M3 finder lines and other tales of Leica woe and dismay

Discussion in 'Rangefinder Forum' started by dangobot, May 31, 2012.

  1. dangobot

    dangobot Member

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    Sorry for the saga, but I need some Leica therapy and advice. I have a SS M3 with a 50/2 that I really love for the most part but I have to say that the 50mm rounded corner finder lines drive me crazy. I have never heard anyone else ever talk about it. All I ever hear is praise for the M3 finder over all others. Yes the lines are bright and easy to see in all conditions, but I find the lack of sharp and accurate corners frustrating most of the time. Granted my primary camera is a Linhof Technikardan and I'm a bit of a precision nut, but that's exactly why I love my M3. The rounded corners are so glaringly counter to the whole Leica concept IMHO. What were they thinking? Was it emulating the look of TV sets at the time?

    Back around 98' I believe, I had finished a very lucrative project and decided to splurge big time and buy an M6 and a 35 Asph. It was awesome. Finally I had an in camera meter and the 35 & 50 was all I wanted. But there was a problem. The body was leaving a few hairline scratches across most of the film. I had purchased it from a major "boutique" camera shop here in NYC and took it back with the prints to show them. It was diagnosed as having an overly tight pressure plate. Now, this was the timeframe when they were coming out with the new finder mag versions, so the last versions were in limited supply. They had a pyramid of about 15 behind the counter of the remaining M6's. I think the first one I had was a "panda" - even more hard to come by. They offered to exchange the defective one and so we cracked the seal on another one. I had brought several rolls of cheap film to demonstrate the scratching that you could clearly see mid roll just by opening the back flap. I loaded up the new one and ta-da! same thing. the salesman was totally befuddled. What were the odds? Well, we opened another and the same exact thing. At this point the salesman was sweating bullets and looked like he just wanted to get rid of me. They offered to give me a full refund on the spot. But I wanted the camera! The other option was to send it to NJ and I was told it may be 8 weeks or more. I couldn't make sense of spending $6k and then shipping it off for two months. The dream was dying. I started looking at the pyramid again. I figured that if they were defective they would find out anyway, so we might as well continue the search. The guy told me "most of the people buying these are doctors and lawyers and aren't going to even notice slight scratching. I don't want to open any more and make them unsellable." Wow. I didn't know what else to do. I took the refund and that was the end. I even thought about selling the M3.

    At that point in my life I was shooting editorial and advertising and this was a fun personal system for me. Now I am only shooting serious personal work and I am beginning to get Leica "feelings" again. The problem is that now I can't really afford a new Leica and the M6 experience has left me feeling jinxed about even considering one used. I guess my questions are:

    1) is there anyone that can mod the M3 lines to have square corners and is it worth it?
    2) what is the best option for a metered body with 35 lines?
    3) should I just sell the M3 and move on?
    4) is there life after Leica?

    I have other 35 systems so it's not like I'll be without. I still have a Canon 1n and a ton of lenses, plus a 5D and 5Dmk2 (don't judge). I also just replaced my second most used system a Hasselblad with an 80 and a 50. But, as you probably know if you have made it this far, nothing is quite like the Leica. As Jack Twist said - "I wish I knew how to quit you".
     
  2. dpurdy

    dpurdy Member

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    If it will make you feel a bit better I can say that I got rid of my Leica M3 because I hated using the lines in the view finder. I never got another RF camera for that reason. It takes me out of my spontaneous reaction to the image when I have to consider the projected edges marks. It is even worse when you put on a 90mm lens and the little box is your image.
    It did have an amazingly sharp 50 lens. The fact that you say there is nothing quite like a Leica means there is something you like about it. So it is like a relationship with a partner who isn't quite perfect. You forgive the imperfection and try to focus on the good things.
    I happily sold my Leica and used the cash to buy a Pentax 67 system that became far more important to my work.
    To each his own but my Rolleiflex captured my heart as it does many hearts just as the Leica does.
    Dennis
     
  3. Nick Merritt

    Nick Merritt Member

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    The rounded corners were intended to simulate a frame of film in a slide mount. Slide mounts have rounded corners. Not ideal for black and white, but so it goes.
     
  4. georg16nik

    georg16nik Member

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    1) I had a friend who sent his M to the factory and they did it for him, it was many many years ago and they charged him like he was buying another M.
    There might be a cheaper way to do it in US, Canada or Japan - they got awesome repair shops there.
    2) I don't know, I shoot mostly 50mm with Barnaks :ninja:
    3) It depends on how much is gonna cost You a modded M3 finder and if You wanna go there.
    4) yes, the life called large format, but some of us always come back to the good old Leica.
     
  5. Xmas

    Xmas Member

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    Forget accurate if you want or need accurate you need a Nikon F or F2. A direct vision camera is not accurate. The round corners are the least of your problems.
    M6, M7, MP
    if you use a M3 already you dont need a meter and a M2, M4, M4-2, or M4-P will do, M4-2 is cheapest but M2 nicest

    Noel
     
  6. darkosaric

    darkosaric Subscriber

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    Amen to that. I went in Leica world from nikon F3. In the beginning I was also frustrated with M6 that shows only 85% of negative when focused on infinity (with 50mm lens), then I get M3 that was better, but also not 100% precise.

    Then I learned to let it go... be in peace with imperfection of rangefinder or shoot with 100% viewfinder SLR :smile: .
     
  7. lxdude

    lxdude Member

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    Kodak cardboard ones do. The plastic ones I have don't.
     
  8. jochen

    jochen Member

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    Hello,
    many years ago Leitz offered the modification of the M 3 with the rangefinder of the M 4, M 4-P or M 6. But as was already mentioned this was extremely expensive like all service work they do. I think they don't offer this service any longer.
    Please note that the rangefinder of the M 3 is completely different from all later types (besides this is also the reason why the M 3 rangefinder has not the flare problems of the later types). The a.m. modification means that the complete rangefinder-unit has to be replaced, not only the frames.
     
  9. cliveh

    cliveh Subscriber

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    Can I suggest a Leica M2.:smile:
     
  10. jochen

    jochen Member

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    Hello,
    yes, the M 2 would be a good choice. In my opinion this model has the most clearly arranged view-finder with only 3 frames for 35, 50 and 90 mm. For 135 mm the magnification of 0.72 the M 2 was not considered to be sufficient by Leitz. When this camera appeared on the market it was called the "Weitwinkel-Leica" (wide-angle Leica). Many users had asked for a 35 mm frame.
     
  11. dangobot

    dangobot Member

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    Thank you all for the replies. It sounds like moding the M3 would be too expensive. I have really considered getting an M2 with a 35 before, but i really wanted to have one body with a ttl meter. I guess I would have to look at M6's again.

    I'm afraid it may just be that I am just not a RF guy. Like Dennis said, it does slow me down a bit and for me, make it less spontaneous. I suppose that's something I need to consider and whether it's a negative or positive. It may be that I need to "let go and let Leica" as it were. I am going on a little road trip to shoot 4x5 this weekend and I think I will take the M3 to see if I can rekindle the romance.

    David
     
  12. IloveTLRs

    IloveTLRs Member

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    I wish I could sympathize, but I love the rounded frame lines on the M3. No meter nor 35mm lines are the icing on the cake :wink:

    I have met a few others who can't stand them though, so you are not alone. Would you be against using an external meter like the VCII?
     
  13. dangobot

    dangobot Member

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    I have seen pics of the VCII meter and it's not too bad. not a fan of the LR/SR44 batts. at all. I suppose that and a M2 with a 35 would do it though.
     
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  15. ic-racer

    ic-racer Member

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    Get a Bessa body for your 50mm.
     
  16. Trask

    Trask Subscriber

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    Who has an M5, and can tell us about the corners of the frames in that camera?
     
  17. darkosaric

    darkosaric Subscriber

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  18. Trask

    Trask Subscriber

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    Thanks, Darko. Well, there we go -- you can mentally "connect" the white lines in the M5 to get your (imaginary) corners. Will they be as accurate as what you see in a Nikon F? Nope, but then photography with a Leica RF camera is a different experience from using an SLR. Only the individual user can decide if it's an equally good experience.
     
  19. Xmas

    Xmas Member

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    Hi

    I think we are missing several points.
    The direct vision and SLR are like roadster and sedan different compromises.
    SLR no parrallex, the frames are only 'correct' at the range the lens is focused to.
    SLR normally about 90% of actual 35mm frame shown except e.g. Nikon F and F2... 100%
    The M2, 35mm frame is near enough to 40mm that lots of people file their 40mm lenses to show the 35mm frame, note the M6 and later have different frame sizes.
    You can see the M3 frame in starlight (and below) ...
    The M3 focus and parrallex 'corrects' to 1m the M2 to 0.7m the SLR is dependent on lens
    You cannot see depth of field with some SLR screens...
    So do you like apples or oranges, most people can eat both...

    Noel
     
  20. Richard Jepsen

    Richard Jepsen Member

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    I would not modify a finder; not worth it. You may consider an external finder.
    I recommend a M6 for a metered 35mm frame. Pair with a Minolta 40, a near match on film for 35m framelines.
    Migrate to any metered M. You need to adjust to the finder accuracy. It helps to process your own prints in a DR. With a M6 finder, at 15/20 feet, frame the shot and take one step forward; then shoot. At 12 feet and closer just frame and shoot.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 13, 2012
  21. cliveh

    cliveh Subscriber

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    Don't you find those numbers in the M5 viewfinder a distraction? When you look through the viewfinder, surely all you want to see is the image and not be distracted by all that number rubbish.
     
  22. Vilk

    Vilk Member

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    i went for no. 3 when faced with these choices myself :smile: i did last a couple of years but eventually the TV tube aesthetic lost. from the gold-sprayed condenser heaven i fell onto the canadian clunker... and my pictures did not suffer one whit

    incidentally, i looked into the M3 at a camera show this morning--i laughed, no, no going back, death to TV tube! :laugh:
     
  23. lacavol

    lacavol Member

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    Just IMO, I like the rangefinder as to me it is faster to focus, and my M2 has DOF built into the RF patch. There is no lag on the shutter, no flipping mirrors or loud noises and it fits rather flat in my coat pocket, though you do need ballast on the other side. 35 and 50mm are 99% of what I want.
     
  24. georg16nik

    georg16nik Member

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    The M3 eyepiece rounded corners are reverence to the Ur Leica and visual culture of those days.
    739px-Ur_Leica.jpg
    The front is rectangular but eyepiece is circular and kinda crops the corners when You look thru, its a feature that many other legendary cameras have.
     
  25. Jim Rice

    Jim Rice Member

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    Aren't the framelines actually cut-out portions in a metal plate in the RF/VF mechanism? Seems like someone handy with photofabrication could create a new plate and have it installed.
     
  26. georg16nik

    georg16nik Member

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    Leica M3 bright frame lines are much more sophisticated than just cut-out portions in a metal plate found in the Barnack Leicas.
    In M3 the 50mm frame line (the one with the rounded corners) remains visible all the time. 90mm or 135mm frame lines are projected inside the 50mm depending on the lens You are using. The parallax error is automatically compensated over the whole focusing range.
    The corners of the 90mm, 135mm frames (and RF patch) are not rounded, in fact they are razor sharp and that pisses some folks..
    In M2 and recent M's, the 50mm frame line corners are not rounded, they are simply not present..