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M3 shutter problem


I found this text in a repair forum.
this, now, is my problem too.

does anyone have something to add?

thank you!


"The Classic Camera Repair Forum: Maintenance & Repair: Leica M3 shutter problem
By Christian Feltgen on Saturday, June 14, 2003 - 06:13 am:

Recently I bought a real nice M3 with the original L-seal still being in place.
Everything including rangefinder and 'long' shutter speeds (1s - 1/60s) works absolutely perfect.
BUT there is a problem with the very short shutter speeds (1/1000 & 1/500): it seems the second curtain is faster than the first one. At 1/500 only the first half of the film gets exposed and at 1/1000 there is virtually no exposure.
Does anybody know what to do - preferably without breaking the seal?


By ed on Saturday, June 14, 2003 - 05:48 pm:

The curtain tension balance is off. Either the 2nd curtain is strong,or the first weak. Unless someone (before you got it) has been into the camera, I would bet on the first being weak. It is not likely that either would gain strength. To adj. this, without a means of testing, is a little touchy. Take the bottom cover off and remove the inner plate (held on with three screws). On the rewind end, you will notice two recessed screws. The one to the front is the second curtain and to the rear 1st curtain. Tension is added to either by turning the screw in ccw direction. Immediately around each screw is a washer. To make adjustment you must depress this washer by inerting a small jewelers screwdriver along side the screw and depressing the washer slightly and then turning the screw--then let up on the depressing screwdriver to lock. I would do 1/2 turn , not having a means of checking. Do this 1/2 turn business until you at see light all the way across when looking thru the back, with the lens off and holding up to a FLOURESCENT LIGHT. When setting at 1/1000 and doing this when things are near correct you will see light across the frame and if the speed is near correct you will see three shaded areas vertically. This a phenomenom when using flourescent light. You shouldn't have to make more than a couple of complete turns on this screw to achieve this--more than three of four your camera needs a CLA. You could finally test by shooting some film--take something of an evenly lighted surface and then checking the film.It should be even all the way across. Don't forget the film must be turned upside down when viewing, to relate to start and finish side of exposure. If this solves your problem, fine. If not, email me directly and tell me what's happening.

By christian feltgen on Sunday, June 15, 2003 - 07:53 am:

thanks Ed !

Worked perfectly !

I don't have flourescent light. But using my computer monitor (60Hz frequency) resulted in horizontal stripes of approx. 1,5mm at equal width across the film area (using 1/1000s).

Im testing out with a roll of film now.

Is there anything else I may want to adjust?

By ed on Sunday, June 15, 2003 - 05:15 pm:

maybe just check the rangefinder--use something at least 1/2 mile away--images should line up, if not, let me know.

By christian feltgen on Friday, June 20, 2003 - 01:34 pm:

Ed, I need some more help on this subject.
Following your instructions I wound up the tension of the first curtain by a little more than 1.5 turns.
After having checked the first roll of film I must say the results have dramatically improved; though they are not perfect yet:
I used the same roll of film first in the M3 and than half way through I put it into my M6 in order to have a benchmark.
At 1/250 results are perfect and equal to M6. At 1/1000 the M3 gives a little less exposure (lighter negative) at the first fourth of the shutter travel PLUS the overall exposure seems to be too short by around 3/4 EV.
If I interpret this right I need to probably do another 0.5 to 1 turns to increase spring load of the first curtain?
I appreciate your comments !!!

By christian feltgen on Saturday, June 21, 2003 - 04:59 am:

Following some dozen shutter activations, I figured out another issue: the first curtain only opens up 80% of the film area at the very slow shutter speeds (1, 1/2, 1/4...). Only when the second curtain fires the first one rolls up completely.
If I let the camera rest for a while it gets better and the more often I fire the shutter the more obvious this becomes.
Any suggestions?

By Henry on Saturday, June 21, 2003 - 11:34 am:

What are the curtain speeds? They really should be set to spec. Did you clean the pivots before adjusting the curtain tension?


By christian feltgen on Sunday, June 22, 2003 - 12:03 am:

Henry - how do I get access to the pivots in order to clean them?

By Henry on Sunday, June 22, 2003 - 09:57 am:

I've never opened a leica M camera, so can't help you there. But rarely do springs sack out. Usually it is only dirt or dried lubricant that slows curtains.



Dear Patricio,

It is always reassuring to have a camera in which the seal is still intact if you are a collector.

If you wish to use the camera it should be serviced approximately every ten years. The grease gums up and microscopic dust particles accumulate internally however well the camera has been stored. The KE7 was the best sealed camera and I have seen a couple with 'dusty viewfinders".

My suggestion is to send the M3 to Solms for a complete service which now well overdue on a forty year old camera. It will come back with a new L seal. My M2 recently did.

Best wishes,



>dear justin:

i'm a user/collector and i agree with you. i though that practice (the L seal) is not longer available when the camera goes to repair. it is possible to adjust the rangefinder to focus to 70 cm?

when it comes back the first roll of film will be for my little daugther (3 years) she'so nice that the M3 is the perfect camera to photograph she. ...well, mi M2 and M6 too.

i would like to make more comments but my english is limited.

thank you!



Dear Patricio,

Your English is certainly a lot better than my Italian.

Write to Attention: Gerald Wagner about having your M3 properly serviced and the L seal replaced.

Yes the M3 with a 50 or 90 lens is perfect for photographing children. Mine with a Summilux has recorded the birth of all three.