Leica IIIg

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A beautiful 1950s rangefinder camera, attractive and capable.

I inherited this camera several months ago. Since then, I have managed to put a number of different films through it, as well as learned the ins and outs of this fantastic machine. Hopefully this should be enough to write a review. If not… then you can abuse me in the comments.

The Leica IIIg (I’ll just refer to it as ‘the Leica’ from now on), because of its weight, feels like an extremely well engineered brick. Apart from a few components, and things such as the glass in the viewfinder and rangefinder windows, the camera body is constructed almost entirely out of metal. Consequently, the camera itself is very sturdy.

Needless to say, the camera is quite attractive in its brushed chrome and black painted exterior. Of course, the pictures can testify to that.

As for the features of the camera, the Leica has shutter speeds ranging from 1 second to 1/1000 second as well as a bulb setting for long exposures (Sadly for me, the shutter on 1/1000 of a second has a tendency to jam, only exposing half of the picture. Apparently, all I need to do is get the camera serviced, but that requires money, which I do not currently possess!). With the 50mm Elmar lens I am using, I can adjust the aperture from f16 to the nice and wide f2.8.

For a completely manual camera, the Leica is actually very user friendly. Focusing can be achieved through use of the rangefinder window. You simply have to adjust the focusing lever until the double-image in the window becomes a single one. This means that there is no need to guesstimate distances. This is especially helpful when you are using a wide aperture with a narrow depth of field and need to get your focus spot on. The frame markings in the viewfinder window also move as you focus, in order to counteract
parallax error, making it easy to compose your shots.

Winding is done via knob, rather than a lever, which can be slow at times. This is probably not the best camera for action shots; however, provided you keep the Leica wound and ready to go, then you shouldn’t run into too much trouble.

Since there is no auto-exposure, there is a dial on the back that can be set to show what speed and type of film is being used. This doesn’t have any function beyond being a reminder, or a reference to use in conjunction with an exposure guide or light meter.

The negatives from the Leica are especially suited to enlargements due to their clarity. Sadly, my film scanner does not really do much to show this, but in enlargements and prints from a professional photo lab this is very much evident.

Loading the film into the Leica can be a little difficult at times. Because the Leica does not have a hinged camera back the film leader on every roll needs to be trimmed to make it larger. When out and about this can be a little bit difficult. You can apparently use your teeth, however, when I try to do this, it never works out; the film always tears too much. Even when you have access to scissors, the procedure can still be a little bit of a nuisance.

It is possible to take multiple exposures with the Leica, however this requires a special method as it is not an intended design feature. If you wish to take multiple exposures on The Leica IIIg, or almost any Leica screw mount for that matter, you should depress the shutter button, and while keeping it depressed, rotate the shutter speed dial counter clockwise until it stops. At this point, release the shutter button and the shutter should be re-cocked, with the film not having been advanced.

Just as a side note, would anybody happen to know if this method works on any of the Russian Leica copies? You know, the Feds and Zorkis and what not. Not that it really matters, I just wondered. Anyway, back to the matter at hand…

The Leica also has the ability to use an external flash unit. I have not, however, had the chance to test this as I have no flashbulbs to use with the flashgun I own, or an electronic flash that uses a PC cable (there is no hot shoe on this camera).

I can’t think of much else to say, other than the fact that this is a great camera. There are a few shortcomings, and it’s not the easiest camera to get your head around at first. However, if you can get past this, you will find the Leica IIIg to be a thoroughly enjoyable camera to shoot with.

Thanks, and happy shooting!

written by panchromatic on 2011-08-09 in #reviews

One Comment

  1. meliijoy
    meliijoy ·

    That's one beautiful camera! I've always wanted a Leica.

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