Leica III and Elmar 50/3.5 – Not A Review

Right now this is probably my favorite combination for photographing. Over the past six months I have been using it for family pictures, for amateur sports and for scenic/landscape work. I am certainly not an expert photographer, and I am definitely not a professional camera reviewers, so this really is not a review. Rather it is more of a quick rationale for why this camera and lens combo has become so popular with me.

The reason is really very simple. The Leica III is almost the perfect point and shoot for the photographer who understands manual exposure. Combined with the collapsible LTM Elmar 50/3.5 lens it rides easily in my shirt pocket and, once you are competent using it, can be put into action very quickly.

To support that use, the Elmar 50/3.5 renders very nicely on black and white film. It is sharp without causing your eyes to bleed. The aperture, which for many would seem far too slow, is almost perfect for daylight photography. Finally, with the aperture closed down to f9 or lower, it has amazing depth of field allowing you to almost literally point at anything in the near (or far) distance and create a perfectly focused photograph. I am definitely not an optical designer so I cannot even begin to tell you why this lens is so good. It is a type of Tessar design, that much I know, with enough differences to allow Leitz to use it without paying Zeiss for the pleasure (since the Tessar patent belonged to Zeiss.)

Admittedly, this is an old camera and, like all old cameras, comes with the possibility that the 80+ year old gears, levers and springs will fail while I am trying to take a picture. But Leicas are known to be pretty robust, and I have taken the additional precaution of having this particular camera completely overhauled by a crusty old gentleman by the name of Gus Lazzari. He is a very good technician and certainly did a very good job on my camera. Of course the fact that it has been renewed certainly does not eliminate the possibility of catastrophic failure in the field, but it does reduce the risk quite substantially.

In essence, I really do feel that this camera is the perfect embodiment of the picture that Oskar Barnack held in his mind when he was developing the camera that became the Leica. And it does take some very, very nice photographs.

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