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.

 

This article is a work in progress, but I decided to put it online already for those that are actively on the look-out for a specifications list. Leica IIIc 'Stepper', late 1945.
Shown below is preliminary list of features of the screw mount Leicas. It will be extended with a much more elaborate description of each camera as time passes so that you can see the technical developments from one model to the next.

 

The screw mount Leicas start of as early as 1913, although the first few models (up until 1930) technically are no screw mount cameras since they have fixed lenses. Yet, the foundations for the later interchangeable lenses models were firmly rooted in those early days.

The final screw mount model was the Leica Ig, a model for scientific and microscope work and as such a bit underwhelming to end a series of cameras with that shaped photography as we know it today. Though I doubt that anyone at Leica was very concerned with that at the time. Because in 1954 the Leica M3 had taken over the company's point position and set a new standard for rangefinder cameras throughout the world.

A position that hasn't been surpassed yet, although the company in ints modern days tried hard to prove me wrong here...

 

If you're like me and you enjoy the vintage and arcane cameras and their build quality and little historic details and improvements, this table below is for you. 

 

 

Model and
Production Period
Picture Brief Description
Ur-Leica
 
1913

      First prototype of what was to become the Leica. Three made, the very first is still in the possession of Leica Camera AG. Small series of non-functioning replicas once made by Leica.

Nullserie
 
1923

      Only 25 made about half of which are accounted for. Initially given to selected persons for testing. Serial numbers 101-125. Fully functional replica presented by Leica at the Photokina 2000.

Leica I (A)
 
1925-1932

      Viewfinder, but no rangefinder. Shutter speeds 1/20 to 1/500 (very early pieces 1/25). Fixed lens, first Anastigmat, then Elmax, then Elmar (all 3.5/50 mm). Small production run with Hektor (2.5/50). 180 made with calfskin covering.

Luxus-Leica
based on I (A)
 
1929-1930

      About 95 made; exact number uncertain, may be more than 110. About 60 in this version with fixed lens. Technically identical to I (A). Body gold-plated, covered with red, green, blue, or brown lizard leather. Delivered in crocodile leather case of same colour. Extremely expensive today. Numerous fakes.

Leica I (B)

"Compur-Leica," 2 versions
 
1926-1931

      Compur leaf shutter on Elmar 3.5/50. Shutter speed set by dial (“dial-set,” 638 made) or on outer ring of the shutter (“ring-set,” 1072 made); picture shows “ring-set” type. Less expensive version at the time when it was made, rare and expensive today.

Leica I (C)
(non-Standard)
 
1930-1931
 

      First Leica with interchangeable lenses; these, however, had to be individually adapted to a body.

Leica Luxus
based on I (C)
 
1930-1931
 

      Technically identical to I (C), i.e., with interchangeable lenses. About 35 (?) made. See also Luxus-Leica 1929-1930.

Leica I (C)
(standardized)
 
1931-1933

      First Leica with freely interchangeable lenses thanks to the standardized distance of 28.8 mm between mounting flange and film plane since serial number 60501. Since then, continuous development of new lenses, introduction of universal viewfinders.

Leica II (D)
 
1932-1948

      First Leica with built-in coupled rangefinder.

Leica Standard (E)

 
1932-1950

      Galileian viewfinder, no rangefinder. Technically as Leica I, but with extendable rewind knob.

Leica III (F)
 
1933-1939

      First Leica with slow shutter speeds (dial on the front of the body). Viewfinder with 1.5 magnification. For the first time, except for very early models, strap lugs fitted as standard.

Leica 250
(FF / GG)
 
1933-1946

      Also known as “Leica Reporter.” Large film magazines for 10 meters of film (sufficient for about 250 pictures, that's where the name comes from). 246 made based on Leica III (FF), 709 based on Leica IIIa (GG). Very much sought after collector's item, very expensive.

Leica IIIa (G)
 
1935-1939
1949-1951
 

      Short shutter speeds to 1/1000 second. Last true “Barnack Leica” (Barnack died in 1936).

Leica IIIb
 
1938-1940
1946

      Mechanically improved shutter and film transport. Beginning with this model, viewfinder and rangefinder oculars were placed directly besides each other (cf. picture). Diopter adjustment lever now below the rewind knob.

Leica IIIc
 
1940-1951

      Appearance nearly unchanged, but completely new body. 2 mm longer than previous models. Most notable change: Die-cast body which allowed more economical production.

      Post-war IIIc cameras (serial numbers from 400001) are really a completely different model (designation should have been “Leica IIIe,” the old name was probably kept to underline a certain continuity). Easily distinguished from war-time IIIc models by, e.g., missing knob on diopter correction lever, catch on the slow-speed dial, rewind-lock-lever not raised.

Leica IIId
 
1940-1945
 

      Rarity, only 427 made. Basically a war-time IIIc with self-timer. The self-timer's construction was different from the one used in later IIIf/IIIg.

Leica IIc
 
1948-1951
 

      As post-war IIIc, no slow shutter speeds.

Leica Ic
 
1949-1952
 

      The “Standard's” successor. No viewfinder, no rangefinder, no slow speeds, two accessory shoes. Designed for science and documentation.

Leica IIIf
“Black Dial”
 
1950-1952

      First Leica with flash synchronization. Synchronization dial with black numbers below the shutter-speed dial.

Leica IIf
“Black Dial”
 
1951-1952

      As IIIf, no slow speeds. Slow-speed dial opening in the body covered by small plate. Synchronization contact on the back of the body as in IIIf.

Leica If
“Black Dial”
 
1952
 

      Successor of the Ic for scientific documentation, reproduction etc. Only 1118 made. Synchronization contact in the slow-speed-dial cover, not on the back as in IIf.

Leica If
“Red Dial”
 
1952-1958
 

“Red Dial” versions:
      As of 1952, new shutter speeds for all f-types (If/IIf/IIIf). Numbers on synchronization dial now red instead of previously used black.
      IIf “red dial” initially only 1/500 second, 1/1000 since 1954.

Leica IIf
“Red Dial”
 
1952-1956
 
Leica IIIf
“Red Dial”
no self-timer
 
1952-1953
 
Leica IIIf
“Red Dial”
with self-timer
 
1954-1957
 

      The last 59,100 IIIf (“red dial” only) had a built-in self-timer. Construction different from the one used in IIId.

Leica IIIg
 
1957-1960
 

      The summit and, at the same time, the end of the development of screw mount Leicas. (When introduced, the M3 had already been available for three years!) Only screw mount Leica with illuminated viewfinder frames for two focal lengths (50 and 90 mm). Shutter speeds in 1/2 sequence.

Leica Ig
 
1957-1960
 

      As IIIg without viewfinder, rangefinder, and self-timer. Contrary to Standard, Ic, and If, slow speeds provided. Special versions with covered slow-speed dial exist.


Model Designations of the Screw Mount Leicas

Model designations by Roman numerals (I-III) were only used in Europe before the war, i.e., up to about 1938. In the US, cameras were assigned capital letters. You can still see this today when, e.g., a “Leica D” is offered on eBay.
In the table, the capital letters (A-G) used in the US are listed in parentheses.
You should know about these different designations – a Leica III (F) is quite different from a Leica IIIf, and you should be aware that a Leica I (C) is not the same camera as a Leica Ic.

      All pictures on this page are taken from catalogs and brochures by E. Leitz.
      They are protected by copyright; Copyright © Leica Camera AG.


Some notes about the data in this table:

The production dates are those given by Giunta.

Not listed here are the Leica 72, the “Röntgen-Leica,” and the Mifilmca. Likewise, military versions (including the special IIIf and IIIg made for the Swedish Army) are not discussed.

Black Dial: black lettering, Red Dial: red lettering on the synchronization dial


References:

  • Giunta F.: Leica screw mount cameras – a systematic approach. Giunta Libri, Brescia 1995
  • Sartorius G.: Identifying Leica Cameras. Editrice Reflex, Roma 1997
  • Laney D.: Leica Collector's Guide. 2nd ed., Hove Collectors Books, Small Dole 2005