1950's Leica

Leica M3

Leica M3

The Leica M3 – the first camera in Leica’s M series.

A masterpiece that has stood the test of time. A camera so good that it was advertised as a “lifetime investment in perfect photography.”

Introduced in 1954, the M3 went on to become the best-selling Leica camera ever.

It’s a known fact. Germany’s prowess in engineering is undeniable.

Machinery, industrial equipment, and vehicles from Germany are known for their precision, power, and impeccable build quality. German engineers don’t cut corners.

Which is why it’s no surprise that the best 35mm camera comes from Germany.

Even Steve Jobs compared the revolutionary iPhone 4 to this camera.

And for good reason.

Not only was it well built, the Leica M3 came with a multitude of features that made it a true masterpiece in photography.

Here’s why the Leica M3 is so highly regarded.

Features of the Camera

One of the most notable features of the Leica M3 is the big bright viewfinder. Not only is it big, but the M3 viewfinder is the world biggest and best finder.

With a magnification of 0.91X, the M3 viewfinder is able to achieve more precise focus than any other 35mm or 50mm camera.

And that’s not all!

The M3 comes with a large flare free rangefinder.  The snappy and fast rangefinder ensures more precise and accurate focusing—better than any other camera ever made.

As if that’s not enough!

The viewfinder came with three focal length frame lines. The M3 viewfinder is able to automatically select frame lines for the 50mm, 90mm, and 135mm lenses. Thanks to this feature, your view is never polluted with irrelevant frames—something that modern-day Leica’s are unable to do.


The M3 is optimized for the 50mm, 90mm, and 135mm lenses. However, this doesn’t mean it can’t use other lenses.

The Leica M3 is perfectly compatible with all Leica M-mount lenses made since 1954 till today. And with a special adapter, it becomes compatible with every screw mount lens made since 1933.

Talk about versatility.

How does the M3 perform?

Using this camera is simply a joy. The M3 is a simple and straight forward camera. With this camera, you don’t have to worry about menu, settings, and other distracting features.

Its simplistic design and singularity of purpose allows you to only focus on the photo.

And that’s not all!

The ultra-smooth, quiet, and precise mechanics make using this camera a joy. Every photo you take with this camera is a masterpiece.

What about the shutter?

Like many cameras produced in the 1950s, the M3 has a top shutter speed of 1/1000sec. The M3 is not a camera for fast motion photos. However, for still photography, it’s a great camera.

The Leica M3 is also a fully mechanical camera. With this camera, you don’t have to worry about batteries, or electronics that may need replacement over time.

Talk about a camera built to last.

Design and Physical Built

Just like the Rolls Royce, the Leica M3 boasts of being handmade and of supreme quality.

For starters, the M3 body is fully metal with a silver chrome and leather exterior.

Its classic vintage design makes this camera a joy to hold. It fits right in the palm of the hand and all the controls are perfectly placed.

The shutter button is smooth to push and does not wiggle when pushed—unlike the plasticky shutter buttons in modern day Leica’s.

And that’s not all!

The viewfinder is made of plain glass, which is clearer and easier to clean

With all these features, The M3 should be a very heavy camera, right?

Well no!

Unlike Nikon cameras built at the time, the M3 was relatively light with the body weighing 610g – half the weight of a Nikon D700

Shortcomings of the Camera

The M3 has one major shortcoming. It doesn’t come with a light meter, making it hard for novice photographers to use.

The other shortcoming is that the camera isn’t optimized for 35mm lens. To use a 35mm lens, you have to add “goggles” to convert the 50mm frame lines into 35mm.

Final Thoughts

There’s no doubt that the Leica M3 is the best Leica camera ever made.

All other Leica cameras have been a stepdown from the M3. Despite being introduced more than six decades ago, the M3 is still a great camera to use.

With the M3, you will never need to purchase any other camera in your lifetime.

1950's Leica

Leica M2

Leica M2

What comes to mind when you hear the name Leica? Probably the high price tag associated with these cameras, right? Well, the Leica M2 was a bit different.

Although not the cheapest camera in the market, the M2 was Leica’s answer to the need for a more affordable and versatile rangefinder camera.

First introduced in 1957, the M2 was the second camera in the Leica M series, after the M1. It was a simplified version of the M3, built for people with a tight budget.

But despite its relatively lower price, the M2 was well built and featured some pretty amazing features. Here’s a lowdown of those features.

Features of the Camera

One of the first features that make the M2 such a great camera is the fact that it’s a rangefinder. When compared to SLRs, rangefinders are better at focusing.

With the M2, you’re able to achieve better focus than with most SLRs.

The second feature that makes the M2 such an impeccable camera is its lesser magnification viewfinder. Unlike the M3, whose viewfinder had a magnification factor of 0.92x, the M2’s viewfinder had a 0.72 magnification.

The lesser magnification makes the M2 the perfect camera for wide-angle photography.

And that’s not all!

The M2 was also the first Leica camera to be optimized for the 35mm lens. If you’re like me (I love using the 35mm lens), this is the camera for you.

As if that’s not enough!

The Leica M2 also came with three sets of frame lines that made focusing and framing with different lenses easier.

With this camera, you could use the 35mm, 50mm, and 90mm lens for wide-angle photography.

Other Features

The M2 also came with a horizontal cloth shutter, which made it quieter and more discrete compared to SLRs. Shooting with this camera is simply a delight.

Talking of shutter, how fast was the Leica M2 shutter?

The M2 didn’t have the fastest shutter. However, it’s able to achieve a maximum shutter speed of 1/1000 sec.

The Leica M2 was also a fully mechanical camera. To use this camera, you don’t need a battery, which means a less bulky camera.

Speaking of weight, how heavy was the M2.

Unlike most cameras at the time, the M2 was a light camera with a weight of 560g.

Other features of the camera included:

  • Built-in self-timer
  • 1/50 flash sync speed
  • Cold shoe, not hot shoe (You have to use an adapter if you want speed light)

Design and Physical Build

One of the first things you’ll notice with the camera is its classic design, which features a silver chrome and leather finish.

All controls are metal, which makes this camera feel sturdy.

The full metal body makes this camera durable and usable in different environments. You can use it in extreme cold or hot conditions. With the M2, you don’t have to worry about carefully handling it. You can toss it in your bag without fear of damage.

Shortcomings of the Camera

One of the most significant shortcomings of the M2 is the lack of a metering system, which makes this camera unsuitable for most novice photographers. You can go around this shortcoming using an external viewfinder.

The other shortcoming is the use of a manually set external shot counter.

Loading the film is also an annoying and time-consuming process.

Final Thoughts

Leica cameras are often referred to as the Rolls Royce of cameras. They are exceptionally built and packed with numerous features.

The M2 wasn’t any different. It was elegantly built and unlike its predecessor, was relatively cheaper. The M2 is an accurate representation of the German engineering prowess and a worthy addition to your classic camera collection.

1950's Leica

Leica M1

Leica M1

Introduced in 1959, the Leica M1 was a minimalistic and straightforward camera. It came with everything necessary for shooting and nothing you didn’t need.

Often referred to as the forgotten Leica, the Leica M1 is probably one of the rarest cameras ever made.

It didn’t have a rangefinder and also lacked a metering system. However, it also had some pretty incredible features that made it stand out.

Here are some of those features.

Features of the Leica M1

One reason to add the M1 to your classic camera collection is its rare nature. With less than 9500 bodies made, the M1 is a genuine collectable camera.

One of the first noticeable features of the M1 was the lack of a rangefinder. Unlike its predecessors, the M3 and M2, the Leica M1 featured a parallax-corrected viewfinder.

This bright and clear viewfinder came with permanent frame lines for the 35 and 50 focal lengths. The inclusion of these lines made it easier to frame your shot.

Another noticeable feature with the M1 is the ability to turn into an SLR. Designed to be a general-purpose camera, the M1 could be fitted with the Visoflex mirror lock-up system which turned the M1 into an SLR.

And that’s not all. It was also possible to add an external rangefinder to the Leica M1.  

Talk about versatility. A camera that could be both an SLR and a rangefinder.

And that’s not all!

The M1 also came with an incredible lens. The collapsible Elmar 50 f2.8 gave the camera a sleek vintage look and also took excellent photos. The collapsible nature of the lens made the M1 portable since it could easily fit into the pocket with the lens collapsed.

Leica designed the lens to be used with other M body cameras. I’ve used the lens with my M6 and have gotten spectacular results.

The M1 is also compatible with wide-angle lenses like the 21mm and 15mm

What about the shooting experience? How is it?

The M1 was an impressive camera to work with. The lack of a rangefinder made focusing a challenge. However, the lack of automation made shooting with this camera easy. The photographer didn’t have to worry about countless controls which may at times be confusing.

Shortcomings of the Camera

One of the main reasons why many rangefinder enthusiasts rarely talk about the Leica M1, is the fact that the camera lacks a rangefinder, despite being classified as a rangefinder. The lack of the rangefinder results in less precise focusing. 

When shooting with this camera, a photographer has to either use zone focusing or an external meter.

The M1 is also frustratingly slow, making it a terrible camera for street shooting. However, when speed isn’t essential, the M1 is a great camera to use. 

Final Thoughts

Despite the various shortcomings, the Leica M1 is a worthy addition to your camera collection.

Not only is it rare—less than 9500 bodies were made, it’s also a great camera to shoot with once you get used to it.

Its rare nature, coupled with the sleek vintage look makes this camera a valuable collectible—one worthy of your vintage classic camera collection.

1950's Nikon

Nikon F

Nikon F

First introduced in 1959, the Nikon F was a gamechanger in the SLR game. Despite being late to the SLR market, this is the camera most people remember as the first SLR.

If you were asked to name the first mp3 player, what would be your answer?

Probably an iPod, right?

However, the iPod was not the first mp3 player in the world. Five years before the iPod launched, several companies had already been producing mp3 players. But very few people remember these mp3 players.

Everyone remembers the iPod.

And it’s the same case with Nikon’s first professional camera.

And for good reasons.

Here’s why it is considered a “first.”

Features of the Camera

The Nikon F didn’t come with any innovations. What made it stand out was the amalgamation of all the best features of SLRs at the time. Nikon incorporated all the innovations that Leica, Contax, Exacta, and Asahi had introduced in their cameras.

And the result?

A camera that had solved all the limitations that cameras at the time had. It came with interchangeable lenses, an improved viewfinder and was of better quality and build.

And that’s not all…

It featured a modular design—it was possible to interchange some of the parts of the camera.

One of these parts was the lens. It was the first camera to feature the F-mount bayonet lens mount. This mount allowed easy swapping of the lens.

If you own a Nikon, F, you can use any Nikon manual or AF lens produced since 1959—as long as the lens isn’t rated ‘G.’

It doesn’t end there…

The modular design also allowed easy swapping of the viewfinder. With this camera you got the choice of three viewfinders, namely:

  • Standard prism
  • Waist-level prism
  • Sport’s finder—good for you if you wear glasses.

The interchangeable viewfinders made this camera suitable for every shooting scenario.

There’s more…

The Nikon F was also a fully mechanical camera.

  • There were no batteries to leak
  • No contacts to corrode, and
  • No circuits to degrade.

A camera built to last.

And that’s not all…

The Nikon viewfinder also came with an impeccable metering system.

Earlier versions of the F camera didn’t feature TTL metering. However, cameras produced after 1961 came with a more advanced photonic meter head, which allowed Through the Lens metering—a system that Nikon would use for decades.  

Metering on the camera was 60% center weighted.

Design and Physical Appearance

The Nikon F was a classically styled camera, with only the bare essential included. All controls were easy to access and simple to use.

On the top plate, you had:

  • Shutter speed dial
  • Film advance lever
  • Shutter release
  • Film rewind knob

On the front you had

  • The self-timer dial.
  • Depth of Field preview button
  • Lens release button
  • Mirror lock-up switch.

Shortcomings of the Camera

One of the most significant shortcomings with this camera is its weight. At 850g, it is one of the heaviest SLRs ever made.

If you’re a traveller or the kind of person who throws their camera in the bag for a day of shooting, this is not the camera for you.

Another shortcoming with the camera was the rigid shard design. This camera featured sharp edges which made it feel unnatural to the hand. This rigid design makes the film advance lever uncomfortable to use.

Although not a shortcoming, the photonic meters are large and take away the elegant feel of the body. These finders have also become non-functional in the 21st century. However, you can easily switch up the finder to the more ergonomic waste level and eye-level finders.

Final Thoughts

The Nikon F is one of the most significant cameras in SLR history.

It was the first camera to show the world what a well-designed SLR was capable of.

With a bulletproof design, a wide range of accessories, and long-term usability, the Nikon F is a great camera. It’s a camera that will turn heads and start conversations. A worthy addition to your vintage classic camera collection. 

1950's Canon



The Canonflex 35mm SLR camera was launched in May 1959 by the Canon Camera Co., Tokyo, Japan. It is the first SLR camera from this, at the time, well known rangefinder camera manufacturer.

The Canonflex used a high-quality, breechlock lens mount. The lens flange ring was turned to lock the lens onto the camera flange’s bayonet lugs. The lens flange and camera flange did not rub against each other like today’s lens mounts.The camera used Super-Canomatic lenses which had a fast, fully-automatic diaphragm. A 130-degree winding trigger at the camera bottom enabled quick film advance. An external selenium exposure meter could also be attached.

The Canonflex has a cloth shutter-curtain unlike the contemporary rangefinder Canons, metal was considered unnecessary being protected by the mirror from sun burning it. The back is opened by a key at the base, turning it fully snaps open the door. The attention to details is apparent in these and other features, like the self-timer with a fold-out key and the nine-piece rewind lever. Under it is a eminently well designed film reminder, consisting of two scales for film speed and type.

Release Year1959
Release Price59,500 yen (~$550)
Lens MountR Mount