Tell Me About Screw Mount Leicas
Old 06-18-2018   #1
ktmrider
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Tell Me About Screw Mount Leicas

So, I have only handled a screw mount Leica once, for about ten minutes at Red Dot Camera in London. So, as an owner of just about every film M made at one time or another tell me about the attraction of Leicas earlier than an M3.

I know they are small but anything else? I am down to one M film camera (sold Leica R6.2 and M2 recently) although I have a new MP240 for the M mount lenses.
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Old 06-18-2018   #2
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People either love them or hate them. The user experience is unique and they look really nice but they are really fiddly to use. I like my IIIg but it's definitely a backup and I prefer any film M camera to any LTM camera but it's still fun to use when speed isn't necessary.
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Old 06-18-2018   #3
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As I see it, it's part of our history. You have to handle early cameras to appreciate them but only after using the previous ones.

Buy a 1920's camera that takes 6x9 plates and only has a f/6.3 lens and you'll soon apreciate the early Leicas. Then move on to a model II and see what a giant step forward that was.

I shall be drummed out of RFF for saying it but they are not the easiest to use but they are great fun. And anything that makes people stop and think about photography is a good thing; plus you get to meet a lot of people...

Regards, David
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Old 06-18-2018   #4
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So, would the Nicca II currently in the classifieds be a good clone?
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Old 06-18-2018   #5
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Originally Posted by ktmrider View Post
So, would the Nicca II currently in the classifieds be a good clone?
Absolutely. Buy it so I stop obsessing about getting another camera that I don't need nor can't afford.

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Old 06-18-2018   #6
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Nicca looks good. The lens is a very good Zeiss Sonnar copy by Nikon. I have a Leotax like it. You will have to test out the flash synch ports. They are most likely timed for flash bulbs. On my Leotax, they were both for flash bulbs - one seemed to be an S synch, and the other was M synch. Don Goldberg said that it's possible on the Leotax to convert one of them to X synch for electronic flash. So, now it's in his queue, where it's been for 1 year.

BTW - flash synch on these babies is at a blazing 1/20 or 1/25 shutter speed.

Other caveats with these Barnack clones:

The viewfinder and rangefinder are in separate eyepieces. So, focus first, then compose. The viewfinder only shows the view of a 50mm lens. You need separate viewfinders for other focal lengths.

The rangefinder works by superimposition. You can't use the edge of the RF as a split image finder, as you can with an M Leica (well, not as easily). The entire viewing experience is likely to be dim and squinty, compared to your M camera.

The shutter speed dial spins around as the first curtain runs. Don't touch it while it's spinning, or you will ruin your exposure.
Also, you can only set the shutter speed AFTER you've wound the film. Don't try to change the shutter speed before winding.

If you want to perform a double exposure, you can take the shutter dial, and wind it backwards until it latches. The film won't have advanced, but the shutter will be recocked.

Bottom loading without a back flap. This is different from your Leica M. The back door is for sissies anyway. Real Leicas don't need back doors .

Overall, the Barnacks require a more considered approach to photography. There are so many more buttons / dials and settings that you need to consider before you take the shot. But they are quaint looking, and attention getting. People find them fascinating, not intimidating.
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Old 06-18-2018   #7
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There's something about shooting with an ltm camera but I can't describe it. They make the photographer pay closer attention to the process, but that doesn't mean they're slow or not suitable for fast-moving events. Last month I shot a woods fire with a IIIa and a 35 f 3.5 pre-war Elmar and it worked just fine. The pre-war cameras almost require an auxiliary viewfinder, especially if you wear glasses. Do I use mine every week? No, but I can't think of a subject or topic that can be shot with an M and not with an ltm.
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Old 06-18-2018   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Phil_F_NM View Post
Absolutely. Buy it so I stop obsessing about getting another camera that I don't need nor can't afford.
LOL I was just looking at those pics too... I'd buy it myself if I didn't already have a nearly-identical Tower version of the same camera, with a like-new Nikkor 2.0.

Another option worth mentioning are the early Canons.... They have a nice viewfinder magnifier and, in my opinion, nicer and more-durable chrome.
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Old 06-18-2018   #9
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"The entire viewing experience is likely to be dim and squinty, compared to your M camera."

Squinty maybe, but dim? Just have the thing cleaned - mine (both RF and VF) are as bright as any camera I have looked through, including a new M7.

You know what's squinty? Trying to focus precisely with a .72 rangefinder. LTM Leica rangefinders are magnified 1.5x - or TWICE the size. They got this right the first time (well, III and after). And you can focus the RF! What will they think of next?! Whatever time you saved with the combined RF/VF evaporates trying to focus a fast 50mm on a pupil behind an eyeglass. Don't get me started on the .58 finder ....

Yes, the built-in 50mm finder is squinty (but it is not dim). Get a SBOOI for your 50mm and you get a magnificent 1:1 view - even with most glasses. Open both eyes for BINOCULAR vision, what will they think of next?

These experiences are based on being a presbyopic glasses wearer - 20/20 youngsters will have a different experience...

Not saying the M cameras are inferior. But they are a compromise in the name of convenience and maybe, under optimal circumstances, some small advantage in speed of operation.

(I should probably put on some flame retardant clothing after that - but I stand by my comments.)
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Old 06-18-2018   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MaxElmar View Post
"The entire viewing experience is likely to be dim and squinty, compared to your M camera."

Squinty maybe, but dim? Just have the thing cleaned - mine (both RF and VF) are as bright as any camera I have looked through, including a new M7.

You know what's squinty? Trying to focus precisely with a .72 rangefinder. LTM Leica rangefinders are magnified 1.5x - or TWICE the size. They got this right the first time (well, III and after). And you can focus the RF! What will they think of next?! Whatever time you saved with the combined RF/VF evaporates trying to focus a fast 50mm on a pupil behind an eyeglass. Don't get me started on the .58 finder ....

Yes, the built-in 50mm finder is squinty (but it is not dim). Get a SBOOI for your 50mm and you get a magnificent 1:1 view - even with most glasses. Open both eyes for BINOCULAR vision, what will they think of next?

These experiences are based on being a presbyopic glasses wearer - 20/20 youngsters will have a different experience...

Not saying the M cameras are inferior. But they are a compromise in the name of convenience and maybe, under optimal circumstances, some small advantage in speed of operation.

(I should probably put on some flame retardant clothing after that - but I stand by my comments.)
I tend to agree wholeheartedly with all of this, but it seems a minority opinion. It is the amount of rangefinder magnification that I find so helpful in obtaining precise focus (relative to M bodies) that people seem to ignore when they talk about Barnacks. This was one reason why when introduced, the M3 “wasn’t for everybody” and Leica kept building Barnacks, even introducing newer models (iiig). Or maybe that was because, as I am sure some will argue (they always do) it was just because the terminally unhip “were afraid of change”.
I love mine (iiia, iiib, iiig). I don’t have any Leica ltm clones, but even the Leicas are dirt cheap (excepting the iiig).
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Old 06-18-2018   #11
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I have posted this before, but this was taken with a iiig (without using an external viewfinder) and the Summicron 50 ltm. So, really, how hard can they be to use? It’s not like you are going to be reduced to taking pictures of chairs or other things that won’t hold still if you use a Barnack.
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Old 06-18-2018   #12
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To me LTM are the cameras HCB started with and many first soviet photogs were using.
So, it is significant, if not most important part of photo history and photography as an art for me.
They are less expensive in paid CLA, more quirky to load and waste extra two frames. They are best with external VF to use. Even 50mm, once I looked into SBOOI, I realized what 1:1 is, M3 VF isn't. I keep it on Zorki .
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Old 06-18-2018   #13
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I have the Tower-branded version of that camera, along with the Nikkor 50 f/2. Having never used a Barnack Leica I can't really compare, but it's a pleasant enough camera to use, though I like my Canon P better.
But, that Nikkor lens is lovely and makes the package worthwhile itself (IMHO). Your M would not be shamed wearing that lens with an adaptor.
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Old 06-18-2018   #14
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Originally Posted by Robert Lai View Post

The shutter speed dial spins around as the first curtain runs. Don't touch it while it's spinning, or you will ruin your exposure.
Also, you can only set the shutter speed AFTER you've wound the film. Don't try to change the shutter speed before winding.

Bottom loading without a back flap. This is different from your Leica M. The back door is for sissies anyway. Real Leicas don't need back doors .

Overall, the Barnacks require a more considered approach to photography. There are so many more buttons / dials and settings that you need to consider before you take the shot. But they are quaint looking, and attention getting. People find them fascinating, not intimidating.
Some Niccas can have their shutter speed set before winding. They are marked for both pre and post winding shutter speed setting. The 5l / Tower 45/46 have this. Those also have back door flaps to aid in film loading and they are lever wind too.

A couple of the Leotax clones have somewhat bigger finders (with 50mm frame lines) but they aren't as big as the IIIGs finder and they don't adjust for parallax.

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Old 06-18-2018   #15
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Originally Posted by MaxElmar View Post
(I should probably put on some flame retardant clothing after that - but I stand by my comments.)
Not to worry! This is *exactly* the reason I'd rather shoot a Barnack...the 1.5x magnified RF, and one can add an SBOOI if one wants a life-size, both-eyes-open view with a 50. Alternatively if a small camera is more important for the situation, then skip the SBOOI and put on a collapsible Elmar.

I've owned all varieties of M with various viewfinder magnifications (including the Zeiss Ikon, the CLE, and the Hexar RF) and if I'm shooting a meterless camera I'd much rather shoot a Barnack.
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Old 06-18-2018   #16
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Originally Posted by ktmrider View Post
So, I have only handled a screw mount Leica once, for about ten minutes at Red Dot Camera in London. So, as an owner of just about every film M made at one time or another tell me about the attraction of Leica's earlier then an M3.

I know they are small but anything else? I am down to one M film camera (sold Leica R6.2 and M2 recently) although I have a new MP240 for the M mount lenses.
Barnack's and the clones are quirky. You will either find them very fun to shoot with or maddeningly frustrating. I have a Leotax TV2, Tower 45 and Leica IIIg.

I love the dual finders but not everyone does. The magnification makes focusing very quick and if you are using a lens with a tab it becomes almost second nature to set the focus almost in place by scale focusing and using the rangefinder just to fine tune it when needed. A SBOOI on top of the camera gives an incredible framing finder with both eyes open.

Loading the Leotax and Leica takes a little time but isn't a big deal if the film leaders are trimmed. I 3d printed a ABLON film trimming guide and it works great. The Tower has a back door like the M3 so it loads a little easier still.

Depending upon the lenses used aperture can be quirky on these too as it may be at the front of the lens or rotate with the lens while focusing. Some lenses have aperture details on both sides of the lens so you can see it no matter where the lens is focused. The Elmar 2.8 on my IIIg has that as does my Konishiroku Hexar 50mm f3.5.

Quiet very tactile cameras to use.









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Old 06-18-2018   #17
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Originally Posted by Larry Cloetta View Post


I have posted this before, but this was taken with a iiig (without using an external viewfinder) and the Summicron 50 ASPH ltm. So, really, how hard can they be to use? It’s not like you are going to be reduced to taking pictures of chairs or other things that won’t hold still if you use a Barnack.
Great shot. For shots like this I find them very easy to use. Set exposure and prefocus and then just track until they are where you want them.

This is from my first roll in the IIIg.



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Old 06-18-2018   #18
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Originally Posted by David Hughes View Post
As I see it, it's part of our history. You have to handle early cameras to appreciate them but only after using the previous ones.

Buy a 1920's camera that takes 6x9 plates and only has a f/6.3 lens and you'll soon apreciate the early Leicas. Then move on to a model II and see what a giant step forward that was.

I shall be drummed out of RFF for saying it but they are not the easiest to use but they are great fun. And anything that makes people stop and think about photography is a good thing; plus you get to meet a lot of people...

Regards, David
Pretty good description David.

I would say its like a large format camera, but easier to use and lighter

Otherwise, mostly the same.

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Old 06-18-2018   #19
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The Leica II has a 100% rangefinder window.

That's a big thing because you can focus with both eyes open and not look anything like this at all:



AFAIK the Leica II is the only camera that had a 100% rangefinder magnification. All models after it had 150%, which actually was 'progress in the wrong direction' since it did require you to squeeze one eye shut.

And they are as 'fiddly' to use as several other 1,000s of cameras from the same and later eras so I don't consider that to be something specific to Barnack Leicas. Same goes for a wide array of cameras, from Contaxes, Kodak Retinas, Olympus Pens and XA series to nearly the whole Fujifilm, Panasonic and Sony mirrorless line. Small buttons and dials goes for small cameras in general.
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Old 06-18-2018   #20
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I've been shooting my IIIc and IIIf full time a few years now. I like the history, the tactile feel, the small size of bodies and lenses, inconspicuous presence, quiet shutter sound, speed of operation (instantaneous once you pre-set exposure and learn where to position the focus tab by feel), and friendly conversations if people notice them - which they often don't. Easy to accurately focus wide open with the magnified RF. Easy to frame with an external VF. Film loading is slow but that's not a deal breaker for me - I use a business card to avoid trimming the leader.

I do a lot of street photography and for that I find a Barnack ideal.

Nearly forgot to mention, I find using a Barnack fun; and they're beautiful machines.


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Old 06-18-2018   #21
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AFAIK the Leica II is the only camera that had a 100% rangefinder magnification.
Do you mean the only Leica with 100%?
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Old 06-18-2018   #22
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I keep both my M2 and Leica II loaded with the same film, and they are cameras for different days. When I want to go out un-encumbered, I slip the Barnack with Elmar in my jeans pocket. Going out to a dedicated "shoot" with an agenda? The M2 & a couple of extra lenses and some accessories and extra film goes in a shoulder bag.
If I can only own one camera, I'm afraid it will be a Leica II.
Early on I trimmed the film leader for my Barnacks like I was instructed, but I couldn't figure out why it was necessary. Now I bulk load and cut the film straight across, with a very little practice it loads faster than anything.
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Old 06-19-2018   #23
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The first 35mm camera I learned to use, long ago, was a IIIf borrowed from my father. Later I inherited it and still use it regularly, with a 50/3.5 Elmar, 35/3.5 Summaron and 21/4 CV. It’s compact enough to fit a jacket pocket, and in all these years I’ve never had trouble loading it.
I like to use it for action, pre-focusing and using a life-size finder, keeping both eyes open.
The finder is not the expensive Leitz SBOOI; it’s marked Albada. Since the camera was bought in Holland, the finder might have been made under license from the Dutch inventor, L.E.W. van Albada. Could be a collector’s item -- who knows?
Oddly enough the IIIf is one of my favorite cameras to use indoors with flash. The 1.5x magnified rangefinder helps focusing in dim light, and the slow synch speed captures the ambient light nicely. Using a bracket, a diffuser on the flash unit and bouncing the light off the ceiling produces an effect I like
Of course above all it’s a great pleasure to use such a fine precision mechanical instrument. If you like that kind of thing.
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Old 06-19-2018   #24
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They're nicely designed and quality built little cameras. A lot of fun to shoot with! But the knob wind put me off. Just too slow to use. There's few cameras that are as much fun to advance the film on as a double stroke M3. Snick snick. The viewfinder experience is other worldly on an M camera compared to a Barnack.
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Old 06-19-2018   #25
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Bought my first screw mount leica in 2007. A Leica IIIa.
I own a number of them now from early Leica II to 1950s Leica IIIf
Love using them all. ...and yes I own an M3....

If you want squinty optics, try a Kodak 35 RF.
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Old 06-20-2018   #26
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Do you mean the only Leica with 100%?
Yes. As far as I know the Leica II is the only camera that has a rangefinder image that is life size. All other Barnack models have magnification on the rangefinder.
Only takes a little bit of practise to line your eye up to the center of the image and then it's very easy to focus with both eyes open. I find it less fatiguing to shoot like that.
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Old 06-20-2018   #27
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Great discussion. Loved my 1932 Leica II and Nickel Elmar. So compact. But the IIIf with a 1951 Elmar and SBOOI 50mm finder is something else. It is so good to use, so compact, so quiet and the lens collapsing inside completely allows it to fit in a pocket. Scale focus, and preset exposure as per other cameras, the brilliant view through the external VF, and best of all for the full field RF focussing. Late in the day it is very hard to focus the modern digital Leica rangefinder or the M6 once you're in your late 50s. The ancient advance knob? Works just fine. Bottom loading? Painful, but bearable. My IIIf was the only film 35mm camera I took on our most recent holiday.



I wish the new Summaron f5.6 was in screw mount.
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Old 06-20-2018   #28
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I too really enjoy my Barnack Leica. In my case a black paint Leica II.

The historical significance is certainly interesting, but for me it’s not really enough to motivate ownership.

However I’ve also found it a really fun camera to shoot. It’s certainly more primitive than any M (and most cameras out there for that matter). This requires a more considered approach, pushing you towards a different pace of shooting. It’s not necessarily slower than the M cameras (except for winding) but it depends a bit on what you shoot. It’s a very hands on affair and I personally feel quite connected to the process when shooting it.

So this enjoyable shooting experience combined with the compact size is the main appeal to me. The historical significance, design and build are added bonuses. That I can share lenses with my other M-cameras is also rather nice.
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Old 06-20-2018   #29
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Hope this isn't hijacking the thread, but I think it fits...
How do you deal with your external viewfinders, do they stay on or come off when the camera goes into a pocket or the bag?
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Old 06-20-2018   #30
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That's a very good question retinax. And I've not found a good solution. My IIIc is so pocketable, without the external finder, but since I like to use it with a 35mm lens, I need the finder, which then makes the camera not terribly pocketable.

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Old 06-20-2018   #31
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Well, "only" except for the Nikon S2, S3, S4, SP, Canon P, Voigt R3 series... and probably a few others I've missed...

Nice try, but 150% is still better. And you can't focus an original II RF. Let's consider 100% as the "minimum"...

And that guy looks cool! I could not pull off a white suit.

Quote:
Originally Posted by johannielscom View Post
The Leica II has a 100% rangefinder window.

That's a big thing because you can focus with both eyes open and not look anything like this at all:



AFAIK the Leica II is the only camera that had a 100% rangefinder magnification.
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Old 06-20-2018   #32
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Hope this isn't hijacking the thread, but I think it fits...
How do you deal with your external viewfinders, do they stay on or come off when the camera goes into a pocket or the bag?
I use a small piece of electrical tape across the back of the coldshoe and finder foot. It provides a little bit of resistance. So, far, I haven’t lost a finder.
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Old 06-20-2018   #33
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Well, I am going to be in Inverness, Scotland in September and Fforbes is on my list to visit. They seem to have a fair number of screw mount cameras. Honestly, I don't know where I would come across any here in the Southwest US until then.
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Old 06-20-2018   #34
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Well, "only" except for the Nikon S2, S3, S4, SP, Canon P, Voigt R3 series... and probably a few others I've missed...

Nice try, but 150% is still better. And you can't focus an original II RF. Let's consider 100% as the "minimum"...

And that guy looks cool! I could not pull off a white suit.
johannielscom later clarified the only Leica with 100%.
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Old 06-20-2018   #35
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Hope this isn't hijacking the thread, but I think it fits...
How do you deal with your external viewfinders, do they stay on or come off when the camera goes into a pocket or the bag?
I don't find barnacks particularly pocketable anyway. But if size is an issue, skip the aux viewfinder. Even with wides.
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Old 06-20-2018   #36
retinax
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Originally Posted by splitimageview View Post
I don't find barnacks particularly pocketable anyway. But if size is an issue, skip the aux viewfinder. Even with wides.

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Originally Posted by oldwino View Post
I use a small piece of electrical tape across the back of the coldshoe and finder foot. It provides a little bit of resistance. So, far, I haven’t lost a finder.

I'm curious about one day trying one, mainly as a platform for (CV) wides. I've never used an external viewfinder, I'm a bit worried it makes the whole affair fragile, prone to snagging on things when pulling it out of a bag etc. Am I overthinking that?
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Old 06-20-2018   #37
Larry Cloetta
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Originally Posted by retinax View Post
I'm a bit worried it makes the whole affair fragile, prone to snagging on things when pulling it out of a bag etc. Am I overthinking that?
Personally, I've never felt I needed to be any more careful just because it had an external vf on it than I would be otherwise. It's never seemed to be a fragile arrangement, to me at least. Slightly bigger, yes.
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Old 06-20-2018   #38
lxmike
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Quote:
Originally Posted by retinax View Post
Hope this isn't hijacking the thread, but I think it fits...
How do you deal with your external viewfinders, do they stay on or come off when the camera goes into a pocket or the bag?
My SBOOI lives constantly on my IIIc stepper, the 5cm finder is a true gem and wonderful to shoot with
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Old 06-20-2018   #39
shawn
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Originally Posted by Steve M. View Post
They're nicely designed and quality built little cameras. A lot of fun to shoot with! But the knob wind put me off. Just too slow to use. There's few cameras that are as much fun to advance the film on as a double stroke M3. Snick snick. The viewfinder experience is other worldly on an M camera compared to a Barnack.
I actually tend to enjoy know wind if I roll the winder across my finger. My biggest issue is my Vito III winds the opposite direction of the IIIG.

There are many Barnack clones that are lever wind. Both my Leotax and Nicca are. Canon made lever winders and there are likely others.

Shawn
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Old 06-20-2018   #40
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Quote:
Originally Posted by retinax View Post
Hope this isn't hijacking the thread, but I think it fits...
How do you deal with your external viewfinders, do they stay on or come off when the camera goes into a pocket or the bag?
I leave the SBOOI on my Tower 45 all the time. It is a tight fit in the shoe so no chance of it falling off. I carry the camera in a Domke F5Xa and it fits fine with the finder on and it actually has the IIIG next to it with a light meter in the middle. The Tower has a Nikkor 5cm f2 and the IIIG has an Elmar 2.8 on it.

Shawn
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