(Buying the right M3) help me pop my leica cherry.

Discussion in 'Rangefinder Forum' started by Dikaiosune01, Dec 4, 2011.

  1. Dikaiosune01

    Dikaiosune01 Member

    Mar 3, 2011
    Hong Kong
    Large Format
    After 18 months with my Voigtlander R3M, and many petty annoyances, I’m ready to take the plunge and get my first leica. My R3M has been pretty reliable; but we’ve had a fickle history – the plastic off my viewfinder scratched my glasses, evaporated rubber grip (thank you cameraleather), and now I’ve got a light leak in the hinge. I believe I can justify a backup. If I’m going to get a rangefinder this time, I’m going to do it right! Thus I need the help of more experienced individuals like yourself.

    I’m looking for a daily rangefinder - something that will go to work with me in my briefcase; that I can take out while getting lunch and the few minutes of daylight after work.

    My arsenal of lenses includes:
    40mm f/1.4 voigtlander
    21mm f/4 voigtlander
    90mm f/2.8 Leica (Fat version) – admittedly, I don’t use this lens too often

    My perfect kit will likely eventually include the following
    50mm summicron
    and when I’m old and grey and collecting pensions…
    50mm summuliux asph
    21mm f/3.5 asph Super-elmar

    I’ve had the benefit of scoping out a few potential M3’s in the area. There are quite a few leica dealers where I live. Most are overpriced and marketed to tourists and collectors; however I found a few potentials… I want to know if I have missed anything and when I go back; what else should I check?

    What I think has the most potential… … Leica #1
    serial is past 1,000,000
    L seal on the mount is broken.
    Shutter speeds are accurate
    Self-timer works
    the preview lever seems loose
    The curtain looks clean with no tears or noticeable imperfections. Taking the curtain up to the light didn’t reveal any leaks.
    Overall the body looks very clean
    asking price 850 USD

    possibility #2
    The second one’s serial is 950,xxx
    The L seal on the mount is intact. Everything else on the body is almost the same as the one mentioned above. Indistinguishable from the other than the L seal.
    asking price 1100USD

    note: in the two above; I never noticed the depth of field indicators; and I forgot to check the colour of the focusing patch.
    The one I will likely walk away from

    Serial: 82X,XXX
    L seal has been demolished. The spool seems to have some kind of corrosion like its been dropped in the sea. The curtains has a few spots or imperfections, but the light seals looks intact when taken up to the light.
    The rangefinder patch was quite yellow.
    The timer and preview lever work surprisingly well. Especially after opening up the body. The most disconcerning thing is that when I opened up the body cap; there are some rather deep scratches on the inside of the camera, along the sides and the ridges of the innards; it is like as if its been attacked by a really small cat. Then when I looked in the back, there were more scratches. The camera was also engraved on the top by the previous owner and included an obscure name tag stating where it was serviced. (That was more than 30 years old)
    The scratches on the inside alone, make me want to walk away.
    The shutter does sound relatively accurate. It does need a serious looking after though.
    asking price: 700 USD

    Some random questions:
    - I've read about depth of field previews on the late M3's but I have no idea how they look, or how to read them. When I picked up the late M3's I never noticed anything that would suggest a Depth of Field.
    - I have no idea how to check for light tightness (without purchasing it).
  2. Morituri

    Morituri Member

    Sep 17, 2010
    Serial over 1.000.000 doesn't mean anything. It's just internet sellers tricks to make someone buy their camera where they make things up like "the best were working at this point, BUY MY CAMERA!". L seal doesn't mean anything good or bad either, because it can mean it had a CLA. I'd pick #1 becase you don't want to spend another 200 bucks to make it usable. If shutter times don't work it will be unusable.

    Regarding the DoF, check this, it's un-usuable, and novelty basically unless you take pictures of things that don't move?: http://static.photo.net/attachments/bboard/00U/00UAfV-163435584.gif
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 4, 2011
  3. peterlat

    peterlat Member

    Oct 13, 2006
    Med. Format RF
    M3 choice

    Are you certain you want the M3? It's a great camera--as great a camera as Leica ever made--but I ask because of the viewfinder. If you want to keep using your 40mm lens, you'll need an auxiliary finder. And if you wear glasses, the M3 finder is tough to use--very hard to get your eye close enough to the finder to see the 50mm frame line. Also, glasses wearers often need to add a soft covering to the metal viewfinder ring so their glasses won't get scratched on the metal. And think also about metering. If you've been using the Voigtlander, you've probably become accustomed to an in-camera meter and faster film loading--are you okay with eliminating those two features?

    If you're still set on an M3, what's most important (to me, anyway) is how recently it's been serviced (and where) and how bright the finder is. If you think the viewfinder, lack of meter and removable spool will become issues, consider something with more frame lines and better eye relief. I realize an M6 (.72 or .58, depending on the type of finder that's right for you) will probably cost twice as much as an M3, but if you're looking for a camera to grow old with, then it may not be such a steep investment. Good luck with your purchase.
  4. ray*j*gun

    ray*j*gun Member

    Jun 11, 2008
    Phila. Area
    35mm RF
    You might consider an M4p which has frame lines that can be used for almost any lens (with some mental adjustments). Peter's advice is good, a serviced M is a good idea and the finder condition (brightness) is important. I have had over time an M6, M4p, M3 and an M2. The one I held onto was the M2 it was simple the most quite M I have ever handled and I like its simplicity.

    Good Luck!
  5. OP

    Dikaiosune01 Member

    Mar 3, 2011
    Hong Kong
    Large Format
    Thank you for the responses.

    The meter and framelines are that big of a deal for me.
    I tend to rely on my handheld meter more (a habit picked up from my LF). and I prefer the 50mm frame-lines for my 40mm. Even when shooting on the R3M. I tend to prefer the 50mm framelines. (partically because I like cropping and I can't actually see the 40mm framelines with my glasses on my R3M.
  6. buzzardkid

    buzzardkid Member

    Aug 18, 2010
    Medium Format
    from my website w ww .por tret teur .nl (remove the spaces):

    Modern times: repair and buying checklist

    The majority of the M3's is in need of service after 50 years. Even if you manage to buy a camera that is working fine at this moment, you should be aware of this. Compentent repairmen in the Netherlands charge approx. EUR 200 for a CLA (Clean, Lubricate, Adjust). Any additional work and parts are extra. There's also a number of competent repairers in the US, and most certainly in other countries as well.

    Expensive repairs are those to the rangefinder system, which is the most complicated in the M3. When buying a 'new' M3, checking the rangefinder system is easy: look through the rangefinder window, both from the front and from the rear. You should see an evenly colored image. Lighter or black areas indicate one of the mirrors in the rangefinder system is in the process of de-silvering. Point the camera with the rear to a bright light source and look through the rangefinder-patch window (the small window at the front left hand side). Again, this should be clear from any 'debris' in the image, the image conveyed from the rangefinder window to the viewfinder is passed on by small glass prisms which are painted black on the ouside, 'debris' indicates that the paint on the prisms is flaking, causing the rangefinder patch to flare or lose brightness.

    Other checks to perform when buying an M3:

    * Check if the rangefinder image lines up correctly. Mount a lens and set distance to infinity, point the camera to a distant object and check wether the rangefinder lines up correct. If off horizontally or vertically, not to worry, this can be adjusted with the CLA. Perform the same check for a closest focus image.
    * Check if film transport is even by cocking and releasing the shutter a few times.
    * Check all shutter speeds. Start with the slow ones, cock the shutter a few times and release. One second up till 1/15th second should be clearly distinct, slow gears (buzzing sound) should release evenly.
    * Remove the bottom plate and lens or body cap. Swing up the back door. Cock the shutter. Point the camera to a bright light source and look for any pin holes on the curtains. Release the shutter and check the second curtain as well!
    * Cock the shutter again and inspect it from the front, you should see no creases on the shutter but a smooth cloth. Do not touch it with your fingers. Release the shutter and inspect the second curtain.
    * Check if the take up spool is in the camera. I know, this sounds rather daft, but it's quite impossible (i.e. expensive!) to find one without a camera!
    * Check whether the frame counter advances. I have owned a camera on which it didn't, and its a PITA since you always need to carry a spare film and run out of film when you're busy or not expecting it.

    In general, the more yellow the frames and RF patch are, the more the Canada Balsam that was used in the rangefinder has aged. In time, this might lead to the RF failing: when the balsam-glued prisms break apart, the finder turns black. Sooner or later this can be expected in any M3, and a dent or bump may hasten the process.

    Altogether I'd say all three of them are relatively expensive for what they offer. I've seen perfectly-usable and well-maintained M3's go on rangefinderforum.com for 800-900 USD.

    Check your PM box.