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1960's Leica

LeicaFlex

LeicaFlex

The year is 1964. Many professional photographers are ditching rangefinders for SLRs. Most camera manufacturers already have 35mm SLRs in the market. To respond to the increasing demand for SLRs, Leica introduces the Leicaflex standard—the first Leica 35mm SLR camera.

Similar to Leica rangefinder, the Leicaflex was an all-mechanical, precision-crafted, and reliable tool for photography. However, unlike the rangefinders, the Leicaflex standard came with some added features.

Keep reading to learn more:

Features of the Camera

One of the most noticeable features of the camera is its large and bright viewfinder.

With a magnification of 0.9X, and an uncluttered view (there are no LED lights to distract you), you’ll surely love looking through the viewfinder.

The metering needle and the shutter speeds are the only things displayed on the viewfinder.

How do I meter with this camera?

If you’re a fan of the all-mechanical camera, then you’ll love the Leicaflex metering system. The camera features a spot metering system that uses a match and needle to calculate the best exposure.

Metering

Does the Leicaflex come with TTL metering?

No!

Unlike other SLRs produced at the time, it didn’t feature TTL metering. However, it came with an external CdS meter cell located at the front of the pentaprism housing. 

The use of the CdS metering system gave rise to two versions of the Leicaflex.

  • Mark I: Didn’t come with an on and off switch for the meter cells. To switch off metering, you have to move to a dark room.
  • Mark II: Came with an on/off lever for the meter system that allows you to save on batteries.

Another noticeable feature was the fast shutter. Previous Leica cameras featured a maximum shutter speed of 1/2000 sec. The Leicaflex shutter, however, could achieve a maximum shutter speed of 1/2000, with a flash sync of 1/100 sec

This fast mechanically timed, horizontal traveling, rubberized cloth shutter allowed a photographer to be able to take photos from faster moving scenes.

Another feature that makes it a worthy addition to your vintage classic camera collection is its simplicity in build and use. 

Like previous Leicas, such as the Leica M1, the Leicaflex didn’t come with a myriad of controls. It didn’t have focus or exposure automation. Everything was mechanical and straightforward. Even without the batteries, you can comfortably use this camera and still take stunning photos.

Other features include:

  • Leica R bayonet mount
  • Cold shoe
  • Self-timer (10 sec)

Design and Physical Description

Like other Leica cameras, the Leicaflex was an impeccable build. Like the M3, the Leica flex was hand-assembled with most of the parts being brass.

It had a clean and uncluttered body with a satin chrome finish. Some rare bodies featured full black paint.

It didn’t come with tons of controls. On the top plate, you only have the ASA dial on the left and a shutter speed dial and film advance lever on the right.

In the Mark ii, the film advance lever also features the meter on/off switch.

Shortcomings of the Camera

The Leicaflex came with several shortcomings, with the most noticeable being the loud shutter.

Unlike previous Leica cameras that came with extremely quiet shutter, the Leicaflex shutter was loud. With this camera, you can forget about being subtle when taking photographs.

Another major disadvantage was the fact that the camera was heavy. With a weight of 1000g, the Leicaflex was often touted as the “Diesel Leica.”

And that’s not all!

The lack of TTL metering and the use of a CdS meter system made the Leicaflex a power-hungry camera.  CdS metering systems are known to run through batteries fast. With the Mark II, this was solved by including an on/off switch. The lack of this switch in the Mark I meant that unless you went into a dark room, the CdS metering would continue draining up the batteries.

Final Thoughts

The Leicaflex was late to the SLR camera market.

It was kind of technologically outdated. But if you’re looking for an all mechanical, simple camera, that’s easy to transition from using a rangefinder camera, you’ll love the Leicaflex.

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