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Jim Lager - Leica Historian Jim Lager is widely considered the best Leica historian ever, having authored arguably the best selection of Leica history books ever written. RFF is very fortunate to have access to his amazing Leica knowledge.

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Leica iii cameras
Old 11-21-2018   #1
Raukopf
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Leica iii cameras

Hi, Iím new to the forum as Iíve never had a rangefinder before. A kind relative passed on a couple of old Leicas which I believe have been laid up in a house for years, probably decades.
From the little research Iíve done they are a 1933 Leica iii and a 1938 iiib. The iii has a serial no. 117988 and the iiib has two numbers ďNo 346630Ē and ďFI. No. 38079Ē. No other distinguishing marks.
Itís exciting to have something in your hands so old that still works (despite their poor condition) and I can only marvel at the build quality - they handle really well and the control layout seems ahead of its time. Unfortunately no lenses came with them so I havenít tried them in anger yet.
I was just wondering if anyone could give me any more history on them as it would add to the appeal, also what lenses would be recommended and is it worth having them serviced / restored?
Many thanks in advance.
Rich
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Old 11-21-2018   #2
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Well according to Jim's book, 'Wehrmacht Leica', your IIIb falls into a batch of cameras (346601-346762) delivered to the Luftwaffe in Berlin Feb 26, 1940 in batch 7989. Only thing about that IIIb which gives me pause is the engraving. The top plate says 'Germany' (I don't recall having seen a Luftwaffe Leica with 'Germany' imprinted on the top plate, though I could be wrong), and crammed below it is the FL (Flieger) number 38079 (which represents a Leica camera, it's like a reference number for the Luftwaffe). Plus the way the serial number is engraved looks a bit off, at least to me.

It might be legit, but Jim would definitely be more of an expert on it than I'll ever be.
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Old 11-21-2018   #3
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A picture of No. 346598 (just 32 cameras earlier) is shown in Jim's book "Leica, an Illustrated History Volume I - Cameras" page 83. The word "Germany" is not engraved on it. The serial number is a bit further to the right and "Luftwaffen - Eigentum" is embossed on the back covering. But 346598 is not in the batch of 346601 to 346762. You may also want to try contacting Lars Netopil in Wetzlar. Jim and Lars are real assets in addressing these details.
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Old 11-21-2018   #4
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This 1935 Elmar 50/3.5 looks authentic on my 1933 III, Rich. It needed a little cleaning to get some light haze out of it, which I was able to do myself.
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Old 11-21-2018   #5
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Your Leica III is a first year (1933) model. Looks like the first serial number for a III model was 108651, though for some reason a series of earlier serial registered numbers were used in 1934 (107651-108700).
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Old 11-21-2018   #6
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Thanks Vince and View Range for the fascinating info re: camera history and Fl number. An exciting thought to have a strong connection with WWII but I sense a healthy dose of scepticism is recommended. I noticed myself how the Fl engraving looks like an afterthought but didn’t know what it was. I imagine precision would be expected in all things by the military. The top plate is quite dented which may add to the distortion. I must try to find more out from my relative. Are you thinking Vince that this is a fake Leica or just a fake Fl Leica?
Mcfingon thanks for your advice I will look out for something to suit the iii - 1933 seems a world away 😉 and to hold something that age that still works.....
BTW are there any recommended places in the UK for refurbish these venerable old cameras?
Rich


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Old 11-21-2018   #7
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FYI some images of the 1933 iii
Tatty but feels good in the hand

IMG_5455.jpgIMG_5456.jpgIMG_5458.jpg


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Old 11-21-2018   #8
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I suppose someone wanting to pass the camera off as a German Air Force example might have had the FL number engraved on it by Sears Roebuck; but then I think they would have made a greater effort to make it look authentic. So that's probably not it.

So maybe the military decided to add a few more to their purchase, and bought them at a dealer's, after they left the Leica factory, and then added the extra engraving themselves?
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Old 11-22-2018   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Raukopf View Post
Thanks Vince and View Range for the fascinating info re: camera history and Fl number. An exciting thought to have a strong connection with WWII but I sense a healthy dose of scepticism is recommended. I noticed myself how the Fl engraving looks like an afterthought but didn’t know what it was. I imagine precision would be expected in all things by the military. The top plate is quite dented which may add to the distortion. I must try to find more out from my relative. Are you thinking Vince that this is a fake Leica or just a fake Fl Leica?
Mcfingon thanks for your advice I will look out for something to suit the iii - 1933 seems a world away �� and to hold something that age that still works.....
BTW are there any recommended places in the UK for refurbish these venerable old cameras?
Rich
I’m just not sure about that FL number, plus the serial number engraving looks a bit off (the ‘Germany’ has me a bit perplexed as well). I’m sure it’s a real Leica IIIb, just not sure about the FL number. I’m assuming that ‘Germany’ was generally applied to export cameras? Maybe they used ‘export’ top plates instead of ‘domestic’ ones for this batch? Really, who can say what happened 80 years ago. Here again, Jim Lager would be the better person to weigh in.

Either way, both of these cameras are super - I’d be happy with either one!
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Old 11-22-2018   #10
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It could be Ex-Military and the "Germany" was added later on to make it legit for sale in the USA, as it's a foreign camera. Some sources suggest 1939 or 1940 for it, BTW.

Anyway, they are nice cameras, so why worry about it?

Regards, David
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Old 11-22-2018   #11
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Originally Posted by Vince Lupo View Post
Iím just not sure about that FL number, plus the serial number engraving looks a bit off (the ĎGermanyí has me a bit perplexed as well). Iím sure itís a real Leica IIIb, just not sure about the FL number. Iím assuming that ĎGermanyí was generally applied to export cameras? Maybe they used Ďexportí top plates instead of Ďdomesticí ones for this batch? Really, who can say what happened 80 years ago. Here again, Jim Lager would be the better person to weigh in.

Either way, both of these cameras are super - Iíd be happy with either one!
Thanks Vince. Would you know the best way to contact Jim or Lars. I am delighted with the cameras and intend to use them but knowing their history adds something to the personal appeal to me. As I said in my intro I am a bit of a nostalgist
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Old 11-22-2018   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by David Hughes View Post
It could be Ex-Military and the "Germany" was added later on to make it legit for sale in the USA, as it's a foreign camera. Some sources suggest 1939 or 1940 for it, BTW.

Anyway, they are nice cameras, so why worry about it?

Regards, David
Thanks David,
Both cameras have a Germany engraving and have been in the UK a long time so it was maybe standard form for exports.
Believe me Iím not worried; I love the cameras and was given them free !
Items like these are tactile ways of connecting us with history so knowing their stories is of great interest to me.
I find it fascinating and a little amusing that someone may have gone to the trouble of finding an accurate match to inventory and serial no, to fake a FL camera and then carried out the engraving on a tatty camera so unconvincingly

Regards, Rich
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Old 11-22-2018   #13
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Bottom View

A view of the bootm plate of the iiib.
Does anyone recognise the modification on the bottom of the base plate - i.e. is it a common modification.
It looks carefully though not sympathetically done. The retrospective light seal inside looks old. Iím thinking flash bracket or something.

Common or bespoke I wonder - just trying to build up a picture of its past.

Thanks.
Rich
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Old 11-22-2018   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Raukopf View Post
A view of the bootm plate of the iiib.
Does anyone recognise the modification on the bottom of the base plate - i.e. is it a common modification.
It looks carefully though not sympathetically done. The retrospective light seal inside looks old. Iím thinking flash bracket or something.

Common or bespoke I wonder - just trying to build up a picture of its past.

Thanks.
Rich
Looks like a hack job to me. The way I read it, it had three screws on a small triangular plate initially, and later had three screws on a bigger plate to cover the first hack that did not suffice.
Neither of those look very well designed and executed.

It may indeed have been a self-designed tripod attachment.
It's pretty ugly imho...
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Old 11-22-2018   #15
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I think the III looks pretty good - especially after a little cleaning, it seems it could be very fine indeed.

CRR in Luton and cameraworks-uk.com comes to mind as two places to go looking for repairs and whatnots.

The IIIb, while my favourite Leica model, is going to need a good bit more love to look presentable, though.
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Old 11-22-2018   #16
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Looks like a hack job to me. The way I read it, it had three screws on a small triangular plate initially, and later had three screws on a bigger plate to cover the first hack that did not suffice.

Neither of those look very well designed and executed.



It may indeed have been a self-designed tripod attachment.

It's pretty ugly imho...


I would agree with you there - not pretty. But it’s mine 😉. Thanks for the suggestion I can see what you mean. I wonder why they wouldn’t use the normal tripod thread, neither is central.


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Old 11-22-2018   #17
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I think the III looks pretty good - especially after a little cleaning, it seems it could be very fine indeed.

CRR in Luton and cameraworks-uk.com comes to mind as two places to go looking for repairs and whatnots.

The IIIb, while my favourite Leica model, is going to need a good bit more love to look presentable, though.


Thank you for the info I will look them up. Hoping to get my hands on a cheap Industar 22 shortly to try them out then will be thinking about getting them refurbed.


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Old 11-23-2018   #18
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Originally Posted by Raukopf View Post
Thanks David,
Both cameras have a Germany engraving and have been in the UK a long time so it was maybe standard form for exports.
Believe me I’m not worried; I love the cameras and was given them free !
Items like these are tactile ways of connecting us with history so knowing their stories is of great interest to me.
I find it fascinating and a little amusing that someone may have gone to the trouble of finding an accurate match to inventory and serial no, to fake a FL camera and then carried out the engraving on a tatty camera so unconvincingly

Regards, Rich

Hi,

The country of origin has to be on every export to the USA since 1871; that's why it's nearly always written in English. It's also useful for dating things like binoculars and so on. There's other laws about it since from/for other countries but they started it.

Something I noticed is that the words "open" and "shut" are in English. That doesn't tell us much because Leitz may have had a stock of base plates in both English and German and used them for the military*. Or it was swapped later on. Or it was used by us (British) and captured and re-issued to the German military...

And, often people do homemade mods but to a spare part and keep the original to swap later on if they sell it.

A large hole with three small ones around it suggests a tripod bush; Leitz made them like that until the mid 30's, perhaps...

I assume the holes are now blocked because you don't want light leaks. (EDIT) Just noticed the second picture shows how the holes were blocked.

(EDIT 2) If you do go after a decent base plate then bear in mind that they come in two lengths and you want the shorter one. You can find them on ebay at silly (high and low) prices but beware as there are USSR ones there as well, but fairly obvious.

Regards, David


* The military on both sides ran out of things like cameras and binoculars very soon and a lot of cannibalisation took place. Giving us a lot of problems with bitsa cameras later on.
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Old 11-23-2018   #19
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I've seen DIY flash sockets in that location and with three screws on the flange too.
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Old 11-23-2018   #20
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Hi,

The country of origin has to be on every export to the USA since 1871; that's why it's nearly always written in English. It's also useful for dating things like binoculars and so on. There's other laws about it since from/for other countries but they started it.

Something I noticed is that the words "open" and "shut" are in English. That doesn't tell us much because Leitz may have had a stock of base plates in both English and German and used them for the military*. Or it was swapped later on. Or it was used by us (British) and captured and re-issued to the German military...

And, often people do homemade mods but to a spare part and keep the original to swap later on if they sell it.

A large hole with three small ones around it suggests a tripod bush; Leitz made them like that until the mid 30's, perhaps...

I assume the holes are now blocked because you don't want light leaks. (EDIT) Just noticed the second picture shows how the holes were blocked.

(EDIT 2) If you do go after a decent base plate then bear in mind that they come in two lengths and you want the shorter one. You can find them on ebay at silly (high and low) prices but beware as there are USSR ones there as well, but fairly obvious.

Regards, David


* The military on both sides ran out of things like cameras and binoculars very soon and a lot of cannibalisation took place. Giving us a lot of problems with bitsa cameras later on.


Thanks David that is good information. It does look like the iiib was an export that was retro-engraved for either military or nefarious purposes. I was mistaken when I said the iii had a ‘Germany’ mark, it does not. I may look out a replacement base plate but the whole thing tells a story of its life which I find all the more interesting. I’ve now acquired an Industar 22 for functional testing purposes (hope I’m not offending any Leica purists) and will take your advice re: the refurb. Many thanks David


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Old 11-23-2018   #21
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I've seen DIY flash sockets in that location and with three screws on the flange too.


Thank you I must do a bit more digging, especially around the person who owned it before me.
Regards, Rich


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Old 11-23-2018   #22
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Hope I’m not offending anyone with this combination - 1938/40 Leica iiib with 1957 KMZ Industar 22 5cm collapsible (hopefully not a fake). Now to get some film loaded and try it out.
IMG_5632.jpg


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Old 11-24-2018   #23
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Hi,


Almost everyone puts old USSR lenses on Leicas but I think it would be more sensible to put a Leica lens on a USSR body. The lens being more important, imo.

This is the wartime story from the UK's perspective:-




Regards, David
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Old 11-24-2018   #24
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That's really cool David. Hadn't seen that before.

Best,
-Tim
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Old 11-24-2018   #25
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That's really cool David. Hadn't seen that before.

Best,
-Tim

Hi,


Thanks, here's what you get for flattery; there was a huge demand for German cameras during the second world war, both from the public and the British Govt. and a lot of profits were being made. So a law was passed to stop it and this list was issued by the PDA for dealers. It shows all prices as at the 3rd September 1939.






In a nutshell they stamped down on the wicked dealers and the PDA fought back. The list and covering letter make fascinating reading.


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Old 11-24-2018   #26
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So they were restricted to only selling them for the pre-war price? To keep the prices reasonable? Was there a demand for German cameras so the Allies could use them during the war, or was it they wanted the cameras to dissect them to determine German manufacturing processes?

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Old 11-24-2018   #27
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So they were restricted to only selling them for the pre-war price? To keep the prices reasonable? Was there a demand for German cameras so the Allies could use them during the war, or was it they wanted the cameras to dissect them to determine German manufacturing processes?

Best,
-Tim

Hi,

More or less, the maimum price they could charge was the price new in May 1942 but it was a little more complicated and the letter in the photo is three pages long. The first eight pages of the book are about th regulations too. And that is the 2nd edition of the book! It's mostly interesting as it mentions everything photographic in the early 40's with UK prices.

Part of the problem is that prices at the 2nd September 1939 are also used and there's a list of alternatives and so on. I've read it all a few times and still can't quite understand it. A lot of peope couldn't at the time.

I guess people then wanted Leicas, just as we do today but in those days they didn't have so much choice of first class cameras and lenses. For example the Summitar was announced in September 1939 just as the war broke out and I doubt if many found their way here. I have also seen dreadful prices in wartime magzines for secondhand cameras.

I don't think anyone could have copied Leitz or Zeiss then, the "Compass" camera (British) was made in Switzerland by watch engineers as no one here could make them. And after the war ended the USA makers suspected they'd been conned as they couldn't copy theLeica using the Leitz blueprints etc.

Hope that's some use to you.

Regards, David
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Old 11-24-2018   #28
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Hi,


Almost everyone puts old USSR lenses on Leicas but I think it would be more sensible to put a Leica lens on a USSR body. The lens being more important, imo.

This is the wartime story from the UK's perspective:-




Regards, David


That is really interesting Dave - some familiar irony in a nations best technology being used against it.
I will be looking for a suitable Leica lens for the iii and iiib. Would you recommend the Elmarit or another lens like the summitar

Thanks
Rich
Sorry about bad grammar but I have found the use of punctuation marks from my phone produces strange results ( see above posts )


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