1942 LEITZ LEICA IIIc “stepper”, Desirable WWII model with red shutter curtains, CLA'd, Freshly Serviced!
Cleaned, Lubricated & Adjusted, Ready for immediate use.
There are times when camera collecting is incredibly difficult. It comes as moments when you’re asked simple questions like “What’s the best camera…?” or “Which is the most significant camera ever?” The brain starts working, the heart beats nicely and the mouth moves but if an answer appears at all… it’s a long and complicated one, full of design details, historical moments and personal rationalizations.
Fortunately answers come quicker when we are asked to feel more and think less…. Matters of the heart are easier to answer and to agree on. The eye and the heart have a directness and honesty that the brain lacks as it struggles to retain, comprehend and balance all the many details.
So here’s a simple question for the heart. What is the most enjoyable camera of the 20th century…? I don’t know about you, but I see the answer almost immediately. I can also feel it between my hands. And it’s a surprising answer because it runs counter to my technology oriented brain. What I see is not the most expensive, the rarest or even the most sophisticated. That evidently doesn’t impress my heart… which is why the heart and the mind are such a good match. They need each other for balance. The brain tells us what we think we need and the heart tells us what we want.
The most enjoyable camera ever….? I thought it would be a Pentax Spotmatic but it’s not. The winner is a screw mount Leica. It’s honest, it’s significant and above all it’s great fun to be with. The Leica is like the perfect partner that some of us search our entire lives for. It has that unique mix of something for the heart, something for the eye and something for the head. It’s that perplexing mix that insures we never tire of being close. And when you cradle it in your hands, you’re not simply picking up a camera… it’s more like being reunited with an old friend. A friend with rich sparkling stories of adventure and history, life and death, valor and treachery, lives and passion… And like a faithful friend it will go on and on recording our adventures, our children’s adventures and possibly be still there for our grand children to enjoy and to remind them of our life, excursions and adventures.
This camera’s own life is long and colorful. I can’t tell you the stories of where it’s been but I can tell you this Leica started its long journey of many roads and many years in 1940. It was built in a time and a place when the world looked very different than it does today. The Leica IIIc was a brand-new camera for a rough new world. Leica had improved this version with a stronger die cast shutter frame and upgraded internals for better overall performance and reliability.
The IIIc was introduced in Germany in 1940 and the first production serial number was 360101. The camera we have for sale here is serial number 378571. This number indicates that it was produced in 1942 or possibly late 1941. In any case it belongs within a relatively rare batch of Leica cameras produced during the war with red shutter curtains. Over the years there has been much speculation why they were fitted with red curtains but the simplest, most likely answer is that due to a shortage of materials during the war, Leitz simply used what was available. If you’re pragmatic, you could also argue that considering the vast amounts of material and men were being rushed towards the eastern front, no one was going to care if their cameras had red or black curtains as long as they worked…
After the war, the few cameras that had managed to survive often had the red curtains replaced with regular black ones when they were serviced by Leitz, (who routinely swapped out the red curtains as part of their service protocol). The result is that red curtain cameras are quite difficult to find now-a-days, especially in good, fully functional condition. To be honest, this isn’t surprising. The wartime Leica IIIc cameras often had to endure very harsh, battle field conditions and as a result most are quite worn. But in addition to this, many of the surviving red shutter curtains eventually deteriorated, rendering them useless. I don’t know if this was due to a bad batch of shutter cloth, or if storage conditions played a factor but most of them have black spots on the curtains. (This is caused by the rubber coating breaking down and becoming sticky.) Fortunately this camera is the exception to all of this, the curtains are in great condition and the shutter works as it should. (Please see photo.)
Seventy-six years later this veteran still works exceptionally well, and it seems to support the idea that the more a Leica is used, the smoother it becomes. It’s also hard to believe it managed to survive WWII and all the decades since then and look this good. It’s in exceptional condition. Not mint mind you, but I think you’d be hard pressed to find a better example.
The camera has recently been carefully cleaned, lubricated and adjusted. It is completely functional. The shutter curtains are in great condition. They are smooth, supple and completely light tight. The slow speeds buzz along smoothly and the fast speeds are clean and snappy. All shutter speeds are appropriate. The view finder is clean and bright. We’ve installed a new beam splitter and the coupled rangefinder image is easy to see and focusing.
I should also mention that the camera has been set up to work with a flash. It’s been readjusted to work with a normal electronic flash. The flash connector is very discreetly located on the removable base plate beneath the camera and makes connects to the camera via a spring contact. (If you have one, a normal base plate can be installed if you’re not interested in this feature.)
It comes complete with a Leitz 2.0/50mm Summar lens. The glass is clean and clear but it does have numerous cleaning marks on the front element. Focus is smooth, the aperture works as it should. As with all prewar and wartime lenses we recommend keeping the sun to your back for best performance.
It comes with a Leitz metal film take up spool and a used brown leather case.
All in all, the perfect company on your own search for that perfect picture. It’s the perfect camera for people with a historic interest. If you’ve been looking for an exceptionally fine, wartime Leica, I think you’ve just found it.