|My Leica IIIC with its original 5cm ƒ/2.0 Summitar lens|
|English language instruction manual|
|At the Parthenon, Athens, Greece, 1953. Photograph on Kodachrome film with this Leica IIIC.|
This is my Leica IIIC rangefinder camera made in Wetzlar, West Germany. It uses the standard 35mm perforated film with frame size of 24 × 36mm. My dad bought this IIIC in 1949 when he worked for the US Navy on Guam. It came with a 5cm ƒ/2.0 Summitar lens. He had owned an American-made Perfex 35mm camera during the war years but had wanted a Leica for a long time. During World War II, a few Leicas were exported to the Allies via Sweden, but they were reserved for special uses (spies or well-placed generals?).
|Advertisement from Olden Camera & Lens Co., New York, January 1947. Note Leica IIIB and Summitar cost $385.00, a major investment in the late-1940s.|
|Modern Photography advertisement, September 1953. The IIIF is the contemporary model, selling for $368 with the Summitar lens. The superior Summicron lens cost $25 more. (Click to enlarge picture)|
|With permission from The Online Darkroom.|
|Instructions for trimming film before loading|
Lenses and filters
|From Popular Photography, approx. 1950|
|With permission from The Online Darkroom.|
My dad's IIIC came with a 5cm ƒ/2.0 Summitar lens (the prestige lens as opposed to the less expensive 5cm ƒ/3.5 Elmar). Mine is the Type 1 version with 10 aperture blades. The Summitar was in production from 1939 to 1953. It was designed by E. Leitz's genius lens designer, Max Berek, in 1937. The war-time production lenses were uncoated, but Leitz applied anti-reflection coating from 1946 on. The construction was a complicated design of 7 elements in 4 groups. It must have taken a heroic effort to compute the ray paths by human computers using mechanical calculators and trigonometry tables. The central sharpness is superb, but the edges fall off, and there is some field curvature. This can be used creatively, and regardless, "sharpness" is not normally the factor that makes a photograph successful.
A few years ago, Sherry Krauter in New York cleaned and checked the Summitar lens for me. Mine is pristine and never suffered the scratches in the soft coating that plague so many 1940s lenses (old-time photographers cleaned their lenses with their neckties).
The Summitar lens is a bit quirky. My example (and maybe all of them?) has a lot of field curvature, so the edges of a flat object will be fuzzy. But a typical scene with the subject near the center has smooth out of focus area away from the central subject.
|Village Elders, Siran Danda, Gorkha region, Nepal.|
|School girls, Dhulikhel, east of Kathmandu.|
|Young ladies of Nepani, Gorkha District, Nepal.|
|Cooking pots at Thubten Choling Monastery, Solu Khumbu region.|
|Tools at Serlo Monastery, Solu Khumbu region.|
|Hanging around in Kathmandu. Note: most mannequins in Nepal are European ladies (but may be made in India??).|
A few reasons to buy one of these ltm Leicas:
For an earlier article about how I have used Leica cameras to record urban decay, click this link. Thank you!
Mike Johnston, former editor of Camera & Darkroom magazine and now author of The Online Photographer, wrote an excellent article in 1992 about Leicaphilia. He also wrote about The Leica as a Teacher. "A year with a single Leica and a single lens, looking at light and ignoring color, will teach you as much about actually seeing photographs as three years in any photo school, and as much as ten or fifteen years (or more) of mucking about buying and selling and shopping for gear like the average hobbyist."
35MMC has a useful article titled 7 Reasons You Should Own a Thread Mount Leica. I agree with the author that these cameras slow you down and make you think. You just can't spray and pray and then doodle around with Lightroom for weeks culling files, doing the "workflow," and hoping that you might have "shot" a meaningful photograph. Film does not work that way.
Phoblogger has an interesting interview with the manager of Richard Photo Lab (Los Angeles, California) about how film most definitely is not dead and is reviving among many age and skill groups.
Andrew Yue wrote a nice introduction to the Leica thread-mount cameras titled, "- Leica Screw Mount Cameras - the 1930's through the 1950's -"
I bought a Canon 50mm ƒ/1.4 ltm lens and have had very nice results with it. Click the link to see examples. I also have a 50mm ƒ/2 Jupiter-8 lens from the Soviet Union.
Appendix 1, Summitar Filters
In any event, here is the best listing I can produce for the Summitar filters. These were known at Wetzlar as L filters (by comparison, the E39 range were O filters).Very Light Yellow GBOOM 13080Light Yellow GBWOO 13085Medium Yellow GCOOLGreen #1 GEYOOGreen #2 GCYOO 13095Graduated Yellow GHOOF 13105Graduated Green GILOOOrange GDOOK 13100Light Red/IR GECOO 13115Medium Red/IR GFEOO 13120Dark Red/IR GFOOH 13125Blue RQPOO 13097UVa GHIOO 13130Blank Filter Holder FOOXCHaze FIHAZSkylight GCSKY 13150Type F FKDSUM 13137Type FP FPKSUM 13147Type A FIDAY 13135Photoflood FIFLO 13140Flash Conversion GCHEO 13145Swing-Out Polarizer FISUM 13395Rotating Polarizer POORE 13355Filters which only have a catalogue code-word and not a catalogue number did not survive into production to 1954, the first year for the universal use of the numbers. Many of theSummitar filters had dropped out of the catalogues by 1960 and all were gone from the Leitz catalogue by 1962.
Appendix 2, Series Filters
- Summitar adapter: Tiffen model 606
- Jupiter-8 lens (40.5mm thread): Tiffen 602