4 Reasons Why the Leica M2 is Better Than the M3

4 Reasons Why the Leica M2 is Better Than the M3

2000 1125 James Tocchio

[Editor’s Note : Someone read this article and sent me a message that, in part, told me to kill myself. Pretty ridiculous, but I wanted to clarify that this tongue-in-cheek article is more of a silly conversation starter than a true examination into which Leica is best. And in any event, favoring any camera over another isn’t really grounds for death. Happy shooting, friends.]

The Leica M2 is just a simplified and cheapened version of the M3, right? Yeah, it’s a good camera, but if you’re going to buy a Leica M why not buy the best, why not buy the original? Right? Well what if we told you that there are valid reasons for using an M2 over its legendary predecessor? What if we told you that, today, the M3 is actually the worse of the two classic rangefinders, and that anyone looking to buy an M3 would be better served shopping for an M2?

With clear understanding that we’ve already sent half of you running for your pitchforks, hear us out. Both cameras are amazing, and a case can be made for each, but we honestly think at this moment the M2 is best. Here are four justifications for our heretical blaspheming. And no, I couldn’t come up with five. So what?

Reason #1 – The M3 is Ugly

Alright, it’s not ugly, but the M3 is a bit cluttered aesthetically speaking. The physical allure of the M rangefinder is in its no-nonsense, clinical approach to design. It’s a camera that’s sleek, clean, and streamlined. Except, the M3 kind of isn’t. It’s got bulges, ridges, and knobs all over the place. Did we not know better we’d assume Leica was the German word for “bezels”.

The M2, by contrast, is decidedly more refined. All optical windows are flush-mounted, and the raised ridge on the front of the M3 has been shaved away. This gives the M2 a more modern and contemporary design, and seems to adhere more closely to the Bauhaus aesthetic that’s surely at the heart of the M rangefinder’s design brief.

M2M3 front compare

We know some fans love the moldings surrounding nearly every feature of the camera, but we don’t. We feel they’re overwrought and add nothing to the overall aesthetic. Even worse, they actually detract from the whole.

We just can’t understand why Leica embellished their flagship camera with so many useless bits of metal. And those photophiles who are truly obsessed with simplicity can even search out an M2 with virtually nothing extraneous hanging off the front. It’s possible to get an M2 minus the frame line selector lever or self-timer lever, and with a surreptitious rewind button in place of the M3’s rewind lever. You can’t possibly find an M3 without that giant self-timer lever protruding from the front.

Are we picking nits here? Yeah, a little bit. But if you like concise design, the M2 is the best choice.

Reason #2 – Viewfinder Woes

This is the big one; the most important difference between the two cameras and the number one reason to shoot an M2 over an M3. It’s so important that we’ve nonsensically embedded it here in the very middle of the article. It’s the viewfinder.

Yep, the M2 has a better viewfinder than the M3. There, we said it, and we can already hear the raucous harangues over .92X magnification, 50mm focal length, and the prevailing opinion that the M3 is the best viewfinder in the history of the universe. But we’re going out on a limb and proclaiming that none of that matters, because the M3’s viewfinder is two-thirds useless.

It’s all in the frame lines. Both the M2 and M3 have automatically selected frame lines correlating to the focal length of the mounted lens. With both cameras, attach a 50mm lens and 50mm frame lines appear in the viewfinder. Or attach a 90mm lens and 90mm frame lines appear. But mount a 35mm lens and only one of these two Ms will show 35mm frame lines. Guess which?

clumsy goggle glasses

That’s right, the M2 is designed to work with the 35mm focal length without adding any extra weight, cumbersome accessory viewfinders, or shelling out humongous sacks of cash for specialized “goggle” lenses. If you want to shoot 35mm with an M3 you’ll be spending a lot of money, carrying extra weight, and losing viewfinder brightness. The alternative is to guess your framing and go for it, but that’s so… un-German.

Some will argue that the M3’s native 50mm, 90mm, and 135mm frame lines are a better set compared to the 35mm, 50mm, and 90mm found in the M2, but we disagree mightily. For our money, the frame lines found in the M2 are far more practical. 35mm and 50mm are among the most important focal lengths in all of photography, and having the choice to use one or the other is vital.

Not to mention that when shooting at 50mm with an M2 there’s the added benefit of extra viewfinder coverage. Shooting this way with an M2 allows one to look through the viewfinder and watch as subjects pass in and out of the image field. This is especially useful in street photography, or to easily scan the environment for elements that will work best with your composition.

Plus, when was the last time anyone shot an M with a 90 or 135mm lens? Honestly. That just never happens.*

*We acknowledge this is a highly subjective opinion, but you’re reading an opinion piece. What do you expect?

Reason #3 – Price

The Leica M2 was released as a simplified “budget” version of the M3, originally costing around $250 compared with the M3’s price of around $290. The well-known secret then being that while the M2 was marketed as a lesser M3, it really never was. Build quality is of the same impressive caliber as found in its more-respected brother. Cock the shutter and fire both cameras while wearing a blindfold and you won’t feel any difference.

So why does the M2 cost less than the M3? There are different opinions on this, but we’re chalking it up to reputation. Featured in everything from James Bond novels to Steve Jobs’ keynote presentations, virtually everyone’s heard of the legendary M3. When someone says “Leica”, people reflexively think “M3”.

Conversely there are many people who’ve simply never heard of the M2. And it’s human nature for many people to operate under the assumption that “if it were any good I would have heard of it.” So essentially, M2s cost less because less people know of them, and less people want them. Simple enough.

Leica M2 Vulcanite Replacement 1

While the price difference between an M3 and an M2 has shrunk since they were newly released machines, and continues to shrink these days, there are still substantial savings to be had by choosing an M2 over an M3. Often the difference in price today falls between $100 and $300, depending on condition and how lucky you may be. Look for a copy with worn vulcanite, replace it yourself with new leather, and you’ll save even more.

Just this past weekend we picked up an M2 for $400. Pretty amazing.

Reason #4 – It’s not an M3

To our earlier point, literally (figuratively) everyone’s heard of the M3. All the hipsters are shooting M3s, and that makes shooting an M3 lame. The M3 is so last year. Yawn. Who wants to be seen with the camera that everyone else is shooting? What’s up? You don’t have a mind of your own? You can’t make your own decisions? If you want to be cool, you’ll shoot an M2. Simple as that.

Owning an M2 shows you’re a smarter, more discerning, more specialized photographer. You know what’s truly hip. You’re likely better looking, have higher taste, know more things about stuff, and are better in bed than a comparable shooter with an M3. Obviously.

Well, we hope we’ve presented this with enough delicacy to avoid the pitchforks and flaming torches of the mob. If not, let us backpedal a bit. Is the M3 a bad camera? Of course not. It’s amazing. It’s one of the best machines ever made. It’s just that we think the M2 is marginally better and feel it deserves more recognition.

Do you agree? Disagree? Maybe you think the M6 is better than them both? Or maybe you think the M1 is all you really need! If that’s the case, let us hear about it in the comments. Just don’t tell me that everyone’s shooting Alpa now.

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James Tocchio

James Tocchio is a writer and photographer, and the founder of Casual Photophile. He’s spent years researching, collecting, and shooting classic and collectible cameras. In addition to his work here, he’s also the founder of the online camera shop Fstopcameras.com.

All stories by:James Tocchio
  • I almost agree with you, though the M2 is one I do not shoot: I currently use an M3/M4 combo. The M3 really is ugly – those window frames! Being a 50mm nut I prefer the M3 viewfinder and focusing a cron 90 at f/2 is much easier on the M3. Both are better than the M9 which has a really bad viewfinder. Ultimately though my favourite Leica is a 1934 Model F which goes to show it is all about the heart rather than the head (or the viewfinder).

  • Shooting M3 single and duble stroke, M2 and M6 – (the M6 being almost vintage by now i can mention it) – I would agree with you except for 3 reasons – when shooting 50 mm the M3 is best, I love the double stroke action, and the film frame counter on the M2 is awful. The M6 is better then both the M3 and M2

    • You’ve definitely got some good points. While I don’t personally mind the frame counter on the M2, I admit it’s a much less elegant solution. Happy shooting, my friend!

  • I too shoot an M6 and an M4-P(such an underrated camera) which is perfect for me since I shoot almost all wide angle lenses, the 28 frame lines are nice to have. I agree with most of what you said but I do have to go with the consensus on this, focusing a 50mm lens on an M3 does seem easier. If given the chance to a pick up an M2R though, I would gladly trade one of my current Leica bodies to get it.

  • Travel and Fashion April 11, 2015 at 7:50 am

    Good points there, good Leica teaser and nice angle of view for the M2.
    M3 clearly is a good combo with the 50mm. If 35mm your points are clearly interesting. If you want to be super super cool shoot an MD with 28mm ( or more ) 😉

  • I agree completely, which is why I chose an M2 over an M3 when i got back into film about 6 months ago.

    The M3 is uglier and does not have 35mm lines.

    My choice to start shooting film again was about simplicity.

    The M2 is simpler than the M3. Ok I could live without the self timer and even he frame selector. But I like the simplicity of the frame counter.

  • agreed.

    By the same arguments, though, the M4 is better than both the M3 and the M2. Better film loading, easier rewinding. Same frame lines as the M2, to boot.

  • M2-R is the best ever!

  • No, no, no. The one M to rule them all is definitely the M5. Uncluttered 50mm frame line with metering circle. Uncluttered (sort of) 35mm frame line with 135mm frame line as metering area (no other use for that 135 frame). Uncluttered 90mm frame line.

    Most importantly though are the mechanical differences. Steeples shutter speeds with indicator in the viewfinder and selector that overhands the front. THE FASTEST and easiest film loading of any Leica rangefinder (far better than the M4 system still in use today). Largest and fastest rewind crank. And then the big one, TRUE SPOT METERING.

    Yeah, it looks different, but its aged well, and it was the last Leica with traditional hand assembly.

    Once you shoot with an M5, there is no going back.

    • We have a feeling the M5 is going to become more expensive as time goes on…

    • But it’s huge and ugly. Part of the reason to own a Leica in 2017 is that it’s an aesthetically wonderful piece of equipment.

      • …….and a CL does most things a M5 can do at half the weight and size. Hence why Leica sold over twice as many CL’s as they did M5’s. I have owned pretty much every Leica rangefinder other than an ur and an M5 but whereas I would like an ur, I think I would even prefer the stupid O replica I had briefly, than an M5.

        • William Sommerwerck February 26, 2018 at 10:04 am

          If I recall correctly, the CL isn’t a Leica. It’s a Minolta. I worked in a camera store many years ago, and sold a few.

          • There were Leica and Minolta versions of the CL albeit with all bodies made by Minolta but the design was Leica. However mine has a Leica badge on it, the 40mm Summicron lens says: “Made in Germany”, so as far as I am concerned it is a Leica. Just like the various T line AF lenses for the TL and CL digital cameras, which are made by some un-named Japanese manufacturer to Leica designs but nobody claims they are not Leica lenses.

  • Agree! I choose the m2 because of the price.
    But doesn’t mean I don’t like the m3 or the other m cameras.
    All the film m cameras are the same to me because they all have the same function apart from some of them has built in light meter.
    Happy shooting!

  • With each year, the number of gears on my bike gets less, can’t push a big front and a small back, so they have gone, and the number of lenses I carry goes down, I might as well super glue a 50mm to an M and be done with it, so when I found this M2/3 hybrid it kinda hit me in the sweet spots, an M2 with an M3 viewfinder/rangefinder, then leave a 50mm on it, and its a bit like an old racer bike turned into a single speed fixie. its here https://www.flickr.com/photos/77437968@N00/16821816220/

  • The are the most stupid reasons I’ve ever heard. M3 is ugly ? M3 is so last year ? M2 has better frame lines ? M3 is $40 more expensive. Who wrote these, a 6 year old ?

  • shortsandsweater July 3, 2015 at 4:30 am

    I would almost agree, except as a glasses wearer, the 35mm frame lines on the m2 are basically invisible, so I would need an external viewfinder anyway. Given that, I would much rather have the big lovely m3’s vf.

    As for aesthetics, bevels may not be ideal, but functionality is more important.

  • The best Leica is the one you hold in your hand and use.

    I love the M2 – like the M3 – sold and regretted selling the M4’s and, I think about my M6 0.85 when I shoot with the mighty M7 in black.

    Overall I starting hating the M7 when the DX reader let me down. But as Leica repaired it for free, I forgave and select, if not any Leica in the hand, the M7.

    (and yes, the auto exposure is a blessing)

    • Obviously the M3 is better otherwise her Majesty the Queen would not own one. Liz ll the original tiara wearing magnum pro. I am standing to attention as I write this humming the national anthem. .. maybe not. I have two M2s, and a ‘bastard’ M2 with a M3 viewfinder and an M3. I tend to towards what in cycling terms is known as a fixie, a single geared bike, and wander about with just one lens. When young it was mostly a 35mm, as 50mm was for squares and aged uncles. If you were cool it had to be an M2, and a 35mm Now I am old my Uncle may have been right and its usually a 50mm, and if its a fast 50 , Noctilux or 1.2 Cannon, or a 1.1 MS Sonnetar , the M3 rangefinder really helps. Oh I had an M7 which I regard as the onset of Leica spread, its waistline was thicker than the preceding Ms , and what felt like a sports car in the hand edged towards limo. Think Jag XK 120 then 150, or Aston DB4 then DB6, The M7 was the beginning of Leica lardification, the M7 is just a tad fatter than an M6, the M8 a tad fatter than the M7, the M240 a tad fatter than the M9,and so it goes on. Which is why I have not bought a 240. I am hoping there is Dr in a white coat advising a product meeting in darkest Wetzlar on how he can fit a gastric band to the Leica 260……. Thus my goto film Leica in a hurry is an M3, as with a 50mm lens it has the least cluttered viewfinder. The most practical Leica for daily commuting, shopping, parking at the supermarket, is for me an M6. But I have just discovered the joys of the 111G which of course is just an obese Leica 1. But an M2 is great, but really if its aesthetics and cool you are after ‘stuff it’ get a Nikon SP.

  • I agree it seems a bit infantile to reduce the comparison to such crude and simplistic terms. I think they’re both beautiful pieces of machinery. Each has their place in history and each has their sweet spot, the M3 with 50mm and the M2 with 35mm. A rigid Summicron 50 lives on my M3 but I actually use the M2 with a Zeiss 25/2.8 most of the time. An M6 0.85 gets all my modern glass (35/50/90 ASPH).

  • Nice article. I shoot an M2 myself, and love it. But I’m surprised nobody has mentioned the purpose of the window bevels. The top of the M2 might look a little less Bauhaus than the smooth (and cheaper to make) brass cap of the M2, but those bevels do a magnificent job of keeping fingers away from the windows. With the M3, Leica thought of absolutely everything. Nothing on that camera is a frivolity. Shoot with a flush-windowed M6, M7, or any digital M, and you’ll spend plenty of time wiping fingerprints from the windows.

    Best wishes,


    • Taking the bevels off made the casting cheaper. It had nothing whatever to do with “design.”

      When the M3 was introduced, wide angles, even 35mm, were difficult to make well, and slow. The standard 35 was the Summaron f3.5. It hardly made sense at that time to make a camera especially for lenses that were not very useful for working photographers.

  • In fact….. I’ve just bought a nice M2….. 😉

  • Very nice review of a legendary camera. I think they are all great and we can be proud to own any one of them. In fact, we should collect them all;-)

  • M4 every time. The best built of all M Leicas, just before the cost accounts/management consultants arrived, the end result of which was the cheaper to build M4-2. In effect the M4 is an improved M2 and I would agree with the M2 v M3 argument, as my favourite every day lens is a 35mm, either the very good but very heavy chrome/brass f1.4 Summilux ASPH or the far lighter black/alloy f2 Summicron ASPH. I have had my M4 from new in 1967, where the body was my 21st present. It is a very early one (the 47th production M4 1175047) and was bought from Lizars in Aberdeen, Scotland. It still works perfectly after its first CLA last year by Peter at CRR in Luton and also now looks like new again.

  • When I bought my first M in 2007 after a legacy I bought a1955 Double-Stroke M3. I did my homework: by buying an M3 I was able to have and use four lenses – 35mm f2.8 ‘spectacles’ and 50mm f2.8 retractable, 90mm f2.8 and 135mm f4. Although the viewfinder does dim slightly when using the ‘spectacles’ 35, it is bright with the other three. Quite frankly, there’s a lot of crap talked about the Leica M series that you simply don’t get with the screwmount models or the Contax 1/2/3/2a/3a etc. To discuss whether an M2 is a better camera than an M3 is just piffle. My view is that if you prefer 35mm lenses then you have a good choice, either buy an M2 or follow my example. These are lovely old cameras, I derive a lot of pleasure using mine and I’ve bought quite a lot of contemporary accessories such as Leicameter MC, retractable 90mm f4 (could not resist that, its a work of art) hoods, filters, polariser, and I often find people will speak to me about the camera. Taking afternnon tea in the lounge of the Randolph Hotel in Oxford (Morse/Lewis etc) an elderly lady came across to tell me that her late husband always had Leicas and her son has it now. She had noticed my M3 and 50mm lens on the table. I would be nervous taking a current digital M at £5-6,000 out with me!

    • I disagree with David Murray that Contax owners talk less bull pucky than Leica owners. They are every bit as bad with endless discussions about whether the f2 or f1.5 5cm Sonnar is better and is the extra price demanded for the colour dial versions of the IIA and IIIA worthwhile plus loads of other minutiae.

      I am now enjoying telling folks that my Reid and Sigrist III is not a Leica but is even better, when they come up to tell me how their father/uncle/grandfather used to use a Leica.

      I have used my modern digital Leicas (M8, 9 240 and SL) all over the world without a single problem. Thieves are not knowledgable enough to know what an M is and the SL would slow them down as they ran away 🙂 It always amuses me when you see an M with the badge carefully taped over.

      If thieves want to steal Leicas, they will break into a shop, as they have done on a number of occasions recently in just the UK. I would like to insure my Leicas but because I live half the year in France, I have not found a company who will cover me for unlimited stays outside the UK at a price of less than £1500 per annum, so I just carry the risk myself. Over the last ten years I have saved more in premiums than a replacement M240 and Noctilux would cost, so I am ahead on the deal. I used to be an insurance underwriter, so that is a calculation I would typically make before buying any insurance.


  • I love to sit and admire my M3, but it is too minty to take outside and use. So I just bought an M2 that needs work, and thoroughly enjoyed this review.

  • I have the M2,3,5 and 6 and they are all equally good in their own ways, and each has its own distinctive character. The M3 is quite challenging, the M2 more amenable and the 5 and 6 more useable because of the metering, loading etc. Although the 5 is big and not as aesthically pleasing it is a very good camera to use. The metering is accurate and I prefer match needle to led. The shutter knob is a delight as it protrudes slightly so can easily be turned. I could go on, but the downside is that the 5 is much more difficult to have serviced and repaired with some parts such as the shutter brake failing causing the camera to become a nice paperweight. The others seem to be much easier to sort out when they need attention. I think the 6 is less well built than the others but it is still very good. All give me a lot of joy to handle and all produce equally good results provided that I recognise their different characters.

    Much as I love my Leicas I am not someone who thinks they are superior to every other make. They aren’t. In some ways they may be better, but in others not. I have friends who swear by a different make and I respect their choice and they mine. Those people who get very agitated when someone criticises Leica (or Nikon, Canon …..) really need to get a life. I love old Minoltas because that is where I started, but I have never been able to get on with Nikon or Canon although they have produced some great cameras. It’s just that I haven’t been able to get the best from them, but with Leicas and Minoltas I can. Each to their own and all the better for it. And I don’t see my Leicas as investments as some do. They are to be used so if I drop one then too bad – life goes on.
    You might want to have a look sometime at the Leicaflexes – brilliant in their own way with the original being a an example of premium engineering and an absolute monster to carry about, but a delight to use if a bit idiosyncratic. The SL and SL2 are also great cameras, though with less character, but my favourite Leica slr is the R5, often overlooked but accurate, easy to carry and cheap. The Minolta dna is evident, if considerably modified by Leica. Nikon and Canon (as well as Pentax, Oly etc) have more complete systems and make more sense but the Leica slrs hold their own when it comes to to use quality of output.
    Great site so keep up the good work.

    • James – Founder/Editor February 9, 2017 at 12:57 pm

      Fantastic comment and lots of food for thought. I’ve been waiting for a nice Leicaflex to roll in.

      • James, You better book into that weightlifting class for the Leicaflex. I think the only heavier SLR is the bulls-eye Contarex. We bought one for my father’s 60th birthday, with the 55mm f1.4 Planar and after his IIIA he found it very heavy.


        • James – Founder/Editor February 9, 2017 at 3:41 pm

          Been getting soft anyway. It oughta help. ; )

          • I would bet in any case the Leicaflex is nothing like as heavy as the giant Graflex Combat Graphic KE-4, I have just bought along with the three lenses (2½”, 4″ and 8″, all Kodak) all the filters and flash and other accessories, in its original Halliburton aluminium case, called in army parlance, the KS-6 kit.

            This enormous, US army green rangefinder, is also known as “Gulliver’s Contax”, as one of the designers was ex-Zeiss and the shutter has some similarities with a Contax RF. It uses 70mm perforated film, which is not the easiest film to find but hopefully, Ilford will be doing a run of it in HP5 later this year. It takes 50 6 x 9cm images on one cassette. At the moment its clockwork auto-wind is jammed, I suspect either due to overwinding or someone firing off the shutter without film in the camera (a definite no-no). It is therefore going off to Alan Starkie at Cameraworks-UK, who made such a nice job of my Leica Model III and I(C) Standard cameras last month. I have even managed to find a copy of the original US Army field service manual for the camera, to go up to Alan with the camera.

          • James – Founder/Editor February 9, 2017 at 5:57 pm

            Hey I have chatted with Alan as well! Great guy and as good a camera repair and customization expert as you’ll ever find.

        • I have recently given way to temptation and bought a Leicaflex SL for £65, body only, from Peter Loy. The meter does not work, I think the battery has leaked or corroded at some point, damaging the little metal strip that’s the contact. Someone may have tried to clean it and it’s snapped off. Oh well, I use my Weston V. Lenses for R Leicas are very expensive but I got a Schneider Kreuznach PA Curtagon 35mm f4 shift lens for £265, again from Peter Loy. I use 35mm lenses 90% of the time and the 7mm shift is useful for buildings. You have to open up the lens to f4 to frame/focus, then stop down manually to the taking aperture. There is no linkage whatsoever between body and lens. Yes, this combo is heavy, however, I’m not going to buy any more lenses for it so my bag will not get heavier than it is now. The quality of build of both lens and body is amazing.

          • That sounds like a very interesting lens. All the Schneiders I’ve used have been beautiful. Enjoy it and share some shots!

  • James/Wilson, There are certainly heavier cameras than the Leicaflex but they tend to be a bit bigger. For its size it is a monster, but loveable nonetheless. THe LF is truly multipurpose as it hold you down in strong winds, saves you having to do workouts to keep fit, handy for knocking in nails or tent pegs,can safely despatch any mugger (nylon strap gives same momentum as leather but won’t break) and will still carry on shooting! Add the 135/2.8 (must bee one of the heaviest 135s) and it becomes a truly lethal weapon.

    Have you thought of reviewing the Rolleiflex tlr – another classic that engenders goodwill from strangers and produces great results if you recognise its limits.

    All the best, Robert

    Ps your Minolta reviews show what a great company it was – for too long ithe SRTs and XEs have been overlooked as true classics. And as for the XDs, electronic marvels but give me a nice mechanical SRT, noisy as they are.

  • I have Daddy (120-3.5E Planar) Mummy (127- 4 x 4cm) and Baby (8 x 11mm MInox film) Rolleiflexes. I don’t use them a whole lot as I have never been a big fan of waist level finders and I don’t use them enough to reverse my mind, so that pan left equals pan right. The feature I do really like about them is the EV lock, so that if the light stays the same, shutter speed and aperture all move together. When I bought a new lightmeter a few years ago, I made sure I bought one that could read out in EV’s (Polaris 5º Spotmeter).

  • I own an M2, M3 and M6 TTL….there are reasons to shoot with all of them. I find all of them beautiful but beauty is in the eye of the beholder so it’s a personal choice.
    If I had to pick only one it would be the M6 TTL over both the M2 & M3 simply because it is the most versatile fully mechanical camera and it had a great light meter built in if you want to use it. The TTL also features the bigger shutter speed dial that is so much easier to use and it turns in the correct direction of the arrows on the built in light meter. M6 TTL is IMO the best mechanical camera that Leica has ever built and it’s absolutely beautiful but I’ll never sell my M2 & M3… 🙂

  • Limpin’ Lizard April 1, 2017 at 11:02 pm

    What! U think I wanna get shot? Even though we know better Leica ‘experts’ aren’t going to give up on the M3 as, “King of the M Mount”. I play it safe and pull out my Rollei 35.

  • The M2 is my favorite traveling camera fitted with the tiny Canon 35/1.7. Once in a while I replace it with a M6 if I think on board light metering comes in handy.
    On the other hand if I travel with multi lenses I pick the M3 with either a 21 or 25 wide angle, a 50 mm and a 90 mm. The M2 is more like a work horse while the M3 is more like a piece of art, that is why the one M2 sees more film meters than my four M3 in total.

    • Wilson Laidlaw May 8, 2017 at 2:58 pm

      I am always interested in these M3 v M2 discussions but would argue that an M4 is better than both. An M4-P arguably is better than all of them.

  • The M3 still rules, The M2 never added anything new or technically significant over the M3. The 4 reasons mentioned in the article are completely negliable as well as insignificant and therefore don’t make the M2 the “better” Camera between the two. I view this article as only being something that someone wanted to write for the sake of stirring things up. When comparing technical Instruments like these you need to compare to what was available at the time, and the M2 came after the M3 and as said never added anyting greater than the M3 did. However the M3 was a Major improvement of its predecessors.

  • An excellent if not “tongue in cheek” article that makes some interesting observations, which obviously some respondents don’t get. eh Arne?
    The M2 is every bit as good as the M3 and especially for those of us who use a 35mm lens as well as a 50mm. The framelines 35, 50 and 90mm also make far more sense. I also prefer the simple uncluttered appearance of my M2 with button rewind and no ugly and frankly pointless self timer lever. In my view the M3 is vastly overrated, but hey, its just my personal opinion.

    • Keith,

      I hope you have written your will 🙂 . The M3-ophiles will be taking out a contract on you. I too could not really understand the fanaticism of those who think there is no real camera in the world except the M3. I have been using an M7 with Motor-M for the last 10 days with a Summilux 50 III (the special edition LTM version) on it and I like it a lot but not to the exclusion of all other cameras. The 0.72 VF is a good compromise between enough magnification to focus a Noctilux 0.95 or Summarex 85/1.5 accurately but still provide framelines for a 28mm


  • Gosh. The article is a little silly, like discussing how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.
    Except for their viewfinders and some inconsequential details, the M2 and M3 are nearly identical.
    If you like the 35mm focal length and use it a lot, buy an M2. (or better, an M4)
    If most of your rangefinder photography is with the 50mm, buy an M3.
    It ain’t rocket science, and it’s not all that interesting to talk about.

  • Personally I find the Nikon FM2n is the best Leica. It’s smaller. You see what you get, without silly frames in your finder, nicely magnified in correlation of your focal length, it has a much better film loading system, better and more lenses, a better shutter, it works at below zero temperatures, it’s definitely more reliable and it’s stylish, too. And it has a built in meter (that works at night, too), although I use it with a Sekonic L28c2. Serious photographers forgot about this Leica stuff in the sixties and in the seventies, when the Nikon F2 came out. BTW. I come from Germany, I know Leica, I definitely see no advantage in using Leicas.

    • You, sir, are my hero.

    • It‘s just about taste. I did not used FM2 and FM3a anymore. Moved to M‘s.
      You didn’t know Leica M‘s.:)

    • Well D.C. it´s always a matter of taste in the end right ?
      For most of my personal work I prefer SLR´s either but of course there are also
      some advantages using viewfinders !
      If Leica is worth the money is a discussion on another level – if you buy for a good price
      and sell it again there is less loss like with other brands in my experience !
      Owning a expensive camera dosn´t make you a better photographer too we all know.
      Even using the best of the best lenses don´t matter if you work sloppy right ?
      For me the picture is the aim and believe me nobody really can spot the difference
      with what camera it was made so why empty your wallet for gear ?

      Back to topic: I owned some Leica M3, Leica M-2, Leica M-P and Leica M6 for a while
      and always loved the viewfinder from the Leica M3 !
      After get rid of all the stuff I kept a Nikon S2 with Nikkor S.C. 1,4/50mm and still like
      to use it for street. Inexpensive sweet little camera combo for a priece you wouldnt
      even get a Leica service man shake your hand……..

  • William Sommerwerck February 26, 2018 at 10:20 am

    Looking at the “goggle” lens provokes a Yikes! Polaroid! reaction. (If you’ve owned a Colorpack camera with a folding viewfinder, you know what I mean.) SLRs with interchangeable lenses are, by their nature, “do-anything” cameras. The advantage of rangefinder cameras lies in using a limited number of lenses to take specific types of photographs. The [O]M camera — Olympus’s attempt at an SLR Leica M — blows the Leicas out of the water in terms of versatility (if not optical quality). Some years back, financial problems forced me to sell my Zuikos. I still regret having had to do that.

  • Some interesting points but I disagree in some.

    I have both the M2 and M3. Each camera can be specialised for a purpose.

    The M2 is more practical when it comes to the 35mm format lenses. But you loose two things that are particularly special out of the lenses for the M2, that is; close focus distance. The M3 versions of the 35/2 and 35/2.8 Summaron – particularly the Summaron are exquisite in the close range. Down to .65mm, these lenses can be very practical – whiles’t the M2 versions only focus to 1 meter. This can be a deal breaker for some people – which includes me. So this must be thought of carefully.

    Also, when one uses a lens for the M3 (with it’s Finder optics) on the M2, the correct angle of view is applied, and you still get to focus down to .65mm. This effect is VERY practical for eye glass wearers – like me. This is because the frame lines are optically adjusted via the Finder optics built in the M3 lenses – simple, but genius.

    In the end, the M2 is great for 35mm, as intended; but when it comes down to 50mm and 90mm focus accuracy – there is no real comparison. The .92 magnification of the M3 is the ultimate in this situation. Not everyone will have the privilege of owning an M3 and M2 plus all the matching set of lenses. I do – I saved really hard, $2 – $5 a day for years to acquire these cameras and lenses. They both serve really well when used particularly for they angle of view. For 35mm, the M2 is THE best. Uncluttered and elegant for this purpose. For 50mm and 90mm, you will get MORE accuracy with the M3. Both lovely and elegant tools in photography. However, if you only have an M2, well it’s just fantastic to use with a 35mm; one just has to live with certain limitations.

    • I have M3, 4, 4-P and 7 cameras. From my end results with fast 50 lenses (f0.95 and f1.4) and the even shallower DOF 85mm/f1.5 Summarex, I can see no difference in the percentages of hitting perfect focus between the 0.92X M3 and the other cameras which are all 0.72X. I know there is a theoretical advantage to the M3 but I am just not seeing it in practice. The M3’s viewfinder is less susceptible to flare than my M4 and M4-P were, until I upgraded them with a Leicagoodies SHADE on the prism window. My M7 VF was upgraded to reduce flare when the DX reader was changed from contact to optical. I don’t think magnification has as big effect as some think. The Barnack RF’s have a magnification factor of around 1.8X but I would argue with anyone who said they were more accurate than the lower magnification but far clearer M cameras.


  • I realize I’m commenting on an older column but I can’t resist. I’ve both an M3 and M5 (HORRORS!) and love using them. Both were basically trashed E-Bay buys that I got lucky on. I use the M5 with a Zeiss 35mm f2 because it has 35mm frame
    Ines and the M3 with older 50, 90 and 135mm Leitz lenses. Neither makes me a better photographer technically because of their cachet, value or engineering. They just might improve my Pics a tad just because I enjoy using them so much.

  • Totally irrelevant article. Everyone knows the best Leica is the Sofort. (Yes, I live under a bridge and harass billygoats.)

  • Anyone who is looking for a ‘cheap’ M5 today has missed the boat by around two to three years. Three years ago I paid €800 for a near mint two lug M5 with an accurate working meter and crystal clear, accurate VF/RF. Today I suspect no change from €1500 or more for such a camera. It has gone up almost as much as gasoline.

  • La m3 fea? Esta cámara lleva en su lomo a todas las demás… por Dios más respeto!

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James Tocchio

James Tocchio is a writer and photographer, and the founder of Casual Photophile. He’s spent years researching, collecting, and shooting classic and collectible cameras. In addition to his work here, he’s also the founder of the online camera shop Fstopcameras.com.

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