Leica M3 Varriations and Related Concerns.

Discussion in 'Leica and Rangefinders' started by andrew_viny, Sep 26, 2008.

  1. So to get right to the point... I've been searching for a way to get into the Leica world and it seemed that the consensus was that I should
    get an M3. I am concerned that the shutter speeds on the earlier m3s will make things difficult in terms of finding a meter to pair with it. I
    also worry about the glass pressure plate. I don't quite understand the concerns others have mentioned about the film loading system either.
    Can anyone tell me about these issues and how others get around them? Also a man I know has a leica 3.5cm f/3.5. The internal elements
    appear to be in need of a cleaning (there appear to be not scratches though). How much would something like that cost to do and how much
    should I offer him for the lens if it is otherwise in good condition? Thanks.


    P.S. Any recomendations on a cheap meter?
  2. When I started shopping for my M3 I aimed at one that would be made with the contemporary shutterspeeds just
    because the meters that may have been made for the old ones were selenium, and very dead by now. Keep in mind
    that, in my case, I got an M3 because I purchased (on impulse) and MR4 meter.

    The other thing I had in mind was the camera's film advance system: it can be a double- or single-stroke. I preferred the
    single stroke, but had no funds for it so I went for a D-stroke, with a serial No. above 950000. The glass plate was not a
    concern of mine because the Leicas that had it were made in the beginning of the production run. There's the idea that if
    you buy a Leica with a serial No. larger than 1 million you'll be getting a good camera. I really don't know, but,
    essentially, do not get too concern about details. Just look for a camera with contemporary shutterspeeds that is in
    good shape. In any event, unless you buy it from someone who has it CLA'ed, you will need to budget for a trip to the
    shop. Peace of mind has no price!

    Take care and enjoy shopping!
  3. The differences between the nominal old shutter speeds and the new geometric shutter speeds are really smaller than the accuracy or repeatability of the shutter speeds. It's at least partly a matter of the numbers engraved, rather than the actual speeds.

    As for the 35/3.5 Summaron, internal haze cleaning runs $75 to $100. But it's quite impossible that the haze has damaged the coating or glass, and that the lens is not recoverable. This is an unfortunately common problem with the Summaron lenses. I'd say the fairest way is to buy the lens on a "contingent" basis.
  4. cpj


    You might consider looking for an M2 vs the M3. While the M2 came out AFTER the M3, it was lower priced and ideal for use with a 35mm wide angle lens as that is the standard field of view in the finder. Today the M3 commands a bit of a premium price over the M2 because of its cache of being "the original Leica M" but I owned my M2 from 1962 to the early 1980s as other Leicas came and went because it was so useful since my standard lens was the 35mm Sumicron. And over those years I went through all the intervening M's, including the M4, M4-2, M5 and I finally traded it when buying two M6s about 1984 when they first arrived. I always felt it was a better "shooters" camera than the M3 although at times over those years I owned both a two-stroke and a single-stroke M3, then trading them for lenses as I kept my reliable M2.
  5. I shot many slide shots on an M3 with the old-style speed numbers. I didn't find it to be a problem, especially with the
    control I now have with photoshop. Also keep in mind that the Leica shutter speeds aren't perfectly accurate anyway--
    one could be faster than its stated 1/50, and the next camera could be slower than its supposed 1/60. For BW, I don't
    find it to be an issue.

    My M3s were both very early (1st year) models, but modified with single stroke and a metal pressure plate. The problem
    with glass, by the way, was the tendency of the film to gather a static charge as it was pulled over the plate. Now that I
    have the M2, I'm glad that I have the frame preview lever. I'm also glad I can (eventually) mount a 35 or 28 of newer
    vintage--I don't think I could go back to the 50/90 frame now. I wouldn't want a double stroke winder either. I wonder if
    there are that many M3s with the original glass plate left at this point.

    As far as the loading system is concerned, it does take some practice, but I can do it in about 40 seconds. You take the
    bottom off, take out the rewind spool, thread the leader in, and then carefully maneuver both the film cassette and the
    spool back in, making sure the film is correctly aligned in the sprocket holes. Since I grew up with film (instead of
    digital), I'm used to shooting a low volume, so it isn't a big deal. But you do have to sit down and have both hands
    available. The 35 3.5 lenses such as you are looking at seem to be going for about $399 and up at the retail level.
    If it needs cleaning I'd offer $200. I think for a private sale for a lens that need work, that would be fair. But if you really
    want a 35, I would go towards the M2 and you will have much more choice. The Voightlanders are very inexpensive, and
    a lot lighter than the 35 with the M3 eyes.
  6. Andrew, the M3 is a brilliant camera, but it's important you choose one that's right for you. I use both an M3 (single stroke) and an M6.
    Only the very early model M3s used the European shutter speed sequence (1/2/5/10/25/50,100,250,500,1000), instead of the later
    international series (1,2,4,8,15,30,60,125,250,500). Not that those speeds should be a deterrent. The important this is that no matter
    what used Leica you get, it needs to be in top-notch condition. Either buy one that is or factor in getting it serviced. As for a meter, the
    old selenium ones are useless. A Sekonic 308b is excellent, accurate, and very straightforward to use.

    But I wonder if you wouldn't feel more comfortable with an M6, with its built in meter? Perhaps it's worth saving just a little more.

    Is it possible to handle both the M3 and M6 to see which you prefer. If not, ask yourself if you like don't mind manual metering, slower
    loading (though I don't find this a problem), and different viewfinders(M3 is suited only for 50 and above, or you need a separate finder.)

    As for lenses, I strongly recommend either a 50 Summicron or 35 Summicron. Old one smay be OK, but need to be in good condition.

    Finally, if you are still interested in an M3, there are a couple of them for sale here in New Zealand right now for a very competitive price.
  7. Andrew, about meters... I can recommend the Sekonic L-208. It's a very small thing, which even comes with a small strap
    to carry it around your neck. It's a reflected and incident light meter that retails for less than $100. I used it
    interchangeably with my MR4 meters... and I probably would use it more, but the Leica meters actually can be fitted on top
    of the cameras and I kinda like that, so I use them more.
  8. John Shriver is exactly right about he shutter speed issue; don't worry about it. Similarly, I wouldn't worry too much
    about the various upgrades over the production run and the serial numbers to look for, etc. Just look for one in good
    mechanical shape, and make sure the finder is clean and clear. The glass pressure plate works very well, but these are
    only found on the older cameras- and some of them have been replaced. I wouldn't worry about it one way or the other;
    if you get a glass one, just be aware of it. Ideally, get one one with two red-painted pins in the top of the rewind shaft-
    these are more marginally more robust mechanisms than in the earlier versions- but again, don't worry about it. Far more
    significant will be the care and use it has seen. A camera that has sat in a drawer for 40 years might not work as well as
    one that's been exercised regularly. As for the meter issue, just use a decent hand-held meter, and forget the silly clip-
    ons. Shooting negatives, you rarely need to meter each shot; just take a couple of readings so you know highlight and
    shadow values, then put the meter back in your pocket and shoot till the light changes more than you can guesstimate.
    (You'll find as you do this that you need to meter less and less...) The difference between 1/25th and 1/30th- especially
    with the Leica shutter-really means even less here.

    The recommendation to look at an M2 might be a good one- the choice between the two really comes down to your
    preference for your normal focal length. If you're a 50mm shooter (like me), you'll love the M3- but if you use a 35mm
    most of the time, an M2 might suit you better. Anyway, it seems to me lately that the used prices I'm seeing for M3's are slightly lower than for M2's- but that may just be because I have two M3's and am casually shopping for an M2.

    Good luck finding a good camera- they are out there, and with some patience, you should get a good deal on a camera
    you can keep using for many years to come.
  9. Why should the selenium meter that fits the M3,M2, be dead ? Mine are both fine and accurate. The Cds meter
    that came with my M3 in '67 is DEAD< GONE and buried. A piece of junk. Leitz/Leica's excuse was that they hadn't built it! Sure, but "they" sold it! Anyway no batteries..mercury.
    The M3 is great but they are OLD! A wrong knock and your viewfinder may be gone! The glues holding the prisms etc are now very dry and brittle. Everyday another adventure! Get a good hand meter if not a working selenium.
    The 1st model with double stroke are wearing out.
    Meter.Get a used Gossen Lunasix model. Minolta made fabulous models. The Voigtlander meter is small fits in shoe but not coupling. I believe they can fall off. Check.
    Good luck. Mine is still my most used camera.
  10. I think the shutter speeds depended on when the camera was made. My old Kodak Vigilant and Monitor (and also the Medalist} (1940's) had shutter speeds of 1, 1/2, 1/5, 1/10, 1/25. 1/50, 1/100. and 1/200, 1400 in the case of the Monitor and Medalist.
    My Retina IIa (1950's) went to 1/250 and 1/500. My Leica M2 (1960's)has 1/15, 1/30. 1/60, 1/125, 1/250, 1/500, and 1/1000.
  11. Jason, from what I've read, selenium meters have a limited life. If you have (just like a friend of mine who lives in Spain)
    one alive and kicking, that's just good news but not necessarily the average case.
  12. There is no problem with the film loading on the M2/M3/M4. I can load my M2 and M3 just as fast as I can load my M6/MP. In fact, I tend to think, just a little faster. I agree that the modern geometric shutter speeds are the way to go. Just hold out for an M3 that has them. Very few Leicas were made with a glass pressure plate. They are collector's items. I wouldn't worry about that--the chances of getting one are small!
  13. If by consensus, it means that you'll be shooting with a 90 more often than a 35 then the M3 is a good choice. Seriously though, a M2 is a better fit for most RF user that who plan to use a 35, 50 and occasionally a 90 focal length lens. If you mind the extra 135 frame line, the M4 is a nice all-round user too.

    I'd pass on the Summaron offer and stick with a 50 until you become more accustomed to which ever camera you choose.

    The earliest M3 did have the old shutter speed progression. I have several pre-1956 cameras and have not had much of a problem with the older progression.

    Since the M3 is not my main shooter, I opted for a CLA'd dual stroke with the modern shutter speed progression and the brass pressure plate. At the time of purchase a single stroke M3 was nearly twice the price of DS.

    Film Loading: Back in the day, pre-loaded 35mm was film was available with long leaders. The M3 is so much easier to load when the leader has been trimmed to the old standard. Since, my main 35mm shooters are older Leica screw mounts, I'm very much in the habit of trimming 35mm film leaders for the old Barnacks.
  14. So I found an

    M3 DS. #806xxx with a 50mm f/2 summicron (rigid). It is listed as condition 8/10 and a good user. It has some edge crystallization in the finder but it says it doesn't affect view. -- $895

    M3 DS. #835xxx with a 50mm f/2 summicron (collapsible) with some coating wear on the lens front surface. Condition is
    9-/10. -- $1095

    M3 DS. #901xxx condition is 9-/10. -- $749

    M3 SS. #997xxx condition is 9-/10. -- $795

    M3 DS. with no listed sn. no listed issues and condition is EX (from KEH). -- $789 they also have early serial number
    models in EX condition for 751 (sn is 74xxxx)

    M4-2 in BGN condition for $645

    If I got one of the body only options a 50mm f/2.8 collapsible Elmar would cost me $429 in EX condition.

    I could also wait to see if one of the local shops gets anything in but there's no guarantee about model, price, condition,
    or time until they get one.

    What do you guys think of these options?

  15. > M3 SS. #997xxx condition is 9-/10. -- $795

    I would go with a SS model. The viewfinder has slightly better eye-relief for glasses. I always end up with the M3SS over my M3DS.

    I've picked up a near-perfect collapsible Summicrons for under $300. A little patience on the lens will save you some money.
  16. I honestly am leaning towards the

    M3 DS. #806xxx with a 50mm f/2 summicron (rigid). It is listed as condition 8/10 and a good user. It has some edge
    crystallization in the finder but it says it doesn't affect view. -- $895

    The reason being that it's cheap and an f/2.

    I'm worried about the crystallization but not super worried as I can return it if I'm unhappy.

    But as I'm a little worried, I've added all the other items as possible considerations.

    I also think that the money I save if I got the bundle could then be put towards a CLA.
  17. Actually, that is the one to stay clear of. Edge crystallization would indicate that the cemented viewfinder optics are beginning to separate.
  18. So these are my finalized choices. They are the cheapest (good condition) solutions that I could fin. If you guys out
    there could help me pick out a lens and a body from this list I'd really appreciate it. Thanks for all the help guys. I really
    couldn't have come close to make this decision without you guys.

    M3 SS. Good User! #997xxx (9-) -- $795

    M4-2 Black Body condition EX -- $749

    M4-P Black Body condition EX -- $999


    50 f/2.8 Elmar collaps (Silver) condition EX -- $429

    40mm f/2 Summicron-c (Black) condition EX -- $499

    35mm f/3.5 Summaron with viewer (Silver) condition EX- -- $424 EX+ -- $549

    50mm f/2 Summicron (Silver) condition EX -- $599

    50mm f/2 Summicron Bay Chr Clpbl (Silver) condition EX -- $389
  19. Please add a 35mm 3.5 in EX condition for 399 to that list
  20. Get the M3 SS 795 and the 50/2 collapsible for 389; and get the M3 CLA'd by Youxin Ye....in fact have KEH send directly to him.
  21. For a relatively inexpensive but good hand-held light meter, see if you can find a used Gossen Scout 3 in good working condition. It is compact, simple and straightforward to use, and has reasonable sensitivity suitable for most conditions, although it may not be sensitive enough for use in really dim available light conditions.
  22. CPeter hits it on the head IMHO -- M2 way to go. You'll use a 35 much more than you'll ever use a 135 on a rangefinder. Also
    each M2 frame is separate and, if you want one, you can get an original MP winder (very expensive) or Tom Abrahamson's M2
    Rapidwinder (expensive). Plus, the Leica Quickload kit makes it as easy to load as an M4, etc. With the M3, you still have to
    reset the wind "clock" by pulling out the film spool, so that really compromises the Quickload kit. I've never regretted changing
    my M3 (as well as all my other M's) for an M2. My M2, Leicaflexes & Threadmounts enrich my life daily!
  23. From 1985 to 2002 I used an M3 with the "old" speeds in conjunction with a meter that had the "new" ones. Never a problem. I'd agree with those who say that the M2 is more flexible. With the M3 I used a SBLOO finder, now with my M2 I don't need one.
  24. No love for the M4? It's cheap, has rapid loading, still looks good, not too old.

    Personally I'd get a slightly used M6 Classic. Spend a little more, get the built in meter and some peace of mind..

    Of course when the fit takes me I reach for my 1935 III...
  25. cpj


    STOP--consider that the ONLY used camera seller that I've run across in the last 40 years that is CONSISTENT with their
    ratings and grading of camera and lens condition is KEH. Many,many other long time retailers of used cameras have NEVER
    sold a camera rated anything less than "EX" so the result is something the KEH rates as "Bargain" is "EX" from many dealers.

    Obviously the only way you can evaluate a camera and make a comparison is to have it in your hands, examine every inch of
    it carefully, run some film through it using ALL the shutter speeds, and listen to the shutter speeds several times to make sure
    they all sound correct as the shutter is tripped. Another very important test is to shoot a roll of IS0 50 or 100 reversal film
    (chrome), preferably on a tripod, with the camera aimed at a clear blue sky and the sun at your back. Start with 1000th at
    f2.8, then move to 1/500th at f4, 1/250th at 5.6 and so on across the full range.

    When you lay out the resulting slides on a light table--or better yet don't have the film cut, just delivered back to you as a long
    strip--each frame should be of equal density as the one beside it. IF NOT, it means the shutter for that particular setting is
    either running too fast or too slow. If the variations are all over the place, send the camera back. If only one or two speeds
    show up as fast or slow--more likely both will either be in the high range, above 1/60th or the low range below 1/30th, then a
    good CLA ought to be able to bring the shutter back into specification.

    This test of the shutter is very important when you are talking about a camera that is 30 to 45 years old.
    [Even if this results in an under or overexposure, the results will tell you about the shutter function. F-stops never change; they
    are factory determined and f 5.6 by one lens maker lets through the same amount of light as a lens by any other maker AND
    any lens of a longer or shorter focal length.]

    As to KEH, I have found, like many of their customers, that they are very conservative in their ratings. A large scratch or a
    corner dent that doesn't affect the operation of the camera is enough for them to downgrade from EX to BGN with the
    difference on a Leica M being about $400. For example, they have an M4 and an M4-2 on their site today that are certainly
    worth looking at because you know KEH will promptly refund your money if you don't like the camera for any reason or just
    change your mind. And, for putting up with a corner dent, you can save $400 and put that towards a higher quality lens.

    A BGN Leica from KEH that has a black finish is apt to show a lot of brassing and rubbing, but remember that the worst of this
    can be fixed with a permanent MagicMarker. KEH doesn't sell cameras that don't work; their grading system is highly based on
    cosmetics and that's a good thing to remember.

    If you are going to spend $995 for a camera, at least spend it with somebody that has a reputation for no hassles like KEH.
    (Also remember, even KEH has no classification in between BGN and EX. There is no such thing as AVG or GOOD or FINE,
    so often a BGN is what someone else calls EX-minus.)
  26. I would absolutely recommend an M3. Also don't buy any old junk. Save your cash for one that is decent shape with no
    flaws. They exist. The finder is amazing, far superior to the M6. No comparison.
  27. Yes to KEH. Agree with Darius, if you get an M3 get a clean one. These cameras are 50+ years old and some of them are junk.

    On the other hand, if you're going to want to shoot with a 35mm lens or wider at some point, the M3 viewfinder is not the best solution. It's
    more a finder for 50mm or longer.

    If it were me, I'd get the newest / latest model I could afford. M4, M4-p, or M6.

    Also, don't send the camera for a clean/lube/adjust until you know you want to keep it and only if and when it needs it.
  28. Only late M3s have DOF marks in the viewfinder. I find those very useful, and would pick an SS, close to 1 Mio serial just for this. And to avoid RF separation/de-silvering (the younger the better).



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