Designed by Oskar Barnack, the Leica rangefinder
camera was introduced in 1932. This was the first ever 35mm system
camera with a range of screw mount interchangeable lenses. The
screw mount series of cameras continued in production until 1960 when
the M series was introduced. During this time
the range continued to evolve with two basic models (II & III) and
several variants (A,B,C,F,G) being produced.
These cameras have a jewel like precision
quality that no other camera has ever had - even the Leica M series. Using one of these
cameras takes you back to the basics of photography. In a few
minutes it is possible to work out how to use it – even without the aid
of an instruction manual (compare that to a modern digital SLR with its
250+ page instruction manual).
The Leica IIIB was made between 1937
and 1946. Being
the III model it has the slower range of shutter speeds (1s to 1/10s)
that the II does not have and, compared to the previous A model, it has
the rangefinder and viewfinder placed closer together. Even after 70
years the controls and shutter have not lost their precision quality
which makes this camera a joy to use.
Oskar Barnack - the
inventor of Leica Cameras More
The most popular lens
to use with this camera was the 5cm F3.5 Leitz Elmar.
5cm F3.5 Leitz
This is the lens that earned Leica’s reputation.
All are collapsible which means they collapse into the camera body when
not in use which makes the camera and lens combination very compact - a
favourite with the 1930s French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson.
Prewar versions are uncoated with postwar versions being coated.
Early versions are Nickel with later ones being chrome. The Black Scale
version stops down to F18 while the later Red Scale version stops down
further to F22. All versions can suffer from fogging and cleaning
scratches although a few light scratches should not reduce the
Although these lenses can be over 70 years old,
a good one can still produce sharp images with a pleasing softness to them.
The negatives lack contrast, but this can be
advantageous because it means they retain the shadow and highlight
detail, and once scanned, the file can be processed in Photoshop to show
a full range of tones.
Because this camera