Leica M2 Film Rangefinder Camera – My Best Companion
Leica M2 Film Rangefinder Camera - My Best Companion
Leica M2 Film Rangefinder Camera – My Best Companion
“Oh! You are using a film camera. Is it a Leica M2? Can you still get the film in Hong Kong?” my friend asked. That was roughly eight years ago. At that time, most people enjoyed having CMOS cameras and chunky DSLRs and getting keen on the new wave of mirrorless. I think film photography still has its unique place in everyone’s heart. Using film doesn’t make you special. It makes you slow down the whole process, understand what could go wrong and discover your own preferences. I found it challenging to shoot film at first, but once I learned more, it was not something rocket science. We often joked about film, saying we would still shoot film until it was extinct. I never thought film would create such hype now; everything is so expensive, especially if you are a late joiner. Never too late for the party, I would like to share my thoughts about this camera I have been using for the past decade.
My Leica M2 Story
My photography passion was developed during my university time. I was jealous of those with a darkroom at school, but my playground was not some kind of sport. My hobby was paper and acrylics. I drew a lot back in high school until my dad bought me a Canon Powershot G9, and I started capturing everything I could. Back in 2013, I was so busy at work as an external auditor. Every time you go to stay in a 2nd tier city in China for more than a month. And somehow, you know you won’t have time to do any photography there because, by the time you get off work, it’s already 2 to 3am, so I just let my camera sit in the dry box.
Have you experienced depression, and you want to quit a hobby?
I sold almost everything before my trip to Sydney in the fall of 2013. I went there with a Fujifilm XE1 and a 35/3.5 MS optics lens, but I never took it out to shoot. I lost my interest in photography. One day I was going on a road trip in Melbourne with my friend, and Franky, my photography mentor, said, “Just pick a camera in my cabinet. You can not just go without a camera”. So I opened the door and picked a Leica M2 and a Summicron 35/2 v1 with a goggle. I took a few black and white films with me and shot something that I liked, and the trip was so enjoyable. I brought my passion back to life. And in the end, I purchased this camera from him after 1 year of negotiation.
Everyone has their own story, and I also want to learn about yours.
Share your camera!
Share with me your favourite camera set-up in two photos! It could be any type of camera, digital, analogue, with any accessories or instant camera. Photo resolution to be at least 1400px wide (for a horizontal image). I’d love you to include a story (in a few sentences or paragraphs!) about this camera and you. This shows that this is a true (camera) love story. Feel free to include any photos (max 2) taken with this combo. Don’t forget to share details of the image, such as film or lenses you’ve used.
Please include the preferred social handle that you’d wish to be known for (Flickr, Instagram…etc.)
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Why Leica M2 but not M3 or M6?
Well, it depends on you. The first question I would ask is, do you shoot with a 35mm focal length lens? Second question, do you need a light meter inside the camera?
Leica M2 does have 35mm and 50mm frameline but not 75mm. If you mount most of the famous Leica lenses in 35mm or 50mm, you will get a frameline to know what area you can capture inside the viewfinder. Same for Leica M6 and MP models. However, Leica M3 doesn’t have a 35mm frameline. That’s why some lenses have a gigantic goggle attached above them, called the M3 version, for example, Summicron 35mm f2 8ele, Summilux 35mm f1.4 Steel Rim. It corrects the 50mm frameline magnification to show a 35mm frameline. Is it like magic, isn’t it?
When we start film photography, most of us are scared about taking a reading of the light because this is how we think we could mess up our shots. But in reality, I think handling a camera or not knowing how to control it costs you time, and film costs more than that. If you want to simplify it, get an M6 or MP; it gives you settings for correct exposures. I prefer a cheaper setup, a Leica M2 or M3 with a Voigtlander VC II on top or Doomo or other brands. It doesn’t matter.
I feel a Leica M2 or M3 is much more solid than an M6, maybe because of the craftsmanship and the metal, and every detail feels very meticulous to me. I love the minor details like the film advance lever, film counter, and little screw rather than a Leica logo. I find it timeless and simple, just like a classic 911 Porsche or an F40 Ferrari; that newer design couldn’t replicate that.
However, I find Leica MP has the best finder in terms of brightness. It makes you focus easier.
I would describe the sound of the M2 as the most pleasant Leica camera ever made. It is so quiet, and I think the Leica M2 I currently have has a very soft and silent shutter sound. Some told me it depends on your repairman to tune the camera’s shutter sound. And some said it depends on the batch. I tried multiple M2s, and the one I currently own has the best shutter sound ever, much better than my MP.
Silver Chrome or Black Paint? Depends on your Budget
I haven’t used any camera in silver chrome. Honestly, I just love how the Leica camera looks in black with brassing. It’s my personal preference, really. Does colour matter? It doesn’t, but black paint shows the signs of my usage more evident over time, like the wrinkles we get to tell it ages or the patina you got on your Barbour jacket. In the Leica world they call this brassing. I got my black repainted M2 in good condition. See how my hand sweat and backpacking did to this little baby? Bubbles! It is gorgeous! It’s like my best travel buddy, and it witnesses most of my time when I travel alone in South East Asia. Many collectors love genuine and authentic black paint because of its history and rarity. For those who want a black repainted M2 or M3, I highly recommend getting a repaint from Kanto or Camera work repair from the UK. And start abusing your camera to create your “own” patina.
I think the reading is just an indication telling what is correctly exposed. Still, when it comes to photography, it is based on your experience to apply the reading to achieve overexposed, or underexposure helps you create the image you want. Inbuild lightmeter gives you the convenience of everything inside the little viewfinder, set your shutter speed and aperture, press the shutter and advance to the next frame. Leica M2 slows down your process with an external meter, and sometimes I use “eye” metering. I get a reading when I go out outdoors, and by judgement, I increase or decrease certain stops rather than relying on my light meter. Another way with an external lightmeter is to take a reading off the camera, meaning you already input all the information you need when you first approach a scene. You input all the settings, including your desirable aperture value and shutter speed. The rest you need to do is focus inside the viewfinder, and you don’t need to overthink. Just concentrate on framing and capturing the best moment.
It’s the most obscure feature of all Leica cameras. Almost all have a film counter window to show you which shot you are at. Leica M2 seems to be a little bit different. You got this wheel indicating the number, and the film counter points to the next frame when you advance with the lever. Most importantly, you must manually adjust the frame counter by turning it clockwise when you reload any films. It won’t change to its original position like Leica M3 or M6. Some people message me saying their M2 got an issue because their frame counter doesn’t lock in place simply because when you advance halfway, the counter can move freely. My dream camera is the Leica Original MP and Leica MP-3; they all have the same film counter. I think it is an aesthetically attractive feature to have.
Some prefer styles like the Leica M4, M6 or MP, which you don’t need to take out the spool. Usually, taking the spool out is also very good for loading the film properly. My friend uses his MP without paying attention if the spool has actually winded correctly, so he took some beautiful images of up to 40 frames without inserting any film.
There are 2 types of spool available out there. One is the Leica original quick loader. I think this thing is overpriced, and I tried it don’t think it is quick and has two pieces. Another is a 3D-printed one piece spool that allows you to do the same function without putting an extra piece on your baseplate.
You can purchase it here
I like the simplicity of this piece. Leica M3, M2 and MP also shared the same feature. In a practical sense, the Leica M4 style rewind lever is better, and it is much faster. One might argue why you need to rewind so quick when you just finished a roll of film? I had encountered multiple occasions where some beautiful scene appeared to me while rewinding. So to solve this problem, I got a SOOM film rewind lever for Leica M. My finger won’t hurt if the film is too tight inside the camera.
Self-timer or Button version
This is the part that when you finished the film, you need to push this lever down or press it to let your film rewind back into the canister. Some people love the button version because it is rare or looks unique. You need to be careful about specific serial or early button versions; when you rewind, you have to hold the button, meaning you have to push it while rewinding the film. If you release it, you cannot rewind it. My button M2 doesn’t have this problem. I prefer M2 in button or without a self-timer, so it looks clean, and nothing is blocking your right-hand fingers when you take photos.
The original Leicavit adds extra height to the camera, don’t even think about it. Look at the price tag, and the chain inside (a mechanism) feels very flimsy. I have tried my friend’s original Leicavit. It becomes more like a decoration to me. If I need a rapidwinder, I either go for Tom A or get an MP Leicavit, but the latter only works on Leica M6 or MP.
It’s made in brass, and not sure if anyone has the same issue. It is getting bigger and more significant that I need to use non-stainless steel or leather-only strap to avoid getting even thinner.
If you shoot 35mm and 50mm, go for M2. And if you want to understand more about meter reading and apply judgement on a different scene, pick an M2 and an external light meter. You will develop a sense of ISO400, 1/500, and f/8 during the day and sometimes question the light meter if this is right. If you like the look and history of an M3 and mainly shoot with 50mm, go for it, and if you ever shoot 35mm, you can get a viewfinder or try to guess the frame line by using the whole area inside the viewfinder.
After all, whether it is a Leica M2 or M3, more expensive black paint. They won’t improve your photography skills; they are just a light-sealed container to load film and, most importantly, your lens and your photography mindset. How about Leica M6? I don’t like having a logo, so I picked MP. And I developed a better sense of lighting with an external meter. It’s just the look.
If you happen to be in Hong Kong, shoot me a DM, let me know, and we can go for a coffee and photo walk!