Find your perfect Leica or M-mount film camera with the help of this interactive tool & reference data

Choosing the right camera can be complicated and the Leica M film camera system — along with extended M-mount camera options from other manufacturers — provides layer upon layer of occasionally muddy and confusing options options.

Through this article and the tools/data provided below, I hope to clarify some of those options and help you make an informed choice if you’re currently in the market for a new or new-to-you M-mount film camera…or if you’re just here to find a new M camera.

As with my other ongoing review/documentation projects, you can expect this one to be updated regularly. Below you’ll find an interactive Leica M-mount film camera selection tool — which also covers cameras from Voigtlander, Minolta, Zeiss and Rollei — alongside data and other snippets of information I hope you’ll find useful.

Speaking of which, here’s one I couldn’t find a place for: the M in Leica M stands for “Messsucher” (rangefinder in German). Why was the Leica M3 not called the M1 if it was the first Leica M camera? Because the 3 in its name stands for the three viewfinder frameline options: 50mm, 90mm and 135mm. Literally then, M3 = “rangefinder 3 framelines”.

Much of what you see here was gathered and collated as I set about finding my perfect Leica film camera and has been updated and added to over the years. It’s not exhaustive (yet) but I’ll get there. My plan is to start with the most immediately useful tools/data first and expand from there. The interactive Leica/M-mount film camera selector I’ve created below is a good example of that.

Here’s what I cover:


Interactive Leica film camera selector

This interactive tool will hopefully allow you to find the perfect Leica M — or an M-mount film camera from another manufacturer — for your specific needs. At the very least, I hope it points you in the right direction based. It starts from the same point I did — asking if you need a light meter — and goes from there.


I’ll be continuing to update this tool and over the next few months, hope to add alternate starting points including frameline selection, max shutter speed, construction (purely mechanical vs varying degrees of electronics), etc.

As ever, I value your input, so if there’s something you think might be a useful addition — or if I’ve made a mistake — please get in touch using my contact page.

Leica / M-mount film camera selector

Click/tap to begin. Reset the form at any time by hitting the Clear button.


Please note: The tool intentionally skips over special editions which offered mostly cosmetic changes. It would be a quick path to madness to try and include them all. The Leica M6 alone has 32 special editions and counting.

Leica M viewfinder breakdown

Leica M viewfinders combine three main components:

  • Viewfinder magnification (expressed as a decimal of 1, where 1 represents what the unaided human eye sees).
  • Viewfinder framelines (and rangefinder focusing patch).
  • The rangefinder’s effective base length.

A stronger/higher magnification will give you a field of view close or identical to the human eye. Lower magnification finders act like a wide lens and get more in. The illustration should help demonstrate the differences in real life.

I’ve drawn up the same scene as it would appear through each of the Leica M6 TTL’s three viewfinder options: 0.58x (wide), 0.72x (normal), 0.85x (long). These three options are also available on the Leica M7 and MP (0.58x and 0.85x being à la carte custom configuration options).

Leica M6 TTL Frameline comparison

In addition to the viewfinder magnification, you’ll notice the difference in framelines being displayed above. Thankfully, Leica standardised most of its frameline combinations with the 1981 M4-2. Older cameras have a variety of framelines and variations.

Let’s look at those first.

Leica M viewfinder framelines

The framelines present in your Leica’s viewfinder are an important consideration, as they may mean the difference between being able to accurately frame a photograph and taking a guess. Within the frameline options, there’s also another consideration of “clutter”.

The M2 and M3 are seen as the gold standard for uncluttered finders, with each camera providing three simple frameline settings of 35/50/90mm and 50/90/135 respectively.

Leica M3 vs M2 framelines

As you can see, both cameras have clean viewfinders at their respective widest framelines (far left) but the M2 wins if you’re looking for ultimate simplicity across the board.

As I mentioned above, over the years, Leica M film cameras have become a bit of a hotch-potch of paired framelines and magnifications. The basic magnification standard was set with 1981’s M4-2: 0.72x magnification and three pairs of six framelines at 28+90mm, 50+75mm and 35+135mm

When it comes down to it, you won’t know how much different framelines and pairings will bother you — if at all — until you get a chance to use one. Still, because this information is useful, here’s a quick reference guide.

Camera nameViewfinder frameline options
Leica M135mm (single)
50mm (single)
Leica M235mm (single)
50mm (single)
90mm (single)

* upgrade to M4-P finder possible
Leica M2R35mm (single)
50mm (single)
90mm (single)

* upgrade to M4-P finder possible
Leica M350mm (single)
50mm + 90mm (paired)
50mm + 135mm (paired)
Leica MP ('58/59)50mm (single)
50mm + 90mm (paired)
50mm + 135mm (paired)
Leica MP SP ('58/59)35mm (single)
50mm (single)
90mm (single)
Leica M435mm + 135mm (paired)
50mm (single)
90mm (single)
Leica M4-235mm + 135mm (paired)
50mm (single)
90mm (single)
Leica M4-P28mm + 90mm (paired)
35mm + 135mm (paired)
50mm + 75mm (paired)
Leica M535mm + 135mm (paired)
50mm (single)
90mm (single)
Leica M6 0.72 (Classic)28mm + 90mm (paired)
35mm + 135mm (paired)
50mm + 75mm (paired)
Leica M6 0.85 (Classic)35mm + 135mm (paired)
50mm + 75mm (paired)
90mm (single)
Leica M6 TTL 0.58 28mm + 90mm (paired)
35mm (single)
50mm + 75mm (paired)
Leica M6 TTL 0.7228mm + 90mm (paired)
35mm + 135mm (paired)
50mm + 75mm (paired)
Leica M6 TTL 0.8535mm + 135mm (paired)
50mm + 75mm (paired)
90mm (single)
Leica M7 0.5828mm + 90mm (paired)
35mm (single)
50mm + 75mm (paired)
Leica M7 0.7228mm + 90mm (paired)
35mm + 135mm (paired)
50mm + 75mm (paired)
Leica M7 0.8535mm + 135mm (paired)
50mm + 75mm (paired)
90mm (single)
Leica MP 0.5828mm + 90mm (paired)
35mm (single)
50mm + 75mm (paired)
Leica MP 0.7228mm + 90mm (paired)
35mm + 135mm (paired)
50mm + 75mm (paired)
Leica MP 0.8535mm + 135mm (paired)
50mm + 75mm (paired)
90mm (single)
Leica M-A (Typ 127)28mm + 90mm (paired)
35mm + 135mm (paired)
50mm + 75mm (paired)

Note: The M2, M4, M4-2 and M5 finders can all be upgraded to the new standard 3-pair, 6-frameline finder of the M4-P directly by Leica or your friendly neighbourhood Leica repair tech.

Viewfinder magnifications and effective base lengths

Viewfinder magnification and rangefinder base lengths are important from the perspective of how you see the world through your Leica and how accurately you can focus longer lenses to those with very large max apertures. A viewfinder with a high magnification that is combined with a longer rangefinder base length makes for more accurate focusing.

To once again refer to Hamish Gill’s excellent article on the subject.

“Rangefinder base length is the space between the camera’s rangefinder window and the viewfinder. It is the difference between two corners of a triangle, the third corner being the subject the camera is focusing on. The longer the base length, the longer the space between two corners of the triangle, the more accurate the rangefinder is.”

In the table below I have presented viewfinder magnification, rangefinder base length and importantly, effective rangefinder base length for every main model of Leica M film camera ever made from the 1954 M3 to the present day.

The higher the viewfinder magnification, the easier it is to also use “two eye focusing”: keep both eyes open, with your right eye looking through the viewfinder. Next, frame and focus. It doesn’t work 100% for everyone, feels wonderfully intuitive on the M3 and is very much possible to perform with the higher magnification models you see below.

Camera nameViewfinder magnificationRangefinder base length (RB)Effective base length (EBL)VS Leica M3
Leica M20.72x68.5mm49.32mm79%
Leica M2R0.72x68.5mm49.32mm79%
Leica M30.91x68.5mm
62.33mm100%
Leica MP (1958/59)0.91x68.5mm
62.33mm100%
Leica MP SP (1958/59)0.72x68.5mm
49.32mm79%
Leica M40.72x68.5mm
49.32mm79%
Leica M4-20.72x68.5mm
49.32mm79%
Leica M4-P0.72x68.5mm
49.32mm79%
Leica M50.72x68.5mm49.32mm79%
Leica M6 Classic 0.720.72x69.25mm49.86mm79%
Leica M6 Classic 0.850.85x69.25mm58.86mm94%
Leica M6 TTL 0.58 0.58x69.25mm40.17mm64%
Leica M6 TTL 0.720.72x69.25mm49.86mm79%
Leica M6 TTL 0.850.85x69.25mm58.86mm94%
Leica M7 0.580.58x69.25mm40.17mm64%
Leica M7 0.720.72x69.25mm49.86mm79%
Leica M7 0.850.85x69.25mm58.86mm94%
Leica MP 0.580.58x69.25mm40.17mm64%
Leica MP 0.720.72x69.25mm49.86mm79%
Leica MP 0.850.85x69.25mm58.86mm94%
Leica M-A (Typ 127)0.72x69.25mm49.86mm79%

Please note: No distinction has been made where viewfinder, rangefinder base length and effective base lengths have not changed in transitionary models. For example, early Double Stroke vs Single Stroke Leica M3s or the Pre/post-2003 Leica M7 and Leica MP. Additionally, the Leica M1, Leica MD, MDa and MD-2 have intentionally been excluded on account of their having no rangefinder mechanisms. A question for you, should the Leitz/Minolta CL be here or not? Your answers in the comments below, please.

Leica M build materials

Most Leicas are made of brass top to bottom. Some are not. As with framelines and finders, this bothers some people and not others (do you see a pattern here).

Camera nameMaterials used (external)Finishes
Leica MDBrass top plate
Brass base plate
Silver chrome
Gray hammertone (10 copies)
Leica MDaBrass top plate
Brass base plate
Silver chrome
Black paint
Leica MD-2Zinc top plate
Brass base plate
Black paint
Leica M1Brass top plate
Brass base plate
Silver chrome
Olive green (208 copies)
Leica M2Brass top plate
Brass base plate
Silver chrome
Black paint
Grey paint (20 copies)
Leica M2RBrass top plate
Brass base plate
Silver chrome
Black paint
Leica M3Brass top plate
Brass base plate
Silver chrome
Black paint
Leica MP (1958/59)Brass top plate
Brass base plate
Silver chrome
Black paint
Leica MP SP (1958/59)Brass top plate
Brass base plate
Silver chrome
Black paint
Leica M4Brass top plate
Brass base plate
Silver chrome
Black chrome
Black paint
Leica M4-2Brass top plate
Brass base plate
Silver chrome
Black chrome
Leica M4-PBrass top plate
Brass base plate
Silver chrome
Black chrome
Leica M5Zinc top plate
Brass base plate
Silver chrome
Black paint
Leica M6 0.72 (Classic)Zinc top plate
Brass base plate
Silver chrome
Black chrome
Leica M6 0.85 (Classic)Zinc top plate
Brass base plate
Silver chrome
Black chrome
Leica M6 TTL 0.58 Zinc top plate
Brass base plate
Silver chrome
Black chrome
Leica M6 TTL 0.72Zinc top plate
Brass base plate
Silver chrome
Black chrome
Leica M6 TTL 0.85Zinc top plate
Brass base plate
Silver chrome
Black chrome
Leica M7 0.58Brass top plate
Brass base plate
Silver chrome
Black chrome
Leica M7 0.72Brass top plate
Brass base plate
Silver chrome
Black chrome
Leica M7 0.85Brass top plate
Brass base plate
Silver chrome
Black chrome
Leica MP 0.58Brass top plate
Brass base plate
Silver chrome
Black paint
Leica MP 0.72Brass top plate
Brass base plate
Silver chrome
Black paint
Leica MP 0.85Brass top plate
Brass base plate
Silver chrome
Black paint
Leica M-A (Typ 127)Brass top plate
Brass base plate
Silver chrome
Black chrome

Leica selection Quick Reference Guide

Some quick fire information to help you quickly build/add to your knowledge on Leica M film cameras. Use it ho help inform your purchasing decisions or simply to make yourself the life and soul of any party*.

Leica M film cameras encapsulated in 20 words or less

Leica M3 Double Stroke:
A true classic, the first “modern” M.

Leica M3 Single Stroke:
The largest 50mm, 90mm and 135mm framelines of any Leica.

Leica MP (1958/59):
A low-volume and today, very expensive M3 with M2 framelines.

Leica MP SP (1958/59):
A low-volume and today, very expensive M2.

Leica M2:
The only way to get single, large 35mm framelines, rather cheap to buy.

Leica M2R:
Rapid film load in classic Leica M body design.

Leica M4:
Rapid film load and rewind, still in a classic form.

Leica M5:
The cheapest Leica M film camera with a built-in meter.

Leica M4-2:
An M4 for cheaper, motor winder capable.

Leica M4-P:
Your 28+90mm, 35+135mm and 50+75mm framelines for the cheapest price. A meterless M6 Classic.

Leica M6 (Classic):
The cheapest classic-style metered M: essentially a metered M4-P.

Leica M6 TTL:
Comfortable shutter speed dial and uncluttered 90mm framelines.

Leica M7:
Aperture priority camera with used Leica à la carte options for classic looks. Becomes a doorstop without a battery.

Leica MP:
Available brand new, available in black paint, used à la carte options: a better built M6.

Leica M-A:
Available brand new, a better built M4-P with MP looks.

Hate chart: Reasons why certain people hate certain Leica models

Leica M3 Double Stroke:
Double stroke is annoying.

Leica M3 Single Stroke:
No 35mm framelines.

Leica MP (1958/59):
A low-volume and today, very expensive M3 with M2 framelines.

Leica MP SP (1958/59):
A low-volume and today, very expensive M2.

Leica M2:
It’s cheaply built (It’s not! It’s just a simpler camera).

Leica M2R:
EXPENSIVE and cheaply built (again, it’s not! It’s just a simpler camera)

Leica M4:
There’s plastic on the outside, non-classic looks.

Leica M5:
Ugly.

Leica M4-2:
Made in Canada with cheaper steel parts, not as smooth.

Leica M4-P:
Made in Canada (again) with even more cost cutting.

Leica M6 (Classic):
Ugh…takes batteries and is still cheaply made.

Leica M6 TTL:
The shutter speed dial turns in the “wrong” direction.

Leica M7:
Does not work without batteries.

Leica MP:
Just a more expensive M6.

Leica M-A:
Just a more expensive M4-P, no a la carte options.

Leica M film camera quick and dirty history

1954-1958 Leica M3 Double Stroke:
Combined rangefinder/viewfinder with three non-overlapping framelines.

1958-1966 Leica M3 Single Stroke:
Single stroke film advance.

Leica MP (1958/59):
A low-volume, very expensive M3 with M2 framelines.

Leica MP (1958/59):
A low-volume and today, very expensive M3 with M2 framelines.

1958-67 Leica M2:
Simpler build, wider viewfinder for 35mm framelines (no more 135mm).

1969-1970 Leica M2R:
Rapid load system: bliss.

1967-1975 Leica M4:
Rapid film loading and rewind, M3 style film counter, 135mm framelines are back.

1971-1975 Leica M5:
Completely different camera, built-in light meter, most people hated it.

1977-1980 Leica M4-2:
An M4 reissue with cheaper components, motor winder compatible.

1980-1986 Leica M4-P:
28+75mm lines added to a cheaply made camera.

1984-1988 Leica M6 (Classic):
Built-in light meter, cheap magnesium alloy top and bottom plates.

1998-2002 Leica M6 TTL:
Logical shutter speed dial rotation direction! TTL flash and wide angle lens viewfinder option.

2002-2018 Leica M7:
Aperture priority auto exposure.

2003-Present Leica MP:
An M6 with better build quality and classic M3 looks.

2003-Present Leica M-A:
A better build quality M4-P

* Actual results are likely to be the opposite.


Finishing up/acknowledgements and thanks

It would be remiss of me to sign off without mentioning the huge input Can Çevik — creator of the Maya darkroom timer — had on this article. As luck would have it, he dropped me a line a week or so before the release of this article with a mind-bending flowchart documenting a decision tree of needs/requirements and the optimal Leica M camera to suit them. I was already working on one myself for this very article and we agreed to mush them together filling gaps each of us had. A huge thanks to Can for the sanity checking and invaluable input on the non-Leica M-mount options available. Thanks also to Hamish, Emily, Jason, Aislinn and Chris for picking me up on a few inaccuracies/typos. It’s really appreciated.

As with all my more technical articles, there will still be things that have been missed or entered incorrectly. I’m only human and as such, I thank you in advance for your diligence and corrections. There are many sources online which provide similar data to that presented here and a fair few of them — even those that have been previously cited as historically accurate sources.

Rangefinder, viewfinder magnification and other data you see here was drawn directly from user manuals and the appropriate manufacturers’ websites. Where data has been provided to two decimal places, it may have been rounded up or down from three.

Thanks for reading and if you’d like to se an addition to this article, please get in touch to let me know!

~ EM

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EM
EMhttps://emulsive.org
I'm EM, founder, overlord and editor-in-chief here at EMULSIVE.org, as well as all-round benevolent gestalt entity. Contrary to popular belief, I am not an AI.

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16 COMMENTS

  1. I like the idea but there are more reasons to want a M4 than wanting a self-timer. The M4-2 was designed with the idea of building on the success of the M4 while lowering the cost of manufacturing. Adding some criteria about the quality of the components and the overall build-quality would be nice.

  2. Owned and used an M2 with several lenses along side Nikon. Loved the Leica. Newspaper photojournalism.
    Sold it to co-worker who proceeded to drop it to the concrete, wrecking the beam-splitter and the 100mm f2 canon. Made me sick.

  3. There are much more significant reasons to hate all the older Leica models:
    – M2, M3: Slooooooow rewind via tiny knob. Your subject will grow old and die while you are putting in a new roll.
    – M2, M3: Removable take-up spool. You will never forget the sound it makes as it slips from your grasp in a dark room and rolls away never to be found again.
    – But wait, you can add the Rapid Load Kit! This works perfectly as long as the film leader is not too long, too short, too stiff, too floppy, or in months with an R in them.
    – M2R: built-in rapid loading with the same inconveniences as above.
    – M5: Rewind crank is on the bottom, WTF?
    – M4-2: Accepts the amazing Leica Winder, which warns you that you have reached the end of the roll by ripping the sprocket holes out of the film.

  4. fantastic : perfect.
    Totally agree.
    Bravo !
    Of course it could have few exceptions, but I think it matchs nealy 95 % of the reality.
    Exceptional work.
    Thank you so much.
    I have tried, and of course, asnwer was Leica M3 😉

  5. Er… isn’t it the shutter speed dial on the M6 that turns in the “wrong” direction?
    M4: plastic on the outside? Non-classic looks? Never heard those before.
    M7 does work without batteries, just in a limited way.

    If these comments are largely inaccurate, why promulgate them?

  6. Excellent article! I love the tables of details. Thank you! The selection tool worked perfectly on my iPhone.

  7. I had trouble with it too, in every browser I tried. I cleared my cache in Chrome and that worked there. Did a force reload in Safari and it worked there afterwards. Maybe see if that does anything.

  8. I wish this article had existed when I was first in the market for an m-mount! A really excellent resource here. Well done, Em. I’ll just say I tried the interactive tool and it wouldn’t work for me, though that’s probably a problem at my end.

    It would be great to see the Zeiss Ikon ZM, Voigtlander Bessa range, Minolta CLE, Leica CL, and Konica Hexar cameras included in the VF magnification, rangefinder base length and frame lines tables. Each has its own unique merits. I chose a Zeiss Ikon ZM for it’s incredible viewfinder. No doubt you have this planned for a future update.

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