Buying a Leica IIIf

Discussion in 'Leica and Rangefinders' started by michael_levy|3, Apr 4, 2018.

  1. Thinking about what Richard said:
    I think you would be best served economically with an old M4p given you have at least 75, 50 & 35mm lenses. For some reason an M2, maybe 25 years older seems to cost a fair bit more, around the same as an M6. Any earlier M camera would have framing limitations, but give you familiar handling characteristics. Otherwise, an early M3 in poor cosmetic / good working condition offers good economy, a different kind of viewpoint to your digital M, and at least you wouldn't need to buy a lens.
    Otherwise, a good manual focus SLR with metering, lens, is dross on the market.
    Otherwise, a clean IIIa, IIIb, IIIc, IIIf, with similarly clean lens, would be pretty much the same. A lot of photographers looked after their 50mm f3.5 Elmars, the faster lenses, perhaps not.
    Im tired; talking rubbish

  2. Some Barnack Leicas are very difficult to load, even with a properly cut long leader; I have two such cameras.

    The use of the card solves this difficulty.

    I have a bit of expertise with Barnack Leicas; I bought my first IIIc in 1964. Happily, that one loads easily.
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2018
  3. Luckily the IIIc I was just shooting with also loads easily, at least with cut film. Everything else needs fixing, though. Sticky slow speeds, dim RF image, and a focusing lever that has become inexplicably bent on its Elmar, so it no longer engages the infinity lock. Time for a CLA!
  4. A competent CLA should remedy all of the problems which you describe. Be sure to insist on replacement of the RF beamsplitter.
  5. Beautiful as the old screwmounts were, if you're going to shoot it a lot, I'd go with an M. I like the M2s because they are set up for 35, 50, and 90 focal lengths. Vintage M2s are a lot more affordable than modern M's that's for sure and the old vintage glass is pretty good. I started with a old DR Summicron 50/2 and a battered 35/2 (also a summicron). But I also had a 50/2 collapsible. You can also use screwmount lenses with an easy to find adapter and they work great. And there are a ton of lenses from Leica and a lot of others. The Ms are actually fun and effective cameras to use even today (assuming you're shooting film). Only issue is no light meter, but look up the modern Voigtlander clip on meter if you can find one, it looks great on the cameras and works well. Remember though many of these cameras are nearing 60 years of service so bear that in mind.

    The IIIf is hard to load without practice (I have one and I cut the long leader), the internal rangefinder is often dim, the view is tiny and tunnel vision like, the 2 window system makes for slow shots, and the glass is older. It's can be used as a fine little camera especially with practice but I don't recommend them.
  6. My first "good" camera was a IIIc w/Summitar 50 - I fell in love with the way it looked and felt in my hands, and it cost me a cool $50 in 1963 or 4. I learned the basics with it and managed to survive ownership without dropping or otherwise breaking any pieces of it. But a friend in college let me play with his Canon FT-QL a few years later, and the limitations I'd put on myself with the Leica were immediately & dramatically obvious. I accepted idiosyncrasies like the fact that serious photojournalists with this series of Leica regularly practiced changing film on the run. The fact that the bottom of the camera comes completely off when changing film makes a 3rd arm & hand the 1st accessory on the want list.

    Can you learn the basics of emulsion photography with one? Absolutely - and those lessons will stay with you forever. I don't regret having started serious photography with one - I loved it as much as anything else I've ever had, and I wish I had it now. But I sure wouldn't do it today unless you simply love that camera.
  7. Thanks to all in chimed in. My course starts next month. This is my film camera ....

    M2 with Voigtlander VC II meter.
    carbon_dragon likes this.
  8. I like and use my IIIf a lot. It is indeed tricky to load, but it's worth it. Reasons: (1) I can carry it under my coat if it's cold, no battery to fail in the cold, (2) extremely compact to pack for travel as well as to carry (3) easy to hold still for slow shutter speeds - I've gotten good pictures at 1/15 (4) looks cool.
  9. I’ll bet you don’t wear glasses. I have an astigmatism so I can ‘t even get diopters and I had to get a little rubber pad on the IIIf’s viewfinder to keep from scratching my glasses. No eye relief either. I suspect that if the viewfinder was new it would be easier to see, but after experiencing the M, it’s hard to go back to the screwmount bodies. The Canon 7 is the only screwmount camera I think give the M’s a little competition but not near enough. The screwmounts ARE a tiny bit smaller and a tiny bit lighter but the useability just doesn’t make it worth it for me.

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