Here’s a fun fact for you… Seven out of every ten Hipsters shoot with film. True story. Also, my Leica M262 is in the shop getting a tune up (something about pixel mapping) so I thought I’d do what any sensible photographer would do… I went out and bought a very lightly used Leica M7. The M7 is one of Leica’s many film variants of the M but the first one to have aperture priority. I hadn’t intended on getting the Leica M7 initially, my heart was set on the classic M3… Then the M4, M6, M6 TTL, and finally the M7. Aperture priority mode and metering are what finally sealed the deal for me, if I wasn’t going to use this camera for Street Photography that would not have mattered.*
*Aperture priority mode and zone focusing is how I am able to capture decisive moments that would otherwise be elusive.
As always, I’m not endorsed by Leica, I’m not a fan-boy of any tool (that’s what I call cameras), and I’m brutally honest. If you’d like to know more about my decision to shoot with film in addition to digital (coming soon) you can enter your email into the box on the right of this page where it says Subscribe and you’ll get an email each time I publish an article. Lets begin shall we:
I found this M7 on the Leica Store SF’s website for just under 2k. You can find them on eBay, Amazon, and at various other camera retailers around the web. I personally think eBay is a terrible place where you go to get robbed but to each his own. Amazon is one of my favorite retailers but when you buy something like a Leica from a third party you just never know what you are going to get. I chose the Leica Store because they are reputable and you get 90 days to return the camera if it’s not working properly.
I own the Leica 35mm f/2.0 Summicron-M Aspherical lens already but wanted a second 35mm lens that was smaller and cheaper, but still good quality, so I bought the Voigtlander Color-Skopar Pan 35mm f/2.5 lens as well. That may seem like overkill but I don’t plan on taking either lens off either Leica body so the more versatile digital body will have the Leica lens while my film Leica will have the much smaller Voigtlander lens. With the Voigtlander lens I can literally drop the M7 in a coat pocket and hit the street, it’s that small (review coming soon). I considered a different focal length but I prefer to shoot street at 35mm so I can get nice and close without a ton of distortion.
The first impression you get when picking up the M7 is that it’s as heavy as a brick. This is good and bad. The good part is that the camera feels like it could withstand more than any of my other cameras though I’ll still opt for my D810 when the weather turns to crap and I might get wet. The bad part is, the camera has zero grip which, because of it’s weight, can make it daunting to carry without a strap of some sort. The M262 has a slight thumb grip built into the body that solves this issue so I will chalk this up to being an earlier version of the M and not being quite as evolved as the later bodies. The first time I headed out with the M7 I remember thinking to myself; “Self, this is a lot like holding a semi-dry bar of soap.”
Using the rangefinder, which isn’t Leica M7 exclusive, is quite nice. The viewfinder is just as bright as my new M262 and it focuses buttery smooth. My eye site is 20/20 with a slight astigmatism and I’m still able to focus this manually in a flash when shooting wide open. Like I’ve said before, if you shoot manual with anything but a range finder it is cumbersome and inaccurate compared to the rangefinder.
I read that loading the film can be difficult with the M7. Honestly, I have not loaded film into a camera in over 20 years and it could not have been easier. I simply opened the bottom of the camera, deciphered the image that showed what to do, and then… I did it. Though, some have told me I could have been a rocket scientist [insert heavy sarcastic tone and slightly lifted eyebrow].
I will be putting the M7 through its paces during my film project and reporting back to you here on the site. So far I am really enjoying the M7 and shooting with film, I can certainly see why folks switch from digital to film (though it’s an impractical idea for me and my photography business to shoot exclusively with film).
If you have any questions or simply want to share your thoughts you can do so in the comments section below. Thanks for reading.