Leica M3

35mm MF film rangefinder camera



Production details:
Order No.:IGEMO / 10150 - body without lens
10151 - body in black finish
IMARO / 10155 - body with ELMAR 50/3.5
IMOLO / 10157 - body with ELMAR 50/2.8
ISUMO / ISUMO-S - body with SUMMICRON 50/2 collapsible
ISOUN / 10180 - body with SUMMICRON 50/2 rigid
ISUMO-N / ISMON / 10185 - body with SUMMICRON 50/2 with near-focusing range
ISAIO - body with SUMMARIT 50/1.5
IMOOT / 10167 - body with SUMMILUX 50/1.4
System: Leica M (1954)
Imaging plane:
Maximum format:35mm full frame
Mount and Flange focal distance:Leica M [27.8mm]
Imaging plane:36 × 24mm film
Speeds:1 - 1/1000 + B
Exposure metering:None
Exposure modes:Manual
Rangefinder and Viewfinder:
Rangefinder:Built-in, combined with viewfinder
Viewfinder:Built-in, combined with rangefinder
Finder magnification:0.91x
Actual rangefinder base:68.5mm
Effective rangefinder base:62.34mm
Bright-line frames:50mm, 90mm, 135mm
Parallax compensation:Yes
Physical characteristics:
Body cap:IVZOO / 14056

Manufacturer description #1

12 unique features of the M-3 that prove there's nothing like a Leica

  1. Combined viewfinder-rangefinder of life-size image offers the benefits of both split image and coincident-image focusing.
  2. Bright-line frames in viewfinder are automatically brought info position by the interchangeable 50mm, 90mm, 135mm lenses; frame selector offers preview of fields of view.
  3. Aufomatic parallax compensation is continuous for all lenses, from infinity to closest distances.
  4. Two-stroke film advance fastest rapid-lever method, permits continuous picture-taking without moving camera from the shooting position.
  5. Viewfinder accuracy is unaffected when viewing at oblique angles; extra-large eye piece guarantees perfect sighting even when wearing glasses.
  6. Automatic film counter resets itself for next roll of film when take-up spool is removed from camera.
  7. Shutfer speeds on one dial (click-stops: 1 to 1/1000 second, and B for time exposure).
  8. Removable exposure meter couples with entire range of shutter speeds, has extremely wide range of light sensitivity.
  9. Internal confact adjustment assures full flash synchronization for many types of flashbulbs, and electronic flash at 1/25 and 1/50.
  10. Bayonet lens mount combines quick-change convenience with the precision formerly associated only with the screw-thread types.
  11. Hinged back plate for easy loading and inspection; constructed so that the rigidity of the classic LEICA housing is maintained.
  12. Extra-large glass pressure plate and long, precision-ground film tracks guarantee a truly flat film plane.

In addition to its exclusive innovations, the LEICA M-3 retains all of the sound and time-tested principles that long have been identified with LEICA camera design.

  • rugged camera housing, functional design
  • each lens precision-matched to its focusing mount
  • quiet, smooth-running focal-plane shutter
  • interlocking shutter release prevents double exposures
  • built-in, variable delay self-timer
  • all scales visible from top
  • locking film-speed indicator
  • widest range of accessories in the 35mm field
  • twelve superb lenses (from 28mm to 400mm) available

Manufacturer description #2

Strain resisting camera housing, chrome finished and covered in leather grained vulcanized fabric, with hinged back plate. Eyelets for neck strap. Large single eyepiece for measuring bright-line viewfinder with automatic parallax adjustment. Rangefinder and automatic field frame changeover (for 50, 90 and 135 mm. lenses), coupled with interchangeable lenses in bayonet mount. Field of view selector. Focal plane shutter. Single click-stop shutter speed dial for speeds 1, 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, 1/15, 1/30, 1/60, 1/125, 1/250, 1/500, 1/1000 second and "bulb" exposure and with provision for coupling with attachable exposure meter. Fully automatic shutter synchronization with sockets for electronic and flash bulb equipment. Built-in delayed action release. Lever for simultaneous film transport and shutter winding. Exposure counter with automatic zero return. Pull-out back winding knob.

Manufacturer description #3

Bright-line measuring viewfinder with automatic parallax compensation, automatically superimposed image frames for 50, 90 and 135 mm focal length (35 mm frame obtained by use of 35 mm lens with finder attachment). Bayonet mount for rapid lens change. Shutter speed knob engages at each setting from 1 to 1/1000 sec. and B. Attachable exposure meter with direct shutter coupling. Automatic frame counter under magnifier. Hinged back.

From 1956 with field-of-view selector.

Serial No. from 700001.

From the editor

The first Leica M camera. Introduced in 1954, it has a range- and viewfinder combined in one eye-piece giving a particularly bright image. The rangefinder works on both the split image and coincidence principle. The viewfinder shows the image in almost natural size (0.91x magnification) and has automatic parallax compensation. The bright-line frames automatically show the correct viewfinder field when the 50mm, 90mm or 135mm lenses are fitted. The 50mm frame is permanent, while 90mm and 135mm frames are selective. 35mm lenses provided with oculars to fit in front of viewfinder and rangefinder windows to convert 50mm frames to 35mm.

Compared to the M4, the camera has no speed loading, rewind crank, or option for motor drive. A rapid winding lever transports the film in one stroke (or two strokes on pre-1959 models). The film track is enlarged and combined with a large pressure plate making for increased flatness of the film. The hinged-on back simplifies loading, and gives access for cleaning. The film counter resets itself automatically when the take-up spool is removed from the camera for loading.

Compared to Leica screw mount cameras, all shutter speeds are on one dial, and can be set by click stop before or after tensioning the shutter. Neither the shutter dial nor the rewind knob rotate during film transport.

The shutter is synchronized for both electronic flash and flash bulbs. A delayed-action release is built-in with adjustable delay from 5 to 10 seconds. The standard (Compur-type) cable release is used.

Since April 1956 a lever to the left of the lens (viewed from above) sets the viewfinder field independently. This permits the photographer to pre-select the most suitable lens.

The standard finish was silver chrome, but black paint was introduced at No. 959,401 in 1959.

Special limited editions (1)

Similar cameras (13)

35mm full frame • Manual focus • Film • Rangefinder • Leica M mount

Model Shutter Metering Modes Year
Cosina Voigtlander BESSA-R2 M, 1/2000 TTL • WA M 2002
Cosina Voigtlander BESSA-R2A E, 1/2000 TTL • WA AM 2004
Cosina Voigtlander BESSA-R2M M, 1/2000 TTL • WA M 2006
Cosina Voigtlander BESSA-R3A E, 1/2000 TTL • WA AM 2004
Cosina Voigtlander BESSA-R3M M, 1/2000 TTL • WA M 2006
Cosina Voigtlander BESSA-R4A E, 1/2000 TTL • WA AM 2006
Cosina Voigtlander BESSA-R4M M, 1/2000 TTL • WA M 2006
Cosina Voigtlander BESSA-T M, 1/2000 TTL • WA M 2001
Konica HEXAR RF E, 1/4000 TTL • WA AM 1999
Leica CL
Also known as LEITZ minolta CL
M, 1/1000 TTL • WA M 1973
Minolta CLE E, 1/1000 TTL • WA AM 1980
Rollei 35 RF M, 1/2000 TTL • WA M 2002
Zeiss Ikon E, 1/2000 TTL • WA AM 2004
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35mm full frame

43.27 24 36
  • Dimensions: 36 × 24mm
  • Aspect ratio: 3:2
  • Diagonal: 43.27mm
  • Area: 864mm2

IVZOO / 14056

Protection cap, for camera body with LEICA M bayonet mount.

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Image stabilizer

A technology used for reducing or even eliminating the effects of camera shake. Gyro sensors inside the lens detect camera shake and pass the data to a microcomputer. Then an image stabilization group of elements controlled by the microcomputer moves inside the lens and compensates camera shake in order to keep the image static on the imaging sensor or film.

The technology allows to increase the shutter speed by several stops and shoot handheld in such lighting conditions and at such focal lengths where without image stabilizer you have to use tripod, decrease the shutter speed and/or increase the ISO setting which can lead to blurry and noisy images.

Original name

Lens name as indicated on the lens barrel (usually on the front ring). With lenses from film era, may vary slightly from batch to batch.


Format refers to the shape and size of film or image sensor.

35mm is the common name of the 36x24mm film format or image sensor format. It has an aspect ratio of 3:2, and a diagonal measurement of approximately 43mm. The name originates with the total width of the 135 film which was the primary medium of the format prior to the invention of the full frame digital SLR. Historically the 35mm format was sometimes called small format to distinguish it from the medium and large formats.

APS-C is an image sensor format approximately equivalent in size to the film negatives of 25.1x16.7mm with an aspect ratio of 3:2.

Medium format is a film format or image sensor format larger than 36x24mm (35mm) but smaller than 4x5in (large format).

Angle of view

Angle of view describes the angular extent of a given scene that is imaged by a camera. It is used interchangeably with the more general term field of view.

As the focal length changes, the angle of view also changes. The shorter the focal length (eg 18mm), the wider the angle of view. Conversely, the longer the focal length (eg 55mm), the smaller the angle of view.

A camera's angle of view depends not only on the lens, but also on the sensor. Imaging sensors are sometimes smaller than 35mm film frame, and this causes the lens to have a narrower angle of view than with 35mm film, by a certain factor for each sensor (called the crop factor).

This website does not use the angles of view provided by lens manufacturers, but calculates them automatically by the following formula: 114.6 * arctan (21.622 / CF * FL),


CF – crop-factor of a sensor,
FL – focal length of a lens.


A lens mount is an interface — mechanical and often also electrical — between a camera body and a lens.

A lens mount may be a screw-threaded type, a bayonet-type, or a breech-lock type. Modern camera lens mounts are of the bayonet type, because the bayonet mechanism precisely aligns mechanical and electrical features between lens and body, unlike screw-threaded mounts.

Lens mounts of competing manufacturers (Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Sony etc.) are always incompatible. In addition to the mechanical and electrical interface variations, the flange focal distance can also be different.

The flange focal distance (FFD) is the distance from the mechanical rear end surface of the lens mount to the focal plane.

Lens construction

Lens construction – a specific arrangement of elements and groups that make up the optical design, including type and size of elements, type of used materials etc.

Element - an individual piece of glass which makes up one component of a photographic lens. Photographic lenses are nearly always built up of multiple such elements.

Group – a cemented together pieces of glass which form a single unit or an individual piece of glass. The advantage is that there is no glass-air surfaces between cemented together pieces of glass, which reduces reflections.

Focal length

The focal length is the factor that determines the size of the image reproduced on the focal plane, picture angle which covers the area of the subject to be photographed, depth of field, etc.


The largest opening or stop at which a lens can be used is referred to as the speed of the lens. The larger the maximum aperture is, the faster the lens is considered to be. Lenses that offer a large maximum aperture are commonly referred to as fast lenses, and lenses with smaller maximum aperture are regarded as slow.

In low-light situations, having a wider maximum aperture means that you can shoot at a faster shutter speed or work at a lower ISO, or both.

Closest focusing distance

The minimum distance from the focal plane (film or sensor) to the subject where the lens is still able to focus.

Closest working distance

The distance from the front edge of the lens to the subject at the maximum magnification.

Magnification ratio

Determines how large the subject will appear in the final image. For example, a magnification ratio of 1:1 means that the image of the subject formed on the film or sensor will be the same size as the subject in real life. For this reason, a 1:1 ratio is often called "life-size".

Manual focus override in autofocus mode

Allows to perform final focusing manually after the camera has locked the focus automatically. Note that you don't have to switch camera and/or lens to manual focus mode.

Manual focus override in autofocus mode

Allows to perform final focusing manually after the camera has locked the focus automatically. Note that you don't have to switch camera and/or lens to manual focus mode.

Electronic manual focus override is performed in the following way: half-press the shutter button, wait until the camera has finished the autofocusing and then focus manually without releasing the shutter button using the focusing ring.

Manual diaphragm

The diaphragm must be stopped down manually by rotating the detent aperture ring.

Preset diaphragm

The lens has two rings, one is for pre-setting, while the other is for normal diaphragm adjustment. The first ring must be set at the desired aperture, the second ring then should be fully opened for focusing, and turned back for stop down to the pre-set value.

Semi-automatic diaphragm

The lens features spring mechanism in the diaphragm, triggered by the shutter release, which stops down the diaphragm to the pre-set value. The spring needs to be reset manually after each exposure to re-open diaphragm to its maximum value.

Automatic diaphragm

The camera automatically closes the diaphragm down during the shutter operation. On completion of the exposure, the diaphragm re-opens to its maximum value.

Fixed diaphragm

The aperture setting is fixed at F/ on this lens, and cannot be adjusted.

Number of blades

As a general rule, the more blades that are used to create the aperture opening in the lens, the rounder the out-of-focus highlights will be.

Some lenses are designed with curved diaphragm blades, so the roundness of the aperture comes not from the number of blades, but from their shape. However, the fewer blades the diaphragm has, the more difficult it is to form a circle, regardless of rounded edges.

At maximum aperture, the opening will be circular regardless of the number of blades.


Excluding case or pouch, caps and other detachable accessories (lens hood, close-up adapter, tripod adapter etc.).

Maximum diameter x Length

Excluding case or pouch, caps and other detachable accessories (lens hood, close-up adapter, tripod adapter etc.).

For lenses with collapsible design, the length is indicated for the working (retracted) state.

Weather sealing

A rubber material which is inserted in between each externally exposed part (manual focus and zoom rings, buttons, switch panels etc.) to ensure it is properly sealed against dust and moisture.

Lenses that accept front mounted filters typically do not have gaskets behind the filter mount. It is recommended to use a filter for complete weather resistance when desired.

Fluorine coating

Helps keep lenses clean by reducing the possibility of dust and dirt adhering to the lens and by facilitating cleaning should the need arise. Applied to the outer surface of the front and/or rear lens elements over multi-coatings.


Lens filters are accessories that can protect lenses from dirt and damage, enhance colors, minimize glare and reflections, and add creative effects to images.

Lens hood

A lens hood or lens shade is a device used on the end of a lens to block the sun or other light source in order to prevent glare and lens flare. Flare occurs when stray light strikes the front element of a lens and then bounces around within the lens. This stray light often comes from very bright light sources, such as the sun, bright studio lights, or a bright white background.

The geometry of the lens hood can vary from a plain cylindrical or conical section to a more complex shape, sometimes called a petal, tulip, or flower hood. This allows the lens hood to block stray light with the higher portions of the lens hood, while allowing more light into the corners of the image through the lowered portions of the hood.

Lens hoods are more prominent in long focus lenses because they have a smaller viewing angle than that of wide-angle lenses. For wide angle lenses, the length of the hood cannot be as long as those for telephoto lenses, as a longer hood would enter the wider field of view of the lens.

Lens hoods are often designed to fit onto the matching lens facing either forward, for normal use, or backwards, so that the hood may be stored with the lens without occupying much additional space. In addition, lens hoods can offer some degree of physical protection for the lens due to the hood extending farther than the lens itself.


Teleconverters increase the effective focal length of lenses. They also usually maintain the closest focusing distance of lenses, thus increasing the magnification significantly. A lens combined with a teleconverter is normally smaller, lighter and cheaper than a "direct" telephoto lens of the same focal length and speed.

Teleconverters are a convenient way of enhancing telephoto capability, but it comes at a cost − reduced maximum aperture. Also, since teleconverters magnify every detail in the image, they logically also magnify residual aberrations of the lens.

Lens caps

Scratched lens surfaces can spoil the definition and contrast of even the finest lenses. Lens covers are the best and most inexpensive protection available against dust, moisture and abrasion. Safeguard lens elements - both front and rear - whenever the lens is not in use.