Thinking about getting a Leica III...

Discussion in 'Leica and Rangefinders' started by max_barstow, Feb 18, 2009.

  1. Hiya,
    I want to get a very compact, discreet, completely manual camera and having done a little research, I think the best thing for me would be a Leica IIIc with a 50mm Elmar f3.5 lens. The things I'm a tad unsure about are:
    • Is a IIIf really worth the extra money?
    • Does the red dial IIIf have a better/more durable shutter?
    • What about Contax/other rangefinders of that era?
    • And finally, are there any really annoying things about the IIIc which might put me off?
    If anyone posting here lives in England, advice as to where I could a good deal would also be appreciated.
  2. The IIIc is a fine camera. The only great advantage of the IIIf is built-in flash synchronization capability. The Red dial version will synchronize electronic flash at higher shutter speeds, though still slow by modern standards. The only problems that I have with my IIIc/f is erratic shutter speeds which requires a regular CLA.
  3. Flash doesn't matter to me, so that's no issue.
  4. In reverse order .... try MW Classic in London for affordable Barnacks.
    Annoying things about a IIIc? - mostly the poor chromework on early models. Shutters? According to Peter Grisaffi at CRR, the IIIf has slightly thinner curtains than earlier models and these are a bit more prone to having pinholes after prolonged use. In my experience, the r/f mirrors in the IIIf (black & red dials) can be significantly dimmer than in earlier variants.
    A clean, unmarked camera in good working condition is really worth the extra money , whether it's a II, or IIIf. Similarly, any 'extra' , extra money is always best spent on a CLA, whatever the camera, IMO. I just had a newly purchased, very smart Leica II (cheap & in need of a service) CLA'd by Peter at CRR; it's now absolutely sweet , m-u-c-h nicer than a IIIf serviced by someone else.
    My favourite remains my IIIb, but it competes with my IIIf RD) for 'top-dog' status, and now the 'new girl'. The one thing I don't believe is worth the extra money is the delayed action. but it depends on the individual's preferences. If you want a 'cool' camera, black paint Leica III's are not horribly expensive ... just expensive, but are really nice cameras once CLA'd.
  5. A 3.5 elmar is pretty decent optic with slightly old fashioned charactoristics. The diaphragm is quirky as you probably know.
    Get a coated one. 35 mm accesories can be put on with a 36/39 clamp adapter which allows you to use things like the vented shade. Otherwise the 50/90/135 shade works well and the 50 mm clamp on is smaller but satistactory. I suppose someone else has the part numbers if you need them.
    I would not go nuts over the ball bearing shutter new in the red dial 111F. Black dials are old bearings. Either will out live us.
    The real problem I have encountered with both a IIIC & IIIF is pin holes and banding streaks. Both cameras required muiltiple shutter curtain replacements to get them to work. The F was with the best Leica man in the counrty and he could not get it. The C was done by the retired owner of International Camera Repair in Chicago. It went back to him three times and he never got it. The banding shows as horizontal light/dark bands at higher speed, 1/250 and up. Both went to Mark Hama in a Atlanta had he fixed both with new curtains again and both now work properly. This whole ordeal was unpleasent and I now have more $ in them than they are worth by far. However they are near mint samples and are a joy to use now that they are working properly.
    The rubber cloth material in the curtains is 50+ years old and rubber dereriorates with age. Look at a new Leica to see what new curtains should look like. They are flat, taught, and wrinkle-wave free. You can`t see pin holes on a screw mount camera.
    111C is made for longer film spools and if a modern factory loaded cassette is used, the film can sag a few mm. F`s have a lug in the base to hold film up and the base will not transfer to a C. The image area is still printable, just shifted a bit.
    The cure is a small cardboard washer around the spool point in the base of the C. This holds the film up. The better cure is the brass Leica film cassettes which open in camera and there is no felt to drag the film thru. M cassettes are hard to find and are backward compatable. Screw mt ones will not fit an M. They can be loaded in early Watsons or other loaders or with a bench winder in a dark room or the hand winder. See Tom Abrahamsons video on UTube.
    I never buy factory loaded film, color or B&W.
    Contax have really quirky shutters few are qualified to repair for whch parts are probably not easily found. I am not a Contax expert. You can find some on the Rangefinder Forum.
    111F have a flash sync.
    Load both by cutting an elongated film leader. There are other ways to get it to thread, but there are problems with any other solution, business card and opening the shutter on T and forcing it up.
    Good luck in your quest.
  6. Max:
    This is very much a personal preference thing. I happen to like the IIIf and, better still, the IIIg best. Especially because the g has a much improved 50/90 viewfinder. But the IIIc can be very nice too, if it is in good mechanical condition.
    A couple of things to consider: The c will be a much older camera, manufactured from 1940 to '51 I think, while the f and g were built up to 1957 and 1960, respectively (age and repair issues). Be sure to check the rangefinder mirrors for clarity and brightness in any thread mount leica. parts are scarce if is dark or fogged. All the early leicas have no brightlines in the viewfinder and are only suited for use with a 50mm lens unless you use separate VF. Only the IIIg has a viewfinder comparable to Leica M, with brightlines for 50 and 90. Its an easier VF to see with too, as compared to the earlier Leicas. One advantage of the shutter in the IIIf Red Dial and IIIg is that they use more "modern" shutter speeds. and with the IIIg the shutter speeds finally conform to current camera shutters (1/15, 1/30/, 1/60, 1/125 etc.) The older shutter timings take a little getting used to.
    To me, the later versions are definitely worth the extra money. IIIg's used to be very expensive because of the collector market, but they have come down considerably in the US - I don't know about England pricing, though. I have a IIIg with collapsible 50 summicron that is very pleasant to use and gives excellent results.
  7. I know I'll only ever want the one 50mm collapsible elmar for this camera, and I really can't afford a g, but I'll see about the f. I would rather have one than a c.
    If I can't find a coated one, won't a UV filter do the job instead?
    Thanks for the MW recommendation, they have funny pricing, but a IIIf, which looks in good condition, for 179quid!!
    Though I can't afford an M leica, and am quite interested to try a Barnack one anyway, what would I get with something like an M3 which I wouldn't with this? Is it really THAT much better?
  8. Thanks for the article and all the help :)
    One thing I'm not getting, is why you can't just use the rangefinder view as a viewfinder as well? Eh?
  9. One thing I'm not getting, is why you can't just use the rangefinder view as a viewfinder as well? Eh?​
    Because the RF window is highly magnified. It's FOV is probably the same as that of 150 or 200 mm lens. This is great for focusing accuracy, not so great for use as a viewfinder.
  10. IIf with coated 50mm Elmar proved handy and discreet to me. I'd stick with Leica because of avalibility of parts and service and re-sale value. But Kodak Retina series is pretty close competition for good images in my experience. I don't know if I would care to place a bet on the best of images from my Lecia IIf and my Kodak IIc. I don't know if M series is "better," it's different. It is a bigger heavier camera. Different range of lenses.
    I don't know if any Leica shutters are 100% light tight when changing lenses under a sunny sky. You can test the condition of the curtains by removing the lens and systematically working the film through the camera to expose it to direct sun light under one curtain and then the other. This method should point out pin holes.
  11. Ahh, now that makes sense. I can't really imagine why they'd change it with the Ms so that they were in the same finder, but hey.
    Alan, why the IIIb in particular? Weren't they less tough before the c?
  12. Max, I'm not in England, but may be worthwhile (they had some not inexpensive IIIgs in their December 2008 ad in "B&W Photography", but I saw no IIIa,b,c or f's). They are at 44 Museum Street in London.
    They also sell Voigtlander-Cosina Bessa's (relatively inexpensive modern, meter included RF cameras) with Leica LTM and M mounts. A black model (R2 to R4) is quite discreet. I have a used IIIf (apparently refitted at Leitz in the early 50s from an earlier III series) and it is very compact and silent, but its chrome finish is not all that discreet.
    Although Leitz build quality is great, all III series except the IIIg have quite small (squinty) viewfinders for 50mm lenses, which also means separate VF's for other lenses, whereas the Voigtlanders Bessas are fitted with several finder frames within larger size and magnification VFs. The shutters are a little noisy and the build quality is not like Leica, but this is not always a concern, especially as you are not faced with immediate cleaning and adjustment as might occur with a used III you purchase.
    A good thing to do is to place a WTB ad on Photo.Net and mention you are in England. I have sold from Canada to England and insured transport has always been under $100 CAN (about 60 pounds) at the most.
  13. Hi Max, I live in London. I am thinking of getting rid of my Leica III, Summitar 5cm F2 (collapsible) with yellow filter, Leica case, viewfinder, complete manual in PDF format. It is in what I would call mint condition and I bought it from Ivor Matanle (very knowlegable Leica man) who has written a few books on the topic. In fact my Leica appears as images in one of his camera books. I know its not an F, and I am not desperate to sell it, but if you're interested shoot me an email and we can talk.
    Another option is to buy an old FED with Jupiter lens. This will give you a good go at rangefinders. I bought a FED2 off ebay for £11, and a Jupiter 8 lens for £10. Not bad. I think MW Classic in London are okay. I did drive from West London across to them in East London one Friday afternoon to look at a lens which they assured me was perfect, or at least fully functional. When I got there an hour and 15 minutes later and looked at the lens, the aperture ring wouldn't budge. No apologies, just said to come back next week after they had it serviced. It was meant to be a bargain at £130. Next morning got up at around 6:30 and went to Portobello Road market. One of the camera stalls opened up and he had the Summitar I now own, knocked down from £120 to £100 in about 20 seconds. Very nice lens and cheaper than any shop.
    Good luck with whatever decisision you make.
  14. Max, MWC's pricing does float around a bit, so look closely at the photos (adjust 'levels; to see into the shadows, etc). Some are commission sales. Almost all of my Barnacks (too many) have come from MWC, none with significant problems.
    I nearly bought that IIIf at £179, but chose a tidier one for £20 more, though I'll have the rf mirror replaced on that before too long. The black II (currently there) is cheap - subject to hands-on inspection - if you can live with a front mounted (non-original) flash socket. NB: EU consumer law says, if you don't want/like a mailorder purchase you can send it back.
    I understand that the later models are 'tougher' than early ones, but I have not heard or read of any significant practical issues. It's never bothered me.
    Feature-wise the IIIb is sorta transitional, though the only noticeable difference compared to the IIIa is that it has the close-together vf/rf of the later models, and the diopter adjustment is under the rewind button: it also has nice little knobby button on the diopter lever which is easier to use than the flat lever on the c & f ... Picky, picky!
  15. I know just the place you mean Arthur, Museum Street is crammed with camera shops. I've already checked their website, and they've got a couple of IIIGs, but they're about 700 or so, which is way out of my range.
    Thanks David, but I really would prefer a C or later, considering how old these things are, any supposed extra build quality strikes me as important. I'd not thought of Portobello Market. I'll definitely give that a look, just the kind of place you might strike a real bargain, though I'd really rather be buying from a retailer where I feel more sure that the camera/lens I'm getting is in full working order.
    Thanks for all the advice/help.
    Alan, do they often get Fs in at that sort of price? I can't actually do the purchase for a couple of months and I'd be quite annoyed if this meant I was losing a great bargain.
    Thanks for all the help
  16. The other question you should ask yourself is, why do you want a III anyway? Is there something that the III will provide that a Voigtlander R would not provide for you? Those R's can be had for a song these days. And in many ways, they are the best screw mount option out there.
  17. Oh, forgot to mention, why do some IIIs have a red shutter?
  18. I can recommend any III from the IIIa on. Any of them will have had multiple CLA's by now, and probably multiple shutter curtain replacements. I really wouldn't want to be without the 1/1000 shutter speed when using ISO 400 film, so that's why I exclude the III.
    The IIIa is a tad lighter than the IIIc and later. It's a little less rigid, I wouldn't use it with a 50/1.2 or 85/1.5 lens. Also, the two windows on the back are further apart. The IIIa can also be even cheaper than a IIIc. There's no ball bearings in a IIIa, and minimal curtain brakes, so perhaps the shutter isn't the ne-plus-ultra in accuracy, but that doesn't really matter.
    Consider a CLA every 5 years as just part of the running cost. Should cost less than the film used over the same period.
    The banding problem mentioned by Ronald is bad workmanship in replacing shutter curtains. The edges must be very smooth, otherwise at high speeds (where the slit width is very narrow), the roughness of the edges becomes a signifcant fraction of the total slit width. There is no excuse for such bad workmanship, and with two expert Leica repair sites in the UK, should not be a problem for you.
  19. I'm definitely not getting anything before the IIIc, shan't budge on that one. Could you give me the web address of these Leica repair sites?
    And I'll give the Voigtlander R a look, but I'm guessing that a) it won't be nearly as neat as a III with a collapsible 50mm b) harder to get repairs. But I'll look it up.
  20. a) it won't be nearly as neat as a III with a collapsible 50mm​
    Could be. That has a lot to do with your defination of "neat". Swing back loading, internal meter, lever advance, lever rewind, actual framelines, etc are just a few of the "neat" aspects of the R. Now, using one is nothing like the experience of using a LTM Leica. So if that experience is what you are after, don't bother with the R. But if you are looking for an economical thread mount body that will excell at making images, the R is a great bet.
    b) harder to get repairs​
    I've never tried to get one repaired. But given that the same basic internals of the R are used in millions of low cost SLR's, the RF is used in a number of other Voigtlander Bessa RF's, and the cameras are less than 10 years old, I would say that getting one repaired won't be an issue. But I could be wrong.
  21. Ahh, mad as it sounds, I really don't want any sort of metering. Think it's a good idea to learn what's appropriate in different lighting myself rather than let a machine tell me what's right. Also, there is something in me that really would just LIKE to have one.
  22. Fine reasons for getting a III. I just wanted to see if you had any or just were grabbing on the the LTM Leicas because they were a budget RF.
  23. And one final thing, how often am I gonna need to be getting this thing checked-up/repaired, and how much is this likely to be costing me, presuming I get a camera and lens in good condition which doesn't need any repair?
  24. Last year I bought my first Leica, a IIIf and a 50 Elmar for 500$. A CLA and shutter replacement (pinholes) cost 120$. I still need to restore the finders and have the lens CLA'd, but it is useable as it is now . My IIIf is a very clean user and the lens a 1948 coated one with a some fine cleaning marks on the front element but otherwise clear and clean. I carry it everywhere, fits in jeans pockets, light jacket Great for casual candid photography. I like the lens and like the camera. I can understand why you would "just LIKE to have one" That's a good enough reason. It was mine, too.
    I bought mine at KEH.
  25. Max, the CLA and repair is usually not very cheap, but not required very often. I still haven't found a good way to use my shutter speed tester with the camera as you cannot remove the back from it. Probably you can manually adjust the RF, as on an M Leica, but I haven't tried (or yet needed to). Mine even has a repaired rather than replaced shutter curtain, but it still works well. Try to make sure the VF and RF windows and viewers are clear, and the shutter speeds appear consistent (listening to them), especially the under 1/30 second ones.
    While I use other gear, and the Leica is slower in use, the charm of the III system is great and I fully understand why you would like one. Jush Root has described it very well. And lots of great photographers of the past did their best work with it. So best of luck in finding one in very good condition at a reasonable price.
  26. The little screw mount Leica's are fun cameras, but every one I have owned needed some sort of repair that has cost as much or more than the camera cost to begin with. After a while you get a bit tired of all these dollars (or pounds or francs or whatever) going away. I also think a Bessa R or even an R2a, is a better idea. Cheap, and has a great meter and a unified viewfinder. Not nearly as cool looking but you will get shots that you couldn't get w/ a Barnack Leica. Having a discreet camera can be negatively offset by having to fool w/ a hand held meter. I would also suggest, if you just have to have one of the Barnacks, going to a comparable Fed or Zorki. You can find a very nice example and have it CLA'd for less than the Leica would cost w/o a CLA. While I admired the workmanship of my Elmar 50 3.5 I sold it because my collapsible Industar 10 was sharper, imaged similarly to the Leica, and had a coated element.
    If you want a stealth camera buy a black Hexar AF. Whisper quiet and it has a very sharp lens.
  27. I can't know the OP's motives. But just as most guys who take their 1940s cars out for a drive on weekends are fully aware that there are literally millions of cars that are more modern and "better,"
    . . . it's quite possible that someone who asks about buying a 60-year-old camera probably wants it because he wants to be able to take photos with a 60-year-old camera, not because he's looking for the easiest camera to use or is unaware that there are more modern options.
  28. Barnack cameras in UK shops .... re: "do they often get Fs in at that sort of price?"
    There is a steady turn-over of Barnacks at MW Classic, largely due to the price, but prices for really good ones are drifting up slightly.
    Ffordes have a long list of them, but they are not moving very quickly at all. London Leica speciaists (Red Dot, Classic Cameras & Aperture) also have higher prices and slower-moving stock. Talk to Ivor Cooper at Red Dot . Frank Foster at Design Studio has lower prices and a very fast turnover. Reg Roach at Croydon Photo Centre has sensible prices but not much stock. The Leica Shop in Wien has a good stock and prices are great when the £> Euro rate is o.k, (splutter!).
    In my experience (UK), over the past 3 years it has become a little harder to find exc++, grade-A used Barnacks at bargain prices, though ones in 'good' condition are still available at reasonable prices. Set aside £145 for a full (body only) 'expert' service at CRR, or a bit more from Malcolm Taylor. A 'good repairer' will charge around £100: a service should 'last' many, many years.
    Finally, Max, don't get into this madness in haste .... buy a Bessa R2 today and you can put off the entry to Leicadom for a few days/weeks/months/years .... but once the merest thought is in your head, it'll get you in the end.
  29. I had a screw mount Leica, but eventually sold it when I moved up to the M series. If I had to do it it all over again, I would go with a IIIf Black Dial and put a Voitlander Nokton 50mm on it.
  30. One of the appeals of the Barnack concept cameras is that they are the antithesis of auto-everything 35mm cameras. This is compatible with the belief that going fully manual with a small precision instrument (for which light modern LTM lenses are of course available) will have a positive effect on the photography of the holder.
    A reasonable argument.
  31. "Barnacks" also have a very high rating on the Fondle Factor Index. This should not be poo poo'd. I mean it. It's ok to fondle.
  32. . . . it's quite possible that someone who asks about buying a 60-year-old camera probably wants it because he wants to be able to take photos with a 60-year-old camera, not because he's looking for the easiest camera to use or is unaware that there are more modern options.​
    Well of course it is. But when you ahve been watching a Leica forum for 5-10 years, you notice that there are a lot of people who want to get into a specific camera because they have latched onto it in their head, not because they have any good reason for that specific camera. So it is useful to get a bit more information out of them so you can make a helpful suggestion. In this case, the OP seems to want that "old car" experience, more power to him. But it would have been just as likely that he would have said "The LTM Leicas just seemed like a cheaper way to get into rangefinder photography". In which case bringing up some other options (like the Bessas) would have been a useful conversation.
  33. I had a look in Red Dot Cameras today, and handled a IIIf and IIIb. The b's in my price-range (140quid), and is even a bit smaller than the f.
    Having handled the thing, I think I'll get it, all the pains of an old camera aside.
    Thanks for all of the help :)
  34. Max, despite being older an a bit less sophisticated, the black III might be the better buy, that IIIb is a tad scruffy. Mine was exc++ for £165 from Ffordes. Don't rush it, get a nice un . Check MW Classic Fridays from 9pm.
  35. I'd rather not have a black one + the 1000th shutter speed is gonna be useful at times.
    I looked at it in the shop, have to say it looked great, but I won't have all the cash 'til April, so I've got time to look around anyway.
    I presume you mean 9am?
  36. Oh, will a camera I buy from a shop need a repair/check-up as soon as I get it?
  37. Nope, the MWC website is updated from c. 9pm onwards, most Friday nights. Ffordes tend to update daily, but the Leica pages change only slowly. Ivor at Red Dot does updates 'live' as new items arrive. I forgot to mention Richard Caplan and Peter Walnes .
    I presume you have read the Cameraquest webpages ....... LTM cameras and LTM lenses
    Shop bought cameras should have some warranty , but you do need to check the basics: clear finder & bright rangefinder; slow shutter speeds should be correct; the shutter should 'snap' (very quietly) not hang or delay; curtains should be free of wrinkles ..........
  38. I checked Richard Caplan online, but not Peter Walnes. That IIIf for 180 is still tempting, but the size of the b does appeal. I'll think.
  39. The Leicashop (Wien) website is great place to look at photos of different Leicas and, indeed, many 'interesting' cameras and lenses. The prices for some items often compare favourably against those in the UK, but not always, descriptions are quite concise however.
  40. Max - you have an email.
  41. Ffordes in Scotland are always very helpful and have a good range. Important thing is to buy one in the best possible condition -- or factor on having a CLA. Shutter may well need servicing, no matter what generation screwmount Leica you get. It's certainly a very compact precision built camera. More fiddly to use than an M, and separate rangefinder and viewfinder (which is very small) may deter you, or you may not mind. An M model, with its nice big finder, single shutter dial, and easier loading is worth considering, too. But you will definitely have a fun time whichever model you choose. Good luck!
  42. Oh, you really shouldn't discount the older IIIs. I have a 1935 IIIa. A local camera craftsman more or less totally rebuilt the rangefinder, and fixed the shutter. If it's mechanical, it can be fixed. Alas, I really should use it some more.
  43. Don't forget trying a WTB ad (I recommend Photo.Net). Although you may not be getting a guarantee (subject to local country laws), if you are dealing with a fellow photographer you can often get a better deal, a sincere appraisal of quality (subject to questions, answers) and photos to indicate any at least external shortcomings. You might also get evidence of last CLA date or indication of other troubles. In these more difficult financial times, many of us are willing to sacrifice a part of our photographic holdings.
  44. I have a Leica III F, (capital F not small f, somewhat confusing), of 1934 vintage. I purchased it in a rather ugly condition, inspired by an interesting though non-provable provenance. A trip to Don Goldberg's Leica Spa reveled a real diamond underneath all the crud, and the Leica III cleaned up quite well.
    However in use, this little gem is prone to breakdown. It reminds me of the 1959 Austin Healey "Bugeye" Sprite I used to own. No matter how hard I tried to pamper it, the Sprite was always in the shop.
    I've had the same experience with my Leica III. It is an absolute gem and fun to use, but the Leica III has proved to be a very high maintenance indulgence. As I write this, the camera is with Sherry Krauter who is repairing the film count indicator wheel. When it comes back from the shop this time, it will go into retirement.
    At least until it performs it's enchantment on the next owner. ;-)
  45. Alan, that slightly battered-looking b, if it's from Red Dot, then it should be in perfect working-knick shouldn't it? They've got a guy there who does repairs...
  46. Max, this is my 'take' on buying: The key issue is that mechanically most things can be fixed during a service (c.£100 via Red Dot, etc) as long as it hasn't been hammered. If it needs a new r/f mirror or new shutter curtains these might push the cost up 30-50%-ish. Sometimes it just isn't possible to get the flash synch working properly on these old cameras - is that a consideration?
    Even replacing Vulcanite is possible (via CRR), and new replacement knobs (etc) can be obtained from Don Goldberg in Oregon. The one thing that can't (economically) be done is refurbishing the metal bodywork, unless you want an sumptuous sexy black paint job like Arthur Plumpton had done recently.
    The more Barnacks that you handle, the more you'll appreciate the features of the various models and differences in handling; and you'll be better able to spot any "issues". That said, Ivor (Red Dot) has a fine reputation: talk to him - IIIb models are 'uncommon' and the price seems quite fair, subject to closer inspection. Red Dot usually has a couple of decent 5cm f3.5 Elmars (or try MW Classic) - these are worth considering too.
    I've sent you an email (via pnet) with my checklist of points to look out for - that should help you. I've had a closer look at photos of the IIIb: it doesn't seem too shabby really; there's wear to the chrome on the top and back, and to the slow speed knob (I may have a better replacement). Handling it should be the clincher - if it has been serviced in "living memory" it seems a good user ; if not I'd say "sleep on it". You can email me (see my profile) for a "chin-wag" on any specific issues if desired.
  47. I don't use flash with anything right now, and I'd never bother with it on a Leica rangefinder.
    I really am on a budget, and as long as the body WORKS well, I'm fine with that. And I still think it looks great, even if a bit worn. When I spoke to the guy in the shop, he said that I'd probably need to get it checked in three years, minimum, so I reckon I should be fine. I'll also keep the stuff in the email in mind, good to know what to watch out for.
    And Red Dot have several of those elmars, the cheapest one at 100quid, which is in perfect working order, just a little marked is all. Cheers Alan.
  48. Hi Max,
    I have a IIIb with a prewar elmar 5cm. The prewar elmar is uncoated but it still can give me fine print. However, it is not suggested to be used when the sun light is right in front of it. Shading is common especially the lens shade is missing. Therefore, I recommend you to get a coated one, it should not be too expensive. Other focal length of lenses, excluding those with large aperture and small production amount, is still cheap to buy. Summitar is nice lens with f/2 aperture, although it is little expensive than elmar 5cm. I don't recommend Summar because the front element is too soft and most of them are scratched.
    Leica's screw mount camera is a very interesting camera, especially IIIF. The versions of cameras includes internal and external modification. THe slow speed mechanism of older versions (IIIB and before IIIB) is different from IIIC after. Also, don't forget the rate of failure of these old cameras is high. Make sure to check the shutter curtains, slow speed mechanism, vf/rf mirror and prism completely before buying.
    Since IIIF have the flash sync. plug, it allows you to use flash when it is necessary. It does help you to solve many problems. Personally, I don't really like IIIC because the shutter speed dial is small for my fingers. And I don't know why IIIc have a smaller dial among the III series. I am planning to get a IIIF in the future.
    The competitor of Leica is the Contax rangefinder. Contax is a bunk camera with fine quality lens (They use Sonnar). IIa or IIIa is recommended. II/III can be good if you find one that has no faults. THe wear in shutter ribbon is the major killer of Contax. You may find the information from Web. Meanwhile, Kiev 4 is the clone of Contax which available in a low price. The Jupiter lenses are also the clone of Sonnar. However the quality of russian goods varies from one to one.
  49. I have a wonderful IIIc and a few lenses... don't use it that much, for similar needs as your's I find that my Kodak Retina IIa is much more user friendly. Combined RF and VF, easier loading, advance lever instead of knob, takes normal film with no modification and is as small as the Leica with a Elmar, but has a great 50/2 lens... the only thing that you lose is the 1/1000th top shutter speed...
    don't get me wrong, I love my IIIc, but I shoot my Retina much more...
  50. Agree with you, Mark,
    The kodak Retina is much user friendly then Leica due to the vf and rf are all in one piece. However I prefer Retina IIIc (small c) since it allows me to change the lens. MY alternative choice is Voigtlander Prominent I, although the focusing unit is rather unique and vf/rf is slightly dimmer.
  51. How hard is it gonna be to pick up a coated Elmar and how much more expensive would it be? Would a lens hood work almost as well?
  52. I don't think a coated elmar is that difficult to pick up. I have seen some appear in ebay and some websites. As far as I know, the uncoated elmar's price varies among the year, smallest aperture value and the condition. It is usually below US$100 for a fair condition one.
    If my menory is correct, emlar 5cm start from s/n: 581501 is coated. THe price is approximate >US$130 (or even up to >US$170). And in 1950s, max aperture = f/2.8 appeared. It is much expensive than f3.5 version.
    (Please correct my information if I have make any mistake, thank you.)
  53. I compared shots with my Leica screw mount uncoated Elmar and its modern collapsible version (Elmar-M, recently discontinued) and it came off very poorly (lack of contrast and resoution). While this may seem self-evident for a comparison of lenses produced 50 or 60 years apart, it is worth bearing in mind if you want to get maximum photographic value from your Leica III.
    Personally, I would not hesitate to opt for a more modern screw mount lens, or at least one of the later (1950s) Leica Elmar lenses. But don't discount the modern Cosina lenses from Japan. I am not familiar with the f2.5 and slower Voigtlander-Cosina 50mm lenses, except that the 50mm f3.5 Heliar is reputed to be one of the finest 50mm lenses ever made. I do have the small 35mm f2.5 "classic" VC lens, and can atest to its imaging quality (purchased new from Cameraquest in California for about $225 a few years ago, although it requires a $110 to $165 VF addition - mini 28/35 finder, or 35 finder, respectively).
  54. Since Arthur mentioned about Japanese lens, don't forget to find the Canon and other band's LTM lens. They are also perfect performers. An alternative selection with lower price is the russian lenses. Jupiter-8 and Jupiter series are always good and low price performers.
  55. "Would a lens hood work almost as well?"
    That would be the FIKUS, if you want Leica made. It's extendable and covers 35-135mm. I have one for the 50 and 90 Elmar used on a IIIf.
  56. Is it one which folds? I'm really concerned about size.
  57. There are several options for hoods on an Elmar, but few are uncomplicated or particularly cheap. The real question is whether you'll need a hood for most applications/conditions. I happily use mine without a hood most of the time, and rarely notice significant or unacceptable flare.
    Coated unmarked, clear, Elmars are fairly easy to find if you look in the right places, and cost anything from £80 to £150.
  58. "Is it one which folds? I'm really concerned about size."
    It telescopes. Do a google search on:
    fikus leica
    for images.
  59. Ahh, gotcha.
    Not right for me, eliminates the whole thing of the Elmar collapsing back into the body. Is flare even gonna be that much of a problem?
  60. A good and cheap mechanical protection and optical shading for Elmars with 39 screw threads (I presume they exist with filter threads, like my 1950/60s Elmar for M cameras) might be an aftermarket rubber collapsible lens hood. Haven't tried it, but my only concern would be VF view blocking, unless you use a separate accessory shoe mounted 50mm VF. Flare is always a problem, especially if you get sunlight onto your front glass element.
  61. And I still don't see why I can't just use a UV filter? Isn't that coated?
  62. Coating helps on all glass surfaces. A UV filter has only two surfaces, while a lens may have 8 or more (from a Tessar type 4 element lens, onwards), therefore lens coating is more important to cut internal unwanted reflections. Some UV filters are super multicoated. They are expensive, but can be many times better than ordinary multicoated or single coated UV filters. Easiest way to minimise unwanted light reflections in the lens is to have a good coated lens with an effective shade.
  63. Flare is cased by sunlight entering the glass elements, causing photos with 'whiten' area in photos. UV filter is used to reduce UV effect during photo tacking.
    Elmar have several types of lens hood. If you have the 5cm elmar only, FISON will be sufficient. FIKUS can be used with 50mm, 90mm, 135mm elmar.
  64. My experience might help the decision making. I'll try to keep it brief.
    1. Couldn't afford an M-series Leica.
    2. Bought a fake Leica II on EBay - it's a FED1 that's been "converted. It worked but was a bit agricultural. Nevertheless it convinced me I wanted a real Leica.
    3. Bought two IIIf's on EBay intending to make one good one out of them. After CLA's and new shutter curtains I have two good ones! One is Black Dial, one is Red. Lenses are Elmar 3.5/50 and Summitar 2.0/50. The Elmar makes a very compact (but heavy) pocketable camera.
    4. Lens flare can be a problem shooting against the sun. Lens hoods for these old ones are not easy to come by and often overly large and bulky. Most accessories are scarce and/or expensive.
    5. I use a VCII meter in the shoe for exposures.
    6. Rangefinder patches are just OK but nowhere near as good as the Bessa.
    7. You can burn holes in your Leica shutter curtains if you leave the lens uncapped and pointing at the sun.
    8. Have had great fun using them, but now have a Bessa R3A and R4a for "serious" photography as the Leica's were a bit less convenient in day to day use. They have better viewfinders, option of manual or AE exposures, lighter, but a bit larger than the IIIf, M-mount and great lens options. And they're not 55 years old!
    9. The Leica has become my "car camera" - the one I take anywhere I'm not taking the Voigtlanders. I love to handle it, look at it but for convenience my vote goes to the Bessas.
  65. Good points, Leigh. No. 7 - what you can do is leave the lens at shortest distance to avoid sun rays burning shutter. No. 8 - The III can be made more viewer friendly by using separate brightline viewfinders (like the VC ones). Someone mentioned an old Gossen meter. I, too, prefer that to a mounted meter and often use the incident dome rater than reflected light, but it depends on the lighting of course.
    Yes the III is not the easiest camera to use, but it is fine if you do not need automation or in-built metering like the Bessas.
  66. Ohh, how expensive might one of those multicoated UV filters be? I'm not willing to compromise the compactness of the camera by having something like a lens hood which won't the lens collapse. Would having a UV filter not allow me to put the lens cover on?
  67. Hi Max,
    Here is a low res shot of my IIIf (really a IIIb c1948?, converted to a IIIf) which I bought for under 200 quid (equivalent) at a camera Sunday in Toronto 4 years ago, and which I had black painted (cost a little more than the camera - but this was before the economic downslide). It is shown with a 35mm f2.5 VC lens (about 150 pounds from, converted from US$), green filter and 35 mm VC VF. The lens is great, small and high performing, and not expensive. Black painting may be an unnecessary frill, but it makes the camera a bit more discrete. I use it as much as other gear these days.
    A B&W MC (Multi-resistant) UV filter is likely around 20 or 30 pounds, check your English stores, but Hoya's top line might be less expensive
    Good luck. Patience will pay off.
  68. For the punctilious, or whatever, error caption should read "Darth Vador".
  69. Sorry, first time didn't upload.
  70. Max, beware of making things too complicated to start with, and buying things you may not need (or actually use) at prices you may not really want to pay(?).
    Arthur rightly said " Easiest way to minimise unwanted light reflections in the lens is to have a good coated lens with an effective shade ". Absolutely - 200%.
    Here's my suggestion:
    The FISON (£15) keeps the flare at a minumum; can stay on the lens when it's collapsed; it accepts the lens cap; and this approach helps to keep the lens clean. You shouldn't need a UV filter. Look at this semi-contre-jour photo (link) - taken with no filter, just a FISON hood: it's unlikely that a multicoated filter (etc) could have helped.
    A multicoated filter would almost certainly have to be 39mm diameter (£25), requiring an adapter (SOOGZ around £30), then add a 39mm hood (more £10-20 ... etc). As well as adding cost, this route involves more gubbins to fiddle with, particularly when taking the whole caboodle off in order to put the 'compact camera' in a pocket/bag ........ and you'll not be able to reach the aperture 'lever' with a filter fitted.
    Having no filter means no additional issues about reflections, other than those inherrent in the pretty flare resistant Elmar design. A multicoated filter does not intrinsically improve the performance of the lens: multicoating improves the performance of the filter ...... Without a filter in the way you'll be able to change aperture easily. BUT, the whole scenario changes if you need a coloured filter for B&W photography : if that's your aim, you're best going the 39mm filter + SOOGZ + 39mm hood route IMO.
    Excluding the need for coloured filters, the simplest, most effective solution for cost, performance and portability is the genuine Leitz FISON and no filter.
    A filter without a cap doesn't necessarily keep the front of the lens any cleaner (dust/fluff/fingerprints) than no filter and a cap. The Elmar front element is so tiny that any crud on it will potentially reduce sharpness and add flare compared to an slr camera lens.
  71. Crap, hadn't thought about the aperture lever (it's in such a funny place). I've never used colour filters, and I wouldn't want to with this camera. Does the FISON have collectors value, 'cos I don't really want to be paying over the odds for something which I'll only be using for practical purposes.
  72. Max, FISON - Leitz ones are rarely more than £15 if you look around: clones are around £3-5 at camera fairs. Best of all, look for a Cooke & Perkins, or similar, "aperture setting hood" (try MW Classic). A generic plastic 39mm clip-on lens cap, e.g. from Heavy2Star, etc, will also fit in the C&P version (prob. not other makes tho').

    If you are in the Midlands try to get to the Wolverhampton Camera Fair (link) , at Dunstall Park Racecourse, Sunday 8 March (and other dates through the year). Though it's shrinking a bit nowadays, it's still one of the best.
    Arthur, you're making me envious! Nice to know it ain't just in a glass case. Here's my black 'un (used every other day).
    Leica III 1938 (black/chrome) with 1948 ctd Elmar, FISON, VOOLA aperture setting ring, Leitz filter:
  73. Alan, that is a truly beautiful and original black Leica. Your knowledge of Leica IIIs is impressive. Wish I too could get to the Wolverhampton Camera Fair, between Tettenhall and Oxley, my old stamping grounds (tennis club) when I worked for a year in Walsall (towards "Brum"). No doubt I wouldn't recognize much of the city now.
  74. I'm in London, so it's not really practical. What's the cambridge camera fair like?
  75. Cambridge Camera Fair (at Cottenham Community College) is an excellent fair with about 30 exhibitors/dealers. The next date is 1 March (see foot of this page).
    Arthur, thank you for the bouquets; one is deserved , but the other .....
    The III has chrome fittings and apparently is a little rare. Paint wear is consistent with prolonged light use and mechanically it's excellent. I use it 3-5 times a week, mostly Ilford FP4 or Adox KB50 - I grew up using KB17 (in c. MCMLVII, not long after the Romans quit Britain).
    My knowledge of Leicas is broad but rather shallow - I am pretty new to this marque (only 5-8 years experience) and learning about the equipment has been the easy part. Learning about how to use that equipment and deeper aspects of the Leica camera are going to take much, much longer. So, I have great respect for the more rounded experience that many other contributors bring here - that includes you of course.
    Wolverhampton district has a thick veneer of modern trash - industrial parks, retail parks, business parks, etc - but looking behind the modern superficial shabby glitz, the core is not greatly changed from the 1960s - still run-down Victorian and Edwardian industrial architecture. In fact its become 'retrogressive' - fake Victoriana and new electric trams, a la Frankfurt, etc. ho hum!
  76. Alan, your mention of camera fairs is right on. They are often overlooked, but are very good places to examine and buy equipment, or to sell (if you can justify the Table cost. I did that just once, but was lucky and it was worth it). Of course, one has to expect to not always find what is desired. In that sense, I wish we had frequent fair dates as you do in England.
    The development of Wolverhampton is probably not unlike our own cities, with their big box stores and outer community malls that have little continuity of the architecture established in the cores or indigenous to the area. Not very enticing places for a photographer's lens. Perhaps some of the run-down Victorian and Edwardian architecture of Wolverhampton (I remember little except the railway station, a dance hall, the theatre, and a friend's non-descript but several hundred year old house, opposite the Catholic church near the city centre) can receive some intelligent refreshing and restoration, to help conserve what really made this industrial city (other than the Wanders, probably now relegated to the lower leagues of "foot")?
    I wish I had the rounded experience of Leicas as you kindly mention, but my knowledge of their application is limited and I am always learning something here and elsewhere that makes using these fine instruments more productive.
  77. At some point, I'll give the Cambridge one a look...
    Thanks for the advice on the lens hood. MW Classic have the FISON for about 20 quid, which would be ok (I kinda freaked when I saw it for 40 at Red Dot). When I get the camera, I'll try a roll of film without the hood, angled at the sun, just to see how big a deal this flare business is.
    Thanks for all the advice.
  78. I have a Leica IIIF that is seemingly in great condition, working well, a joy to use and beautiful too. Lately though I've been wondering about a problem with horizontal bands and stumbled upon this thread where a horizonal banding problem is mentioned when using fast shutter speeds. I wanted to know if this problem in the picture I've attached below exhibits that problem or if it could be something else?
    Shot using fresh Tri-X 400 exposed at ISO 400, probably f/16 1/500s since there were sunny 16 conditions at the time I was shooting and the smallest aperture on my lens (Industar-22) is f/16. Developed in D-76 1+1 with pretty random agitation at 20C. Scanned using Nikon coolscan 8000 and just to make sure it's not a scanner effect, also rescanned using a Coolscan 4000, which showed no difference.
  79. ..and I would add that the effect has been made more evident by curves adjustment in Photoshop, it's not quite so bad normally.

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