Recommendations for Leica screwmount series
I have been having a GAS attack for some time now, and I want to add a Leica screw mount camera to my collection, to sort of go with the Bessa R, if you know what I mean. My question is: what series would be a good user camera? I'm not interested in a collector's model; I want to use the camera day-by-day to take pictures. Are there any series that would be particularly good but not extremely pricey (more than a grand) for the body?
(I had made myself a promise that I would not buy any more cameras/lenses for the foreseeable future, but I have decided that if I do get another one, I would not be the first person with a camera collection.)
Thanks for your time.
With best regards,
Steve Mack, Sensei of the Snapshot.
This has been covered in APUG before, but ...
I think the best user would be a IIIf if you want to work with flash, otherwise a IIIc but make sure it's a post-war model. IIIg is just a little easier to use, but maybe not worth the extra money you will pay. A IIIf or IIIc in great shape would cost around £200 to £250 - very often cameras in good condition have been lying around for a while and will need a CLA because the shutter will be tapering (slit not opening fast enough). IIIf red dial usually sells for more than IIIf black dial, which is virtually the same except slightly older and with an old-fashioned shutter speed system (no problem to use).
Genuine Leica or Leica-work-alike? There are many clones/derivatives from the former Soviet Union that would fit the bill, as long as you buy from a reputable dealer.
On the FSU camera front, if you're looking for something resembling a Leica II, a Fed-2 is back-loading, but otherwise comparable. For something a little more modern-looking with a usable viewfinder, a Zorki-4k is another option.
i can't wait to take a picture of my thumb with this beautiful camera.
- phirehouse, after buying a camera in the classifieds
You can get a good Leica IIIf, either red or black dial for much less than $1000. I would recommed a IIIf and then send it for a CLA. If you look on ebay you can probably find a good one for $300, then spend another $100 for a CLA from DAG Camera and you are all set.
"A picture is a poem without words"
A nice working IIIf is all you need. But anything from a IIIb (first model with rf/viewfinder windows close to each other) onwards works great, but the point is that it really needs to be CLA'd, otherwise you won't get any joy out of it. It'll be worth it in the end, knowing that it the camera works as it should. You'll be paying about as much for a CLA'd, dented user as for a nice, half-dead one.
The cameras are really wonderful. Everytime I pick one up, I regret I sold mine...
“Do your work, then step back. The only path to serenity.” - Lao Tzu
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I have a FED-2 with Industar-26 50mm lens and I've got to say it's a great camera - but I've also got a 1937 Leica II, which is smaller, lighter and just feels nicer that I use as my everyday camera. It goes with me just about everywhere and is quite possibly the best camera I've ever had!
The IIIc makes a good user. I've had a 1946 model with Summitar lens which used to belong to my grandfather for many years. I had it CLAd around 15 years ago but since then the vulcanite has started cracking so I stopped using it. I recently decided I wanted one to use as a walk around camera that I could slip in a pocket. Figuring I wasn't going to spend the kind of money it would require, I bought a Zorki 1 with Industar 22 lens on ebay for around $60. It's not bad, but a couple of months later I found a IIIc on ebay for around $140 - the chrome is pitted and peeling in a couple of spots, but the rangefinder is clear and accurate, and, the speeds all sound good. I picked up an Elmar 50mm on ebay for a bit less than the body, and then, a week later, found a Sorki 1 (sic) with 50mm Summar that cost me $50, probably thanks to the poor identification and that the buyer wouldn't take paypal. Point being, you have a lot of options for a Leica or clone that won't run you $1000. But, I will say that after you've used a Leica, the feel of the Russian clones is very unpolished. Flash sync is nice, but, figure out what you want the camera for - I like that it's small and quiet - why would I want a flash on it? I've seen a number of III series Leicas being sold on ebay by Adorama - almost invariably, the cosmetics aren't great, but they claim the shutter and rangefinder are good, and the prices tend to be good too. Here's a IIf (if you can live without the slow speeds) from Adorama
Agree about the IIIc - as I said, better to get a post-war model. The ones produced during wartime were sometimes made of poor materials - not only does the chrome peel, the internal components are nowhere near the usual Leica standard.
Originally Posted by Fotoguy20d
As regards the vulcanite - this is a kind of envelope around a metal body, any repairperson with Leica experience can replace this for not too much money.
Finally, prices -in the last year I bought a cosmetically near-mint IIIc for about £225 and had a CLA including a new rangefinder prism for about £150. There are a lot of good Leicas around today, they are relatively speaking cheaper than they've ever been, I don't think it's necessary to accept a cosmetically poor specimen in order to get a good deal. 20 or more years ago, a near-mint specimen would cost 75% or somore that a user with just one dent - I think the market for old Leicas has changed, relatively speaking not so many fanatical collectors, more people buying the oldies to use.
PS on the vulcanite - research indicates that replacement with a virtually indistinguishable modern substitute costs around £95 - a cheaper alternative, fine for a user camera, would be self-adhesive vinyl at about $25 for more thanenough to do one camera.
Last edited by David H. Bebbington; 02-01-2008 at 08:24 AM. Click to view previous post history.
Reason: Added info on vulcanite
Vulcanite and Prices
The one I found on e-bay also dates to 1946 - the vulcanite is the original sharkskin (not actual sharkskin but a rougher finish) and is pristine - maybe they just had a bad run of plating. My other IIIc has the smoother more pebbled finish - it split vertically along the right end of the camera and peeled completely off the back so it's just hanging on by the left side. I found a place in the UK that provides imitation finishes of various types and colors cut to size for any Leica III model - they're relatively inexpensive at around $30-40 from what I remember and use a pressure sensitive adjhesive for easy application. My understanding is that a proper vulcanite replacement can be done for around $200, but it also requires a complete disassembly of the camera from the body due to the heating required. From the pricing, sounds like we might be talking about the same place (I'd have to go and dig through my favorites to find out the link). From talking to the owner of a local pro-caliber shop, getting good Leica repair done on III series cameras is getting difficult here in the US. The person they use is highly competent but can take 6 months or more due to backlog.
As for pricing, £225 is around $450, and another $300 for CLA and repair makes for a pretty pricy walk-around camera, in my opinion. I like to use mine in New York City - great unobtrusive camera for street photography - so, the more externally beat up the better as far as I'm concerned. I'd rather put the money into one of the better lenses for it. Again, for walk around, the tiny Elmar (or even the Russian Industar-22) is great. With the barrel collapsed, I can fit the entire camera into a pants pocket (looks a little odd, perhaps). The Summar (uncoated) I picked up is in very good shape for its type, but I still don't think to highly of it. The Summitar (coated) is nice, but ones in good condition seem to be very pricy.
I agree that a satisfactory camera can be found for less than I paid, I got a Fed 1 all working with a clean lens for £30 from Moscow in the FSU recently. I confess to being somewhat over-fussy, but I do like to feel that everything has been checked and is AOK. I have had several Leicas that worked OK on the speeds that were used often (say 1/30 to 1/100) but tapered at high speeds. Furthermore, a younger person might not be bothered by slightly dim rangefinder prisms, whereas I need all the help I can get! And then there are specimens like this:
Originally Posted by Fotoguy20d
"Technical condition perfect ... shutter quite wrinkly [!]"
What's that about? I really would not have confidence in a shutter like that, so tend to send everything in for a CLA. After all, you can be fairly sure with a lightly-used 50-year-old Leica that your CLA will be the first it has had, and it probably won't need another in your lifetime (or at least mine!).
PS: The vulcanite people are these: