Leica Older Leica M Film Cameras

Biro

Super Moderator
Aug 7, 2011
124
Jersey Shore
Steve
As my search for a Leica M film camera continues, here's a question for those with plenty of experience with older bodies: Just how old can one go and still retain a decent level of reliability?

In my case, I'm looking at M6's and M5's. One can get a lot more bang for the buck with an M5. But those cameras are more than 40 years old. M6's are generally 15-25 years old.

Yes, I've heard plenty over the years about how great all-mechanical Leicas are and how they can always be repaired. But a 40+ year-old camera is still a 40+ year-old camera. We hear about expensive repairs involving rangefinder and shutter-curtain replacement, not to mention light-meter issues, etc.

Just how old can one generally go before the cost of repairs and maintenance overtakes money saved on purchase price?

And how much would you pay for a decent M5 or M6 that will not be held as a collectors item but used on a regular basis?
 

BrianS

Super Moderator
Apr 3, 2013
124
Electronics tend not to hold up as well as their mechanical counterparts. I went for an M3, would go for an M2 or an M4- send to Youxin Ye for a CLA. My M3 is 60 years old- works beautifully. The CDS "Meter Stalk" of the M5 and CL can be a problem. The M6- much newer, uses a Photodiode rather than a CDS Photoresistor- the photodiode is more reliable.
 

BrianS

Super Moderator
Apr 3, 2013
124
I'm good with a hand-held meter...

With the M4: there are 3 versions, the original M4, the M4-2, and the M4-P.

I would go for the original M4.
 

chris0202

Regular
Aug 13, 2017
8
If you use M film bodies, you might want to look into M3, M4, and M2. There are lots of them floating around in sister forums.

Later bodies still use curtain, which are subject to service over time. Also, some of them have minor issues as well. Youxin once told me that M6's stock VF are not coated so it will flare.

My advice is that you should just get one recently CLA'd. You should be good to go for quite some time unless accidents happened in the future.

I just love my M3 DS. Smooth advance and it's very quiet in operation. As Brian stated, mechanical bodies just work beautifully. Only glitch of M3/2 is loading with take-up spool out of the camera.
 

chris0202

Regular
Aug 13, 2017
8
So, you'd go for the M4 before the M6?
M4's original curtain could break off and cause shutter jam. It needs to be replaced to solve this problem. This is one thing to look out for if you are look at M4. Changing curtain is pricey.

Leica has MR meter. I got one from DAG (converted to work with new batteries). Voigtlander's hotshoe meter is also a good choice.
 
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Biro

Super Moderator
Aug 7, 2011
124
Jersey Shore
Steve
M4's original curtain could break off and cause shutter jam. It needs to be replaced to solve this problem. This is one thing to look out for if you are look at M4. Changing curtain is pricey.
This is the thing that kind of gets me with Leicas... each model seems to have some deal-breaking issue that one has to to watch out for. It tends to call into question the vaunted German craftsmanship. But nothing's perfect - not even Leicas. :)

Honestly, while I plan to use this camera, it's not going to be my primary kit. I'm thinking maybe a Voigtlander 35mm Ultron f/1.7 or Color Skopar f/2.5 as my only lens for a while. I'm not looking for a collectible.

I have found a recently CLA'd M4 for $1200 that I'm considering. But I'm wondering if I should just go with one of the less-hallowed but cheaper M4-2's or M4-P's.
 

chris0202

Regular
Aug 13, 2017
8
This is the thing that kind of gets me with Leicas...
I think people now have solutions for problems original Leica used to present. M4 originally used weak joint curtain and replacement will end the issue for good. A good CLA should keep it from going kaput in some years.

I think you will get addicted to Leica once you used one :)
 
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BrianS

Super Moderator
Apr 3, 2013
124
I've never known that about the M4 curtains- I shoot mainly with the M3 as I prefer the higher magnification viewfinder. But- the finder does not have 35mm framelines.
 

chris0202

Regular
Aug 13, 2017
8
I've never known that about the M4 curtains- I shoot mainly with the M3 as I prefer the higher magnification viewfinder. But- the finder does not have 35mm framelines.
That's probably because ones you came across had replaced curtain. I recently picked up a really nice looking one with this issue. However price is very good. It is now under CLA.
 

Biro

Super Moderator
Aug 7, 2011
124
Jersey Shore
Steve
I'd also go with a 35mm lens. 35mm is almost the perfect combination with the M4.
Actually, I was looking for a 35mm lens to begin with. I couldn't find any Leicas that I could afford right now. Better to wait for one at a price I can swing.... or pick up a Voigtlander 35mm f/2.5 Color Skopar at $250 for now? That had been my plan if I had picked up a newer M6. I'm not sure it seems right on the M4.
 
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BrianS

Super Moderator
Apr 3, 2013
124
The 35/1.7 Ultron Aspheric in Leica Thread Mount, Black Paint- runs around $400 or so. I paod $350 for mine, with the M-Mount adapter on a forum.

The 35/2.5 Nikkor in thread mount is the same formula as the Summaron, costs much less than the Summaron at ~$250.

The 35/2.5 Skopar at $250: a great choice, that's a great price.
 

BrianS

Super Moderator
Apr 3, 2013
124
The Nikkor 3.5cm F2.5 is a classic 1-2-2-1 Double-Gauss, as is the Summaron. Higher contrast than the 35/2.8 Summaron. I kept the Nikkor, sold the Summaron.
Only downside of the Nikkor: finding 34.5mm filters. I found an adapter ring to use Series filters with mine.
 

chris0202

Regular
Aug 13, 2017
8
The Nikkor 3.5cm F2.5 is a classic 1-2-2-1 Double-Gauss, as is the Summaron. Higher contrast than the 35/2.8 Summaron. I kept the Nikkor, sold the Summaron.
Only downside of the Nikkor: finding 34.5mm filters. I found an adapter ring to use Series filters with mine.
I probably should let one go and try biogon if i can made up my mind.
 

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