Leica M3 Double Stroke Film Camera (1954)
Matthew Osborne Photography / “Mr Leica”
Leica M3 Camera – Why do I “need” one?
On a recent trip abroad I took my 1958 Leica M2 35mm film camera. The thing that bugged me the most is once film is loaded, colour or black and white, you are then stuck with that “setting” until the film is finished (unless you rewind mid-roll which I have done on occasion). I am more careful shooting film than digital so rarely use an entire roll of film in one day. With some of my medium format film cameras like the Mamiya RZ 67 and Kiev 88 (ARAX-CM) I have two film backs so have colour film loaded in one film back and black and white loaded in the other. As I only owned one Leica M film camera I was unable to shoot Leica film in say colour if the Leica M2 was already loaded with Kodak T-Max 100 B&W film. One easy way to resolve this is to get a second Leica M film body.
Leica M2 vs Leica M3
Why did I buy a Leica M2 and now want a Leica M3? When I bought the Leica M2 I wanted to have the 35mm frame lines that the M3 doesn’t have. Now I tend to enjoy using 50mm, 90mm, 135mm focal lengths more for my model portraits so the Leica M3 with the 50/90/135 frame lines is perfect. I have a 1.4x viewfinder magnifier permanently on my digital Leica M9 so am used to only seeing a 50mm frame and guessing anything wider, whether 14mm, 21mm, 28mm or 35mm. I love the simplicity and build quality of the Leica M2 that is also shared by the M3, 100% mechanical without a battery.
Leica M3 features
- Released in 1954, the early version was called the ‘double stroke’ (as I have bought)
- 100% mechanical, no battery required
- No light meter (I meter with a handheld Sekonic light meter or the digital Leica M9)
- Shutter speed 1-1/1000 + bulb (same as M2)
- Flash sync speed 1/50 (need adapter to use a flash with the M2 or M3)
- Big bright viewfinder with 0.91x magnification (Leica M2 has a 0.72x magnification)
- Bottom plate film loading as the M2
Leica M3 for Sale
I bought my Leica M2 from RedDotCameras (link below) so that was my first point of call when I was looking for a Leica M3 for sale. They always have a good stock of used Leica equipment, cameras bodies and camera lenses. They had Leica M2 with a Leica M3 viewfinder, Leica M3 double stroke cameras and the newer Leica M3 single stroke. They also have M4, M5, M6, M7 film cameras and newer models. I like the simplicity of the M2 but wanted the bright magnified viewfinder of the M3. They had various examples of each of the aforementioned cameras in different cosmetic conditions. All cameras have been serviced but some look in better condition than others and the price reflects this. I buy cameras to use rather than polish so as long as it is functional I am happy. I decided on a Leica M3 double stroke with a dent on a top corner for £449 and saved £150 vs a similar camera in better cosmetic condition. The older M3 double stroke tend to be slightly cheaper than the single stroke version but both have the same big bright viewfinder and that is all I needed.
Leica M3 double stroke vs. single stroke
Earlier Leica M3 double stroke models had a double stroke film advance lever due to fear of tearing the film. This model was later replaced by a Leica M3 single stroke film advance lever as found on my Leica M2. The Leica M3 is actually older than the M2 despite the name. Single-stroke film advance is faster but I am rarely using the Leica M film cameras under time pressure. I wind the film on prior to anticipating a photo so I don’t see it as being a issue.
Will the Leica M3 replace the Leica M2 as my main 35mm film camera?
Yes probably, just because of the 0.91x viewfinder and fact I like 50mm and longer focal lengths. I shoot mostly black and white 35mm film so might have B&W film loaded in the M3 and colour film loaded in the M2. That means when I have part used rolls of film in each camera I always have one camera ready to use, whether I need colour or black and white.
Keeping it simple!
I am often my own biggest enemy when it comes to keeping it simple. Too my ideas and trying to be prepared for every situation often results in me carrying three cameras, Leica M2, Leica M9 and Fuji GF670 on a trip and perhaps four Leica lenses, perhaps 14mm, 35mm, 50mm 90mm for example. Too much gear complicates everything and you often waste too much time changing lenses / cameras before each photo.
The Leica M3 has 50mm frame lines so is suited to a 50mm lens. I hope to have the Leica M3 + Leica Summicron 50mm f2 v5 lens combo as my main Leica M3 setup, almost like a fixed lens camera. The combination is small and sleek and lets me concentrate on the image and the moment with out distraction of other gear. That’s the plan anyway!
Leica M family continues to grow!
The Leica M3 will extend my happy family of Leica M cameras to work along side my Leica M2, Leica M8 and Leica M9. I strongly believe Leica M film cameras are a purchase for life not just for a few years. I am not as confident to say the Leica M8 and Leica M9 digital M bodies will still be in use in 50 years time but would like to think my Leica film cameras will pass down to the next generation of photographers after me.