In 1954, Leica introduced the M3 at photokina: it was a completely new model and had very little in common with any of the earlier Leicas.
In contrast to the former screw-mount Leicas, the M3 was produced with the new M bayonet, making it noticeably easier to change the lenses. With an enlargement of 0.91, the novel range finder camera offered an image that was almost life-size. It was also unproblematic to overlay frames for 50 mm, 90 mm and 135 mm focal lengths.
Despite these improvements, many professional photographers did not consider the M3's small format a serious alternative to the established medium and large format cameras.
However, not least thanks to its completely new and quieter shutter, the M3 did become a commercial success. Though the two shutter cloths continued to move horizontally over the film, with the M3 all the shutter speeds from 1 s to 1/1000 s were referenced on a wheel on the top side of the camera.
Up until 1966, 227,000 copies were built; and in the sixty years since its introduction, the M3's timeless design has continued to grace every M model since.