Leica M3 Rangefinder Separation Who Can Repair?- Here’s How You Can Do it!

People often ask, how to repair Leica M3 Rangefinder?

Let’s find out!

How to Repair Leica M3 Rangefinder?

The rangefinder mechanism of the Leica M3 has two parts: the shutter and the exposure meter. The shutter opens briefly at the beginning of each shot, allowing light into the camera body so it can measure the amount of light hitting the film.

This information is then used by the exposure meter to calculate the correct exposure settings for the next frame. however even if one of the parts fails, the camera will not function properly.

To repair the rangefinder simply disassemble the camera and RF mechanism. Use acetone to dissolve the balsam holding the prism. Re-cement using modern optical adhesive. Allow time to cure. Then re-assemble & calibrate the RF. And finally, put the camera back together.

Note: If you want to know a complete guide about rangefinder click HERE.

Which M to get?

The price of a camera increases as time passes. The first cameras were cheap and simple, but by 1966, prices had increased considerably. The cheapest cameras were still around $US800, but the most expensive ones were over $US2000. A Leica MP costs about $US1500.

The ear design was changed in the 1960s. Older models had a strap eyelet design similar to this:

And newer models had a more rounded eyelet design like this:

Note: If you want to know How to Use SLR Magic Rangefinder click HERE.

Loading film

When purchasing a camera, ask the vendor to demonstrate how to load it. Film leaders should be inserted completely into the take-up spool before being pushed in.

Keep your camera back open while loading. Close the camera after the film has advanced. Don’t throw away any film spool.

It is because of the M3’s fiddle-loading mechanism that the rapid-load mechanism was invented ten years after the M3 came out. Good riddance! Notice how it didn’t come up again as a retro feature in any other Leica MP clones.

Speeding up Film Loading

There are three ways to load film into your camera:

  1. Buy more film spools;
  2. Buy a quick load kit; or
  3. Have a technician change out the whole loading mechanism.

No RF Patch Flare

Flare-free viewfinders are amazing. A trusty M3 may be your best bet to avoid RF patch flare.

leica m3 rangefinder sepration who can repair

Leica M3 Rangefinder Separation Who Can Repair?

Tinted Viewfinder

The uncluttered 0.9x viewfinder with its large 50mm frame lines is still one of the most important features of the M3. If you’re a 70mm lens user, the 50 frame lines are also among the best and largest to work with. Eagle-eyed users may notice the M3’s viewfinder has a slight blue tint, while the 50mm frame-line patch is slightly yellow.

These colors can be best seen when viewing your M3 from the front. On an M3, the smaller (left) RF window is yellow, and the larger (right) VF window is blue. Later M models don’t do this.

There’s a slight difference in brightness when comparing the M3 to the M2. However, the viewfinder is still dim enough to need an external accessory.

Note: If you want to know How to Use the Russian Rangefinder click HERE.

Yellow RF Tint

The yellow color is due to gold plating. Not oxidation, rain, or even elf pee, but honest to goodness gold. This sits well with Leica lore: the M3 yellow / blue rangefinder scheme was no mistake but rather a unique feature designed to make focusing easier for beginners. Wetzlar dropped this idea for later models as a cost-cutting measure.

Metal Eyepiece Scratches Your Glasses

There are many ways to fix this problem. I recommend using Liquid electrical tape to cover up the ring. You could also cut out a piece of leather and stick it onto your glasses. This might be a bit more expensive but it’ll last longer than liquid electrical tape.

Babar Khan recommended using Leitz snap-in plastic eyepieces. Kenneth Frazier sent Don Goldberg some tips about how to fix the eyepiece scratching problem.

Silicon O-rings are very useful for protecting your iPod. You can use them to protect your iPod’s screen from scratches. These rings are made of silicone and are available at most electronics stores.

Prism Desilvering

This is where the silver coating on the rangefinder beam-splitter gets oxidized. It goes from shiny silver to dark greyish silver oxide, resulting in the central rangefinder patch becoming unusable. Be aware that you need to get a replacement rangefinder before you lose your game.

Usually, the only way you can fix it is to replace the entire rangefinder mechanism with a new M3VF or 0.85M6/TTL rangefinder.

CRR Luton (UK) offers re-silvering services. This means that you can get your silverware re-polished.

Note: if you want to know How to Use Shepherd Scope Rangefinder With Different Bullets clicks HERE.

Finder Separation

Here the problem is with the Canadian balsam used to hold together the lens elements. This glue has dried out, causing the lens to separate.

Once separated, the lens does not focus properly. You may be able to fix it by using some WD40 or a similar product to lubricate the lens.

The good news is that you should be able to fix your prism by gluing them back together with modern UV optical adhesive.


We hope that this article answers your questions. If you have any queries feel free to reach out in the comments section below.

If you want to know more information about rangefinder click HERE.


  • John Moses

    John is the Editor in Chief here at The Outdoor Stores. His area of expertise ensures that there is no one better to suggest which rifles are most suitable for your hunting experience. He is also available for you to contact him personally to discuss the types of animals you want to hunt and the terrain you will be hunting on. Feel free to read his posts for expert opinion on Rifles, Scopes, Rangefinders, Bonoculars and Monoculars.

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