The Leica M4-P, the Great Canadian Leica. A Non-objective Review.
A technical breakdown of the M4-P:
The M4-P, known to some as the meter-less M6, was made from 1980 to 1986, in Midland, Canada, under the watchful eye of Walter Kluck, the president of Leica’s Midland Camera Factory. The M4-P was the successor the M4-2, which was also made in Canada.
The M4-P comes with framelines for almost all focal lengths, 28mm/35mm/50mm/75mm/90mm/135mm in a 0.72x finder, allowing a new user to easily purchase many lenses, without having to purchase additional viewfinders, with the exception of the ultra-wide lens of course.
The M4-P came with either a zinc or brass top, and is easily distinguished from the small rangefinder window and the light gathering window at the front. If both windows are flush, you have a zinc top M4-P, if they are recessed, you have a brass top M4-P.
The M4-P was mostly finished with black chrome, with a small allotment of silver chrome finishes. As well as 70th Anniversary version which were all in silver chrome, made just before the run of M4-Ps stopped, and the Midland factory sold off, to make way for the M6 TTL.
Price wise, I would say the M4-P and the M4-2 are probably the most entry-level friendly Leica M cameras, you would probably expect to find them around $800 to $1100 used for the black chrome version. The only thing you’d probably have to add in is a meter, as the M4-P is meter-less, and is fully mechanical.
The M4-P in black chrome was my very first M camera, and my first foray into the world of film.
I remember when I first saw and held the M4-P, I was like a child, excited about his new toy. Its heft was assuring, the built excellent, and when I wound and released the oh-so quiet shutter, I was sold.
Alas, when I got the body, I was without a lens for about 2 weeks, until I got the Canon 50mm f/1.4 LTM (with adapter from Chiif Cameras), aka the Japanese Lux, to go along with it.
No meter, not a problem. I use an external meter, and usually just meter once in a scene and then compensate later, until the light changes too much.
To date, the M4-P is my favorite film body, and probably one of the most dependable I’ve used. I routinely match the M4-P with my 5D for overseas trips.
Personally, I’ve only used 50s and 35s, and found its viewfinder more than adequate for day and low light shooting. Some may say the viewfinder is cluttered, but out in the street, I did not notice any difference as when I had the M2. It does not detract you from taking great pictures with it.
The viewfinder goes like this, 35/135, 50/75 and 28/90, so you would be looking at 2 frames at any point of time. For a cleaner view, one should consider the M2 / M3 / M4 / M4-2.
As with all M Leica’s, the feel of the camera with an attached lens is well balanced in the hand, unless of course, you are shooting with a Noctilux or a Nokton, or the Canon 50/0.95.
Mine is the brass top, which is the ‘earlier’ batch of M4-Ps. I have not held the zinc top M4-P before, but I would not hesitate to get either version, as the internals are the same. Weight wise one would probably not notice the difference as well.
Black chrome does not ‘brass’ as well as black paint, as one would have to use a black chrome camera a serious lot to get it to brass well.
The shutter is as quiet as a Leica M camera gets, and the advancing of the shutter is as smooth as my ex-M2, in contrast to what many say about the M4-2 and M4-P, that due to the streamlining of production, its internals were not as robust as the original M4.
I have not felt this with my M4-P.
From my very first roll of film, till now, my M4-P has never failed to impress.
If one looks beyond the M4-P’s less then pedigree heritage, you will find an excellent and robust M body to last you as long as any other M camera.
Review contributed by: Joey