The Leica M3 – the first camera in Leica’s M series.
A masterpiece that has stood the test of time. A camera so good that it was advertised as a “lifetime investment in perfect photography.”
Introduced in 1954, the M3 went on to become the best-selling Leica camera ever.
It’s a known fact. Germany’s prowess in engineering is undeniable.
Machinery, industrial equipment, and vehicles from Germany are known for their precision, power, and impeccable build quality. German engineers don’t cut corners.
Which is why it’s no surprise that the best 35mm camera comes from Germany.
Even Steve Jobs compared the revolutionary iPhone 4 to this camera.
And for good reason.
Not only was it well built, the Leica M3 came with a multitude of features that made it a true masterpiece in photography.
Here’s why the Leica M3 is so highly regarded.
Features of the Camera
One of the most notable features of the Leica M3 is the big bright viewfinder. Not only is it big, but the M3 viewfinder is the world biggest and best finder.
With a magnification of 0.91X, the M3 viewfinder is able to achieve more precise focus than any other 35mm or 50mm camera.
And that’s not all!
The M3 comes with a large flare free rangefinder. The snappy and fast rangefinder ensures more precise and accurate focusing—better than any other camera ever made.
As if that’s not enough!
The viewfinder came with three focal length frame lines. The M3 viewfinder is able to automatically select frame lines for the 50mm, 90mm, and 135mm lenses. Thanks to this feature, your view is never polluted with irrelevant frames—something that modern-day Leica’s are unable to do.
The M3 is optimized for the 50mm, 90mm, and 135mm lenses. However, this doesn’t mean it can’t use other lenses.
The Leica M3 is perfectly compatible with all Leica M-mount lenses made since 1954 till today. And with a special adapter, it becomes compatible with every screw mount lens made since 1933.
Talk about versatility.
How does the M3 perform?
Using this camera is simply a joy. The M3 is a simple and straight forward camera. With this camera, you don’t have to worry about menu, settings, and other distracting features.
Its simplistic design and singularity of purpose allows you to only focus on the photo.
And that’s not all!
The ultra-smooth, quiet, and precise mechanics make using this camera a joy. Every photo you take with this camera is a masterpiece.
What about the shutter?
Like many cameras produced in the 1950s, the M3 has a top shutter speed of 1/1000sec. The M3 is not a camera for fast motion photos. However, for still photography, it’s a great camera.
The Leica M3 is also a fully mechanical camera. With this camera, you don’t have to worry about batteries, or electronics that may need replacement over time.
Talk about a camera built to last.
Design and Physical Built
Just like the Rolls Royce, the Leica M3 boasts of being handmade and of supreme quality.
For starters, the M3 body is fully metal with a silver chrome and leather exterior.
Its classic vintage design makes this camera a joy to hold. It fits right in the palm of the hand and all the controls are perfectly placed.
The shutter button is smooth to push and does not wiggle when pushed—unlike the plasticky shutter buttons in modern day Leica’s.
And that’s not all!
The viewfinder is made of plain glass, which is clearer and easier to clean
With all these features, The M3 should be a very heavy camera, right?
Unlike Nikon cameras built at the time, the M3 was relatively light with the body weighing 610g – half the weight of a Nikon D700
Shortcomings of the Camera
The M3 has one major shortcoming. It doesn’t come with a light meter, making it hard for novice photographers to use.
The other shortcoming is that the camera isn’t optimized for 35mm lens. To use a 35mm lens, you have to add “goggles” to convert the 50mm frame lines into 35mm.
There’s no doubt that the Leica M3 is the best Leica camera ever made.
All other Leica cameras have been a stepdown from the M3. Despite being introduced more than six decades ago, the M3 is still a great camera to use.
With the M3, you will never need to purchase any other camera in your lifetime.