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THE BEST of the BEST Leica cameras EVER made…Leica M3 854000-858000 1957

Posted by Alex Yuzbasiyan on

THE BEST of the BEST Leica cameras EVER made…Leica M3 854000-858000 1957
Many know that the M3 is the finest Rangefinder camera of all time…TRUE. What they don't know is that there is a small batch of approximately 4,000 cameras made in 1957 that have the characteristics which make it the BEST of all the M3 cameras ever made.

Serial No. M3 series 854000-858000 circa 1957 characteristics:

  • Double stroke film advance lever:
    • specific for the early M3, shorter arm, quiet return. Later cameras have the single stroke long arm also used on the M2 with a ratchet "click, click, click..." sound return.
  • Triangular "RABBIT EAR" lugs:
    • Unique to the early M3 , mounted with x2 Screw on housing, riveted, will never break and spin - later cameras with single screw, round lugs also used on other M2, M4 bodies.
  • Preview frame selector lever:
    • Nice additional feature which early cameras did not have.
  • Eye piece:
    • Double glass, inner seal - later cameras with single glass/no seal.
  • Double serial No.:
    • Engraved on the inside chassis to match the top plate - later cameras no longer had this.
  • Back door:
    • ASA 1000-marking - Ball bearing locking pins to hold onto housing - later cameras with 1,300 ASA no longer have the lock.
  • Film rewind shaft:
    • Larger diameter for greater strength - early versions with thin shaft.
  • Film rewind engaging lever:
    • This is the lever above the self timer. Longer to fit properly without separation. Specifically to fit the M3 style top plate - later M cameras all had the short lever to fit both M2 and M3.
  • Base plate:
    • Larger pointed spool pusher. Unique to the M3. Later small pointed pusher was interchangeable with the M2.
  • NEW GeoMetric speeds:
    • x13 speeds over the older x11 speeds (Began at 854000 and onward) THE FINAL IMPROVEMENT!

Prior to this point, Leica was always improving their cameras. Adding new and more intuitive features. AFTER this series, you will start to see cameras with LESSER built quality characteristics. Mostly retrofitted from the introduction of the more affordable M2 camera.

There are also many other small nuances. Just something for people to know when hunting for a M camera. I coined the fraise "TRANSITIONAL" M3 for this series of M cameras.

Something I think you should look for...


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  • Super informative! Thanks so much for the detailed research. Cheers from Vancouver, Canada!

    Jeffrey McCaskill on
  • Yes, is really best of the best Leica rangefinder camera ever made . So lucky I got one . 😀

    Lo hon Khiong on

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