Finally, a camera introduction that doesn’t involve me buying something cheap and/or broken. In fact, it doesn’t involve me buying anything. No, I am not choosing this cozy little corner of the internet to announce my kleptomania. You see, this particular Leica IIIc came to me as the result of winning a contest.
As I mentioned in passing here when I introduced my Yashica J-Mini, I took a photo with that camera which I then entered in a contest over at Hamish Gill’s 35mmc blog. Well, long story short, I was fortunate enough to win that contest by the thinnest of margins. And after a few weeks of anticipation, the camera finally made its way across the Atlantic to Filmosaur HQ.
Leica needs no introduction, but I’ll write one anyway. Its reputation as a first-class camera manufacturer was established in the 1930s and remains to this day. This particular camera is a Leica IIIc, one of the staples of Leica’s production before and after the war; this one was built in 1946 or 1947. It’s an amazing little machine – and I do mean little. The size of the body is remarkably small, even compared with the closely related FED-2. No, it’s not Rollei 35 or Olympus XA small, but the size is still one of the first things you notice.
Add a collapsible lens and you get a very compact package; the camera arrived with an Industar 61 L/D 55 mm f/2.8, which will be reviewed separately later. The most compact and correct lens would be an Elmar 50/3.5, which I do not own, but I do have its cousin once-removed, the FED 50/3.5. While it’s not the purist’s solution – and the Leica world is full of purists – I had no compunction about screwing it on to the camera and going on my merry way. This will no doubt be the standard setup for this camera for the foreseeable future.
Using a Barnack Leica requires a bit more ritual than more modern cameras. The shutter must be charged before setting the speed, the exact opposite of typical leaf shutters. There are two viewing windows, one for employing the rangefinder and one for framing. The former is magnified; both are quite small. Barnacks are bottom-loaders, which means you have to trim the leader, fasten it to the take-up spool, and slide the whole arrangement into the camera.
Is any of this a problem? Not really. Like any camera, you get used to using it fairly quickly. I can certainly see where some people might not be willing to adapt to the necessary practices for the care and feeding of such a camera, but it’s really not a big deal.
For your efforts, you get the pleasure of using one of the most solid and mechanically refined pieces of equipment this side of a Swiss watch. This camera was professionally CLA’d before it arrived here, so everything works just as it should, smoothly and precisely. Put simply, it’s a joy to use.
For all the swooning about Leica one finds on the internet, one might be excused for thinking that suddenly they’d become a better photographer by using one, that women would find you more attractive, and that prolonged skin contact with Leica’s vulcanite body covering cures cancer. But that would be silly. No, the advantage of a well-kept Leica, or in fact any high-quality camera, is that it can make the process of taking photos more pleasurable. Maybe that means you take more photos. Maybe it means you get a fleeting shot you might have missed with a different camera. Or maybe you just enjoy it.