Leica Barnack: good user?

Discussion in 'Rangefinder Forum' started by msbarnes, Feb 13, 2012.

  1. msbarnes

    msbarnes Member

    Messages:
    385
    Joined:
    Jul 23, 2011
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Do you consider this camera to be a good user despite it's low viewfinder magnification and separate VF/RF windows? I know that there is some sample variation, but how is the patch in general? A low viewfinder magnification doesn't bother me so much but an invisible patch does. Not really looking into alternatives; I know that they exist but I'm interested in exploring this option.
     
  2. summicron1

    summicron1 Subscriber

    Messages:
    1,994
    Joined:
    Jul 28, 2010
    Location:
    Ogden, Utah
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    when you say "Leica Barnack" what do you mean, any of the Screw Mount cameras? Absolutely they're good users -- the separate range/view finders are not quite as accurate as the M-series frames, which are parallax compensated. A compensation is that the Barnack Leicas are a lot smaller and lighter than the M-series, and the viewfinder is clearer because it doesn't have any semi-silvered mirrors in it to darken things for the rangefinder patch.

    I've got several and haven't had one yet where the rangefinder had de-silvered so you couldn't see it -- this includes a post-war IIIC which is 60-plus years old at this stage. Shoot for a IIIF and have it serviced, you will have a very reliable little camera.
     
  3. tony lockerbie

    tony lockerbie Subscriber

    Messages:
    2,363
    Joined:
    Feb 16, 2006
    Location:
    Merimbula NSW Australia
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Get a later model, sort of 111C onwards with a clean viewfinder and you will have a top user once you have mastered the loading technique. Those later models have the viewfinders very close together so awitching from range to viewfinder is a doddle. I still thing that the Barnack Leicas are the most beautifully built, especially the 111F and 111G, although the M2 and M3 are probably easier to live with as Summicron1 has already mentioned. I find that the mgnified range finder patch in my 111C is very accurate to focus.
     
  4. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

    Messages:
    8,003
    Joined:
    Apr 29, 2008
    Location:
    Los Angeles,
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    This is going to sound arrogant, but I'll say it anyhow, and hope no one takes it the wrong way. They are great everyday users for those who know what they are doing. A beginner, or even someone with a fairly good knowledge, but with SLRs only, would likely be lost with one of them initially. There would be a steep learning curve for sure. Of course it can be done, but it would be far more seamless if you had a lot of practical experience photographing before picking one up. Basically, what I am saying it that having enough practice behind you to be able to judge light levels without a meter, and to pre-set exposure as you walk from one lighting to the other is crucial IMO. And then, on top of that, you have to get fast with all the little gizmos on the cameras. If you aren't fast and on the ball all the time, you miss shots left and right with Barnack Leicas.

    Once you learn to work with them, they are about the most easy to carry high-quality mechanical camera you will find, and they can pack a lot of optical punch for such an easy to carry camera. (Not necessarily in absolute sharpness, but in style. A lot of the Leitz thread mount lenses have very distinctive optical "signatures" that would probably label them as "bad" lenses in a blind objective test by today's standards.) To me, they are the ultimate convenient day-to-day shooter that provides both "excellent" and "interestingly flawed" lenses in an easily portable kit, while also having extremely good mechanical quality.

    If you are going to be troubled by loading the film through the bottom, by tiny RF and VF windows, by relatively weak and tiny RF patches, by getting good exposures without an in-camera meter, and all the other anachronisms of using these cameras in the context of today's do-everything cameras, then there is no shame in saying forget the Barnack Leica; it just isn't for me. IMO, you need to use the camera that suits your shooting to get your best results.
     
  5. Rol_Lei Nut

    Rol_Lei Nut Member

    Messages:
    1,118
    Joined:
    Jul 2, 2006
    Location:
    Hamburg
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Depends on what you mean by "good user" and how you use it:

    If you mainly keep a 50mm on it, don't mind the squnty viewfinder and slow loading, then it can be an excellent user. Otherwise the slow lens changing and having to use an external viewfinders are a PITA INMHO.

    In many ways, a *good* Soviet (bought from a reliable source or CLA'd) such as a Zorki 4 will offer a much better viewfinder and loading.

    If you frequently use lenses other than a 50mm, then a Leica M, Z-I, Bessa or such will definitely be a *better user*.
     
  6. ColdEye

    ColdEye Member

    Messages:
    879
    Joined:
    Jun 14, 2011
    Location:
    San Diego, C
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Or one of the Canon models like the 7 or P. :smile: I have the 7 and the viewfinder is nice, but it is a bit "tall".
     
  7. Paul Goutiere

    Paul Goutiere Subscriber

    Messages:
    625
    Joined:
    Mar 30, 2006
    Location:
    Canmore Ab C
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I really love my little IIIF; It is a pig to load, the squinty finder is only framed for one lens, no parallax compensation, a unusual speed setting system, and then there are the thread mount lenses. Speaking of lenses; you will find that most of the Leitz lenses you will find will be at least as old as the camera and have questionable glass.

    If these aren't good enough reasons for snapping up a nice Barnack then I don't know what else would convince you. :smile:
     
  8. Rol_Lei Nut

    Rol_Lei Nut Member

    Messages:
    1,118
    Joined:
    Jul 2, 2006
    Location:
    Hamburg
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Though there is a lot of good non-Leica M39 glass around (Soviet, C/V, Canon and many others).
     
  9. Paul Goutiere

    Paul Goutiere Subscriber

    Messages:
    625
    Joined:
    Mar 30, 2006
    Location:
    Canmore Ab C
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Acquiring a decent lens for the Barnack is gonna be an adventure.

    My adventure had three stages:
    -The first was getting a Elmar 3.5 from a respectable chap on Ebay. He told me the glass was iffy and he was right. Cleaning the glass solved part of the problem but here were numerous "cleaning" marks. The lens is fine if I use a hood. The hood was hard to find and cost me $80.00 (FISON). To properly adjust the aperture you remove the hood. Don't get your fingers on the glass when you change the aperture!

    -The second stage was finding a inexpensive Russian lens from a really questionable source in Russia (for the hell of it). I bought an Industar 50 lens for $20.00 plus shipping. When it arrived 15 days later I found it to be in truly immaculate condition with near perfect glass. It fit the camera perfectly and there are no focus problems. I'm happy! Don't get your fingers on the glass when you change the aperture!

    The third stage was buying a Voigtlander 15mm LTM super wide and partially dedicating this lens to the camera. I really like this set up.
    iiif15mm.jpg

    So, if I were to do this again, (and I would) I would do it differently; I would find a nice Barnack iiic or iiif. I would then try to find a good lens, perhaps an Elmar 2.8 in LTM (and I wanna have the thing in my hands before I buy it) with the aperture stops on the collar or just see what Voigtlander has that suits.
     
  10. Rep4621

    Rep4621 Member

    Messages:
    25
    Joined:
    Jan 22, 2012
    Shooter:
    35mm
    You should read 2F/2Fs post carefully. He has some valid points.

    With that being said, I have a IIIC and IIIF and use them frequently along with the M3 and M6. An Elmar would be a great choice for first lens.
     
  11. Mark Fisher

    Mark Fisher Subscriber

    Messages:
    1,678
    Joined:
    Dec 13, 2003
    Location:
    Chicago
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    I think they and wonder precision jewels made when cameras were wonderful precision instruments, but there are some fair warnings about them. They are great for 50mm and less convenient for anything else. If you wear glasses, they may not be the best choice for you. And they are really old so expect that you'll need it serviced before it is reliable. BTW, I started with a FED2 and now have a Canon P+M2 mostly because of the glasses issue. The good news is that if you buy one in decent condition (KEH?) and works, you can always resell it for what you bought it for.......pretty low risk. I'd say try it and either enjoy it the rest of your life or sell it and find something else you can be happy with.
     
  12. msbarnes

    msbarnes Member

    Messages:
    385
    Joined:
    Jul 23, 2011
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I might give one a try. I'm happy with a 50mm and no meter.

    I had a Konica Auto S2 and Lynx 14 but i wasn't happy with the build.
    I had a Canon P but I found it too hard to focus (patch was near invisible).
    I have a Retina IIIc which I love but it isn't ready-to-shoot (folder).
    I have a Retina IIIs but it has a shutter problem. It's a bit slower to shoot b/c of the EV system and general ergonomics and harder to focus than my IIIc.

    Overall my favorite is the Retina IIIc, but like I said, it isn't ready to shoot.

    A Bessa would probably be a "better" user for the money because of it's viewfinder/rangefinder alone (I have no need for meters and automation) but I love solid metal cameras too much. I'm not sure if I'd be happy with an FSU b/c of quality control issues, so that leaves me with Nikon, Contax and Leica.

    Since I don't mind my squinty Retina IIIc viewfinder, I don't think that I would be bothered with a IIIf viewfinder...maybe the dual viewfinder/rangefinder but that is something that one can get used to.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 13, 2012
  13. Jim Jones

    Jim Jones Subscriber

    Messages:
    2,455
    Joined:
    Jan 16, 2006
    Location:
    Rural NW MO
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    My Canon P had a few advantages over the Leicas I usually used, but wasn't as durable. The 50mm f/1.4 it came with was a dog compared to a Summicron. Retinas aren't nearly as rugged as Leicas. I've never owned a 50mm f/2,8 Elmar, but one in a test of about 30 lenses of its day was one of the very best. The f/3.5 Elmar lagged behind Summicrons.
     
  14. Sponsored Ad
  15. Rol_Lei Nut

    Rol_Lei Nut Member

    Messages:
    1,118
    Joined:
    Jul 2, 2006
    Location:
    Hamburg
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    The Retina IIIS actually has a very good viewfinder and *should* be easy to focus.
    The shutter problems (if it's slow speeds sticking) can be at least partly cured with a well-placed drop or two of lighter fluid (partly because it isn't really a solution for a camera you plan to use a lot - a full CLA is better).
    Getting the top deck off the IIIS and cleaning the viewfinder is relatively easy (if you have some experience with that sort of thing) - unfortunately that's the only easy thing to clean on theat camera.

    About the Retina IIIc, just leave it open! :wink:
     
  16. msbarnes

    msbarnes Member

    Messages:
    385
    Joined:
    Jul 23, 2011
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I think you're right. I'll have to read the above posts more carefully because they are very inciteful. I'm attracted to a Leica Barnack but I'm not sure if the prices on some of their lenses is justifiable (I'd rather put my money on M lenses). I feel that I'm probably better off sticking with the Retinas for their portability and saving up for an M.

    I'm convinced that Barnack's are good users, but my Retinas are by no means bad so I'll just leave my IIIc open, give my IIIs a CLA, and deal with the ergonomics.
     
  17. Chan Tran

    Chan Tran Member

    Messages:
    2,393
    Joined:
    May 10, 2006
    Location:
    Aurora, IL
    Shooter:
    35mm
    They are fine cameras. Great to have. But for the price I would not buy one to use. I must appreciate it for more than just using it to pay the price that they are going for.
     
  18. fotch

    fotch Member

    Messages:
    4,813
    Joined:
    Mar 16, 2005
    Location:
    SE WI- USA
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    They are nice and and small, then it goes down hill from there. PITA to load. Best compromise? M3 JMHO
     
  19. georg16nik

    georg16nik Member

    Messages:
    1,050
    Joined:
    Aug 3, 2010
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    down hill might be a better place., than uphill with M3 :wink: in case You are not wearing glasses, of course.
    Also, talking about user cameras, M3 costs more to repair than any Barnack and needs it more often.
    The cost of ownership for the M is higher.
    The experience of using Barnack is authentic.
     
  20. erikg

    erikg Member

    Messages:
    1,455
    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2003
    Location:
    pawtucket rh
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Normally I don't comment on spelling or grammar in posts, but this made me chuckle a little. I think you mean the above posts are full of insight, (and indeed they are) and not inciting readers to riot. Although we have had a few of those here from time to time!

    As to screwmounts I think they can be great users, especially if you shoot with a wide, say 25mm or wider. Get a nice big finder, or just go without, zone focus and have fun. Can be a very direct experience. Lots and lots of great LTM lenses in the world.
     
  21. Dali

    Dali Subscriber

    Messages:
    827
    Joined:
    Jun 17, 2009
    Location:
    Philadelphia
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    The fact the rangefinder patch is invisible has nothing to do with the camera design, just with a lack of maintenance. A fully functional screw mount Leica camera is a pleasure to use despite some oddities (film leader cut, bottom loading, rangefinder + viewfinder windows) even if I prefer the Contax for the Zeiss glass.
     
  22. Xia_Ke

    Xia_Ke Subscriber

    Messages:
    622
    Joined:
    Mar 27, 2007
    Location:
    Maine
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I have a Leica IIIa with an Elmar 5cm and I think it's a great user to keep in your pocket. With the lens collapsed it's tiny. How user friendly they are though depends A LOT upon your own experience. If you're used to shooting LF or antique cameras then you should have no issues. However, if you're used to shooting fully auto cameras or modern SLR's where all your shot info (shutter speed, aperture, metering, etc) is in the VF, then it may not be your cup of tea. 2F/2F makes a good point about judging exposure. I take a general exposure reading and then make adjustments based upon experience for when the lighting varies. As for loading film, I don't find the actual loading part to be an issue at all. It takes only a couple of seconds longer than loading my OM. The PITA part is remembering to keep rolls with trimmed leaders in your camera bag.
     
  23. JohnMeadows

    JohnMeadows Subscriber

    Messages:
    312
    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2010
    Location:
    Toronto, Ont
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    I just bought a IIIb (relatively inexpensive because of cosmetic issues, like the leatherette half-missing; I've ordered a replacement kit). I bought a cheap Jupiter 50mm lens while I wait for a Summitar to arrive, and even in its rather bad shape, I love the feel of it in my hands!

    My first "good" camera was a Voigtlander Vito B (easier to load, brighter finder, but scale focussing only, no meter) so I don't think it will be too hard to adjust :smile:
     
  24. Jim Jones

    Jim Jones Subscriber

    Messages:
    2,455
    Joined:
    Jan 16, 2006
    Location:
    Rural NW MO
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Film with short leaders is easy to load in early Leicas. Slip a business card into the film slot, load the film behind the card, and remove the card. The card guides the film past the film gate without hanging up.
     
  25. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

    Messages:
    8,003
    Joined:
    Apr 29, 2008
    Location:
    Los Angeles,
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    +1

    I have not once trimmed a film leader to load my Barnack Leicas.
     
  26. tessar

    tessar Subscriber

    Messages:
    271
    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2008
    Location:
    Calgary, AB,
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    For some reason I've never had trouble loading my Leica IIIf without trimming the leader or using the business-card trick. I didn't know any better. Just lucky I guess.