Tag Archives: IIIa

Images from my 1936 Leica IIIa

After completing the service, cleaning, repair, adjustment on the 1936 Leica IIIa, I shot a test roll to see if everything was working as it should. There are a lot of things that can be wrong on an 80 year old camera. A test roll can show if the film is advancing correctly, getting the proper space between images on the negative, shutter speeds are correct, the rangefinder and lens are in good sync so the images come out good and clear. etc…

The first test roll showed that the shutter  was at the right speed but on the faster speeds, it was not adjusted correctly. The second or “closing” curtain was catching up with the first curtain part way across the film area.

The dark area on the right means the closing curtain caught up with the opening curtain, and is called 'capping' Here at 1/500 speed it is about 75 % at 1/1000 it was almost 100%
The dark area on the right means the closing curtain caught up with the opening curtain, and is called ‘capping’ Here at 1/500 speed it is about 75 % at 1/1000 it was almost 100%

 

at 1/200 speed there is slight capping
at 1/200 speed there is slight capping

On this type of camera, there are two curtains that act as the shutter. First the opening curtain starts it’s travel then, depending on the shutter speed you choose, the closing curtain starts it’s travel. On this model, at 1/20 of a second  the opening curtain has exposed the entire film area before the closing curtain starts it’s travel. At 1/500, it only gets about 1/8th of an inch before the closing curtain starts it’s travel. They travel together at 1/8″ across the entire film area. No matter what speed you set it, the curtains physically travel at the same speed, (about 1/20th sec.) it’s the size of the opening that determines the shutter speed. At 1/1000 shutter speed, the opening is about 1/16th of an inch, 1/200 about 3/16ths and so on.

So you can see, the curtains have to be adjusted so they travel at the same speed. After the first test roll, I had to take the camera apart again so I could see the shutter at work. (this camera and many others like it doesn’t have the back open to put in the film, you load it from the bottom so you can’t see the shutter working unless you take the outer shell off) I was able to tension the curtains so that the closing curtain wasn’t catching up with the opening curtain.

Old building in Jacksonville, Oregon Shady side of the street

McCully House Inn 1860  Beekman Bank

Lithia Creek  Pioneer cemetary  quiet streets

Shakespeare Elizabethan Theatre  Old and new

It’s very rewarding to take an instrument almost 80 years old and repair it and know it’s good for at least another 10-20 years before it will need to be cleaned and adjusted again.

 

1936 Leica IIIa CLA and Repair

Giving my 1936 Leica IIIa a CLA. It basically works fine, the shutter fires on all speeds but the slow speeds are sluggish. The curtains have previously been changed, maybe even twice in it’s 78 year history and look good. Overall there is brassing on the top and bottom plates but from normal heavy usage telling me it was well loved. From what I can see, the inside looks clean-ish, no major rust or anything like that.

leica_IIIa-cla-01
overall ‘before’ shot

leica_IIIa-cla-05
dirty vulcanite

leica_IIIa-cla-06
filthy around hard-to-clean places

Above, showing the external condition, dirt and a reddish oxidation to the Vulcanite (red circle) and dirty internal glass.

remove these 4 screws (red circles), carefully remove the lens flange as there may be shims between it and the camera body. Mine had none but there were several on my Nicca when I worked on it.
remove these 4 screws (red circles), carefully remove the lens flange as there may be shims between it and the camera body. Mine had none but there were several on my Nicca when I worked on it.

when you remove the 4 screws, these brackets come loose. The upper one is held by the RF coupling arm, that comes in handy when putting it back on.
when you remove the 4 screws, these brackets come loose. The upper one is held by the RF coupling arm, that comes in handy when putting it back on.

remove the slow speed dial by removing the screw (red circle) but ignore the small set screw (red arrow), it is not necessary to loosen this, it will come off with the speed scale disc, making adjustment later unnecessary, but before lifting the dial off, make some kind of mark on the square shaft to indicate which edge is up for reassembly.
remove the slow speed dial by removing the screw (red circle) but ignore the small set screw (red arrow), it is not necessary to loosen this, it will come off with the speed scale disc, making adjustment later unnecessary, but before lifting the dial off, make some kind of mark on the square shaft to indicate which edge is up for reassembly.

I found it helpful to just loosen this screw rather than remove it. It's got a very short shaft so only 1/2 to 3/4 turn and the clicker disc will be loose enough to remove
I found it helpful to just loosen this screw rather than remove it. It’s got a very short shaft so only 1/2 to 3/4 turn and the clicker disc will be loose enough to remove

remove these 3 screws (circles) then lift off all the discs, remember their order they came off and the post.
remove these 3 screws (circles) then lift off all the discs, remember their order they came off and the post.

remove all these screws (red circles). the two dark body screws on the right (rewind side) come out and a bracket will fall out the bottom. It's easy to figure out how it goes back in
remove all these screws (red circles). the two dark body screws on the right (rewind side) come out and a bracket will fall out the bottom. It’s easy to figure out how it goes back in

remove these screws (circled)
remove these screws (circled)

hold down on the RF coupling arm so it clears when you remove the shell
hold down on the RF coupling arm so it clears when you remove the shell

remove the shell simply pull it down, it shouldn't be hard to remove
remove the shell simply pull it down, it shouldn’t be hard to remove

shell removed, the film pressure plate will fall out with it's leaf springs (arrows)
shell removed, the film pressure plate will fall out with it’s leaf springs (arrows)

 

After getting the shell off, that’s a good time to observe the shutter action. Look through it against a florescent light. When I did mine I discovered the 1/500 speed had just a blip of light and the 1/1000 speed showed no light at all so now it’s a CLA and repair as well.

Lets remove the top plate to see the Timing Mechanism and RF glass. (on the III and IIIa, only the smaller plate over the RF comes off, on the later IIIc, IIIf and IIIg, the entire chrome top plate comes off.

remove the two round front RF windows. The right one (red arrow) may or may not come off in two pieces. mine came off in one piece. The left window (yellow arrows) should come off in two pieces, the outer ring and the inner window that also adjusts the vertical RF view. Use a spanner to remove it's outer ring, the inner spanner slots adjust the RF. If your RF vertical view is already correct there should be no need to adjust it later
remove the screw between the RF round windows and remove the two round front RF windows. The right one (red arrow) may or may not come off in two pieces. mine came off in one piece. The left window (yellow arrows) should come off in two pieces, the outer ring and the inner window that also adjusts the vertical RF view. Use a spanner to remove it’s outer ring, the inner spanner slots adjust the RF. If your RF vertical view is already correct there should be no need to adjust it later

remove this rear viewfinder window
remove this rear viewfinder window

remove the rear screw (oblong circle) and the Diopter adjust post (circle)
remove the rear screw (oblong circle) and the Diopter adjust post (circle)

pull out the Diopter / RF window. It will need cleaning and greasing
pull out the Diopter / RF window. It will need cleaning and greasing

remove the 3 screws on the cold shoe (circles)
remove the 3 screws on the cold shoe (circles)

set the shutter dial to whatever speed, it won't matter, on the IIIa, it screws off and can only go back on one way. Loosen the set screw (circled), turn the shutter dial lefty loosey. it may be helpful to wind the the film advance first (also when reassembling)
set the shutter dial to whatever speed, it won’t matter, on the IIIa, it screws off and can only go back on one way. Loosen the set screw (circled), turn the shutter dial lefty loosey. it may be helpful to wind the the film advance first (also when reassembling)

view of the top plate area
view of the top plate area

While I was cleaning the old grease I noticed a stop-post on the second shutter release arm was leaning. I poked it and it wiggled. I tightened it and all speeds work now!

red arrow shows the post that was loose, causing the 1/500 and 1/1000 speeds to not work. That's the second shutter release lever that rests on it. Note the old dried grease (yellow arrows)
red arrow shows the post that was loose, causing the 1/500 and 1/1000 speeds to not work. That’s the closing curtain release lever that rests on it. Note the old dried grease (yellow arrows)

I cleaned old grease and re-greased the Timing Mechanism, winding knob, rewind knob shaft and Diopter adjust. I cleaned the gears at the bottom of the shutter drum.

cleaned top plate and fresh grease on the Timing Mechanism
cleaned top plate and fresh grease on the Timing Mechanism

12/23/14: cleaned the Vulcanite. a 3 step process and it looks great now. Reassembled the camera shell and slow speed dial.

Vulcanite all cleaned. It was a 3 step process, well, a 5 step actually because I had to do step 1 and 2 twice. First I cleaned it with Isopropyl alcohol. That left a whitish dry looking coating, I cleaned that with Windex. It may not take 2 or 3 tries with your vulcanite, mine was pretty bad. I did the first 2 steps at least wice then I finished step 3 with Mothers Back to Black
Vulcanite all cleaned. It was a 3 step process, well, a 5 step actually because I had to do step 1 and 2 twice. First I cleaned it with Isopropyl alcohol. That left a whitish dry looking coating, I cleaned that with Windex. It may not take 2 or 3 tries with your vulcanite, mine was pretty bad. I did the first 2 steps at least twice then I finished step 3 with ‘Mothers Back to Black’

Lets put it back together. The film pressure plate rides in it’s own groove milled into the back of the body shell. The two leaf springs have their own slots as well.

the flat leaf springs in their slots (red circles) note the round groove milled into the back around the springs. this is the pressure plate groove.
the flat leaf springs in their slots (red circles) note the round groove milled into the back around the springs. this is the pressure plate groove.

put the pressure plate back into its groove, I held mine with pressure down with a Kemwipe so I didn't leave a thumb print. hold it down as you slide the shell back onto the body. Once it clears the framework, you can let it go, it will stay.
put the pressure plate back into its groove, I held mine with pressure down with a Kemwipe so I didn’t leave a thumb print. hold it down as you slide the shell back onto the body. Once it clears the framework, you can let it go, it will stay.

be sure to hold down on the RF coupling arm as the shell passes over so it clears.
be sure to hold down on the RF coupling arm as the shell passes over so it clears.

shell back on. when you put the screws back in leave the center silver screw out until after you get the lens ring back on, that way it won't interfere with the bracket that goes under the RF coupling arm
shell back on. when you put the screws back in leave the center silver screw out until after you get the lens ring back on, that way it won’t interfere with the bracket that goes under the RF coupling arm.

Now put the lens ring and slow speed dials back on. If you had shims under your lens ring, remember where and how they went.

this mark goes to the left side
this mark goes to the left side

the slow speed dial parts in order of replacement. First the brass washer, the chrome spacer, the post with it's mark where ever/however you marked it, the plate with the clicker disc attached (mine shows them still separated), put some fresh grease in the groove on the back of the speed dial and replace it. If you separated the knurled knob from the speed dial, you should notice there is an indentation where the factory set the set screw. if your slow speeds were adjusted before, just put this back as it was and replace the speed dial with the post as marked.
the slow speed dial parts in order of replacement. First the brass washer, the chrome spacer, the post with it’s mark where ever/however you marked it, the plate with the clicker disc attached (mine shows them still separated), put some fresh grease in the groove on the back of the speed dial and replace it. If you separated the knurled knob from the speed dial, you should notice there is an indentation where the factory set the set screw. if your slow speeds were adjusted before, just put this back as it was and replace the speed dial with the post as marked.

finished
finished

Here it is with my Nikkor-HC 1:2 5cm lens from 1953
Here it is with my Nikkor-HC 1:2 5cm lens from 1953

This camera was fun to work on. It may seem intimidating but is actually easier to work on than the later Japanese rangefinders where you, a lot of times, must remove  the leatherette to get to the lens plate to get to the shutter to get to the …blah blah.