Camera Gear Artikelen

Leica gear is well-loved, most-wanted and highly sought-after as a result, as we all know. But some Leica stuff just trumps it all: the black paint items from the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. That's were the truly big bucks can be found, that's the stuff that dreams and collections are made of. Every collector hopes to one day scoop up a prime example for a handful of nickels and dimes.

So it is not that strange that sales of the coveted Black Paint Leica gear command larger attention, but also are a larger risk due to bigger bucks being involved.

Shortly after World War II started, Leitz found itself in a sort of a predicament. The foreign shipments of shutter cloth material had seized due to the outbreak of the war. All that was left in stock was an experimental shutter cloth, which had different rubber layering and was red in color. Cameras that were ordered by the German Army, Navy and Air Force had to be delivered to Berlin, they were part of the war effort that German companies had to make.

Leitz decided to use the red shutter curtain material, even though there were doubts on its durability. And over time it became clear that the shutter cloth indeed gave in, the rubber started to desintegrate and left sticky black spots of goo on the shutter.

As a result, wartime cameras with red shutter curtains are pretty rare nowadays. 

 This particular camera is a red curtain Leica IIIc, which also had a seldom-seen 'N-L' engraving on the top plate. It is believed that these cameras were delivered to the German Heer (Army) in The Netherlands (die Niederlande), although that does not explain the dash in the engraving...?

This particular Leica M2 started out it's life in 1963 and was used by German press photographer Herbert Ahrens until his death. When I bought it the sticker from his 'Pressedienst' was on the bottom plate. It looked very beat up but was still working flawlessly.

The camera was stripped from its chrome in 2012 and repainted in semi-gloss black paint. The craftsman that did the job spent many hours tapping the dents out and he recoated the camera with seven coats of a special UK military paint. Every coat of paint had its own oven bake to toughen it and was subsequently sanded down a bit to make the next coat stick. Result: a very durable paint job. This camera is eight years older than I am and delivers the image every time.

 

A shot of re-painted Leica M2 with the then newly-aqcuired Summilux 35/1.4 pre-ASPH. Near-new, cool! It had been used for three rolls only, in 1982! 

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The Leica M3 was a revolutionary design. It had a combined rangefinder and viewfinder, with parallax corrected frames that matched the focal length of the mounted lens automatically. The viewfinder was the brightest ever made and was unrivaled until the Voigtlander Bessa R camera hit the market, in 2000. It featured a new and patented bayonet mount. The M3 was the first camera with an advance lever, instead of a knob. It had a rear door that swings up, to make film loading easier.

The camera became a huge success. During its production time, 215,944 chrome cameras, 3,010 black paint cameras and 144 olive paint cameras were produced in Germany. The Ernst Leitz Canada factory, based in Midland, Ontario, manufactured another 7,080 cameras, presumably all chrome. Total production of M3's was 226,178. Production ended in 1966.

Attention: The M3 was called M3 because it features three focal length frames in the viewfinder: 50mm, 90mm and 135mm. The later released M2 was called M2 because it was a simplified (but yet updated) camera, which still had three frames in the viewfinder! The M2 will have its own article on johanniels.com, just like the M4 has.

Every now and then you see them surface, those expensive and rare Leicas. The Leica Luxus, for instance. Only three of those gold plated Leicas were ever made, and only one of those is known to be in existence today. Or the Wehrmacht, Luftwaffen or Kriegsmarine engraved Leicas of the second World War. But most of the time these 'rare' cameras are fakes. How can you tell the true Leicas from the fake ones? A small guide.

 

A Leica-faked Zorki-1 with Industar-22 lens, the Elmar 50mm 3.5 look-alike.

The Leica M4 was made from 1967 to 1975 and was a very successful camera. Again, it was a true photo-journalists camera: the 35mm framelines from the Leica M2 were carried over to this model and it also had the 135mm framelines that the M3 had but the M2 lacked! Lenses to go onto the M4 without issues thus were 35mm, 50mm, 90mm and 135mm, making it the most versatile Leica M until then. In addition, it also received a quick-rewind crank which was fitted on the body with a clever, tilted design. And, the quick-load kit that was available for the M2 became standard on the M4.

All in all the production numbers are: silver chrome cameras 47,191, black cameras 8,990, Motor-capable cameras 905, and furthermore Ernst Leitz Canada built another 2,355.

The black cameras were black lacquer until 1972, and later cameras were built in black chrome. Nowadays, the black paint cameras are much sought after and the black chrome cameras are regarded as way less desirable, because most people find that the black chrome wears off ugly, whereas the black paint cameras show brass underneath.

 

Featured in this article is a Leica M4 that went through its paces. I always imagine it served in Vietnam, since many photo-journalists who worked there and used Leica's, chose the M4. The camera's introduction year 1967 was the pinnacle year in the US intervention in Vietnam.

 

I picked it up from a Chinese student in The Netherlands, who did not tell me where he got it. It had been used in a hot climate: it was totally gummed up with dried up sweat from gripping, with dust and dirt, and it even had a dry piece of grass in the mechanism as I found out when I checked it out once back home!

This is what it looked like after that cleaning:

 

Thinking about buying a Leica body but you are uncertain which model will fit your photography needs best?

 

This little page conveniently lists the specifications of all 'regular' Leica film models, made from 1955 to 2003. The tables shown below are also downloadable as a PDF file (see below), or you can (right-) click them to download them to your computer.

Prices are estimates from 2013. With Leica cameras, prices greatly vary with camera condition and provenance. Old, run-down camera's with rare specifications or provenance by a well-known photographer can be real jaw-droppers, both for their looks as for fetched sales prices! In the future, I might extend these lists with the rarer models, but prices on those cameras vary even more since collectors are interested in them.

So if you have or want a camera that isn't that 'standard' and you want to know what it's current price would be, try camera dealers or completed eBay listings to assess the price. Remember, camera dealers often offer a warranty (which comes at a price), and eBay drives up prices due to commission and PayPal charges, so for private sales, knock 15 to 20 percent off the prices you find with camera dealers, eBay and online auctions. Venture in the cost of a CLA (Clean, Lubricate and Adjust).

 

 

 

 

 

 

In case you're wondering where the Leica CL listing is: it's not there since technically, it's not a Leica M. But, after having received some questions about its specifics, I'm including them here.

The Leica CL (order nr. 10700) was produced from 1973 to 1976. 65,000 were made. It has TTL exposure metering, but flash needs external metering. Its frame lines are suitable for 40, 50 and 90mm lenses. It was also badged 'Leitz Minolta CL', made for the Japanese market. When the CL was discontinued, Minolta bought the design, improved on it and launched the Minolta CLE.

That's it on the CL. Oh, and don't worry about the weight of it, it weighs next to nothing, being a very capable camera at the same time! Nowadays you can find them cheap, often with a broken meter but it's a fully mechanical camera so if you leave the battery out, it'll work just fine with a hand-held meter. Improves on the M3, M2, M4-kinda feel of it!

Download the above tables as a PDF here.

 

The Tower type '45' camera was a screw mount Leica clone built by Nicca from Japan. It was sold exclusively by Sears in the United States, who commissioned cameras with their 'Sears' brand name with various Japanese and German camera manufacturers in the late 1950s and 1960s.

The second half of the 1950s saw the Japanese camera manufacturers face some difficulties in their production. Many of them (Canon, Nicca, Leotax, even the British Reid & Sigrist) had built their empires on copying the German design of the Leica IIIc. The Germans had lost their patents after World War II and the Japanese and other manufacturers had jumped on the opportunity to create their own versions of what had proven to be very well-built and highly effective cameras. But then, the Germans took the market back by releasing the Leica M3, which was a whole new level of camera and it was patented again too! The Japanese copy-cats were left lightyears behind.

 

But, they quickly figured out that Leitz had filed for a combined patent of all new features and had not filed the single alterations and improvements for patent too. And they set out to close the gap between their own (very capable!) models and the Leica M3.

And it got us some interesting developments. 

The history of the Komura brand lenses is little-known. Information on the company and the lenses it produced is difficult to find online. But, many of the Komura lenses are very good, both in build quality and in optical results!

The company started out with making lenses for Large Format cameras. But in the 1950s they also started manufacturing rangefinder lenses for Leica thread mount cameras, and switched over to making lenses for Nikon rangefinders in the 1960s. Later, they also manufactured enlarging lenses, lenses for various medium format systems and also briefly produced lenses for various models of SLRs. Komura probably was the first brand to build a 1.4/85mm lens in Nikon F mount!