Wednesday, November 01, 2017


My best, most-used cameras are in a glass front case.  One morning recently as I walked near the cabinet I heard a faint murmuring sound coming from the inside.  I could not see anything moving among the cameras, but the noise persisted.  I put my ear up against the side of the cabinet and I could then distinctly hear a chorus of small voices.  They were chanting "we need a Leica... we need a Leica...".
     I was astounded and, of course, one cannot ignore such a singular phenomenon.  I immediately went to my computer and began searching the big auction site.

I found a 1936  Leica IIIa body nearing the end of its listing with no bidders.  The asking price was about half what the model often commands.  The seller's description stated that the camera had been recently serviced and was working perfectly.

When the camera arrived I was pleased to see that its appearance supported the seller's assertions. There was a little brassing on the bottom plate, but the outer covering and the shutter curtains were new.  The shutter action was very smooth and sounded good at all speeds.  I mounted one of my Soviet M39 lenses, an Industar 22, then and shot and processed a quick 24 frames of TMAX to verify that the shutter was working fine and there was no unevenness in the frame spacing.

For the second roll through the IIIa I used my Jupiter 12 lens to shoot a roll of Kentmere 100, paying more attention this time to gaining familiarity with the camera's controls, and shooting a variety of subjects at different distances to achieve a sense of proper parallax allowances.  I processed the Kentmere in HC 110-B and was happy with the results.

The last shot of my cat is a tight crop of the image that was made with the Jupiter 12 wide open at f2.8, showing the good performance that lens can deliver.

Since I am using the same Leica Thread Mount lenses that I use with my Zorki and FED cameras I do not expect any significant differences in the quality of the images made with the Leica from those out of the Soviet cameras.  However, it is a real pleasure to handle and operate a camera that was made with the finest materials and best craftsmanship available in its day.


Jim Grey said...

First, your lawyer's cabinet is exactly what I've wanted for ages to house and display my cameras.

Second, as frugal as you've been all the years I've followed your blog, I'm surprised that you woke up one day with Leica lust, and that you fulfilled it!

I really enjoy the photo of the cat. I enjoy how the film's grain and the cat's fur interact with each other.

JR Smith said...

Congratulations! Enjoy that Leica!

Mike said...

My frugality will likely trump my self indulgence regarding Leica lenses. They seem to go for two or three times what I paid for the body. Luckily, I hold the Soviet lenses in high regard.

James said...

First, I agree with Mr. Grey about the cabinet.

Secondly, I've heard that the threads on the Russian lenses are just ever so slightly different than the native Leica lenses... therefore if you shoot them any wider than 5.6 an eagle eye may notice some focus issues.

Congrats on your continuing GAS.

BTW, I also love the cat photo.

Mike said...

That's interesting about the threads. I haven't had a problem with the J-12 or the Industar 22, but my Industar 50 showed some resistance to screwing on, so I did not force it.

JR Smith said...

Canon LTM lenses are quiet good too and they are not all that expensive. I own two and use them on my Leica M7 and M-P often.

JR Smith said...

Quite not quiet....:-)

Mike said...

I searched around a bit regarding Soviet/Leica compatibility. There was nothing mentioned regard the actual thread compatibility, but I did find several references to focal length differences. As I said above, I have seen no problem with my two favorite Soviet lenses, the J-12 and the collapsible I-22, but I do tend to shoot them at small apertures.

The suggestion about Canon lenses does seem a good one. They are often priced lower than comparable Leica lenses and they have a very good reputation.

James said...

I think I had originally heard about the “incompatibility” issues on a podcast, but I also did some deep diving on the inter webs and found this...

But from all I’ve heard, it seems to be an inconsistent fault... no doubt due to the fluctuations in Russian quality control.

Mike said...

Thanks for that link. Always worth paying attention to Dante Stella. I'm pleased to see that he says there is not likely to be a noticeable focusing error using the wide angle and normal lenses at f2 or more. That pretty much agrees with my experience so far. He also notes that there are a lot of other variables affecting focal accuracy. Given the dim contrast of all my old rangefinders I generally feel lucky to get somewhere near correct focus. Partly for that reason, I most often give priority to dof whenever possible. I'm thinking one thing I could do would be to set up a test with the same Soviet lens on both the Leica and the FED or Zorki at close range to see if there is any detectable difference in a high-res scan.