Is a Leica iii Good? Pros, Cons + Leica iii Portraits (Models)
A common question I receive: “Is a Leica iii good.. or should I get a Leica M camera?” If you follow my YouTube channel you’ll already know that I love these little cameras. As a model photographer, here I recap the pros, cons and share a selection of Leica iii portraits using multiple vintage Leica iii Barnack cameras – iiia, iiig, iif, if, ic, I standard.
Before we look at example Leica iii portraits let’s just recap the basics. For a deep dive on Leica iii camera info see my previous post –
Reasons why I love vintage Leica iii cameras (Leica iii vs Leica M)
- Cheaper than Leica M cameras
- Nicer made than many Leica M cameras
- Smaller (and lighter) than Leica M bodies
- Quirky and cool
Leica M vs Leica iii cameras – Why Leica M bodies are better
- Multiple framelines (often 28mm-135mm vs. often 50mm only)
- Some M bodies offer a built in light meter (if you want that)
- Combined viewfinder/ rangefinder – faster to focus
- M mount not screw mount so access to all the latest M glass
- Film advance lever is faster to use verses film advance knob
- Film rewind crank (some bodies) is faster to use verses film rewind knob
- Faster to load film as don’t need to cut film leader
Are you a Leica User?
What is my favourite Leica iii camera?
To give you some confidence that I know my Leica iii cameras here is a list of the Barnack cameras I own:
- Leica I Standard (Model C) 1931 Black paint – New favourite scale focus camera – 20-21,25,40,50mm (CLA’d)
- Leica iiia – My first vintage Barnack camera – Would benefit from a CLA
- Leica iif RD (Red Dial) – My most used Barnack camera for portraits (CLA’d)
- Leica iiig – Offers 50mm+90mm framelines (use full VF for 40mm), parallax correction, bigger finder (Not CLA’d)
- Leica if – Bought when my Leica ic needed a new shutter. Not as pretty, not CLA’d
- Leica ic – Great copy, clean condition, now CLA’d and new shutter – great for scale focus (wide lenses esp).
Warning – Your Leica iii camera may need a CLA (service)
When I first got my Leica iii cameras they seemed to be dying faster than I could buy them. 3 dead from my first 5 cameras. By dead I mean they were crying out for Care, Love, Affection (aka. CLA – Clean, Lube, Adjust). Here are a few portraits showing the camera was not happy.
Leica iiia Portraits
As mentioned my Leica iiia has been “on the bench” for 2022 but here are a few older portraits shot with the camera. (Click any photo in the article to see the lens and film used plus film developing details).
Need Leica Presets?
Leica iif Portraits
My most used Leica iii camera to date. I used it for lens selfie testing during lockdowns and then on a few model shoots since then. (I still have film not yet developed so I will add more to this post as I get a chance).
Leica if camera
Great camera for running as so lightweight. Less useful for portraits with no rangefinder or viewfinder!
Leica ic camera
I’ve used this camera the least as it was away for a CLA for some time. Like the Leica if, this is not a portrait machine but great with wide angle lenses.
Leica iiig portraits
This was my most used Leica iii portrait camera until I had the Leica iif CLA’d. Here are a few older portraits (film not yet developed for the recent shots). After realising I can use the full viewfinder area to estimate a 40mm composition it now makes sense to pair the Leica iiig with my new Voigtlander Heliar 40mm f2.8 LTM lens.
Leica I Standard (1931)
OK this camera is my most loved film camera currently. Since it’s CLA it feels brand new yet better with the beautiful black paint brassing. The Leica Standard is special as it has a fixed 50mm viewfinder but no rangefinder. I kitted it out with an additional Voigtlander 21-25mm round black metal finder and use it to scale focus / zone focus the 25mm Voigtlander Snapshot Skopar lens (and others).
I realised I could try scale focusing 50mm lenses such as the 5cm f3.5 Leica Elmar at f8-f11. From that I thought hmm, I could scale focus my new Voigtlander Heliar 40mm f2.8 LTM lens and approximate a 40mm view by cropped tight with the 50mm finder. I think less is more so the more stripped back, functional but compact, the better for me. I started to scale focused a few portraits and I’m sure more will follow.
Are Leica iii cameras great for portraits?
In simple terms, no they are not as good as Leica M cameras. The lack of parallax correction on all models except the Leica iiig still catches me out. The split viewfinder/ rangefinder is slightly slower to use than a combined Leica M finder. Not being able to use fast Leica M glass could be frustrating and everything is just a bit slower.
That said, how cool is it to make great photos with a 70-90 year old film cameras. I love using these cameras and I like the challenge. Digital photography is so easy now treat yourself to a proper camera that will make you appreciate every frame. I’m only just getting started with mine.
Ultimate travel camera / photowalk tool
Despite me loving my model photography work the place the Leica iii cameras shine the most is for travel or photowalks. See my last post on Leica photowalks for example images. Small Leica iii cameras paired with tiny LTM lenses make the ultimate pocket camera. I bought some of my Leica iii cameras specifically for this purpose.
Bomb proof Leica cameras
The Leica if, Leica ic and Leica I Standard are my ultimate bomb proof Leica cameras (Or the Leica MDa, MD-2 etc for M mount). My biggest worry about the common Leica M cameras, M2, M3, M4-P, M6 that I use, one big knock or drop and the camera rangefinder gets knocked out of alignment. You then need to send the camera away and you’re without it often for multiple months.
Specific camera models
I bought the Leica if, Leica ic and Leica I Standard specifically as they have no rangefinder. They are smaller, lighter and tougher than standard Leica iii cameras and that’s why they are my travel partners. If you plan to shoot mostly with a 50mm lens the Leica Standard is better as the built in small viewfinder is more compact than adding an additional finder.
As mentioned, I now use this for 40mm and 50mm lenses (and if I want a 1 camera setup I use the 21/25mm finder and small 20mm, 21mm, 25mm lenses too). If you shoot mostly 28mm or wider the Leica if or Leica ic are the best. (The Leica ig is a little bigger and heavier).
Best thing to happen to Leica iii cameras in the last 20 years?
This may be up for debate but for me the release of the brand new Voigtlander Heliar 40mm f2.8 LTM lens gives these old cameras the option of modern optics and all the benefits associated with that.
If you prefer something wider, a little bird tells me that TTArtisan are releasing their awesome Leica Summaron 28mm f5.6 LTM clone soon in screw mount. My prayers have been answered! I love this lens but I wanted it for compact screw mount cameras not M mount. Stay tuned and follow me on YouTube to see the new video when it launches.
Working with models and vintage cameras
If you’ve not yet discovered my Patreon platform where I teach model photography, the YouTube video below shows how I juggle vintage film cameras next to digital Leica cameras on the same shoots. Film is for me, digital is for models (and to get them up to speed so I can shoot film). I wouldn’t like to shoot only film on a model shoot as I pay models with my photos. Digital is guaranteed results. You never quite know with film especially when playing with 90+ year old cameras as I do.
Model photography workshops
I teach group workshops (such as the 12 photographers in Dubai in November) and also my usual 1:1 model workshops. If you want to fast track your portraits in 2023 click the article below for more info –
Download my FREE eBook to get a glimpse of how to find models and organise your own photoshoots –
What’s your favourite Leica iii camera?