Leica M2: What to look for while inspecting?

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

  1. If you expect that this camera/lens will bring you improvements in that area, you are in for a disappointment. The Elmar is basically a Tessar and the Tessar/Sonnar on a Rollei 35 is just as good, or perhaps better if the previous owner of your Leica had OCD and overpolished the Elmar's front element.
    You do get better ergonomics with the M2, and that may enable you to take better pictures - but better sharpness: only if you couldn't figure out how to scale focus your Rollei 35.
    jimnorwood likes this.
  2. I basically agree with NHSN, but the ability to precisely hit focus should make the shots sharper unless you are stopped down a lot and/or shooting at infinity. I suggest that any slight lack of focus in the shots you took may be due to a rangefinder that needs precise adjustment, or you need to tweak the sharpness levels in your scans (on the assumption of course that there is minimal camera shake). Are they as sharp as another film camera results? If it is the same, then it may suggest that your scanning system/software could be better optimized.
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  3. Thanks. That's really interesting feedback. Is there an alternative 50mm lens that you would recommend that would bring improvements in this area ?
  4. Mind you, I didn't say that the Elmar is a bad lens. I personally love the 4 element lens family for the often beautiful renditions and transitions from sharp to out-of-focus. The "less than clinical" something I like a lot.

    I don't know what you are expecting or want to achieve, thus advise is difficult to give.

    Leica represents the peak of optical engineering from the beginning of 35mm photography up until today, but excellence is not a constant.
    Computation, material and manufacturing methods improves over time, so a 1955 Elmar is not as sharp as a 2000 Elmar. The old is likely better manufactured, but the newer is likely sharper.
    If you are into Leica for sharpness you should probably look at the contemporary lens offering, Zeiss and Voigtlanders latest lenses are also very good in that regard.

    I personally wouldn't turn to film photography if sharpness was my goal, digital is much better at that. Film to me is about process and reflection more than anything else, and Leica cameras support that for me.

    This Contaflex camera from the mid 1950's and lens cost me around $60. and the lens is absolutely as good if not better that the lens on the Leica below also from the mid 1950's (the latter cost me 20 times more after it was overhauled and brought to like new condition). The last picture shows my M2 from the late 50*s with an Elmar from around 2000 and the results from that is the best of the lot although only marginally, but it comes at a price.

    The M2 is an absolute joy to use, the others are quirky at best but the Leica IIIf is so genetically close to the original Barnack Leica that it gives me a certain historical connection to the early days of 35mm photography, which I treasure:

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  5. The film itself is another factor. High speed B/W will not appear as sharp as an emulsion with a lower ASA. Hand held, don't expect a sharp image if your shutter speed is lower than the ASA and less than two stops from wide open. As the M2 is new to you, I recommend that you do a fair amount of dry fire practice with your shutter release and you'll see improvement in the number of good shots on film. With a 50 lens, I have difficulty getting good images below 1/60th hand held so I'm using a mono-pod support more now. I still dry fire practice before going out if I've been inactive for any period of time. Best wishes.
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  6. Purchased used Leica M2 button rewind (BGN) - most obtainable Leica to me. Most importantly, I listened to 1s, 2s shutter speed accuracy, clarity of 35-50-90 framelines and focus patch, film advance smoothness and shutter curtain condition. The body had slight dents, leather was intact although not original; overall acceptable cosmetically and complete. Can't be mint obsessed when buying BGN. With functional criteria being met, the pictures with 2/35 ASPH were predictably outstanding. RF alignment is something that could only be checked out with 2.8/90 Elmarit-M. With sharp pictures at 2.8, I was lucky there. Solid, small, and agile camera, the M2.
    Last edited: Jun 18, 2021
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  7. Dear All,

    Just a quick update. I purchased the M2 and the Elmar 50mm lens. I sent it immediately to Claus-W. Reinhardt (in Germany) for a CLA.


    It's just arrived back and the RF patch is now correctly calibrated, the viewfinder bright and cleaned of the marks shown in previous
    posts. Winding is super smooth. It was a real pleasure to deal with Mr, Reinhardt.

    I'm half way through my first colour film and forcing myself to workwithout a light meter (sunny 16). I'll try and remember to post some photos once developed.

    I do have one question! My M2 has a flash port that protudes (see below). I see many M2s where this port is flat. Is this something inserted or screwed in that can be removed ? If so how is it removed ?

  8. It's an adapter for a standard flash sync plug. Just leave it there - it'll serve as a cover. If you want to remove it, simply grip it with your fingers and pull it out.

    These flash adapters typically sell for $20 or more.
  9. Thanks for the info ! I was hoping to find reasonably priced replacement white port covers but have been unable to find any.
  10. I suggest you simply leave it be. Those PC adapters are getting as hard to find as the original white PC covers.

    However, DAG has them for $8.00 + shipping.
    Last edited: Sep 28, 2021
  11. Thanks a lot Bill. Does anyone know of a supplier of these white flash port covers in Europe ?
  12. Check eBay. They show up there periodically.
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  13. While reading some of the contributions to this thread, I would like to add that using a camera case can give a Leica a lot of protection against casual bumps and falls. My two M4 as well as M3 bought in late 1960s are still in great shape because although bumps and drops have happened, a case prevented damage. My Hasselblad tumbled from the back seat of my Jeep onto concrete floor, but no damage because camera was in Hasselblad Never ready case. Avoid soft cases. Dropped my wife’s brand new M5 in soft case onto marble floor at JFK and broke film counter.
  14. Thanks Robert. I actually purchased a used Artisan soft half case and a Leica strap for my M2 ! The camera came with the original hard case which I will use when travelling but it's so bulky to carry round for everyday use. I understand that is a risk and I'd be gutted if I damage the camera. Have you found a less bulky case for the M ?
    One of the things that makes me love certain cameras is that they can be slung over your shoulder and off you go. It's why I rarely reach for my Rolleiflex which when safe in it's case is like carrying a brick round town.
  15. I'm not sure if I'm talking to myself or if there are others sharing this cave. What I like about this Lecia is that once the initial thrill of owning
    such a beautifully designed camera with a ton of history wears off, there it sits. Mocking you. Challenging you to make do with its simplicity. To become intimate with it. To start an old fashioned relationship.

    If rock and roll is three chords and the truth Leica is two settings, focus and the truth. I've tried to take on that challenge. As usual I was lazy and stupid. I should
    have noted down the settings I used on the first (and second) film. I will try to do so on the third. It's clear that this is the only way to get to know this camera, to master it.

    So here are some examples with an Elmar 50.

    Last edited: Nov 5, 2021
    James Bryant likes this.
  16. Ok some things I find frustrating.
    • A number of shots have been ruined because I extended the lens but forgot to lock it. Now I tend to extend, lock and leave it extended until the end of the day.
    • Viewfinder does seem to steam up quite a bit more than other cameras I've handled.
    • Focus. I'm getting more used to it but I can't say I'm at the point I can snap into focus quicker than my Nikon FE2.
    • Sometimes the erotic looking film advance arm catches on clothes as it extends from the top of the camera.
    • Just a pleasure to use.
    • Leica +3 dioptrine viewfinder lens. Works a treat. I see the widescreen viewfinder. My only worry is that it will fall out.
    • Weighs less than my FE2. Easy to sling over your shoulder and carry all day.
    Now of course I wish to take advantage of the the 35mm viewfinder and would welcome your thoughts / recommendations for fellas of limited funds such as myself.

    I'd like to be able to take photos inside and in low light situations so I've narrowed down my search to
    • Voigtlander 35mm 1.4 Nokton VM II
    • Carl Zeiss Biogon C 35mm 2.8
    I'm tending towards the Voigtlander but am happy to hear your opinions.
    Last edited: Nov 5, 2021
  17. The 50mm Elmar-M is a wonderful lens (as your pictures demonstrate); its design is simple and it's plenty sharp. The faster 35mm Nokton f/1.4 II would be a great compliment (but I strongly suggest you get the MC version). I don't see how the 35mm Biogon C f/2.8 fits your criteria.

    The M2 has always been my favorite film M.
    Last edited: Nov 5, 2021
  18. I have the first version of the Voigtlander 35/1.4 SC - basically same as the current version but allegedly with more focus shift.
    It is a very classic lens design, purposefully made to give results like the Leica lenses of the 50's-60's. That means that they will give you gulps of character which you may or may not like. Make sure to search for examples before buying.
    If you embrace the classic nature of the lens, it makes sense to choose the SC version.

    Below: VC 35mm/1.4 SC (version 1) wide open, notice the distorted lights along the periferi.

    Below: VC 35mm/1.4 SC (version 1) at f1.4 or 2.0, notice how the highlights bleeds over the iron bars to the right.

    Below: VC 35mm/1.4 SC (version 1) at 5.6.

    Below is the voigtlander 35/1.4 SC (v.1) with lens hood mounted on an M2 to the right.
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  19. Dear All

    I am really enjoying my M2 and received a Voigtlander Norton 35mm 1.4 MC for Xmas. My first film was a recently purchased Kodak Tri X. I use a Polaris light meter which I had set to iso 400.

    I wanted to ask your opinion. My daughters (who also shoot 35mm film) love the results and there are some classic shots. I know Tri X can be grainy but this seems to be extremely grainy. Is this normal or did I do something wrong or is this perhaps a development problem ?

    This was a misty morning



    This is an example of the problem that I see. Very grainy and focus is not at all sharp

    This was taken inside using light from a lamp at 1.4 or 2.8. The image seems sharper. I like it but am surprised by the grain


    Last edited: Jan 9, 2022
  20. Looks like 'good old' Tri-X to me. The choice of developer will have an effect, but this, to me, is what Tri-X is.
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