Things We Love: The Leica M7 TTL


It has taken me a while, but, over the course of many years I’ve come to understand what makes die-hard Leica lovers tick. Craftsmanship is certainly part of the reason. All of Leica’s M (digital and analog), Q, CL, and TL-series cameras are manufactured in Germany, from brass and metal alloys and plastic parts—only where it makes sense to use plastic. Although Leica’s newer digital cameras are the driving force behind the company’s very existence, analog film cameras remain the theology behind the company’s mission statement.

Leica currently produces three 35mm rangefinder film cameras, each of which features viewfinders with frame lines for 28mm, 35mm, 50mm, 75, 90mm, and 135mm Leica M-mount lenses. Wider Leica M-mount lenses (24mm, 21mm, and 15mm) are available but require accessory viewfinders for accurate framing. Compared to modern DSLRs and mirrorless cameras, most costing far less, Leica M-cameras are limiting, and that’s part of their attraction.

The most basic, bare bones of the three is the Leica M-A (Typ 127), a camera so basic it doesn’t even have a built-in light meter. The Leica M-A is available in silver or black.

The Leica MP, which is also available in black or silver, is essentially a Leica M-A with the convenience of a TTL light meter. As with the Leica M-A, the MP is totally mechanical—if the battery dies you only lose the light meter, but, if you can figure out the correct exposure, you can continue shooting until you run out of film.

The third choice in Leica M cameras is the Leica M7 TTL, or as it’s more commonly known, the M7. The M7 contains an electronic shutter that, unlike the mechanical shutters of the M-A and MP, can be set to Aperture Priority mode for semi-automatic shooting. You still have to focus your lens (all M-mount lenses are manual focus), but having the option of presetting your exposure settings allows you to concentrate your energies on taking pictures.

As an owner of a Leica MP, this is a feature I have wished for on many occasions. Though I make a point of presetting my exposure settings when shooting under uniform light, there have been times I’ve missed a shot simply because the light had changed and I didn’t have time to adjust my aperture or shutter speed settings. It doesn’t happen often, but knowing my shutter speeds will respond to changing lighting conditions when I can’t respond in a timely manner is reassuring.

If there’s a downside to the M7, it would be this: if the battery dies, your shutter defaults to 1/60 or 1/125-second which, in the grand scheme of things, is a minor inconvenience compared to having zero shutter speeds to choose from.

For newbies to Leica M cameras, Leica has a special Starter Set M7 package that includes a classic 50mm f/2 Leica Summicron-M lens.

I love taking pictures with all types of cameras—simple cameras, complicated cameras, film cameras, and digital cameras, but, when it comes to reconnecting with the basics, the essence of taking pictures, nothing comes close to a Leica M camera. I just wish I could set mine to “A” occasionally.

Do you have any experience shooting with Leicas or other rangefinder cameras? Join the conversation and write about it, below.

The “Things We Love” series articles are written by B&H Photo Video Pro Audio staff to talk about products and items that we love. Opinions expressed in the articles are those of the writers and do not represent product endorsements from B&H Photo Video Pro Audio.

1 Comment

I have no experience with Leica, but lots of experience with film (35mm and medium frame).  This article was very helpful in my decision to buy the M7 over the M-A and MP, also great cameras in their own right.  It all boils down to priorities, usefulness and pleasure of photo taking.