Originally Posted by GQgeek
Nantucket, I'm curious how much you pay for your antique glass? Hundreds or thousands? I might decide to play with a film camera one day, especially for B&W street photography. I really like some of the results you've gotten.
First of all, the oldest lens I own, at least for my M cameras, is the 50mm Summilux (f1.4), which has 1989 serial #s. My other lenses are all current models: 35mm Summicron (f2) Asph., 50mm Summicron, and 90mm Apo(chromatic) Summicron Asph ("Asph" standing for aspherical lens elements). The 35 and 90 were each about $2000. The 50 1.4 was about $1000 and the 50 f2 was around $600 because it had cosmetic damage on the built-in lens hood. Otherwise it was optically perfect, which is what matters to me. Anyway, Leica M glass does not come cheap, but as you and others have noted, the results speak for themselves (in terms of optical quality).
Of course, the M system is the rangefinder line, which in essence has remained unchanged since 1954 with progressive refinements. It requires a learning curve to use well. Not everybody is a rangefinder person. Rangefinders have certain advantages and weaknesses compared to SLRs.
Leica SLRs and R-series lenses tend to be cheaper on the used market. If you want an entrypoint to Leica glass, the R lenses may be ideal, since they can also be used with Canon DSLRs using an adaptor. I've paid an average of $600 per lens for my R lenses. Some of them are older versions ("antiquated" if you prefer), but the optical quality is superb!
If you want to get into Leica film SLRs, I'd recommend either the Leicaflex SL for a reliable, fully manual mechanical camera, or the very underrated R3 Electronic, which has an automatic mode and can be had for a few hundred dollars (but once the auto mode goes, it can't be repaired).
For a bit more money, the R7 is excellent, and if you really want to pull out all the stops, you could drop $5k on an R8 or R9 and the discontinued DMR (Digital Module R), which people who use it claim produces better results than any other DSLR available. At some point, the full-frame R10 will become available, but I'm willing to bet it will be north of $8k. (You'll be stylish with any of these options.)
What most people don't know in the digital age is that film technology has made major advances. Sadly, I haven't been able to find any Kodachrome or I would probably never shoot anything else, but Fujichrome Velvia 50 and 100 and Provia 400 are absolutely amazing films.
I'm continually amazed at the results I get with 400 film. Just to give you some idea, the photo of the Japanese beauty I posted recently on the Asian Women thread was shot on Provia 400 using the Leica MP and 50 1.4 at full aperture. My lab then scanned the slide at 2048x3088 pixels. Other than reduction for the web, no post-processing was done.