Wondering which Leica
Old 10-08-2018   #1
Sniper X
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Wondering which Leica

I have always wanted a Leica. I almost got a great deal about fifteen years ago when a Mate had a clean M3 and three lenses for sale. I waffled on the decision for two days and missed out on the deal of a lifetime (it turns out now) on that camera. I am now thinking about selling one of my motorbikes (since I have a specific deal with the wife on spending on toys) and finally buying a Leica. Question is, what Leica to buy>? I have baan shooting 35mm and medium format film since 1968 so do know a bit about it. I now have at least 30 film cameras from Rangefinders, to SLR's and medium format. I am thinking M3 double stroke and a nice 50mm lens to start and maybe a 35, and 85 later as I can. What are the suggestions from the masses of well learned from this thread? I'll have approximately $3000.00 US to use for camera, lens and possible other lenses.

Thanks!

Kev
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Old 10-08-2018   #2
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If wanting a metered Leica M, I'd probably recommend an M6 (maybe $1200-1400) and 50/35 summicron, or if lens speed is a priority, perhaps a 50 or 35 Summilux. Either way, your $3000 budget will get you going for sure. If having a meter is not a priority, I'd go M2/M4 for frame line options (35mm frameline not available on the M3), and again a 35/50 Summicron or Summilux combination.

M6: $1200-1400 - meter
M4: $800-1000 - no meter
M2: $600-800 - no meter

Lenses are a lot more varied, but again, you have plenty of options given your budget.

Best of luck on your search!
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Old 10-08-2018   #3
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M2, 35 2.8 Summaron or a Zeiss 35 2.8 ZM. You’re going to get dozens of suggestions but look through the galleries here to get a good idea of how different lenses perform.
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Old 10-08-2018   #4
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Go for the one in the best condition. Obviously not M3 with a 35mm lens unless you are happy using a supplementary finder or can find one with goggles.

Cheers,

R.
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Old 10-08-2018   #5
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It’s ultimately a very personal decision. Some choose the M3 for shooting 35 even though the M2 is the logical choice simply because they, for whatever reason, have stronger feelings for the M3. Some will say M4, M5, or M6 and have good reasons for choosing them. I chose the M2 for price, the 35mm frame lines, and because it felt like the right one for me.
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Old 10-08-2018   #6
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M3 with 35 lens is like cow and saddle. Or three wheels bike.
Get rid of 30 cameras you have. Add money from sale to 3K$ and get M-A with lenses.
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Old 10-08-2018   #7
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No meter but 35mm lens, get an M2 or M4. One in good condition will last as long as an MA for thousands less. If you want a meter, then M5 or M6. I have had all of them and the M5 has become my favorite shooter. Yes, it is not the classical shape of an M but the spot meter is hard to beat and it was in development for ten years so meter, shutter speed dial and speed visible in finder do make a difference. My second favorite is the M2 as having a single frame (35/50/90) is the cat's meow!
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Old 10-11-2018   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Peter Jennings View Post
because it felt like the right one for me.
Taking this quite literally, stop to think about the physical differences between camera models. These are tools that we hold in our hands, place in front of our eyes while pressed up against our faces maybe dangle from our necks as we lug them around with us for hours on end. We also need to be able to read the markings on the camera and lenses. Ergonomic factors like shape, size, weight and color do make a difference for most people. Given that and leaving metering out of the equation, I can understand why some would actually be more comfortable with a camera like the M5 over the M4 or for example (or vice versa of course). Something else to consider before purchasing.
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Old 10-12-2018   #9
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Get the M3 and a contemporary Summicron 50mm.

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Old 10-12-2018   #10
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Another vote for the M3... it's the camera you always wanted because you didn't buy it back then.. right?
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Old 10-12-2018   #11
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Personally I would get an M6 Classic over an M3 - the convenience of the built in meter and film loading improvements just make it a more useable camera IMHO.


In terms of lenses I would pair up either a 35/f2 non-asph or a 28/f2.8 asph with the most recent 90/f2 you can find in your remaining budget. You can always pick up a 50/f2 at a later date. I would try to buy the most recent lenses you can afford, but keep in mind that any clean example from the last 20 / 30 years will perform almost as well as current examples.
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Old 10-12-2018   #12
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M6 with a Leica 50mm and a Voigtlander 35mm

or a Zeiss Planar 50mm and Leica 35mm
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Old 10-12-2018   #13
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If you want/need a camera with a meter, the M6 classic is probably the most affordable and also the most common. If you don't need/want a meter, go with the M4. Easier to load than the M2/M3, rewind is also easier, and it has the four classic Leica framlines - 35, 50, 90, and 135. The viewfinder magnification is about the same as the M2. The original M4 is a bit better built, and older, than either the M4-2 or the M4-P and noticeably smoother than the 6, 7, or even the MP. Can't speak to the MA. If you are going to shoot black and white, I'd also look for Mandler-designed lenses as they seem to do a better job than the newer and more contrasty lenses. The lens choice is almost infinite - anything from an early LTM Elmar 50 with an adapter to the most recent asph ones. The nice thing about any choice you make is, if you later decide you want something else, you won't loose a lot on your original decision. Good luck and enjoy the process.
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Old 10-12-2018   #14
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Back when I was in your position, I narrowed my choice to the following:
M2
M4
M6
MP

I am sure I would have been happy with any of them but I found a great deal on an M6.

The only reason the M3 did not make my list is because I wanted a 35mm lens.


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Old 10-12-2018   #15
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Every M has its fans. A poll (i.e., everybody chiming in with "pick me! pick me!" on behalf of their own favorite model) is not likely to help you very much -- it may in fact nudge you toward a decision, but I suspect strongly it will not reliably produce a better outcome (your happiness) than a random choice. The good thing is that, as long as you don't wildly overpay, you can buy an M (whichever one appeals to you for whichever reason) and try it largely without risk of losing money. If you like it, keep using it. If something about it bugs you, sell it on for little to no loss and try a different model. It takes some time, but you will find the set of attributes that are important to you ... or you'll discover that the Leica M "experience" offers you nothing special. That's okay too.

So, find a website that describes in detail the differences between the various iterations and choose whichever one sounds the best or looks the best, using whatever criteria matter to you.

My only other advice is to buy from a reputable seller that accepts returns. And, of course, immediately shoot a test roll to make sure it is working properly.
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Last edited by Papercut : 10-12-2018 at 03:39. Reason: clarifying comment
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Old 10-12-2018   #16
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Tough to choose. You need experience with Leica film M's to buy wisely, but to gain experience you need to own one.

At your budget, here are a few thoughts. First decide whether you want an in-camera meter. If so, done - M6. If you don't need a meter in-camera, then decide which will be your most used FLs. If more 35mm than 50mm, then M2 or M4, depending on film-loading preference. If 50mm a lot, consider the M3 (it has that .91 baseline length, so sweet for a 50 and nostalgic value for you too).

Good luck with the purchase decision!
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Old 10-12-2018   #17
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Good arguments have been presented for M2, M4, or M6. I don't believe anyone has mentioned that M6 framelines are sized differently from M2 and M4. The latter two have framelines sized for medium and long camera-to-subject distances. Used at minimum focus, you will get less in the picture than you saw in the viewfinder. This is because at close distance, the lens covers a smaller angle of view than it does at infinity. So if you trust the frameline, you will cut off (at close distance) some of what you meant to include around the edges.

Conversely, with the M6, the framelines are sized for minimum distance (0.7 meters). So at very close distance, they are more accurate than M2/M4. But at longer distance, you will get more in the picture than you meant to: like finding a "no left turn" sign at one edge of your color slide. So if you shoot at minimum distance, there's a strong argument in favor of the M6. Longer distances, the M2 or M4 will be more accurate.

Finally, the M6 50mm frameline is undersized, no matter what distance you shoot at. At ten feet or so, it covers the same as a 60mm lens! So if the 50mm is going to be your most-used lens, an M2 or M4 is better.

Oh, and if you wear glasses, you can get an M6 with a .58 finder magnification, so you can see the 35mm frameline easily. And the metal ring on the eyepiece of the M2 and M4 will scratch your glasses unless you order a plastic protector from DAG.
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Old 10-12-2018   #18
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The ubiquitous 'which M' post...there are several hundred like it that have accumulated over the years.

Good luck with your choice!
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Old 10-12-2018   #19
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Go for the one in the best condition.
I respectfully disagree: you can get amazing deals on M bodies where the leatherette is flaking off. That can easily be fixed by getting a new leatherette for $20, but many people shy away from these cameras because they don't look pretty.

What I constantly do is put in ridiculously low bids on Ebay items that I like. In some cases I end up being the highest bidder and got a gem for an incredibly low amount.

But if you want something that is reliable, you could simply get a body in "mint" condition that had a recent CLA (you don't want a camera that was never served since it left the factory 30-50 years ago!). A CLA is around $300-400 which you have to budget for, but keep in mind that it can take weeks, sometimes months, until you get your camera back.

Safest bet is to buy an M body from a Leica store because it is almost guaranteed to work properly and they take it back if there are issues.
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Old 10-12-2018   #20
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After owning several different Ms over the years, when I returned to using a film M in 2012 I chose an early production M4-2 from 1978. It has the same viewfinder optics as the M4 (35/50/90/135) frame lines, a hot shoe, and no meter. I bought it for $700. The rangefinder was sticky and needed cleaning, collimating, and calibration, that was done for $110. The shutter is slightly off at the top two shutter speeds (fast on one side, slow on the other) and will ultimately need to be overhauled, but it's only off by a third of a stop at 1/1000, less at 1/500, and hasn't been an issue as yet.

With this camera, I can use all my Leica M lenses that I share with the M-D typ 262 body, but the ones I tend to use most on it are the Voigtländer Color-Skopar 28mm f/3.5 and Color-Skopar 50mm f/2.5, or Leica Summilux 35mm f/1.4 v2. When I use the 28mm, I either ignore the framelines and just approximate the field of view or I fit the Leica Universal Wide Angle Finder, as I do with the WATE. I also have a Leicameter MR-4 that I can use with it if I prefer not to carry a hand-held meter.

I've been happy with the M4-2 and call it my "favorite film M" since I got this one. It's just what I wanted after having experience with M3, M2, M6, M4-P, M6TTL, and M4 bodies. It was reasonably inexpensive and has proven to be quite reliable.

Hope That Helps.™
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Old 10-12-2018   #21
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Originally Posted by giganova View Post
I respectfully disagree: you can get amazing deals on M bodies where the leatherette is flaking off. . . .
But "condition" ain't just the body covering. See "Five Leicas" on my .eu site. The M3 with a proper strip, clean and overhaul (NOT just a cheap "CLA") could be restored to "as new" condition and would probably outlast all the others.

Cheers,

R.
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Old 10-12-2018   #22
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I wish I hadn't read this thread as I am happy with my M2 but you all will keep pushing the M4 and M6. Please don't keep doing it. ;-)

Regards, David
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Old 10-12-2018   #23
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I wish I hadn't read this thread as I am happy with my M2 but you all will keep pushing the M4 and M6. Please don't keep doing it. ;-)

Regards, David
Dear David,

Well, I currently have all three, and the one I'd keep is the M2.

Cheers,

R.
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Old 10-12-2018   #24
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I've also had all three but the one I would reach for the most when I went shooting was, by far, the M6. I've now got an M 262 which is my go to, but I also kept the M6.
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Old 10-12-2018   #25
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Do a bit of research into what features are available on which model, Kev, and then figure out which one would fit your style of shooting the best. It's the route I took after getting a CL just to see if the M system really worked the way I hoped.



As for me, the M4-P seemed ideal because of the frame lines going from 28mm to 135mm. I don't mind the dual frames in the view because it acts as an alignment feature, helping me keep my verticals straight.


But later on I wish to get an M2 for something like a grab-and-go set-up, with a 35-50-90 lens line up. Plus, if you're lucky, you can find one that has had the easy load adapter installed.


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Old 10-12-2018   #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Roger Hicks View Post
Dear David,

Well, I currently have all three, and the one I'd keep is the M2.

Cheers,

R.
Whilst I don’t have an M6 to compare, I couldn’t agree more!

M4 really isn’t made as well as M2. Close, but not quite. The M2 purity of function is unsurpassed.

J
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Old 10-13-2018   #27
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Is the M2 actually an M3 without auto frame counter, self timer and different frame lines? I mean does it share exactly the same parts despite the above mentioned differences? As far as I know it was a "cheaper" alternative to the M3.
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Old 10-13-2018   #28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Roger Hicks View Post
Dear David,

Well, I currently have all three, and the one I'd keep is the M2.

Cheers,

R.
Hi,

I know, I know but being sensible is a little overrated. Luckily I can't afford the other two.

Regards, David
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Old 10-13-2018   #29
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Is the M2 actually an M3 without auto frame counter, self timer and different frame lines? I mean does it share exactly the same parts despite the above mentioned differences? As far as I know it was a "cheaper" alternative to the M3.
The M2 is quite different, as it has a different rangefinder and frame illuminator window setup from what I have read (0.72 magnification versus 0.92), as well as slightly different styling, which is the basis for all the more modern Leica designs. Later M2's had self-timers as an option. So, it's really quite different in its parts. I would say quality of use is equal as I had both an M3 and M2.
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Old 10-13-2018   #30
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My choices are two M-A after using for some decades M2/3/4/5/6, less time using MP.


If you can afford, M-A is best choice then MP best second.
Leica Camera still makes MP : I think that is quite a miracle.
A la carte program MP second miracle in our "throw away society".
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Old 10-13-2018   #31
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My choices are two M-A after using for some decades M2/3/4/5/6, less time using MP.
The OP has $3k for body+lens. I don't see how an M-A and lens would come in at this budget.
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Old 10-13-2018   #32
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Another M5 vote. I love mine--I have gorilla hands that it fits, spot meter, shutter speed in the VF (can't say that about the M8 in manual mode...) find the vertical lugs very convenient. It's an oddball some consider ugly and hasn't had quite the collector interest as others. After a DIY RF adjustment and cleaning out the horribly dusty eyepiece, its's what I reach for every day.

If you go that route, watch out for ones with a few notable problems. A damaged meter cell is an obvious one, but another is a cracked shutter drum. I had the latter problem with my first example.
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Old 10-14-2018   #33
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Just so you know, a table with specifications of all film M Leicas is here... https://www.johanniels.com/en/camera...41-leicamspecs
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Old 10-14-2018   #34
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OK - I will shift gears a bit probably to everyone's dismay.
A near mint Fujifilm XPro-1 can be had for well under $500. Great lenses are available.
It has the rangefinder form factor but is vastly more functional than the film-based Leica M.
I have a Leica M1 and have owned a Leica M3 and a Leica IIIf. They are fun up to a point but the work flow is very time consuming. Sorry...
Again, all a matter of personal preference. No one is "right" or "wrong" here.
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Old 10-14-2018   #35
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Unless you're purchasing new I would factor the cost of a CLA, these things are mechanical and need servicing to run true and to prevent metal to metal wear. A CLA is not cheap but neither is a proper service on your car.

No one seems to have mentioned the top plate of the M6. They were manufactured at a time when Leica were cutting corners and used 'pot-metal' (zinc) instead of brass.
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Old 10-14-2018   #36
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Unless you're purchasing new I would factor the cost of a CLA, these things are mechanical and need servicing to run true and to prevent metal to metal wear. A CLA is not cheap but neither is a proper service on your car.

No one seems to have mentioned the top plate of the M6. They were manufactured at a time when Leica were cutting corners and used 'pot-metal' (zinc) instead of brass.
I agree that budgeting for a CLA is prudent, but I also think that one shouldn't just send a new camera off for a CLA as a matter of course without trying / testing the body first. I've bought every one of my Leica bodies used (M4, M6, IIIc) and none of them have needed a CLA until years after I purchased them. Yes, the potential is there to need a CLA immediately and so one should factor that potential cost into the whole equation of buying into Leica, but if I had sent all three bodies off for an immediate CLA I would have wasted about $1000 or so. A non-trivial sum. To give oneself the best chance of avoiding that sort of unnecessary expense, the best advice is to buy from a reputable seller who will accept returns or who has an established reputation in places like RFF. Yes, I know there are miscreants even here, but on the flip side, I bought my M4 from a long-term and well-respected member here (Gabor) and his description that the camera was working perfectly was exactly right. I used that M4 for nearly a decade before I needed to send it in for a CLA, so it's not an inevitable expense upon purchase.
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Old 10-14-2018   #37
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Budget is no Leica at all. Old ones can suffer from age related problems like delivered RF mirrors and deteriorate light seals around film gate. Most that are for sale will need a cla now or soon. You are not likely to detect these issues without experience.

I have purchased many and spent as much on repairs for each as original cost. Consider them like sports cars or classic cars. Upkeep and maintenance is very expensive , but the toy is fun to have.
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Old 10-14-2018   #38
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I think to help you narrow down the field, ask two questions first: (1) do you need a in-camera meter? (2) do you use any lens wider than 35mm? Then use this chart to get started: https://cdn.l-camera-forum.com/leica...c1-620x468.jpg

A good, used Summircon 50mm gen. 4 will run you close to $1000 on eBay. A Zeiss ZM Biogon 35mm F/2 or F/2.8 mint or new will cost you about $600-$800. After two lenses you'll have about $1.2K to spend on a body. You can choose an early M6, or earlier M models + a CLA.

I do recommend buying a recently serviced M or budget a CLA. For example, M4, after 50+ years since leaving the factory, is prone to have shutter curtain issues if the shutter curtain hasn't been replaced. So if you decide on a M4 with no CLA record, budget $300 for that in the (near) future. A M4-P with a recent CLA work should cost <$1000.
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Old 10-14-2018   #39
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You’re going to get dozens of suggestions but look through the galleries here to get a good idea of how different lenses perform.
I don't think you can tell how individual lenses perform by looking at images in the galleries or the threads. The images are all over the board. Some are soft, some are sharp. Some are low contrast, some are high contrast. Some show flare, some don't. Some show muted colors, some show saturated colors. It's a potpourri. Some much depends on how they were shot, how they were processed, and how they were scanned. The only way to see how they perform is to try them yourself.
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Old 10-16-2018   #40
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"M4 really isn’t made as well as M2. Close, but not quite." Tell that to Jim Marshall & other pros who used the heck out of their M4s....;;
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