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  1. #1
    dangobot's Avatar
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    M3 finder lines and other tales of Leica woe and dismay

    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. #2
    dpurdy's Avatar
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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. #3

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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. #4

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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
    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. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by dangobot View Post
    I find the lack of sharp and accurate corners frustrating most of the time.
    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.
    Quote Originally Posted by dangobot View Post
    2) what is the best option for a metered body with 35 lines?
    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. #6
    darkosaric's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Xmas View Post
    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.

    Noel
    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 .

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nick Merritt View Post
    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.
    Kodak cardboard ones do. The plastic ones I have don't.
    I do use a digital device in my photographic pursuits when necessary.
    When someone rags on me for using film, I use a middle digit, upraised.

  8. #8

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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. #9
    cliveh's Avatar
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    Can I suggest a Leica M2.

    “The contemplation of things as they are, without error or confusion, without substitution or imposture, is in itself a nobler thing than a whole harvest of invention”

    Francis Bacon

  10. #10

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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.

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