In 1954, a new member of the Leica family was born. The name of this camera was the Leica M3, the first camera in the M-System. As it does today, the M stood for Messsucher, the German word for combined rangefinder and view-finder, and the number 3 denoted the number of bright-line frames. In addition to its signature rangefinder, the Leica M3 brought other significant enhancements, such as a quick-change bayonet lens mount. Both innovations – the rangefinder and the M bayonet mount – have undergone constant improvements and are still found in a more advanced form in the latest cameras of the M-System. The reasons for the success of the M-System lie in adhering steadfastly to the concept of utmost mechanical and optical precision, compact size and timeless design.
1954: The LEICA M3 heralds a new era in 35mm photography. Its handiness, quickness and innovations like the combined range- and viewfinder with bright-line frames, hinged back and rapid-change bayonet met with enthusiastic acceptance. Exposures were determined with the clip-on LEICAMETER.
1958: The LEICA M2 expands the M series with a model featuring bright-line frames for 35, 50 and 90mm lenses. The exposure counter has to be reset manually. After 1959 it is equipped with a selftimer.
1967: The LEICA M4 is introduced with many innovations. Among them simplified film loading without a separate take-up spool, an angled rewind crank that is more practical than the earlier knob, and bright-line frames for 35, 50, 90 and 135 mm lenses.
1971: The LEICA M5 is the first M camera with selective through-the-lens exposure metering. Other new features are its black chrome finish, metered exposure times of up to 30 seconds, a larger shutter speed dial and a hot shoe for electronic flash units.
1984: Leica presents the new LEICA M6. For the first time, selective through-the-lens exposure metering was integrated into the traditional Leica M body. In the viewfinder, a light balance serves for exposure metering and bright-line frames for six focal lengths are activated automatically.
1998: the year in which the M series achieves the next level of evolution with the LEICA M6 TTL. Simplified operation – based on the technical features of the M6 – and modern flash exposure control with TTL flash exposure metering open new fields of application for Leica M photography.
The overarching goal in the evolution of the Leica M is to fulfill the genuine photographic needs of professionals and serious enthusiasts. The result is a unique range of digital rangefinder cameras that quite intentionally do not offer all the bells and whistles made possible by modern technology, but limit themselves exclusively to what makes real sense in terms of photography.
Leica M-Lenses are among the best in the world. They are designed and assembled to meet the most stringent quality demands. They enable the creation of images endowed with an unmistakable character – not only in terms of contrast and resolution, but also with structural integrity, tonal depth, and a unique natural signature that is especially evident under adverse lighting conditions. M-Lenses have the opportunity to reveal their full potential only when mounted on M-Cameras, since only these have sensors precisely matched to their optical characteristics. Together, M-Lenses and M-Cameras are the perfect duo when it comes to ensuring maximum picture quality.
The extraordinary compactness of M-Cameras and their lenses constitute an ideal camera system for travel and reportage photography.