Modifying a Leica M3 to close focus past 1 metre
Lens Adapting, Mods & DIY

Adjusting a Leica M3 to focus closer than 1 metre

January 5, 2015

I bought an Leica M3 on ebay over Christmas. To be honest, when I came around from the excitement and realised that I had bought a Leica M3 on ebay, I did worry a little bit. My intention had been to use JCH (Sorry Bellamy), but I was taken by a whim when I saw a good looking 1,000,000+ s/n that was around the money I wanted to pay I just bit the bullet.

I’ve had all sorts of faff with the delivery going to my closed work address over Christmas, then today – the eventual day of arrival – I have such mega case of man flu that even the arrival of a Leica M3 didn’t cheer me up much. Especially when I mounted my 50mm v4 summicron and found that it didn’t focus closer than about 90cm … oh “FFS” was my first reaction.

So I contacted the seller… “That’s normal” he tells me in no uncertain terms. “No it’s not” is the jist of my reply – not having done any research.
So he sends me a link to photo.net

What a wally I feel … Well, at least it’s working!

But hang on … there is a comment at the bottom of the thread:

Frederik Boone, Jul 20, 2000; 09:19 a.m.
Yes, it is normal, but if you have a late M3, it can be modified to focus up to 0,7m. I have a M3 nr.1058*** on which it is changed.

When I looked in the camera earlier I saw a little bit of metal that seemed to prevent the rangefinder cam from moving past a point … I wondered if that might be the solution.

This time I took the initiative to search google myself and found this on L-Camera Forum

The procedure is described on the web by famous UK technician, Peter Grasafi, of CRR:

Not all M3 cameras can be adjusted to focus down to 0.7 metre . The early M3’s just go to 1 meter . There is , on later M3’s that only focus to 1 mtre , an extra lever in the throat of the camera that stops the roller arm coming out further . This can sometimes be , straightened slightly so that the roller arm comes out further allowing focusing below 1 mtre . The reason that Leitz did this was because below 1 mtre the rangefinder and parallax correction was not as accurate. Some of the early M3’s did not have this extra ‘stop’ and , whatever you read on the internet about extending the range , this is not true for all M3 ‘s . There were 3 different rangefinders for the first design ( double stroke ) M3 , and the problem with extending the range is that the moving objective ( the lens that moves when you focus the camera ) hits the inside of the top-plate before it reaches 0.7 mtre. There is a possibility with some M3’s that the prisms can be removed and reset in a different position so that the lens will be able to focus below 1 mtre , but this requires that the rangefinder is heated to 200 degrees C to soften the cement and then loosen the prisms/beam-splitter so that it can be repositioned to extend the range . If you check your camera , and look in the throat where the rangefinder roller arm is attached you may see a small lever that acts as a stop and hits the centre eccentric screw post . You will see that this is bent slightly. If you are very careful you may be able to bend this lever so that it is a little straighter and thus allow the roller to come further out . You would have to be very careful , and use a long nosed pair of good quality pliers. Do not attempt to unscrew the roller arm because the span of the rangefinder is adjustable on an eccentric cam and unscrewing this will upset the calibration . Straightening the stop lever may give you a little more on the focus scale below 1 mtre but it normally will not focus all the way down to 0.7

I’ve circled the “stop lever” in the photo above… Post-straightening!

So now my Leica M3 focuses down to 0.7m! Though I still have man flu, so am struggling to feel absolutely over the moon. But, I am none the less, a little happier than I was a few hours ago!

I should add, this sort of thing, especially on such a camera as an Leica M3 is probably better undertaken by someone who hasn’t just spent 2 minutes on google… And that my lack of hesitance is due to the fact that I will be sending the camera for a CLA in the next few days anyway.

Lastly: Just a quick thanks to Frederik Boon and “famous UK technician” Peter Grasafi for the help … And of course thanks to Martin, the chap who sold me the Leica M3 and put up with me being a numpty for most of the afternoon – I shall take my humble pie, and munch on it graciously!

Cheers for reading

Hamish

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9 Comments

  • Reply
    Damon
    August 7, 2015 at 12:52 am

    Hi, I have a 1955 Leica M3 and it has the little stop in it too preventing the coupler from going any further out. So I’m thinking whether it will be possible to extend the focusing down to 0.7m, since I’m shooting a 50 Lux ASPH. now so it would help so much.

    Did you do the modification yourself (sounds very risky!), or did you paid to have a professional do it? If so I will really appreciate it if you can give me some info on where I can get a reach on a technician who can do such a modification.

    Thanks!

    • Reply
      Hamish Gill
      August 7, 2015 at 8:18 pm

      Hi Damon,

      Yes, I did it myself. It was a risk, but I had every intention of sending it for a CLA anyway so I wasn’t worried.
      I’m not recommending it, but it wasn’t hard… I’m just not sure it works on the older cameras…?

      If you are in the UK I can recommend someone, though I’m not sure it is a service he would offer … If you want his name/details, email me.

      • Reply
        Damon
        August 7, 2015 at 8:27 pm

        Unfortunately I don’t live in the UK. I live in San Francisco and just found a repairman who said he can do such a modification. Although he said that with the modification, focusing will only be precise at 0.7m. Did you experience any focus issue through the range after doing the modification yourself?

        • Reply
          Hamish Gill
          August 7, 2015 at 8:29 pm

          No. He’s misunderstood what you are asking him I think. There should be no reason it would do that, as it’s only extending the movement of he cam. I’d ask someone else if I were you.

          • Damon
            August 7, 2015 at 8:38 pm

            I think the modification he had in mind is adjusting the roller by loosening the small screw that holds it onto the arm. I read that that is what changes the calibration. I explained to him the method you used.

            Anyways thanks.

          • Hamish Gill
            August 7, 2015 at 8:42 pm

            Yeah, that doesn’t sound a good idea at all!
            Try here – http://www.l-camera-forum.com/leica-news/leica-repair-specialists/
            Or this chap – http://www.yyecamera.com/
            No problem, sorry I can’t help more

  • Reply
    Dominique Pierre-Nina
    October 17, 2018 at 2:41 am

    Hi I have a late 1858 M3 DS, when I use my 35mm f2.5 Voightlender Skoper it will focus to .7 and with my 50mm Summicron f2 I use the auxiliary goggles to get to .7. So what you saying is that if I straiten or adjusted the the lever I will not need the Auxiliary goggles ? Thanks,

    Dominique

    • Reply
      Hamish Gill
      October 18, 2018 at 11:52 am

      I’ve not used the DR, but if your m3 is already focusing to 0.7 meters with the 35mm, I wouldn’t advise bending it more

  • Reply
    Jake S
    July 26, 2020 at 12:52 am

    Worked for me on Leica m3 #833374. As someone mentioned on the forum referenced, make sure to put a soft cloth between your pliers and the lever. Otherwise you’re going to markup the inside of the camera and the lever itself.

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