Leica M3 Rangefinder

Finally acquired this fully manual, all-mechanical beast from the past!

So, I got myself a gift. Kind of an expensive one.

When I started this year I wanted to shake things up, change some things in my life that I’d become complacent about. One of those things was my job. It’s not that I disliked it, but I had hit a total and complete career dead-end there. No path up, nowhere to go. And then an opportunity crossed my path. A new job, a step forward, something new to get excited about for the first time in a while. And how do you celebrate something like that?

Well, if you’re me, you buy new gear.

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Leica is one of those truly legendary brands in photography. Many inspiring photographers in the world swear by Leica, refuse to use any other camera, believe that nothing gives them the same experience as one of these specific models. A brand that has been on my bucket list for ages, waiting to get crossed off, so I could finally see what the fuss was about.

The M3 was the first model (though confusingly there’s an M2 and M1 too) in a long line of cameras that still exist today – the modern, digital M10 body can be purchased for about 7000 euros. The longevity of the M rangefinder line, in a sector that has long since invented entirely new technologies, demonstrates that this is really something special. And it also means that interest in old, vintage M models hasn’t waned. An M3 body in excellent condition can still run you 1000 euros – and that’s without a lens.

Okay, I’m terrible at explaining why I want this. Let Kai from DigitalRev give you some more of an idea:

Whereas digital is like a quartz watch, this is like a mechanical watch. You don’t really need to pay that much for the camera or the watch, it’s just appreciation of something that was made by blokes, not machines. -Kai

So say hello to my newest acquisition: a classic Leica M3 from 1955. This all-mechanical camera is as barebones as you can imagine. Made in an era before electronics, through-the-lens metering, or just about anything even barely automated – hell, this camera doesn’t even take a battery. It’s nothing but springs and gears and rock-solid steel in a hefty package of post-war German engineering. The refinement of a precision instrument like a Swiss watch, combined with the reliability of a dependable tool like a Russian assault rifle. It just oozes build quality. You could bash someone’s skull in with this camera, and then still go on taking pictures.

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But Leica M cameras need Leica M lenses, and that’s what I’m lacking currently. Because if you thought vintage Leica cameras were expensive, you haven’t looked at vintage Leica lenses yet. Their cameras will go down in price – somewhat, anyway – but their lenses are pretty impressive at retaining their value for way longer than you would expect. For now I’m using a cheap old Soviet lens, a Jupiter-12 LTM, that can fit an adapter to go from LTM (Leica Thread Mount) to an M mount.

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I took a first few pics with this combination in Dusseldorf, and the experience really is what people have been promising. So I’m looking forward to showing you guys more pics soon!

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