14. SCL


    As with any vintage camera of unknown provenance, most of the issues you described can be readily addresed in a good CLA. The images should align both horizontally and vertically...the adjustment is simple for a repairperson to do, and simple for a knowledgable owner to do, but easy to mess up unless you're unfamiliar with the nuances of Leica RF adjustment or lack the proper tools. You may regret not purchasing the Elmar...it is a very good lens with classic rendering rather than more modern razor sharpness across the full frame. I had my M4 40 years before it needed a CLA (my clumbsiness). The M2 I purchased 5 years ago hasn't had a CLA yet as everything seems to work just fine and I don't mind a few small chips in the vulcanite. I've recovered Leicas before, and may eventually decide to give this one a new coat. Re the eyeglasses: you can get a diopter correction lens, but if you have astigmatism it won't correct for it. Being an eyeglasses wearer myself all my life, I've tried RF cameras inccluding Leicas both with and without glasses, with and without diopter correction lenses. My advice is simply if things aren't crystal clear and sharp at a long distance and you're not due for a new eye refraction, then get a screw in diopter...you'll be delighted.
    jimnorwood likes this.
  15. Good to hear you had a blast using the camera. I recently sold a Nikon FE but love my Nikon FM, which is my favorite. I will never sell it.

    I'll echo what SCL said above and say that most of those little things can be taken care of with a CLA. I'm not an expert on viewfinder optics but it could just be that the inside of the front element needs a good wipe. As far as the image not being in perfect focus at infinity, again I'm no expert but, it could be because the Elmar lens isn't properly calibrated. Did you try another lens? Also, bear in mind that true infinity is probably at least a mile or two so if you focused on a building across the street, that would probably look a bit out of focus.

    I first bought a Voigtlander 35mm Color Skopar which is a fantastic lens at around 300-400 euros . I later returned it and got a used Summicron 35mm ASPH (the above photos were taken with this). Honestly, if I hadn't sold a bunch of other stuff and didn't have the cash on hand, I would never buy the Summicron. The Voigtlander is about 90% the lens at roughly 1/5th of the price. For a 50mm, you can try the Zeiss 50mm Sonnar or a similar Voigtlander for around 700-800 euros, or probably cheaper.

    I wear glasses and have astigmatism too so the 35mm framelines are barely visible to me. That said, I am a strictly 35mm shooter and spent some years shooting rock and metal shows in pitch black environments. Not seeing the edges doesn't bother me one bit, but your milage may vary.

    I should also mention that my M2 has the famous Canadian balsam bubbling around the edge of the prism--supposedly a sign of trouble that could kill the viewfinder one day. From what I've heard from most owners, their cameras have had the same issue for decades and they are fine. My point is, these are old cameras and they all have little things that could go wrong at some point. If the images turn out okay and the price is reasonable, and most importantly you aren't the anxious type who loses sleep over these things, I'd say send it in for a proper CLA after you get it. That way, you will have peace of mind. There are also those who don't believe in preventative maintenance/CLAs. You could just shoot with it until something goes wrong and then get it CLAd.

    PS: I also didn't rewind my first roll properly and opened the back plate in broad daylight. Luckily, only 4-5 frames were affected and the rest were okay. I just make sure to rewind for a bit longer just in case--hasn't happened again!
    PPS: I don't know where I read this, but someone said something to the effect of: "if the camera looks clean on the outside, it is probably clean on the inside" or something like that. Probably not always true but if you've shot film before (which you have) I bet you already have a good idea about the condition of the camera. Go with your gut feeling. Again, the six month warranty is a big plus so make sure you get it in writing.

    Keep us posted on how things go.
    jimnorwood likes this.
  16. I was given an M3 that looked very clean on the outside, but hadn't been used in decades. As the rangefinder/viewfinder was cloudy and the shutter release was sticky, I sent it in to have it CLA'd. Gus Lazzari's condition report and recommendations indicated the outside appearance didn't reflect the work needed to restore the camera body. 62 years of use and then being left in a closet for 20+ years means it needed a total rebuild of all the camera systems. Fortunately I have a second M3 in good condition, so having to wait a couple of months for the work will be worth the peace of mind. Like "mechs" above, I too have vision issues with left eye viewing and I wear glasses. At one time, Leica sold corrective diopter lenses that fit in or replaced the viewfinder lens, but I don't know if they still can be sourced. I. can recommend use of a bright line viewfinder that clips into the M2's accessory shoe making accurate framing of the object much easier after focusing, I found the bright line viewfinder especially useful in dim light. Best wishes with your project.
  17. Thanks again for the tips. The M2 and the Elmar are being offered for 1500 Euro if I take both. This seems like a fair deal. I'll see how my test shots turn out.
  18. SCL


    Fwiw the screw in diopter lenses are fairly available either through dealers, DAG, or Ebay. Most are used, but the four I’ve owned over the years might as well have been new, so if you go the used route ensure you can return it if it doesn’t meet your expectations.
    jimnorwood likes this.
  19. Well, it looks like you have yourself a fully functional camera. I'm not seeing any issues with sharpness but then I am all about that grain.

    Let us know when you make a decision!

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