1957 Leica M3.

Film, Inspiration, Leica M3, Q&A, Teaching point

ADDENDUM August 2020:  I no longer use a 1957 M3, though I still believe it to be the best built Leica M camera.  Currently, I use a single stroke M3 and an M2-R.

(Note: much of the technical information used in this post was provided by this site.)

The Leica M3 was manufactured between 1954 and 1967.

Many collectors favour M3s with high serial numbers (1 000 0000 and up), or — at the other end of the spectrum — the first 1 000 ones made (with serial numbers 700 XXX).  The first group (with serial numbers over a million) are valued because they are thought to represent “perfected” late production examples, but as you will see below, that is a matter of perspective.  The second group (early production ones) are coveted because, well, they were the first ones produced!

As a photographer however, my favourite M3s are the ones from the year 1957 (specifically the subset with serial numbers between 854 00 – 858 000) because they combine the very best attributes of both early and late M3 bodies.

Specifically, 1957 M3s have:

  • Double stroke (DS) film advance levers with shorter arms (vs. single stroke arms); the shorter DS arms allow you to advance the film and simultaneously hold the camera with one hand.
  • Modern shutter speeds (earlier models have the older speeds: 1, 1/2, 1/5, 1/10, 1/25, 1/50, 1/100, 1/200…).
  • Silent return on the film advance lever (later models produce a ratcheting sound when returning).
  • Buddha (aka “Rabbit Ear”)-style lugs riveted (not screwed) to camera — no loosening or spinning of lugs.
  • Film back door ball-bearing locking pins to prevent door from flapping open when changing film (only available in cameras with serial numbers between 854 000 – 858 000).



15 thoughts on “1957 Leica M3.

  1. Possibly the best camera ever made.

    My top 5 would be 1) Leica M3
    2) Rolleiflex 2.8f
    3) Plaubel Makina 67
    4) Mamiya 7
    5) Leica M9

    1. Very nice list! I agree with much of it, though I would never have thought of adding the M9 to it — yet it’s the camera that has given me the most pleasure and memorable photos over the years. So thank you for allowing me to add it to the “iconic camera” list.

      One more thing: for me, the Mamiya RZ67 would be near the top. Together with the 110/2.8 lens, it represents the best portraiture-creating device I’ve ever used.

  2. I agree with Rene…..some cameras are just awesome. The M3 is a marvel of engineering and ergonomics and film is a great sensor. I hope one day for Leica cameras to re-achieve that longer baselength rangefinder/viewfinder. Have fun with it as you retire….what did you call it….Mr. Scratchy? 🙂

  3. Wow. Congratulations. What a beauty. Life can be so simple. If only i could bring myself to ‘just’ own a m3 and one lens and a bag of film.. I would lay in the grass, look at the clouds pass by and than stroll with the family through the country and little towns and click at whatever my left brain is telling me..

    1. Thank you Roel… I like your thinking 🙂

      I’m afraid I’m haven’t simplified to that extent either… yet. My dream, ultimately, is just to shoot an M3 and 50 ‘cron (or ‘lux) and never look back!

    1. No, people are more interested in the later 1,000,000+ serial numbered M3s. However, a lot of those later models borrowed parts/ideas from the M2 (manufactured between 1957 – 1968).

      The M3s of this vintage represent the pinnacle of the M3 line.

      Prices of these M3s will go up, now that I’ve posted this 🙂

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