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1950's Leica

Leica M1

Leica M1

Introduced in 1959, the Leica M1 was a minimalistic and straightforward camera. It came with everything necessary for shooting and nothing you didn’t need.

Often referred to as the forgotten Leica, the Leica M1 is probably one of the rarest cameras ever made.

It didn’t have a rangefinder and also lacked a metering system. However, it also had some pretty incredible features that made it stand out.

Here are some of those features.

Features of the Leica M1

One reason to add the M1 to your classic camera collection is its rare nature. With less than 9500 bodies made, the M1 is a genuine collectable camera.

One of the first noticeable features of the M1 was the lack of a rangefinder. Unlike its predecessors, the M3 and M2, the Leica M1 featured a parallax-corrected viewfinder.

This bright and clear viewfinder came with permanent frame lines for the 35 and 50 focal lengths. The inclusion of these lines made it easier to frame your shot.

Another noticeable feature with the M1 is the ability to turn into an SLR. Designed to be a general-purpose camera, the M1 could be fitted with the Visoflex mirror lock-up system which turned the M1 into an SLR.

And that’s not all. It was also possible to add an external rangefinder to the Leica M1.  

Talk about versatility. A camera that could be both an SLR and a rangefinder.

And that’s not all!

The M1 also came with an incredible lens. The collapsible Elmar 50 f2.8 gave the camera a sleek vintage look and also took excellent photos. The collapsible nature of the lens made the M1 portable since it could easily fit into the pocket with the lens collapsed.

Leica designed the lens to be used with other M body cameras. I’ve used the lens with my M6 and have gotten spectacular results.

The M1 is also compatible with wide-angle lenses like the 21mm and 15mm

What about the shooting experience? How is it?

The M1 was an impressive camera to work with. The lack of a rangefinder made focusing a challenge. However, the lack of automation made shooting with this camera easy. The photographer didn’t have to worry about countless controls which may at times be confusing.

Shortcomings of the Camera

One of the main reasons why many rangefinder enthusiasts rarely talk about the Leica M1, is the fact that the camera lacks a rangefinder, despite being classified as a rangefinder. The lack of the rangefinder results in less precise focusing. 

When shooting with this camera, a photographer has to either use zone focusing or an external meter.

The M1 is also frustratingly slow, making it a terrible camera for street shooting. However, when speed isn’t essential, the M1 is a great camera to use. 

Final Thoughts

Despite the various shortcomings, the Leica M1 is a worthy addition to your camera collection.

Not only is it rare—less than 9500 bodies were made, it’s also a great camera to shoot with once you get used to it.

Its rare nature, coupled with the sleek vintage look makes this camera a valuable collectible—one worthy of your vintage classic camera collection.

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