I love Leica M3


Bruce Lee once said, “It is not daily increase but daily decrease, hack away the unessential. The closer to the source, the less wastage there is.” This quote applies perfectly to LEICA’s first M camera, which has no batteries, battery chargers, or SD cards, and no other frameline besides the 50mm lens.

My heart was racing when I got my first film camera, a Leica M3. I sold all of my DSLR cameras because I fell in love with the M3. This is just the beginning.

Even though the M3 is a 60-year-old mechanical camera, for me, it’s just the start of a beautiful journey. “A street photographer without a film camera is like a body without a soul. Ha, ha, ha.”

Henri Cartier-Bresson purchased his first Leica camera, which he referred to as “the extension of my eye,” and traveled to Africa, eastern Europe, Italy, and Mexico.

I believe the Leica M3 has a unique quality: the more time you have to work with it, the more time you have to think. This quality is transmitted from the camera through your fingers, skin, nerves, and essence of art. The M3 is a work of art in itself.

Street photography master Henri Cartier-Bresson used the M3 and famously said, “When I bought my first Leica, I felt like I had finally found my eye.”

The M3 can use all M-mount and L39-mount lenses. Its viewfinder has a 0.91 magnification, which is the largest among Leica’s M-series cameras. You can adjust the shutter speed between letter markings.

With 225,294 units in circulation, almost any problem with the M3 can be repaired. Plus, most parts of the M2, M4, M6, M7, and MP are interchangeable with the M3.

When purchasing an M3, make sure the viewfinder is bright and the shutter is accurate. The Leica shutter’s tuning benchmark is 1/125s, so errors like 1/1000s are normal, even in newly manufactured cameras. The accuracy of slow shutter speeds on older cameras may not be reliable, especially 1s, but this is not a significant issue. Inspect the body for signs of wear such as peeling and scratches, which do not affect the shooting but affect its appearance. You can also buy assembled cameras like the M2 and M3, but these may be harder to sell. Leica has a history of combining cameras, such as the M6J, which is a combination of the M6 and M3.

When using the M3, always remember to cover the lens cap. If the lens is facing the sun, and its focus is on the shutter, it may burn small holes into it. And almost all M3 cameras need maintenance after regular use. It is recommended to have it serviced by Leica every ten years.

The M3 was an innovative camera, featuring a fast-insert bayonet lens, a combined viewfinder and rangefinder window, and an automatic viewfinder wireframe switch and counter reset. The viewfinder wireframe accommodates 50mm, 90mm, and 135mm lenses.

Using My Leica M3

This M3 is in pretty nice cosmetic condition, with bright and easy-to-see lines. There is a dark spot inside the viewfinder, but when you look through it, the patch is invisible and the viewfinder still seems bright.

I am happy with my experience using the M3 for both 35mm and 50mm lenses for street photography. I mainly use zone focusing (also called scale focusing) and am not too worried about the focusing part. In terms of framing, I can still frame fine with the inbuilt 50mm frame line using the 35mm lens, or step back and frame my shot, which could be equal to a 35mm focal range.