Santa’s big surprise

Every boy has got a little dream and mine had been to own and shoot with a Leica rangefinder camera. This Christmas Santa and his great little helper brought me a Leica IIIf “red dial” made between 1952 and 1953. The camera came with the original Leica Elmar 3.5/50 made between 1921 and 1965. The camera is a real cutie. It’s smaller and lighter compared to the M series. Releasing the shutter is a dream. You press it and just a soft gentle sound is heard. Honestly, the IIIf has the quietest shutter sound I’ve ever listened to.

Ken Rockwell has a nice write up here with lots of details and he says: “The IIIf looks so crazy and ancient that no one will give you a hard time photographing with it. Superstitious people who confuse DSLRs with weapons are not afraid of the IIIf.”


All the dials and knobs work perfectly fine even though the camera is 60 years old. The shutter speed is set in top of the camera and the aperture in front of the lens. The film transport runs smooth and exact with leaving less than 2mm between the frames. The viewfinder is nice and bright but isn’t used to focus. The little magnifier left of the viewfinder is for focusing by means of overlaying the two images. Switching between both finders seems easy enough. So, I put a Kodak TMAX 100 in and took it out shooting.


TMAX 100 isn’t my favorite film and I never know what to develop it in. However, I do like its small grain in a 35mm film. I developed it in Rodinal to get a smooth but visible grain, good sharpness as well as some contrast.

I went to the horse farm just across my place and shot an entire film. I chose an open aperture and speeds between 1/25 and 1/50 to push the camera, the lens and me a bit. It wasn’t easy to focus on the moving horses. The wide open aperture didn’t help either. However, the images came out alright.



After the first shots the sun came out and I tried some shots right into it. Focusing wasn’t a problem and I more or less guessed the exposure. Lens flare is quite nice even shooting directly into the sun.




The camera handles nice and it’s fun to use. The process of setting exposure, focusing and framing on the subject takes some time and the camera won’t take pictures of high speed action. But this way of taking photographs slows me down and makes me think about the image. Maybe I couldn’t catch every image I saw that day. Yet, I’m happy with what I got on film. The process of thinking about the final result before and right while taking the image is the real thrill of film photography. Here are the last images of an afternoon walk.




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  1. indeed an excellent series of shot you’ve got here and it is a pleasure to read your writing because of the enthusiasm and joy about the gift. keep shooting and hail to santa (and his little helper) 😉

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