|My Leica IIIC with its original 5cm ƒ/2.0 Summitar lens|
|English language instruction manual|
|At the Parthenon, Athens, Greece, 1955. 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). The Summitar lens 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 were anti-reflection coated 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. This out of focus appearance is known as bokeh. Thirty years ago, almost no one thought about it, but now, many digital photographers are obsessed with the topic. The newer Type 2 and Type 4 50mm ƒ/2.0 Summicron lenses for my Leica M2 body are "better", but I rather like the old Summitar. It feels good to have my dad's camera in operation again. He would be pleased.
|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 maybe made in India??).|
These little Leica thread-mount cameras are still available at reasonable prices. They are fun to use and have a precision feel that most modern cameras do not replicate (other than Leica M film bodies, which, as of 2019, are still in production). Just go buy one, return to the basics of photography. I bet your creativity will blossom.
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 like digital users 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 excellent results with it. Click the link to see examples.