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5 frames with...

5 Frames with Leica IIIg with Fuji Sensia 100 and Superia 400 – By Rob MacKillop

October 12, 2019

Getting a new old film camera is always a little nerve wracking, to me at least. Will I be able to operate it correctly, understand its pros and cons, and work with them, etc? When it comes to old Leica screw-mount cameras I would add: can I load the film properly?

Well, now that I’ve loaded three films successfully, I have grown in confidence since the first attempt. For those unsure of what is involved, you have to cut the film lead, having pulled the film out a couple of centimetres. I thought I’d done it wrong the first time, as the film forward dial stuck rigid after a dozen shots. Luckily I live in Edinburgh, home to a great old-school camera shop, Cameratiks, who have a good collection of LTM cameras, and decades of experience in repair and maintenance. I was soon back in business, and given some tips on loading and usage, (thanks to Patrick!). Encouragingly he said my IIIG was one of the cleanest he’d seen.

As my first roll would be a test to see if the camera worked at all, I used an old film I found in the back of a drawer: Sensia 100. In my haste, I failed to notice or remember that it was slide film – I only discovered this while attempting to hand it in to a local lab for a one-hour service – not to be. I had to send it off. In the meantime I loaded a film the lab gave me for half price: Fuji Superia 400, not a film I had used before.

To my delight, not only did I load the film properly, but it actually caught some images! [Why am I always surprised?!]

Here is my Eastman AR503CE archtop guitar, caught in beautiful light by the Summar 50mm f/2 lens. I love the colour rendering of the Superia, and the lens gives beautiful out-of-focus areas such as the chair and bookcase. The highlights are almost overblown, but just about acceptable. For a quick shot – for which I calculated exposure with the “Light Meter” phone app – I was very pleased. In fact, that is a bit of an understatement.

During the time that roll was in the camera, a Voigtlander 21mm f/4 lens arrived from the 35mmc Shop, with viewfinder:

The viewfinder is magnificent – very bright, with clear frame lines. I clicked as soon as the girl appeared in the scene, far-left foreground. Thanks to the viewfinder, her presence really fills in what could have been dead space. Again, I like the colours, and they look quite gritty – a mixture of lens and exposure, I think. I like the effect, and it seems to suit the situation.

Soon after getting the above shots processed, the Sensia shots arrived, and they show a very different feel altogether, much cleaner, less warm, but the 50mm Summar lens shines through again:

These are all just test shots, and I have to say I’m very pleased with the IIIG, the two lenses and the Superia film. The Sensia is not 100% to my liking, but can see it could have its uses. My preferred films are Portra 400 for colour, and Delta 400 for b&w. I’ve since bought an Elmar 90mm f/4 portrait lens, which also seems excellent, and now enjoy using all three lenses on both the IIIG and a Leica Monochrom. I’m even surprised to see myself contemplating the IIIG-and-lenses replacing my much-loved Konica Hexar AF, which has been my go-to 35mm film camera for a good few years now. I might also invest in a few rolls of Fuji’s Superia 400 when warmth is required.

Rob MacKillop

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  • Reply
    John R Flinn
    October 12, 2019 at 3:17 pm

    Here are some pictures my dad took with his Leica IIIa and 5cm Summar using Kodachrome slide film (in the beginning of the set). They still look great after 75 years. https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/

    • Reply
      Rob MacKillop
      October 12, 2019 at 3:27 pm

      Good stuff, John. I love the family shots especially.

  • Reply
    Mike Hinkleman
    October 12, 2019 at 4:25 pm

    Nice photos especially the guitar. The summar lens is amazing. One of the reasons I have always liked it is because the bokeh of the summar seems very much like the bokeh of my own eyes.

    • Reply
      Rob MacKillop
      October 12, 2019 at 5:21 pm

      Yes, the bokeh is very natural-looking, which I very much appreciate. Great lens for the price these days.

  • Reply
    Dan Castelli
    October 12, 2019 at 10:31 pm

    I’m happy you published this article. Nice pics, the train station is my favorite…I like the backwards glance of the woman in the lower l/h corner of the frame. The color’s give it a 1960’s cold war feeling.
    I’m toying with the idea of buying a IIIG for my 70th birthday next year. A gift to myself. So, your article was timely.
    Continued good shooting with it!
    Dan (flickr.com/photos/dcastelli9574/)

    • Reply
      Rob MacKillop
      October 12, 2019 at 10:45 pm

      Cheers, Dan. Judging by your Flickr photostream, you are going to love the IIIG! I look forward to seeing what you do with it. Maybe write us an article when the time comes.

  • Reply
    davie hudson
    October 13, 2019 at 8:56 am

    Nice write up Rob, having switched to film I got a load of sensia which over time has faded to a nice pastel shade… almost like a slide portra.

    • Reply
      Rob MacKillop
      October 13, 2019 at 9:34 am

      Oh, that sounds good, Davie. I’ll look out for some appearing on your website.

  • Reply
    Lawrie Conole
    October 13, 2019 at 9:27 am

    Nice work Rob. These old rangefinders are just great for people like me who are too longsighted to use a 35mm SLR comfortably. I shoot the cheaper USSR version of your camera, the Zorki 4. Still enjoying it immensely. https://www.35mmc.com/22/09/2019/5-frames-with-kodak-portra-400-on-a-zorki-4-or-down-a-rabbit-hole-by-lawrie-conole/

    • Reply
      Rob MacKillop
      October 13, 2019 at 9:36 am

      Cheers, Lawrie. Never seen or tried a Zorki, just images online. They do look cool. I’ll have a look at your 5-frames write up.

  • Reply
    Nigel Haycock
    October 15, 2019 at 5:26 am

    That picture of the guitar is simply perfect!

  • Reply
    October 28, 2019 at 9:19 pm

    Thanks Rob, I’ve never shot a Barnack Leica, but enjoyed reading about your experience and your journey of discovery. Have you tried ColorPlus 200? I find it also produces nice warm tones and is generally cheaper than Superia.

    • Reply
      Rob MacKillop
      October 28, 2019 at 9:37 pm

      Cheers, Sroyon. I’ve never tried ColorPlus, but of it’s cheaper, I’ll try it! The Barnack Leica’s are not so expensive, a lot cheaper than the M range, and can produce good results. And the lenses can be very good for the generally low prices. Worth exploring!

      • Reply
        October 30, 2019 at 7:44 pm

        Thanks Rob! I’m fortunate to own an M3 with 3 lenses and I’m just a hobbyist, so I feel adding a Barnack Leica would be overkill. But I would like to try one someday, being such historic and beautiful cameras 🙂

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