Taking pictures with a Leica M can be something special. It can be special in many different ways, depending on how you look at photography. But I am sure it is not for everyone, and I am not talking about that Leica M-photographers is better than others in any way. That doesn’t depend on the camera at all. I think it is about the whole experience of using a Leica M camera.
Clearly more and more people are starting to find their way in to the Leica M-system. The rizing prices on the used market is a clear sign of that – aspecially for the analogue versions of the M. Film photography attract more and more people – not only people like me, that started out photography in the 1980:s using film. One thing can be a hip-factor, but I honestly think that it can be a sign of that people are starting to get tired of the digital photography and of how ”not challenging” it has become. People need a challange – and shooting a film Leica M can be just that.
Getting a Leica is not cheap – let us be clear about that. The M6 seems to be a common camera to start the M-journey with. I did so my self. The M6 has a built in lightmeter, which is a good help if you never shot a camera judging the exposure by your self. When I bought my first M6 the price for a used M6 was around 1000 -1200 EUR (almost the same in USD). This was back in 2016. Today the price for an M6 in Europe have doubled and it keeps rizing.
Then you have to have a lens for it. This – however – can be a little easier. You can find really good lenses for around 5-700 EUR on the used market. This are lenses like Zeiss and Voigtländer – the Leica lenses adds another zero to the price. But as a first lens the Zeiss or Voigtländer can be a really good option. I have used both Voigtländer and Zeiss and find the Zeiss lenses one step better – but that is just me. I still use the Biogon 2,8/35 and the Planar 2/50. Fantastic lenses.
But is the M6 the only option to get into the Leica M-system, if I want a camera with a lightmeter? Is there a cheaper option? The simple answer is; YES. There are a couple of cameras that can be found for almost half the price of an M6.
There is the M5 – the first M with a lightmeter. The thing is – the M5 has a totally different look. It frankly is a pretty ugly looking camera. I am sure that it is good – but it doesn’t have that classic M-look. The classic M-camera is the M3. This was the first M-model – and by many seen as the best of them all. There is the M2 (that is a cheaper version of the M3) and the M4. I went for the M4 – the newest of them (mine is from 1968…). All of them came in some different versions – but they all had one thing in common; they had no lightmeter. Damn – you think. But wait for it…there is an elegant old-fashioned solution for that.
The solution is the Leica Meter. It is a lightmeter made for the M2,3 and 4 that is mounted on top of the camera. It is connected to the shutterspeed dial and makes the camera almost semi automatic. The Leica Meter (the one mounted to my M4 on the picture above it the MR4 version) can be found used for about 100 EUR. It is not the same as having a lightmeter in the camera it self – but to be honest; why buy a film Leica if the purpose was not to make photography more challenging? I use the MR4 to check my own judgment of the existing light. My goal is to learn to live without the meter. When I get there the photography is in it’s purest form. All manual. All up to me. That’s my ultimate photography challenge.
Last, but not least; check out my latest project ”Nature Reserves in Östergötland”. New pictures added today. Link here.
Note; there are other options to read the light of course. This is the classic Leica way…