A hike with Leica IIIC and Fomapan 400 Action

Julian Tanase

Well-Known Member
Perhaps you remember that 1940’s Leica IIIC, shown here in a recent article on my website, also discussed here on this forum. Well, I managed unsuccessfully to avoid using it, for several days, but in the end I succumbed to my innate curiosity and had a go at it. My curiosity got the better of me (as usual), which is something that happens on a regular basis. And not only when it comes to photography.


Not exactly avoiding it though, more being shy to use it, mainly because of the multiple issues that plague this camera: unused for the best of the last 30 or so years, rangefinder badly misaligned and its window almost unusable, lens (front element) scratched, unsure about speeds, shutter too clunky for a Leica (which may signal a possible mechanical issue right there). I thought I will send it to be overhauled and repaired, before enjoying running a film through it. But as gods willed it otherwise, one morning I woke up, put a roll of Fomapan 400 Action in and went for a long hike in a nearby mountain resort.​



First of all, the rangefinder is 100% unusable, and that makes this camera a zone focusing one. I do not mind, as many of the classic cameras I own and use have the same focusing method. The lens mount is not damaged, and the helical is operating all right, although a bit stiff, which is to be expected. Composing is a breeze. A bit weird though, as my first instinct is to look through the rangefinder window to set it up, which of course it does not work. A few seconds wasted right there. All fun, I told you.​


The film advance works fine, albeit with a grating sound which is not a thing Leica is known for. Of course, this camera needs to undergo a serious overhaul, but for now the winding and shutter cocking works all right. Shutter speeds seem to be in order, (minus from T up to 1/15, of which I am not certain at all). It seems though the speeds are a bit under, as many of the frames came out to be on the overexposure side, but nothing dramatic. Aperture ring functions ok, and the aperture tab is locking securely in place.​


A few shots were taken with 1/30 and the slow speeds dial seem to be fine, including the coupling between the 30-1 transfer pin from the regular speed dial to the small speeds dial. Curtain appears to be ok too, with the rollers a bit stiff, which is (again) to be expected. Part of that annoying grating sounds when winding the film may be due to this rather minor aspect, as long as the cloth is not torn.​


I have metered most of the shots by Sunny 16 rule, with some scenes metered with Gossen Lunasix, as the shadows were giving me a bit of a guesswork. Photographs were taken in a small mountain resort, the woodwork is of local craftsmen. The entire experience of using this Leica IIIC was one of fun and I can tell you that using such an old camera may trigger some half forgotten rules about basic photography. And this in turn makes the entire experience really enjoyable.​
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Astonishing how durable old cameras can be! The experience of shooting the shot can often be as much fun as seeing what develops.
But as gods willed it otherwise, one morning I woke up, put a roll of Fomapan 400 Action in and went for a long hike in a nearby mountain resort.
One could be forgiven for thinking the gods must be crazy,...but the evidence of the images prove otherwise.
The results look fine to me, and you’ve calculated the exposures well. Certainly worth gIrving it an overhaul. I had one, and my wife has one - same model - I just found it a pain putting the film in.
I have found Leica to be lacking in the rangefinder use in the late evenings or at dawn.
My (recently added) iiic has been a joy so far. I really like the magnify option on the rangefinder. I was easily able to get focus whereas yesterday using my just returned Mamiya with a waist-level finder, I'm going to need to bring a small magnifier along in order to use that finder.

Your images look great!