16. februar 2017

The Barnack

Before reading on, I can recommend the following article on the Current state of film in 2017
Quite uplifting and positive news from various manufacturers indeed. ^^

My Leica IIIF RDST (ca 1955) 
with the Thorium coated Leica Summicron F2.0 collapsible (ca 1952)
In this blog, I would like to give a short introduction to the Leica IIIf, a camera from a series of Leica's which is also known as Barnack Leicas.


Yes, they are simply nick-named after it's creator, Oscar Barnack, who created the first Leica. Some also say he was the one who made 35mm into the common used format we know today. (Americans will say it was Kodak and Kodak-only....whatever :) ).

He wanted a light and functional camera what was easy to carry around, since he had asthma.

After the creation of the UR-Leica, he created the Leica I then there was the Leica II series in 1932 and the Leica III series from 1933 until the final one, the IIIg in 1960.

There have been written miles and miles of text regarding the history and variants (and copies) of these cameras, so I will not repeat them here.

Here is some material about the history of Oscar Barnack and the Leica I, II and III

Oscar Barnack:

About the Leica I, II and III


Google will provide you with tons of other information.

My Barnack Leica

My particular Leica, is a Leica IIIf, it has flash sync as well as red dials here and there and thus it is known as Leica IIIf Red Dial. It also has a self-timer, which makes the complete "eBay denomination" to be a Leica IIIf RDST.

Normally I just say my Leica IIIf or my Screw-mount Leica.

I bought mine from a reputable seller in Japan trough eBay and the camera really is in a beautiful cosmetic and mechanical condition.
My Leica IIIf has a slow-speed button (1/25 and lower) on the front next to the self-timer..
The collapsible Summicron is not as small as the Elmar when collapsed, but it's faster, looks more solid and fits the IIIf quite well.

The viewfinder and rangefinder is clear and bright and the double-image is good, no problem focusing or composing.

Top-view, from the left to the right:
Film advance knob with film-type indicator and counter.
Shutter-release button.
Film rewind release lever (open position)
Shutter-speed dial (only set after cocking the shutter!)
Below the shutter-speed dial, is the flash-sync dial.
Hot (cold) shoe. (the flash sync is on the back of the camera)
Film rewind knob.
Diopter adjustment-lever.

The top-view is such a masterpiece of retro-design, looks very lovely.

In practical use though, I would have preferred the shutter-release to be raised up or moved somewhere, because it can be a little difficult to hit/find during practical shooting, due to the huge film-advance knob standing in the way, I am sure it will become second-nature after some use, so it's no biggie.

Note that the infinity-mark on the LTM-Summicron collapsible is off-center (at around 02:00 o'clock when you look at the camera from the front. The first time I saw that, I thought I had gotten a faulty lens. This offset is by design though, so don't worry. (It's meant to be easier to see when you have an auxiliary-viewfinder or similar attached to the hot-shoe).

Other than that, the operation is both quick and easy and it's good fun to shoot with.

The vulcanite (black part) on my IIIf is now stiff and brittle, so I am thinking about getting it replaced. Once it gets like this, it tends to break off after a while, there is nothing you can do, either you live with it, or get it replaced.

Silent? Well, it's not loud, especially when you are out and about, but I did compare it to my Zorki 1d, and I found that they were about equal in terms of sound level. (The Leica II may be different/more silent).

That is also just about the only thing that is equal in any sense between the Zorki 1 and the Leica III (apart from looking similar).

Really a quality tool

My Summicron collapsible lens

The lens was bought from Japan as well, very beautiful condition.

The Leica Summicron F2 collapsible lens.
My lens, a very beautiful specimen, has Thorium-coating in it, which makes it radioactive.
Activity is around 7 micro sievert/h on surface (Gamma/Beta), but radiation level is background around 30cm in front of the lens.
The radiation from the back is much less (around 2.5 micro sieverts/h on surface of rear element) with background levels when you have your eye/face up to the camera.

It needed CLA though (focus was very stiff) and since I didn't want to send the lens abroad to be serviced (or since I may be a bit silly), I opted to research how to do a clean and lubrication myself.

On this lens, the helical cleaning and lubrication-procedure is quite easy, the M-mount version is different.
Mine is very similar to the Summitar cleaned here: http://justinlow.com/articles/repair-leica-summitar

In addition, I took the lens-group out of the helical and trimmed the inner-felt that stabilize the lens and gives friction when collapsing and retracting and prevents the lens from creeping when collapsed. It was just way too tight, I kept screwing the lens off the camera when I wanted to turn it to collapse it.

In addition to that, I also lubricated the aperture-ring and disassembled and cleaned the aperture-blades. (not recommended really, it's difficult to re-assemble and you risk damaging the inner lens-elements).

I have documented my procedure (more or less badly) here:

Helical cleaning, disassembly of the collapsible Summicron with pictures:

Collapsible Summicron aperture blades assembly with pictures:

In general, the lens has lower contrast wide open (but it is center-sharp actually), increased contrast and sharpness towards the corners as you stop down.

In the extreme corners the lens isn't impressive, but I've only shot it at F5.6-F8 due to dark winter-conditions.

I plan to use it for portraiture for the most part anyway, so the corners doesn't need to be tack sharp.

It's flare-prone, so use a shade, a small one or vented one, since a normal one will block half the viewfinder on the Leica III. :)

I love it for portraits, especially wide-open, gives a soft-feel with good definition and enough detail.

Yellowing from radioactive-decay.

The radioactive decay and the emitting of Alpha-particles in the Thorium decay-chain in this lens,  has (most likely, since they are stopped within the lens) caused yellowing of the glass.

This can be cured by exposing the lens to UV-light (or the sun) for a longer period of time.

- I have tried with a reptile-lamp (strongest they had), for two weeks, but I think I need to have it exposed for a longer time to rid the yellowing completely. The bulb has only UV-A and UV-B, but I think I read somewhere that UV-C has no impact on the yellowing.

- Also, the Jansjö-lamp from IKEA, did not clear or influence the yellowing on my lens, even after 2 weeks of illumination, as close to the lens as I could get it. (some reports that it does work on certain lenses, but not on this one). Good deal for IKEA none the less ^^

For black and white, you may get a light-yellow filter effect (contrast influence).

With color-film, you may experience yellow tinge, but I have actually not seen much of that yet (I scan, so my scanner may correct for it for all I know).

The reason I want the tinge gone, is that it takes away light and the tinge is not the original state of this lens, it was produced and sold as a clear lens.

Practical loading, shooting and using the Leica IIIf

Loading the Barnack leicas can be learned here, or here, or here or....well you get the drift ^^ Just cut that leader and load it.
- It's not hard to load.
- Do not use credit-cards to aid your loading, that is for dumb-people.
- Do not set the camera to bulb and adjust the film with your finger, that is for dumb people.
- It's not hard to load.
- If this is the most difficult thing you've ever experienced, you need to get out more. :)

I find the action of the camera to be quick. You thumb trough to the next frame, focus and take the photo.

I rarely use the composition-viewer when I shoot in the city, I just center whatever I am shooting, focus and move slightly to the left or right, depending on what I want to achieve. (portraits too).

I use the composition-viewer when I photograph more general architecture or features, since then I usually have more time, I normally like big apertures and people, so I stress that the photo is in focus more than perfectly composed. (plus the viewfinder isn't exactly 100% accurate). 

Some practical photos then, here are some Ektar-shots that I did. 

A lot of these are testshots, to check focus after my CLA, so the subject-matter is bland. I am sure HCB is turning in his grave over the non-decisive moments and horrible composition lol ^^ 

Focus-test at F2, focus on the L below the top-logo

Focus-test at f2.8, focus on the L below the top-logo

Isolation/bokeh 3 meters at f2

Isolation/bokeh 3 meters at f2.8

Angry speaker, general street snaps, f2.8

Dog with no front-paws, probably should have used the viewfinder here, but this is friggin impressive for being wide-open :)
General street snaps, f2.0

Street-musician, general street snaps, f2.8

Street-musician, general street snaps, f2.8

Bokeh-test, close focus limit f2.0 (slight misfocus actually, my fault, but it's about the 'boookeyh' huh?)

Bokeh-test, close focus limit f2.8

Bokeh-test, close focus limit f4

Lens is sharp enough and the backlight didn't flare here.

More pronounced flaring/glare, but not disturbing, it can work well with the setting sun sometimes.
f2.8 (focus on infinity)

General street snaps, f2.8

General street snaps, f2.8

General street snaps, f2.8, focus was on the card with the teddy-bear.

Some Tri-x from a short photo-trip I had in the cold.

Leica IIIf, Leica Summicron f2 collapsible
Kodak Tri-x HC-110B

Leica IIIf, Leica Summicron f2 collapsible
Kodak Tri-x HC-110B

Leica IIIf, Leica Summicron f2 collapsible
Kodak Tri-x HC-110B

Leica IIIf, Leica Summicron f2 collapsible @ f2.8
Kodak Tri-x HC-110B

Leica IIIf, Leica Summicron f2 collapsible @ f2.8
Kodak Tri-x HC-110B

Leica IIIf, Leica Summicron f2 collapsible @f4
Kodak Tri-x HC-110B

Leica IIIf, Leica Summicron f2 collapsible
Fuji Acros in Rodinal 1:25

Love the tones and the buildings in this shot actually.
Leica IIIf, Leica Summicron f2 collapsible
Fuji Acros in Rodinal 1:25

These days, I am trying to bleach the yellowing of the Summicron with my UV-light, so I am not shooting much with this particular combo.

As long as I am doing that, I play with my Leica M3 instead, with the Leica Summicron f2 Dual-range -with goggles ^^

Leica M3 with Leica Summicron f2 dual-range and googgles.

More on that in a later blog-entry =)

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