TBT – Leica M7 Chrome

Post by Paul Brodek our Used Equipment buyer

This week’s feature is an elusive late-production Leica M7 body, with a 0.72x finder, in Silver Chrome finish. Seems pretty simple, but as usual, there’s a bit to unpack. 

The M7 started shipping in 2002, so it’s not exactly vintage, but it represents the most modern interpretation of the classic Leica M film camera platform, first launched in 1954. It retains all the essentials of the original M3, the same robust, bottom-loading body with hinged back, bright/accurate rangefinder focusing and viewfinder viewing, frame preview lever, smooth/fast film advance lever and shutter speed range to 1/1000sec.  

All the small improvements incorporated into later-production M3 bodies also remain: single-stroke film advance, film rewind lever (i/o push-button) and the lens release button collar. Then we add the M4 improvements: redesigned film advance lever with faster/shorter throw, rewind crank (i/o awkward knob), faster film loading with non-removable take-up claw (i/o slower/awkward removable take-up spool).

Then we get the same internal TTL metering from the M6, along with both manual and DX film speed settings. For good measure, the M7 also was available in 3 different finder magnifications, an option introduced with later M6 production, allowing tailoring your ideal focusing/framing accuracy and view for wide, standard or longer lenses. Also one of my faves, the larger shutter speed dial from the M6-TTL, with the shutter speed progression reversed, so the direction turning the shutter speed dial matches the direction of the manual metering display arrows.

New to the M7 is the addition of aperture-priority metering, a much faster metering mode, and a very practical addition on a camera that many shooters routinely use with their lenses almost always wide-open. Open the aperture, tap the shutter release, let the M7 pick your shutter speed. Easey-peasey! The manual film speed dial doubles as an exposure compensation dial, very helpful and often used with aperture priority metering. Reliable aperture priority metering was an early-’70s product introduction in the industry at large, only took Leica 30 years to put it in an M-series camera.
The one and only sacrifice brought often found with aperture priority metering is changing to an electronically controlled shutter. Metering accuracy with a preset aperture is greatly enhanced when the camera can reliably shoot at “in-between” shutter speeds. The body wants to able to choose an “unmarked” speed of, say, 1/325sec, instead of the manually-selectable 1/250 or 1/500sec. Electronic shutter equals need for a battery for more than just powering the meter—we have to electronically time the shutter. It also usually means completely abandoning fully-manual speeds. No battery, no shutter.

Leica dealt with this by including fully manual 1/60 and 1/125sec speeds, so the M7 does not become a brick without a battery.

The last cool addition was the ability, using a special flash, of High Speed Shutter (HSS) TTL flash synch. All the way up to 1/1000sec, using a flash that fires in ultrafast pulses. M-series Leicas aren’t always the tool of choice for frequent flash users, but it’s great to know the high-zoot technology is there.
Our very clean M7 body, with the “standard” 0.72x finder, in the much less common Silver Chrome finish, is available for $2,299.99.     

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