Home Film Gateways to Heaven or at least to a new (rangefinder) world

Gateways to Heaven or at least to a new (rangefinder) world

You consider to (re)enter the rangefinder world? The gates are open… and not as difficult to cross as many think. Especially with some advice as given here.

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There are questions you would rather avoid. And there are those you are only too eager to answer. In connection with the M-Files, I was asked such a welcome question quite a few times: “Now the time has come, I also want to buy a Leica like this, which can take pictures like in the past. But what should I choose?” Here is my answer.

Of course, I know that most Macfilos readers actually need no advice on how to enter the rangefinder world. Because they are inside already, or because they made a deliberate decision that they don’t want to be inside. But even they might fancy a bit of gearhead talk if only as a distraction. We all had fun with the “which is the one lens you would take to the desert island?” question game, didn’t we?

Yes, there are people who have rangefinder cameras, lenses and other accessories by the cabinetful. They have long since passed through the gates of photographic paradise (or what they consider them to be). Others, however, are still standing in front of these gates, thinking about whether and how they can make it to enter the rangefinder world. 

To be able to make it — that means here: firstly, to be able to afford it financially, secondly, to manage it technically, thirdly, to master it creatively. Point three is something that everyone has to work out for themselves. Point two can be solved with lessons, advice and practice. For point one, I have some thoughts and suggestions here. So here are five pieces of advice for (re)entering the world of rangefinders. 

1. The body: Think about film photography

Film photography is less expensive than many people think, and it is by far the cheapest way into the rangefinder world. Seriously. Yes, Kodak has had a massive price rise. But even if you shoot two rolls a month and have them professionally processed and scanned, your investment is manageable. If you decide to go black and white (and there are good reasons to do so) and if you take the trouble to develop your films (read here why this is a good idea), it is still cheaper. Much cheaper in any case than even a worn digital monochrome M camera, as I showed towards the end of this article.

Sure, the times of very affordable film-loading Leicas seem to be over. But if you can live without a built-in light meter, you can still find a rangefinder body at a reasonable price. I especially recommend the M 4-2. This is not only a camera of historic interest (the first Leica model that was built completely in Canada, and the Leica model that saved the beloved M system from extinction) but also a highly usable body. It is easier to load than the earlier and more famous M3 and M2, it has a beautiful 0.72 viewfinder for 35, 50, 90 and 135 mm lenses. And it is less sought after as a collector’s item (good news for everybody who looks for a camera to shoot with).

If you fancy the Made in Germany appeal on your Leica, you can think of an M4 which is as versatile as the M 4-2. If you, as a newcomer, expect to use a 28 mm wide-angle at one point, the M4-P with its six frame lines, including 28 and 75 mm, might be right for you. The M4-P is basically an M6 without built-in exposure metering. There are decent apps for your smartphone that will do the job for you. Or you buy the affordable and yet precise and user-friendly Sekonic Twinmate L-208.

And what about the much-hyped M6s? Well, I am afraid they have become too expensive now. Prices have roughly doubled in the last three years or so. You might have to fork out €3000 for an M6 in excellent shape and you still have a camera that is 20 years old (M6 TTL) at its best or even up to 38 years (M6 “classic”). If not now, it will need a thorough CLA (clean, lubricate, adjust) job for a couple of hundred euros; in the end, you are financially not too far away from a factory-new film Leica MP. The eventual CLA cost also applies to an M4-2, of course, but your camera investment is much lower (if you are lucky, it will not exceed € 1000 by too much).

Of course, there are other options. If you do not want to go shorter than 50 millimetres lens-wise, an M3 is great. A well-kept M2, with the additional 35mm frame line, is always a stunner. The M7 is a wonderful camera but certainly not an entry-level offering. And there are all the other interesting rangefinder cameras I presented to you in The M Files, from the Zeiss Ikon and the Voigtländer Bessas  to the Konica Hexar RF and the Minolta CLE. They all can be a great ticket into the rangefinder world, but with respect to service/repair facilities and other support, I would recommend going for a Leica M to start with.

So, the body question is solved — we have settled for some kind of Leica M4 perhaps. If you really want to go digital, read on to learn what I suggest in chapter three below.

2. The lens: Talk yourself into frugality

I understand if you are fed up with all the “Das Wesentliche” (“the essential”) Leica marketing parlance. But you will notice that less is more in the rangefinder world. If you’re a newcomer, confine yourself to just one lens in the beginning. I would even go so far to say that you should use this one lens for a full year and eventually buy a second one only after such considerable training. You will truly appreciate that it is easier to travel light. Especially if you are coming from a fully-featured SLR outfit, you will ask yourself if you can really get along with just one focal length. A bit of auto-suggestion (“Das Wesentliche”…ummm… “Das Wesentliche”…ummm… “Das Wesentliche”…) might be helpful.

It is a good idea to start your rangefinder experience with just a 50 (left, Zeiss Planar 50/2) or just a 35 (right, Voigtländer Ultron 35/2) millimetre lens.  And yes, this makes a difference. 

If you want to start real rangefinder photography (as opposed to buying a hipster’s lifestyle accessory), you almost certainly have a photographic background. You know if you are more the 50 m, or more the 35 mm kind of shooter. There are many Leica lenses in both focal lengths, but even older second-hand Summicrons have become very expensive. Used Summarits (they are very recommendable) fetch prices by now that are similar to what these lenses had once cost new.

As to 35s, my recommendation for the analogue start is the Voigtländer Skopar 35/2.5 which is not terribly fast but very small and light-weight, easy to use and, best of all, available new for around €450 (learn more about this lens here). If you want to go digital right away or later, the Voigtländer Ultron 35/2 has an excellent reputation, despite being quite a bit more expensive at about €700 new. Sean Reid put it through its paces and comes to a very favourable assessment (subscription required, highly recommended). You can choose either version I or version II, the main difference is the nice focusing tab on the newer edition. Other interesting options are the Zeiss Biogon 35/2.8 (a somewhat controversial lens, read here what you have to know if you want to use it on a digital camera) or the rather inexpensive Voigtländer Nokton 35/1.4 (get the details here).

In the 50s field, my clear advice is to buy the Zeiss Planar 50/2. Read here why it is a truly excellent lens in both digital and film use, offers plenty of sharpness, contrast, flare resistance and very good build quality. It might well be the only fifty you ever need if you get along with the somewhat harsh bokeh. For just over €600, the Planar is one of the most affordable new rangefinder 50s at the time of writing. Other and even faster options are the Voigtländer 50/1.5 lenses of which I have tested none so far. Voigtländer’s Apo-Lanthar 50/2 is excellent for sure but, at €1100 it is not an entry lens in my eyes. 

As I wrote, even older and, very often, very old Leica lenses tend to be more expensive than a new Zeiss or Voigtländer lens. If you insist on owning one, go for the current Summicron 50 (version 5 or the optically identical version 4) or a Summarit 35. Both are great lenses but any of them will set you back by a four-digit sum. 

As to the more exotic Konica M-Hexanon lenses (there is a 50 and a 35), my advice is to think twice. That’s more for the experienced buyer. A Minolta 40/2 — you can find good copies at affordable prices — seems to be a nice compromise, but if you are not used to guesstimating your framing you will struggle. So, nothing for the newcomer again.

And what about one of the Chinese rangefinder lenses that are offered at quite low prices from brands with the word artisan in it? I have no experience with them, and I am a bit reluctant to change that at the moment. Working in a creative business myself, I do have some reservations in respect to their handling of intellectual property. 

By now, we have a body and a lens, the light metering will be done with your smartphone. Now get yourself some films and set off.

3. The digital way: Make others pay the depreciation

Oh, you rather wanted a digital rangefinder camera? That’s fine, but you will have to spend much more money. The good news (in this case) is that digital cameras do suffer from significant depreciation, although Leica products do retain their value better than most.

So go for an older second-hand body and be happy that someone else has already paid the initial 1,000 or 2,000 euros of value loss. Even if it is a bit more expensive, I would recommend buying a used digital M from a reputed professional seller if you are not really experienced. You should get a limited warranty and ongoing support and advice.

With the new M11 slowly percolating into the market, we can expect used M10s to be offered in greater quantities. But they will not be cheap. Neither are other rangefinder bodies. Sensible choices are the different variations of the Leica M (Typ 240, 262, M-E second edition). These are still very capable cameras albeit not with the super attractive form factor of the M10 (in fact, they are a bit thicker). 

My suggestion is the M Typ 262 if you don’t need to use an additional electronic viewfinder (read here when this makes sense and when not). The M 262 is a really nice and easy to handle camera (Mike Evans wrote a great article about the M262) — and, appropriate to this article’s subject — it’s probably the most affordable and least risky way to get a full-frame digital rangefinder camera.

The M9 has its fanbase and rightly so. But please be aware that used copies are quite expensive if they are proven to have a replaced sensor. If they don’t (or if the seller can’t prove the replacement) be careful. You can find some details concerning the sensor issues of the M9 in this article. 

The even older M8 is offered at low prices sometimes but it has no full-frame sensor and poor low light performance. Add to it the problems with black textiles rendered in purple tones, and you might agree that it is not really recommendable for a rangefinder entry in 2022. But perhaps the biggest reason to avoid the M8 is that replacement rear screens are no longer available. The screen is prone to staining and there is no solution if yours goes wrong.

Should the decision for a digital M affect your choice of a lens? And how important is it to have a lens with 6-bit-coding for a digital M? I would say that it is not necessary. It’s nice to have your lens info in your Exif files but there are workarounds. Furthermore, a 50 will hardly need in-camera correction of colour drift or vignetting so never mind.  With a 35 or a 28, things can be different. The Zeiss 35/2.8 for instance is tricky, especially on older digital M models. In critical situations, the low-cost Voigtländer 35/2.5 hits its limits on a modern sensor. A suitable 6-bit-code can generally be applied to non-Leica-lenses with some DIY work. I would not go this way, but I wanted to mention the option.

4. The kit: Take the long-term view

If you are new to the rangefinder world, you will know about the legacy of this way to take photographs, but you are, at the same time, likely to have come from a system where fast innovation cycles (or what is sold as such) are the norm. Many camera manufacturers replace their latest model after a year or even less. Also in this respect, rangefinder photography slows you down. There will be no “the latest and the greatest” new gadget every few months. Once you have done your investment, you will be settled for quite some time.

Thinking in the long term is also a good principle when it comes to extending your kit. Above, I recommended starting with one lens. After a year or so, you will know what you need next: Either a longer lens for portraits and details in nature. Or a shorter lens for reportage style, architecture or landscapes. Maybe a faster lens if you master the art of playing with super-shallow depth of field and/or if you really, really need the extra stop in very low light conditions. If you spare a few thoughts on what you really need, you will make an informed investment.

There are many articles online about “how to build a lens family for your Leica”. Only you know what makes sense for you. One suggestion from me: Do continue to think outside the red dot box. A brand-new Leica lens is something wonderful for sure, and I would never blame anyone for taking pride in possessing and affording a Summilux or one of those excellent newer Apo-Summicrons. But remember that there are many other fish in the sea. Just as an example, if you go for a 21-35-90 kit (a great set up by the way), you will get the Voigtländer Color Skopar 21/3.5 (much praised by Sean Reid) and the new Apo Skopar 90/2.8 together for less than almost any modern second-hand Leica lens would cost. Another very affordable yet capable kit is suggested in the photo above.

Again, take your time. Rangefinder photography is not about running around with a huge bag full of lenses. It’s a game of limited options and a challenge to see the subjects you can take with the equipment you have. The reward is a unique experience and — if you worked with passion and precision — great image quality. You don’t achieve all this overnight.

Finally, a few words about buying a new Leica. If you are already sure that you will use your camera for many years, it is worth thinking about buying a new one. You will have a warranty and the peace of mind of not having unexpected repair costs as long as no accident happens to your camera. I mentioned in the context of the M6 prices that it might be an idea to go for a new MP instead. A new M11 can be a sensible choice, too. If you use it for, say, ten years (and this is realistic), the annual cost is no longer so daunting.

5. The purchase: Be prudent and patient

Back to your entry kit. My final bit of advice is not to hurry your purchase. You will most likely buy second-hand. I have been observing the market for many years now and I can assure you that it will be worth the wait. Every now and then an item turns up that is in good condition and has a sensible price. This is especially true for Leica M bodies. Just keep an eye on a few trustworthy web pages, ask your dealer to inform you if he gets in something suitable, speak to fellow photographers. Maybe one of them has long thought of parting with (one of) his rangefinder camera(s) and is happy to sell it to someone who seriously wants to use it. 

And, please, don’t fall for what seems to be a bargain. You take a high risk if you make a once-in-a-lifetime purchase from some obscure source. I advise buying from professional dealers. Some use eBay as their outlet, well, why not? Still better, in my eyes, is to buy in a store such as my favourite Leica Store Konstanz where you can take the camera in your hands, check its mechanics, carefully look at the shutter curtains and (if present) battery contacts. It might cost you a bit more but can probably save you from throwing away a lot of money.

One last word about the alleged widows who claim to have found such a strange old camera of their deceased husband, still in the maker’s box, and are now giving it away cheaply. Maybe this really exists. But I never came across it. Relatives of people who have owned a Leica know its value — or they at least know enough people who do. More often, they even expect a higher selling price than is realistic and be it only for sentimental reasons. In other words, even if you have fallen in love with the idea of owning a rangefinder camera (welcome to the club), do use your common sense.

Conclusion: The gates to heaven may be a bit hard to reach, but they are not locked

We have seen that it is not impossible to become a Leica M photographer (actually, it is more difficult to be a decent rangefinder photographer) if you confine yourself to a small kit. In fact, it might cost you less than another professional camera and it is likely to last much longer.

Furthermore, we have seen that the risk is manageable. Chances are that you can sell a film-loading rangefinder camera and lenses one day without a financial loss (the emotional loss might be considerable though). It is more probable however that you will feel very much at home in the new world and that you want to extend your possibilities. All lessons you have learnt so far will help you with your next steps.

So go ahead, get a rangefinder camera if it really matters to you and by all means use it. Every day, if you can. That’s what cameras are made for. Even, believe it or not, Leicas. They are even more lovely to use than to look at. I can testify.

What do you think? Which rangefinder camera would you recommend to a newcomer to the rangefinder world? Do you have a personal recommendation for a first lens and why? Any secret tips concerning value for money? Any stealthy sources for affordable M6s? Any warnings for mistakes newcomers should not make? And – did you ever make a newcomer really happy by selling him or her a rangefinder camera and do you know if they stuck with it? Or have you experienced a disappointment in this regard?


48 COMMENTS

  1. A well thought out balanced useful article for entering the joy of m photography.

    As a matter of interest for people that are on medication and think that the Leica S family is on their dream list, Leica has reintroduced their trade “up” program in the US for an S3. Chuckle, they must be in demand…

    • Well, Brian, the S system seems to be a niche-within-a-niche-within-a-niche product. But I know several photographers who are using in their studios and who swear by it. But figures are much lower than for the SL or M system for sure. As to L mount – I wrote a somewhat similar piece about entering this system with a manageable investment: https://www.macfilos.com/2021/09/17/entering-the-l-mount-world-without-breaking-the-bank-or-your-back/. Anyway, thanks for your feedback! JP

      • Hi Joerg-Peter, you clearly travel in more rarified circles but I still think the S system is a white elephant. I see S cameras at extreme discounts.. If I ever see one, I will be knocked over by a feather. Fujifilm owns the medium format market for good product management reasons. I used to own a Hasselblad X system, and they are far more relevant and reliable than Leica, but I drank my coffee and moved on to an SL2 system as it had a wider shooting envelope to go with my m system. However, your experience may be different – but I have read of so many photographers ditching the S system due to reliability issues, and non-existent product rollout. They loved the image rendering but some real life practical issues took over. No wonder Fujifilm is flushing the medium format competition. Most camera stores have Leica and Hasselblad now as special order whereas Fujifilm is struggling to deliver the high demand for their product. I would not recommend an S camera to my worst enemy.

      • I recently checked how much I would get from KEH for an S2-P… $500… for a camera that originally costed $29,000 IIRC… I bought it used for much less so I am not too worried about the depreciation but still… I do like the fact it allows me to still shoot Contax 645 lenses with auto focus, that is brilliant in my book, but I switched from Hasselblad to Leica back to Hasselblad, don’t believe I will ever be going back to Leica… About Hasselblad, it is not special special order in the US, B&H has the bodies and all of the lenses always in stock. I believe the same applies to Adorama.

        • Hi Slowdriver, I was aware that B&H carried Leica S stuff and Hasselblad in stock but they are a massive on-line retailer that has the revenue to stock things that rarely sell. I am aware of one major camera retailer in Canada that still stocks Hasselblad. I am unaware of any Canadian retailer that stocks Leica S stuff unless it is ancient inventory that they have been unable to sell.
          My Canadian Leica dealer will not take an order on Leica S stuff unless the order is fully paid for and they have sold nothing in a long time. They used to stock Hasselblad and Leica S but the sales flow is non existent. I know two major Canadian dealers that totally stopped being a Hasselblad dealer. However, all the dealers are steadily selling Fujifilm and have a lot of inventory. So my point, was not to do new investment in systems that are clearly looking to go the way of the dinosaurs. But that is merely my opinion but I certainly do not see the S system doing anything to keep the lights on at Leica. Who knows about Hasselblad. I loved the camera but the system has had virtually no fresh announcements in a long time much less actual new product.

          • Perhaps Mike should be convinced to (find someone to) write an article on the S system as it provides so much inspiration for discussion?

          • Always willing to explore new fields and I have often wondered about the S. In common with many readers, I have never seen an S in the wild. I assume that most of them are permanent fixtures in studios. You certainly don’t see them on the streets. I don’t know anyone who uses S, but I would welcome any contributions as usual.

          • Probably it is worth while to ask the one or the other dealer why many of them seem to have thrown out Hasselblad products. Poor support of dealers, unambitious marketing and very narrow margins are, together with availability problems, frequent causes for such a decline. This is NO specific statement about Hasselblad but a common problem in photo retail and an explanation for many changes in this field.

  2. A truly excellent article Jörg-Peter. Here in France there’s seems to be a fashion for analog cameras among young photographers, which makes the prices of analog cameras and not only Leica ones soar up. A teacher friend tells me the local darkroom of the local art school is always busy and he’s got a lot of work to teach them how to process.
    Jean

    • Thanks, Jean, we see the same kind of renaisscance in Germany, too. Now that the Nikon FM2s and the like bcome rare, prices are going up for cameras that were less in demand previously such as the Pentax, Olympus and Minolta models. And I know that chemistry and paper for the darkroom are much sought after now. I am quite happy with this because there will only be supply as long as there is demand, and film photography is a part of media culture that has deserved to survive. The same way as there are still paintings being made after almost 200 years fot photography. JP

  3. When I bought my M9 in 2013 I used the website if Ken Rockwell a lot, It listed all the Leica, Zeiss and Voigtlander lenses and kind of ranked them. The website is still there but it has not been updated in forever. I miss a newer website like this as there are a lot more lens options nowadays. Zeiss is still there, Voigtlander significantly upped their game often producing lenses that are as good as Leica for a fraction of the cost and then there is 7Artisans, TTArtisan, MS-Optics, etc. I would agree with JP though that these are probably not recommended for first time Leica users.

    • Thanks, SlowDriver. I think we could discuss Ken Rockwell’s activities here extensively. All I want to say at this point is: My own work with The M Files shows me much much work it is to create such a knowledge database. I would love to start such an encyclopedic project but I can not possible take the effort. So I decided to go for the more episodic approach with a series of articles. Some more are to come with a few more, covering Voigtländer and other lenses and maybe I will take on some of the artisans products, too. For first time rangefinder users, I would maintain that a Zeiss or Voigtländer lens is a good and safe choice. JP

      • Yes, it is a massive undertaking which is which nobody takes it on and people like Ken Rockwell abandoned any previous attempts. Thanks for the articles!

  4. I sold my Hasselblad Xpan and now it’s sold for a good bunch of quids. I don’t regret, it was a dinosaur. JP, why do you think people aim to take pictures like in the past; lack of creativity? Thanks

    • No the opposite, because of creativity. Young people can take all the digital photos they want with their smartphones and they consider digital cameras as being for ‘old folks’ which is pretty much true. They like the tactile nature of film photography and, of course, the magic of the darkroom. Many of those young people had no past with film photography, so for them it is ‘new and exciting’.

      Nice article as usual, Joerg Peter. I have most of the film Ms, M3, M2, M4, M5 , M4-2, M4-P, M6, and M7. I have multiple examples of most of the LTMs and I also have a copy of most digital Ms. With the film Ms my favourites are the M3 and the M6. It is not really possible to source a cheap M6 these days unless you are very lucky. A dear friend of mine, who is a genius at black and white film photography and has at least 35 years of experience, including as a professional, is just coming up to her 60th birthday. She wants to get a Leica for her big birthday and I have recommended that she should get an M6. Finding one that is affordable will be difficult. I only have one M6 myself. If I had two, I would give her one of them. Mike will know who I am talking about as without her the most viewed article on Macfilos would never have happened. I’m sure that I will find an M6 for her, but it will take some effort.

      William

      • Then something’s wrong. Lomography made some believe in embassies. Leica copies tha concept.. You make same stuff from a expensive Leica 7 either from a desperately cheap regular film crap camera. Where’s the point. Just stop making no sense. Ragefinder is not future but past.

        • I’m not sure what you mean by ‘no sense’. Have you talked to any young photographers shooting film? Have you asked them what attracts them to using film cameras? When you have done that you can come back on here and talk about ‘sense’.

          William

          • Yes I see what you mean. They just need a skate and a fashionable Leica M3. And they dismiss experience. About sense, I don’t need your opinion about mine.
            M system is obsolete. Perhaps some have not enough sense to realize that.

          • Using poor arguments to disqualify, seems your game. “You can come here”? I’m here, man. No need those words. You should respect others’ opinions

          • I always respect the opinions of others. George, you were the one who introduced the concept of ‘sense’ when you commented on my comment and asked me to ‘stop making no sense’. As for your impression of young people with an M3 and a skateboard, that is very far way from the young film photographers that I know. As for experience, they are very keen to get that and many of them flock to places where they can get training and experience. My suggestion that you should introduce yourself to some of them, as I have, still stands.

            William

          • Sense was not addressed to you, William. But to the idea that good photography just come from vintage cameras. To the notion that digital is crap and authenticity is just got from a film camera or from shooting “like in the old times”. It’s crazy how prices of some film cameras like Leicas or the Hasselblad I owned increased. Young people are the ones looking for those cameras, while a good eye is never inside a roll film or an old camera.
            Thanks. I would like to be more in contact with young people to share my experience

    • Hi George, perhaps it has something to do with the user experience and with the satisfaction and personal pride of having made your own choices rather than having some computer make them for you,nobody is being forced to use a rangefinder, nobody is being forced to use film, but it is good that we still have the freedom to do so.

      • Completely agree slodriver. Just I don’t believe in heaven’s any longer. I’ve seen people spending thousands in M digitals one after another. I abandoned at the beginning at a dusty M8 sensor. I enjoy a CL like you. And listen every M10 or 11 owner for the need of a Visoflex, does it make sense? I make film pinhole cameras and experience them. And now I have to listen young expertises to explain me the whole. No Jesus no, please

        • No disagreement on the CL. Although I enjoy the M10-P (100% without Visoflex) the CL is smaller, lighter, more versatile, a fraction of the cost and the difference in image quality is almost non-existing. Unfortunately for us though Leica does not seem to be listening…

    • Hi George Appletree, surprising question.

      Answering it, I fully agree with William. The new interest in analogue is no sign for any lack of creativity in my opinion. It is triggered by the wish to explore a “new” technique and to bond with “basic” photography.

      And if you care to speak to young people you will quickly learn that they know or feel that you can take more pride in mastering a complex process than to use a device that automatically runs the right algorithms. Film photography is percieved as reassuring and precious, maybe you read my recent Macfilos article about it: https://www.macfilos.com/2021/12/24/oops-i-did-it-again-but-is-it-really-a-good-idea-to-develop-your-films-at-home/.

      If you decided to go the other way, that’s fine. Rangefinder cameras are – and that’s just a fact – in high demand, and all experts are telling the that the cameras are being actually used. Maybe this is less a question of opinion and more a question of market data and consumer preferences. And even if it were true that the allegedly hip youngsters only need an M3 to be fashionable I wouldn’t care. The same way as I do not care about their sneakers, bikes or skateboards.

      And as I said above, I am – personally and very subjectively! – quite happy that there is still a supply of films, rangefinder cameras, lab material and so on.

      And if you have a little pain after parting with your Hasselblad: all the best, it will be alright.

      JP

      • Jorg Peter, thanks for the reply. Sorry you are not at my side this time.
        Just let’s demystify the stuff:
        “I bought my first camera when I was 14” etc. That prays some of the social media young film photographers.
        Ok, I got mine when I was eight, I made of it a pinhole camera and still use it. And I’m 63. I got my first M rangefinder camera more than twenty years ago.
        What’s the point so.
        Complex process? I started doing gum dichromate prints and cyanotype in 1990.

        • That’s alright, George. We are in a conversation of enthusiasts and not at war. I can understand your reservations about so called influencers (do they really have an influence?), but we shouldn’t generalise.

          • Thanks. I understand
            If you say

            if you care to speak to young people you will quickly learn that they know or feel that you can take more pride in mastering a complex process than to use a device that automatically runs the right algorithms

            I might wonder, is photography about pride?, but also remind you that perhaps what they need learning is about seeing. Never mind how complex or simple the process could be. Digital photography is just a fact, regardless algorithms.

            I use rangefinder cameras, as said, since decades ago. But aren’t M lenses just a bit out of nowadays photography range?

  5. “What’s past is prologue”
    I think it’s exciting to see and talk to younger people who are using film cameras. They have discovered the joy of having to have multiple inputs into the process from manual exposure settings and focus to developing and printing. It’s a new/born again artisanal experience vs the equivalent of the microwaveable dinner.

    The same has been happening in music with the resurgence of vinyl. People are experiencing the joy of hearing music cut direct from the master and what makes that sound breathtaking vs artificial flavoring-like MPEGS.

    If people want to discover the joys of analogue and why it can be better than digital then I’m all for it.

    • Chef,

      “..People are experiencing the joy of hearing music cut direct from the master and what makes that sound breathtaking vs artificial flavoring-like MPEGS..” ..er, what?

      For the umpteen years of vinyl, music – via microphones fed into a mixer, with assorted ‘equalisation’ (treble, mid and bass boost, or reduction), compression and limiting, was then fed to tape (with its own bass compression and hi-frequency diminution), which was then fed to a cutter, the results of which were metabolised and copied onto a ‘stamper’, which then, finally, stamped out a vinyl disc.

      It was a long and winding road. Now mics feed a mixer – as before – and then to hard disc storage, and further editing and tweaking, and thence to digital files. There is less intermediate copying or boost and reduction to make up for the recording capabilities and foibles of tape before transfer to domestic digital media.

      So “..music cut direct from the master..” ..I don’t think so. It was a convoluted process to produce vinyl – and still is – whereas the process to digital playback is much simpler, and can be truer to the original. Nostalgia is not necessarily the same thing as ‘accuracy’.

    • Hi Laurent, I know of the Pixii and I am curious if I can ever try this one. For this article, I focused on full frame and fully equipped, standalone cameras, i. e. with rear screen. But this is no statement that the Pixii might not be an excellent camera. With a Voigtländer Ultron 35/2 it could be a marriage made in heaven by all accounts. If you have expertise in the Pixii, please feel to share it here! JP

      • I am very happy with my Pixii. The DNG files are really great !
        I mount on it : CV 15 4.5 / biogon 21 / elmar 24 3.8 / Apoqualia 28 / CV apo lanthar 2.0 35 / CV Nokton 1.2 50 / CV Heliar 75 2.5.
        My favorites: CV 15 / elmar 24 ( gorgeous combo !) & the clinic APO 2.0 35.
        I can write a “3 months every day with Pixii” review lf u want ;-)… and translate it with a real English writer

  6. I would say don’t be afraid of a meter less Leica. Still some bargains out there. If Needed a good CLA by a competent repairman will bring you up to speed. M2, M3, M4 come to mind. For me the Voigt 35/2 and Voight 90/2.8 is a great starter lens kit. Happy shooting.

    • Very true, Wainright, and a good point. With a little bit of practice you can guess your exposure in most cases (and use your smartphone app otherwise). If you are not shooting tricky slide film, you will get good results. – The two lenses you recommend are an excellent entry for sure! I would, however, start with a one lens setup, but leaving this aside, 35 and 90 make a great kit for a rangefinder camera, probably with the later addition of a 21. JP

  7. not sure why you have not tried the affordable, excellent lenses from TTArtisan and 7/Artisans. They offer innovative, original designs in many cases and the traditional sonnar design in others has long since passed into the public domain.

    • Hi Mark,
      I have not written about the TTArtisan / 7artisans lenses yet for a number of reasons. I have no bias against their optical performance; but in many cases their tech specs, exterior and functional designs seem like bold copies of Leica designs up to the typography. This is something that I have not seen from Zeiss, Voigtländer, Konica… to this extent.
      But, sure, the price point alone makes theses lenses interesting, and I might cover some of them in a later episode of The M Files. In this case, they would be handled with the same attitude and impartiality all other products I reviewed in this context.
      JP

  8. A wonderful article Jörg-Peter, my eyes often wander over the M camera’s, and I have enjoyed my experience of them – but I cannot bring myself to inflict the cost on my credit card. However I would follow the advice above should I ever get excited enough to go and buy one.

    • Thanks, Dave, for your kind feedback. Yes, there is a life without rangefinders. They are tools after all. Maybe you will use one again at a certain point, maybe you won’t. But you will shoot great pictures for sure! JP

      • I certainly hope I keep producing unique looking images that interest people, regardless of the camera I pick up. After all it is in my eyes more about the person behind the gear that produces the best results. D

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