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Hello Leica enthusiasts:

Although my son is a media journalist and M8 user, and I am a long-term hobby photographer (started using a simple Adox Polo 35mm camera in Europe in 1961), I never needed to have a Leica camera. I thought they were exotic and too-expensive collectibles, instead of user cameras. For 35 years I used my beautiful Konica SLRs with excellent results.

Last month I toured the Leica factory (currently packing for the move back to Wetzlar). As an engineer I appreciated seeing these complex machines being built by hand, and now I better understand their appeal to technologists and photographers. So as I approach retirement, I decided to investigate the Leica screwmount film world, and have ordered a 1953 IIIf body in good condition (not delivered yet). These rangefinder cameras are still serviced in Canada by an expert near Toronto.

My requests for guidance concern a good user lens for the IIIf, and other useful accessories (as a bit of a collector, I would like the correct original caps, lens shade, filters, leather case, maybe a viewfinder, instruction booklet, etc.).

What Leica 1950s lenses do users of these old cameras recommend? From research I learned that my choice for a 1950s 50mm lens is either a Summitar or later Summicron, collapsible types. Is there much difference in performance, knowing that after scanning a few good negatives, I would only print these in maximum 5x7 inch prints?

And, how do I evaluate the condition of these 1950s lenses, assuming I have them in my hand?

I will appreciate all guidance from you enthusiasts. Perhaps someone has a spare, nice condition, screwmount lens available ...

Regards from Montreal

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A summitar is a good choice as is an Elmar f3.5 as they were the most common that came with the model that your purchased. However, any screwmount Leica lens will work and provide you with excellent results. The issue with buying a used 50+ year old lens is condition. It is always best to view the lens 'in person' to check for fog, haze, fungus, scratches. If you can not assess this personally or feel uncomfortable doing it alone it is best to buy from a reliable dealer who will let you return the lens without question.

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Yes, the Summitar or Summicron look best on an original IIIf. A Summitar is more correct, and is easier to find in good condition. I have a 1948 Summitar, and it gives very nice results. Now I usually use a Canon 50 f1.8 - which has nice handling and great images.

Another lens that looks at home on the IIIf is the modern Voigtlander 50 f2.0 nickel Heliar.

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Once you get your camera, you may want to look up the serial number to see the year of manufacture. You than may want to buy a Leica catalog for that year. You can see all the correct hoods, filters, cases, etc. Most catalogs are easily found on e-bay.

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Welcome to the forum !!!

Summitar is the more "timely" choice, Summicron collapsible is rather costly if in very good conditions (which isn't common) and about the same in rendering ; at the end... an Elmar red scale can be the better choice for using.

 

Elmar 90 with its viewfinder is a convenient and fine companion, so as a Summaron 35 f 3,5.

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First thing is practicing loading. Read the notes on how to trim the leader and practice. Nothing is more frustrating than having a roll never advance. Have fun with your IIIf! I have a IIIc with a 50 mm Summitar but mostly it rides with a CV 21 Color-Skopar attached. If you really start collecting look for a ABLON leader trimmer. They continue to be harder to find and increasingly expensive.

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Have a look at the 'LTM stand up' thread in the collectors section of the forum, lots of useful info there.

 

I would strongly recommend the 5cm 3.5 Elmar - red scale if you can - as it makes such a lovely compact package, and it's a great lens.

 

Period cases are pretty easy to find. You can download an instruction manual from the net, and yes you need to trim the film leader for correct loading - at the time of your camera all film in canisters came with a longer leader. I just trim with scissors, it's quite simple to get it right.

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Welcome to the forum and the world of Leica. The screw-mount bodies are wonderfuly tactile devices and coupled with a collapsible lens make a great 'pocket-able' camera. I have a 1957 IIIg and certainly one of the first things I had to do was make a template for cutting the film leader. As James wrote, after a while one can do it just with a pair of scissors (I use a small pair of nail-scissors as they have curved blades).

 

As to lens, I started off with an early-fifties 5cm Elmar and then a 9cm of similar vintage. The particular 5cm Elmar I have has the aperture adjuster in the end of the lens, which can mean finding the right adaptor to enable adjustment when a filter is fitted. I would suggest that (if you choose a 5cm Elmar) you find one with the normal aperture ring. Partly due to the clumsy ergonomics, I added a collapsible 5cm Summicron earlier this year, of 1951 vintage. Should it be of interest, some typical examples from all three can be seen here.

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Welcome to the forum !!!

Summitar is the more "timely" choice, Summicron collapsible is rather costly if in very good conditions (which isn't common) and about the same in rendering ; at the end... an Elmar red scale can be the better choice for using.

 

Elmar 90 with its viewfinder is a convenient and fine companion, so as a Summaron 35 f 3,5.

 

Thank you Mr. Bertolotti for your suggestions. You are a very frequent contributor to this Forum, and likely a veteran user of older Leicas. I started looking at eBay listings (and a few dealers) for a good condition Summitar f2. Unfortunately very few sellers mention complete factors for evaluating lens condition, both optical (clarity, haze-fog, separation, fungus, scratches, "cleaning marks", internal dust and dirt, internal paint flecks, etc.) and mechanical (operation of aperture and focus rings, operation of collapsing and other movements, oil on diaphragm blades, dents, scrapes, scratches, missing plating, etc.). Casual descriptions such as "Very Good" and "Looks Excellent"or even "Mild Haze Won't Affect Use" etc. are too subjective. They do not allow the potential buyer to know within reasonable accuracy what he/she would receive. And returns seem to be difficult or impossible for used lenses, somewhat understandable for sellers.

 

I conclude that it is dangerous (and expensive!) to buy any used lens without holding it and checking it personally. Unless a trusted third party or careful dealer evaluates and accurately describes a used lens, using complete criteria and grading, buying a lens without handling it is risky.

 

I wish there were a standard set of grading criteria for lens condition, that sellers could use (by choice) to attract buyers with accurate descriptions and solid guarantees. I realize many factors are subjective, but it does seem a bit like the Wild West out there in Leica Lens Land. Coin, stamp and toy collectors developed useful condition standards that most hobbyists use; I wonder why they don't exist for lenses?

 

Regards from Montreal; will keep looking for a nice Summitar or Summicron

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....

 

I conclude that it is dangerous (and expensive!) to buy any used lens without holding it and checking it personally. Unless a trusted third party or careful dealer evaluates and accurately describes a used lens, using complete criteria and grading, buying a lens without handling it is risky.

 

Of course, there is nothing like handling and inspecting... and for really valuable items is almost mandatory ; but in our world there are some international dealers that are really trustable, offer buyer protection, and do illustrate well in their sites the items they sell : see for instance Leicashop, Newoldcamera, Red Dot Cameras, Meister : none of them is cheap, but I bought several times from them (expecially from the first I quoted) and had never reason to complain about service and expertise on the matter.

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Most reliable dealers are very conservative and careful in the grading. That's at least my experience from buying from several European dealers and from Tamarkin in the US.

 

Another US dealer that I've read employs customer-friendly gradings (I have yet to buy from them) is KEH. I'm not sure how it works with import duties or taxes to Canada, but they may be worth a look. They have a few Summitars and collapsible Summicrons in stock at the moment. They also have a 14 day no questions asked return policy plus a 6 month warranty.

 

Personally I'm a Summitar fan, fwiw. Lovely lens.

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I have been dealing with KEH from when it was a small office with just one or two employees. The equipment has always been better than described and the customer sevice is great. With such a large inventory there is plenty of selection, the pricing is fair and have a good return policy. They are based in Atlanta which would put you in the same time zone if you should need to give them a call. I'm with Phillip in suggesting a Summitar. A surprisingly good lens and it makes a compact pocket camera when collapsed.

P.S. KEH is currently ofering free shipping.

Edited by madNbad
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A couple of points

 

If you get a Summitar and you want the barn door hood ( I believe that I am alone in thinking they look great) Be careful to get the correct one as I think they may differ

 

Also, I have a Summitar with a small scratch on it. I was furious when I discovered this (bought unseen) but.. it doesn't make a jot of difference to the picture. Haze/fungus is another matter though.

 

Curtains and shutter speeds can be problems with older cameras but if yours has been CLAd I am sure that will have been dealt with/checked

 

John

Edited by laffertyphotography
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Note from Edmonton. I have used KEH for Hasselblad and some Leica quite a bit. All prior comments are accurate. From Canada it is easy to call them, bring up the website simultaneously and you can discuss their various offerings. Also ask them to elaborate their shipping options. I think the big benefit is the virtual certainty you will get what you contract for at a slight premium over "the Bay". Court

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Thank you everyone for your suggestions. From eBay I bought (from the same camera store in Minneapolis that sold me my IIIf) a clean Summitar 5 cm f2 lens for my IIIf, and since the shutter sounded dry and draggy I sent the outfit to Kindermann for CLA service, rangefinder adjustment, etc. I can't find a film cutting template at a reasonable price so I'll trim it manually using internet instructions. With luck and quick service I will start using this classic camera after Christmas. I'll keep looking for period accessories; just bought a SOOFM barn doors lens hood for the Summitar. I am realising that Leica is an expensive world, even 1950s hardware is pricey; no wonder you rarely see them being used in public.

Regards from snowy Montreal

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Congratulations! I'm sure you will enjoy it. Voigtlander glass is always a good alternative to expensive collectibles. I have a IIIc with a 21 mm Color-Skopar, mostly for walking around and not having to worry about focusing. Don't worry about not having an ABLON. You can trim the leader just fine with scissors. The main reason to have one is for trimming the tail of bulk load film for Leica cassettes. It's well worth reading Andrew Nemeths experience and description of how to load a brass cassette! Best of luck and this is the place for answers. MAD

Edited by madNbad
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Sorry I don't remember the link, but if you Google "Ablon" you will find a pattern for making your own. I made one last year out of a hinged sheet of thin aluminum (it was actually a foldable camping stove wind deflector) and it works fine. I dimpled it in three spots to properly align the sprocket holes of the film.

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