Leica M7

This page summarizes my investigations and learnings with the M7. Most will apply to M6 and M6 TTL as well. I will try to note specifically when it doesn’t.

Different view finders

Below the different viewfinders are described.

Viewfinder Magnification (0.58, 0.72, and 0.85)

Leica M7 has a default view finder of 0.72 magnification. It is produced with two other viewfinder magnifications: 0.58 and 0.85. The magnification is printed on the lower right corner of the viewfinder.

leica-m7-viewfinder

I’d like to note that the luxury of having different viewfinder magnifications is unique to the analogue Leica camera’s. The digital camera’s don’t leave the buyer with a choice.

The 0.58 magnification viewfinder is often recommended to people with glasses. It turns out that how well we are able to see the frame lines depends on wether we wear glasses or not and on the design of those glasses, but also on how far back our eyes are physically positioned within our eyeholes.

Personally, I can barely see the 35mm framelines in a 0.72 magnification viewfinder and is often considering the move to 0.58. Different people report that 0.58 makes for harder focusing (especially with longer lenses). In any case, 0.58 is certainly targeted wide angle lenses.

In fact, the relation between 28 and 35mm (28/35) is exactly 0.8, whereas the relation between 0.58 and 0.72mm (0.58/0.72) is very close to the same aspect ratio (0.81). In practice, this means that a 0.58mm viewfinder will show the 35mm framelines in the (almost) exact same way that a 0.72 viewfinder wil show the 50mm framelines.

The 0.85 magnification viewfinder is often praised for being closer to 1, and thereby allowing the viewfinder to better show the world as it is. People will often recommend this magnification if you like shooting with both eyes open. Ken Rockwell is very strongly opinionated towards the 0.85 magnification viewfinder. I bet he doesn’t wear glasses 🙂

0.58X-0.72X-0.85X-framelines

MP Finder

Now, there’s one more dimension to be aware of. Older M7’s ship with an older viewfinder, whereas newer M7’s ship with a more modern “MP” viewfinder. The MP finder has much more contrast and is less prone to flaring. To me, this makes it significantly easier to focus. Apparently, it’s not possible to specify a certain serial number where this was introduced, so if you’re purchasing a used item, it’s best to ask the seller which viewfinder the camera has. I’d say that an experienced Leica shooter can tell the difference more or less right away by looking through the viewfinder and trying to obtain focus.

I have seen M6’s with the MP viewfinder, but I suppose the camera has then been adjusted by Leica.

Finally, it’s possible to purchase 3rd party screw-on magnifiers (I even saw a de-magnifier) as well as contrast enhancers for Leica viewfinders. I don’t know how well any of these work. Personally, I prefer not having any bells and whistles on my camera.

Frameline selector lever

As all mechanical Leica’s, the M7 has a frameline selector. The (obvious) reason is that the mechanical camera’s aren’t able to read the 6 bit coding that was introduced with newer lenses.

The M8 had one, the M9 had one, but the frameline selector lever was removed with the M 240. In my opinion, this was one of few design errors and the frameline selector lever was reintroduced with the M10.

Batteries

The M8 takes TWO 1/3N batteries. I accidently purchased only one when I received my camera.

Battery life and battery drain

In terms of battery life the M6 classic does much better than the M6 TTL, and the M6 TTL does better than the M7.

Leica says (in the product manuals):

  • M6 will last 20 hours or 130 rolls at 15 seconds of metering per exposure
  • M6 TTL will last 8 hours or 80 rolls at 10 seconds of metering per exposure
  • M7 will last [6.5 hours or] 65 rolls at 10 seconds of metering per exposure

The 6.5 hours for the M7 is my calculation.

In any case, several people have reportedly had problems with all three models because of “user errors”. For example, if you don’t swhich off the camera, and the meter is activated accidentally while the camera is in your bag. This can drain the battery. Others report that they became aware that they had a bad shooting habit of depressing the shutter all the time.

But when is the camera actually using battery power?

John Collier investigated this with actual meassures on an M6 TTL using a Flux 88 Multimeter and posted his findings on a mailing list. He concludes that you can leave the camera on or not. As long as you don’t press or depress the shutter, the M6 TTL is not using batteries. I’m sure the same holds for the M7. He very thoroughly investigated the following scenario’s:

Shutter speed dial set to "off", shutter wound or released and pressure on
shutter release or not // 0.00 milli-amperes

Shutter speed dial at any position, meter not activated and shutter wound or
released // 0.00 milli-amperes

Shutter speed dial at any position other than "B" and "off", meter activated
and shutter wound // 15.68 milliamperes

Shutter speed dial at "B" position, meter activated (no display) and shutter
wound // 14.48 milli-amperes

Shutter speed dial at any position but "off", shutter wound, and meter
activated but allowed to time out // 0.00 milli-amperes

Shutter speed dial at any position but "off", shutter released and pressure
on shutter release // 16.48 milli-amperes

Rewinding

By turning the rewind lever you disengage the film advance mechanism. This allows you to rewind the film by using the rewind crank.

When rewinding using the crank, you are not supposed to feel hard resistance. If this is the case, you might have forgotten to turn the rewind lever.

Be careful – otherwise, your film might crack 🙂

cof

Shutter dial and Exposure

The shutter dial on the M7 is equivalent to that on the M6 TTL.

The M6 TTL had the shutter dial redesigned in comparison with the M6 Classic and with earlier Leica rangefinders.

First, the shutter dial changed direction. This caused some frustration to classical Leica shooters. The reason was that the M6 introduced Leica’s first in-camera light meter.

Exposure Meter

The exposure meter displays small arrows to indicate under/over exposure (M7 style):

▶ Underexposure by one f-stop or more

⚫▶ Underexposure by half an f-stop

⚫ Correct exposure

◀⚫ Overexposure by half an f-stop

◀ Overexposure by one f-stop or more

The point of all this is that on the M7, the shutter dial turns the same way that the arrows point. I.e. ▶ means “turn right/clockwise”. This only became an issue with the M6 Classic which didn’t correct the shutter dial, which turned the opposite direction since it was rooted in the pre-in-camera-meter world.

In addition, the Leica M6 TTL and M7 have larger shutter dials which are easier to handle when holding the camera. This was also a useability improvement since it became more natural for photographers to change the shutter speed when looking through the viewfinder – where the metering information was now available with the LED arrows.

Previously, photographers would either estimate or evaluate the exposure before holding up the camera, or would use metering assessories which would fit over the smaller shutter dial on the older models.

All in all, most photographers seem to agree, that the new shutter dial is more intuitive.

Note, that the metering symbols (◀⚫▶) are generally acknowledged to be slightly more intuitive on the M7 compared to the M6 versions.

Electronic shutter

The Leica M7 has an electronic shutter. This makes the shutter speed more accurate than on earlier models. But it also makes the Leica M7 shutter rely on batteries. Or at least, almost. Two shutter speeds still work mechanically: 1/60 and 1/125.

leica-m7-top-shutter

This is indicated by the thin line next to the numbers on the shutter dial.

The electronic shutter is of course also what allows for Auto mode (AE/Apperture priority mode) which I guess is the prime reason to buy the M7 over the previous versions.

Off button

The Leica M7 has an on/off button by the shutter button.

leica-m7-top

When the red dot is visible, the camera is turned off. This is an improvement over the M6 TTL which had an Off setting on the shutter dial, and over the M6 Classic which had only a Bulb mode on the shutter (to forceably turn off the meter).