A Most Unique Leica IIIa


As you might have heard my Leica IIIa had a big problem last week. Shutter speeds were inexistent, cocking the shutter was difficult as there was something blocking the mechanism…. I was shattered!

Different inquiries brought quotes of 300 to 600 € for a complete repair with CLA. I don’t have that money right now (nor later I guess….). So I was thinking of selling it as broken, selling my lenses and getting something more in line with my budget.

Or, perhaps…. well, the thing IS broken after all, so why don’t I open it up, armed with the best instructions Google can find, and try to fix it…

Today I gathered my tools and my courage and went to work. In fact the Leica is deceptively easy to take apart.img_0200

Lots of tiny screws, sure, but with a bit of organization it’s perfectly doable. The result of half an hour’s concentrated dismantling. spread on my table.img_0195

Then I started to search for the culprit. And I think I got lucky! A spring reaching from the speed dial to the ‘thing’ beneath the cold shoe seemed out of place. Luckily not broken, just hanging too low, unlike my printed instructions (see the red arrow pointing to it). img_0199

So carefully I coax it back into place, without making it jump away or break. Then, as the patient is already open I do a bit of housecleaning and lubricating under the hood. And back together she goes.

While I had it apart I took out the slow speed escapement (just two tiny screws hold it on the bottom of the film chamber) and soaked it in some solvent. A cloud of gunk streamed out of it. Well done I guess.

Well, as I undid the screws in the vulcanite on the front, large chunks of it simply peeled off. Perfectly normal after 78 years, but annoying. It had dried out and come loose from the camera body. So I decided to go the whole way and get a new skin for the camera. I pried the rest of the vulcanite off, with a small screwdriver sliding under it and behold…. what the hell is that? Underneath there’s some off-white coating with brown, rust-colored stains and streaks.img_0204

Call me crazy, but I love that color! Amazingly beautiful! I cleaned it up a bit with some Windex and the feeling is nice and smooth. Only problem is the height difference between the body and the top and bottom plates, now that the vulcanite is gone.img_0205

I am really tempted to apply a coat of clear lacquer and leave it like this!

What do you think? Shall I? Please give me your opinions.

Anyways, I’ll have to send it in for a CLA as soon as possible to make sure it’s OK and so that it will last many more years. Gotta save some money now….

Thanks for reading!

16 thoughts on “A Most Unique Leica IIIa

Add yours

  1. I certainly like your nerve for taking it apart and repairing it. Yes, a CLA should see you through the next thirty years or more.

    Personally, I’d look into having a good leather covering put on the body. Although it currently looks cute, you need a decent grip if using it on a daily basis.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Necessity is the mother of invention, hard times call for hard measures. I’ve been here before and surely will be here again. Something’s busted, but you haven’t the funds to fix. So you find the best, low budget repair man you can find…that is you (or in my case, I)…Congrats Frank, you’re a brave man, braver than I am! If I were you, yes, I’d find some cheap but good looking leather and cover that baby up!! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Personally speaking, as you’re able to take it apart and repair it successfully I don’t think I’d bother with a CLA, especially one that costs that much. As long as it is working as it should I’d say keep the money in your pocket and keep the shutter cycled. If you are going to re-lube then silicone lubricant as for electric razors, sewing machines should be fine enough, I would think. To re-cover you can usually get off-cuts of bookbinding leather (black with grain) which look and feel beautiful and don’t cost the earth. You might be able to find a template somewhere to cut it to size.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Problem is the long shutter times are completely off… and I hate something that does not work as advertised, even if 78 years old…

    I got it working again, but not as i should. So I’m willing to spend money I honestly can barely afford to keep it alive. And I’m happy with that.


    1. Ah! I know what you mean exactly, I’m just the same. It’s got to work properly. It might be just gunk. But should it come to it I’m happy to recommend the engineer I’ve used a few time over here in the U.K. He does a great job and doesn’t cost the earth.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I already sent mine off to Will van Manen in the Netherlands… did some good work for me in the past so I hope I’ll get back a Leica that feels like in 1938.


  5. Bonsoir,
    en France, une révision complète d’un Leica III coute 130 euros environ. et on trouve de la vulcanite de rénovation chez aki-asahi au Japon (Ebay) pour 25 euros je crois.
    La vulcanite assure aussi la parfaite étanchéité à la lumière de la semelle et du capot supérieur. a ne pas négliger.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Merci! Je l’ai envoyée pour une revision! Aki Asahi n’a pas le materiel pour la IIIa pour le moment. J’ai trouvé chez Morgan Sparks de Caneraleather pour 24$. C’est en route. Comme ça elle tiendra de nouveau 78 années 😉


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