Leica: The incredible M4 can take a beating

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. 

Barnack Leica: true or fake? A comprehensive guide

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.

Leica M3 (overview, 1954-1966)

What's up, Doc?
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. 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. It featured a new and patented bayonet mount. 

DIY repair a SCNOO triggerwinder for Barnack Leicas

Some time ago, I suddenly was certain I needed a trigger winder on my 1938 Leica IIIa. Not having a transport lever on the camera made it a bit slow in use when I am shooting in the streets.

The Leica-made trigger winder is in fact a trigger bottom plate. It takes the place of the normal bottom plate, it has a spring to make the trigger return and that construction has one flaw: the trigger is connected to the film winder axle with the spring by means of a silk ribbon. And these ribbons sooner or later always snap.

Barnack beauties, 7 favorite lenses for screw mount Leicas

Over the years I shot many Leica cameras. I loved them all but in the end I had to admit that one model really stole my heart due to its unprecedented simplicity: the early Leica II. But, what are nice lenses to use with that camera?

History of the screw mount Leicas

 

This article contains a list of the screw mount Leica models, from the early 1913 Ur-Leica to the Leica Ig from 1960, the last screw mount model. Brief descriptions and images from official Leitz brochures are included.

 

Leica M, complete specifications overview

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 Olympus 35RC is deceptively similar to other cameras of the early 1970s, at first glance. It has a 40mm 2.8 lens and as such is similar to a Ricoh 500G, several Konica and Minolta models (those were two separate companies back then), and a plethora of zone focus cameras. But, the 35RC has full manual override of all settings and that quickly made it a beloved photographers camera. A position it has kept for decades.

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!

Some say that the Minolta 7S is lacking. It must be, since there's a Minolta 7S-II, right? And in the eyes of many, newer is better so a model II should have improvements.

But I'm telling you, the Minolta 7S is the most complete rangefinder I ever encountered. It fits my bill 100% and to me it's the all-in-one rangefinder camera!

The Rolleiflex 2,8 FX

 
Rolleiflex 2,8 FX Rollei’s legendary twin-lens single-lens reflex camera with an 80mm Planar f/2.8 HFT lens, protective lens cap, carrying strap and size III filter bayonet.

The leather parts are of brown cowhide with a crocodile-like pattern. The back has chromium-plated edges that give the camera a sophisticated elegance. The logo on the front of the camera corresponds exactly to the one that adorned the Rolleiflex cameras of the thirties. The well-proven carrying strap eyelets of the earlier models have also been taken over.

 

The Rolleiflex Standard, built from 1932 to 1935, was the mother of all Rolleiflex cameras. The Rolleiflex is part of a family of cameras called Twin Lens Reflex, or TLR in short. Simply means the camera has two lenses: the upper lens is used to frame the image, the lower lens is actually a shuttered lens and takes the picture.

The design proved very successful and as a result, many other brands also built TLR cameras. TLR cameras were built in Germany, Czecho-Slovakia, The USA, France, and of course a lot were built in Japan! But, the Chinese also built a pretty good Rolleiflex copy! I will shortly be adding information on the one copy with a 2.8 lens that was ever built, the Beautyflex 2.8. Look for the article in the TLR section of this site.

Below is my former copy of the 1960s series flagship, the 2.8F Planar version. I consider it the medium-format equivalent of a Rolex watch: beautifully made and a precision picture-taking machine! Many of those type-F cameras nowadays have a dead meter and parts are getting hard to come by, but this one had a meter that was checked for accuracy by mr. Hans Klinkhamer in the Netherlands and it was spot-on when compared to three other exposure meters I own, including one in a Nikon DSLR.

 

 

The Beautyflex 2.8 was the only TLR (twin Lens Reflex) camera ever to compete with the high-end Rolleiflex models of the 1950s and 1960s, the only non-Rolleiflex ever built that had a 2.8 lens. The Cantor lens on the Beautyflex 2.8 resembles the image quality of the Xenotar lenses on the Rolleiflex 2.8C.

This is a rarely seen camera. I was lucky to purchase it online a while ago and was totally amazed when I finally found one in good working condition after looking for it for over a year.

There's a few differences between the Pacemaker Speed Graphic and the Anniversary Speed Graphic. I wasn't aware of those (quite essential) differences and bought the 'wrong' camera for a lens on lens board that I own, thus ending up with both models.

Which is your benefit, since it allowed me to do a side-by-side comparison!

 

The Pacemaker camera looks like this:

 

It has a smaller lens board (made from metal) than the Anniversary. It also has a shutter release on the body (the ribbed button on the edge) and a metal ground glass hood that pops open with a 'kaz-zing!' 

So what do you do when you get bored while recovering from a burn out? And you want to take it slow?

In my case, I built a camera by myself. And called it the CooperCam, since my family name translates to Cooper in English.

It took some thinking, some simple parts from the local home depot warehouse, some dumb luck and an old brass barrel lens that I'd found online for petty cash. 

Medium Format is the bee's knees for film shooters. It's where you can shoot film and rival the image quality from digital files, while retaining the signature lower contrast film look. And did you know that 6x7 is the designated press and artist's format! This article extensively discusses your 6x7 options!

This article provides a table with a full overview of Pentax 67 and 6x7 lenses. It will be extended over time, but is online for reference already

Leicas are cool and nice to shoot, other rangefinders often are nice too. But, when real film image quality is required, you need a big negative.
Big, as in Texas-kinda BIG. Enter the Fujica and Fuji rangefinders, dubbed 'The Texas Leicas'. Prepare to be blown away by their image quality (and their size, too)!
The Super Ikonta series from Zeiss Ikon started their life in 1934. In that year, Zeiss Ikon released three Super Ikonta cameras for the 120 format. They were remarkable cameras and continue to be so until present day. A good Super Ikonta has unprecedented image quality, they are the Rolls Royces in build quality when it comes to medium format folder cameras. 
 
The three cameras that were launched in 1934 very nicely had their own strengths and there was a model for every wallet.
 
 
Read on to see if the Super Ikontas fit your bill!

The Horseman Convertible 842 camera was made in the early 1970s. This Medium Format camera with a 62mm wide angle lens was a novelty. It equals a 32mm or even a 25mm wide angle in the 135 format! The camera remains a rarity to this day, sometimes these cameras surface on eBay or on camera shows. Judging from serial numbers on the lenses, there were less than 5,000 cameras made.

At the end of the Second World War, the cover of an American comic depicted a female Army photographer named Linda Lens hitting a German soldier knock out with a Kodak Medalist on a strap.

Impressive for sure but to make a real impression (on a soldier's helmet or elsewhere), I'd advise the Mamiya RB67.

Type 35mm Single-Lens Reflex.

Lenses Pentax K mount. Pentax screw-mount with adapter; manual diaphragm and stop-down metering.

Name K1000, spotlighting the advanced 1/1,000 top shutter speed.

 

Through-the-lens full-aperture metering. Instant-return mirror.

Single 360º rotating shutter speed dial.

Full-aperture coupled metering.

ASA setting on shutter dial with automatic ASA lock.

Full-aperture viewing with fully automatic diaphragm (closes down to set shooting aperture and reopens to full aperture automatically for every shot).

Bright Fresnel focusing screen with microprism center spot (also additional split-image on K1000 SE). "Pure Image" finder with no distractions except the meter/zone system needle.

Automatic double-exposure prevention.

Shutter-cocked indicator.

Combined shutter cock and film-wind lever.

Ratcheted multi-step wind lever. Many Nikons don't have this.

Automatic resetting frame counter.

Rewind crank with folding lever and rotating crank tip.

Ratcheted single or multi-stroke wind lever with comfortable plastic tip.

X-sync hot shoe. PC flash sync socket.

Threaded for a conventional cable-release.

¼-20 tripod socket. Tripod Screw Maximum Depth: 5.5mm.

Finder 0.88x magnification with 50mm lens.

Glass prism. Ground glass with central microprism spot. The luxury K1000 SE version seen here has a combined split-image rangefinder with microprism collar.

Meter needle, and that's it.

Shutter Horizontal rubberized-silk focal-plane. 1 ~ 1,000 and Bulb.

1/60 flash sync. For flash bulbs, use 1/30 and slower with M, MF and FP bulbs.

Orange "cocked" indicator next to shutter button. Uses a regular screw-in cable release.

Wind Lever Single or ratcheted multiple strokes. 160º throw with 10º stand-off.

Frame counter goes to 37, starts at 00.

Meter Two CdS cells. Single live needle in finder: center is OK, up is brighter and down is darker.

ASA 20 ~ ISO 3,200. Metering range: EV 3 ~ EV 18 at ISO 100 with f/2 lens.

Power One tiny 20¢ A76, LR44, SR44 or S76 cell. Power Switch: None, just leave on the lens cap so the CdS cells sucks no power.

Size 3.7 x 5.6 x 1.9 inches HWD. 93.5 x 143 x 49.5 millimeters HWD.

Weight Japan: with battery, strap lugs but no caps, strap or film: 21.375 oz. (606.0g). Japan: with battery, strap lugs and 36-exposure film but no caps or strap: 22.155 oz. (628.1g).

Weight China: with battery, strap lugs but no caps, strap or film: 18.567 oz. (526.4g). China: with battery, strap lugs and 36-expoousure film but no caps or strap: 19.347 oz. (548.5g).

Missing No self-timer. No easy double-exposures. No motor drive, except for this one. No Autofocus No auto exposure. No easy depth-of-field preview (you can press the lens mount button and half-unmount the lens to preview depth of field.) No mirror lock-up. No intervalometer. No custom functions. No interchangeable focus screens. No batteries (just one tiny cell). No problem! None of that other stuff is important; the K1000 lets us pay attention to our picture instead of our camera's instruction book.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Ricoh Caddy was Ricoh's most accomplished half frame camera ever. Not that they built so many, but they got it right pretty quick. It has full manual settings, a Tomioka lens and the ergonomics are truly excellent. And to boot, it fits in your jeans pocket. Although it should be treated with a bit more respect because of what it is and what it delivers!

While I truly enjoy my screw mount Leicas, it took me a long time to find their SLR counterpart. While essentially it really shouldn't have been that hard, once you think about it.

I know Leica built some truly terrific early Leicaflexes, but they are more related to the M series rangefinders than to the earlier screw mount cameras.

Same time,  the Russians copied the early Leica II and went on from there to produce a Single Lens Reflex camera. Enter the Zenit line of SLR cameras from the early 1960s! Incredible fun for petty cash!

The Ricoh GXR is a remarkable camera. It is built by a unique concept, where changing a lens means you also change the sensor.

Ricoh Launched the GXR in november 2009. It was designed to be a Compact System Camera (CSC), which means it is a small camera and it featured exchangeable lenses. But Ricoh decided to not just manufacture exchangeable lenses, but incorporate lens and sensor in a single unit, called a 'lensor'. The idea behind this was simple: different lenses could benefit from different sensor sizes.

The A12 GXR Mount lensor isn't quite a lensor, in that it has no lens incorporated! Instead it has a Leica M mount in the unit that also houses an APS-C 12MP sensor.

Mirrorless camera adapters article

With the modern day new mirrorless cameras like the Fuji X-T2 and the Sony A7-II, there's great fun in finding less-than-usual lenses in abandoned lens mounts, and adapt them to fit the camera of your choice.

There's a lot of adapters available for peanut prices if you want to try something exotic and this article lists a lot of options to get your lens and camera connected.

Don't forget to get a bunch of macro rings to add between camera and lens if that is your thing!

In this article I try to compile a comprehensive guide to adapting lenses to various types and brands of cameras and lens mounts. As you will have found out by now (or you wouldn't be reading this article), most camera manufacturers used their own, proprietary lens mounts to make sure that once a customer (that means you) bought into a system, they'd be hooked forever.

Tamron Adaptall lenses were at one time the bee's knees of amateur photographer's kits. They are fun to shoot today and can be had for a song, while performance can be excellent!

So you've been looking for this very special lens that will make your Nikon / Minolta / Canon / Zeiss-Ikon (choose your brand) contemporary-correct camera kit complete, but the only specimen you can find has a bent filter rim? Despair not! For today I'm offering a simple DIY tool to straighten filter rims, provided they are made from metal that can bend back into shape.

On the net you can find all kinds of stories on this lens. Most say its very soft wide open, prone to flare and what else. But most of the time this is merely a side effect from shooting a 50+ year old lens that has gotten hazy inside. Most of these lenses have scratches in the front element coating, which cannot be remedied with this pictorial, but image quality still can be improved a lot by cleaning the lens up.

 

Wanna see how to get the most out of this lens again? Read on!

Maybe you're old enough to remember what it felt like to have a stack of prints, negatives or slides in your hand as the result of your photographic labour. Or maybe you're less of a fossil than that and your results reside in a folder on a hard drive, on or off site. In either case, as a (semi) professional photographer you need to have a filing system that will allow you to locate a file, negative or print quickly and have some details on lens used, camera used, film or (digital) processing used, etc. so you can re-create an iconic image with some consistency. 

This blog post shows you my MO when it comes to keeping tabs on what I did and where the results are stored.

After I discovered online that the 1940's American Perfex Deluxe rangefinder was also available in a version with a Wollensak lens in a 38mm screw mount, I decided to buy one and find out if it would fit a Leica.

Only when it arrived I found out that the focussing unit of the Perfex is on the body, not on the lens. A bit like a really unsophisticated Contax focusing system. So much for easily adapting the lens for Leica, I thought. The camera sat on a shelf for quite some time. It wasn't a feat of engineering either, using it was like photographing with a brick, both in ergonomics and in results. I didn't even try, it was too obvious.

Konica has always been a company with its own master plan on photography. The release of the Hexar in 1993 came as a suprise to the photography community. The Hexar was shockingly good, despite its quirky button use to set the cameras functions with. It was hailed as the viable alternative for a Leica M6, and AutoFocus too!

 

Johan Niels Kuiper, fotograaf in Assen, Drenthe - Konica Hexar AF 

 

 

In this digital day and era, I feel safe to say the Hexar is the best compact film camera ever produced. Full stop. What, you don't believe me?