Problems with a Leica M3 Camera

writer: russell j.t. dyer; posted: may 2015; revised: mar 2018; readers past month: 1664

Leica M3 — Shutter Duration Dial

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I’m buying a Leica M3 camera. Before I finalize that purchase, though, I’m testing the camera. I shot a roll of film last week, but the store where I brought it to be developed is taking a week longer than promised. So, I’m not sure how well it performs yet. Still, I’ve continued photographing with the camera. This evening I tried take pictures in a studio setting on a tripod. In doing this, I discovered a problem with the shutter.

If I set the shutter dial to 1/2 second or to 1 second, when I press the shutter release, I can hear the shutter open, but it doesn’t close. It remains open. And I can’t advance the film. I took the lens off and tried it again and was able to verify that the shutter is remaining open.

If the shutter dial is set to 1/5 of a second or less time, it works fine. It just seems to get stuck on slow shutter speeds. I tried leaving it for several minutes, but it doesn’t unlock on its own.

While it’s stuck open, if I turn the shutter dial past the notch on the dial for the external light meter (i.e., the Leica MC meter), towards 1/5 of a second, the shutter unlocks and closes when I pass that notch. Below is a photo showing how I have it set when it sticks. You can see the notch I’m talking about.

It’s a strange problem. I thought at first that I might be doing something wrong. So I did some research and made some inquiries about this problem related to this model camera. I’ve been told that there is a different gear for a shutter duration of a 1/2 second or more. This is why the problem is disassociated with the results for shorter duration times. It seems that from lack of use, particularly at longer shutter duration settings, the lubricants around that particular gear has probably become gummy. I will need to get the camera cleaned to resolve this.