Leica M2 First Impressions

Leica M2

Over the weekend I picked up a Leica M2 35mm rangefinder camera at the San Jose Photo Fair. I had been watching these cameras on eBay to see what the usual prices were and I was planning of buying one around Christmas time. But on Saturday, when I held this M2 in my hand I just had to have it right then and there.

Leica M2

When I was researching what M model to get I settled on the M2 over the M3 because of the 35mm frame lines in the M2. The widest M3 frame lines are for 50mm lens and my main lens these days is a 35mm. The camera didn’t come with a lens so it is shown here with my Voigtländer Nokton Classic 35mm f/1.4.

It looks like this camera may be from around 1960 or 1961.

Leica M2

The camera is in fairly decent condition. Cosmetically there is some vulcanite missing from the body below the lens and there are a few minor dings on the back but mechanically and optically everything seems to be in order. Based on some limited testing, the rangefinder appears to be spot on and the shutter speeds seem to be correct. The film transport is very smooth and the viewfinder is nice and bright with a very clear rangefinder patch.

The shutter sound of Leica cameras is famous for being quite and unobtrusive. It is definitely quieter than my Voigtländer Bessa R4A which has a loud clack sound but the Leica isn’t as quite as the compact Olympus XA rangefinder.

Leica M2

The M2 differs from later more modern models (like the M7) in a few ways. First, the Leica M2 is a fully mechanical camera with no batteries so there is no light meter. I will be using an external light meter or the sunny 16 rule to expose correctly. The rewind knob has no lever so it takes a little longer to rewind the film but I found it easier to use than rewinding with the lever on my Bessa.

Loading the film is not as straight forward compared to regular 35mm cameras. Instead of flipping open the back, loading is done by removing a plate on the bottom of the camera. There is a take up spool that you have to remove and thread the film into before inserting the film and spool back into the camera.  It’s easy enough to do when there is something to place the camera on while you hold the film in one hand and the spool in the other but I am not sure how I will load film on the go without finding somewhere upon which I can set down the camera. I will write a more detailed post on loading film sometime in the future.

Yesterday I ran a roll of Arista Premium 400 quickly through the camera to make sure it was working correctly. Everything looked pretty good. No leaks and I managed to expose everything fairly well. I have included a couple of the the photos from the test roll here.

Leica M2 Test Shot

Leica M2 Test Shot

If you have any tips on the M2, please leave them in the comments.

14 thoughts on “Leica M2 First Impressions

  1. John

    Don’t forget the “Leica Leader”.
    It is possible to load with a standard leader, but much more difficult, and I am led to believe it can cause damaged film and ultimately a jammed camera if you don’t do this.
    I know my IIIf jammed up as a result of ignoring this rule.

  2. Damien

    Congrats Dave, she’s a beauty and quite a pair teamed up with the voigtlander 35mm f1.4.

    Can’t really add much by way of shooting tips, as the M’s along with most mechanical cameras are such simple beasts. I’ve been shooting a pair of M’s for the last 18 months (after an all digital education prior to that), and it is refreshing to have such simple mechanical precision at your fingertips when out shooting.

    Many love the M2 as the model of simplicity, with just 35mm, 50mm and 90mm framelines – a perfect mix, and not cluttered like later M’s which crammed in 3 pairs of framelines for a total of 6 focal lengths.

    At this point you’ve become used to film loading and rewinding, and probably like me are wondering what all the fuss is about on the web re: film loading. It still requires two hands unfortunately, although many have tackled this issue by a mix of agility and the baseplate in the mouth 🙂

    I shoot with an M3 and M4 myself (50 on the M3, 35mm on the M4) and don’t find too much difference between two in terms of film loading.

    If you have any queries, drop a line.

    By the way, you can get 39 frames on a roll – just start shooting on frame 0, and continue shooting until 38. A nice bonus I discovered, via Ken Rockwell of all people 🙂

    Damien
    (PI: damien.murphy)

  3. Dave Post author

    Thanks Damien and John. Hadn’t heard of the “Leica Leader” before but now I know what it is.

  4. Damien

    The leader is only an issue with the Barnack/ Screwmount cameras, and the M2/ M3 (which share the same loading mechanism) do not require any such trimming.

    When loading my M3 I ensure to push the film leader past two of the little holes on the loading spool, to catch the film, and then just pop it in the camera.

    There is a quick load kit available for the M2 & M3 which can speed up things if you wish, but I never explored it with my M3 as the take-up spool needs to be removed on the M3 to reset the frame counter. This is not the same case on the M2, in which you reset the frame counter manually on the top plate, which makes the quick load kiy make a lot more sense on the M2.

    Anywho, does this mean you’re giving the toy cameras a rest..? 🙂

    Damien

  5. Dave Post author

    Thanks.

    The toy cameras will still be part of the plan although I had used them less over the past few months (WTCD being the exception – still have a couple of rolls to scan from that day).

  6. jason gold

    Good luck and enjoy! The feel of these cameras really special. The viewfinder way nicer than the newer ones,M6,M7. My M2 is really the backup camera but it is sharper than my M3/M6!

  7. Eric

    Lovely piece of kit.

    I’ve got both an M6 TTL and an modified M2. The M2 at some point in time had its internal frame-lines set to include a 28mm lens.

    I have also an Olympus OM1, and Nikon FE plus the usual proprietary Zuiko and Nikkor lenses. However, without question the leitz lenses are definitively superior, and are a pleasure to use and view the results.

    The Leica Ms are just fabulous to use.

  8. Pingback: Leica M2 | Center Gadgets

  9. Joseph A. Marston

    I own a Leica M2 but don’t use it much any more due to difficulty in purchasing/processing film. The thought occurred to me (maybe heresy) that perhaps Leica can retrofit my camera from film to digital. Do you know if Leica can upgrade my Leica M2 to digital? Thanks, Joe Marston

  10. Dave Post author

    Joe, I have not heard of Leica (or any other camera manufacturer) offering to convert old film cameras to digital. I’d say it would be technically difficult to squeeze the electronics into an M2.

    It would be very convenient though.

  11. Joseph A. Marston

    As a photo novice, I defer to the experts regarding the practicality of converting older Leica M film cameras to digital, e.g., Leica M2/3. However, the Leica M9 digital camera makes me wonder whether Leica AG is missing a golden opportunity financially in not offering a factory program to convert older Leica M film cameras to digital for a couple of thousand dollars. While perhaps not cost effective per se when compared to the cost of used Leica M9s or equivalent digital cameras, I have to think there are legions of Leica M film camera owners who would rather convert their cherished family heirlooms to digital than replace them with used Leica M9s or equivalent digital cameras. In the greater Wash DC metro area, it is impossible to find good camera stores conveniently located anymore, and print photography is becoming a lost art for all but hardcore film camera enthusiasts. I stopped using my cherished Leica M2 several years ago since there are no longer any “full service” camera stores conveniently located in Alexandria, VA. I have to think there are legions of Leica M film camera owners in the same predicament who would rather “join the enemy”; that is, go digital, if they could convert their older Leica M cameras. Digital conversions may be absolute heresy in the world of the classic Leica film camera – and I would agree. However, I would rather use my cherished Leica M2 as a digital conversion than let it collect any more dust on my shelf. I hope Leica AG studies this issue carefully and publishes a comprehensive article for the Leica world. Regards !!!

  12. Jim P

    Gosh – just read this. Joseph, the answer is no, Leica will never offer a digital upgrade to their analog Ms. It’s simply impossible. And, while you may not have a full service camera store in Alexandria (although I have a hard time believing there’s no store in the Washington area), there are several mail photo services that can develop and scan your film. Embrace your lovely film camera and learn to use it well. As an owner of a IIf, M2, M3, and M9, I can tell you that I get much more satisfaction using my film Leicas, and have become a better photographer.

  13. Andrew

    Love the M2. I just got a very nice 1966 M2 to use alongside my beloved 1973 M5 and 2012 M Monochrom.

    These cameras are works of mechanical art that also are top notch tools.

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