Okay, it might not be the only camera you’ll ever need, given that current technology allows us to capture a wide range of kinds of photos that might be a little beyond what the Leica M3 can do. (or at least more easily)
But at the core, the M3 is a high-precision mechanical camera, built like a tank (as they say) that really does help you create amazing images working only with your film of choice, aperture and shutter speed.
No Light Meter – Stepping Up Your Game
You’re also in full control; using rangefinder manual focus and this camera will help you develop your cool skills as a photographer; really, truly understand light better, because it is completely mechanical; there is no light meter. You’re the light meter.
When I first decided to shoot film, my first choice was a Leica M6. I chose that model for two reasons:
- It had a light meter
- It could still shoot mechanically if the battery died
I do love the M6 so much. I was coming from the digital world and I was pretty used to having a meter. Kind of a crutch. But, once I got used to shooting with film I found myself being able to evaluate the light more by myself. Then I picked up a Mamiya C330, which has no meter. This made me much more aware of light. I became more comfortable evaluating the exposure myself. Once you get used to it, it’s not as hard as you might think.
Leica M3 Experience
So I decided to pick up an M3, up my Sunny 16 game, being able to shoot without a light meter. Man, I’m so glad I did.
Coming from a world (digital) where the camera handled so much of the process for me, I quickly felt the difference.
Man, being the one, 100% in control of making the image; not relying on the camera to do the thinking for you. Knowing what your film speed is; setting your aperture and shutter speed to get the exposure you want; and one of my favorite aspects – manual rangefinder focusing.
You know what? Removing all the extra features from your photography experience; having no crutches; having to rely on your skills to fully control the camera; film speed, aperture, shutter speed, manual focus….
It’s so rewarding.
It really is, man. The satisfaction you get from making a good photo this way… so rewarding. You’re in it, man. It does make me engage more with every shot that I take. That feeling is amazing.
Think of it this way…
Say, you wanted to create a drawing of a person sitting on a bench feeding pigeons. Would you rather have the ability to simply press a button and the drawing would magically appear? Or would you get more out of it, having the experience of creating each element of the drawing yourself? Using pencils, crayons, charcoal, paint, whatever you wanted.
That’s the way I feel about shooting with a fully mechanical camera. I get more from the experience because I’m putting more of myself into it. (that whole, the more you put in, the more you get out, thing.)
Do you think this would be for you? People are different and their creativity comes in different forms. This might not be what would really be your thing. But if you could feel the sense of what I was getting at, then maybe you would enjoy being immersed in the process this way.
Leica M3 & CLA – clean, lubricate, adjust
One last thing I wanted to cover. CLA – clean, lube and adjust. This M3 of mine was made back in 1957. Man, that’s a long time ago, and most things made back then probably don’t work today.
That’s the case with the Leica M3. After a CLA, it works as if it’s brand new. Pretty impressive, man. This camera will definitely out-live me.
Actually it’s currently in need of a CLA, so I need to send it to Youxin. This is a guy in the Boston area who does amazing work on Leica film cameras. His work is amazing, the communication via email is top notch, and the turn-around time – I usually get the cameras back in just a few days. Very cool.
Youxin, last time I checked, doesn’t work on light meters, but if it’s anything else, I can’t recommend this guy enough. If I need light meter work done, I would probably send it to Don of DAG Cameras. Sherry Krauter is another name I hear pop up a lot when it comes to Leica CLA. I haven’t used her services, but I’ll leave links to each of these three people below in case you’re ever in need of their services.
Youxin Ye | yyecamera.com
Don Goldberg | DAGCamera.com
Sherry Krauter | SherryKrauter.com
The Leica M3 – The only camera you’ll ever need?
Maybe? This was just a fun article to write, and I did want to try and convey the experience I get, shooting with the M3. But of course there are so many amazing cameras out there. But if you do get the chance, and if you haven’t already, shoot with a fully mechanical camera, where you’re in charge of everything; including shooting without a meter. Man, it really is so rewarding.