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Leica Screw Mount Copies Classic Leica Copy forum as listed in the book 300 Leica Copies, including but not limited to Nicca, Leotax, Honor, Canon etc. At one time there was a major part of the camera industry just trying to make a lower cost copy/dirivitive of the original Leica.

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Leotax, Tower, Nicca or similar
Old 02-08-2016   #1
mkvrnn
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Leotax, Tower, Nicca or similar

I want to buy a screw-mount Leica copy such as a Leotax, Nicca, Tower, Canon or similar, with or without a lens. I've tried a Wanted ad on here without success, so can anybody suggest a good source?
There are quite a few on eBay direct from Japanese sellers, but their English descriptions are nearly always vague and contradictory. For example, they might describe the condition as excellent then say that there are scratches, haze and fungus in the viewfinder etc. One seller always writes "This item is sold out everywhere in Japan and very hard to get it" which is obviously untrue. To their credit, Japanese sellers usually include very nice quality photos, so perhaps they are just trying to avoid the accusation of mis-describing their camera.
Any ideas or recommendations?
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Old 02-08-2016   #2
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Old 02-08-2016   #3
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MW Classic Cameras in London offers well-described and reasonably priced Leica and Leica copies. I've never been disappointed with my purchases from MW.
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Old 02-08-2016   #4
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I would not hesitate to buy one from a Japanese seller on eBay. In every case that I have done so, the camera was always better than described. And Canon rangefinders from Japan are exceptional bargains right now.
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Old 02-09-2016   #5
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Thanks for the replies so far everybody. I'm still looking.
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Old 02-10-2016   #6
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Ebay seller "nobbysparrow" in Japan has a decent reputation here.

I have purchased a few small bits from MW Camera in England, and have been quite satisfied with their wares.
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Old 02-10-2016   #7
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I would not hesitate to buy from Japan as stated earlier and in my dealings with Japan all of the items were better than described and they were fast and had great customer service.
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Old 02-10-2016   #8
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My gosh cameras have gotten cheap. You should go for a lever wind Nicca, you get some good features that Leica never made, in a reliable, small camera.
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Old 02-10-2016   #9
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Also consider Leotax FV, which is Leotax's top of the line - basically a Leica IIIg (fairly large finder and frame lines) with lever rewind.

The best place for the Japanese Leica copies is of course Japan.
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Old 02-10-2016   #10
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I have recently adopted the Leotax system--- affordable if you hunt carefully. I got one from a great Japanese dealer (the Elite) and just the other day I picked up a Leotax Merit (same as the Elite only with a self timer). These are really really nice. I have owned Leicas before (IIIa, IIf, and IIIf, M3 and M4-P) and these Leotax cameras feel similar and have a couple of unique features. Love 'em!

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Old 02-11-2016   #11
John E Earley
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mkvrnn
I sent you a PM regarding a NICCA.
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Old 02-11-2016   #12
Peter Jennings
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If being a bottom loader isn't that important, I'd opt for a later screw mount Canon. They are both easier to load and have better finders than any Leotax, Nicca, or earlier Canon. The drawback is they are larger, but they are not huge. And they are pretty cheap these days, too!
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Old 02-13-2016   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Peter Jennings View Post
If being a bottom loader isn't that important, I'd opt for a later screw mount Canon. They are both easier to load and have better finders than any Leotax, Nicca, or earlier Canon. The drawback is they are larger, but they are not huge. And they are pretty cheap these days, too!
Yes I'm certainly tempted by a Canon and the viewfinder is very important. I have a small collection of Barnack Leicas but the only one I would want to actually use is the iiig because the viewfinders of the earlier models are far too fiddly and squinty. But they do look nice and they are just nice objects to own, which is why I want to add a few more Leica clones. I have a Nicca with a Jupiter lens and I'm looking for one with a Nikkor lens at a sensible price. I really want to try a Leotax at the moment and might even put up with a lever wind model for the sake of having a reasonable viewfinder. No doubt I will also buy an early Canon sooner or later, but sadly they just don't quite do it for me with those angular corners.
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Old 02-16-2016   #14
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Well, I've found a lens and can't wait for it to arrive. It's a Canon 50mm f1.5 in LTM.

So I just need a body to go with it. I still want a Leotax or a later Nicca, but maybe a Canon would be more in keeping. When were the slightly larger viewfinders introduced on the Canons (ie. which model)?
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Old 02-16-2016   #15
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The IIS, IID, and IVSB models each received slightly larger finders in their last revision. The IIS2, and IID2 had top speed of 1/500, and the IVSB2 had 1/1000. They had improved shutters, too. The easy way to tell the "2" models is by checking the speed dial. The center of the dial rotates separately so that it always points towards the selected shutter speed. This info all comes from Dechert's excellent book.
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Old 02-16-2016   #16
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Many thanks for that info Peter.

I've found a IVSB at a decent price so I'll probably buy that, but then I'll fret about it not having the slightly larger finder of the later version. And I'll still be hankering after one of those lever wind Niccas.

Maybe it's academic anyway because if I get around to shooting some film with one of my Barnack collection I'll most probably choose the iiig with its collapsible Summicron and proper viewfinder.

But if I'm going to use a Leica I've also got a couple of M3s sitting on the shelf.

And now that I own a Pentax Spotmatic and an Olympus OM and a Pen F and a Rolleiflex 2.8F after all these years since I lusted after them as a teenager, I really should try those out too.

But somehow the DSLR always seems like an easy option.

Life's just too short isn't it?
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Old 02-24-2016   #17
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A very nice Leotax K body arrived from Japan yesterday. But UK Customs decided that they wanted their share, so it wasn't such a good buy as I had hoped. In fact I'll be reluctant to buy from outside Europe again.
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Old 02-24-2016   #18
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There is a point I consider significant which it seems is seldom if ever mentioned. The Leica and Leica copies all have the viewfinder almost directly over the lens mount while the Canon viewfinder is offset to the side. Therefore, there are larger lenses that will intrude into all the other viewfinders. These are not visible at all when using a Canon. Maybe you can deal with it, but with a Canon you don't have to!
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Old 04-18-2016   #19
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[QUOTE
[/quote]

I recently bought a Leotax Elite, the same model as shown at the front of this picture. It had problems with dirt in the finder and general need of a CLA, so I did a once-over of it, and I have to say I was very pleasantly surprised by the build quality, which appeared to me to be at least the equal of contemporary screwmount Leicas. The body casting is very solid, the flash sync mechanism very robust, and the wind mechanism simple and smooth. The coarse-grained vulcanite I found more attractive than that used in the Barnacks as well. Cosmetically it looks like new. I also put a Canon 50mm f1.8 lens on mine, and it looks perfect for it. A remarkably good camera. Its only lack is a rangefinder adjustable diopter, but I have no trouble focusing it. The VF window is slightly larger than that of a IIIg, and has a 50mm frameline, which is not parallax corrected. Better build quality than Niccas I have examined, in my opinion.

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Old 08-07-2016   #20
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Where can I get a shutter replaced on my TV2 Leotax. I tried a repair and no luck..curtain had been bunched up, the second curtain, the one on the right side facing the front. It is otherwise built well. The rangefinder is extremely accurate, on par or better than my Canon 7.
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Old 08-07-2016   #21
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DAG cameras should be able to fix it.
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Old 11-19-2016   #22
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I've been happy with my eBay purchases from Japan. Don't put too much into the single word descriptions (mint, excellent) but look at the photos and read the descriptions about scratch, haze, fungus. They tend to be detailed and accurate.

Some of these sellers are definitely using net-based translation tools. I speak enough Japanese that sometimes I know what the original word was. There is one seller (don't remember who) that mentions the condition of the "molts" I have no clue what he/she is talking about! "sold out everywhere" well yes, it's not available new in any shops. That's all it means.
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Old 11-20-2016   #23
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Here's my "Tower 45 or Nicca 5L" This is now my everyday camera. Love it.

https://www.cameraquest.com/nicca.htm

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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #24
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I have now bought a Canon DIV, a beautiful camera, the smallest Leica rangefinder immitator that I have owned. However, the shutter has a tear and is in poor shape otherwise. My question is can I use the material from a Canon 7 shutter in the Canon DIV? I also have the shutter material from an OM-1 that is cloth, possibly a better replacement material. Any suggestions would be helpful.
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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 3RiC View Post
Here's my "Tower 45 or Nicca 5L" This is now my everyday camera. Love it.

https://www.cameraquest.com/nicca.htm

They are a nice camera.
Since you are living in Australia a scarce find would be the Snider 35 camera, an Australian photo store re-badged Nicca type 5, which in its self is one of the rare Nicca cameras of the 1950s.
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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #26
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I am on the lookout for an early Leotax which would be correct for the C-Simlar 50 3.5 I own
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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #27
Peter Jennings
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shafovaloff1 View Post
I have now bought a Canon DIV, a beautiful camera, the smallest Leica rangefinder immitator that I have owned. However, the shutter has a tear and is in poor shape otherwise. My question is can I use the material from a Canon 7 shutter in the Canon DIV? I also have the shutter material from an OM-1 that is cloth, possibly a better replacement material. Any suggestions would be helpful.
You can get a sheet of new shutter cloth from Aki Asahi, here:
http://aki-asahi.com
I've used it successfully on early Nicca and Canon rangefinders.
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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #28
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Leaving out the Leotax G, which is outside my price range, I think it's kind of a tossup between the Leotax Merit and the Nicca 5L as "best Barnack clone" or maybe even "best Barnack (heresy!). They both have wind levers, both are the size of an M3, and both have excellent build quality, with maybe an edge for the Leotax.
The Leotax also has a self-timer, which the less-is-more folks shun, but I like it. It comes down to the Nicca's hinged back vs the Leotax's large bright finder with 50mm framelines. I have used both cameras, and my vote would go to the Leotax. The later Yashica descendant of the Nicca does provide both, but the build quality and aesthetics don't do anything for me, and it really isn't a "Barnack" anymore.
Has anyone tried grafting a hinged back Nicca body shell onto a Leotax? THAT would be an interesting camera!

Cheers,
Dez
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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #29
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dez View Post
Leaving out the Leotax G, which is outside my price range, I think it's kind of a tossup between the Leotax Merit and the Nicca 5L as "best Barnack clone" or maybe even "best Barnack (heresy!). They both have wind levers, both are the size of an M3, and both have excellent build quality, with maybe an edge for the Leotax.
The Leotax also has a self-timer, which the less-is-more folks shun, but I like it. It comes down to the Nicca's hinged back vs the Leotax's large bright finder with 50mm framelines. I have used both cameras, and my vote would go to the Leotax. The later Yashica descendant of the Nicca does provide both, but the build quality and aesthetics don't do anything for me, and it really isn't a "Barnack" anymore.
Has anyone tried grafting a hinged back Nicca body shell onto a Leotax? THAT would be an interesting camera!

Cheers,
Dez
The later fancy Nicca and Leotax cameras with the modern feature add-ons had their own larger body shell sizes that veered off from the smallish pure Barnack copy size and they might not be compatible with each other.
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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #30
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dez View Post
Leaving out the Leotax G, which is outside my price range, I think it's kind of a tossup between the Leotax Merit and the Nicca 5L as "best Barnack clone" or maybe even "best Barnack (heresy!). They both have wind levers, both are the size of an M3, and both have excellent build quality, with maybe an edge for the Leotax.
The Leotax also has a self-timer, which the less-is-more folks shun, but I like it. It comes down to the Nicca's hinged back vs the Leotax's large bright finder with 50mm framelines. I have used both cameras, and my vote would go to the Leotax.
I just picked up a 5l and have the Merit too.



The finder on the Merit is nicer but once I tried the Leica 1:1 SBOOI finder on the Merit it is hard to go back. With that the finders become a wash.

A couple of other differences I have noticed.

The self timer on the Merit is nice.

I like the count down film counter on the Leotax but it is fairly easily changed with the ring on the side and it is also very easy to partially rotate the rewind ring to the point that the counter is disengaged but the film still winds normally. This makes the counter less trustworthy. This has happened with every roll I have put through it. I think the more traditional counter with the rewind button on the 5l may actually work better.

Both have film speed indicators. My Leotax seems to change as part of using the lever wind, my impression of the 5l is that it may stay set better.

The 5l allows you to set the shutter speed correctly before or after winding. Can't do that on the Leotax.

The 5l has a faster max shutter of 1/1000 vs 1/500. The Leotax FV has 1/1000 of a second along with everything else on the Merit.

I don't like rangefinder focus adjustment on the 5l. To easy to hit it and make the viewfinder blurry.

The Leotax has lever rewind which is quicker. The clutch on mine sometimes slips during rewind though so it may need some work.

Aesthetically I think the 5l is slightly cleaner looking with the hidden screws on the top cover and some of the dials are more polished than on the Leotax. I also like the way the body builds up to the high speed shutter dial compared to the stair step front of the Leotax.

Haven't shot the 5l yet though. Slow speeds are shooting fast so the camera was dropped off to Youxin Ye for a CLA.

One other difference I found. Leica FILCA cassettes will not fit in the Leotax at all, they do fit in the Nicca. The Nicca's unlock tab doesn't unlock the cassette though, you need to unlock it and turn it slightly before putting it in the camera. If you do that the door latch will open and close the cassette. I haven't loaded one yet to shoot though.

Shawn

Last edited by shawn : 2 Weeks Ago at 09:08. Reason: Added info
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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #31
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Quote:
Originally Posted by xayraa33 View Post
The later fancy Nicca and Leotax cameras with the modern feature add-ons had their own larger body shell sizes that veered off from the smallish pure Barnack copy size and they might not be compatible with each other.
Body size is *very* close between the two but the mounting of the top cover is different. The 5l hides its screws under the rangefinder focus lever and under the lever winder instead of having them on the front of the camera.

How much smaller are the Leica bodies? I haven't seen a side by side and don't have anything but copies.

Shawn
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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #32
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Quote:
Originally Posted by shawn View Post
Body size is *very* close between the two but the mounting of the top cover is different. The 5l hides its screws under the rangefinder focus lever and under the lever winder instead of having them on the front of the camera.

How much smaller are the Leica bodies? I haven't seen a side by side and don't have anything but copies.

Shawn
I went and physically checked.

My Nicca type 5 and my Tower 45 camera bodies are about 1/8 of an inch longer length wise than my Leica IIIf.

The comparison with the true Barnack Leicas , the III IIIa and IIIb models would be even more exaggerated, as these were even smaller than the lllc and lllf models length wise.
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Old 3 Weeks Ago   #33
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Just picked the Tower 45/5l back up from Youxin Ye. It sounds and feels like a different camera now. Youxin said the shutter had way to much tension on it which made the winding too stiff. Now it is light and it is much quieter when it shoots. It was considerably louder than the Leotax, now it is quieter.

All shutter speeds are working properly too. Before I sent it in the viewfinder on the Tower was very hazy compared to my Leotax. Now the Leotax looks hazy in comparison to the Tower.

Shawn
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Old 3 Days Ago   #34
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Hey can one of you describe the viewfinders on these cameras, particularly the Nicca 5L / Tower 45 and 46 models? Frame lines, parallax correction, magnification (can you shoot with both eyes open), how's the view with glasses, etc.

Thanks!
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Old 3 Days Ago   #35
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No frames lines on the 5l or parallax correction. The RF window is 1.5x magnification, the viewfinder is maybe .5. Too small to effectively use with both eyes open. I use a Leica SBOOI 1:1 viewfinder with it to shoot both eyes open. With the finder on top like that you get a nearly uninterrupted view as you see to the right and left of the viewfinder.

For framelines the later Leotax models have them but they are not parallax corrected. Viewfinder magnification is about the same between the Nicca and later Leotax models.

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Old 3 Days Ago   #36
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SurlaCraque View Post
Hey can one of you describe the viewfinders on these cameras, particularly the Nicca 5L / Tower 45 and 46 models? Frame lines, parallax correction, magnification (can you shoot with both eyes open), how's the view with glasses, etc.

Thanks!
The VF on these about as good as a late model Leica IIIf RD ST, the view with glasses is not as good as on the Leica M models obviously, and not as good as say a Canon 7 but I find them better than all bottomloading Canons, even the last improved models. This all depends on the condition of your eyesight and how up to date your prescription is for your glasses and how much patience you have in film photography with classic gear.

The separate RF can be used with both eyes open to focus, but not the viewfinder. The original RF mirror on these Nicca cameras was of better quality than on the Leica IIIc/lllf models and many do not need it replaced like on the Leicas because the double RF image is faint or dim. My 2 cents from owning all the cameras mentioned in my reply.
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Old 3 Days Ago   #37
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Thanks Shawn. That is helpful information. Is there enough eye relief to use the viewfinder and rangefinder with eyeglasses? Usually low magnification viewfinders are good for glasses wearers. My prescription is mild so my lenses aren't thick but I like to be able to keep them on for shooting outdoors.
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Old 3 Days Ago   #38
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Maybe, I don't wear glasses but if I put my nose against the back of the camera and put my eye a fingers width away the rangefinder is very useable. With the viewfinder there are no frame lines it is the edges of the finder that are for framing. The edges are not as distinct so you might have to move around a little to determine the edges for framing. Same with the SBOOI.

Shawn
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