Tag Archives: Leica

Leica M3 (1959) – Part 2

While using the borrowed 50mm 5cm Summicron-M f/2.0 (Rigid/2nd version) (1956), I decided that I really needed to purchase my own lens. Having just spent what I think is a considerable amount on the M3 body, I wanted to limit my lens purchase to something more affordable. Searching for an M-Mount lens on eBay led me to this lens, followed by some research, and a week of careful consideration.

The 7artisans f/1.1 50mm is a new lens made in China. According to the 7artisans website, a group of seven Chinese camera enthusiasts, having various professional backgrounds, came together to create this new lens. The 50mm lens is a Leica M-Mount and has an aperture range from f/1.1 to f/16. It has 12 aperture blades, and 7 elements in 6 groups. The lens itself is a heavy piece of glass and aluminum, with a copper core. It weighs nearly 14 ounces, so slightly less than 1 lb.

As I was doing some research on this lens, I wanted to see actual images taken with a Leica camera. However, all I could find were digital photos taken with Sony cameras. I determined that Sony users are the perfect market for an affordable prime 50mm f/1.1 lens. I found this review by Hamish Gill on 35mmc.com, where he used the lens on a Sony body. And then found this review by Emulsive, where he used the f2 version of the lens on a Leica film camera. Note/opinion: the f/2 50mm has a better review because the f/1.1 tested was a pre-production model.

The shots below are my initial results with the Leica M3. Being a Leica newbie, I must have done something very wrong because the first half of this roll did not come out. Overall, this is a solid lens. The build quality is good. The aperture and focus are smooth and easy to use. Unfortunately, a focus tab is not built on to this lens. They ship a rubber tab that you can stick to the lens barrel if you want, not ideal. The optical quality is what I would expect for the price. I expected the lens to be soft when it’s open at f/1.1, but was surprised by a few shots. The thin slice of focus is nice, but hard to achieve. And really, how often do you need something at f/1.1? This lens is also shipped with a focus sheet and some instructions on how to adjust the focus. Something I don’t think I’d attempt to mess with.

I spent a week in New York with the M3 and the 7artisan 50mm f/1.1. After a while, my biggest complaint became the weight. The 50mm Summicron-M would have been a better choice. Or anything smaller and lighter for that matter. Walking 7 to 14 miles in and around the city made me reconsider the choice I’d made. There were three days I left the camera behind. I’ll be sharing some photos of New York in the coming weeks.

Camera: Leica M3 (1959)
Film: Kosmo Foto Mono 100
Process: Kodak D-76 (1+1) 10:00 @ 20c
Scanned: Epson V600 Photo

 

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Leica M3 (1959) – Part 1

Over the past few years of buying and shooting vintage cameras, there’s one camera I never thought I’d actually own, and that’s a Leica. Why? A Leica always seemed like a “bucket list camera.” Nice to look at, but too expensive to own. Of course, I had to ask myself, do they live up to the hype? Or do photographers tell themselves they are outstanding cameras to justify spending the money?

About a year ago, my friend Scott Smith purchased this M3 from our mutual friend, Maurice Greeson, who is a Leica collector and expert on all things Leica. Scott decided that after purchasing an M6, he wasn’t using this M3 as much as he used to. It was a hard decision for Scott to sell me the M3 because it’s in beautiful condition, and Maurice had taken excellent care of it. In a small way, I had to convince Scott to sell it to me. However, with all Leica camera owners, I consider myself the “current possessor” of this camera. The build quality will outlive me or any of its future owners. And as a side note, I’ve promised both Scott and Maurice visitation privileges as long as I have the camera.

Leica M3 (1959)

Production of the M3 began in 1954 and was the transition point for Leitz to move from screw-mount lenses to the updated Leica M Mount. The M Mount was able to give new M-series cameras a single viewfinder/rangefinder window. The M3 features a coupled rangefinder with an incredibly bright viewfinder, and a focal plane shutter with speeds from 1 to 1/1000th second. Early models of the M3 had a two-throw film advance, meaning you had to move the film advance lever twice to move the film to the next frame. And those early models also had German-based shutter speeds of 1/25, 1/50, 1/100, etc. This M3 is a single-throw model and came with a Leicameter MR.

Several version of Leicameter’s were made starting in 1951. The MR was manufactured from 1965-1967 and has CdS cell behind a small lens. The meter mounts to the flash shoe on the camera and is coupled with the shutter dial. A meter reading is taken by pressing the needle release button for 2 seconds, then using the channel scale, you know where to set the correct lens aperture.

When I initially purchased the M3, I didn’t have a lens. Maurice loaned me his 5cm f/2.0 Summicron-M (1956). This lens is the second version of the Summicron 5cm and is a rigid lens, meaning it doesn’t collapse like the original. The updated lens increased the distance between the front lens elements. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a photo of this lens on the camera. All the photos below were shot with the 5cm f/2.0 Summicron-M lens, making this part one of a two-part post. In the next post, I’ll share some images taken with the M3 and the new 7 Artisan’s 50mm f/1.1 lens.

Overall, I’m very happy to have an M3. A few friends have joked with me about becoming a Leica snob, or professing the “Leica lifestyle.” It’s been an ongoing joke with me and Mike Williams. I don’t see myself becoming obsessed with Leica gear. I may have champagne taste, but I’m always on a PBR budget. I’ve never used a rangefinder that has such a big, bright, viewfinder. That’s probably my favorite thing about Leica cameras. And the camera is so quiet to operate, you almost don’t hear the shutter click. And again, I could go on-and-on about the build quality of this camera because it is incredible.

Camera: Leica M3 (1959)
Lens: 50mm 5cm Summicron-M f/2/0 (Rigid/2nd version) (1956)
Film: Kodak Tri-X 400
Process: Kodak D-76 (1+1) 9:45 @ 20c
Scanned: Epson V600 Photo