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When were the best Leicas made?


david_killick9
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Leica: Which is your favorite era?

 

During which period, in your view, were the very best Leicas

made? Has precision engineering improved or declined over the

years? Would you/do you mix old and new Leica equipment?

(sorry, most of my comments relate to Ms as I am most familiar

with these.)

 

* Early, 20s-30s to post WW2: small, precise, still serviceable,

and surprisingly functional. Biggest drawback is small

viewfinder.

 

* First Leica Ms, 50s thru 60s up to M4 and including SL:

mechanical masterpieces, beautifully engineered and finished.

Biggest (and really only) drawback, lack of built-in meter in M

models.

 

* 80s till present: The best yet? M6 and M6TTL are compact and

robust, faster to use with built-in meter. M7 even faster. MP a

welcome return to craftsmanlike workmanship. Lenses benefit

from computer design but still function mechanically.

 

* P/Ss from mid-90s: in many ways, faithful to the Oscar Barnack

vision of maximum flexibility in a small size, however let down by

lack of control over exposure and focusing, and electronic

reliabilty. This applies even to the minilux models.

 

* Digital: the future? Best ever? Please convince me. Models that

are out-of-date as soon as they appear, battery-hungry power

consumption, and dependence on reliable computer software

don't quite convince, yet.

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My vote goes to the M7. Its a contradiction that Leica users want everything manual, however, the M7 is the most practical M todate. It has the TTL, AE, quiet shutter, manual shutter if one wants, accurate point and shoot etc. It has none of the pretty/cute/fondler factor, but its the best built M to me. Even cosmetically its a cut above the previous Ms. Compared with the previous M, even the black chrome and the CNCed top and bottom plates are more precise and consistent. I see a lot of pros that use Leica, are arming themselves with M7s. Just ask Marc Williams and Ted Grant to name a couple. It makes a perfect camera for capturing the essence of the moment whether you are walking the city streets or shooting a formal wedding. The pitch from those that never own an M7, for fear of its electronic shutter or inoperation with no battery are pure bullocks.
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My vote goes to the M7. Its a contradiction that Leica users want everything manual, however, the M7 is the most practical M todate. It has the TTL, AE, quiet shutter, manual shutter if one wants, accurate point and shoot etc. It has none of the pretty/cute/fondler factor, but its the best built M to me. Even cosmetically its a cut above the previous Ms. Compared with the previous M, even the black chrome and the CNCed top and bottom plates are more precise and consistent. I see a lot of pros that use Leica, are arming themselves with M7s. Just ask Marc Williams and Ted Grant to name a couple. It makes a perfect camera for capturing the essence of the moment whether you are walking the city streets or shooting a formal wedding. The argument from those that never own an M7 for fear of its electronic shutter or inoperation with no battery are groundless.
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"The argument from those that never own an M7 for fear of its electronic shutter or inoperation with no battery are groundless."

 

I agree with Henry on this. The M7's accurate, stepless, silent electronic shutter is a big improvement on the maintenance-intensive and incredibly inaccurate mechanical Leica shutter. "Battery dependence" is a canard which ought not to be uttered by any person who uses an automobile or mobile phone.

 

I still don't like the M7, though. Too many lights in the viewfinder. Give me a late production M6TTL any time.

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Even though I now only own M7s for shooting weddings on the fly, nothing improved over

what I was getting from my M6's. They're a bit more convenient in changing daylight

condition IF you prefer automated control (which I do in certain hectic wedding situations).

 

But in low light where it tends to be more constant (or I'm using fill flash with fast lenses

wide open), it's a wash. But I don't shoot slide film, only B&W neg and occasionally color

neg, so the latitude of neg film compensates for any marginal difference in shutter

accuracy. If I shot slides I think the M7 would be the way to go due to the electronic

shutter.

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<I>"The argument from those that never own an M7 for fear of its electronic

shutter or inoperation with no battery are groundless." . </I> <P> If someone

were to add to that statement "....for MOST photographers" I would agree.

Some PJs I've spoken with absolutely, positively have to have a camera that

is not dependent on batteries. I've mentioned here that Randy Olson from

NatGeo Mag even packs an M2 in case all else fails. Another Geographic

photographer has told me he can't have a battery dependent camera like an

M7. These guys are the exception though. I fully agree that the M7 is a

wonderful camera. If I had to buy a new Leica I wouldn't think twice. I'd buy the

M7 over the MP in a heartbeat. Just be aware that <I> some </I>

photographers rely on their cameras to work in the middle of no-where. <P>

Oh, to answer the original question---I, too, believe that the M7 is the best

Leica ever. I own M2s, M4, M6, M6TTL. Yes, only even numbers. But, I still

believe the M7 to be the best. Only disclaimer: it'll be interesting to see how

they hold up after five years of use. Probably just fine.

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Travis, when I'm awake at 5:30 AM I'm going fishing! I've had a few through-the-lens metering cameras including a CL, Bessa L, a couple of SL's and an R4-S. I finally got rid of all the 'flex and R stuff and don't miss it. I'm quite happy using my M2 and M3 bodies with a seperate light meter which I use in incident mode. The CL and Bessa I will occasionally use to read off the palm of my hand. I've owned III-f and III-C bodies, used an M5, and recently squeezed off a few frames with an M6-TTL. I think the M3 through M4 production was the pinnacle of Leica quality. The convenience of a built in meter is over rated.
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From a mechanical standpoint the M4 is the pinnacle of Leica rangefinder production. It benefits from the user-oriented improvements of rapid loading, film advance lever and crank rewind, has modern UV-cure cement holding the rangefinder prism together, but still retains the multitude of fine adjustments available to the competent service technician. It also has the fine quality engravings missing on subsequent models, the less-flaring rangefinder components, and inside many metal parts that were later cheapened and some (for example the PC-socket block and the film counter disk)were even changed to plastic. The M5 is actually equal to the M4 in mechanical specification, plus it has some very unique and user-friendlyt features (not counting the meter)such as the most ergonomic shutter speed dial of any M, speeds shown in the finder, speeds settable in *linear* fashion between marked stops, meter area for all focal lengths easily delineated in the finder without guesstimation, and a ratcheted crank rewind. However the bulk and weight of the M5 puts it behind the M4. The only quality improvements of the later M's are the hardened strap lugs (begun with the M4-2), strap-lug wear protectors (late M4-P's and M6's from 1986) and the easily-replaceable and non-crumbling body covering (M6 on).
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Jay

 

That's not correct. The body is made from different metals, the wind and rewind are different,the covering is not the same , and the camera was the result of ALL the components being assessed and re-engineered if necessary , based on the experience of Leica's repair department.The shutter assemblies were re-worked and the exposure meter completely redesigned, now not needing a potentiometer, along with the viewfinder changes you mention.

 

This is from Leica, and unless you have proof that they are lying, what some well respected tech's opinion is, means precious little.

Potential buyers may be misled and put off purchasing because of this type of mis-information.

 

Regards

 

 

Bruno

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A good spread of responses! Seems just about everyone's an M

fan. And a heavy (ish) metal fan - plastic parts, ugh! I guess

there's a difference between "best made" - as in terms of

workmanship, quality finish and so forth - and "best" as in terms

of most useful set of features. And really, though Leicas are very

capable in very many situations, they are not exactly

feature-packed - that's not why we buy them. We want a

minimalist approach - most useful features, no necessary

doodads, made to operate as smoothly and reliably as possible.

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