How do Leicas break?
Old 11-30-2019   #1
IIIg
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How do Leicas break?

I've owned, and used, Wetzlar Leicas since 1963 (a nice IIIc at first, with a Serenar 50/1.8) and have since acquired other Barnack jewels, some M series beauties, and some Leica reflexes (my comments today go only to the Leicaflex SL2 -I'll leave the properties of the Leica "R"'s for some other time).

I state this to present my credentials and suggest that I have a bit of practical experience with Leica hardware.

Let me begin-

1) I have some 50 years experience with Barnack Leicas. Ignoring gummy shutter escapements (old age and airborne oxygen, not a Wetzlar-origin problem); my experience is that when my Barnacks have failed, the problem was crinkly/cracked shutter curtains or flakes of trash from the internal anti-relection coating on the VF walls obscuring the VF/RF. Never had any of the basic camera mechanicals go wrong here including my Barnack IIIAs.

It is all to easy to wind film slivers, flakes, into a Barnack Leica shutter - especially if one is trimming the film leader freehand. When I knew the culprits were there, I've removed the slivers with a pair of gas pliers (best thing I had in my meager tool kit).

That being said, the camera coverings often flake and fall off. Easily remediated - "Camera Leather" has a fix and Youxin does a fine job.

2) With my Leicas M3s, the common problem has been broken springs. These have been in the self timer (which I seldom use) or the frame counter which I use all the time. After 70 years, when my DS M3s are in for service, I'll have the springs replaced as a matter of course.

The covering on a Leica M3 can also crumble to dust. Repeating myself here, see Cameraleather or let Dag or Youxin provide a replacement.

3) Leicaflex, Leicaflex SL, Leicaflex SL2.

The self timer seems to be weak on these. I pay for repairs because I enjoy using the original Leicaflex; your opinion will vary.

The prism silvering evidently flakes way on the prism of some Leicaflex SSLs. DAG has resilvered prisms available at times. Check with him, a working SL is wirth the trouble.

Never had a Leicaflex, Leicaflex SL, or Leicaflex SL2 that had a gummy shutter.

Good light all - your comments, please.
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Old 11-30-2019   #2
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The prism silvering is getting faint in my M2, which I bought new around 1960 or so. About 1997 I had it CLA'd by John Van Stelten. In 2009 I bought two IIIcs, one wartime, the other post-war. The slow speeds were gummed and I had them CLA'd by John Maddox. I had my M3 CLA'd by Sherry. And I have an M5 with its L-seal still intact.

So: Not a lot of problems!
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Old 11-30-2019   #3
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Angry

Years ago, I bought a used M 4 + a 35mm f2 Summicron. I mostly used it around the acreage we lived in then. It worked well, except because I am left eye dominant, I was frustrated because I felt I never realised the full benefits of the viewfinder.

But, to return to the question, I took a short commercial flight, and put the M4 in the bag I used every day in those days. (Sorry, I can't remember which bag it was, but I do know I'd never had any problems with it). I put the bag in the overhead compartment. There was nothing unusual about that compartment. When I arrived, I opened the bag and discovered the film advance lever had come off the body. I put it back on the spindle (?), and everything seemed Ok, except I never trusted the camera again - certainly I never felt I could absolutely rely on it; not like every Nikon I ever owned. They never let me down!
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Old 11-30-2019   #4
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My M4 broke (years ago) trying to reload in a rush filming a basketball game when I put my thumb threw the shutter.


My friend broke his M2 when he bounced it off the sidewalk.
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Old 11-30-2019   #5
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Youxin CLA'd my M3 DS - slow speeds were erratic. Now it's like a new camera. I'll be sending my M3 SS to him for the same issue. Rangefinder is crisp.

I have two Leicaflex SL's. Shutters are fine, but both have small brown spots when viewing, likely from desilvering. Metering is accurate. The combined wind lever, shutter speed dial, and release is so sensible from a user's perspective. These are really fun cameras to use and a pleasure to hold.
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Old 12-01-2019   #6
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My M2 had film advance issues, like a gear tooth would slip randomly every few frames. The shutter brake also wore out.

For a pretty good list of how Leicas break, check out the repair manual!
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Old 12-01-2019   #7
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I discovered years ago that you can get them from eBay already broken ... even though they aren't actually advertised as such!

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Old 12-01-2019   #8
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The biggest problems I've ever had with Leica's (although I've only owned M's and Barnack's) has been shutter timing at higher speeds. I've had four Barnack's over the years and three out of four have had shutter speed issues at 1/500 and 1/1000, each time with the second shutter curtain catching the first, before completing it's travel. Resulting in underexposure on one side of the negative. Also had a similar problem with an M4. Otherwise, my M3's and M6 TTL have been fault free.

Best,
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Old 12-01-2019   #9
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My IIIf doesn't look any different than when I bought it in 1963 (same with the f3.5 Elmar). I've had one CLA and one shutter with a CLA. I still like the photos better than and other 35mm I've had.
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Old 12-01-2019   #10
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Not sure how Leicas break. They are said by some to be bullet proof.

Apparently the same cannot be said for Don McMullins Nikon.

Apparently the slow speeds were a little bit off after this escapade.

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Old 12-01-2019   #11
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I've been using Leica Ms since I was a kid in the late '60s. Mostly M2 & M4 with a few M6 thrown into the mix. Never had one break. My latest black paint '67 M4 is the only one I ever had serviced.
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Old 12-02-2019   #12
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I have an M3 here that's crapped itself. Locked up completely. I suspect the shutter may have ingested some light sealing material. On the plus side, it has a good viewfinder, is reasonably clean, and it was fairly cheap. I made an order from Nobu-san last night for the various tools I will need to remove the different securing rings around the body. Hopefully over Xmas/New Year I will get a chance to investigate further.
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Old 12-02-2019   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pál_K View Post
Youxin CLA'd my M3 DS - slow speeds were erratic. Now it's like a new camera. I'll be sending my M3 SS to him for the same issue. Rangefinder is crisp.

I have two Leicaflex SL's. Shutters are fine, but both have small brown spots when viewing, likely from desilvering. Metering is accurate. The combined wind lever, shutter speed dial, and release is so sensible from a user's perspective. These are really fun cameras to use and a pleasure to hold.
It's nice to see that Leitz weren't too proud to borrow a few design cues from Zeiss Ikon.
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Old 12-02-2019   #14
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My 1965 M2 has had the broken self-timer spring, and a detached viewfinder optic (to be fair, this happened following a short, sharp knock to the lens). Also the still undiagnosed intermittent light leak.

That's it...
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Old 12-02-2019   #15
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Someone please repeat the detail of the legend of the 'proper' SL that fell out of a jet, lay in the desert for months and was returned to Leitz for repair.

I don't know how much of my memory is correct (?!)
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Old 12-02-2019   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by peterm1 View Post
Not sure how Leicas break. They are said by some to be bullet proof.

Apparently the same cannot be said for Don McMullins Nikon.

Apparently the slow speeds were a little bit off after this escapade.

Not too bad, really. Looks like the rewind knob is as good as new. Tough cameras, Nikons are.
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Old 12-02-2019   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dralowid View Post
Someone please repeat the detail of the legend of the 'proper' SL that fell out of a jet, lay in the desert for months and was returned to Leitz for repair.

I don't know how much of my memory is correct (?!)
I believe that Leica has it on display in Wetzlar.
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Old 12-02-2019   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sarcophilus Harrisii View Post
... I suspect the shutter may have ingested some light sealing material...
Hopefully not a film chip, which can do more damage.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sarcophilus Harrisii View Post
It's nice to see that Leitz weren't too proud to borrow a few design cues from Zeiss Ikon.
Did Zeiss ever do that with a rapid wind lever, though? My Contax IIIa has the shutter speeds, wind, and release all concentric, but the wind is a knob wind.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dralowid View Post
Someone please repeat the detail of the legend of the 'proper' SL that fell out of a jet, lay in the desert for months and was returned to Leitz for repair...
A jet where the canopy, windows, or hatch can open in flight? Maybe other type of aircraft. Still... Amazing if it weren't smacked to bits. Even more awesome if they could repair it.
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Old 12-03-2019   #19
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The SL film advance is indeed a great thing, don't forget that it also offers intermediate shutter speeds betwixt those marked.

It was a USAF jet.
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Old 12-03-2019   #20
David Hughes
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Q. How do Leicas break?


A. Like any other camera; when you least expect them to...


Regards, David
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Old 12-03-2019   #21
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and just as expensively!
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Old 12-03-2019   #22
Sarcophilus Harrisii
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pál_K View Post
Hopefully not a film chip, which can do more damage.

Did Zeiss ever do that with a rapid wind lever, though? My Contax IIIa has the shutter speeds, wind, and release all concentric, but the wind is a knob wind.
Yes, several Contaflexes, starting with the Rapid, and the Contarexes all used the feature from around the late 1950s. Your comment is perceptive though because, as you say they'd previously used a similar approach with the Contax albeit a knob wind, so it was an evolution of that.
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Old 12-03-2019   #23
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I personally know of a Nikon F2 that was mis-packed then dropped onto the desert floor in Afghanistan at 300mph, dug out of the dirt, dusted off and worked fine.
Phil Forrest
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Old 12-03-2019   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Big Ursus View Post
Years ago, I bought a used M 4 + a 35mm f2 Summicron. I mostly used it around the acreage we lived in then. It worked well, except because I am left eye dominant, I was frustrated because I felt I never realised the full benefits of the viewfinder.

But, to return to the question, I took a short commercial flight, and put the M4 in the bag I used every day in those days. (Sorry, I can't remember which bag it was, but I do know I'd never had any problems with it). I put the bag in the overhead compartment. There was nothing unusual about that compartment. When I arrived, I opened the bag and discovered the film advance lever had come off the body. I put it back on the spindle (?), and everything seemed Ok, except I never trusted the camera again - certainly I never felt I could absolutely rely on it; not like every Nikon I ever owned. They never let me down!
That's not the cameras fault - ever notice how much vibrations planes put out?

A shutterbug writer explained when he had his bags on the floor, he'd have to tighten all the screws on his FM2/FE2s

Leicas are tough and rebuild able because of how archaic they are (outside the RF) - it's no stupid complex contarex
Hell, the slow speed governor is the type that resets upon film advance (on slow speeds, when you cock the shutter, you hear the whirring sound)
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Old 12-03-2019   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GarageBoy View Post
That's not the cameras fault - ever notice how much vibrations planes put out?

A shutterbug writer explained when he had his bags on the floor, he'd have to tighten all the screws on his FM2/FE2s

Leicas are tough and rebuild able because of how archaic they are (outside the RF) - it's no stupid complex contarex
Hell, the slow speed governor is the type that resets upon film advance (on slow speeds, when you cock the shutter, you hear the whirring sound)
Two advantages of old fashioned designs; that's counting wooden framed aircraft as one of them...

Regards, David
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Old 12-03-2019   #26
Sarcophilus Harrisii
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GarageBoy View Post
That's not the cameras fault - ever notice how much vibrations planes put out?

A shutterbug writer explained when he had his bags on the floor, he'd have to tighten all the screws on his FM2/FE2s

Leicas are tough and rebuild able because of how archaic they are (outside the RF) - it's no stupid complex contarex
Hell, the slow speed governor is the type that resets upon film advance (on slow speeds, when you cock the shutter, you hear the whirring sound)
Aircraft vibration? Yes well that's as may be. But I suspect a Titan II launch vehicle must have vibrated considerably more than a commercial aircraft, and yet the Contarex did alright after a ride on that.

Photo: J McDivitt NASA
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Old 12-03-2019   #27
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They sit too close to a Kodak Ektra on a shelf and the Gremlins migrate.
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Old 12-03-2019   #28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sarcophilus Harrisii View Post
Yes, several Contaflexes, starting with the Rapid, and the Contarexes all used the feature...
How could I have forgotten the wonderful Contarex "Bullseye" /"Cyclops"!?!? I'm embarrassed.

The Contarex is beautiful to hold and operate, the small details and engravings are so precise. Sadly, those I've found have had mechanical issues and I don't know anyone who could repair one.
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Old 12-04-2019   #29
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...certainly I never felt I could absolutely rely on it; not like every Nikon I ever owned. They never let me down!
In over 30 years of owning and shooting them, I have never never had a Nikon F, F2, or SP fail to perform. Yes I have had to CLA my SP after over 50 years in service, but none of my F or F2 cameras that I purchased in working order ever needed anything done to them to keep working. I do not believe that anyone has ever made a mechanical professional camera that even comes close to the level of reliability from Nikon. They are the AK47s of the camera world.
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Old 12-04-2019   #30
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The only issues I've had with F2's is that, with one, the wind lever standoff became loose in operation. Easily fixed.

Then there are the erratic DP-1 metering heads.

The camera itself is truly solid and designed for a long life of professional service.
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