1970's Leica

Leica M5

Leica M5

The story of the Leica M5 is similar to that of the ugly duckling.

First introduced in 1971, the M5 was initially shunned by many Leica enthusiasts. Similar to the ugly duckling, the M5 was different from other Leica M cameras.

Despite the backlash, the M5 was a pretty incredible camera that came with features never seen in a Leica rangefinder.

This is why years later, the camera is slowly gaining popularity among many young film camera enthusiasts.

So, why is the M5 gaining popularity?

Keep reading to find out more!

Features of the Camera

One of the most unique features of the Leica M5 was the introduction of an inbuilt Through-the-Lens metering system. 

One of the most notable shortcomings of earlier M cameras was the lack of an inbuilt metering system, which made it hard for novice users to use the camera.

However, with the inclusion of a needle metering system in the M5, novice photographers and people who aren’t comfortable with estimating metering with their eye, can enjoy the benefits of using a classic Leica camera.

The Leica M5 also came with a big and bright viewfinder.

Similar to what was in the M4, the M5 viewfinder could achieve a magnification of .72X.  The viewfinder also came with four sets of frame-line optimized for the 35mm, 50mm, 90mm, and 135mm focal length lenses.

However, the M5 viewfinder had one difference from the one used in the M4. At the bottom of the viewfinder, there were two bars used to measure metering. The viewfinder also featured a display of the shutter speed and selected aperture.

The M5 came with a quiet shutter that was able to achieve a maximum speed of 1/1000 sec. Thanks to the large shutter speed dial, setting the speed was easier and faster.

And that’s not all!

The Leica M5 was the last of the traditionally made Leicas before Leica moved production to Canada. The M5 was hand-assembled and was the last Leica to have a brass body with interior components also composed of brass. Later versions of Leica cameras used fabricated steel and plastic parts.

Design and Physical Appearance

Do you consider yourself a rebel? Someone who does things differently from the norm?

If so, the M5 is your ideal camera.

One of the most notable features of the M5 was the shift from the standard Leica M series design. The M5 doesn’t look like any other Leica M camera.

It came with added controls, with some being moved to other places.

For starters, the M5 came with an ISO adapter located in the middle of the top plate.

It also came with an oversized shutter speed dial that was perfectly positioned for easy adjustment. While holding the camera to your eye, it was possible to adjust and set shutter speed with either your index or middle figure.

This feature made the M5 the easiest M camera to adjust shutter speed.

Another difference in design came with the film rewind crank that was located on the bottom plate.

The M5 however, had several similarities with its predecessor.

One such similarity was with the bottom loading film mechanism. Like its predecessors, the M5 came with a removable base plate

Similar to the M4, the M5 film advance lever was made of metal with a plastic tip.

Shortcomings of the Camera

One of the most significant shortcomings of the M5 is the battery. The M5 used the now-defunct PX625 1.35V mercury-oxide battery. However, you can use the camera without batteries but will have to give up on using the metering system.

The M5 is also incompatible with certain Leitz wide-angle lenses. 

The other shortcoming of the Leica M5 was that the camera was heavier than its predecessors. This was one of the reasons why the camera was so poorly received.

Final Thoughts

The Leica M5 is a camera that some people love and some hate.

For some, the M5 was an ugly camera that almost killed the Leica rangefinder line. To others, it was an industrially beautiful camera. It all depends on who you are and what you like.

But if you like the unusual styling, enjoy using the light metering system and can ignore the naysayers, you’ll love the M5.


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