My Top Five Favorite Film Cameras of All Time

My Top Five Favorite Film Cameras of All Time


I’ve collected quite a few film cameras over the years, and I found it difficult to select my top five favorites. Having winnowed the field fairly quickly down to 8 semi-finalists, I applied the following criteria to pick the winners.

  • I personally own one or more of each camera, either the exact model or some variant.
  • Number of images taken with each.
  • How often I used the camera in the past year.
  • Ease of use and familiarity.
  • Feelings the camera invokes within me and in others. For example, do people tend to approach me to talk about the camera when they see me using it in public.

#5. Nikon FM2

Nikon FM2

I stepped back from photography in the mid ‘90s while I attended grad school, a period I refer to as my dark ages. I sold all my camera gear except my Nikon FM and the venerable Zoom-Nikkor 35-105mm, a dodgy lens by almost all standards yet one I hold in high esteem. I write nostalgically about this wonderful lens at length in this blog post:  

Large White Planter - Balboa Park, San Diego 1999

Over the Nikon FM, I prefer the Nikon FM2. Like the FM, the FM2 is a fully mechanical camera with several improvements, namely, a faster maximum shutter speed of 1/4000th of a second. It’s a rugged, dependable instrument and is one of the finest cameras Nikon ever produced. I especially like this camera because of its compact size. Yes, they make a motor winder for it, but I have never felt compelled to use it. I like the buttery smooth feel of the manual film advance and the reassuring sound of the shutter release and the mirror moment. It just feels put together, well made, wonderfully engineered.

Pavillion - Balboa Park, San Diego, CA - 1999

It has an exposure meter, which requires batteries, but I never insert the batteries. Instead, if needs be, I use a handheld exposure meter, either the Gossen DigiSix, or a Pentax Spot Meter.

Twisted Trees - Balboa Park, San Diego - 1999

This camera is all about slowing things down and taking your time. What’s the rush? There’s no gunning it, no spraying the subject with the machine gun sound of a high-speed motor winder. With a little thought, planning, and measurement, you can obtain incredible images without wasting film. I’ve used this camera on a tripod more than any other camera I own.

It’s the camera I’d take with me on a trip into the jungle or into the artic. I’d take it anywhere I believe I’d be unable to find batteries or electricity. As long as you have film, you’re in business.

#4. Leica M3

Leica M3 w/Leica Summicron 50mm Near-Focusing Range Lens

I was a late comer to Leica cameras. Like I explained earlier, I chose Nikon over Leica early in my photography career and I’ve been happy with my decision ever since, but when an opportunity came along to acquire a pristine Leica M3, I figured why not? I’m still happy with my Nikon gear, but I must admit, there’s something special about how a Leica camera using Leica glass renders an image on film. There’s more acutance, which comes from the rear of the lens being closer to the film plane due to the lack of a mirror. I still prefer an SLR to a rangefinder, but a well-tuned rangefinder lets you achieve very precise focusing, especially when shooting portraits and you want to focus on the eyes.

Exploring The Barn - Shamba - March 2020

This particular M3 was made in 1962. I like the idea of making images using a camera that’s older than I am. After 58 years, It’s still going strong. And who would have guessed? Retro technology is the new cool thing! Like the Yashica Mat 124G, walking around in public with this camera around your neck attracts aficionados who admire and appreciate sleek design and precise engineering.

I prefer to use the Leica 50mm Summicron f2 Near-Focusing Range lens on this camera. It requires the use of goggles when in the near-focusing range to correct for parallax. The goggles lend an air of mystery to this already beautiful camera which magnifies its attraction quotient substantially. Someone who would ordinarily walk past an old camera in use is drawn to the goggle-equipped Leica M3 like a moth to a flame. You can learn more about this incredible lens in this blog post:

Waiting - Shamba - 2020

The best thing about the Leica M3 is that it’s 100% mechanical. It contains no batteries and no frills. If you want to take a picture, you’d better know your craft. In fact, I enjoy the mental exercise of manually calculating exposure, especially when using this camera. It sharpens the photographic eye.

John - Falls Church, VA - March 2020

#3. Contaxt T

Contax T

The Contax T is the ideal street photography camera. It’s compact, discrete, and unobtrusive. It has a manual focus Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* 38mm lens, made by Yashica, that folds up for easy storage.

Single-Handling the Contax T
Single-Handling the Contax T
Single-Handling the Contax T

Its manual film advance is easily operated with one hand. It has a leaf shutter, so it’s quieter than the Leica M10D. On a busy street, or in a quiet setting, no one knows you’ve taken a picture. It works in Aperture Priority mode, so in low light you get some wonderful, ethereal, blurry images. 

Alex and Pete - Irish Bar - Courthouse - 2008

It’s a rangefinder, but rarely, if ever, do I focus in this manner. Instead, I set the aperture to F8 and position the green dot on the hyperfocal distance scale opposite the black aperture indicator. This ensures everything between 1.8 meters to infinity will be in focus. Every lens has a hyperfocal distance. I highly recommend you take some time to study this important concept, especially if you’re interested in street photography. With the hyperfocal distance set, I aim the camera in the general direction of the subject, usually from hip level, and fire.

Setting Hyper Focal Distance

I hold the camera in my right hand with the carry strap wrapped around my wrist. I aim, shoot, and advance the film with one hand. I find shooting from the hip yields the most candid shots. The camera is down, out of the way, and inconspicuous. I find that when people see a camera their defenses go up. They become suspicious and sometimes hostile.

Acrobat Man - Leidseplein Square, Amsterdam -  2005

If I want to engage a subject on a more personal level, I will approach them and ask for their permission to take their photograph, like I did with this protester at a Women’s Rights March in Washington, DC.

Protester - March for Women's Rights  - Washington, DC - 2004

#2. Yashica Mat 124G

Yashica Mat 124G

In 2006 digital cameras reached parity with film and professional photographers around the world started upgrading. This resulted in a glut of used medium format gear coming to market at good prices, so I bought a few. One of the gems I acquired early on was a nearly new Yashica Mat 124G. I took it on a trip to Amsterdam and I’ve been in love with it ever since.

Amsterdam 2007

This is a twin lens reflex (TLR) camera and it takes some getting used to. To take a picture, you flip open the top and peer down through the top to compose and focus the shot. From a distance it appears you’re hunched over a mysterious black box. People watching wonder what you are doing, and that’s what makes using this camera so much fun. Perfect strangers, driven by curiosity, approach and start a conversation. Where I to find myself stranded in a strange land with nothing but the clothes on my back and this camera, by the end of the day I could secure a hot meal and a place to stay.

Frankie & Jack - Atlantic City, NJ 2012

I especially like to use this camera to capture images with a different point of view. By the very nature of its twin lens reflex design, one tends to shoot from their belly button, as opposed to a 35 mm SLR, which is most naturally employed at eye level. It’s easy to photograph subjects who are sitting without the need to squat down. Where this camera really shines is shooting at ground level without danger of getting your clothes dirty. I’ve made my best images of my animal friends with this camera.

Pirate Flag - Old Forge, New York - 2007

The Yashica Mat 124G is not a high-end camera. Compared to a Rolleiflex 3.5F or the Mamiya C330 Professional, both heavy, solid cameras, the Yashica Mat 124G feels like a rattily tin can. Using an automobile analogy, the Yashica Mat 124G feels like a Yugoslavian compact car to the touch but performs like an uber engineered German touring sedan. Physically, construction-wise, one perceives loose tolerances, sloppy seconds, false hopes.

In reality, this camera shines in three key areas:

  1. It has one of the world’s finest lenses,
  2. It has a dead-on-accurate, built-in exposure meter, and
  3. It’s one tough mother of a camera.

There’s nothing frilly hanging off the sides of this machine to get destroyed when it’s accidentally dropped, say, when drinking beer and playing foosball at the Heineken Brewery in Amsterdam. It’s lighter, too, than a Rolleiflex 3.5F or the Mamiya C330 Professional, which makes it easy to carry around for an all-day shooting adventure. And you can buy one for a song, comparitavely speaking. 

Kathleen Thinking - Old Forge, New York - 2007

Well, a Yashica Mat 124G used to be a real bargain on eBay, but a quick glance at recent prices shows mint condition specimens listed for upwards of $800. These sellers are smokin’ crack. A used one in nice condition is listed for $285. eBay used to be a great place to buy used gear until they started charging tax on out-of-state purchases for flea-market items. I’ll save that rant for another video. A used Yashica Mat 124G in good condition between $125 – $250 is a good deal in my opinion.

Stevie - Fat Rabbit Cottage
Ramble Shack In Fading Light
Bent Rim and Trash - Amsterdam - 2007

#1. Nikon F3HP

Nikon F3HP

This is, by far, my favorite camera, period. I love everything about this camera, from the way it looks, the way it feels in my hands, the way it performs, and how easy it is to forget about its controls and simply focus on the art of image making.

Wardroom Operation - USS Norfolk (SSN-714) - 1985
Wardroom Operation - USS Norfolk (SSN-714) - 1985
Wardroom Operation - USS Norfolk (SSN-714) - 1985
Wardroom Operation - USS Norfolk (SSN-714) - 1985
Wardroom Operation - USS Norfolk (SSN-714) - 1985
Wardroom Operation - USS Norfolk (SSN-714) - 1985

I bought my first Nikon F3HP in 1984 when I was a young sailor assigned to the USS Norfolk, SSN 714, a Los Angeles class fast attack submarine. I wanted to take my photography to the next level and the two camera brands most closely associated with professional photographers in those days was Nikon and Leica.

Fiery Sunset - Squadron 6 Pier - Norfolk, VA - 1984

Eventually, after some research, I narrowed the choice between the Nikon F3HP and the Leica M4-P. Unlike today, where professional grade digital cameras easily cost $5000 or more, and you feel like your arm is being twisted behind your back when you buy one, I recall that neither of these cameras were outrageously expensive, though the Leica did cost more than the Nikon.

Italian Girl Riding Bike
Italian Girl Riding Bike
Italian Girl Riding Bike

Ultimately, I based my choice on my preference for looking through the lens of a single lens reflex (SLR) camera vs. using a range finder, and so I chose the Nikon. I’ve been a loyal Nikon user ever since.

Patrick - Chantilly, VA - March 2020

The HP stands for High Eyepoint. Essentially, what makes a Nikon F3HP a High Eyepoint is the DE-3 finder, which allows you to see the entire viewfinder image while wearing glasses. This is a great feature, because in the ‘80s, I wore Ray-Ban sunglasses, so I could take pictures and look cool at the same time.

Snorking Ops - USS Norfolk - October 1984
Cold Topside Watch - USS Norfolk - January 1985
John - USS Norfolk - On Station
Batman with the Wrong Way Shoes
Five Favorite Film Cameras
Leica M3 Post CLA Shakedown

Leica M3 Post CLA Shakedown

How Time Flies

Finally, after over a year since having received a thorough Clean, Lubricate, and Adjust (CLA) service by Mr. Youxin Ye at YYeCamera [ ] based in Canton, Massachusetts, I was able to take the mighty Leica M3 out for its post CLA shakedown.

Quite honestly, it is shameful to have waited so long to foray out on a long overdue picture hunt with this classic, historic camera, but other projects demanded my immediate attention.

A Coveted Invitation

Photography is a wonderful hobby. The problem with being an amateur is your day job conspires to keep you away from what you’d rather be doing…taking pictures. So, I was super excited when we received a coveted invitation to spend a weekend at The Shamba, the quiet retreat of our friends Rick and Jane, nestled in the hills of West Virginia overlooking the Capon River. This is, quite literally, God’s country, where dogs frolic off leash, cattle grazes in the pasture, roosters crow, cats prowl, deer linger in the surrounding forest, and a person can spend a leisurely afternoon reading, writing, or shooting targets along the riverbank, whatever strikes your fancy and ignites your passion. And Capon Bridge is no bumkin town. It is the honored home of the world-famous, award-winning Farmer’s Daughter [ ].

Kodak 400 TX

Kodak 400 TX

Over the course of the weekend at The Shamba and the following week, I ran two rolls of Kodak Tri-X through this machine. The lens I used was the venerable 50mm SUMMICRON f2 with Near-Focusing Range. The leather case I use to protect this, and all my cameras, comes from Luigi Crescenzi [ ].

Leica M3 with 50 mm Summicron f2 Near-Focusing Range Lens with Goggles and Luigi Crescenzi Half Case

The Camera Works Flawlessly!

I normally take along an exposure meter when I shoot with a manual camera, the handy Gossen Digisix, but in my excitement to get to The Shamba, I left it at home and had to estimate the exposures. Using the Sunny 16 rule as a guide, I tended to overexpose the negatives, but for the most part, I was quite happy with the results, namely because, as you can see from the contact sheet, the camera is now firing on all cylinders. Mr. Ye – you did a great job! Thank you! Compare this contact sheet with the pre-CLA version: [ ].


Contact Sheet for Film Developed 16 March 2020

I developed each roll individually in Kodak D-76 1:1, which means 1 part stock solution mixed with 1 part water, for 14 minutes. Here are the two pages from my development journal which notes the process I followed and times for each stage for this batch of film. I developed one roll on 16 March having just returned from a fabulous weekend with Rick and Jane. I developed the second roll on 21 March after a wonderful family dinner with my aunt Lois.

Development Journal Entry for 16 March 2020
Development Journal Entry for 21 March 2020

 If you’re not already doing so, I highly recommend keeping a Process Journal. In this case the process I’m interested in improving is film development, so I refer to my journal as a Development Journal, but any activity that involves a process or activity at which you want to improve can benefit from the act of keeping a process journal. You can read more about my development journal here: [ ].


To take fullest advantage of the close focusing abilities of the Leica 50mm SUMMICRON f2 Near-Focusing Range lens you’ll need the appropriate optical viewfinder attachment, which Leica aficionados commonly refer to as “goggles”. Refer to the lens instructions below. These instructions are hard to find, so I’ve provided them here as a PDF file for easy download and printing.

The image of John, above left, was made in the near-focusing range mode with the goggles attached. I was about a 2 feet away, perhaps closer, and focused on his right eye. As I recall, it was overcast, early evening, approaching 7pm. I took an incident reading with the Gossen Digisix and set the aperture to f4 to ensure his nose would be in focus. If this image suggests character, it’s the same impression I received when I first scanned the negative. The subject, John, certainly contributes to this impression, but the lens reveals his character in ways other lenses simply can’t. Perhaps, too, it is the combination of lens and camera.

Leica SUMMICRON 50 mm f2 Near-Focusing Range Lens Instructions

You only need the goggles for near-focusing operation to correct the parallax between the range finder and the lens at distances between 48 cm (~19 inches) to 88 cm (~35 inches). You don’t need the goggles for subjects from 1 meter to infinity, considered the normal range for this lens.

Perhaps the secret to this notion of character created by the lens is technically described in the instructions:

“[The 50 mm Summicron f2 with near-focusing range] represents the highest achievement made possible by modern computing optics and the introduction of a novel, highly-refractive type of glass – the so-called lanthanum crown. In this lens, excellent correction in the distant and close-up range is combined with a degree of freedom from vignetting extraordinary for this high speed. Even at full aperture, the Summicron has an excellent resolving power, uncommonly high contrast, and perfect colour correction.”

I’ll just refer to the ability of a lens to render character as Natural Character. The only other lens with as much natural character is the Pentax SMC 67 165mm f2.8. Here’s an image of my late Labrador Retriever, Schmoogle made with this lens:

Schmoogle ~2007 - Pentax 67 with Pentax SMC 200mm f4

Schmoogle – 19 April 2010 – Pentax 67 with Pentax SMC 165mm f2.8

Weathered Bird Bath
Farmer's Daughter House Burger
Leica M3 Single Stroke with 50 mm SUMMICRON f2 Near-Focusing Range Lens

When employed in the normal range this lens is just incredible. Again, the normal range is anything between 1 meter to infinity. The pictures of the barn, the dirt lane, and fallen tree were all made with the lens focused to infinity. The acutance of this lens is easily perceived. It renders tack sharp images with firm contrast.


Taking a Walk

We explored the lane flanked by rolling fields and undulating foothills of bigger mountains rising in the distance. I stop to photograph a grove of dead cattails rising from the frog marsh. I attach the goggles and put the lens in near-focusing range mode and try my best to make dead cattails look interesting. I tend to descend into deep, metaphysical states when I’m absorbed and immersed in an activity, and when I look up, the gang has stopped some ways down the lane to wait for me.


Onward we push to a working barn that houses a rusting pick-up and a fiberglass canoe, on past another barn with chickens, goats, and a cat, a real mouser. We linger for some time talking baby goat talk to the baby goats, who seem as intrigued by us as we are by them. We turn around and head back to Shamba, stopping along the way to inspect a home under construction.

Old Wooden Barn with Canoe
Exploring the Barn
Cattails on the Edge of the Frog Marsh

The following morning it began to snow, turning to sleet, then to rain. There’s something especially magical about Shamba when the weather turns cold, a fire crackles inside and casts its warming heat and golden glow throughout the house, and the deep sound of the wind chimes accompany the dance of ice crystals landing on dried leaves upon the ground. In these special moments I am completely content, thankful for good friends, and pleased the camera is again able to capture the special moments in life.

Fallen Tree

Parting Thoughts

The serial number on this camera indicates it was manufactured in 1965. I was four years old; it has weathered time better than I have. The lens was manufactured sometime between 1956 – 1968. It still works flawlessly, something I can’t even claim myself. The previous owners have obviously taken exceptional care of this camera, and for this I am eternally grateful. It’s an incredibly humbling feeling being able to capture images on a camera that’s well over 50 years old and still going strong. I don’t consider myself so much an owner of a Leica, rather, I am merely a steward, caring for this wonderful instrument until I pass the torch to another.

Mamiya C330 Professional: Walkabout

Mamiya C330 Professional: Walkabout

I had the chance finally to take my Mamiya C330 Professional out for a spin and run two rolls of Ilford Delta 400 120 through it. This had been on my to-do list since the beginning of 2019 when I made this post: New Year’s Resolution: Shoot More Film in 2019.  Subjects included a few around-the-house shots, and a wonderful young woman, Melissa, who accompanied my wife Coralie and me along the Georgetown waterfront under the Whitehurst Freeway, as we strolled along heading for Chaia Tacos and Hill & Dale Records. During the shoot, I had my suspicions something wasn’t quite right with the camera. When I returned home, developed the film, and cast my eyes upon the first set of negatives, I realized something definitely was amiss. Sometimes, equipment malfunctions create happy accidents. Read on.

The Mamiya C330 Professional requires a bit of getting used to. You just can’t pick up this camera cold and start shooting with it. A detailed reading of the user manual is in order to learn how to do everything from opening the back cover, loading film, changing lenses, swapping out the distance scale, to advancing the film and taking pictures. After about 20 minutes of familiarity training, I loaded a roll of film and scouted the house looking for image opportunities.

In times like these I get a bit lazy and default to the back yard. I never grow tired of taking pictures of dead grass and Christmas tree lights, and the backyard has become a sort of proving ground for newly acquired cameras and lenses.

Bush & Christmas Lights

 Dead Grass and Christmas Lights

It was here I first felt a glitch in the Matrix. I advanced the film wind crank, which cocks the shutter, but the shutter didn’t stay cocked. Instead, it tripped at the very end. “Hmmm”, I thought. I took a few more pictures and everything worked normally. So, into the house I went, looking for more targets. I spied the cat laying on the sofa in a shaft of glorious light. Fair game.


Cat-Cat La Chat


Again, the glitch in the Matrix strikes, with ramifications I have yet to fully comprehend. I continue shooting and get what I think is a cool shot of the cat. Full disclosure – this is not our cat. Nope. It’s a community cat that likes to hang out in our house. Now, I have a soft spot for any critter that presents itself at my door, and kindness such as this becomes known throughout the animal kingdom. Word gets out and spreads like wildfire. If you’re hungry and happen to be passing by, dog, cat, bird, mouse, doesn’t matter, stop in for a snack and a square meal. On a typical day, Cat-Cat La Chat, as we call her, eats and retires to the couch, where she snoozes until recharged and ready to return to the rough and tumble outdoors.

Walking around with the Mamiya C330 Professional is no picnic. It’s easily three times as heavy as the venerable Yashica Mat 124G and twice as complicated to use. The Yashica Mat 124 G is perhaps one of my favorite cameras of all time, ranking up there with the Nikon F3HP, but the Yashica feels like a little, rattly, tin can of a camera compared to the Mamiya. (Regardless of how it feels in the hand or how it compares in weight to the Mamiya, the Yashica renders incredible images.) If I had to negotiate a tough neighborhood, I’d grap the Mamiya, as it can serve as quite an effective weapon!

Mamiya C330 Professional vs. Yashica Mat 124G

Mamiya C330 Professional vs. Yashica Mat 124G

Well, like anything, it’s not so bad once you get the hang of it, but it’s a real beast of a camera, weighing in at close to 4 pounds with the 80mm lens attached. To make extended carry more comfortable, I use the UPstrap-Pro Large M Pad with Quick Release strap, model M-QR-K, which runs $60 available from This is, by far, my favorite camera strap.

Mamiya C330 Professional & Friends

Mamiya C330 Professional & Fans


It’s also cool to be seen with this camera, as the picture above attests to. I was loitering outside Bluemercury while Coralie received a makeover, when a guy walks up and says, “Hey, cool camera!” Wearing this camera is like strolling the street with a hot chick on your arm; other guys just wanna be you! Seriously, though, you don’t see a twin lens reflex (TLR) camera very often out in the wild nowadays. It’s the rarity of such sightings that bring camera aficionados in for a closer look and a kind word. I get the same treatment with the Yashica Mat 124G or a Rolleiflex. TLRs just look, well, strange, especially in the smart-phone-digital-camera age. It’s a great ice-breaker, and it’s not just TLRs. If you’re shy and find it hard to approach people, simply parade around with a classic camera, and sooner or later, someone will buy you a drink.

We stopped along Water street in the vicinity of the Berliner to take a few pictures of Melissa. Again, the glitch in the Matrix.

Melissa - Double Exposed

Melissa – Double Exposed

I cranked the lever for another shot and again, everything worked fine. On we walked to Chaia Tacos.


Melissa Texting Kyle

If you haven’t yet paid Chaia Tacos a visit, I highly recommend making the effort. You won’t be disappointed. Melissa is a regular and knows the ropes. She recommended the Creamy Kale and Potato taco and when I tasted it, it became my favorite as well. We each ordered three tacos. I rounded out my three-taco order with a Braised Mushroom and a Black Bean with Scrambled Eggs.

Upstairs, after ordering, I took several more shots. This time I saw the glitch occur. Occasionally, the film wind lever wasn’t moving the shutter cocking arm all the way down into the locked position, this allowed it to make a double exposure as I followed through with the film advance, even though the multi-exposure knob was set to SINGLE. From that point forward, I manually cocked the shutter and the camera performed flawlessly.

Chaia Georgetown

Chaia Interior – Double Exposed


Melissa By The Window

Melissa By The Window

We arrived finally at Hill & Dale Records  where I used the last frame on the roll to take one last picture of Melissa before Coralie and I headed home. If you’re an audiophile and love the sound of vinyl, this is the place to go for classic and recent pressings, unique, signed photographs of bands and artists of all genres, and cool, hard-to-find posters.

Melissa - Hill & Dale Records

Melissa – Hill & Dale Records

Had the camera not malfunctioned, I doubt I would have experimented with double exposures. But I have to admit, I like the results obtained from these types of happy accidents.


Rick Miller, Falls Church, VA – 22 February 2020


Leica M10-D: Comparison to an Old Friend

Leica M10-D: Comparison to an Old Friend


The Leica M10-D is a remarkable camera. Its minimalist controls provide an uncluttered, refreshingly simple user experience that compliments your creative process. It is my first foray into Leica’s digital M ecosystem and I’m happy I waited until this camera came along to take the plunge. If you’re jonesing for an M10-D, I recommend you move immediately on your impulse.

New Year's Eve

New Year’s Eve – Tinsel & Lights – Leica M10-D w/Noctilux-M 50mm

My Frame of Reference

I’m a child of the film age. My first professional 35mm camera was the venerable Nikon F3HP, which I still use today. I repeatedly read Ansel Adam’s books The Camera, The Negative, and The Print, until I had internalized the wisdom contained within those sacred texts and applied it to my own work.

As a U.S. Navy submarine Electronics Technician in the early ‘80s, one of my collateral duties was Ships Photographer. The primary duty of a ship’s photographer was to ensure images made through the boat’s periscopes were of sufficient quality to extract maximum intelligence. On deployments we took along a portable, automatic film processing unit, which was cumbersome to use and provided mediocre results at best, so I preferred to develop negatives by hand. After one exercise which required taking, processing, and submitting periscope images for review, I was happy to learn the Intel guys had never seen such well-developed negatives.

Rick Miller - Early Navy Days

Standing Lookout Watch – 1984, Nikon F3HP w/Nikkor 50mm f1.8 – Taken by OOD

Ahh, the memories…, uh, where was I, oh yeah, the Nikon F3HP, anyway, what I like about this camera, among many other things, is its 80% center-weighted metering, Auto exposure mode, exposure memory lock, and the ergonomics of its controls. You can, of course, set the exposure manually, but sometimes I like to be spontaneous, and the combination of auto exposure mode, center-weighted metering, and exposure lock allow me to quickly assess a scene’s luminosity and make bracketed exposures without bothering to drop into manual mode. And oh-by-the-way, there’s no chimping on a film camera.

Savannah Riverfront

The Beef Jerky Shop, Savannah, GA – Leica M10-D w/Noctilux-M 50mm

Another critically important feature of the Nikon F3HP is, of course, that it’s a Single Lens Reflex (SLR) camera, and I recall clearly my struggle to decide between it and the Leica M4-P, which is a range finder. To me, peering directly through the lens seemed like a more natural way to view a scene and more accurately judge image composition, a view I still hold today. So, with limited funds of a young navy squid, and being inclined towards an SLR, I chose the Nikon over the Leica, and I’ve been happy with my decision ever since. I use Nikon’s Flagship DSLRs to this day and all my old Nikon lenses work just fine on them.

Blackberry Bush

Blackberry Bush – Leica M10-D w/Summicron-M 90mm

Que the Leica M10-D

It’s the marriage of intuitive, ergonomic controls and a return to a familiar way of image-making that defines the allure of the Leica M10-D for me personally. It compares favorably in size with the Nikon F3HP sans its MD-4 motor winder. Its metering, by default, is center-weighted, and the exposure lock (called Metering Memory Lock) is activated by a slight pressure on the shutter release button. In this regard, the M10-D outshines the F3HP. It’s a bit of a Kabuki dance to activate the exposure lock with the MD-4 motor winder attached, which is my F3HP’s normal battle configuration.

Backyard Buddha

Buddha & Zen Plant – Leica M10-D w/Summicron-M 90mm

A slew of additional features such as focus peaking and two additional metering modes are available with the use of the separate Visoflex 020 accessory. More about the Visoflex later.

The camera’s operation can be customized via the Leica Fotos app, which connects to the camera via the Leica M10-D’s WIFI (WLAN) connection. The Fotos app also allows you to control the camera remotely, a feature I haven’t tried yet, but seems like it would come in handy to reduce touch-induced camera shake or to just let you take a picture with you in it that doesn’t look like a selfie.

I’m still not as fast at acquiring images as quickly with a range finder vs. an SLR, but I’m getting better with practice.

Grave Site Savannah, GA

Grave Site, Savannah, GA – Leica M10-D w/Noctilux-M 50mm

The Visoflex (Type 020) Electronic Viewfinder

This is one cool accessory. Attaching the Visoflex to the M10-D gives you a DSLR experience without the mirror flap. It connects to the M10-D via the hot shoe mount and provides a full-color, heads-up display with information you’d normally find in a DSLR or mirrorless camera with an electronic viewfinder, including a histogram in the upper left corner of the display. It also provides focus peaking and the ability, with a tap of the shutter release button, to zoom in on a subject to focus on a particular detail. This is all fine and dandy, but I find the battery drains about 10 times faster when using the Visoflex, something to be aware of if you decide to add that accessory to your kit. So, I’ve set the M10-D to my favorite settings and with practice I’m getting better at focusing with the optical range finder.

Leica Visoflex

Leica M10-D with Visoflex and Spare Batteries

Actually, in my experience, I can focus more accurately with the optical range finder, especially in situations where extremely accurate focusing is critical, say, when focusing on an eye at wide-open apertures. The Visoflex favors good, solid edges.

Leica Visoflex Rear View

Leica M10-D w/Visoflex Rear View

So, although I shelled out some hard-earned cash for the Visoflex, I find myself using it less often now as I grow more proficient at range finder focusing. Note: My M10-D is always smartly dressed in its Luigi half case with built-in grip, and UPstrap Medium X Crossover Pad camera strap + Quick Release available at

Visoflex Up

Leica M10-D w/Visoflex in Up Position


The Fotos App

The Leica M10-D has a minimal set of external controls, and since there’s no screen on the back, to make changes to default settings, or access other advanced features not accessible when the Visoflex is attached, you must connect the camera to the Fotos app to access these settings. Connecting my M10-D to Fotos seems like a hit-or-miss operation at times and requires several retries, but it eventually connects.  Maybe I need to update my camera’s firmware. Once in, however, it works great, and you can change settings and operate the camera remotely, as I mentioned earlier.

The following screenshots step through the process of connecting the camera to Fotos.

Connecting Fotos App

Connecting to Fotos App

Fotos App

Fotos App

Fotos App

Fotos App

Fotos App

Fotos App

Fotos App

Fotos App

Fotos App

Fotos App

Remote Operation

Remote Operation


Fotos also lets you view and download images from the camera to your iPhone or iPad. One point of caution is in order here – downloading an image from the camera to your device removes the image from the camera. I found this a bit annoying when later I went to import the images into Lightroom and found the ones I had downloaded were missing. I had to import them from my iPhone into Apple’s Photos, then export the original files from Photos then import them into Lightroom. This delete-from-camera-on-download might just be a setting in Fotos. If it is, I haven’t found it yet. Just something to keep in mind.

Something else to keep in mind…using the camera’s WLAN sucks down the battery at about 10 times the normal rate. That’s why you need to buy one or two spare batteries. This leads me to my Tips for All Day Shooting with the Leica M10-D on One Battery:

  • Don’t use the Visoflex
  • Resist the urge to chimp until you get home. (Chimping on your phone is still chimping. Real photographers don’t need to chimp. )

Side-By-Side Comparisons

Leica M10-D vs. Nikon F3HP

Leica M10-D vs. Nikon F3HP

Leica M10-D vs. Leica M3

Leica M10-D vs. Leica M3

Leica M3 Needs CLA

Leica M3 Needs CLA

Over the course of a year (Jan 2017 – June 2018) I ran a roll of Tri-X through this camera, and when I finally got around to developing the film, I discovered it had a serious problem which I’d never noticed before. At shutter speeds 125th of a second and faster the rear shutter curtain quickly catches up to the front curtain and a severe case of shutter capping occurs, as you can see from the contact sheet below. Time for a CLA.

A few hours of Internet research later and I settled on I sent Mr. Youxin Ye an email introducing him to my camera and its problem(s), and asked for shipping instructions. He responded within 30 minutes. His prompt reply assured me my camera would be in good hands. I told him I’d ship it out the following day.

Upon closer inspection, I noticed the shutter release would jam at random intervals, requiring the use of the self-timer to release. At speeds below 125th of a second the shutter curtains seemed to work fine. Cameras, like motorcycles, benefit more from use than neglect. Taking over a year to shoot a roll of film could be construed as a high crime against a classic camera.

The lens used to make these images is the Leica Summicron 5cm f2. This is a collapsible lens and when paired with the M3 makes for a compact kit, although not quite as compact as the Leica Elmar 5cm f2.8.

Update – 28 March 2020

Read about the Post CLA Shakedown here: