5 frames in Winter Wonderland with a Leica 111F – by Michael Scott

Hamish’s recent posts on gear you ‘need’ or/and ‘want’ set me thinking – if I had to chose just one camera from my modest collection which one would it be? Logically, surely my Leica M7, but then I’ve just lost my third, yes third, diopter correction lens from it and hate wearing spectacles when taking pictures.

By the way, I tweeted @leica_camera to ask why can’t they build in diopter adjustment into their M range, after all their R range and modern digital cameras manage it, as indeed does my 111F. I mean you’re spending £5,000 on a camera but who has perfect eyesight! I’m waiting for their reply…

So then if not the M7 maybe the Leica R8? It’s a great camera but it’s big and the shutter is distinctly audible so not a silent street shooter. Actually, thinking about it, size and shutter noise rules out the rest of my vintage SLRs (OM, Pentax and Nikon).

Then I thought about my 1953 Leica 111F – it’s small, light and nearly silent. It has built in diopter adjustment. The two screw fitting lens I have are the 50mm uncoated Summitar (dating from 1942) which is a great performer, and the Voigtlander Snapshot 25mm (with viewfinder). The 25mm is my perfect street lens.

But the 111F has no built in meter. How much of a drawback is that? Well actually not that much. I sling my Minolta Autometer around my neck, or use Lux on my iPhone – job done. I don’t fiddle around with exposure too much, one reading in shade or sun and I judge by eye after that. Shooting black and white makes this a perfectly viable workflow.

So, I decided to test this out by visiting Winter Wonderland in London’s Hyde Park. I loaded with Kentmere 100 and set my meter to 400ASA, intending to meter for shadows and compensate when developing. I was using the Summitar.

I developed in HC-110, dilution ‘H’ for 12 minutes. The resulting negatives are richly dense capturing plenty of shadow detail whilst not burning out the highlights too much.

The 111F handles really well and is discreet and silent. I had it serviced earlier in the year (not cheap at £200) and it works well. So maybe it is the one camera I need?

Thanks for reading and if you’ve enjoyed this please head over to my website michaelscottfoto.com

PS – After writing this I took out my lovely Kodak Retina IIc and shot a roll of film with it – what a beautiful and well made camera. Decisions, decisions….

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19 thoughts on “5 frames in Winter Wonderland with a Leica 111F – by Michael Scott”

  1. I love the amusement park setting. Awesome little 35mm camera. Slower than a modern camera, but fits well in hand and really nails the focus.

    Hope you enjoy both the IIIf and the Retina IIc for many years. I have the same conundrum of which to choose with a Leica II and a Retina IIa.

  2. Nice job with exposures and tonality! These little Leicas are fantastic. I regularly use my father’s 1949 IIIC. It, too, needed a major adjustment and repair, but it should stay in good working trim long after my trim deteriorates.

    1. Thanks! By the way, I use a lot of Kentmere film because of price/value. I have found it works best if you ignore the box speed and Ilford developing times, and experiment with ASA rating and developers/developing time. The combination I used here produces negatives with lots of information which make for easy printing in the darkroom.

  3. Hi Scott,
    Great timing on the publishing of your article. For the past 36 months, I’ve worked with the ‘one camera/one lens’ outlook…almost. I’ve assembled two identical camera/lens kits (I believe in the concept of redundancy: two of each.) Once I made the transition, the emphasis changed to vision rather than acquiring gear. Of course. I’d love to get a IIIG, but I’m content with my M2. It’s only taken 50 years to get to this point!

    1. Hi Dan, I agree, working with one setup gives you an instinctive feel for the camera and lens making using it faster and better. Trouble is, I hate leaving my other vintage gear unused!

  4. collardphotography

    Hi Scott,

    I have on of those Leica IIIF and that are fantastic, actually I have trouble deciding between that and my M3. I am always amazed of the design and built quality of these little gems, which goes to show why get a new wizbang camera with all the gadgets. Great shots.

    Dominique Pierre-Nina.

  5. Nice photos Michael. It’s quite possible that an independent optician (perhaps not Specsavers) could make you a diopter correction lens for your M7. I did that years ago for a Pentax S1. Perhaps it could be fitted inside a rubber eyepiece.
    I once owned a Leica 1f , without either built in rangefinder or viewfinder. I used a Leitz 50mm accessory VF and guessed the distance for its collapsible 50mm Elmar 3.5. Later I owned a 111f similar to yours but with a 50mm Elmar.
    I wish I’d kept it but I still own too many cameras. I did keep and still have my Retina 11c which I actually liked better that my Leicas.

    1. Well, a Retina WAS the first camera on Mt Everest. Hillary didn’t trust Tenzing with it, so there are no photos of Hillary on the summit. But I believe it was a Retina I, not II.

  6. I love the diopter correction on my III, and on my Zorki 3. Once you get into the flow it’s actually pretty rapid to use, although the film cutting and fiddling to fit on the Leica is too often a faff. But they are super cameras and much preferable to many far later for size and quality. I must get mine out again!

  7. I’ve got to tell my favorite Leica IIIc story. I was on my lunch hour, taking pictures around Sutton Place with my IIIc when I went into the little deli that’s on the south corner.

    As I was checking out, who should I see but a woman I will swear to my dying day was Greta Garbo, who had an apartment on Sutton Place. Or if it wasn’t, she was a dead ringer for what Greta Garbo would’ve looked like in her 70s.

    She looked down at the Leica hanging from my neck and shook her head “no.” I was pretty transgressive in my street photography back then, but … I nodded in agreement.

    After all, she wanted to be alone.

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