Archived posting to the Leica Users Group, 2005/07/28

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Subject: [Leica] Leitz IIIc, IIIf, and IIIg Cameras
From: msmall at (Marc James Small)
Date: Thu Jul 28 15:33:41 2005
References: <> <>

There are really two camera series here:  the IIIc and IIIf black-dial,
which share a common shutter mechanism, and the IIIf red-dial and IIIg with
a redesigned shutter.  The latter shutter is generally regarded as
marginally better but the differences are minor and of no real consequence
to the user. The principal distinction is that the latter shutter is
indexed to a fully geometric shutter-speed sequence, while the earlier
shutter uses the earlier spread.

There are quality-control issues.  The IIIc was produced, for the most
part, during times of wartime and postwar shortages, so chrome can be
spotty and the like, but all of these cameras are quite well-made.  German
manufacturers were offered a hellacious tax break soon after the
establishment of the Bundesrepublik in 1949 for the hiring of injured
veterans;  Leitz took full advantage of this and obtained a most loyal,
dedicated, and capable workforce.  Most of these guys retired in the later
1960's, at which point Leitz quality control becomes a bit spotty.  The
IIIf and IIIg do not suffer from the material problems which afflict some
of the IIIc's.

My first Leica was a IIIc and I soon scrounged up a Geiss Kontakt flash
synchronizer and a Leitz APDOO self-timer, so these provided me the same
versatility as a IIIf BD/ST.  (Leitz made adapters for almost any need,
including one to allow accessories designed to fit the LTM's unique
camera-release thread, such as the APDOO, on the later M cameras with their
standard internal thread for such accessories.)  I have since acquired a
IIIf RD/ST and a IIIg and have owned a bunch of other IIIf's over the
years.  The IIIg is a nice camera and is worth picking up, simply as eBay
has driven the prices down so far, but, for a user camera, I'd recommend a
IIIc with Kontakt and APDOO -- after all, why haul the weight of a flash
synchronizer and self-timer around with you when you don't need them save
on a very few occasions?

Lenses are a gazillion and most are quite inexpensive -- there is a really
fine work on non-Leitz LTM lenses which I highly recommend and, for our
Asian members, there is even a Japanese-language edition available.  The
best normal lens is the rigid 2/5cm Summicron, but this is a bit dear, so
you might consider either the collapsible Summicron or the collapsible
Summitar.  I happen to like both but the Summitar is sweet lens and is
often under-priced due to the allure of the Summicron.  For once, I will
suggest aavoiding a Soviet/Post-Soviet Zeiss clone but, in my experience,
the 2/50 Jupiter-8 is simply too variable in terms of quality-control to
make it a good bet.  (I have one which is excellent, but I suspect that, of
the dozen or so that I've owned, only six or seven were up to snuff.)  For
a faster lens, avoid the Summarit unless you wish to experience a fairly
steep learning curve, as the lens is rather unforgiving.  The 1.5/50
Jupiter-3 is generally a superb lens, however, and rarely costs much.  

A Leitz IIIc or IIIf can be supplanted with a wide range of rather
inexpensive SPS lenses -- the 5.6/20 Russar MR-2 and the 6/28 Orion-15,
both native Soviet designs, and the 2.8/35 Jupiter-12, the 2/85 Jupiter-9,
and the 4/135 Jupiter-11, all clones of the Jena lenses originally made for
the Contax RF.  Check out eBay, where these lenses can often be had for a
relative pittance.  

Leitz LTM lenses are good but be wary of one thing:  coatings.  These
lenses are often listed as having "wipe marks" but this is almost always a
simple matter of dried-out coatings.  Leitz was prevented from using the
accepted vacuum-deposit technology by the owner of the patent, Zeiss, until
that expired in 1958, so the Gnomes of Wetzlar used a drip technique which
left a moist coating.  This moist coating gradually dries out and the
residue either blows away or leaves a dried sediment which, under
magnification, looks like a dried lake bottom.  Fortunately, John Van
Stelten, and others, will cheerfully clean and recoat the front element for
around $100 or so.  Sometimes, a dealer who lacks the knowledge will
discount such a lens as "damaged" and will discount the price substantially.

And you can use a Visoflex to expand your horizons either into macro or
telephoto work;  I can use my IIIc for macro work with, say, a Mikrotar or
Photar or Luminar for extreme close-ups or I can hook it up to my Questar
with a Barlow to get an f/29 2600 or so telephoto.  And an LTM Visoflex II
or IIa will allow the use of that really utile 3.5/65 Elmar for both macro
and normal photography.  

Some eyeglass wearers have problems with the RF and VF but I do not.  The
RF is quite precise and the magnification makes it quite accurate.  And
action photography is a problem for some folks but I have not experienced
this problem:  I have shot a number of weddings and soccer games and even
some Jazz Club doings with my IIIc without a problem, but, then, your
mileage may well vary.  Frame the shot in your mind, anticipate, and do it.
 And, yes, I have shot young kids with my IIIc and without a problem, and
these were not kids doped on Ritalin or similar mind-altering drugs, just
normal kids doing normal kid things.

Those who gripe about the bottom loading have an issue real to them, but it
really is not an issue.  You must trim the film, an issue of a five-second
recessional with your Swiss Army Knife's scissors, and Bob's your uncle.
It is, like casting a fly-fishing line, a matter of practice.  Do it thirty
times and you will wonder what all the fuss is about.

I got into Leica at a time when you could buy for a premium but could
always sell for a premium and 10%, so, in the end, I have very little
actual investment in my LTM and M kit, just a lot of buying as cheap as I
could and selling for as much as I could get, and keeping the best.  But
eBay has driven the costs down so far -- free enterprise in operation! --
that cheap deals are now all over the place.

Cha robh b?s fir gun ghr?s fir!

NEW FAX NUMBER:  +540-343-8505

Replies: Reply from pdzwig at (Peter Dzwig) ([Leica] Leitz IIIc, IIIf, and IIIg Cameras)
Reply from sethrosner at (Seth Rosner) ([Leica] Leitz IIIc, IIIf, and IIIg Cameras)
In reply to: Message from gregj.lorenzo at (GREG LORENZO) ([Leica] Leica IIIF ?)
Message from langeratcarleton at (Mark Langer) ([Leica] Re: Fave Leica copy (was Leica IIIF ?))