Leica ball bearing shutters

Discussion in 'Leica and Rangefinders' started by christopher_junker|1, Oct 7, 2013.

  1. I am aware that some of the WWII IIIc Leica bodies had modified shutters and internals that added ball bearings (K marked for kugellager) and were used by the Luftwaffe. When post civilian Leica production commenced with the IIIc's did they upgrade the production so that all post war IIIc's had ball bearing shutters or did that have to wait until the IIIf's went into production in 1950? And do all IIIf's have ball bearing shutters? Do the ball bearing shutters hold shutter speds to a closer tolerance than shutters without the bearings?
  2. IIRC correctly all IIIFRD have ball bearing shutters.
    At some point all C & F & G cameras had ball bearings - from serial # 451001 onwards I believe.
  3. I believe that postwar, they had time to review the design, and finding that the particular ball bearings they had been using were somewhat overkill, they opted for a simplified, more economical ball bearing. I understand that virtually all of those so equipped were purchased by the U.S. military; and the same or similar bearings were used in the iiif.
  4. I recall someone saying that Leica only returned to 'full race' ball bearing shutters with the IIIf Red Dial.
    When IIIc production for the civilian market resumed after the war the IIIc's had upgraded 'half race' shutters (same as the early IIIf cameras.

    The batches of immediate Post-war IIIc's made for the US Army of the Occupation (and many sold through the US Army PX), were put together from wartime parts and some of these are marked as IIIcK in the ledgers. But I doubt all of these actually had the "K" shutters.

    Your best source of info would be Tom Eitnier.
  5. While my memory of what I have read in the past about this is a bit hazy, if I recall correctly, the purpose of using the ball bearings was to assure that the shutter would continue to operate in the very low temperatures encountered by pilots and aircrew flying at high altitudes. As one gains altitude within a gravitational field, the amount of potential energy (the energy which will be released if an item is released and falls back to earth) increases, and the amount of kinetic energy (the movement of molecules in an item) decreases proportionally. Since temperature is a function of kinetic energy, the less the amount of kinetic energy, the colder an object becomes. For an example of this, think of how cool it is at upper elevations in the mountains, even in summertime. Thus, the higher a pilot flies, the colder it gets. By World War II, high-performance military aircraft were reaching altitudes of 25,000 to 35,000 feet (5 to 7 miles high), so their pilots were encountering very cold conditions indeed -- hence the fleece-lined flight jackets, boots and gloves they wore. In those temperatures, even a small amount of atmospheric moisture would suffice to freeze the shutter of a regular camera solid. The ball bearings alone weren't enough -- they had to be used with special low-density lubricants which would not congeal in cold temperatures.
  6. Zeiss Ikon solved this problem by removing all the lubricants to create their cold-proof Contax cameras as I recall.

    The aircrew uniforms for these high-altitude flights were often electrically heated as well.
    I have heard story of a B-17 crewmember who broke the focusing wheel off of his Kodak 35 RF, the grease had frozen solid at 20.000+ feet up in the air.
  7. I am continually amazed at the accuracy of my IIIf RD. I use this and several 50 to 80 year old camera and lens shutters to test my digital shutter speed tester. Of course mine is a small sample, but still... accuracy to -1/4 stop across the entire shutter speed range. I am very impressed!

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