M3 – 1954–66 (Total 200,000 units manufactured) Introduced at the German Photokina exhibition in 1954, the M3 was the first of the M series Leicas, a line that is still manufactured today, and featured the first Leica body with a bayonet-style mount for interchangeable lenses. In an advertisement from 1956, it was regarded as a "lifetime investment in perfect photography". The M3 has a .92 magnification finder, the highest of any M camera made. The price of this high magnification was that a 35mm lens required "goggles" that fit in front of the view/rangefinder windows to facilitate a wider view. The M3 advanced film via a lever rather than knob, the first M3s required two strokes to advance the film, after 1958 M3's were single-stroke. Early M3s lacked a frame preview selector lever to switch between framelines.
|Leica M3 cutaway|
M2 – 1958–67 (88,000 sets were manufactured). A scaled-down and lower-cost version of the M3, the M2 had a simplified rangefinder of 0.72 magnification, allowing easier use of 35mm lenses. The 0.72 magnification became the standard viewfinder magnification for future M cameras. The M2 lacked the self-resetting film frame counter of its predecessor.
|Leica M2 cutaway|
M4 – 1967–75 (50,000 sets were manufactured); 1974–75 (6,500 sets were manufactured). With added rangefinder framelines for 35mm and 135mm lenses. Introduced the canted rewind crank (the previous Ms had rewind knobs). With the M5, was the last M camera to have a self-timer.
|Leica M4 cutaway|
M5 – 1971–75 (31,400 sets were manufactured). With added integral TTL lightmeter. First Leica with a light meter, a mechanical swinging-arm CDS cell positioned behind the lens. The added functionality required a redesigned, larger body compared with the traditional M3 dimensions. Certain wide angle lenses (early 21mm f4.0 and f3.4) could not be used in the camera without modification because of the possibility of damage to the rear element of the lens or the meter arm. For similar reasons, collapsible lenses could not be collapsed on the M5. These restrictions also held true for the Leica CL (below). With the M4, last M camera to have a self-timer.
|Leica M5 cutaway|
M6 – 1984–98. A camera that first combined the M3 form factor with a modern, off-the-shutter light meter with no moving parts and LED arrows in the viewfinder. Informally referred to as the M6 "Classic" to distinguish it from the "M6 TTL" models, and to indicate its "Classic" M3 dimensions.
|Leica M6 cutaway|
M7 2002. Has TTL exposure, aperture priority and manual exposure, electronic shutter and two mechanical speeds of 1/60 and 1/125. Comes in .58, .72, and .85 viewfinder formats, each with different brightline framelines. Same taller top plate and counter-clockwise shutter dial as the M6 TTL. Leica even produced an M7 made of solid titanium, and offered it in a kit with 1 or several like titanium colored lenses.
|Leica M7 cutaway|