For some people, there is something about the M5 that is very special
In this guest post Michael Bock explains to us what drove hims towards the Leica M5, a camera that many people overlook. Perhaps it might make you give the camera a second thought?
Much like Porsche and their classic 911, Leica has maintained design aspects throughout their M series rangefinders, with each model mostly showing only subtle changes from its predecessor. Accordingly, the way a Leica looks is as much a visual trademark as the red dot that it bears.
Moving from the M2, through the M7 and jumping to the digital M9, a clear design philosophy and progression can be seen throughout the M series… with the exception of one; the M5.
The M5 is the largely unwanted cousin in the Leica family. It also happened to be the first Leica I owned and shot. I bought a Leica M5 for 3 very simple reasons:
1) I wanted a Leica.
2) I needed a Leica with an in built light meter because I’m not good enough to meter light on my own.
3) I had a somewhat* of a budget (* somewhat meaning the cheaper the better).
We’ve already got the obvious out of the way; this camera does not look like any other Leica M. However the M5 is still a Leica and with the Leica name you get the Leica-ness that is so coveted.
The M5 has the beautiful, bright viewfinder, the smooth kiss like feel of the shutter curtain and the ability to use some of the best glass in the business. The M5 is also Leica’s first rangefinder with an inbuilt TTL meter. And let’s not forget the significant benefit of being much cheaper than the later M’s, which kept me happy and full of beer. My other passion.
In the hands the M5 feels solid, precise and machine like – more car engine than Swiss watch. The workman like appearance and larger build gives the M5 a heft that is reassuring. The one time that I dropped the M5 on my foot I was able to keep shooting, even if I had to do it sitting down for a while.
However don’t let the weight dissuade you, the M5 is easy to carry around all day. And with a lens attached it still weighs significantly less than a 5D or similar.
One of the key design aspects of the M5 is the over hanging shutter speed dial. The shutter speed dial is directly below the shutter button and can be easily manipulated with either the index or middle finger depending on your shooting style. This makes quick adjustments intuitive to the shooting process as your hand can remain on the advance lever and shutter button, whilst adjusting the shutter speed.
The inbuilt meter uses a system that I feel is easier to use than the modern Leica’s (including the M9). There are two bars in the bottom of your viewfinder, overlap them using aperture and shutter speed – BAM! – your picture is perfectly exposed!
Finally the other unique design feature is the ability to hang the 3 lug M5 vertically. This allows for a more convenient movement between carrying and shooting, for those who prefer shoulder straps. When hung vertically the camera can be brought to your eye easily without moving your shoulders or arms through the strap. This formation also keeps the strap free of your right hand while working the shutter/ shutter speed dial.
A number of unique design features were developed by Leica and used only on this camera. A lot of thought went into to these design elements and it seems likely that this camera represents the direction that Leica were headed with the M series. All the changes made to this model are practical and based around real world shooting.
If you already own a Leica, why not see if you can try an M5 out? You might find the shooting process more suited to your style.
However, if owning a Leica is something that you have been putting off due to budget reasons – take a look at the M5. Chances are you will love it. Same Leica-ness for less Leica-money. Believe the hype.
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