I’ve always wanted a “Barnack” Leica, if for no reason other than the nostalgia of using a piece of photographic history dating back to the mid-1930s. I’m not a (deliberate) collector, so condition and rarity weren’t important to me. I ended up with a “user” IIIf.

The camera is not really a IIIf but rather a IIIc built in 1946 then later converted by Leica into a IIIf. It came with a lovely chrome Canon 50mm 1.8 LTM lens, which was a nice bonus, since prices on the Canon LTM lenses keep going up. When this photo was taken, I was trying the 28mm Voigtlander Color-Skopar and 28mm accessory viewfinder. The Leica IIIs were made with a 50mm lens in mind, so I’ll probably keep the Canon on it most of the time. I’m also looking for a nice post-war 50mm collapsible Summicron, since that would be a great fit.

After two or three rolls of film I can say that it’s a delight to use. By “delight” I don’t mean that it’s easy or convenient. It’s neither of those.

To visualize the photo, you look through the left viewfinder for focusing, then you need to switch to the right window for framing. Both are quite tiny and not nearly as bright as the later M cameras that I’m used to. The film is advanced by turning a knob and it is rewound using another knob. No sir,  none of those newfangled levers on this camera. None of this can be done quickly.

Loading the film is even more awkward. The leader must first be trimmed manually with scissors so that it doesn’t get jammed between the shutter curtain and plate. The trimmed leader is then connected to a separate take-up spool. The final assembly is then carefully pushed up into the bottom of the camera, making sure the sprockets on the take-up spool are engaged with the film leader. (I missed that last part with the first roll and ended up shooting the entire roll without the film advancing. Not good.)

There’s of course no meter, so exposure must be set manually. I don’t mind that, since I shoot other meterless cameras.

All of this sounds rather cumbersome, and it is – a little. But the camera feels wonderful in my hand. It’s a precision-engineered mechanical marvel capable of making fantastic images. It just won’t do it quickly. I read somewhere that each camera took 40 man hours to build. A little patience is a good thing. 

Below are a few images from the first practice roll.