Samoca LE-ii Review – A Fantastic Little Rangefinder

By John Byrne

In January 2022, a friend of mine, who is camera mad, said to me ‘you should get yourself a camera, a film camera, you will love it!’. Then he said, ‘get a look at this on eBay’. It was A 1958 Samoca LE-ii rangefinder camera, untested but very, very attractive. £11.99 left my bank very quickly and in 3 days I was the proud owner, and the seller even sent a spares camera with it. It had a little damage on the lens housing from being dropped over its lifetime, but for what I knew about cameras at that point I didn’t think this would matter.

It’s plain and simple at the back.
The top view with is very clear light meter, coupled to the settings wheels on the left, with the asa settings on top of them.

So off I went with my roll of Colorplus 200, a demonstration off my friend on how to read and match the light meter, and a trip to the North Yorkshire moors, soon the shutter was flying!! I forgot to focus a few times and got 2 exposures wrong, but all was well, amazingly.

Kildale Railway station.
Church window in kildale, this image was the most surprising when I got it back from development.
A track in Basedale, North Yorks.

The breakdown

After a few rolls I realised that I had a few completely over exposed images. On investigation I noticed the shutter stayed open under any speed below 1/50. Then it stopped cocking the shutter. So, curiosity got the better of me and before long I had this fantastic Samoca in what felt like 200 parts all over the workbench. The lens was the culprit. Inside the lens is very similar to a watch, tiny gears, levers, cams and springs, all gently controlling aspects of the shutter, aperture and focus. Being an engineer by trade, this appealed to me very much! I found the problem was related the damage on the lens, causing a cam to have worn out unevenly! So, I used the parts from the spare camera, and having beaten the outside back to a shape that was very close to what it should have been, the Samoca was back on the scene!

The Samoca

When you think of the archetypal vintage camera, the Samoca LE-ii is probably close what you would imagine, a well-balanced design, central lens, black leather, trimmed with a thin silver base, a range finder window and a light-meter occupying a pleasing amount of the top case, and a carefully placed LE-ii badge in the bottom left. In my opinion, the design is one of the most attractive I have seen to this day.

A bit about its specs

The Samoca LE-ii a 1958 launched model with a Samocar f=50 mm 1:2.8 lens (mine doesn’t have the self-timer but my parts one does). One sweep wind on and built in selenium light meter that’s not connected to the lens. The light meter works perfectly, and the exposure is spot on every time (not bad for a 65-year-old camera). When using the camera, it feels nicely balanced, even though it is shade on the heavy side and the camera body actually has no loops for the neck strap, but the case does. The rangefinder is simple and bright and uses an orange diamond for focussing. Setting the lens can be a bit fiddly if you have larger hands, the grips for adjusting the aperture and speed are a little on the thin side, but the focus ring with its cylindrical add on is brilliant! It will accommodate 800 ASA film and has shutter speeds of B, 1, 2, 5, 10, 25, 50, 100, 300.

The rangefinder with the orange focus diamond overlay just visible.
Samocar Lens with its little bit of damage remaining on the outer ring.

A couple more results

 

Sheep St, Skipton
Tractor on Gala day showing the vibrant colours

The Samoca LE-ii produces the clearest images, by a country mile, of any cameras in my collection today. The colours are vibrant, the focus is perfect and there is no vignette at all. Just see the images above, but remember, the Samoca LE-ii may be a masterpiece… but it will get you addicted to classic cameras!

I do lomography: johnb27 · Lomography

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Comments

David Dutchison on Samoca LE-ii Review – A Fantastic Little Rangefinder

Comment posted: 23/06/2023

Love the explore-the-world quality in your photos. That little known camera sure has a great lens.
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John Byrne replied:

Comment posted: 23/06/2023

Thanks for the comment David, I have started taking a camera with me all the time and instead of taking pictures with my smart phone, I shoot with my camera instead... I just have to wait two weeks for them to be developed!!

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Dave Powell on Samoca LE-ii Review – A Fantastic Little Rangefinder

Comment posted: 23/06/2023

Great photos! I love such slightly unknown gems. Thanks John! Dave
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John Byrne replied:

Comment posted: 23/06/2023

Thank you for your comment Dave, plenty more obscure cameras to come !

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Michael Carnell on Samoca LE-ii Review – A Fantastic Little Rangefinder

Comment posted: 23/06/2023

Interesting! I had never heard of the Samoca brand before. Now I have to go look them up. And you are a brave man taking it all apart... I need to do that with a few of mine, and I have even accumulated the tools and such. Now I just need to get up my courage and do it.
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John Byrne replied:

Comment posted: 23/06/2023

Thanks for the comment Michael, they are a brilliant little unit! I would encourage you to have a go at repairing the ones in your collection, just think, if its already broken, you can only make it better!

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Neal Wellons on Samoca LE-ii Review – A Fantastic Little Rangefinder

Comment posted: 23/06/2023

Great photos and a great review of a neat camera. I bought my first one in 1960 with earnings from my newspaper route. Mine was rebadged and sold by Sears as a Tower 57-A. I lost it over the years but bought another one about 5 years ago and it works great, except for the meter. I rarely use anything but "Sunny 16" anyway.
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John Byrne replied:

Comment posted: 23/06/2023

Hi Neal, its great to hear little nuggets of info on the cameras I use and that's amazing that they were sold rebranded, I wonder if they had any differences apart from rebranding? I am sorry to hear about the meter has an issue, if I come across another for parts, I will definitely harvest the meter for you !

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John feole on Samoca LE-ii Review – A Fantastic Little Rangefinder

Comment posted: 23/06/2023

Congrats on your new camera and your successful restoration! I am sure many will follow. It’s a beauty.
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John Byrne replied:

Comment posted: 23/06/2023

Hi John, thank you for the comment, I have 3 boxes to go at now, but only a few float my boat! Hopefully I will write them up for the site!

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