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Leica M Motors -- Why Bother?
Early M motors for the M2 and M4 share 3 common traits: rarity, high prices, and unreliability. A mint M4-MOT motor can sell for $4000 or more, the later used M winders for $500 or less. The early M2 and M4 motors are best left to collectors, not users.
Admirably Leica started offering out of the back motor capability starting with the M4-2 and all later M's. The motor also means hardened gears, which some people translate into a not as smooth advance stroke. Admittedly this observation is rather picky, most users have a hard time telling any difference. Unfortunately, none of these motors have proved best sellers or highly popular. hmm. If you want to find out why, try it. Sorry, but smooth easy working motors these are not. IF you want a great detachable motor, shoot Nikon, not Leica. In the 50's Leica introduced the Leicavit MP, a bottom trigger wind device which could be used on the MP and M2. Today they are expensive collector's items, but the idea lives on in the Canadian made Rapidwinder. Many experienced shooters consider the best M motor choice to be the Rapidwinder trigger winder made by Tom Abrahamsson at Rapidwinder.com.
The M4-2 Winder was introduced in 1978. Early examples with serial number before 10350 have a top speed of only 2 fps without continuous operation. Neither is it M6 compatible, and it will not fit on some M4-P's without body modification. Later M4-2 Winders with serial # 10350 and above allow continuous operation and with a top speed up to 3 fps and M6 compatibility with 4 AA batteries.
The M4-P Winder is actually quite rare, since it was introduced just before the M6 and was soon relabeled the Winder M. However, not everything rare in Leica is worth a big premium. This is of those items.
The M Winder was introduced in 1984. Leica unfortunately missed a marketing edge by continuing to call the product a "Winder" instead of a "Motor" when operation was increased to 3 fps with 4 AA batteries. Unfortunately all of 3 of the designs do not allow the camera to be set down on a table with the motor attached -- without the camera falling over on its face. Another problem is that all of the M winders to this point have the smoothness of operation of a washing machine when they are working right. IF any of the M Winder versions needs maintenance, they usually make a heck of a racket. You guessed it, they are none too popular with most people who have tried them.
Leica introduced the Leica Motor M in 2000. I like it more than the previous M Winder designs. The motor finally has a grip built into it. Besides easier handling, in practical terms it means camera and motor and most lenses will not fall over on its face and go boom on your table top. Motor speeds are single advance, or continuous 1.5 or 3 fps. While still the same speeds as the previous "Winder," Leica is correctly using the "Motor" term for that little bit extra in marketing pazaz. On the minus side, the plastic grip doesn't look as sturdy as I would like to see, and the new motor uses Lithium batteries instead of the very easy to find AA batteries.
On a personal basis, I just don't believe any of the Leica M4-2/MP/M6/M7 motors measure up overall to the quality of the M camera. I think this explains the popularity of the Rapidwinder trigger winder with many experienced M shooters. For more Rapidwinder info, visit Rapidwinder.com. Another alternative is the Konica Hexar RF with it's built in motor.
Revised: November 26, 2004 . Copyright © 1998-2004 Stephen Gandy. All rights reserved. This means you may NOT copy and re-use the text or the pictures in ANY other internet or printed publication of ANY kind. Information in this document is subject to change without notice. Other products and companies referred to herein are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective companies or mark holders.