The Top Three Vintage Leica Cameras

Despite the digital revolution, Leica cameras are still worth their salt. First produced in the 1920s and ’30s, they’re now an investment for many. First valued by street photographers and photojournalists during World War II, these wonders were the first cameras to use standard 35mm film.

Leica designs were created due to the need for lightweight, portable cameras. Oskar Barnack was the key creator, whose aim was a camera that could snap a picture on a small, sharp negative, which could later be enlarged in a darkroom. This gave way to the Leicas we know and love today. Despite being highly collectable, they’re more than just museum pieces; with enough love and care they still function perfectly today.

I’ve listed below the three best Leica cameras ever made, although you’ll have a hard time getting your hands on the first one.

1929 Leica 0 No. 107

In May 2011, this Leica model sold for a whopping 2.16 million euros at the Westilicht Photographica Auctions in Vienna. The high price was due to the model’s rarity: only 25 were ever made, and only 12 have survived.

This camera was part of the ‘’null-serie,’’ which acted as prototypes for the first run of Leica cameras. Here’s a video of the famous auction bid.

Leica M2

The Leica M2 was introduced in 1957, with around 82,000 produced between 1957 and 1968. The M2 was considered to be a more affordable, simplified version of the 1954 Leica M3, and due to its shorter lens, was much favored by users who wore eyeglasses. This camera was offered a separate bulb and electronic flash to bring perfect lighting to the photos, but can be used without to achieve nostalgic and whimsical effects.

Another interesting fact: The Leica M2 is the camera that was used by Alberto Korda to take his famous photo of Che Guevara. Now that’s making history!

Leica M3

The Leica M3 was another small breakthrough for photographers. It wasn’t another screw-mount, as all other cameras on the market at that time seemed to be. The M3 was the most successful model of the M series, with more than 220,000 units sold by the time production of the model ended in 1966.

The M3 also came with an exceptional viewfinder, which allowed light to expose the images like never before. For the first time, high-quality photos could be taken clearly in a room with dim indoor lighting. A little more complex than the M2, it was a substantial step up in terms of pricing, too.

This is just a short list of great Leica vintage cameras, but there are plenty more out there and each one has its own special features.

If you are new to classic cameras, then it might be worthwhile to look at McKeown’s Guide to Antique and Classic Cameras. This book could be in your local library should you faint at the price to purchase it.

Have you ever owned a vintage Leica? I’d love to hear why you picked the one you did!

5 Responses to “The Top Three Vintage Leica Cameras”

  1. I wish I owned a vintage leica. . . maybe one day when I run out of other gizmos to buy. . .

  2. You write:
    "The M3 also came with an exceptional viewfinder, which allowed light to expose the images like never before."

    This makes absolutely no sense since the viewfinder is not part of the exposure mechanism in a rangefinder camera.

    Maybe you meant to say that the enhanced viewfinder of the M3 allowed for faster and better framing and composition than the viewfinders found on prior models?

  3. Quibble: when Barnack invented the Leica, 35mm film was common for motion picture production and utterly uncommon for stills work. We old photographers loved our Leicas for the reportage we created, and for several decades right into the early 1960s we called our technique "minicam" photography, honoring the tiny strips of 35mm film we used. By the 1960s 35mm film had become common, and remained common right into the 2000s. 35mm film will soon be utterly uncommon, again.

  4. DEAR.
    Ihave a Camera LEICA
    serial no. 130 284
    Ernst Leitz
    Wetzlar Drp.
    lens: Ernst Leitz wetzlar .summer f-5cm 1:2.
    no256207. screw mounted,
    Coulour black .chrome.. 2eylets on the camera body,
    pls can you tell me the age of the camera, or a possible value?
    regards Arne mortensen

  5. You have a 1934 Leica III (aka Model F).
    The Summar lens dates from 1935.

    The value depends very much on condition and I suggest that you go to a website such a 'Collectiblend' to get a firm idea. However, black Leicas tend to be more valuable than chrome versions but the f2 Summar is not the most collectible lens.

    At a quick guess and judging by current ebay prices, I would expect your camera to be worth somewhere in the region of £300 to £500 assuming that it is in reasonable condition and working.

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