I can focus a fast lens or a telephoto lens on the M3 much more quickly than on the Bessa R2. I use both quite a bit. BUT: trying to shoot wide-open at F1.5 on the Bessa is a bit slower. The M3 is quieter as well.
They are excellent cameras. There is no doubt about that. I think there is a mythical status assigned to them, and especially to the images that they capture. Remember that they were one of the first very high quality 35mm system cameras, one of the first widely sold and used 35mm cameras, and were adopted early on by droves of photographers. They were extremely popular for at least 30 years, during a very historically important time in the modern world. They were extremely ubiquitous cameras for a good 30+ years from the late '20s through the early '60s.
As for the pix, I believe it is hogwash, and I say this as a Leica user. There are beautiful and often unique lenses, such as the Summar, but other brands also had nice glass. The real things about them are not the pix due to any technical quality, but 1. The fact that they were a relatively fast operating camera, 2. the fact that they were small camera, 3. The fact that they use an amateur format, 4. the fact that when they were being adopted, so much photographically interesting stuff was going on that would have been difficult to capture with another type of camera. All of this simply changed the way people shot...much the way digital is now.
"Truth and love are my law and worship. Form and conscience are my manifestation and guide. Nature and peace are my shelter and companions. Order is my attitude. Beauty and perfection are my attack."
- Rob Tyner (1944 - 1991)
If you're scanning the neg to print I think you're adding a variable that will prevent you from seeing any difference between the two.
If you want to make an evaluation get a Leica lens for the camera you've got borrow or rent it if you can.
Shoot on the same roll of film with both lenses & see what you can see.
KEH has a 14 day return privilege Just sayin'.
First of all, sorry for the long post. I have some Leica lenses, some CV lenses and one Nikkor lens for my RF, as well as a couple Canon lenses for my SLR.
On the whole, the Leica lenses feel the best in the hand, but only by a bit. The CV lenses feel just as solid, they just aren't quite as smooth feeling as the Leica ones. The Nikkor from the 50's actually feels more solid, but it's ergonomics aren't quite as nice - nonlinear aperture ring that turns the wrong direction, etc. The Canon lenses are great for what they are, but the nature of AF lenses means they are bulkier and lighter. I would say I've never had a problem with any of them, but my Canon 50/1.4's AF just broke yesterday, sitting quietly on a shelf in the closet. Of course, even though I've noted these differences, they all work as advertised and are perfectly usable. They really are minor differences and it's nothing to get worked up over. The CV lenses really are the best deal out there for lenses in my mind, RF or not.
As far as optics go, again, the CV lenses are the best buy. They really are high quality lenses. The two that I have (28/3.5 and 15/4.5) are TINY. Very sharp and easy to use. The only complaint one might have with them is that they are slower. CV makes faster lenses, but they are a bit bigger than their Leica counterparts for the most part. Some CV lenses get a bad rap for ugly bokeh (35/1.4, which is also really small), but to be honest, I don't think it looks any worse for the most part than the acclaimed Leica 35/2 IV. It's about the same size, one stop faster, cheaper, and new. Can't beat that. The 35/1.2 is supposed to be great too. Fast, sharp, flare resistant. What more can you ask for?
In my mind, this is where Leica excels: They make really high quality, fast, SMALL lenses that don't suffer much used wide open. At f/5.6, most lenses are sharp. My Canon 50/1.4 is a nice lens, but you can tell when it's wide open. Same with the Nikkor 50 - 1.4 is usable, but it definitely gets a bit dreamy.
Leica lenses seem to me to be about the same size as competitors lenses one stop slower. For example, Zeiss ZM lenses are great too, but their fastest 35mm lens is f/2 and their fastest 28mm is f/2.8. Both are a good deal larger than the corresponding Leica lens; they are about the same size as Leica's faster versions (35/1.4 and 28/2).
I do think Leica makes a couple of class leading lenses. The 50mm Summilux ASPH and the 75mm Summicron ASPH are very good at what they do, even wide open. I'm impressed with the 28/2 as well. Other manufacturers make lenses that are faster, but I've not seen much out of them that surpasses these three lenses at a given f-stop. And they really aren't big either. The 28/2 is pretty small, and the 50/1.4, while not small, is not big.
I think it's silly personally to have a huge stable of Leica lenses. They are too expensive for what they are. On the other hand, to have 2 or 3 at your most used focal lengths, or even one at your most used focal length, makes sense. Round out your range with cheaper, but really high quality CV lenses. I don't shoot 15mm that much, so when I do, its not a big deal that the CV lens is slower. It's still sharp and small.
All in all, are they legendary? Or something magic? I don't think so. They are pretty consistent, well built, and very expensive. If you use a particularly focal length a lot, shoot RF, and have the money to treat yourself to a really nice lens, then go for it. They won't make or break a picture though. They are analogous to a really nice kitchen knife - you can still make a mean meal with a cheap but sharp knife. The nice one might make the experience a bit more enjoyable and might (or might not) save you 2 mins. It might also last longer. But the food will still be about the same - if you are a crappy cook, it will probably be crappy
I've got the M2 and M4-P with 4 Leica lenses to share between the bodies. My comments will echo, pretty much, what has been said here.
I don't feel there is any advantage to owning a leica in terms of the character of the image. I've looked inside both cameras and don't really see anything in terms of build quality that is superior to the innards of my Nikon F2. My Leicas aren't any more or less reliable than my crusty old Pentax Spotmatic which is only 5 years newer than the M2, and never had a lick of trouble with either.
Well exposed slides taken with my F2 or F3 are indistinguishable from the Leica images, if there is any difference (there should be shouldn't there?) I would consider it to be irrelevant.
Maybe it's prestige! But then most people don't give a damn, except perhaps owners.
I think it is the myth that surround the things and that isn't bad. It has to be something impractical that has me keeping the cameras instead of cashing them in. Perhaps the camera has become a talisman hung around the neck to attract photographic situations and good fortune. And why the hell not?
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I have owned a Leica M3 for about 20 years with a stable of Leica RF lenses built especially around the M3. What you got from the M3 was a quiet camera with very good large aperature lenses. As the lenses improved, TTL exposure was added. The current crop of ASPH lenses along witht the M7 and MP are the pinncle of rangefinder film photography. I own an M6, two M7's and 21mm ASPH, 35mm Lux ASPH, 75mm ASPH and 90mm ASPH. Is this overkill, I think not. I use Motor M's on my M7 and have a Leicavit that gets used once in a great while. I shoot K64 and and need sharp images with wide open lenses, cameras and lenses that function reliably. The present Leica M euqipment fills that need. I don't think its a myth but it is expensive. You have to make your own decision based on your needs, finances and percieved value.-Dick
I'm a sometimes M user who uses M glass, and a Nikon user, and an LF user. In my opinion, the Leica thing is a myth. If, however, you get along better with Leica M bodies than with other cameras, that seems to be the only reason to get a Leica.
My Leica gives me slightly more contrast than my other 35mm cameras. The higher contrast, no mirror movement, shallow DOF and Tri-X is a great combination for the way I use the Leica. It gives the images that I visualize. The other thing about top end gear is if something didn't work right I know it was me and I can't blame it on the camera. That is the only way to improve my skills.
DIGITAL IS FOR THOSE AFRAID OF THE DARK.
I can only afford Nikon and Hasselblad at this time, so Leica damn well better be a myth!
Warning!! Handling a Hasselblad can be harmful to your financial well being!
Nothing beats a great piece of glass!
I leave the digital work for the urologists and proctologists.
The slogan of one of the pro labs here is "Guaranteed to make you look good (but only if you were good already)". I think that's relevant with a lot of photography - it's always the photographer more than the tools. Take some time to get used to it, but I never thought leica magic was anything more than good work on the photographer's part.