I have the M3 and an M6, but no M2. The M3's viewfinder is better for 50mm than anything else, the M6 included. As pointed out by numerous posters above, the M3 lacks 35mm and 28mm viewfinder lines. I find the M6's 28mm lines almost unusable, because they are so far toward the outer edges, and I use Leica's 21mm-28mm adjustable viewer for 28mm and 21mm lenses. I also use a Voitlander 35mm viewer with my M3, and I shoot 35mm a lot, probably as much as I shoot 50mm. I don't find the external viewfinders to be much of a problem. I guess I've shot enough with my IIIc not to mind switching back and forth for rangefinder and viewfinder. If I had to get rid of one of my M bodies, it would be the M6.
Others here are doubtless more knowledgable than I, but I have also read that the M3's viewfinder is much better, but mechanically more complicated than the cheaper-to-manufacture mechanism that Leica began using with the M2 and has continued to use to date. It also has a .92 magnification vs. the .72 magnification in the M2 and most successors; thus, is more precise in focusing 50mm and longer focal lenths because of the higher effective rangefinder distance. I am sure that the M2 is no slouch either, so it probably comes down to whether having the 35mm framelines is important to you.
Regarding cleanup of the viewfinder in the M3, I saw a recommendation for Sherry Krauter, which I can second. I bought my first M3 from her, which she had overhauled, and she does excellent work.
Well, one could say that two M3s and one M2 is slightly more than absolutely necessary. OTOH, keeping one M3 and M2 each completely makes sense. I myself intermittently use an M3 and M4 - M3 for 50, M4 for 35, depending on which length I'm in the mood for.
Oh well, if you'd like to use different 50ies for different image characteristics, there's no good reason to get rid of one of the M3s.
Hmmm, 3 Hassies in a week? Yes I've done that before too.
Wow thank you all for this great info.
Very much appreciated.Lots to digest.
Well...Yes...Yes it did.
I am clearly prone to bouts of G.A.S. from time to time.
At this stage I am planning to send the M3 with the dull RF off for a service and once it is returned decide on one of the M3s to keep. The M2 is a keeper.
I have run a test film through each of the M2 and bright RF M3 and am awaiting their return.
I find that I am spending an inordinate amount of time just handling these cameras, enjoying the feel of them in my hands and fiddling with their levers etc.
I was the same when i first acquired a Hasselblad. They just have more "heft" than the digitals.
Three in one week? I hope you aren't married, or have an understanding wife.
Originally Posted by Sirius Glass
Jimbot: I like the M2. I shoot mostly 35mm, love the finder. I don't worry about the resetting frame counter, forget it half the time anyway. I would like to get another M2, but I have spent way too much already this year.
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An M2 for 35mm lenses; an M3 for 50mm lenses.
However, an M2 is really not bad with a 50mm. Sometimes it is actually kind of nice composing with a big "gutter" around your frame. (I use a Bessa R, which has a viewfinder for a 35mm lens, but I use a 50mm lens on it.) But with a 50, the image will be larger, and focusing will be a bit easier on the M3.
So I would keep one of each and sell the dingy one so you do not have to bother paying to get it cleaned.
But if you never use a 35mm lens, I would keep the nicer M3 and sell the other M3, and the M2.
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as ChipMcD has written, the rangefinder of the M 3 is completely different from the M 2 and all newer types. It is considered as the exactest of all M's, especially for the 135 mm lenses and it has no flare by bright light from outside the frame like the newer ones. Some M 3 viewfinderss show separation of prisms and some have a yellowing viewfinder. If it is only dirty, it can be cleaned, but I think it will be difficult to repair a separated or yellowed viewfinder. Leica has no spare viewfinders for the M 3. Very early M 3's have a doubble-stroke transport-mechanism, the later cameras have single-stroke, which is more comfortable.
Finder repairs can be cheap or expensive depends what is wrong.
If you use a standard lens exclusively the M3 is nicer, it you use a widerangle sometimes the M2 is necessary, there is a kludge (for M3) but it is horrible.
The M2 finder was cheaper to make but all the later cameras use it, even the latest MP and M7 although they have hard coated surfaces.
The Canon P is in many ways more practical but it only takes screw thread lenses.
Assuming you are like me and strongly prefer non-metered Ms, these are my thoughts. I think if you have only one M, then the M2 is the best all-round in terms of quality and price. (You can sometimes find the M4-2 for roughly the same price as a M2, but the VF is not as flare resistant as the M2's VF.) The M2 is a great all-round camera with the classic 35-50-90 framelines. If you can afford a bit more money, then the M4 does what the standard M2 does, but is a tad bit faster in use: with a M4 you get the faster tulip film loading and the slightly faster angled film rewind.
But if you are dedicated to the 50mm focal length, I would recommend what others have suggested: get a M3 and go to it!
Any of the classic Ms rock; so pick one of the M2-3-4s and you will be glad.
"A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself from within." W. Durant
I sent my old single stroke M3 to Peter at CRR Luton for dull and low contrast range finder, it came back like new. He's can actually re-sliver prism's if necessary, mine didn't require. The only issue is he's booked a long time into the future, July now.