- Written by JN K
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What's up, Doc?
The Leica M3 was a revolutionary design. It had a combined rangefinder and viewfinder, with parallax corrected frames that matched the focal length of the mounted lens automatically. The viewfinder was the brightest ever made and was unrivaled until the Voigtlander Bessa R camera hit the market, in 2000. It featured a new and patented bayonet mount. The M3 was the first camera with an advance lever, instead of a knob. It had a rear door that swings up, to make film loading easier.
The camera became a huge success. During its production time, 215,944 chrome cameras, 3,010 black paint cameras and 144 olive paint cameras were produced in Germany. The Ernst Leitz Canada factory, based in Midland, Ontario, manufactured another 7,080 cameras, presumably all chrome. Total production of M3's was 226,178. Production ended in 1966.
Attention: The M3 was called M3 because it features three focal length frames in the viewfinder: 50mm, 90mm and 135mm. The later released M2 was called M2 because it was a simplified (but yet updated) camera, which still had three frames in the viewfinder! The M2 will have its own article on johanniels.com, just like the M4 has.
- Written by JN K
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Every now and then you see them surface, those expensive and rare Leicas. The Leica Luxus, for instance. Only three of those gold plated Leicas were ever made, and only one of those is known to be in existence today. Or the Wehrmacht, Luftwaffen or Kriegsmarine engraved Leicas of the second World War. But most of the time these 'rare' cameras are fakes. How can you tell the true Leicas from the fake ones? A small guide.
A Leica-faked Zorki-1 with Industar-22 lens, the Elmar 50mm 3.5 look-alike.
- Written by JN K
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The Leica M4 was made from 1967 to 1975 and was a very successful camera. Again, it was a true photo-journalists camera: the 35mm framelines from the Leica M2 were carried over to this model and it also had the 135mm framelines that the M3 had but the M2 lacked! Lenses to go onto the M4 without issues thus were 35mm, 50mm, 90mm and 135mm, making it the most versatile Leica M until then. In addition, it also received a quick-rewind crank which was fitted on the body with a clever, tilted design. And, the quick-load kit that was available for the M2 became standard on the M4.
All in all the production numbers are: silver chrome cameras 47,191, black cameras 8,990, Motor-capable cameras 905, and furthermore Ernst Leitz Canada built another 2,355.
The black cameras were black lacquer until 1972, and later cameras were built in black chrome. Nowadays, the black paint cameras are much sought after and the black chrome cameras are regarded as way less desirable, because most people find that the black chrome wears off ugly, whereas the black paint cameras show brass underneath.
Featured in this article is a Leica M4 that went through its paces. I always imagine it served in Vietnam, since many photo-journalists who worked there and used Leica's, chose the M4. The camera's introduction year 1967 was the pinnacle year in the US intervention in Vietnam.
I picked it up from a Chinese student in The Netherlands, who did not tell me where he got it. It had been used in a hot climate: it was totally gummed up with dried up sweat from gripping, with dust and dirt, and it even had a dry piece of grass in the mechanism as I found out when I checked it out once back home!
This is what it looked like after that cleaning:
- Written by JN K
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Thinking about buying a Leica body but you are uncertain which model will fit your photography needs best?
This little page conveniently lists the specifications of all 'regular' Leica film models, made from 1955 to 2003. The tables shown below are also downloadable as a PDF file (see below), or you can (right-) click them to download them to your computer.
Prices are estimates from 2013. With Leica cameras, prices greatly vary with camera condition and provenance. Old, run-down camera's with rare specifications or provenance by a well-known photographer can be real jaw-droppers, both for their looks as for fetched sales prices! In the future, I might extend these lists with the rarer models, but prices on those cameras vary even more since collectors are interested in them.
So if you have or want a camera that isn't that 'standard' and you want to know what it's current price would be, try camera dealers or completed eBay listings to assess the price. Remember, camera dealers often offer a warranty (which comes at a price), and eBay drives up prices due to commission and PayPal charges, so for private sales, knock 15 to 20 percent off the prices you find with camera dealers, eBay and online auctions. Venture in the cost of a CLA (Clean, Lubricate and Adjust).
In case you're wondering where the Leica CL listing is: it's not there since technically, it's not a Leica M. But, after having received some questions about its specifics, I'm including them here.
The Leica CL (order nr. 10700) was produced from 1973 to 1976. 65,000 were made. It has TTL exposure metering, but flash needs external metering. Its frame lines are suitable for 40, 50 and 90mm lenses. It was also badged 'Leitz Minolta CL', made for the Japanese market. When the CL was discontinued, Minolta bought the design, improved on it and launched the Minolta CLE.
That's it on the CL. Oh, and don't worry about the weight of it, it weighs next to nothing, being a very capable camera at the same time! Nowadays you can find them cheap, often with a broken meter but it's a fully mechanical camera so if you leave the battery out, it'll work just fine with a hand-held meter. Improves on the M3, M2, M4-kinda feel of it!
Download the above tables as a PDF here.
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