Leica If "Black" Dial c1951

Tomei Collection

This example is likely a transition model that is more properly called a Red Dial, although  it has a black synchronizer dial, because it has the newer light weight shutter.  The If model was originally designed for scientific and technical photography and replaced the Ic model.  Rogliatti indicates that the If was available from 1952 through 1957 in accord with most sources though production apparently ceased in 1956. The camera shown here has a serial number assigned in 1951 and is among the earliest If's to be produced with the light weight shutter. The color of the dial notwithstanding, it is equipped with the new standard international shutter speeds set in a geometric progression, mathematically more accurately related to a linear progression of film exposure.
According to Laney's book (1992), a relatively small production run occurred in 1952 and only 1118 black dial cameras were built, whereas, a total of nearly 16,000 red dial versions were produced through 1958 making the black dial version rather uncommon.  Thus, the black dial with the older shutter speed progression is fairly uncommon today.  On the other hand, Rogliatti (1995) says that the If was introduced in 1951 beginning with an initial batch of 2,200 built with the IIIf black dial shutter. This camera is number 564,288 indicating that it was among the earliest If models built in 1952.   Laney and others also comment that many red dial If's can be found with black painted synch speeds to enhance the value so it is important to note the shutter speeds to authenticate the production date.  Close examination of this camera shutter synch scale reveals that it is black.  However, the speed progression of 25, 50, and 75 indicates that this camera has the newer light weight shutter introduced in 1952.  It may be that the serial number had been assigned in 1951 but the camera was actually built in early 1952 as a Black dial with the light weight shutter.  This is likely since it was among the earliest serial numbers and does not have the Gmbh engraved on top as mandated by German law in mid-1952.

Note: The range-finder has been reversed for display purposes only.  Don't try this at home.

More Leicas

This camera is number 564,288 assigned (but not necessarily built) in 1951.  It would appear to be very early production, one of only about 1100 produced with the black synch speed dial.  However, the shutter speeds reveal that it has the new light weight shutter which was introduced in 1952.

Mounted is the Summaron 3.5cm f/3.5 lens #1,107,403 produced in 1953. It has a minimum focusing distance of 1M and minimum aperture of f/22. Over 80,000 were made from 1946 through 1960.

Which is more important, dial color of shutter? 

Some transition IIIf's are known to have the black dial as well as the new shutter, so strictly speaking, the dial color is ultimately less important than whether it has the newer shutter design.  Note that the top plate does not have the Gmbh which was mandated by Germany about June 1952.  Therefore, this appears to be a transition model with a black dial top plate with a serial number originally assigned in 1951.  Since the shutter synchronization mechanism was the same for both black and red dial version, this example may more properly be considered a red dial.  It is not known how many true Black Dial versions with the older shutter were actually built.  However, Ghester Sartorius indicates that the last true Black Dial was serial number 564,200 which would indicate that this example is in the very first batch of Red Dial versions with the light weight shutter although he dates these to 1951.

This model replaced the earlier Ic and did not have either a viewfinder or rangefinder.  It was intended for scientific work.  It had the new fully synchronized shutter.