Lecia Conversions

Jan 16, 2017  By Richard Rejino

Photo 8

The Leica I (Model A), introduced in 1925 had been constantly developed since almost immediately after its introduction. From the very beginning it was possible to add new features to older cameras. So for example you may find Anastigmat or early Elmax Leicas with a locking spring on the wind axis instead of a ratchet, or with the eight shutter speeds (B, 20, 30, 40…..) replacing the previous seven shutter speeds used earlier (B, 25, 40…….). With the introduction of the Model C with interchangeable lenses in May 1930, Leitz offered a conversion program to the model C. Cross model conversions were available as well until the Leica IIIf. The only model which was not upgradeable was the Model B, Leica Compur. Until the late fifties, it was possible to convert even the earliest model A to a IIIf. Depending how old the original camera was and when the conversion was done, different parts were used. Conversion of Model A into IIIa from 1936 looks different than the same conversion done in the midfifties. Looking inside the camera and analyzing which parts were used for the conversion very often helps determine when the conversion had been done.

This article is the first from the series about various Leica conversions from my collection.

photo A: Top plate showing the original Bismuth engraved serial number, with serial number again
scratched on the top plate, lower left.

The subject of this article was originally a Leica I, Model A with fixed mount Elmar. The camera left the factory on June 14, 1928 and was shipped together with FODIS SN 14221 to Jansen in Barmen. (In 1929 the town of Barmen, together with four other villages merged into today’s Wuppertal, Germany)

A remark in the Leitz delivery records indicates that the camera went back the factory and was then shipped to Atelier Bork, this time without FODIS on November 9th, 1929.

What was the reason for returning the camera to the factory? Was this perhaps the first conversion? Cameras produced in 1929 already had a modified release button replacing the original mushroom type release, but what was more important; they had automatic decoupling of the film transport when the rewind lever was placed in R position. It was no longer necessary to keep the release button pressed when rewinding the film. This was a pretty nice improvement and I believe that this conversion was the reason why the camera went back to the factory. Furthermore I believe that Jansen was a dealer and Atelier Bork was the end user. Foto Jansen is located in Barmen/Wuppertal, and still exists today according to my research.

Interchangeable lenses for the Leica and the Hektor lens itself were introduced after this camera’s first visit to the factory; therefore they could not have been part of this first conversion.

The Hektor 50mm prototype had been presented in May 1929 [2]. In early 1930 it went into production as a fixed lens mounted onthe Model A.

In May 1930, interchangeable lenses for the Leica went into production. The distance between the lens flange and film plane was not standardized, so each lens was individually matched to the camera body. Lenses received the body serial number engraved on them (at first the full 5 digit serial number, and later the last three digits only) [3]. Engraving was placed either on the lens mount on lenses without the Depth of Field (DOF) scale or directly on DOF scale on the lenses which had it. The Hektor on the camera presented here has engraving on the DOF scale and this allows setting the date of conversion after July/August 1930.

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Richard Rejino
Richard is the Executive Director of LHSA - The International Leica Society and a part-time professional photographer. He is also a classically trained pianist, writer and published author. His book, "What Music Means to Me" is available from Hal Leonard Corporation.

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