Released in 1954 and manufactured in Germany, the Leica M3 remains arguably the best 35mm rangefinder camera in its class. When the M3 first came out, single-lens reflex cameras (SLR cameras) were on the rise. This new camera design offered the advantage of showing what was being photographed directly inside the viewfinder, regardless of which lens was attached to the camera body. Yet despite being a rangefinder camera (you never look through the lens and instead focus/compose through a window on the top right), the Leica M3 still garnered a huge following. It has a superior, combined viewfinder and rangerfinder with bright automatically switching framelines (its viewfinder selects framelines automatically to any lens attached). The Leica M3 has the biggest finder and the most precise focus (thanks to lenses like the 50mm f/0.95 Noctilux-M) of any Leica; unlike the newer Leicas, the Leica M3 also never puts another frameline inside the one currently being used (Nakamura 2011; Pritchard 2014; Rockwell "LEICA M3").
However, the M3’s success can primarily be attributed to it’s quiet shutter, unobtrusive size and shape, and the ability to quickly remove and replace the lens. In addition the shutter speeds are all on one dial and a lever (instead of a knob) and it also has a hinged back to easily load film. This combination of features, which contributed to the M3’s portability and ease of use, both made it destined for and contributed to the explosion in street photography and war photojournalism in the time shortly after its release. The Leica M3 had all the capabilities for both the quick, motion-based photography and discreet stationary photography that were the hallmarks of these two genres of photography (Pritchard 2014).
Nakamura, Karen. "Leica M3." Classic Cameras. Photoethnography.com, 6 Jan. 2011. Web. 02 Dec. 2015. <http://www.photoethnography.com/ClassicCameras/index-frameset.html?LeicaM3.html~mainFrame>.
Pritchard, Michael. "Leica M3." A History of Photography in 50 Cameras. London: Bloomsbury, 2014. 150-54. Print.
Rockwell, Ken. "LEICA M3 (1954-1967): The World's Greatest 35mm Camera." LEICA M3 (1954-1967). Ken Rockwell, n.d. Web. 01 Dec. 2015. http://www.kenrockwell.com/leica/m3.htm.