Saturday, April 13, 2024

Spotlight: Leica M5


The Leica M5 is a professional rangefinder camera from 1971. The auction house I work at got one in on consignment, so I was able to test it out. The opportunity got me excited, as it had been about nine years since I'd put film through a Leica. Spoiler: I wasn't disappointed! 

People often complain about how ugly the M5 is compared to the classic M3 and M4 cameras, but I find it rather attractive in person. While it certainly looks a little clunky in photographs, when held in the hand, the M5 feels premium. While the M3 is objectively one of the best looking cameras of all time, I think the M5 has all the other M cameras beat. I always hated the diagonal rewind  knob on the M4, M6, and M7 cameras -- The M5 has the knob on the underside of the camera, which gives the camera a cleaner, more uniform look. 

The viewfinder of the M5 is absolutely crystal clear, with a rangefinder patch brighter and more contrasty than anything I've ever used before. Yowza! This excellent viewfinder/rangefinder combo allowed me to focus quickly and accurately, even in the somewhat dim light of the auction house. I also appreciate how the current shutter speed is displayed in the finder, and how the oversized shutter dial let me easily change my speed without forcing me to pull my attention away from the subject. There is also a light meter viewable in the finder, but the meter on this particular M5 wasn't working (corroded battery), so I didn't get to try it out. 

One odd thing about the M5 is how the timed shutter speeds only range from 1/1000 to 1/2. Every other M-series Leica to my knowledge also has a 1 second timed speed. Not that it really matters to most people, but it just seems odd to omit the 1 second speed. Hmm. Another M5 oddity is how it's the only M camera to have three strap lugs. I admire this, even though I didn't dare attach one of my straps out of fear of scratching the finish! 

Overall I found the M5 enormously enjoyable to use. I'll certainly put in a bid once it's on the auction block, though I think this little guy is gonna end up well out of my price range. For the roll I shot with it, I used Ilford HP5+ film, pushed to ISO 1600. The lens was a 50mm f/2 Summicron. The subjects are my co-workers at the auction house, who are all excellent people! :) 

Don't worry, Boss. It's only apple juice!