The Leica M-A is an updated version of the brand’s classic 35mm film camera, initially introduced by the business more than 60 years ago. However, to achieve the level of mechanical perfection that it currently possesses, specific components of it were fine-tuned and improved upon.
The M-A format represents photography in its most basic and elemental form. There is no light meter on it, and there is no Leica branding. Additionally, you can only get it in chrome or black paint. This “no-nonsense” camera allows you to concentrate on photos, and nothing else is the primary selling point of this product.
Because the body is brass, this excellent camera is rather heavy, which purists will like. When coupled with a Summilux 28mm f/1.4, you will have achieved the ideal balance of body and lens weight that is currently available.
However, it is essential to remember that while shooting at a focal length of 28 millimeters, you are using the whole rangefinder window to create your photographs. This can be useful when the subject is more immobile, but if you want to use it for work on the street, it may take some practice before you get the hang of it.
Since I shoot with a 50mm lens, I am used to having frame lines to assist in composing shots more quickly. Those who still use the Leica M6 can “upgrade” to the M-A’s rangefinder because it shows 28mm, 35/50mm, and 90/135mm frame line pairings. While on the topic, the Leica M-A is equipped with all the frame lines for most of the best M-mount lenses (opens in new tab) used today.
Leica M-A Build Quality
The Leica M-A is the crowning achievement in the long and illustrious history of excellent cameras produced by Leica. In contrast to its “smarter” sibling, the Leica MP, the M-A is an entirely mechanical camera that does not have an integrated light meter. Many people find this a great source of comfort since it eliminates the possibility of anything going wrong and removes the need for particular settings to rely on batteries to function correctly.
In this sense, everything is done manually, and the user is in charge of controlling everything, including the shutter speed and the film advance. One of the features that are automated but are still mechanical is the frame counter, which will advance with each frame and will automatically reset to zero once the bottom plate is removed.
Additionally, the Leica M-A incorporates Leica’s quick reloading technology, which was initially introduced to the film market by Leica with the Leica M4 camera. Place the bottom plate on the camera, partially load your film canister into the body, pull the film leader towards the sprocket inside the body on the right-hand side, and slide it down into the camera. Once this is done, you can begin taking pictures.
There are many misunderstandings regarding this loading system, and you can see many photographers touching the film or making sure the sprockets line up with the film. However, if you read the Leica manual, you will learn that the camera features a “leveling wheel” that will manually level your movie for you when you insert the baseplate – so please stop touching your film while loading it!
The film may also be rewound manually by pressing the front rewind lever to the left, in the direction of the letter “R,” and pulling up the circular rewind lever located on the top left of the camera and moving it in a manner that is counterclockwise.
It might not be as quick as, say, the rewind lever and knob in the range of Leica M4 to M7 cameras, but if you want to buy an additional accessory to mount onto the circular lever, you can do so if you have the desire to do so. I found this to be a very pleasing way to rewind your film. On the other hand, I discovered that rewinding your movie was a straightforward process, and after you’ve done it a few times, you’ll be able to bring it up to a satisfactory pace.
Leica M-A Specs
- CameraLeica M-A (Typ 127) compact range and viewfinder system camera with mechanically controlled shutter
- Lens ConnectionLeica M bayonet
- Lens SystemLeica M lenses from 16-135mm
- Exposure ControlManual shutter speed & aperture setting based on readings from external exposure meter or operator assessment
- Flash unit connectionUsing accessory shoe with center contact
- SynchronizationWith 1st shutter curtain
- Flash sync speed1/5 s; slower shutter speeds can be used
- Flash exposure controlComputer control of flash unit or guide number calculation and manual setting of required aperture
- Viewfinder principleLarge, bright line frame viewfinder with automatic parallax compensation
- EyepieceCalibrated to -0.5 dpt. Corrective lenses from -3 to +3 diopter available
- Image field limiterBy activating two bright lines each: For 28 and 90 mm or for 35 and 135 mm, or for 50 and 75 mm; automatic activation when lens is fitted
- Image field selectorAllows the bright-line pairs to be manually activated at any time (e.g. to compare detail)
- Parallax compensationHorizontal and vertical offset between viewfinder and lens axis is automatically compensated according to the relevant distance setting
- Correlation between viewfinder & film imagesAt the shortest possible distance setting for each focal length, the bright line frame size corresponds to an image size of approx. 23 x 35 mm. When set to infinity, depending on the focal length between 9% (28mm) and 23% (135mm) more is captured by the film than is shown in the corresponding bright line frame
- Magnification(For all lenses) 0.72 x
- Large basis range finderSplit or superimposed image range finder shown as bright field in the center of the viewfinder image
- Effective measurement basis’49.9 mm (mechanical measurement basis 69.25 mm x viewfinder magnification 0.72 x)
- ShutterRubber blanket slotted shutter with horizontal movement; extremely low-noise; mechanically controlled
- Shutter speedsFrom 1 s to 1/1 s in whole increments, B for long exposures of any duration, (1/5 s) for flash synchronization
- Shutter releaseStandard thread for cable release integrated
- Film winding
- LoadingManual film loading after opening the bottom cover and the rear panel
- Winding forwardsManually with quick wind lever or Leicavit M, motorized using Leica Motor-M, Leica Winder-M, Leica Winder M4-P, or Leica Winder M4-2 (from serial no. 10350)
- RewindManually with pull-out rewind button, after moving the R lever on the front of the camera
- MaterialEnclosed all-metal body with hinged rear panel; chromed brass top & bottom cover
- Tripod threadA 1/4 DIN 4503 (1/4”)
- Rear panel / equipmentIndicator for film sensitivity
- Dimensions(Length x Depth x Height) 138 mm x 38 mm x 77 mm
- WeightApprox. 578 g
- Items suppliedHousing bayonet cover, carrying strap
Leica M-A Verdict
The Leica M-A is not a camera that is exclusively reserved for a specific type of photographer; however, it does have a great deal of appeal to the analog enthusiast or professional who is looking for a film camera that can be purchased brand new, does not contain any electronics, and is entirely mechanical. This means that it may continue forever, which truly appeals to me. It also possesses the incredible Leica to build quality that has put this firm on the map for many years.
If you are a photographer who is interested in shooting with a 35mm film camera and you want it to be a Leica, I would personally advise you to avoid the risk of purchasing a used M6 or M4 and instead make an investment in your future by buying a Leica M-A.
Every time I went out to take pictures with this camera, I was met with nothing but pure happiness and a sense of adventure. Because it is unquestionably an accessory that will go in harmoniously with my Leica M-E digital camera, I have decided to make the acquisition of it my next buy, and I strongly recommend that you do the same.