Leica M3 and Nikon F3

Leica M3 and Nikon F3


The Leica M3 and the Nikon F3 (with motor drive) are the two cameras I’m working with at the moment. Both are over-engineered and delightful to handle. Both are iconic. When you see a camera represented generically it’s usually based one of these two.

They are somewhat different cameras.

  • The Leica was made in 1960 and the F3 in 1983.
  • The M3 is uses a rangefinder for focusing while the F3 focuses through the lens
  • The M3 is entirely mechanical (no batteries) while the F3 has a meter and automatic (aperture-priority) exposure
  • The M3 has a mechanical cloth shutter, the F3’s is electronically-controlled titanium
  • I paid $1000 for the M3 and under $300 the F3

They have different strengths, and I enjoy them both very much. Right now the Nikon feels fresh and exciting. This is not only because the Nikon os brand new to me. It’s also because it has automatic exposure and a built-in meter. I sometimes forget how convenient that can be.

The motor drive is cool, too. If someone asked you for a “camera sound effect” the F3 and MD-4 would be what they meant. The Leica’s nearly-silent snick is completely different. Both sound great.

Loading film in the M3 requires that the bottom be removed, the film loaded onto a fussy separate take-up spool, then carefully reassembled. With the F3 you just open the back, stick the leader into a slot, close the back and go.

Both systems can use lenses dating back to the 1950s. Both are manual-focus cameras. both are built like tanks. Both are awesome.