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Hi everyone I'm looking at buying an M3 but was wondering if there are any specific serial numbers I should be looking at and why. I saw this blogpost with the best M3 serial numbers, but this is a very limited batch so I doubt I'll find any of those. Any other (larger) batches I should be looking at?

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I rather doubt whether there are "better" or "worse" batches, although Leica probably introduced  minor improvements during its production life. For the user they are of very little relevance and certainly are no reason to prefer one camera over an other. Just go for the camera that is in the best condition and fits your budget. Always figure the need for a CLA in.

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Very early M3's were double stroke film advance (conservative Leitz was afraid the film might tear) and were later replaced with the conventional single stroke of today.  I have used both and both work just fine.  Also, the early cameras had a glass film pressure plate which again was later replaced (not sure when).  If either of these is a factor, go for later cameras.  All M3 are over 50 years old and have probably had at least one CLA.  I would just make sure everything works (focus, film advance smooth, shutter speeds sound ok, camera leather ok).  And try and shoot a roll to check focus and light leaks.

If you buy from a dealer like Tamarkin or ClassicCamera, they allow a return and include a warranty.  Personally, I prefer a dealer over an unknown from ebay.  It might cost a few hundred more but the warranty and return policy is worth it IMHO.  Good luck!  

I notice ClassicCamera has two or three M3's in current inventory.  I am not related to Classic Camera but have purchased and returned (when needed) several items from Sam Shohan.  He is always pleasant to talk to and very honest in his descriptions of his inventory.

 

Edited by ktmrider2
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There were many detail changes to the M3, especially over the first 6 years of production. At a very top level, double stroke up to approximately 919 thousand, transitional single stroke up to approximately 963 thousand, then after that the ratcheting single stroke which was relatively stable after that. The transitional single stroke is interesting because it combines the quiet spring return of the double stroke with the single (or multi) stroke mechanism.

Whichever M3 is chosen, you get a unique M with features like the best, only truly flare free viewfinder and wonderfully useful window guards. It also helps you to avoid “shouting” focal lengths (wider than 50mm), which is the best thing of all in my opinion 😀.

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On 12/28/2019 at 6:09 AM, harryzet said:

i would take the youngest and best working m3

The best answer. However, we rarely get the chance to test and compare all the choices at one sitting.

I would get the one with the latest serial number (1.1mil+) that looks physically and cosmetically clean (up to whatever standard you're comfortable with) then get it overhauled.

You'll be happy with how it looks and also have the peace of mind regarding what's underneath.

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The changements already mentioned - double stroke to single stroke (from No. 919251 onwards) and glass film pressure plate to metal plate (from No. 844001 onwards) - are not so important (though the glass version may be nicer). 

Much more important is the enlargement of the rangefinder eyepiece, which was introduced somewhere in the 700... numbers (not sure when). The lever for frame selection which is regarded as superfluous by some users but which I like  was introduced with No. 785801.

So the early M3 models in low 700.000 numbers may be interesting for collectors but they have disadvantages for usage.

I was looking for a very late M3 from the last batch of 1966 - with a number higher than 1.100.000 - until I found out that they left out the collar around the lens release button for the last numbers. Though this might be a very neglectable detail, I found out with the M2 - which does not have the collar - that I often inadvertedly push the button, so the lens gets loose. This is a practical concern, and later they went back to the collar design and kept it with some variations until today. So I'd also say to avoid a very late M3. 

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vor 37 Minuten schrieb UliWer:

I was looking for a very late M3 from the last batch of 1966 - with a number higher than 1.100.000 - until I found out that they left out the collar around the lens release button for the last numbers. Though this might be a very neglectable detail, I found out with the M2 - which does not have the collar - that I often inadvertedly push the button, so the lens gets loose. This is a practical concern, and later they went back to the collar design and kept it with some variations until today. So I'd also say to avoid a very late M3. 

My M3 (Nr.898 ...) has a collar around the lens release button. Nevertheless, it happened to me that I unlocked the lens when I took it out of my pocket ... It fell down 😯... in the middle of the street. Luckily I reacted quickly and slowed down the fall from my lovely Summicron with my shoe. (I'm not a footballer🙃 ) Fortunately, only the Lens Hood (a cheep srewed in) was bent on impact, nothing else happened. I am considering installing a stronger spring!

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7 hours ago, farnz said:

I love the term 'shouting focal lengths' but why "shouting"?  (I don't recall hearing wide angle lenses referred to this way before.)

Pete.

Henri Cartier-Bresson on the 50mm: “It corresponds to a certain vision and at the same time has enough depth of focus, a thing you don’t have in longer lenses. I worked with a 90. It cuts much of the foreground if you take a landscape, but if people are running at you, there is no depth of focus. The 35 is splendid when needed, but extremely difficult to use if you want precision in composition. There are too many elements, and something is always in the wrong place. It is a beautiful lens at times when needed by what you see. But very often it is used by people who want to shout. Because you have a distortion, you have somebody in the foreground and it gives an effect. But I don’t like effects. There is something aggressive, and I don’t like that. Because when you shout, it is usually because you are short of arguments.”

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I have a single stroke M3 and love it.  Mine had a small piece of missing vulcanite, which is very common aesthetic problem on M3s.

I recently got the camera serviced and I got the vulcanite replaced with 4008 Leatherette from aki-asahi.  It looks like a perfect match to the original vulcanite, and the camera looks like new.  

 

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Almost all M3s will have a repair history. My first Leica was a "late model" M3 single stroke wonderful condition. It had the M3 viewfinder and a 35 f3.5 Summaron with goggles, too clunky for me so I traded it for an M2 with an M4 viewfinder, later bought a second M2, which looked lousy on the outside but worked like a charm. I sold both of those to buy my CL. I just inherited an M3 from a college friend who past. It is an early model 731XXX, in great external condition but needed a CLA and new shutter curtains. It has a single stroke, and an M4 viewfinder. It also had and early "quick load" which was not that quick, replaced it with the standard film spool, which is quicker for me. So I would check any camera out, they could be modified. When I discovered the M4 viewfinder (35, 50, 90, 135), the historical group on the forum had several people that had M3s with later viewfinders since the original ones would cloud over 50-60 years.

There is nothing like the sound of a Leica mechanical shutter. 

Edited by tommonego@gmail.com
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  • 1 month later...

With the caveat that they are all pretty special cameras, Sherry Krauter, one of the high volume techs here in the US, always recommends an M3 with a serial number after 96xxxx, or something near that number.  Not sure exactly, but my memory tells me there was some change in the braking, maybe?

If you wear glasses, you definitely want an original single stroke M3, because they have a wider eye mask that gives a bit more relief.

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2 hours ago, TheBestSLIsALeicaflex said:

With the caveat that they are all pretty special cameras, Sherry Krauter, one of the high volume techs here in the US, always recommends an M3 with a serial number after 96xxxx, or something near that number.  Not sure exactly, but my memory tells me there was some change in the braking, maybe?

If you wear glasses, you definitely want an original single stroke M3, because they have a wider eye mask that gives a bit more relief.

Is it single stroke versus double stroke perhaps?

Pete.

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47 minutes ago, farnz said:

Is it single stroke versus double stroke perhaps?

Pete.

No, it was something else.  Leica switch to the single stroke earlier, at SN 915251.   

 

Addendum ---->. Found my notes.  Per Sherry Krauter, strive to find an M3 with a serial number greater then 964xxx.  As I recall, some improvement to the breaking system.  

 

But we're splitting hairs here.  Any M3 is a good camera.

 

Just for the sake of completion, my notes also indicate she recommends any Leicaflex SL.  Not the original Leicaflex (spare part issue?).  An M2 with a lever rewind.  I've heard that from others too; the button rewind can sometimes malfunction.  Any M4.  An M5 with a serial number greater then 133xxx.  

 

Just her opinion based on repairing these things for a couple decades.  But they're all good cameras. 

Edited by TheBestSLIsALeicaflex
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