Leica M3 – The Ultimate Rangefinder!?
Matthew Osborne Photography
Fuji GF670 vs Leica M3
As a follower of this blog you will know I am a Leica M9 35mm digital rangefinder shooter. I recently decided to search for a camera one step closer to ‘perfection’ in terms of rangefinder cameras so invested in a Fuji GF670 Pro medium format film rangefinder (6×6 / 6×7 format). A folding camera with a medium format size sensor and a super sharp lens. It produces beautifully big 6×6 negatives with tonnes of detail when scanned. It is portable and i can use it will off camera strobes with a leaf shutter sync speed of 1/500. I thought it was pretty cool.
I then bought a 1950s Leica M3 35mm film rangefinder with a 0.91x viewfinder. It looks near identical to my Leica M2 and for the most part all the benefits are the same for the M2 and the M3. The biggest plus of the M3 is the viewfinder. I have a lot of cameras and it is without doubt my favourite on any camera. Big clear and bright with easy to see 50mm framelines and nothing else cluttering the viewfinder. I paired the M3 with a Leica Summicron 50mm f2 v5 lens with a E39 filter thread.
Film Photography Wedding – the M3 vs GF 670 Head-to-head!
This weekend I had a Leica wedding here in the UK and offered the couple the option of some film photography in addition to digital Leica M9 images. They were interested and purchased the film photography wedding package option so I took the Fuji GF670 loaded with colour 120 Fuji Pro 400H film and then the Leica M3 loaded with black and white 35mm film, Kodak T-Max 100. I didn’t let the three cameras (M9 + M3 + GF670) distract me from the wedding photography task so waited and brought them out for the wedding portrait images (plus a few bridal prep shots). I then had to chose when to shoot colour and when B&W film, and when 6×6 format and when 6×4 format. What I noticed straight away was the little Leica M3 fitted my hand like it was made to go there. Using the M3 was intuitive and felt natural (possible because I have used the M9 so much!). I was using natural light with the M3 but off camera speedlight for some of the GF670 shots. It made me realise that sometimes you don’t need all the fancy lights, big lenses, and larger camera sensors, I just needed the little M3, the 50mm Cron and some available light. It is fast and is kind of an extension from your arm / eyes. No fuss, no electronics, just beautifully pure photography. By keeping it simple the photos flowed, the wedding couple forgot the camera and the natural poses and relaxed smiles followed.
A ‘cute’ elegant vintage film camera is far less scary than a big DLSR with a 70-200mm lens stuck on the front. The little M3 actually became a talking point and was a welcomed sight for a number of the wedding guests.
All the above applies to the Leica M2 if I used a 35mm lens with the 35mm viewfinder. I have used the Leica M2 this year for various model shoots.
I wasn’t expecting the Leica M3 to have such an impact but it is letting me appreciate photography in the simplest form. I can transfer this mentality into the rest of my photography such as using the M9 with one small lens. It has also let me evaluate how I shoot and how I will approach future weddings when shooting film.
Despite my raving on I guess the prove will be in the resulting wedding images. The colour film will be lab developed and the black and white film developed at home by me using the film developer Rodinal. Once all developed and scanned I will share some samples and a follow up post.
Model photography sample images
- GF670 6×6 medium format film
- 35mm Leica film – Leica M2
..Don’t get me wrong. The Fuji GF670 can produce stunning negatives but you just don’t get the same flow you get with the Leica M3 when operating the camera.