Ask anyone that enjoys shooting photographs with a Leica, and I’ll bet they know what a Leica M3 is. But, would they know what a Leica IXMOO is and would they know about the different variations in the IXMOO? Maybe not. I have been shooting film for decades and reloading film just as long. I enjoy using the Leica M3 and M2 series as well as a Leica IIIC. One item shared by all these Leica cameras is the ability to use a specific German made brass reloadable cartridge. Jim Lager tells me the line of reloadable gear manufactured by Leitz is long, including the likes of the FILCA, ABLON, ABCOO, ASPUL, AGRIF, AFLOO, and KBOOF. This articles focuses on the end of that line — the IXMOO.
I have been using IXMOO for about 5 years with a Leica M3 (and previously an M2). Clearly, reloading film takes time and care and is not for everyone. As Leica developed the M series and 35mm photography became more popular with the addition of non-professionals, pre-loaded single use cartridges also became more popular. From the mid-1950’s when he began using 35mm, Jim Lager tells me he never met a Leica user who employed the FILCA or the IXMOO. So, while lesser known, these superbly engineered cartridges add not only to the nostalgia of using older film Leicas today but also contribute to the cohesiveness and functionality of a Leica / Leitz camera system.
Just like the attention to detail and workmanship in a Leica film camera, the brass reloadable cartridges share the same lineage. Many vintage era Leica items, including various types of the brass cartridge, carry an all caps name that seems to have no bearing on what the item is (think, ABCOO, AFLOO and KBOOF). The brass reloadable cartridges shown here are called IXMOO, not be confused with the older and taller FILCA cartridges that only fit the pre-Leica M3 series with screw mount lenses, like my Leica IIIC. While these screw mount bodies take either cartridge, the M bodies can only use the IXMOO. You can tell the IXMOO from the FILCA by the little knob on the top of the cartridge. If it is chrome, the cartridge is probably an IXMOO, black and its a FILCA. Side by side, of course, the FILCA is taller and the FILCA cartridge do not carry the full text on the bottom – “Ernst Leitz GmbH Wetzlar.” (image 1)
The Leica M3 right on up through the very early M6 can use this cartridge. The later models, including the Leica MP and Leica MA will not allow the IXMOO to be inserted. A tab has been added preventing the use of the cartridge and the bottom plate no longer has the notch required to unlock the IXMOO allowing it to be opened inside the camera body after the bottom plate is attached. This is presumably to standardize the manufacturing process for bottom plates and latches as technology changed and the inside of the Leica bodies was adjusted to maintain the size. Additionally, Leica would no longer have to keep the IXMOO in production. Andrew Nemeth also points out that the Leica M7 and MP film cartridge cavities are too small to even load the IXMOO, regardless of the tabs.
Typically, a cartridge that has not been in continual use has some brass oxidation on the bottom. One day, after going through and cleaning up several cartridges, I notice some differences between them. Upon closer inspection, the differences are more pronounced, but difficult to notice. The best that I can tell, there are three variations of the IXMOO cartridge, and two variations of the spools inside the cartridge. First, the outside of the IXMOO. Notice that two of the cartridges have black tabs and one has a chrome tab. This is regardless of the age or condition of the IXMOO. These are the only two out of 30 IXMOO that I have with black tabs. The newer ones seemed to have chrome tabs, so I believe the older cartridges had the black tab. (image 2)