5 frames with...

5 frames from the first roll with Leica M4-P 7artisans 50 1.1 and Delta 100 – By Victor Doroshenko

I got into the Leica business last summer by an accident. To be precise, I had some m/39-glass already for my A7, but never had a Leica body because Leica is synonym for expensive, and I’m a sparfuchs, as germans say.

But exactly for that reason I could not resist when I saw an M4-P with a jammed advance on display at Walters camera in Tuebingen, Germany. It was only 100 eur, and otherwise mint, so I took a gamble, and after ~40 minutes of digging into the intricate innards of the camera with the help of youtube, it was fixed to working order. The final touch was the plastic tip for the shutter advance, which was missing originally, and was sent to me by Leica AG for free after I had requested the price quote for the part, or M3 lever. They did not even charge for shipping, and also included a set of screws to attach it, in case I lost one. Count me impressed!

Otherwise the camera does need a CLA as the 1/1000 speed is not working properly in cold weather, but I’m fine with that for now. Heck, I would even shoot it at 1/50 exclusively if that was the only speed working! The haptics is just superb! Some people say that M4-Ps are inferior to M3s because film advance and shutter are not as buttery smooth, but that’s complete nonsense! I just can not help but smile when I advance film, and can not imagine anyone putting a winder on that thing. Another important point for me is that according to serial number, the camera was produced sometime in summer 1983, i.e. is the same age as me! I will never sell it.

Glass-wise, I have a lot by now, mostly off-brand (i.e. cosina and russian glass), with the most recent addition being the glorious 50 1.1 from 7artisans. I tried it on A7 first, and did not like that much, but then attached it to where it belongs, and that’s what emerged from the first roll of expired Ilford 100 I went through.  Given the sunny weather I exposed by eye for ie50, and tried to push the lens hard, shooting a lot wide open and against the sun (no hood used!). Still, I had hard time selecting the five frames as most of the roll turned out to be surprisingly good. Overall rendering reminds me my Jupiter 3, but with better central sharpness and overall contrast. Developed in HC110, which is my goto developer until I run out of concentrate, and “scanned” using the slide-duplicator attached to A7. I deliberately left the black borders un-cropped as it adds to the atmosphere in this case.

I must admit that the lens has also shortcomings. It’s big and heavy by Leica standards, has rather poor corners at infinity up until f11, funky bokeh and color on digital, but I can live with that for the price. Looks great both on Leica and A7 too 🙂 I highly recommend the lens for b&w film, and with some reservations also for digital.

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5 Comments

  • Daniel Castelli
    Reply
    Daniel Castelli
    December 23, 2018 at 3:49 pm

    Thank you for the review. You’re so lucky to find an elusive Leica ‘bargain.’ I’m still searching for that Leica M3 sitting on a dusty shelf in a backwater shop for 100 USD. The quest continues.
    I bought a M4-P earlier this year when I unexpectedly received a small inheritance.
    The M4-P is a joy to use. I’m waiting for the 40mm f/1.2 Voigtlander to arrive (Hurry up Santa!) so I can pair it with the black body.
    About 6 months after I bought the M4-P, a big chunk of the vulcanite just fell off the front of the camera. I was able to get it re-covered with a matt back leather. I chose to obscure the red Leica Logo for a more discreet look. Very sleek look.
    I hope people still are going to be sourcing M3 & M6 camera bodies; the M4-P will still be reasonable in cost. Let’s not let the secret out!
    Continued good shooting!

    • Avatar
      Reply
      DennisLam
      December 23, 2018 at 8:21 pm

      Very thoughtful coomment. I think many Leica purists would seach for M3 for it’s firm mechanic use and M6 for (relatively affordable price due to the amount). M4-P is hard to find though. I think about M5 as my third M body. Now, I enjoyfully use M7 and M3 with Summicron.Oh, I also have the lovely IIIf with Summitar lens. Strongly recoomend save some bucks for Leica lens rather than Voigtlander. Otherwise, cheaper Voigtlander(R3M or R2M) would be economic choices for M-mount bodies. Happy Holiday.

      • Avatar
        Reply
        vzzdor
        December 23, 2018 at 9:02 pm

        Dennislam, I’d disagree on VC lenses, most are actually superb!

        • Avatar
          Reply
          Peter308
          December 24, 2018 at 8:10 am

          An interesting article, thanks. Let me add a comment on Cosina versus Leica glass as I own and use both on an M6 body. I have 35mm Color Skopar f/2.5 and 40mm Nokton f/1.2 VC lens; both have great build quality, ergonomics, sharpness and rendering. I think where the cost factor can come into play when comparing VC to Leica glass is on copy variation, although for me both my VC lenses have, so far, no such issues. My Leica lenses are a 50mm Elmar M and 90mm Elmarit M.

  • Daniel Castelli
    Reply
    Daniel Castelli
    December 24, 2018 at 3:37 pm

    Dear Dennislam,
    I’d like to respond to your comment on Voigtlander lenses and Leica cameras. I’ve decided to go with the super fast 40mm lens. This is a personal choice.
    However, let’s consider these factors:
    1. Cost. A new Lieca Noctilux f/.095 lens can be purchased for $11,495 @ B&H Photo. A used Noctilux on ebay (f/1.0) is selling for an average between $5 – 7,000. I’m retired (as is my wife.) There is no way I can justify, much less afford spending that amount of money. The 40mm f/1.2 Nokton is $899.00. I can afford that and be comfortable with the purchase cost.
    2. Leica lens vs. Voigtlander/Zeiss. This is an illogical argument. With current manufacturing techniques, There is little difference in build quality between Leica & Cosina. In a controlled lab setting, there will be difference in optical quality. In real-life situations, the advantage of Leica glass vs. others is very narrow. When you factor in the variables that are present in post processing (film or digital), I believe the advantage disappears. I know there are purists that (somewhat exaggerated) feel Voigtlander lenses are made in factories with leaky roofs and dirt floors.
    3. Intangible factors. I like the 40mm focal length. It can be thought of as a ho-hum length. But, in my opinion, that’s it strength. By not imparting a unique ‘thumbprint’ the lens pushes you to become more creative, it’s your vision that the photo survives on, not the formula or length of the lens. I have the 40mm M-Rokkor mounted on my Leitz-Minolta CL and I’m happy with it. The weight of the 40mm f/1.2 lens is less than the Noctilux. The size is smaller. These are important because I have a permanent back injury from an accident, and keeping weight to a minimum while having the advantage of a super-fast lens.
    @Peter308 – any link to your work so I could see examples of photos taken w/the 40mm f/1.2?

    Regards & Merry Christmas to all. Thank you Hamish for another great year in providing interesting articles and photographers for us to enjoy.

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