Tuesday, August 11, 2015

“RICHTER” LEICA III


I think every Leica enthusiast remembers the Leica camera that ‘started it all’. I am one of the fortunate individuals that can truly say that I have used Leicas all my life, well, almost.

I grew up in the photography business of my father in Germany. This naturally exposed me to photography and cameras at an early age. It was always my father's dream for me to take over the business once he retired. That, however, does not mean that I was pushed in that direction, to the contrary, I was always encouraged by my parents to follow my own interests, of which there were many. But my dad also always encouraged me to take pictures of my own. I must have had some noticeable interest, because on my fifth birthday he presented me with my Leica No. 1, a Leica III with 50mm f/2Summar and a Steinheil Culminar 135mm f/4.5. That also included a Braun Viewfinder, adjustable from 35mm to 135mm and aLeitz VACU flash synchronization device.


Leica III with Summar 50mm f/2

Leica III back with Foto Richter Barntrup Nameplate

Leica III with Summar 50mm f/2 and FIKUS Lens Shade

I am convinced that starting out with this camera ultimately made me a better photographer for a variety of reasons. My dad did not give me a light meter, instead he taught me the sunny 16 rule and for flash, there was never any automation until much later in my life. I simply focused and then had to use the old guide number divided by distance formula to determine the aperture setting. Considering that I also had to deal with a collapsible lens, I had ample opportunity to make mistakes, and mistakes I made, many.

After wondering about some very blurry images, even though I knew I had focused my lens quite carefully, and after many explanations from my dad, I eventually remembered to pull out the collapsible lens before I started shooting. I also soon figured out that taping a little guide in back of the flash with the guide number/distance formula eventually lessened flash exposure mistakes, as did a note with the sunny 16 exposures on it.

Steinheil München Culminar 135mm f/4.5

My Laica III with 50mm Summar 50mm f/2,
FICUS Lens Hood, Braun Universal finder and VACU Flash Synch


This isn’t meant to give me a pad on the back. I truly believe that starting out totally manually made photography in the long run a lot easier for me. Even though I have since switched to digital Leica equipment, I still use film occasionally, for no other reason than not to lose my touch. To this day I have no problem getting correct exposures without the help of a meter. As a matter of fact, once I did start using a light meter, it gave me cause to explore what these instruments are capable of beyond just plain camera settings.

Even now, working in my studio or doing architectural and other photography, I still rely very much on my light meters. Even in these days of Photoshop, I still approach my photography as in the film days. That includes careful light readings and all else that I can do to get the shot right. That certainly makes post production a lot less time consuming because generally, I don’t have to correct for mistakes.

Having grown up with rangefinder cameras, which of course included the use of add-on viewfinders, never bothered me. I have owned several of the Leica R models, but inevitably I always gravitate back to the rangefinder Leicas.  The electronic Visoflex for some of the late model digital Leicas essentially is the same thing.

Thus my good old Leica III from so many years ago has effectively been the starting point in a long succession of cameras which, with the exception of the R models I have owned, have been further developments of the Leica III which, in itself, is essentially nothing more than a further development of Oskar Barnack’s Ur-Leica prototype. No other camera anywhere can look upon such a long history and no other camera ever will.


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Next Friday - Cumberland: Island of Conflict and Change by Jeff Kauck






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9 comments:

  1. Did the VACU work just with flash bulbs or could it be used with electronic flash also?

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    1. It could be used either way, but it is important to change the timing when the flash is triggered. Electronic flash fires the moment the shutter is open, while flash bulbs are fired slightly sooner to allow for the bulb to be burning at full power. The article "TESTING LEICA SM CAMERAS FOR PROPER FLASH SYNCH" on this blog gives more detail about that issue as does the article "LEITZ VACU."

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  2. Your camera has some odd looking strap lugs. Where did they come from?

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    Replies
    1. I was wondering if anyone would notice. My father made those strap lugs. He designed them to keep the fasteners of the neck strap away from the camera body to prevent scratching. If you look closely, they are almost L shaped. They are made of a very stiff metal wire with the ends of the loops sauntered to prevent them from bending open.

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  3. This is so cool. I wish I had a camera with that special history. I wonder how many Leica owners are out there that started at the tender age of five?

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  4. Well, I know Oskar Barnack started a lot later in life, but then he had to make the camera first. I think I was very lucky in this respect.

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  5. Are you still using that camera?

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    1. I use it very rarely. I guess in the eyes of film users I have totally moved to the dark (digital) side. I don't miss film at all. I no longer enjoy the hassle of developing and printing, and that is coming from someone who owned and operated a professional custom black and white photo lab. All that has been replaced with digital Leica equipment, a purpose built computer system and a professional Epson printer. But the camera is in perfect working condition. It is sitting on my desc with the shutter set to 1 second. I frequently wind and fire the camera, as I do with all my mechanical shutter cameras. If a mechanical shutter runs smoothly when set at 1 sec., it will be okay at the other speeds too.

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    2. great to hear your story Heinz!!

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