Truth be told, I have always been a Nikon guy. My first film camera was a Nikon, my first digital was a Nikon, but Leica rangefinders have been held in high regard with the photographic community. My first rangefinder was the Voigtlander Bessa IIIW, where I was surprised at how enjoyable using the rangefinder can be. Sure, they're all but useless with many landscape filters, but there's something about looking down the barrel of a SLR lens that feels less intimate.
After I already took the Leica plunge with the Leica M-A, I came across a used M2 for a steal. Once sending it out for CLA (clean-lube-adjustment), it came back as good as new. The plan is to use the M2 and M-A in tandem, shooting two types of film at any given time. I figured that all these Leica M's are the same, so it should be like having two of the same body. While this is true to an extent, the devil is in the details when you have such a simple user interface! I should have known that cameras renown for being highly tactile would have subtle design cues that lead to unique experiences.
For starters, the thing I noticed right away, is that the frame lines are limited to just 35, 50, and 90mm. But they do not share the finder space with a second, or third focal length. Anyone shooting in these three focal lengths gets a clean, uncluttered viewfinder. In my case, I only have a 90/2.8 Elmarit-M and a MS Optical 35/1.4.
An obvious feature that is missing from the M2 is the automatically resetting frame counter. So far, I haven't failed to reset this, but I imagine the day where I do forget. Especially considering I'll be switching back and forth with a body that does have an automatic counter reset.
Shutter feels nice and smooth. I do notice that it is extremely quiet. Much quieter, in fact, than my M-A or M5. What is noticeable, however, is that the shutter cocking is louder. The film advance lever also feels inconsistent throughout it's travel. It starts off smooth, if not slightly rough. I use "rough" as a positive in this case because it has a nice subtle resistance. The problem occurs, however, at the end of the travel while cocking the shutter into place. There is a slight hesitation, followed by a loud clunk. None of this hinders operation in any way, just has a very unique feel.
This is a great Leica rangefinder for a reasonable price point. I know there is much praise for the M3 (which came out prior to the M2), but this offering is top notch. It was marketed as a budget version of the M3, but the build quality is still remarkable. The M2 may not have the pop culture references and historical mystique, but I think it's better looking that the M3. Plus, for us 35mm lens fans, we get the addition of built in frame lines. If you're looking for your first Leica M-Series camera, and don't mind metering yourself, this is the best entry into the brand (or in small format photography in general for that matter).