Experimental Leicaflexes and an “almost Leica IIIg”

Mar 25, 2021  By Jason Schneider
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Ingenious innovations that paved the way for two classic Leicas.

The original Leicaflex, now known as the Leicaflex Standard, was the first 35mm SLR made by Leitz Wetzlar. It officially debuted in 1963, reached the market in 1964, and was phased out in 1968. Although it was exquisitely made, gorgeously finished, and capable of outstanding results, the Leicaflex Standard was technologically outclassed by its Japanese competitors, and also considerably more expensive. It lacked through-the-lens (TTL) metering, interchangeable finders, even a full focusing screen—its aerial-image viewfinder was extremely bright but focusing was restricted to a relatively small circular area in the center of the finder field. Thus it is not surprising that the first Leicaflex, despite its elite pedigree, was hardly a rousing success in the marketplace. When its successor, the Leicaflex SL, debuted in 1968, it addressed two of these deficits by incorporating, among other improvements, an ingenious and effective semi-spot TTL metering system and a full focusing viewfinder (still with a fixed pentaprism). Not surprisingly the SL sold much better than its predecessor despite its princely price, and was popular among pros, especially in Europe.    

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1 Comment

I’ve had a love affair with a Leica IIIf (and 35/50/90mm Leica lenses) for over 30 years. I found a pristine example of the camera in a shop on the Ginza in Tokyo in 1986 or 1987, and later learned – on a visit to Germany – that many of the best-preserved post-war Leica cameras were scarfed up by Japanese collectors who are enamored of the mechanical/optical perfection of Leica. Now 72 years old, I decided to retire the IIIf as I don’t want to deal with film, darkroom chemicals, etc.. I donated the camera and lenses to a vintage camera shop in Portland, Oregon (Blue Moon Camera & Machine), and – following a Leica tune-up – the kit will be the prize in a photo contest for up-and-coming B&W film photographers. So, am I now sans camera? Not a chance: I just got a M10 Monochrom, and a 35mm Summicron F2 lens, and I am now learning how to do digital B&W. It is a new beginning.



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