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Tutorials & Guides

How to use a Modern Flash Gun with a Leica M3, M2 and M1 – By Phong Nguyen

August 1, 2021

Photographers using Leica M film cameras often say that they do not need flash and prefer to shoot in ambient light. However, if you go through websites related to Leica, the subject of how to use a flash on a Leica M film camera often appears, particularly M3 and M2. The reason is very simple: the Leica M3 and M2 do not have a hot shoe and although they have flash sockets for both electronic and lamp flashes, these sockets are not international standard and therefore it’s more difficult to find the necessary original accessories for shooting it with flash.

For reference this is not only a problem on the M3 and M2 but also the M1 as well. From the M4 on, the sockets become international standard and the problem of using flash on the cameras is easier to overcome. In fact, from M6 classic there is a hot shoe and with M6 TTL and M7, you even can enjoy TTL flash.

I’ve owned my Leica M3 camera for a long time, but until recently I hadn’t got all accessories needed to use flash on it. In fact, as an amateur photographer, I don’t use flash much at all. But sometimes, when it comes to indoor family get-togethers, it’s quite difficult without a flash.

So to begin with, here is the list of necessary items:

An adapter made by Kaiser, model number ‘KS-1313’. This adapter slots into the the flash socket of the camera, and a standard flash sync cable slots into the back of it.

A flash sync cable with a standard pc sync connector on both end.

An electronic flash that has international standard sync/multiple flash terminals. In my case, I use a second hand Nikon SB-20 that cost me about USD 40 locally in Hanoi Vietnam.

Among above items, the adapter is the “must” because without it, you cannot use flash on the M3. The other items are not so important as there are a few alternative options. For example, if your flash doesn’t have an international standard sync terminal, then you could use a hot shoe adapter with a pc sync socket on the side. There are also a large range of low cost remote triggers now available. All these options will work fine, provided you have a Kaiser KS-1313.

As I’ve said though, in my case, I just use the Nikon SB-20 – it has the correct terminal on the flash, and is a nice and versatile, compact flash. It is also very simple to put it into operation.

First insert the flash terminal adapter into the X terminal which is the left-hand terminal when you look at the back of the camera.

You can see the adapter is in the flash socket (X) of the camera

Here you can see the adapter is in the flash socket (X) of the camera.

Put batteries into the flash (obviously), put a little it of tape over the terminals on the shoe of the flash to stop them from shorting, then attach the flash.

Then connect the flash and the camera by the sync flash cable. When you now release the shutter, the flash will fire with zero delay.

Here you can see a picture of the M3 fully equipped with Nikon SB20

And here are a couple of images taken with the Leica M3 with Nikon SB-20 on Kodak Ultramax 400.

All the pictures above are taken by M3 with SB 20 on Kodak Ultra Max 400

Thank you very much for reading.
Phong Nguyen

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3 Comments

  • Reply
    Alan Jones
    August 2, 2021 at 10:08 am

    Being a fellow heathen – one who likes shooting flash on a Leica – and having recently taken ownership of an M3, I may well take up your technical advice here. The X-sync adapter is surprisingly small and tidy and the whole setup looks very neat!

  • Reply
    Huss
    August 2, 2021 at 6:18 pm

    I’ve done this with my M3s, but the problem, as you have shown, is that the sync cord gets in the way, and interferes with the viewfinder. Sure you just hold it out of the way, but it spoils the shooting experience.
    FYI if your flash does not have a sync socket, you can buy a cold shoe adapter that has a sync socket built into it. This allows you to use any flash, and also you don’t need to worry about shorting the contacts.

    https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/764588-REG/Nisha_HTS_T_Hot_Shoe_Tripod_Mount.html/?ap=y&ap=y&smp=y&smp=y&lsft=BI%3A514&gclid=CjwKCAjwr56IBhAvEiwA1fuqGnC8nwfuIODMjg8f9a_drlyJcE2Si3hhMBlbT9Ej47-J-jvF52ReuBoCqmAQAvD_BwE

    • Reply
      Jamie
      October 8, 2021 at 4:43 pm

      Thanks for this article, I’ve just ordered the Kaiser in anticipation of my new purchase, an M3. It landed in the country today and should be here very soon! I’m keen to try some strobe work. I prefer off-camera flash so I’m trying to work out if it would be better to use a wireless flash like the Lightpix Q20 or similar, or a long cable to run between the Kaiser and an older flash unit. IDK, I’ve only just started looking into this so I’ve not yet worked out all options but I remembered your article and thought I’d throw this out there. Any thoughts on off-camera flash gear?

      I’d love to see more articles on (non-studio) flash work with film, especially with the Leica M3. Optimal settings and so on.

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