Leica If: the Lomo Leica?


I get my hands on my first-ever Leica & find it mostly intimidating.

So, as you can tell from my slowly increasing pile of albums, I went to Munich with my wife over Christmas & New Year’s. it was a wonderful trip, not least because a) There’s a Lomography Gallery Store there, b) you can buy film at any chemist’s, and c) I was on the lookout for a Leica.

Happily, not far from our hotel was the photographic mecca that is Foto Sauter.

Not only was Sauter crammed with digital goodness, but it had a full third of it’s floor space dedicated to refurbished analog cameras, including 3 spinner racks of refurbished Leicas, ranging from €50 all the way to €1000+. After a few days of ghosting by the window, I went inside & approached the gent at the counter. Mercifully, he spoke excellent English, so I did not need my wife to translate.

“You want a Leica?” he said. “That’s good. But do you want it to collect, or to work?”

“I want it to work.”

“Okay then. This is the one you want.” And from behind the counter, he pulled out this:

I was mystified. I actually broke out into a sweat handling it. it was heavy. It didn’t have a light meter. It didn’t have an internal viewfinder, just an optic that stuck out on top. the film was loaded by taking off the bottom, not the back. He also explained a complicated process of trimming the film leader lengthwise for 10cms or so, or it would catch.

Most of this went over my head. I just knew I wanted it. He named his price (about twice what I had been hoping to pay) but after nearly passing out, I got the go-ahead nod from my wife & bought it.

Later, at the hotel, I googled the serial number & discovered it was a Leica If: a variant of the Leica IIIf, of which only about 16,000 were made. It lacked a rangefinder or a viewfinder, as it was meant primarily for scientific use, such as being attached to microscopes or Visoflex arrays.

I named her Gretl.

So once I got Gretl back to Australia, I trimmed a film leader, loaded it up, took a few test shots around the house…

Credits: lokified

The aperture dial is on the front of the extendable lens, and the focus is adjusted via a little handle on the side of the lens.

The focus is extremely detailed at close range, with measurements for 1, 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 1.4, 1.5, 1.7 & 2 metres, before becoming more sensible at 2.5, 3, 5, 7, 10, 20 & infinity.

This means that if you’re between 1 & 2 metres, you have to guess your distance to within 1/10th of a metre, or the height of an average coffee cup. Not easy when you’re just eyeballing it.

I found the shutter to be pleasantly soft, with no jarring clack, just a sharp little whirr, and despite it’s weight, i had no trouble holding it still.

So then I went shooting at the local park.

Credits: lokified

I did my best to gauge the distance, while an app on my iPhone made light meter recommendations.

After getting the photos back i was pleasantly surprised: despite the failing light, 200 ISO film & a lot of guesswork, the pictures came out beautifully, with some soft focus & bokeh effects, but pin-sharp when required.

Part of me wondered how, despite the being unsure of lighting or focus or whatnot, I still managed to love this Leica. The answer came to me out of the blue: I shouldn’t think of Gretl as an SLR without things, I should think of her as an awesome Lomography camera and just have fun!

Overall I am very happy with my pricey little German scientist. While I won’t be taking any close-up portraits with it, I will definitely not be leaving this collector’s item on the shelf.

written by lokified on 2013-01-30 in #reviews #camera #leica #review #germany #1950s


  1. mapix
    mapix ·

    really nice article - thanks! won't miss Sauter if i will be in Munich sometimes...

  2. neanderthalis
    neanderthalis ·

    An amazing find indeed, congratulations!

  3. meatoyz1
    meatoyz1 ·

    just goes to show that really old cameras are just as sharp, if not sharper, than the cameras today :)

  4. patrickhruby
    patrickhruby ·

    Beautiful camera! congratulations. Can you message me what iphone app you are using for a light meter? Thanks.

  5. lokified
    lokified ·

    @patrickhruby The two apps are Pocket Light Meter & Light Meter Free. They're both accurate, but have different interfaces. Give 'em a whirl!

  6. patrickhruby
    patrickhruby ·

    Thank you!

  7. casperxd
    casperxd ·

    That Leica is art piece !! Omg

  8. lokified
    lokified ·

    @casperxd The best kind of art piece: one that works!

  9. casperxd
    casperxd ·

    Yea haha

  10. alloftheabove
    alloftheabove ·

    I have a Leica iiib - when loading the film, you don't need to trim the film leader. Wind the shutter on first, drop the film in, take off the lens and hold the shutter open with the bulb setting, now you will be able to see where the film sits against the back plate and push it into the correct position. Release the shutter, attach the bottom plate and wind on twice. Voila! No need to trim the film!

  11. lokified
    lokified ·

    @alloftheabove That's brilliant! I'll try that next time.

  12. carsten-schmitt
    carsten-schmitt ·

    Hm, my experiences speak against experimenting with the Commandments of the Prophet:
    "When Oscar Barnack made the Leica and saw that it was good he said. There is only one way to spool film into a Leica and thou shalt not use any other way. If thou insisteth on your sinful ways of spooling film into a Leica in any other way i shall strike you with vengeance and empty films." Book of Leica Vers 25-28 ;-)

More Interesting Articles

  • The LomoChrome Purple and How Its Colors Convinced Me in the End

    written by pearlgirl77 on 2014-07-29 in #reviews
    The LomoChrome Purple and How Its Colors Convinced Me in the End

    I wasn't very impressed when the LomoChrome Purple was first released. At least not so much that I wanted to get my hands on it at once. Of course I liked some pictures but eventually, I wanted to test it and what can I say? It was love at first sight!

  • My First Lomo Affair: Litumai and her Diana Mini

    written by icequeenubia on 2014-07-31 in #lifestyle
    My First Lomo Affair: Litumai and her Diana Mini

    She was supposed to get a Diana F+ camera but ended up with its equally charming small sister Diana Mini. Find out why Andrea Lituma, litumai in the Lomography Community, considers this mishap as "the best mistake ever" in this edition of My First Lomo Affair!

  • Review on the LOMO LC-A 120: A Real Lomography Camera? Yes!

    written by brettlaw on 2015-04-22 in #gear #reviews
    Review on the LOMO LC-A 120: A Real Lomography Camera? Yes!

    When I held the Lomo LC-A 120 in my hands for the first time, I immediately noticed its good feel and beautiful design. The LC-A 120 obviously, is truly, related to the queen of all Lomo cameras, the LC-A.

  • Shop News

    Colorsplash your World!

    Colorsplash your World!

    At 30% off you can now color your analog images with 12 different color gels. Experiment with 35mm slide film and play with the built-in color flash for the most intense colors!

  • The New Petzval Lens: For Portraits with Swirly Bokeh

    written by wesco on 2014-11-27 in #reviews
    The New Petzval Lens: For Portraits with Swirly Bokeh

    My brother purchased the new Petzal lens by Lomography and Zenit through the Kickstarter campaign. Last spring, I was able to borrow it for a few weeks. Read on to find out my first impressions of this portrait lens!

  • Lomography Fisheye No.2: Seven Years of Wonder

    written by adi_totp on 2014-09-15 in #reviews
    Lomography Fisheye No.2: Seven Years of Wonder

    Exactly seven years ago, I bought this camera from Indonesia's local Lomography community. I remember having some savings in my bank account and just spending it all on this camera. At that time, I browsed the microsite for the Lomography Fisheye No.2 and immediately fell in love with it! Coincidentally, my friend who introduced me to Lomography just bought this same camera for his birthday. My life has changed ever since I had the Fisheye, my first lomographic camera.

  • The Magic Yet To Come: Part 5

    written by Lomography on 2014-09-06 in #news
    The Magic Yet To Come: Part 5

    Last week, I received the strangest thing through my letterbox. It was a postcard with this photograph on 1 side. The photo is of me sitting by the sea whilst I was on vacation last year. But I have literally no idea who took this shot – That’s why I came here, to ask for your help on my search for my mysterious photographer and to try and get to bottom of the riddle they wrote me. Please help me if you can!

  • Shop News

    Fisheye One Pearl Blue

    Fisheye One Pearl Blue

    Snap dazzling 35mm fisheye shots at the push of a button with this shimmery blue lightweight beauty.

  • Fed 5 - My First Analogue Camera in 2015

    written by whimsicalgrid on 2015-01-23 in #reviews
    Fed 5 - My First Analogue Camera in 2015

    Before the end of 2014, my girlfriend took the plunge of purchasing a rangefinder camera from eBay as a late Christmas gift for me. Let me present to you: the Fed 5. The Fed 5 has been known as a copy of the Leica M3 rangefinder camera. It is inexpensive compared to Leica models. So what are my experiences of using the Fed 5? Read on to find out more.

  • Fresh from the Lab: Hari Raya Portraits

    written by adi_totp on 2014-08-10 in #lifestyle
    Fresh from the Lab: Hari Raya Portraits

    A couple of weeks ago, my family and I celebrated Hari Raya after a month of fasting during the holy month of Ramadan. Since the first day I laid my hands on the Lubitel 166+, I've always had the thought of taking portraits of my family. So this year, I finally took them. Here they are: Hari Raya Portraits!

  • My First Lomo Affair: Wesco and his La Sardina

    written by icequeenubia on 2014-07-17 in #lifestyle
    My First Lomo Affair: Wesco and his La Sardina

    It may take a while for some lomographers to figure out the perfect combination of camera, film, and accessory that suit their needs. But, Wessel de Haas, aka wesco, has been extremely lucky to find his early on his journey to Lomography. Find out what film and accessory he likes pairing his La Sardina 8Ball with in this edition of My First Lomo Affair!

  • Shop News

    Give your space a facelift with your own analogue print

    Give your space a facelift with your own analogue print

    Really want to bring your film photos to life? We’re now offering totally analogue fine art prints in a host of large sizes and formats! Carefully enlarged from your negatives onto premium photographic paper by lab professionals, each picture is a unique piece of craftsmanship.

  • Stacy_mcpommes and her Weapon of Choice: Lubitel 166B

    written by icequeenubia on 2014-10-09 in #lifestyle
    Stacy_mcpommes and her Weapon of Choice: Lubitel 166B

    Not knowing exactly how to do deal with its odd appearance, Nadica first regarded the Lubitel 166B as a complete monstrosity. She left it untouched on her shelf for months after receiving it as a gift. After using other Lomo cameras and getting familiar with the rules on exposure, she finally had the courage to test it. Find out what made stacy_mcpommes fall in love with the Lubitel 166B in this installment of Weapon of Choice!

  • Summer Hot Spots: A Morning Sunbath in Varazze

    written by sirio174 on 2014-08-01 in #world #locations
    Summer Hot Spots: A Morning Sunbath in Varazze

    This is the story of my first adventure on the beach this year. In the middle of June, I took my first sunbath along the seaside on a small public beach in Varazze - a rather small and unkempt place which I will never return to in the future. Read more to find out why!

  • Sprocket Rocket: First Love Never Dies

    written by jokelangens on 2014-07-20 in #reviews
    Sprocket Rocket: First Love Never Dies

    The Lomography Sprocket Rocket - my first analogue camera ever - and I have had some troubled times behind us. We have been involved in a stormy love-hate relationship for several years. But in the end, we luckily managed to get over ourselves and overcome our problems. Now he's my old time favorite. Old love never rusts, that is.