LTM vs. M

Discussion in 'Leica and Rangefinders' started by kent_staubus, Aug 4, 2013.

  1. For the past year I've been using a IIIc with Elmar lenses 35/40/90mm plus a Canon Serenar 35mm f3.5. My IIIc is vintage 1942, and I have recovered it with a fine black kid skin from Camera Leather. I really like this camera! I use it several times a week, usually shooting FP4 or HP5. I really like the looks of it, and also the fact it's 70 years old. I sometimes wonder about the people who made it during the war, and the past owners. I was wondering what I would gain by also using a Leica M2? I think I will skip the M3 because I often use the 35mm lens (with VIOOH finder.) I would keep the same lenses and use an adapter. The IIIc is slow to load, but that's not a major issue with me. I suppose the only thing I don't like is it's slow to use. A big part of that is having to meter, so maybe an M2 wouldn't really be doing much for me. Would I be gaining much with an M2? Looks like I could pick up a nice one for a thousand or so. If the main thing that slows me is the lack of an internal meter, it looks like I would have to buy an M5. I don't really like the looks of that one, and it sounds a bit "clunky." I also don't want a camera that was made that recently.
    Kent in SD
  2. SCL


    Having used an M4 for 43 years, I can only tell you that metering shouldn't be a big deal for somebody like yourself, who has lots of experience. Initially I thought it a pain until I learned two things....namely; the Sunny 16 rule, and incident metering. My 1st year with it, mostly in the harsh Mediterranean climates, was remarkably productive. I found that focusing, even with its excellent range/viewfinder, was definitely more of an issue than metering. If you're looking at an early M model (M2-M4), there are meters which fit atop the camera into the flash shoe and slip into the shutter speed dial....some better than others, but they are all old (like the cameras). And metering is still completely manual with these models. Since you've enjoyed the IIIc, I can only tell you the M series is faster and easier, but also slightly larger. I never liked the M5, and for about a year had an M6...which was an excellent camera, but I always preferred the size of the M4 and ditched the M6. Whatever you choose to do, I am sure you will enjoy your acquisition.
  3. The combined and larger magnification viewfinder and rangefinder of the M2 are probably the key differences, and important ones (I use both LTM and M cameras), although some might also add the advantage of the rapid winder. More lens choices are also available, even if you prefer only pre 1970 optics.
  4. My early photographic education was with slow, squinty rangefinder cameras and acquiring an M2 was a real revelation. Finally a viewfinder I could use to compose! Film loading was a little easier. The film wind lever and frame line preview were great.
    The M-mount opens the door to the magic Mandler -M lenses, which are now mostly priced beyond mortals' reach. I used the M2 for newspaper work until it was ready for an overhaul, then found a buyer who wanted it -- as is -- for a nice premium over what I paid. The money went to an M4-P, which was in far better condition, had even easier loading, and more frame lines. It's a slippery slope.
    Regarding the meter, you are experienced enough to work without one, and the meters in and on M-mount Leicas up to the M7 are probably no more accurate than a good Sekonic or Minolta hand meter.
  5. Yes, I'm perfectly competent with an incident meter, and I mostly shoot b&w anyway with it's large latitude. It just takes more time though. I might look into getting one of the Voigtlander meters--they do look useful. I've been using a little Sekonic L-208 mostly.
    Kent in SD
  6. @ Kent

    I use an M4 and when incident metering I pre meter into the sun, away from the sun and at 90 degrees. Unless
    the weather changes or I move under cover/into shade I don't have to meter again for a while.
    OTOH focussing has to be done every time. Let's not get side-tracked into the merits of zone focussing right now though.

    It goes without saying that the bayonet lens is quicker to swap.
  7. With a M2 you gain a much better finder, and you don't need to swap between finders to focus and compose. The control layout
    is more ergonomic, shutter release placement and film winding in particular.

    I cannot understand you think it takes more time without in-camera metering. If it is really the case, you need to train your eyes to
    evaluate light. It is my experience that lack of in-camera meter actually facilitates faster working.

    You make ~2 reference meter readings, in and out of the shadows, put away the meter and adjust a little by intuition while shooting - you only need to take out
    your meter again when there is a significant change in light conditions. With in-camera meter you have the constant reminder
    that you are half a stop off and often feel inclined to adjust which takes away attention from shooting. This is the primary reason I
    can shoot faster with my M2 than my M6.

    The M5 was a failure for a reason, make sure to handle one prior to purchase if you want to go that route, and know that future
    maintenance is more expensive due to the meter complication.
  8. I used the clip-on MR Leicameter (the shutter speed is coupled to the meter) and with this I found a non-metered M worked really well and it would offer a great speed advantage over an LTM. They take the old 625 batteries though which may or may not present an issue. I'd go for an M2 or M4 in your case, although I think you may find the M4 a bit pricey.
  9. The biggest attraction for me of an M2 is the greatly reduced need for external finders (still need for 28mm.) The M2 still has the classic look & feel I'm after. It may come down to going to a store and handling one. I do get up to The Cities every now & then and could stop in National Camera Xchange (without my wife, of course.) I could also check out Central Camera next time I'm in Chicago. The look & feel are two of the three things I really love about the IIIc. Probably the best Leica for me as far as using would be an M6 Classic. I love the simple styling. It's really a lot less "vintage" than what I'm after though.
    Kent in SD
  10. Kent, if you are attracted by the look of the M2 and convenience of the M6, the modern MP is
    made for you - a bit expensive though.
  11. "A big part of that [slow to use] is having to meter...". If you want a meter in the camera but "don't want a camera that was made [as] recently" [as the M5] -- I think of wild geese. Leicas became better with time because the Leitz people behaved sensibly and saw no virtue in liking old things just because they were old. Reversals of evolution belong to period cinema.
  12. Robin's comment is close to what I've done. To shoot 35 lenses indoors I use a rebuilt M4-2 with a Leica MR-4 meter. The meter, being linked to the shutter speed dial is quick to use and reads a 35 field of view. I also use it with a Rapidwinder as an M4-2 is built to take a baseplate winder. An M4-2, even with the meter isn't very noticeable as it is all black. You'll find M4-2s are cheaper than M2s and being newer, may be in better condition. M4-2s are not as smooth as an M3 or M2, but I've had no trouble with mine. However the viewfinder does tend to sometimes flare. For shooting 35 outdoors, I've also used an updated Leica CL with good results. The CL's built in through the lens meter is accurate when the cell is rebuilt and adjusted. The CL has framelines for 40 mm so you have to look a little outside the frame lines with a 35. I stop down as it is a little tough to focus close up. It's black, compact with a bright viewfinder, light, but not as solid as an M body.
  13. Keep what you've got. The M-Leicas are larger, heavier, and IMO not near as much fun.
    I didn't know there was a 40mm Elmar -- I want one!
  14. The IIIc isn't going anywhere! It looks dazzling with that new black kid skin on it. I get a lot of compliments on that camera.
    Kent in SD
  15. The IIIc should go everywhere, and be making photographs along the way. I upgraded from a IIIf to M4 only after the older camera was destroyed. The bulkier M series certainly has some improvements over the more compact LTM models, but experience with the older cameras make those improvements largely irrelevant. It's the photographer, not the camera, that makes the difference.
  16. Get an M6. You can use the screwmount or m mount lenses. It has a meter that you will enjoy.
  17. Kent, a nice thread here: I've got too many LTM's, Leicaflexes and 1 M2 with 35 1:2.8 Summaron. I use the M2 most of the time -- outdoor with ASA 400, 1/125 @ 1:4 to 1:8; inside, same ASA 1/60 at 1:2.8 to 1:5.6 -- has worked pretty well for me since 1966.
    Love all my Leicas; worship my M2.
  18. I had M Leicas before getting into Barnaks. Was attracted to the small size and low price. For many years my main travel cameras were 3f and 3g models that I wasn't overly worried about breaking or having pilfered. The 3g with 5cm Elmar set me back the princely sum of $125, but that was way back in 1971. In a fit of insanity I sold all the Barnaks in the mid 90s, something I later regreted and have since corrected. Last year was finally able to replace the 3g, this one with the 5cm f/2.8 Elmar. Unfortunately it cost ~ 9 times what I paid in 1971.
    In the fall of 1971 I stuffed a 3g along with 3.5cm Summaron, 5cm Elmar, 9cm Elmar and lots of film into an old beat up WW2 gas mask bag and took off on an around the world trip. Had an open dated PanAm ticket and tried to hit as many interesting stops as possible. Sometimes too interesting, was stuck in India when all international flights stopped as a result of the Indo-Pakistani war starting 3 days after my arrival from Kabul. Here's a photo from that trip... contra jour of a little foot bridge over the Kabul river with 9cm Elmar.
  19. And for 3.5cm I expect you had a SBLOO finder mounted on the IIIg, which would by itself have taken care of 5cm and 9cm? An immensely capable kit, the equal of the M3 but for film advance and lens mount.
  20. It is true that the difference in size is important in some cases. My IIIc/f conversion with small 35mm V-C f2.5 classic lens and 28/35mm V-C mini finder fits into a very small point and shoot bag that is easy to take anywhere, whereas my M4-P and 35mm aspherical lens, larger, but not overly so, are still sometimes too big to be taken along, as they require a larger travel bag. I like each system equally and think that there is no best system, only one that works better at a given time.
  21. I am a huge fanboy for the III-series. A higher percentage of my favorite shots are from my IIIc than with any other
    camera. In second place: my M6 Wetzlar. I can estimate night exposures easier than daytime exposures and find that the
    M6 Wetzlar is as ideal a camera as I have ever used. Because of the meter the M6 makes it into my hands more often
    than the IIIc. If the IIIc had a meter it would be the only 35mm rangefinder I would use.

    Regarding the M6: 1) flare is an issue in some conditions and for some people more than others, though I rarely
    encounter it; 2) the circuit board problems with this camera seems to be more urban legend than fact. It is a great
    upgrade from a Barnack.
  22. delete
  23. LTM versus M? It doesn't matter very much for many who are simply interested in the approach and the process of photography itself, and its pleasure. I admit to being curious about and impressed by fine craftsmanship, even industrial products like the Leica at time, but the photograph itself cares little about how it was made and is a result that was determined primarily by the photographer. Is my Barnack type Leica better than my "Plain Jane" M4-P (to use Cameraquest's romantic and very exaggerated comment on the M4-2 to M-6 series)? Maybe, but I couldn't care less. I will leave that to the techno-advocates to decide. What means more to me is the camera that happens to be with me when I make an image I care about. It is sometimes a camera that is much less highly rated than the Leica systems - but I would not do without it. That is the simple bottom line for me.
  24. @Kent,
    Between III series cameras and M2: #1) M2 viewfinder/rangefinder is large enough for me to make use of them wearing eyeglasses, #2) M2 shutter speed dial can be moved without lifting the camera off the eye, #3) M2 frame can be advanced without lifting the camera from the eye.
    Point #1 does not matter very much when I'm shooting my 28mm. I just use an external viewfinder in both IIIf and M2, zone focusing or hyperfocal.
    Points #2 and #3 are important for me because I usually bracket my exposures but I often do not want to change the depth of field and the composition. This means that I can only change the shutter speeds and not the aperture, and I have to do this and advance the frame without taking the camera away from my face.
    As for lack of lightmeters in both M2 and IIIf, I must say TTL metering is a great thing. Its biggest advantage is that I take far less pictures of the back of the lens cap with a camera with built-in TTL meter. The rolls coming out of my IIIf and M2 usually has a few blank frames because I forget to take off the lens cap. When I forget to take off the lens cap, MP 2003 (which has TTL metering) has this loud blinking underexposure arrow that reminds me that I must take off the lens cap.
    By the way, I know you are looking for a vintage camera, but MP 2003 still may be a viable alternative for you, if you did not mind the bulk and the fact that it is only 10 years old. It handles like the M2, and there is a TTL lightmeter (i.e. lens cap reminder) built-in. If this annoys you, just take the battery out. There is also Leicavit-M readily available, which further increases the bulk but this makes the above stated method of bracketing even easier and faster, because you can hold the camera very steady while advancing the frame. It is also quite helpful if you are left-eyed.
    When I want a "slow" picture-taking experience (which is nice in and of itself), I reach for my Rolleiflex TLR or my Exakta VX IIa with a waist-level viewfinder, not my Leica.
  25. "Lens cap reminder" -- at last someone has put into words the true function of the TTL meter. I discovered the benefits of the reminder when I replaced my M3 with an M6; and re-discovered them when a Hexar RF came in place of my second camera, an M2.
  26. I guess I'm not seeing enough advantage for an M series for me. The M6, maybe, eventually. Maybe even an M8 when it drops a little more. I'm usually shooting in somewhat dynamic light, and it is the metering that slows me down. OTOH, I really love the small size of the IIIc and the classic look & feel. It's a beauty! Add an M8 to my lenses and I would have a nice small combo for travel.
    Kent in SD
  27. Kent, this may be heretical but the OM-4Ti is about the same size as a Barnack, has excellent lenses, rugged and weatherized build, exceptional spot metering system (up to eight metered zones), and a reasonable price.
  28. I still use my IIIA occasionally using Ilford XP2. I set the shutter at 1/500th and vary the aperture but leave it set at F5.6 in the case. The latitude of the film means I have very rarely had a badly exposed neg although I don't shoot indoors. I used this camera setup for about 20 years and nothing else and regret having to use digital. I had pictures accepted for Alamy but now they won't take under 24mp so my IIIA pictures are no use to them.
  29. I have an M2, an M6TTL 0.58, and a IIIg. Over time I have gradually migrated towards the IIIg, due mainly to its size and weight. With an old 50 mm Elmar, it is substantially more handy than an M with any lens. The shortcomings of the LTM camera seem relatively unimportant in practice.
  30. An M7 is essentially the same camera as an M2, with some minor differences, and a metering system
    that's as fast and flexible as any Leica. I think you'd find the viewfinder of an M camera significantly nicer
    than a IIIc, but like others have said, you can take great pictures with either one.
  31. I too am a fan of the M4. I have several LTM cameras, and quite a few M's, but the M4 is the one I generally shoot with if I
    plan to carry a single camera.

    The M4 has a useful array of frame lines, is easier to load than many other Leicas, and the rewind crank is much faster
    than the knob of the M2/M3 cameras. And the M4 still has the "feel" of the classic Leica camera. I was never able to
    become attached to the later M4-2, or M4-P cameras, nor did I bond with the M6TTL.

    Focus and metering are no longer issues after having shot a few thousand images. I generally shoot at f/8, and zone
    focus. I have used an MR4 meter, and a handheld meter, but these were used not to provide me with the correct light
    readings, but to verify what readings I happened to guess at the time. You can read the light with a fair amount of
    accuracy over time. The MR4 meter is a little difficult to adjust to at first, because with the the meter attached, the
    direction of the shutter speed dial is reversed, which can cause a bit of confusion and delay when shooting.

    A hand held incident meter is always more accurate than the built in meter in any camera. I use a hand held meter in the
    studio, even though my DSLR has quite a fancy metering system. Incident metering is quite easy to do. If I am walking
    down the street, and am photographing something in front of me, I hold up the meter with it facing over my shoulder, so
    the same light which is hitting the subject is also hitting my meter. Very simple and easy.
  32. Never had the coin(All at one time)for a Leica but did get lots of deals on Canon cameras. I use two canon barnacks a trio of P's and a VI-t with a little used 7. An assortment of handheld meters help with my sunny 16 training, a skill I prefer to hone rather than a reliance on the built-in meters. The BIG advantage is the screw mount lenses. There's a lot of excellent vintage glass to be had . The German/Russian - Japanese competition during the '30's, '40's, 50's 60's and'70's left us with a wealth of great(and not so great )lenses. So much to choose from enjoy.
  33. I have used Leica's since 1956 and when graduated to an M3 I thought I had it made. Used it for years with one of the MR meters on top ( they can be rebuilt and CHRIS makes a great battery adaptation) and then I used a Luna-Pro SBC which you can pick up cheaply. Used this combination for years then got a pair of M6's which I consider the best Leica ever made. Currently have a pair of M8's but still hang on to the M3, it's just too good to let go.

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