Leica iiia First Impressions
Hi everyone, Azriel Knight here with another episode of Days of Knight. Today I’m going to tell you all about my first experiences with the very first Leica I have ever tested, the Leica iiia, also known as the model g. Before we get started though I’d like to tell you about a contest I’m running for the month of April. I am giving away one of my 2020 box sets, which contains my seven favourite black & white photos from last year, printed in the darkroom. Each photo is unique, and I utilized several enlargers, developers and papers to make this set. I will draw a winner on May 1st and all you need to do to sign up is join my monthly newsletter, link in the description.
The Leica iiia was released in 1935, and was in production for four or five years depending on the source you check. That makes this camera over eighty years old, the oldest 35mm camera I have ever reviewed on this channel.
The Leica iiia is hard to load and hard to hold, it’s a multistep process to take a photo, and the not intuitive in the slightest. But it is a relatively inexpensive way to say you own a Leica…however, does that make it worth it? Let’s find out.
As I just mentioned, this camera is hard to load film if you’ve never done it before and especially if you didn’t read the instructions. Even after reading the manual I still had to rely on a video tutorial to get started on this thing. First off, film leads used to be longer and thinner, and you need to cut your lead to accommodate this. Leica provided an accessory tool to outline the cut but you can manage without. Let me show you.
Open the bottom by lifting this lever and turning counter clockwise.
The take up spool comes out, and you can see here there’s a place to wedge the film lead.
Take your film and pull your lead out to measure the length of the camera.
Cut your film like this, leaving two spokes.
Wedge your film lead in the take up spool and place in the camera.
Close up, make sure you’re set to A, not R, and start rotating your film rewind knob clockwise until you feel some resistance.
Now advance by rotating the advance knob clockwise and watch for the rewind knob to turn with it, that’s how you know you’d properly loaded.
Advance by a couple frames then set your frame counter to 1.
You’re all set.
The other important thing to note is to always advance your film before you change the shutter speed. I’m not sure that doing the opposite will damage the camera, the manual didn’t say so, but your proper shutter speed won’t be displayed until you’ve advanced your film. Changing shutter speeds is accomplished by lifting and rotating the dial. Just like the Nikon S2 I recently reviewed, the Leica iiia has two shutter dials and to use the slower speeds, you need to set the fast dial to 20-1.
As always, thanks to The Film Experience Camera store in Longview Alberta, for loaning me their Leica.
To test the Leica iiia, I shot a roll of Kodak Tri-X, pulled to 200iso and developed in Xtol, let’s take a look.
I hope you enjoyed those. If you’d like to see them in high resolution, or if you want to see the contact sheet, be sure and check out my link in the description, which also includes a transcript of this episode.
Now that I have shot with a few rangefinder cameras, I had a better idea of what to expect here, and I’ll compare it to the Nikon S2 because that is the one I shot with the most recently. So like the S2 it’s cumbersome to load. The iiia is actually harder because you need to cut your own film lead, and while I got it on the first attempt, I can totally see myself buggering up a future roll.
While it is an extra step, having two viewfinder windows was something I think I preferred. The first one is for focusing and it has a magnified view, which I really liked, and the second is for composition. So I compose in the second window, focus in the first, and go back to the second to fine tune. By the end of the roll it felt very natural to switch between, and my complaint lies with my closer images where I was trying to center on something, and I’d end up lopsided. I could have greatly benefitted from parallax correction lines.
The windows are quite small as well but I can forgive that because the camera itself is so tiny, which I actually liked.
The Summar 5cm f2 collapsible lens produced nice sharp images, but the idea of pulling the lens out each time I was ready to shoot was probably my biggest frustration and for the last third of the roll I left it extended. I get that it makes it that much more compact, that you can put it in your pocket, but let’s be real here, there’s no way I’m slipping this into my jeans or even coat pocket. I brought a proper camera bag with me.
There is, as you may have guessed, no light meter, so I used a combination of my Reveni Labs light meter and my Sekonic L-758 DR hand held meter, but ended up relying mostly on the hand held meter as my reveni labs covered up part of the shutter dial, and I needed to remove it every time I changed shutter speeds.
Let’s talk a minute about something that has nothing to do with image quality: aesthetics. The Leica iiia is a gorgeous camera. There isn’t a harsh line on the entire body of it. Everything is rounded and pleasant and the experience of using it was amazing. While it doesn’t fit in the hand as easily as other cameras I really appreciate its size, and the overall look of it makes up for it.
This is the first time I’ve borrowed a camera that I wasn’t 100% sure I wanted to return, and this just happens to be one of the most inexpensive Leicas you can buy. It is effortless to get one of these for under $600 Canadian dollars and for the life of me I can’t figure out why. Maybe it’s the extra steps, or the film cutting, but if you’re shopping for a rangefinder I’d consider getting one of these before people wise up and the price increases.
Also, now that I have had a taste of the Leica experience, I’d like to get my hands on another model, so keep an eye out for that in the future.
Well folks, that’s all for now, I hope you enjoyed this episode, if you did perhaps you’ll consider joining me on Patreon. Starting at just $1 you’ll get special access to my Discord, free prints, early access to my videos and more. You can also follow me on Instagram and Twitter, and until next time, stay classic.