Leica Snapshot Time

In concert with my new series of 10×8″ Portraits I am using a Leica IIIc, and soon a second Leica IIIf, for a series of snapshots of the process of making the big pix with the big camera

Leica IIIc

Leica IIIc with 35mm Canon lens. This lens is suitably bad for the work I want from it

The choice of screw mount Leica for this work is odd at the very best. The first commercial Leica design had some odd quirks that could and should have been changed with the very next model. These are separate view and range finder eyepieces, tiny view finder, the dreadful up-the-arse film loading with the need to re-cut the leader to 4″ to enable it to be loaded, separate shutter speed dials for slow and fast speed ranges, cloth shutter curtains that love to be burnt by the Sun . . . These were all corrected in the Zeiss Ikon Contax which was a vast improvement on the Leica and most of these oddities were eventually changed in the M3, apart from the cloth shutter curtain

However, I really like the old screw Leicas due to the old look to the negs, helped by using a Canon 35mm f2.8 as the standard lens. I have owned and borrowed several M series Leicas, but these are too big and I vastly prefer using the Nikon F to the M series Leica for multi lens 35mm work. For this kit I will stick to 35 and sometimes 50mm only

On the positive side the camera is small, lighter than many currently popular cameras, will carry a great range of old lenses, many of them so bad they are really interesting to use. I do not ask “quality” quality from 35mm. For “quality” I use 10×8″ and 5×4″. To me 35mm is a snapshot format and I celebrate the immediacy and engagement of a 35mm snapshot. It will be sensibly argued that a modern point and shoot digital camera will be better than an old Leica, but in reality the shutter lag annoys me and users of these cameras view a dis-engaged world via a screen, like viewing their world on television. I like the slip in bright line viewfinders and with the 5cm Leitz view finder, with its 1:1 image ratio, it is easy to keep both eyes open with a bright frame showing the field of view hanging in space. However, in practice I almost only use 35mm focal length on Leicaand occasionally 5cm, so I am generally limited to the 35mm finder which requires one eye to be closed, it is up the the worker to chose which, which can be fun in terms of image framing. (For other focal lengths I have the residue of my commercial Nikon kit with lenses from 20mm to 105mm. I have no intention of turning the Leica into a multiple lens camera outfit

There is another helpful thing to know with early Leica and some other lenses, which is that the focusing lock button has four useful positions. At the locked position it is focused at infinity, at the bottom the lens is focused at 12 feet, at the mirror position to infinity gives 6′ and sitting horizontally it is focused at 4.5′. Knowing this can help remove the need to use the rangefinder and speed things up. Also learning the depth of field at working distances and apertures will help


Rae on Parry Beach, Denmark just before Christmas 2013

Bronwyn in cafe in Denmark just before Christmas 2013

Bronwyn in cafe in Denmark just before Christmas 2013


Rae at Waychinicup, November 2013. This image on 50mm Summitar, 1946, the rest are 35mm Canon

After the up-the-arse film loading the next worst thing is the plethora of NEXists who buy second hand film camera lenses from every available manufacturer, mount them on their cameras via apaptor rings and think they are clever