Archived posting to the Leica Users Group, 2003/06/28

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Subject: Re: [Leica] Leica IIIc - First RF?
From: "Nathan Wajsman (private)" <>
Date: Sat, 28 Jun 2003 18:53:03 +0200
References: <004301c33d81$1bddc4a0$0100a8c0@hal>

Hi Chandos,

I do not deny that it is possible to produce excellent images with a 
screw-mount Leica and corresponding lenses. I simply question whether 
this is the right choice for someone just starting out with RF 
photography, given the rather cumbersome nature of the beast--the need 
to look through separate windows to focus and compose, the clunky film 
loading etc. In addition, assuming that the person is on the budget, it 
is not at all clear that buying an LTM Leica which will likely require a 
CLA is a cheaper choice than buying a modern Voigtlander Bessa R2.

I do agree that a camera like the IIIf is fun to use and from personal 
observation I must also concede that it has great sex appeal--our female 
friends, especially the good-looking ones, simply could not get over my 
IIIf--but as a picture-taking tool I still maintain that it is vastly 
inferior to a modern CV camera.

Kind regards,

Chandos Michael Brown wrote:
> Nathan,
> Wouldn't it be more correct to say that SM Leicas are, by modern
> standards, "inconvenient" to use, rather than that they are "not really
> useful."  I quite happily used two IIIfs for over twenty years as my
> sole 35mm cameras, until, actually, a few years ago, when I succumbed to
> the siren allure of the Contax G1 and G2.  I used a full kit of these
> for a year or so, and then moved to M series Leicas (I'd owned an M3 and
> an M4 back in the late 60s and early 70s).
> The larger point is that in 1995-96 I taught at Leiden in the
> Netherlands and lived in that country for nearly 18 months.  I made many
> thousands of negatives and slides, some of which are among what I
> consider to be my best images, period.  My entire kit was two IIIfs, a
> 50/1.5 Summarit (which I never used), a 50/2 Summitar (which I used a
> lot), a Canon 35/1.8 (always on one body), a 90/4 Elmar (seldom used),
> and a Canon 135/3.5 (or something like that--I'm not sure that I took it
> out of its case), and a Russar 20/5.6 (which I bought for song at the
> Swartemarkt in Alkmaar, and which soon became, with the 35/1.8, my
> favorite lens).
> All of this is to say that if Justin is intrigued by and willing to
> learn to use a IIIc (though I'd suggest a IIIf), and given the
> extraordinary availability of comparatively low-cost, high quality LTM
> lenses today (which weren't available five years ago), he *will* get use
> from it.
> A IIIf or IIIc with an appropriate external finder and a lens suited for
> practical hyper-focal use (ie: wide angle) is still a formidable tool
> for making images on the street.  I confess that I don't use mine much
> anymore, though this has more to do with my migration toward modern
> glass than it does with any inherent obsolescence in the LTM body.
> I encourage Justin to try out a Barnack Leica.  They are truly
> jewel-like in their construction (I had Rheinhold Mueller rebuild one of
> my IIIfs a few years ago, and I was astonished at how clear and bright
> the viewfinder actually is and utterly precise and quiet is the
> shutter), and, if this sort of thing appeals to one, then there's a
> simple pleasure in using such a tool that no CV body is likely to
> afford.  I don't view Leicas as an investment, and they are certainly
> far from liquid assets, but he ought to be able to recover much of what
> he spends for one, and any LTM lens he buys will migrate easily to the M
> system should he choose to go that route.
> My only caution is this: eBay is a crapshoot in some respects.  I'd be
> willing to pay a premium to purchase a body from a reputable seller with
> return privileges.  I'd suggest as well that Justin seek out, if
> possible, some other examples of the model he wishes to acquire.  As I
> said, I used those IIIfs for a *long* time, and I was astonished by the
> difference in viewfinder brightness/contrast that a good CLA made.  I am
> now persuaded that much of the criticism directed toward the
> "squintness" of IIIc/IIIf viewfinders is based on the fact that most are
> 50+ years old and have never been cleaned and that those who have tried
> to use them and been disappointed simply didn't know how they were
> *designed* to look.
> All this said, it is a mistake, I think, to view the IIIc or IIIf as a
> "bargain" entry into the RF world.  The CV bodies amply fulfill this
> niche; rather, they are, simply, perfectly adapted for what they were
> and are: simple, elegantly designed and manufactured, beautifully
> finished, mechanical devices that one may use to capture an image on
> film now as in 1949.
> Chandos
> I agree with Steve. The screw-mount Leicas may have been good user tools
> in their day but that was 60-70 years ago. Today there are a mere 
> curiosity--fun to try but not really useful. And before I get flamed by 
> LTM afficionados, let me add that I did own a IIIf for a year or so and 
> decided to get rid of it for that very reason.
> If I am asked today by someone who is curious about rangefinder 
> photography about the least expensive way to try it, I recommend the 
> Voigtlander Bessa R2 and the 35 or 50mm lens of the person's choice. 
> Depending on the budget, that lens may be one of the excellent 
> Voigtlander offerings or the real thing from Leica.
> I just converted one of my fellow Viewfinder (Brussels photo club) 
> members to the joys of Leica. She got an M6 and a couple of lenses. 
> However, I did warn her of the financial consequences longer term, so I 
> do not feel too guilty ;-)
> Nathan
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Nathan Wajsman
Herrliberg (ZH), Switzerland

mobile: +41 78 732 1430

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In reply to: Message from "Chandos Michael Brown" <> (RE: [Leica] Leica IIIc - First RF?)