You're mixing apples and oranges (i.e. "M" and "R" Leica models)....
Originally Posted by melmoth
Leica "R" models are SLR cameras, and suffer from the same shortcomings as other SLRs - mirror slap, vibration, etc...
Small, manual, precise - get any "M" model that fits you. However, before taking the plunge and spending all that cash, you'd better test drive it, or first get some experience with another, cheaper, RF camera, just to see if this whole "RF" thing is for you.
I have several Leicas, and find I like my M2 the most. Having the meter in the M6 just distracts me. With all-mechanical meterless body (i.e. M2 or M3), I first meter the light, and then shoot without distractions, concentrating on the scene and the framelines.
Silent, quick, and reliable....
However, Leicas (and other RF cameras) have their limitations - the closest focusing distance with a 50mm lens is usually 0,9 meters or thereabouts. There's also the parallax problem, which is not always obvious.
In short, you can't (and won't) get a definitive answer from anyone else but yourself. The choice depends on your shooting style, kind of shots that you take, etc.
But, I'd agree that for dimly lit spaces without flash, a rangefinder is the way to go, particularly if you don't want to stick out or be noticed (or heard).
After shooting 35mm format for a year almost exclusively with a Leica, I shot a roll with my old Nikon FM a few days ago. It felt (and sounded) like a Colt 45 compared to a Leica Big, heavy, unwieldy, and loud. And the mirror slap (and the vibration) is awful! I wondered how I ever got a sharp negative with it!
OTOH, if you want to get really close (e.g. 0,5 meters or so), SLR is the way to go.
For quasi-silent SLR shooting, I find my Nikon N80 much better in that respect - it's the absolute winner in my SLR collection, as far as "silent shooting" goes. But, Leica glass is the all-round winner as far as final quality of the shot is concerned.
In short, you should first re-examine your needs carefully. If you do decide for a Leica, take some time to get familiar with different models, viewfinder magnifications, etc. There are many good resources on the Net available.
Let me reiterate - you could (and probably should) get a cheaper rangefinder first to "test the waters". Yashica Electros come to mind. Yashica Lynx 14e also has excellent lens (45/1.4), although it's a bit on the large side.
I will think further. These answers are excellent: short, precise and clarify a great deal.
If you're not certain, I just might have a suggestion!!!
Go SOVIET. No, seriously!
FEDs and Zorkis don't have the sex appeal of a Leica but there are literally millions of them out there and they are cheap and reliable and the optics are very good and easily had.
It might be a decent way to test the waters and see if RF is what you want to do.
Just my $0.02
Max Power, he's the man who's name you'd love to touch! But you mustn't touch! His name sounds good in your ear, but when you say it, you mustn't fear! 'Cause his name can be said by anyone!
I wouldn't discount the use of an R8 based on experience with an FM. I'm not sure about more recent models, which I haven't used, but earlier R model SLRs had a cam driven mirror that slowed to a stop at the top of the cycle and didn't have the impact against the body like most SLR designs, so mirror impact and noise are both mitigated relative to most other SLRs. Perhaps an R8 user can chime in here on the mirror issue.
In suggesting other starter RF cameras for testing the waters, I'd also mention the Cosina Voigtlander Bessa models and their lenses. These are compatible with Leica screw mount and/or M mount cameras and lenses and would serve as a second film or backup body after purchasing a Leica M if you decide to go that way. There are a number of models available, new or discontinued, at a wide variety of price points with different features. cameraquest.com has articles on the various models and lenses. People compare many of the lenses favorably with older vintage Leica lenses, especially at the prices they go for.
How about the Canon, Minolta, Olympus etc rangefinders of the seventies ?
Fixed lenses at around 40mm but fast at aroun f/1,7 and with leafshutters they are very quiet too
The Canon QL 17 GIII is light and does't take up much place.
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If your objective is to make photographs, as opposed to retaining or building collectable value, I'd go for an M6 classic or an M6TTL for several reasons. First, being newer, they will last for many years before needing repair. Second, being newer, they have better coverage with respect to viewfinder frames, and offer choices of viewfinder magnification. Finally, there is less fetish-factor with the M6/M6TTL, so prices are more realistic. Even though I rarely use fill flash with the Leica, I opted for the M6TTL for the few times that I do so.
[COLOR=SlateGray]"You can't depend on your eyes if your imagination is out of focus." -Mark Twain[/COLOR]
Rio Rancho, NM
Originally Posted by df cardwell
I like this heiku.
Originally Posted by melmoth
Good morning M,
An M6TTL or M7 would be close to the same size and weight of your FM3A, though the lenses are slightly lighter. Visibility factor is something else, since when you lift a camera to your face it becomes obvious you are taking a photo. Of course, you could always go for wider lenses and a shoot from the hip technique.
The first two cameras I bought were a used Nikon FM and a very used Leica M3. The rangefinder had the advantage of continuous viewing through the finder, which became useful in certain situations. Unfortunately, my M3 broke, and after a few years of high repair estimates I traded it for other photographic gear. The Nikon FM has only needed a little maintenance and cleaning, so I still have it and use it.
Originally Posted by melmoth
The is a good source for lots of questions at http://www.nemeng.com/leica/index.shtml
Currently, used prices are fairly good for an M6 or M6TTL. Both of those have a meter built in, something not in the earlier cameras. However, if you have a good hand held meter, you can get a slightly less expensive M4-2 or M4P, which are basically like an M6 without metering. Most other Leica models are substantially older, so you would be more likely to need to budget for a service soon after you get one. An M2 or M3 is quite old, and costs nearly as much as an M4-2, and sometimes can be more expensive.
Alternatives would be a Konica Hexar RF, the Rollei mentioned earlier, several Voigtländer Bessa versions, or the new Zeiss Ikon. However, the body shape of a Leica M rangefinder is unique, and a different experience in hand held photography. An easier route might be a used Leica M body, and a lens from another company.
Rangefinder cameras can be quite useful in low light conditions. They are also easier to use when you have a strong filter in front of the lens (like an ND or Red filter). The Leica reps let me try out an M7 last year, and I can honestly state that it would be a great camera for anyone wanting to use a 35mm rangefinder. Unfortunately, it is not currently in my budget.
From my own experience buying and selling and using Leica gear, I like the simplicity of the M3. It's also proved for me to be incredibly reliable. Downsides, as others have pointed out, are the limited rangefinder lines. If you like to shoot wider lenses and don't like to have an external viewfinder, the M3 may not be a good solution. Also, I like using a winder. So, I liked the M4 over the M3 for that reason. All in all, if I was buying today, I would get a user M6. There seem to be quite a few available used and they don't have the collector price inflation that even worn M3 bodies seem to carry.
Not the TTL but the "classic". Smaller than the TTL and the shutter dial works like a Leica shutter dial has alway traditionally worked. More recent model, less likely to need timely CLA. Has a meter. Leica lenses, especially the older Leitz models in moderate maximum apertures, are significantly smaller than all SLR lenses, including Nikkor/Nikon lenses.
Almost everyday of my life I carry a small Billingham bag with two M6's, four lenses, handheld meter, accessories, filters and 20 or so rolls of film along with all kinds of other non-photo crap. You will be surprised and amazed at how small these cameras are in comparison to most 35mm SLRs.
On a budget? Go for an M4-P. It's essentially the M6 minus the meter. Buy Voigtlander lenses--they're almost as good as (actually some are reportedly better) the Leitz/Leica lenses and cost a fraction.