The Leica M3 Olive Bundeseigentum


by Bellamy /

3 min read

Leica M3 Olive Bundeseigentum
Every now and again I get the honour of being able to find very very special items for my clients, and this really was one of them. The absolutely stunning Original Olive M3 Bundeseigentum.

When people think of rare Leica cameras, they usually look first at the original MP or the black paint M3’s. Many people completely overlook the Olive Leica’s and just see them as an oddity. But for the hardcore dedicated few, the Bundeseigentum cameras produced by Leica are actually some of the rarest and most sought after of all.
The cameras were made during the period from 1957 through to 1968 and only made in very small batches. This particular camera came from the first batch, which means it is a double stroke as opposed to the later single stroke action M3’s. This is a particularly rare camera because of not only the double stroke action, but the fact that the vulcanite is complete, which is unusual in these cameras as they were subjected to use by the military. There is no way of replacing the vulcanite on these cameras, so to have one with it intact is a marvel.

Bundeseigentum means ‘government property’, and as such many of these cameras never made it out of the military. In fact I am sure that there are probably still a couple out there languishing in a forgotten storeroom.
When the camera was send to the government it was supplied as a set, with 3 lenses, a leather carry case and meter. This was the ultimate in military chic, before it was even invented! You can see the set in detail here.

According to records there were around 214 pieces made, although that is only the shipping record and it is inaccurate as there may have been a couple more that were not put on file. According to the current Leica list there are only 144 of these cameras left now. And almost none of them are double stroke or in this kind of condition.

As with any kind of rare item there are also a lot of fakes about of this camera. The military leica’s are particularly hard to verify, as in some cases there are no records of the camera. Coupled with the fact that many of them had the Bundeseigentum serial number removed from the back of the camera, so that they could be ‘liberated’ from military service with less chance of being caught, it is hard to tell the real from the fakes. Which is why this one was verified by one of the most eminent Leica specialists, Mr. Nakamura.
To come across a camera like this is really a marker for what I do. I feel like I have reached a milestone by locating this camera.
It is only when you have this camera in your hand you realize how simply beautiful it is. The olive colour makes you really take the camera in, and the slight brassing is super sexy. This is one of the most beautiful cameras I have ever seen.

As you can see from the pictures the camera has gone to a serious collector, but it will be used! This is not going to sit on a shelf and never be used again, this camera will take pictures, hopefully for many more years.

Please don’t ask me to divulge prices for this camera, I am afraid I cannot do that, but I can say it was a price that is reflective of its rarity. This camera is an investment and something you only get to see a few times in your career. I am honoured to have been able to handle this.

You know, sometimes I really do feel like I have the dream job.


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16 comments on “The Leica M3 Olive Bundeseigentum”

    John Ferebee February 14, 2013 at 1:44 pm / Reply

    A beautiful camera and thanks for sharing. I had to grin to see what looks like Opera Act Two sitting atop the shutter release.

    Ben B February 14, 2013 at 2:54 pm / Reply

    That is very nice indeed. I do not have a Leica and I have never used one. I imagine my subconscious is probably removing any possible “omg, I want one so much” future occurrences…

    My subconscious seems to be able to predict my wife’s equally volatile ‘wtf…” response better than I can…

    Michael Ward February 15, 2013 at 10:19 am / Reply

    Really nice to see it Bellamy but tell me what is that large fronted lens on the LHS Leica of the 3rd and 4th photo?
    The rare Leica I would like is the Midland half frame but in consideration of an imminent M I doubt I will ever have one the Mrs would protest and that is putting it mildly…

      Bellamy February 15, 2013 at 10:52 am /

      That would be the Zunow 50mm 1.1 lens.
      I shall have some info about it soon.

    thief February 17, 2013 at 9:12 pm / Reply

    i found one in nakano, fujiya on the top floor on saturday if i remember correctly ;)
    hope this helps anyone.

      Bellamy February 17, 2013 at 9:14 pm /

      Actually, the one on the top floor of Fujiya is an M1 olive, and not really comparable (I have seen it). Thanks for the comment.

    jason gold February 17, 2013 at 10:05 pm / Reply

    The Olive green finish of those “BundesKamera” reminded me of the Green Safari models.. I used to live in South Africa.
    A photographer there won the Gift of a Leica Competition. The Gift a Green Safari Leicaflex with matching lenses.. Leica representatives were sent to Durban on the East Coast along the Indian Ocean..
    Well while there waiting to present the Prize, it dawned on the 2 from Leica, that it would be fun to expose a few shots..So off to the Beach.
    Taking photos of fisherman on a pier, South Beach. A dream for the one rep!
    A freak wave came inshore, clear over the pier.. The Safari Kit went to the fishes..
    The prizewinner did get his prize a few months later. A newly made kit.
    I don’t think many knew about this. It wasn’t me .

    Peter Petersen May 17, 2014 at 3:57 am / Reply

    In 1983 I did my military service at the Heeresflieger (flight division of the german army). One day the flight safety officer entered our shop with a Leica M3 olive Bundeseigentum to deliver for maintenance. My comment “What a nice old camera” he replied by pointing out, that the camera is old, but there is no camera which will take better pictures. (That copy of the Leica had nearly no signs of use!)
    A few years ago I bought a Leica M9 and a Zeiss Ikon Rangefinder…

    Frank Miranda August 1, 2014 at 2:42 am / Reply

    Use thy camera now & then…..You only live once ;0)

    peter l holmes December 4, 2014 at 11:39 pm / Reply

    I always wanted a Leica..even as a young man but they were always beyond my reach.When I retired I bought a Leica X1..the quality of the images is stunning!
    Most of the images on my website are taken with the X1.

    peter l holmes December 4, 2014 at 11:45 pm / Reply

    I alway wanted a Leica,even as a young man but they were always beyond my reach.When I retired I bought a Leica X1.
    The images it takes are stunning!.

    David Pietersen September 14, 2015 at 1:26 pm / Reply

    Thank you SO much for sharing this! Amazing!

    Dagmar December 12, 2015 at 1:06 pm / Reply

    I never wanted a Leica. Now I have two. Plus a fake Bundeswehr Leica I cannot show around because of that explicit sign it sports.

    For the time being, I also eye an M6. But that will have to wait, since I might have to get a lens or two before, or for the sake of it, safe up a littlebeforehand. I am using Voigtländer and the tiny Summicron-C pretty successfully so far.

    I have to admit I do envy you a bit for all those beautiful cams that come along your way, but even more for the time you have at hand to test them. But it is always great to read about your finds ,-)

    Rolf Jaeger December 17, 2015 at 7:38 pm / Reply

    I just found a similar one, but it was partly restored and the vulcanite was replaced with some leather? It was examinded by the world renown specialist Mr. Michaely , who pointed that out. Also the top-cover was replaced. Its a real one, no fake . The serial no inside the body reflects it.(910547) If someone is interested, its for sale for 4500 US$.
    I also have an unrestored Leica M “Post” with Summaron-only 200 cameras where produced for the German post-office

    Rolf Jaeger December 17, 2015 at 7:40 pm / Reply

    The Leica Post is for sale for 950 US$

    Dave A June 21, 2017 at 6:02 am / Reply

    I briefly owned a iiig in 1980, but the cloth shutter had pinholes and I turned back in for an Olympus OM-1 (or was it the OM-2?).

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