what is special about leica M?

Discussion in 'Leica and Rangefinders' started by stan_belyaev, Jul 13, 2006.

  1. I am a Contax guy....
    I love and use my film and digital cameras.
    A while ago I bought leica CM, After playing with it for 3-4 months I sold it.
    It was almost as big as contax G2 but slow... CM lens didn't impress me...
    I'm thinking about buying M body + lenses(just for change)
    Is Leica M worth the money? Is it so much better than CM? Why is every one is
    so excited about leica? I don't care about leica's legacy, I just want another
    excellent camera...
  2. I'm sorry, but a CM is to a Leica about what a Yashica T4 is to Contax. They share
    very little, beyond the dubious pedigree of the lens design. The G2 is an excellent
    camera, but N am is something else. Imagine losing some of the bulk, and all of the
    automation, and gaining direct, easy control over all the machine does. If you know
    how to use it, you might love it. This is how converts are made.<p>If you want to
    know what all the Leica fuss is really about, pick up an older M body, a 35mm or
    50mm summicron, make sure they are in good shape mechanically, and shoot with it
    for a month or two. You'll see- either you're hooked or you're not. The M is a very
    simple, solid camera- that's part of it's charm. It's a really well designed and built,
    and very effective camera. But it's just a camera.
  3. Sorry- that should read "..an M is something else".
  4. lb-


    "about what a Yashica T4 is to Contax"

    love the T4 though. great little cameras
  5. Hi Stan , not sure I can answer this since Contax to me is like the M to you. So here is my question is the Contax worth the money and is it so much better? And yes I dont care about Contax legacy either.
  6. SCL


    Well, you left a lot of room for answers between lenses (thread mount vs bayonet mount) and the characteristics of specific lenses, new M bodies, old M bodies and general usage features. I strongly urge you to do a search and you will see literally hundreds of comparative discussions. Irwin Putts' compendium on Leica lenses is a must read to help you gain an overwhelmingly detailed perspective on each model going back to around the 1930s. The bodies are a different story, which is where I think the search function and about 2-3 weeks reading time will do you a world of good in helping you decide whether an M system is your cup of tea. Although I'm a longtime Leica fan of both the M and R systems (& microscopes), I currently use Nikons, Ricohs, Exaktas and Bronicas as well. My belief is that it isn't the camera which makes the photographer....ie your pictures aren't better based on what camera you use...the cameras are merely tools which must be understood and mastered. You can throw money on any camera counter and get another excellent camera.
  7. what is special about leica M?
    Membership... And the wacky towel-snapping antics after the group showers. An unexpected bonus...
  8. Stan,

    If you love the G2 you might not like an M. To me they are diametrically opposed to each
    other. They both take excellent photos but The M is a minimalist camera.

    The best question for you is 'why are you looking at other cameras?" That will help people
    to tell you if should be interested in an M
  9. The lenses and the RF cameras, followed by the negatives and prints that they help create. You could say the same for Zeiss, but a different "special." Makes sense now, right?
  10. My entry into rangefinder cameras was via a Contax G2. When the shots worked, I was very pleased but the idosyncrasies of this system almost drove me completely away from rangefinders. A year or so later I made the decision to go an buy an M-system and have never looked back. The primary differences that make an M so much better for me personally are:
    - A bright and large viewfinder that is easy and fast to use<br>
    - A focusing system (albeit manual) that actually provides positive feedback of 'what' is the focus object<br>
    - The ability to pre-focus without the need to have the camera move the lens to that position when I depress the shutter<br>
    - DoF scales on the lens barrel
  11. I also got a G2 on the basis of automation, having developed cataracts that made focusing
    on SLR screens very difficult. I didn't like the shutter lag; indeed was frustrated by the
    refusal of the G2 to take a photo under some circumstances. The cataracts led to my
    fumble fingering through the ridiculously delicate multi-leaf shutter, and a $250 repair
    bill. In the meantime, I got a Leica M and found it works very smoothly and intuitively.
    That is, the human/machine interface (or whatever the modern term is) works very well.
    very gratifying, and sometimes stunning to me, and I haven't touched the G2 since it came
    back from the repair. And, BTW, I got the cataracts removed and replaced by implants. I
    don't need glasses anymore. This has only heightened my pleasure in using the M.
  12. hello Stan, i used to use a Contax G1 for a while as well!! as for the G1, i sold it and traded it for a leica m6 just before my son born (2 years old now)! why i did that: 1/ the G1 was not really for me... i got quite a lot of photos out of focus... it's very hard to control the focusing... especially with the 90mm (heard that the G2 i much better... but i never tried)!! and there was nothing i can tell that the focus is on the point where i would like exactly.... 2/ for me it's not completely automatic and i have to put more attention when i used it than my Nikon801s (which i have traded for the G1) or a full mechanical camera as my M3 and M6 now! 3/ i missed a whole film because the manual focusing mode was setted by mistake that i didn't know how... i was so diappointed and decided that wasn't really the tool for me.... and made the switch again. 4/ on the optical side, i do see the different on my photos between both systems!!! or all of 3 systems, + nikons' i used to use. i didn't made any resolution test before so i can't really tell which ones are the best... (for my eyes, i do find the leica lenses are the sharpest... but i do think that maybe due to the focus problems i had with the G1... but for sure leica was sharper than the nikon...) and i really like the color and the tone that leica lenses give me in general! 5/ the maufacturing quality, i did have a problem with the G lens, the plastic part under the 45mm was broken off from the lens within one year... contax repair it without charges... but well there are still plastic parts here and there... and i wasn't comfortable sine with it ince then. 6/ and of cause there are much more choices for the lens in M mount than contax G as well!!! that's quite a big advantage for me!! as i use some super old canon screw mount lenses and couple voigtlander wide angle lenses as well!!! i'm really happy that i have switched to leica! that said, i have always dreamed for a M longtime ago!! the only drawback about M is the film load system... i do have to put more attention than all other systems i had before. it's the slowest to rewind as well. but i'm a leica guy now! final word: if you want a excellent camera, you will never go wrong with a leica m camera!
  13. Stanley, I also had a difficult time at first with the Leica M loading system. If you have the
    modern tulip take-up, I found out it's much easier by the book. I finally took a roll of scrap
    film and practiced loading many times exactly as recommended. It worked every time, and I
    haven't had a problem loading since. I also have an M2 with the old spool take up that is a
    bit more difficult, but I found that it's handy for Kodak HIE and other infrared films that need
    to be loaded in the dark or in a changing bag.
  14. Hello

    I have the G2+45+90+28. And I have been using the M system for 25 years. I also have the CM. I noticed you did not mention the image quality of the CM.

    To me, the sharpness of the CM lens is at par with the 50/2 Summicron of the M. By the way I have used 5 generations of Summicrons, and I have used the Noctilux, and I have the latest 50/1.4 Asph. What makes the CM lens BETTER than the Summicron is that its distortion is almost as low as the Elmar, which is almost completely free from distortion. I now look upon the CM as my standard M lens.

    I have also owned and used the Contax lenses for the Hasselblad, for about 5 years.

    It has been well known, as least in my circle of acquaintances, that Contax and Leitz attract their own fans, but rare it is to find someone who loves both. I am no exception. I am extremely impressed with the performance of the Contax lenses. But I have found that I use the Leicas more.

    Although many people have said that it's the photographer and not the camera that makes the picture, I would like to modify the statement by saying that it is the photographer plus the combination of camera/lens/film that takes the picture.

    Why is this important? Because the character of each camera/lens/film combination is very different. Images taken by different combinations exhibit different moods. It is only by extensively experimenting with camera/lens/film combinations and building a data base of your own experience that you will eventually be able to draw upon a particular combination that is suitable in rendering a particular image that you have in mind.

    I am not talking about journalistic photo professionals. Journalistic photo professionals face far more constraints than other camera users. I am talking about an amateur, whom by definition does it for the love of it, or a professional artistic photographer.
  15. Nothing is special about leica M, but to quote Andrew D at the top of the thread "but N am is something else"
  16. for one, it never fails to bring out nasty comments from people who don't shoot leica. two, even people who don't shoot leica, feels that they have a mandate from the almighty to shoot down people who do. three, people who don't shoot leica still crave to be part of the leica "membership" by never-ending, meandering, nit-picking, petty sniping in this forum (just to have this illusion that they are part of it). of course, if you are actually foolish enough to point this out (like what i'm doing now), i'll be asked to give an example, a link, an actual sentence where they sniped and put down people. that's when (if you've been here long enough to know a trap when you see one) is when the fun begins. If you are wiser, it's the time when you log out and come back again next week. personally, "special" is a very hard word to qualify as it is a very "subjective" adjective, specially when it's about leica. maybe, the right question to ask is why do people shoot leica m instead. maybe you'll get answers like: easy to focus, perfect heft and balance, bright finder, etc etc. cheers.
  17. I have to the Leica M but why? Because it is a Leica M taken that is a bit more M, I love lieca M's for what they represent in this fast fast world. I hope that Leica doesn't go out of business and follow the steps that Hasselblad have.

    There are technical pitfalls with the leica inherent to its age, shutter speed, limited daylight flash applications, film loading from days when days were longer.....we all know them. But is the leica M for those a hurry? I would say no. But can you take a instant shot, the answer is yes.

    The viewfinder well you do have to choose which one, but never regret your choice and if you keep your greasy finger of it the vision is "unique" although it does not give you the "true" (those that give a 100%) image you will get like an SLR, yet you get so used to and that is a good thing in my opinion.

    The lens, we all know it they are made for the camera. Short/standard lens that produce outstanding everything in low light situations.

    The noise, well that eggshell breaking noise is just so unforgetable. But what is more important is that you actualy see your frame as it "clicks..." All leica owners know when they have taken a great shot becuase of the "instant" shutter response, low noise shutter and constant view in the finder. That is a Leica M Stan. The Konica, Contax and Bessa "equivalents" have a louder shutter noise that detracts. Only a fraction of a second but enough.

    The feel of the camera. Well there is no comparasion possible with the makes I mentionned above. The focus is so smooth, the shutter release is so silky, rewinding....all is silky simple and a pleasure. The contax, bessa or konica feel like toys in comparaison.

    I have used over the years: Nikkormat, Nikon F, F3, F100, F5, D1X, Hassy 203FE, Wista SP, Ebony 45RWE, Konica RF and Leicas M6ttl and M.

    The leica is the camera that I enjoy the most.

  18. hello Michael Richards, thanks for the advice, you are absolutely right that the loading system has to be praticed for sometime before we feel completely comfortable(i wouldn't ask my wife to load the M for me...she will end up throw the camera by the window :p ), it works out for me now as well, but i still load the films slower than with the other cameras i had before. but well it doesn't really bother me, as i'm not a professional photographer that has to load 10 films per day, he he he. btw, i have never tried infrared film... would you mind to share some photos which you took with these films?!?! thanks in advance!!
  19. Brand name, optics, durability, mechanical perfection, whatever. That's what they all say anyway. It's your call ultimately.
  20. Thats a nice post why the Leica M appeals to you Gurney Tim, for its uniqueness and build quality, but also pointing out some of the disadvantages of this camera compared to current technology.
  21. I had long since left 35mm behind (Nikon F100) and had been shooting 6x6 (Mamiya 6) and 6x7 (RB67) for at least two years and was moving steadily into Large Format 4x5 (Linhof Technikardan) and even 8x10.

    Then the day I was trading in the Mamiya 6 kit for a Mamiya 7ii kit at 'harrys pro shop' in Toronto, Brian showed me a chrome M6. I picked it up and liked the way it fit in my hands, the way the film wind felt, the clarity of the viewfinder and the low noise of the shutter. I was impressed, but not enough to buy it. I had always thought I'd buy a Hexar RF before a Leica because I thought you're just paying for the name.

    But after doing tons of research, both here and at Gandy's site, I was intrigued. I went back to see Brian, took the M6 and a version IV 35 'cron and after seeing the results of my first rolls I was hooked.

    I didn't buy it because I have too much money (coz I don't), I didn't buy it because of the snob factor (I don't wear a camera like medal). I bought it because it's a great tool in terms of feel and performance.

    Of course your mileage may differ .....
  22. "Membership... And the wacky towel-snapping antics after the group showers. An unexpected bonus..."
    Yeah, the fun over at Camp Canon isn't nearly so light-hearted. The poor souls get themselves worked up like a girl with a zit on prom night every time Canon introduces a new model. "Should I sell my 20D and buy a 30D?... It has a SPOT METER!" *
    *actual dialog
  23. Contax = dead batteries = dead camera.

    Fast lens for Contax, 2.8?

    For Leica 1.0, 1.4, routinely. Built to the most punishing standards.
  24. "what is special about leica M?"

    You should grab one and see it in action. Man, do it!
  25. Why M? Well I shoot with them because I guess I'm a bit of a snob and I like the external look of their cameras. I don't see anything an M can do that a Zeiss or Voigtlander can't do. Heaps of differences are only marginal IMHO (like which is quieter, brighter, etc) ... My pictures still s*cks but at least I fall in grace :)
  26. There is nothing really "special" about the Leica M. It is, in fact, a somewhat finiky camera, requiring more maintainence than other analog cameras and as many [if not more] truly execrable photographs have been with it than with any other kind of camera. Still, there is a certain je ne sais quoi about the Leica that even the minimally talented photographer can appreciate and value. That is why we spend so much time on forums like this one. Perhaps more of my most valued photographs have been made with lesser cameras than the M6 but I don't think I would want to spend much time talking or reading about, say, the Olympus Stylus Epic. When it comes to Leica, it is not really about the pictures.
  27. Stanley, I just posted some infrared examples. These are a mix of Kodak HIE and Maco 820, plus I also included a comparison shot using the Nikon D100 I had converted.
  28. As to the special-ness of the Leica M bodies, if your passion for photography is most compatible with a shooting style that is facilitated best with a fully manual rangefinder, then your choice of camera is automatically reduced to about 5% (guess?) of the cameras made. In spite of the other worthy choices in a manual rangefinder that needs batteries only for the meter (M5 on), the Leica M is the best built, most versatile, and ironically the most modern of that very specialized type of camera. Furthermore, with the M mount, you have a huge choice of lenses including 70 year old classics and some of the best modern lenses that are current and serviceable into the foreseeable future and still new lenses coming out. The only existing competition is from Cosina Zeiss ZM and Cosina Voigtlander, which are simply not as well crafted and do not have an extensive used market that enables you to buy good used Leica gear and get out if you want or need to for very little loss.
  29. Brad, it's good to see you here again today. As for the towel snapping in the shower? Real Leica M shooters NEVER shower! Since our cameras are so reliable we never break out in a sweat wondering if our pictures will come out OK, even though there's no way to chimp the back of an M camera to check. Those guys were jerkin' your chain! They just wanted to get you in the shower to see you naked. Hope you had fun.
  30. Stan, if you love Contax and if Contax gives you what you want, stick with it. When I properly got into photography in the early 1960s, the local Leica Man took me under his wing, not the local Contax Man. Had it been the other way around, I doubt that it would have made a difference. There's no "best" camera: all depends on what you want out of your instrument and on your resources. It's true, though, that Leicas have stood the test of time better than Contaxes have. Zeiss aimed for sophistication, which led to complexity. Leitz, by contrast, kept things simple. That's about the mechanical side. In optics, Zeiss were arguably ahead until the 1950s. They still hold their own there. Hasselblad, for example, don't use Leitz lenses, do they? One shouldn't sneeze at Schneider either.
  31. Brad,

    In truth, Leica M membership is a part of a secret society, and I wasn't aware that you had attended one of the initiation ceremonies, unless you are now an M user.
  32. The Leica M is similar to a Rolls Royce: They are both hand built using the finest in 1950s
  33. In the beginning Hasselblad used Kodak Ektars, some great glass in it's day!
  34. Thank you all!
    I just wanted to hear you subjective opinion... I think that subjective opinions are the most correct (in photography). Frequently tests would not show a real character of a lens/camera...

    It appears that every one likes Leica, I just can not figure out why (especially after my poor experience with CM).

    I don't have any friends with leicas (eviry one now is digital..), so I don't want to get in a situation when I have to put a essentially brand new camera on Ebay (it happened with Oly film and digital and leica CM).

    I love Contax and I'll keep it (N1, ND, G2, 645)
    I may buy leica just because it is supposed to be "the best camera". Definitely, Leica will not make me a better photographer..)
    Thanks again.
  35. "It appears that every one likes Leica,"
    Then you're confused about the meaning of the word "likes" (and this is the Leica forum), step outside into the real world and the wind blows even harder...
  36. Since no one is reading this anymore, (^O^), perhaps I'll try to give my thoughts on this.

    There is nothing special about a Leica M, or any Leica. They are simply very solidly built rangefinder camera whose history goes back to the early 20th century. I believe they were the first "35mm" film cameras, which radically changed the direction of photography.

    I enjoy using these cameras because there is a connection with this history, but that's just me. I enjoy using any working vintage camera. It's a challenge to see what I can do with them.

    On the plus side, a Leica is a finely crafted camera, often hand made, and, with proper care, they will endure until our Sun explodes.

    The shutter is almost totally silent, they are small and not seen as an "attack weapon," and are objects of art as well. Many of the older lenses (not all) are wonderful and produce images with a feel that's a bit different than what is produced with current optics.

    On the down-side is this:

    Leica cameras are very difficult and slow regarding film loading. I say this if you are doing fast work, such as weddings. If you use a flash bracket, you need to remove everything to change film.

    To say that Leica lenses are flawless is also false. There are some that are excellent and some that are awful. I use a Canon 100mm Serenar on my M2, but would like to get a nice Elmar 90mm f/4. It has a bit softer feel to it. My Canon Serenar is extremely sharp, but often I want a lens that is a bit more mellow, and I understand that the Elmar 90mm will do the job. So, Leica optics are not always the "best," whatever that means.

    I'm also talking vintage Leica here. Not the newer ASPH optics.

    If you have eyesight issues, a rangefinder can be a real problem. I have some vision issues, but my M2 is bright and clear and I can focus Ok, but, not as fast as an AF lens...duh. However, with the Leicas, I can prefocus, and do not suffer from AF focus lag! I had a major problem with AF lag at a wedding last week using digital.

    Some of the older LTM versions are nearly impossible to focus.

    I enjoy the zoom lenses on my SLR digitals. Changing lenses on a Leica can be time consuming, and not every lens fits every situation.

    Close-up and macro photography is almost impossible with a Leica, or with any other rangefinder. I love such photography and use my digitals for that.

    What I'm saying is this: The Leica has an honored place in the history of photography and is one of the finest cameras ever built, but it does not suit every situation or every person.

    There are many fine comeras on the market, and each person needs to match the tool with the job.
  37. .....because it is very, very simple and it becomes an extention of your eyes and your
    hands and you don't have to think about how to use it, it just becomes second nature. It
    becomes part of your body and your mind. And then the incredible clarity and rendition of
    textures of the lenses. Nothing like it......the lenses make a VISIBLE difference. I use Nikon
    and xPan and other stuff. But nothing renders like the Leica lenses. I'ts not about
    sharpness per se, it's more than sharpness. It's a sort of incredible clarity. Nuff said.
  38. ...I tired the Contax. Too hard to control it.
  39. Quite right, Al. That was when Hasselblads had only focal plane shutters. Once they added between lens ones, Ektars went. Pablo has said something I intended to say: that any mechanically and optically good camera which comes to be used almost without thought, is the best. For each user, a different best. That so many have stuck with Leicas over the decades speaks for their usability and dependability. But others have stuck with Rolleiflexes, Hasselblads, Nikons, Canons...
  40. Pablito, if that name is not a diminutive of Pablo, my apologies.
  41. >Brad - , jul 14, 2006; 12:21 a.m.

    >Membership... And the wacky towel-snapping antics after the group showers. An
    unexpected bonus...

    Yeah, and it attracts losers--who don't own one or plan to own one--who cannot stand to be
    away from the forum for even the smallest amount of time. Kind of like a parasite.
  42. optics, durability, mechanical perfection, whatever.

    Think those few words have nailed most Leica USERS thoughts.Of course then you can add.....

    Boutique product for fondlers and those with some sort of inferiority/superiority complex.Of course Leica recognise this and charge a premium for the brand name.Leica D-Lux 2 same camera as the Panasonic Lumix LX1 version but double the price.
  43. Better shutter than the Kodak Ektra, but less RF accuracy. More lenses available than the Ektra, but no swapping of magazines mid roll. Combo RF and viewfinder, but no zoom finder like the Ektra. Downside, No protective ring that protects the lenses focus cam surface like the Ektra. <BR><BR>Allows usage of the giant world of LTM lenses<BR><BR>
  44. In looking at the contributors to this thread, there are a few people with the prolific poster icon beside their name that profess to owning Leica Ms, but cannot afford the paltry $25 to become a financial member of the forum they feel so protective about. Oh, are they the Leica M 'Users' or merely starving artists?
  45. What's Special about a Leica?

    Nothing, if you are talking about the m7 and beyond, except that now that CV is making lenses you have a lot of lens options.

    The fully mechanical M Leicas, m4 and earlier, remain stoutly made, precise all mechanical instruments that never run out of batteries. They give you a huge range of excellent optics.

    Thats about it, actually. In spite of all the ink to the contrary, I've never seen the leica glow or felt my photos benefited in any substantial way from using, say, a Nikon F.
  46. Real Leica M shooters NEVER shower!​

    Al lives alone, if I recall.
  47. Well, .[.Z, actually my cat lives here too on a full time basis. The young ladies, on the other hand, are only allowed to spend one night at a time, and not more often than once a week. I don't do the scheduling. I let them haggle it out amongst themselves. As for my showering? The first and the fifteenth of the month like clockwork!
  48. Explains a lot.

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