Why Manual 35mm Film Cameras are Still the Way | Leica M3 Review
I finally made the Leica plunge, but why did I settle on the manual M3 of all the film cameras available?
After three years of struggling to find a 35mm film camera that could stand the test of time, I finally caved and made the Leica plunge. But why did I settle on the manual Leica M3 of all the options out there?
The Leica M3 is a complete sneaker of a film camera choice. At least at the time of writing this. But every day with this camera is an absolute joy to shoot with, I have been consistently impressed by its level of performance, and gets a ton of looks by everyone 50+ on hikes.
Alright, enough gawking; allow me to tell you why I love it so much to write an article about it. Below are some honest thoughts, a nod to a notable disadvantage, and a gallery of my favorite images taken on it.
Images were shot on a Summicron 35mm and using Portra 400 or Portra 160.
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Why the Leica M3?
After spending hundreds of dollars on film cameras that I thought were in mint condition, only to have them fail me weeks later, it seemed like a never-ending cycle of frustration and annoyance. I lost count of the number of times my Canon AE1 stopped working on my most essential road trips, or my Minolta XX found the shutter lagging, causing me to shoot nothing but half frames.
These aggravating experiences were my sole introduction to film photography, pushing me to nearly give up and resort to digital.
That was... until I met up with Dan Rubin, and he sent me down the right path.
He opened my eyes to the potential of fully mechanical cameras, which operate without electronics and have fewer parts that could break. Older battery-operated 35mm camera bodies from Etsy or eBay are hardly potent after much use; it's a coin toss.
Dan suggested an extensive list of fully mechanical cameras that he found worthwhile, including cheaper alternatives to Leica's hefty cost. But I was also willing to spend the extra dollar at this point in hopes of finding a camera that would last me as my daily driver.
The Leica M3 thus became my weapon of choice — reliable and fully mechanical. I scored a great deal on one, around $1,800 at the time, and it's only been increasing in value. Nearly zero issues since I fetched it over a year ago (minus that time I dropped it onto a rock, but that's another story).
Honestly, Lecia's handcrafted build quality is unmatched, and it sold for only 1/3 of the price of the more popular M6. Living that gaudy "Leica lifestyle" for less.
And while many might view the fully mechanical nature of the camera as a disadvantage, it's the reason I love it so damn much.
Because Dan was right — it works, and it always will work.
Aside from its albeit fat price tag (although still notably less than Leica's other camera bodies), the biggest downside is that it lacks a light meter.
Thankfully, this is the most accessible issue to solve. Grab yourself a TTARTISAN Light Meter, it looks especially pretty on top of the M3 body, or you can go big and snag a Sekonic lightmate.
Recently I also received some criticism for rocking a 35mm on the M3. Apparently, 50mm and up is best for focus accuracy and the frame lines you'll see won't be accurate below this focal length. But I shoot mountains and landscapes often at infinity, so never even noticed. I don't think you will either, but be careful going really wide.
Besides the additional light meter purchase, I have yet to find a disadvantage to this camera worth noting. It's effortless to load, tolerates all the rugged travel and transportation, and functions beautifully every time.
The insurance of boosted dependability and its effortless results get me out shooting more than ever — that's worth the extra dollar!