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Converted Leica I - period accurate conversion or Frankenstein?


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Knowing I will never be able to justify the current prices of black paint M cameras but still lusting for an original black paint Leica anyway, I have begun eyeballing black paint Barnacks for a little while.

I just noticed a reasonable looking black Leica II in a local brick and mortar store. Serial No. 20910 which would make it 1929 vintage that started out as a Leica I.

It is advertised as a "Leica II model D". As far as I can see it has nickel hardware and the lens is a nickel Elmar 5cm/3.5 with infinity lock at 7 o'clock.

From a value perspective I don't suppose a converted camera is  particularly valuable due to the modifications, but since I am considering this for usage that would be OK, and besides the shop offers a 6 month warranty.

While originality may be somewhat lost in the modification, I do not want it to be too much of a "frankenstein", and wonder if you would share your opinions of the following photos - Do the parts appear to be reasonably contemporary with the time the modification(s) must have been executed?:

Please excuse the black boxes - It covers the shop name.

Thanks for any input.

 

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There is nothing unusual here. 'Upgrades' of this kind are common. I have a I model A with a similar SN which has been modified to be a Standard. This has the early II Model D  'toilet seat' top. Sometimes converted II Model Ds with early numbers (particularly 3 and 4 digits) fetch a bit more than original II Model Ds, but obviously such cameras would fetch a lot more if they were still I Model As. The lens may be the original 'no SN' lens converted to 7 O'Clock. You will notice that it looks a bit shorter, but that will not affect its focal length or performance. Jerzy and I have noticed this in a number of converted lenses and it is 'normal'.

This looks like a nice camera and if you are getting it with a warranty there is nothing to worry about. To encourage you here are 3 of my collection of black and nickel cameras. For me these are the nicest cameras carrying the Leica name.

William

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34 minutes ago, luigi bertolotti said:

Just a detail... how must be considered the speed dial with 20-1 in a model II, to say with no slow speeds ?

They may well have used a part from a III when the camera was modified. The setting should give 1/20th, however. A detail as you say, Luigi.

William 

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based on parts used conversion to II was after introduction of III (7 oclock Elmar and 20-1)  but before March 1936. In the upgrades like this most of the parts, including shutter have been replaced. seeing the bottom of the camea without bottom cover I could confirm or deny. There is however one detail that is a bit unusual. While speed dial and wind knob with counter are almost pristine the rewind knob has heavy usage marks. Was the camera coverted twice? firstly to Standard and then to II and rewing knob remained? Would be a bit strange. 

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1 hour ago, jerzy said:

based on parts used conversion to II was after introduction of III (7 oclock Elmar and 20-1)  but before March 1936. In the upgrades like this most of the parts, including shutter have been replaced. seeing the bottom of the camea without bottom cover I could confirm or deny. There is however one detail that is a bit unusual. While speed dial and wind knob with counter are almost pristine the rewind knob has heavy usage marks. Was the camera coverted twice? firstly to Standard and then to II and rewing knob remained? Would be a bit strange. 

That would probably have been my next question; how much is left of the original after such a conversion? :) I'm surprised to learn that even the shutter may have been replaced. 

I agree with your observation of the usage marks from the top, but the general texture of the rewind knob when viewed from the side appear less used and more in line with the wind knob. 

I will go by the shop today to handle it and see if things looks balanced.

Thanks for the input.

Edited by nitroplait
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OK, so this is one of those cases where everything is just a little bit worse than expected or hoped.

The "pristine" looking parts just had a good day in front of the camera it appeared. The lens had just a little more haze than I had hoped for. Very loose covering in need of careful re-gluing or replacement ... etc -  you know, many small things pointing the wrong direction but nothing truly bad.

In fact everything worked, but I had hoped it wouldn't be a camera I'd want to send in for service as the first thing. Still considering, well see..

7 hours ago, jerzy said:

seeing the bottom of the camea without bottom cover I could confirm or deny

Below is a shot without the baseplate if @Jerzy wants to evaluate if the shutter was replaced.

It is still mind boggling to me that so much was replaced, potentially even the shutter!? It is my understanding that the Leica I's from the 20's had an opening in the back for focus calibration - if that was the case even the body chassis was replaced as this camera didn't have that screw/film pressure plate opening.  

I wonder how much less you'd have to pay converting a Leica I to II versus just buying a version II and letting the camera shop sell the used Leica I?

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yes, it was IA with hockey stick, fix mounted Elmar, covered hole at the backside and small pin for baseplate. This camera has been totaly reneved, including internal crate, shutter, etc. Hard to say if anything left from original camera, maybe rewind lever, accessory shoe. Did you smell anything when you opened the camera? There are some white spots on the bottom (flat spring, wheel), which could be leftover of an earlier fungus. At least the camera does not look like it would be recently cleaned. Vulcanit (coverning) may be reglued

Edited by jerzy
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8 hours ago, nitroplait said:

That would probably have been my next question; how much is left of the original after such a conversion? :) I'm surprised to learn that even the shutter may have been replaced. 

I agree with your observation of the usage marks from the top, but the general texture of the rewind knob when viewed from the side appear less used and more in line with the wind knob. 

I will go by the shop today to handle it and see if things looks balanced.

Thanks for the input.

I would be back at the shop in an instant and buying it. It is rare to see a real camera in a real camera shop these days.

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2 hours ago, Pyrogallol said:

I would be back at the shop in an instant and buying it. It is rare to see a real camera in a real camera shop these days.

Under different circumstances I would have bought it, but I have sent off so many purchases for overhauls this past year and by weird coincidence all but one had to be returned for to the techs to re-work on them.
I truly hate being in that situation and even though they have all be fully professional about it, just the thought about potentially complaining drains my energy.

I was hoping this one could be used for a while and that I could send it in due time, but I can see this would have to go in before I could use it.

Anyway, I love this shop and have bought a lot from them during the pandemic - and I will probably buy something from them again sooner than I know.

Edited by nitroplait
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16 hours ago, jerzy said:

...Did you smell anything when you opened the camera? There are some white spots on the bottom (flat spring, wheel), which could be leftover of an earlier fungus. At least the camera does not look like it would be recently cleaned. Vulcanit (coverning) may be reglued

You are right. I didn't notice that with the camera in hand. One shutter curtain had some light discolouring which may have been fungus related. I didn't notice any smell in particular.  I think am normally quite sensitive to the musty smell of old cameras, but I was wearing a mask - if I change my mind about buying it, I will definitely give it a good inhale before I fork over the money ;)

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Hi,

If you're looking for a black screw mount Leica, don't be shy and go for a black IIIa!!! 😉

Now seriously. I only have one conversion (shown in its own post of this forum) that, apart from the personal value (gift from my wife that bought it with a low offer while I was following it in the well known auction site) I do really like it. It's in really good condition and the lens is interesting.

Originality is of course a factor (an important factor) but from my perspective a conversion in a good condition can be also something to be considered. I'm quite more concerned about other aspects like cameras and lenses that have been serviced by non proper technicians. On the other hand, I must say that I don't like the conversions to IIc/IIf with that "cap" instead of the slow speeds dial, but in my case, it's more a matter of aesthetics than any other consideration.

So, my suggestion would be know what you want (or you don't want) and, once you will see a camera, understand if it matches your wishes.

Best regards and good luck with the search (specially if you go for the IIIa!!),

Augusto

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