A Hike with Leica IIIC and Fomapan 400

Perhaps you remember that 1940’s Leica IIIC, shown here in a recent article. Well, I managed to avoid using it (unsuccessfully) for several days, but in the end I succumbed to my innate curiosity and had a go at it. My curiosity got the better of me, which is something that happens on a regular basis. And not only when it comes to photography.

Not exactly avoiding it though, more being shy to use it, mainly because of the multiple issues that plague this camera: unused for the best of the last 30 or so years, rangefinder badly misaligned and its window almost unusable, lens (front element) scratched, unsure about speeds, shutter too clunky for a Leica (which may signal a possible mechanical issue right there). I thought I will send it to be overhauled and repaired, before enjoying running a film through it. But as gods willed it otherwise, one morning I woke up, put a roll of Fomapan 400 Action in and went for a long hike in a nearby mountain resort.

First of all, the rangefinder is 100% unusable, and that makes this camera a zone focusing one. I do not mind, as many of the classic cameras I own and use have the same focusing method. The lens mount is not damaged, and the helical is operating all right, although a bit stiff, which is to be expected. Composing is a breeze. A bit weird though, as my first instinct is to look through the rangefinder window to set it up, which of course it does not work. A few seconds wasted right there. All fun, I told you.

The film advance works fine, albeit with a grating sound which is not a thing Leica is known for. Of course, this camera needs to undergo a serious overhaul, but for now the winding and shutter cocking works all right. Shutter speeds seem to be in order, (minus from T up to 1/15, of which I am not certain at all). It seems though the speeds are a bit under, as many of the frames came out to be on the overexposure side, but nothing dramatic. Aperture ring functions ok, and the aperture tab is locking securely in place.

A few shots were taken with 1/30 and the slow speeds dial seem to be fine, including the coupling between the 30-1 transfer pin from the regular speed dial to the small speeds dial. Curtain appears to be ok too, with the rollers a bit stiff, which is (again) to be expected. Part of that annoying grating sounds when winding the film may be due to this rather minor aspect, as long as the cloth is not torn.

I have metered most of the shots by Sunny 16 rule, with some scenes metered with Gossen Lunasix, as the shadows were giving me a bit of a guesswork. The entire experience of using this Leica IIIC was one of fun and I can tell you that using such an old camera may trigger some half forgotten rules about basic photography. And this in turn makes the entire experience really enjoyable.

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16 thoughts on “A Hike with Leica IIIC and Fomapan 400”

  1. Looking at those images suggests there’s not much wrong with that camera. Even exposure across the frame is good too. I have ten various Leicas most of which have been serviced and they all clunk with probably with the exception of two.

    1. I agree, William, camera is in an acceptable working condition. However, I am planning to send it to a CLA shop here in Europe somewhere, to be revived both cosmetically and (to a certain extent if possible) mechanically wise. The fact that it is working all right even with the issues it has is a statement to the engineering from Leica.

  2. Amazing photos considering the cameras, eh… less than pristine condition. Well done, Julian. Definitely get it fixed, thou…. it’ll make a fine piece of a camera.

    1. John, I most certainly will do just that; cost is something that could be rather high, but it is well worth it, I believe. Not to mention that the grime and whatnot accumulated over the years inside the camera may wreak havoc with other parts in the long run.

    1. Gioacchino, thank you, appreciated. If by “film detector” you meant light meter, I used a Gossen Lunasix 3 for some of the shots. However, most were done by Sunny 16, not a hard thing to do.

      1. Dear Julian – great results…
        may he ask for the developer – that would make me wonder as well; wich one and with with reciept (times) – kind regards, Andy

  3. Unexpectedly good photos after the “expectations management” regarding the condition of the camera. 400 ASA a good choice if zone focusing, and Fomapan is one of my three favourite films. The Barnack Leicas can be excellent and are ultra-compact with the collapsible Elmar – which is my preferred lens (also scratched by the way) for colour film.

    1. Thank you, Geoff, indeed Leica is a exceedingly well made camera. This one here shown is proof of that, I guess. While Fomapan 400 (the Action Line) is not among my 3 top favourites, I can say it performed rather well, considering the condition of camera and available light that day, so I guess I’ll have some more in the future.

      I do have a scratched Elmar on another Leica, and the bokeh on colour film is something I very much enjoy. Interesting, right?

  4. Hello. Nice post and nice pictures. I’ve never tried the Fomapan myself, but it looks like it delivers a nice tonal range. Those little lenses, despite their simplicity and age, can really deliver pleasing results.
    I’ve also just read your other post on your Leica. The good news is that the T pose is probably actually working. To terminate a T exposure on these cameras you need to turn the knob from T to 1, rather than pressing the shutter button a second time. One more thing you can probably add to the list of working parts of your lovely Leica!

  5. Thanks for another peek into an unknown slice of the world that is delightful.
    If time and budget permits, get the Leica tuned-up. There are many modern lenses available in the LTM mount that are lightweight and sharp.

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