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A Leica M3 film rangefinder model. This one was auctioned in in 2019 for $408,000 as it is considered one of the very first in existence of that historic model that went into production in 1954. A normail Leica M3 model, that is not a collectors item, sells in the range of $1,000 to $2,000.

   
 
   

The Story Behind That Picture:
"The Leica M Model Chronology"

By: Thorsten Overgaard. September 26, 2022.

 

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The name game of the Leica rangefinder models

The Leica rangefinder models have been made since 1925 and new models are still being released as digital cameras and film cameras. Below is an overview of the rangefinder model names since 1925.

 

Layla Bego with the Leica in Lisbon. Leica M10-R Black Paint with Leica 50mm APO-Summicron-M ASPH f/2.0. © Thorsten Overgaard..
Layla Bego with the Leica in Lisbon. Leica M10-R Black Paint with Leica 50mm APO-Summicron-M ASPH f/2.0. © Thorsten Overgaard..

 

#Filmisnotdead

Yes, you read that right. Leica still produce film rangefinder cameras. The Leica MP was released in 2003 as a "Mechanical Perfection" film camera (and is still in production), and in 2014 the Leica M-A as a "M Analog" film camera was released (and is still in production). Both have been a little hard finding in stock recently but does appear in small production batches now and then for those who dream of unpacking a brand new film camera.

 

The simple overview of Leica model names

The simple overview is that the first Leica cameras had screw mount (where you screw a lens onto to the camera). Then came the Leica M models with M mount, which is a bayonet for fast mount of lenses, and in 2006 the first Leica M models came with digital sensors instead of film.

Three phases of Leica rangefinder technology by Thorsten Overgaard

 

As you can see below, a Leica M almost look the same no matter the year or model name. The elegance of it all is that any screw mount and M mount lens fits on even the latest digital model Leica M11 (2022) either directly, or via an adapter.

         
Leica M4-P (1980)   Leica M6 TTL (1998)   Leica M11 (2022)
Leica M4-P (1980) film camera   Leica M6 TTL (1998) film camera   Leica M11 (2022) 60MP digital

 

The basic understanding of Leica model names

The Leica M3 (1954) was the foundation of the Leica M lens mount and sort of the mother of all Leica rangefinder camers since then, including the latest digital camera models as Leica M11 (2022). But then it becomes a bit confusing because the Leica M1, Leica M2 and so on came later than the Leica M3.

Fundamentally, there is no logical understanding of the model names, other than "that's how it went". But if you understand that the Leica M3 was named not as a model number to fit into a sequence of model names, it becomes simpler: The Leica M3 was named M3 because it introduced an M mount of the lens and because it had 3 frame line sets and the correct frame lime set was activated by the lens (frame lines in the viewfinder to show what portion of the view would be in the picture).


From the worlds biggest photo fair, the Photokina 1954 where two employees from Ernst Leitz Wetzlar (Leica Camera AG) carries a wooden marketing replica of what is to become the mother of all future Leica rangefinder models, the Leica M3. © 1954 Photoglobus.
From the worlds biggest photo fair, the Photokina 1954 where two employees from Ernst Leitz Wetzlar (Leica Camera AG) carries a wooden marketing replica of what is to become the mother of all future Leica rangefinder models, the Leica M3. © 1954 Photoglobus.

 

The model names and their sequence before the Leica M3 can appear even more confusing when trying to understand them in retroperspective. So I will slide over that and simply refer you to my even more detailed overview, "The Leica Camera Compendium" that has each model and models in-between, special models and more listed with year and order number.

What you have here is the quick overview and understanding of the Leica rangefinder model sequence.

             
 

Leica M chronological overview

 
  By Thorsten Overgaard          
             
  Further resources          
  Leica Camera Compendium by Thorsten Overgaard      
  Leica Lens Compendium by Thorsten Overgaard      
  Leica History by Thorsten Overgaard      
   
 

Film cameras
Leica screw mount

 

Film cameras
Leica M mount

 

Digital cameras
Leica M mount

 
  Leica I (1925-1952)          
  Leica II (1932-1951)          
  Leica Standard (1932-1950)          
  Leica 250 (1933-1943)          
  Leica III (1933-1939)          
  Leica IIIa (1935-1948)          
  Leica IIIb (1938-1941)          
  Leica IIIc (1940-1951)          
  Leica IIId (1940-1947)          
  Leica IIIf (1950-1957)          
  Leica IIIg (1957-1960)          
  Leica Ig (1957-1963)          
      Leica M3 (1954-1966)      
      Leica MP (1956-1957)      
      Leica M2 (1958-1967)      
      Leica M1 (1959-1964)      
      Leica MD (1963-1966)      
      Leica MDA (1966-1976)      
      Leica M4 (1966-1975)      
      Leica M5 (1971-1975)      
      Leica CL/Minolta CLE (1973-1976)      
      Leica M4-2 (1977-1980)      
      Leica M4-P (1980-1986)      
      Leica M6 "Classic" (1984-1998)
     
      Leica M6J (1994)      
      Leica M6 "TTL" (1998-2002)
     
      Leica M7 (2002-2018)      
      Leica MP (2003-)      
          Leica M8 (2006-2009)  
          Leica M9 (2009-2012)  
          Leica M9-P (211-2014)  
          Leica Monochrom (2012-2015)  
          Leica M 240 (2014-2015)  
          Leica M-E (2012-2016)  
      Leica M-A (2014 -   Leica M-P 240 (2014-2017)  
          Leica M246 (2015-2019)  
          Leica M-D 262 (2016-2017)  
          Leica M10 (2017-2022)  
          Leica M10-P (2018-2021)  
          Leica M10-D (2018-2022)  
          Leica M10 Monochrom (2020-)  
          Leica M10-R (2020-2022)  
          Leica M11 (2022 -)  
             
             

(For an overview of Leica R cameras and Leica SL cameras, see here).

 

More to come

The story unfolds from here. Sign up for the newsletter to stay in the know. As always, feel free to email me with suggestions, questions and ideas.

/Thorsten Overgaard

 



 

 



Job #2169-0922


   
   

 

 

   
   
   

 

Thorsten von Overgaard
Thorsten Overgaard's Leica Article Index
Leica M digital cameras:   Leica L digital cameras:
Leica M11   Leica SL
Leica M10   Leica SL2
Leica M10-P   Leica SL2-S
Leica M10-R   Panasonic Lumix S1R
Leica M10-D   Leica TL2
Leica M10 Monochrom   Leica CL
Leica M9 and Leica M-E   Leica L-Mount lenses
Leica M9-P   Leica R digital cameras:
Leica M9 Monochrom   Leica R8/R9/DMR
Leica M240   Small Leica mirrorless digital cameras:
Leica M246 Monochrom   Leica D-Lux
Leica MD-262 and Leica M60   Leica C-Lux
    Leica V-Lux
Leica M film cameras:   Leica Q2 / Leica Q2 Monochrom
Leica MP   Leica Q
Leica M4   Leica Digilux 3
    Leica Digilux 2
Leica M lenses:   Leica Digilux 1
Leica 21mm Summilux-M ASPH f/1.4   Leica Digilux
Leica 21mm Leica Super-Elmar-M ASPH f/3.4    
Leica 21mm Super-Angulon-M f/3.4   Leica R film cameras:
Leica 28mm Summilux-M ASPH f/1.4   Leica R8 / R9
Leica 35mm Summilux-M ASPH FLE f/1.4 and f/1.4 AA   Leica R4
Leica 35mm Summicron-M ASPH f/2.0   Leica R3 electronic
Leica 35mm APO-Summicron-M ASPH f/2.0   Leicaflex SL / SLmot
Leica 50mm Noctilux-M ASPH f/0.95 FLE    
Leica 50mm Noctilux-M f/1.0   Leica compact film cameras:
Leica 50mm Noctilux-M f/1.2   Leica Minilux 35mm film camera
7artisans 50mm f/1.1   Leica CM 35mm film camera
Leica 50mm Summilux-M ASPH f//1.4    
Leica 50mm Summicron-M f/2.0 "rigid" Series II   Leica R lenses:
Leica 50mm APO-Summicron-M ASPH f/2.0   Leica 19mm Elmarit-R f/2.8
Leica 50mm Elmar-M f/2.8 collapsible   Leica 35mm Elmarit-R f/2.8
Leica 75mm Noctilux-M ASPH f/1.25   Leica 50mm Summicron-R f/2.0
7artisans 75mm f/1.25   Leica 60mm Macro-Elmarit f/2.8
Leica 75mm Summilux-M f/1.4   Leica 80mm Summilux-R f/1.4
Leica 90mm Summilux-M ASPH f/1.5   Leica 90mm Summicron-R f/2.0
Leica 90mm APO-Summicron-M ASPH f/2.0   Leica 180mm R lenses
Leica 90mm Summarit-M f/2.5   Leica 250mm Telyt-R f/4.0
Leica 90mm Elmarit f/2.8   Leica 400mm Telyt-R f/6.8
Leitz 90mm Thambar f/2.2   Leica 35-70mm Vario-Elmarit-R f/2.8
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Above: A Leica M3 film rangefinder model. This one was auctioned in in 2019 for $408,000 as it is considered one of the very first in existence of that historic model that went into production in 1954. A normail Leica M3 model, that is not a collectors item, sells in the range of $1,000 to $2,000.

 

 

 

Thorsten Overgaard.
Thorsten Overgaard.

Thorsten von Overgaard is a Danish born multiple award-winning AP photographer, known for his writings about photography and Leica cameras. He travels to more than 25 countries a year, photographing and teaching workshops which cater to Leica enthusiasts. Some photos are available as signed editions via galleries or online. For specific photography needs, contact Thorsten Overgaard via e-mail.

You can follow him at his television channel magicoflight.tv and his on-line classroom at overgaard.com

Feel free to e-mail to thorsten@overgaard.dk for
advice, ideas or improvements.

 

 



 


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