Leica II camera

First roll with a Leica II – by KJ Vogelius

I suddenly find myself a day to day nomad. Working in three different offices I still feel a little like a tourist in the neighbourhoods I now spend most days. The past few months have been crazy. Heading out at lunch to switch location the autumn air is damp but refreshing. I walk to clear my head, occasionally I grab the camera from my bag, capturing scenes that are simultaneously familiar and foreign.

A few times a year a local camera store arranges auctions for all sorts of camera gear. It’s hard to make great deals here, but in the slow local market it’s a real treat to have such a wide range of items on sale at once. As you can also head to the store and inspect anything you fancy ahead of time I enjoy going there even if I’m not dead set on buying something. A few years ago I bought my favourite camera here – the Leica M4-P – and this year my eye was set on a Rolleiflex.

Inspecting a few different items neither was quite was I hoped for and I turn my attention to other things I was keen on.

In the instance that the tiny black camera gets placed on the counter I know I’ll try and buy it. It simply looks amazing and feels just as nice. I diligently inspect the three silver screw mount Leica’s I’ve also asked to have a look at, but my mind’s already set. A few days later I walk out of the store with the Leica II, made in 1930 and apparently upgraded by Leica from a Ia.

I worried that shooting the old camera would feel too convoluted to be enjoyable, but walking around shooting the tiny thing I enjoyed myself immensely. It’s a change of pace to what I’m used to, but in the best way imaginable. Practically every function of the camera is separated from anything else which leads to a very involved shooting experience. Still as there’s not a single required order to do things in, it ends up feeling a little more improvisational than with a more streamlined camera. There’s a bit more work to set up the camera, but once done it’s actually really quick to shoot. It feels great to use and I imagine it had to be a real revelation 88 years ago.

Photo by KJ Vogelius

The included images are all from the first and so far only roll of film I’ve put through the camera – Superia 400, scanned using my trusty Plustek 8200i. It’s a set that’s a little different to what I’m usually shooting, but I’m really pretty happy about the results.

The lens, an Elmar 50/3.5 that from everything I can tell is the original lens that came with the camera, obviously can’t compare to the modern glass I generally shoot, but stopping down it can actually hold its own surprisingly well. The lens is rather hazy though, which causes some issues with high contrast scenes.

The shutter seems to work reasonably well all things considered, without light leaks or holes. However it’s running uneven at higher speeds leaving half of the frame unexposed at 1/500th. So I’ll be sending out the entire kit for a CLA.

Still as first impressions go, these are pretty excellent and I already look forward to putting many more rolls through the tiny camera.

KJ Vogelius

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5 thoughts on “First roll with a Leica II – by KJ Vogelius”

  1. Nice pictures KJ… These cameras certainly keep up with all the bells and whistles that have followed, with perhaps a single exception… multi-coatings.

    This is something that I am looking forward to trying at some point… I remember Hamish’s own piece here: https://www.35mmc.com/02/01/2016/reasons-own-thread-mount-leica/ it has been something that I have been thinking about for a long time, somehow never get around to it…

    Maybe waiting to find a nice black one in a market somewhere!

    Last year I bought a Nikon S2 with a 50mm f/1.4 lens attached. These old Nikon lenses are actually extremely well appointed copies of the old Zeiss 50mm Sonnars.

    A few months back I found the f/2 version of the same era lens, in a Leica thread mount, and I was able to try it on my M4. This lens has “out Leica’ed” Leica big time, it is simply amazing (to my eye anyway)… I have even sold my Leica lenses for a medium format project.

    I have also now tried the f/1.4 on my M4, and that is wonderful too, but I would argue that the benefit of the extra stop is outweighed by the awkwardness of the “Nikon S to Leica M” adapter which is a bit clunky.

    The Americans gave these Zeiss designs to the Japanese after WW2, and they went on to create something better than Zeiss had ever managed, their coatings are very hardwearing and very effective. The contrast is excellent, and the out of focus rendering is sublime. Just £200 as well.

    So the next logical step is to try my F2 lens on an old Leica Thread mount, a real portable beauty that fulfils Oskar Barnack’s vision… a truly pocketable optical masterpiece.

  2. Hi KJ,
    When you look through the viewfinder, do you see ghosts? Like Capa or Cartier-Bresson? Man, a beautiful camera in such great condition.
    It must be a blast to shoot with. I’d love to see some B&W shots through that Elmar lens. I wish you continued good shooting!

  3. Nice to see another early Leica put back into service! Great first roll. I’m sure that shutter capping can be resolved pretty easily and you’ll have a reliable shooter for the next 8 decades! In late 2017, I also was fortunate enough to pick up a 1930 model. Mine is a III conversion (with slow shutter speeds) and came with matching nickel 50/2 Summar. My “first roll blog” is listed below if interested. Thanks for this fun write-up!

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