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  1. #1
    msbarnes's Avatar
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    Leica Barnack: good user?

    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. #2

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    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. #3
    tony lockerbie's Avatar
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    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. #4
    2F/2F's Avatar
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    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.
    2F/2F

    "Truth and love are my law and worship. Form and conscience are my manifestation and guide. Nature and peace are my shelter and companions. Order is my attitude. Beauty and perfection are my attack."

    - Rob Tyner (1944 - 1991)

  5. #5
    Rol_Lei Nut's Avatar
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    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*.
    M6, SL, SL2, R5, P6x7, SL3003, SL35-E, F, F2, FM, FE-2, Varex IIa

  6. #6
    ColdEye's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rol_Lei Nut View Post
    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*.
    Or one of the Canon models like the 7 or P. I have the 7 and the viewfinder is nice, but it is a bit "tall".

  7. #7
    Paul Goutiere's Avatar
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    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.

  8. #8
    Rol_Lei Nut's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Goutiere View Post
    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.
    Though there is a lot of good non-Leica M39 glass around (Soviet, C/V, Canon and many others).
    M6, SL, SL2, R5, P6x7, SL3003, SL35-E, F, F2, FM, FE-2, Varex IIa

  9. #9
    Paul Goutiere's Avatar
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    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.
    Click image for larger version. 

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    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. #10

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    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.

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