Leica M3 Review – The Ultimate Rangefinder Camera!?
Buying a Leica M3.. Where it started!
Fuji GF670 Rangefinder Camera
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/ 6×7 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.
Leica M3 Film Camera
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 viewfinder of any camera. Big clear and bright with easy to see 50mm framelines and nothing else cluttering the view. I paired the M3 with a Leica Summicron 50mm f2 v5 lens with a E39 filter thread.
Leica M3 vs Fuji GF670 Wedding
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.
Leica M3 Review vs Fuji Gf670
I didn’t let the three cameras (Leica M9 + Leica M3 + Fuji 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 35mm 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 Summicron and some available light. The Leica M3 is fast and is kind of an extension from your arm / eyes. No fuss, no electronics, just beautifully pure photography. By keeping the setup simple the Leica M3 photos flowed, the wedding couple forgot the camera and the natural poses and relaxed smiles followed. (This was quite an achivement as both the bride and groom really didn’t like being in front of a camera).
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 “keep it simple” advantages also apply to my 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.
I’m sure I will have a lot more rave reviews to follow for the Leica M3 and more example images too but my review so far is it is a fantastic camera and my new number one favourite camera of all the 35mm and medium format cameras I own. The viewfinder is just magical! 🙂
Model photography sample images
Fuji GF670 Flickr Images
Leica M2 Flickr Images
Leica M3 Flickr Images
..Don’t get me wrong. The Fuji GF670 can produce stunning negatives but you just don’t get the same enjoyment you get with the Leica M3 when operating the camera.