Introduction Leica M3 Series Models - Index page


For those who may be new to Leica older system or Leica/Leitz rangefinder collectibles, you may have to get used to a little difference from other oriental models i.e. the sequence of early Leica RF camera model names do not actually interpreted as which model was introduced ahead of the next. Building on the earlier foundation of the screw mount Leica/Leitz cameras/lenses with renewed rising threat of Japanese photographic equipment industry during the post war period as well as domestic business rivalry of Contax / Zeiss introduction of a bayonet mount; Leica has answered the competitions with a new proprietary bayonet mount on their own. The first Leica rangefinder camera was the LEICA M3 which was officially introduced in 1954. I guess the likes of Nippon Kogaku KK (Nikon) & Canon (old name of Seiki Kogaku) had posted the biggest threat to the continual dominance of the German optical industry where both had already released their respective bayonet mount rangefinder system as early as before the end of 1940.

Leica M3 rangefinder camera with Ernst Leitz Wetzlar f=5cm 1:2.8  Summicron-M
A brief Introduction on LEICA M3 Series Rangefinder Camera Models, 1954~1966

SITE PREVIEW 2nd draft, 8th August, 2008.

Credit: Image(s) courtesy of some nice folks from Wish-4-Leica®, Holland. The Company also operates their own active, popular EBAY STORE, trading for many major camera brands and collectibles. Image Copyright © 2008. All rights reserved. Please respect the visual property of the contributing photographer.

There were much debate during the early stages over the practicality between adoption of SM and bayonet mount. But one of the concerning issued was the initial successful debuts from the orient, the original Canon HANSA (1936~1941) etc. and in particularly, from Nippon Kogaku KK with an odd format Nikon S in 1952 which had slowly emerged in the limelight. These seemingly Leica replicas could had alerted and subsequently prompted Leica in seriously considering deployment of such a major decision on migration. Further, even within the domestic development which saw both Stuttgart Contax and Oberkochen Zeiss had slowly covered from the devastating war bombings and one of the serious consideration that could made a difference was probably also recognized the ease of use with the bayonet mount as used on the 1932's Contax 1 over the years. As some reading references had indicated Leica had already experimenting their prototype (Code Name LEICA IV) as early as in 1935 (one such prototype was exhibited in Work Museum, Solms). There are a few wild guess with use of "M3" and not "M1"; one possible theory was the single knob shutter prototype was assembled based on Leica IIIc (1940~1951) body in 1942 and was just separated from SM IIIx series in the difference of a new bayonet lens mount used. Another was since it may not a camera that introduced in perfect mechanical engineering in meeting Leica stringent standard, the eventual M1 could be the used as the ultimate model in perfection. Personally, I would conclude the earlier version is be more acceptable because regardless, the M2 was released 4 years later in 1958 (1958~1967), followed by the M1 in 1959 (1959~1964). While the Leica M3 has enjoyed a very longest product cycle among the three, from 1954~1966.

Leica M3 w/ S/N 700000 Kruckenhauser

The famous presentation camera M3 no. 700000 was presented to Austrian, Professor Kruckenhauser, a ski and mountain photographer in 1955. The camera, with the first serial number of all M cameras, is well noted in many publications and was bought by Michael von Rosen from the original owner in 1970. It was kept in his private museum until 2001, then it was displayed in WestLicht Camera Museum. It comes with all documentation(copy of the Leitz delivery book), books of Prof. Kruckenhauser, a letter from Michael von Rosen. The camera is in beautiful and perfect working condition with its original lens, an Elmar 3.5/5cm, very rare presentation box. Leica
M3E1 ((M3 "E" for "Eisenstaedt")

Year: 1955 Serial Number:- 700000

There are also quite a few other illustrative photos of early, rare versions of Leica M3 bodies appeared in page 172 onwards on a good reference book,
An Illustrated History of Leica Camera Vol. 1 by James L. Lager. The author had suggested there were approx. 65 units of M3 prototypes were being produced between 1952~53.

Credit: Image/content courtesy of Mr. Peter Coeln from LEICA Shop®, Austria who also operates a popular Westlicht Auction House. Image Copyright © 2008. All rights reserved. Please respect the visual property of the contributing photographer.
Other info: Leica president and CEO recently presented Czechoslovakia president Vaclav Havel with a Leica M6 with serial number 2,500,000. Some other recipients include Leica number 150,000 to Leopold Godowksy and number 175,000 to Leopold Mannes, the inventors of Kodachrome (1935) ; Leica 300,000 to Gustav Wilmanns and number 350,000 to Wilhelm Schneider, the inventors of Agfacolor film. Dr. Ernest Leitz received number 500,000 in 1950 and in 1955 Henri-Cartier Bresson got number 750,000 on the occasion of the Biennale de Photographie in Paris. In 1960 Dr. Ludwig Leitz got number 1,000,000 and Alfred Eisenstaedt got number 1,000,001. Ref: Krugersdorp Camera Club, South Africa

The Leica M3 is regarded as the crystallized work with a different lens mount resulted from quarter of a century of intelligence building from the Leica SM system. Over the years, various improvements had been made; but basically, it carries many of the basic features which was still being used today. The camera offers a bayonet mount, brighten frame viewfinder system that auto displayed with appropriate lens versions are attached; it offers single, non-rotating shutter speed knob and long base rangefinder; auto frame counter reset mechanism, film advance lever, auto sync flash control as well as a far improved system on film loading. These may sound very simple from modern perspective, but back in the '50 - it was really "Something remarkably different" in terms of camera handling properties for those who were so used to the traditional SM -based system.

An early M3 body in original condition, used and engraved by Leica-Technik (no. 57) in Wetzlar (the same camera is shown in Lager I, page 182). Approx. Year: 1954
Here is an excellent representation of a typical, early Leica M3 double stroke body produced as one of those earliest production units back in 1954. This illustration photo is a Leica M3 chrome Leica-Technik 57 model - it has virtually all the early M3 basic features. Note the shutter speed settings provided on the dial. The internally-used / distributed early M3 model was meant for employees for evaluation was engraved by Leica-Technik in Wetzlar. with an approx. Year of produce: 1954

Credit: Image/content courtesy of Mr. Peter Coeln from LEICA Shop®, Austria who also operates a popular Westlicht Auction House. Image Copyright © 2008. All rights reserved. Please respect the visual property of the contributing photographer.

When the bayonet-mount LEICA M3 was first introduced to the photo community in 1954, some of the major camera manufacturers has their own ways reacting to Leica aggression. It was during this period that domestic competing label, Contax had also released their Contax II while the Japanese Nippon Kogaku KK counter-reacted with their first 24 x 36mm format Nikon S2 rangefinder at the same year. Whatever its is, many Leica enthusiasts do share the same opinion that M3 can be regarded as one of the most important camera model in the long development history of Leica system. Some evolved models introduced during the product cycle were among some of the most pricey Leica collectibles today and they are continuously highly desirable for collectors worldwide.

Visual Library on Leica M3 Prototype, 1952; Leica M3 Test model, 1953/4 | A photo showcase on early Leica M3 DS bodies:- Leica M3-700131 / M3-700170 / M3-700000/M3-70031x/M3-70051x | M3 double stroke chrome 1954~1957 bodies:- Part 1/Part 2/Part 3/Part 4; Leica M3 Single Stroke 1957~60/1961~66 | Leica M3 Black Paint:-1955/1958/1962~1964/66 / Case study on Prices | Leica M3 ELC,1955/56

Other Variants:- Leica M3 chrome Leica-Technik 57 1954; Leica M3 GOLD Edition, 1956 | Leica M3 DS United Nation Edition, 1957 | Leica M3 Olive Bundeseigentum outfit 1957/ Olive Green Bundeseigentum outfit, 1959 (2 parts) w/info on high quality M3 Olive Conversion | Leica M3 Betriebskamera/ Betriebsk 1960 | Leica M3 Royal Dutch Marine Periscope Model, 1966 | Leica M3 Dummies / Riesen-Mode (Giant scale Model); Leica M3 Cutaway Display Unit , 1954; Leica M3 Leitz-Eigentum; Updated: Leica M3 E-1; Leica M3 Alfred Eisentaedts Chrome 1960 /Gold 1989

Nomenclature / Main Reference Map for Leica M3 | Leica M3 Instruction Manual 1) Location 1 (1.35mb PDF) by Joe Chan; Location 2 (1.2mb PDF) by M.Butkus <>;
LEICA MP-Specific models/variants - Visual Profiles on selective Leica bodies:- Leica MP Prototype, 1955 | MP Betriebsk w/Electric Motor, 1956 | Leica MP-88/MP-150 Black paint, 1957 | Leica MP-167; Leica MP-171/MP-313/old/new Leicavit visual, 1957 | Leica MP 367 & 368 Dual, 1957 | Leica MP-375, MP-368 & MP-386 | Leica MP 'Edition Hermès', 2003 | Leica MP Betriebsk 0.72x | Evential production model MP 0.72x Black paint, 2002 | Leica MP classic Kit Set 1 / Set 2 | Leica MP chrome 0.58X(2 parts) | Leica MP Black Lacquer 0.58x | Leica MP Black Lacquer 0.72x Standard | Leica MP 0.85x Finder Mag. model | Leica MP Anthracite* Limited Edition Set | Leica MP LHSA 1968~2003 Special Edition Grey Hammertone Finish (3 parts) | Brief Introduction on Leica à la carte:- Leica MP Red Leather 0.85 / Nappa racing Green Leather 0.58X | Others:- Visual case study on counterfeit LEICA MP ; Leica MP Prototype w/Prototype Leicavit-M; LEICA MP TITAN special edition, 2007, LEICA MP-3 LHSA

| Leica MP Nomenclature | Leica MP Instruction manual (1MB PDF) | Technical Specification (96k PDF) | M3 Nomenclature |

quick Survey for feedback on option for site construction process:
I am not sure if it is a good idea to use some good pictures from volunteering contributors to brighten up the pages.

Something like what I have done with these sites:

Advantage(s): offers exposure for Leica Artists, not so boring to read between the lines but (disadvantage(s)) such inclusion will slow the download time on relevant pages and I have no time to ask around for contributing (good) photos by individual artist(s). Last -
don't know how to reject a less than desirable submission judging from qualitative aspect.

Recommended External Links on M3: LEICA M3 review by Edwin Leong | Leica FAQ | Serial Number Ref. (Cameraquest): LSM lenses 1923/1965 | Leica M 1954/1999/Leica M/R-mount RF/SLRs Serial Number ; Leica M-lenses coding in PDF (84k) download by Leica, AG); Leica Camera/Leitz Lenses S/N check (requires registration) at Owners Support@LEICA camera, AG (prototypes or odd variants check not possible) | Leica M3 mini replica made by Komamura, Japan | Minox DCC Leica M3 5 MP pixels digital | Online Magazine on LEICA system: Leica Photographie International ("LFI")

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Credit:- Co-developed with my web buddy Rick_Oleson. THANKS to all the contributors, in particularly Mr. Peter Coeln from LEICA Shop®; Mr. Liu Zan of DigifanCN®, Mr. Kelvin LI & camera$@Ebay in the form of images/pictures acquiring as well as content for their sales which had made up the basis of this visual library. NOTE: certain content and images appeared in this site were either scanned from official marketing leaflets, brochures, sales manuals or publications published by LEICA AG over the years and/or individual contributions from surfers who claimed originality of their work for educational purposes. The creator of the site will not be responsible for any discrepancies that may arise from dispute except rectifying them after verification."LEICA", "Leitz", "E.Ernst Wetzlar", "Velostigmat" & other related trade names used herein are registered trademarks of Leica AG, SOLMS, Germany. Site made with an Apple G5 IMac.