Leica IIIc Red Blind 1940-41

Tomei Collection


 

The first Leica IIIc was manufactured in late 1939 (code LOOOA) and represented a major advance with regard to the enhanced rigidity of the new diecast shutter crate and body shell. Cameras built during war time are recognized by the step-up mount for the rewind release lever.  Known as the funfzehner after the facory model code of 42.215, it represented a bold step for Leitz.  A number of changes were introduced in the post-WWII model (LOOHW).

 

It is mistakenly thought that only a few cameras built during the War had red shutter blinds as shown on the camera here.  Although there is a great deal of published speculation exists over why this material was used instead of the conventional black blinds. I refer you to the references listed elsewhere on this site. It is clear that relatively few cameras built during WWII with red shutter material have survived with the original blinds. After WWII Leitz offered to replace them without charge for any cameras when they were routinely serviced or repaired, a fact that probably accounts for the low number of survivors.  Early examples of the IIIc produced through 1940 had a single-threaded collar around the release button, whereas, later a second type with double-threaded collar were built as shown here.  Additionally, early wartime IIIc's did not have a slow-speed dial lock.  These early wartime IIIc's built through late 1941 have a new notched-type of baseplate lock as shown below.  In 1942, the latch reverted to the simple circular form and a locking button was added to the slow speed dial.

 

Although the new self-timer was fit to the IIId models, van Hasbroeck (see References) points out that internal castings of all IIIc models produced through 1945 had provisions for adding the early-type self-timer.  The wartime IIIc LOOOA model differs significantly from the post-WWII LOOHW.

 

There were a significant number of variants in the IIIc models built between the Fall of 1939 through 1953.  these include Kugellager and "half-race" models, and a wide variety of special engravings.  I would encourage those interested in this historically important series to consult both new and older publications for details.

The 5 cm f/3.5 Elmar lens on this camera was built in 1939 and is 511,890.  Presumably the lens is original with the camera though I doubt it since the body is quite worn, whereas the lens is not.

This example was modified for flash synchronization and the port was placed on the top surface of the upper housing. This suggests that the modification was not performed by the Leitz factory.

Fake red curtains on authentic LOOOA IIIc camera bodies are known to exist as well as red curtains on postWar LOOHW bodies. Consequently, great care should be taken before tacitly accepting the authenticity.  Clearly, these models are not common.  Known fakes have a more coarse fabric of bright red which helps a bit in identification.  The original red material was dyed only on one side and is often found only on the front curtain.  The material is of a fine texture, usually showing age and wear due to its lack of durability.  Since Leitz replaced these curtains without charge when the cameras were sent to the factory for servicing after WWII, not many examples remain.

Those red shutters aren't from the military, don'cha know, they're from red parachutes because there were wartime shortages... now ya' call yourself a serious Leica collector?

Where did the Red Shutter Blinds come from?

The real origin of the red shutter curtain material appears to have been ruinously obscured by theories over the past couple decades.  Some say that the material was red parachute fabric (I like that one).  Whereas, others say it was a special experimental material that just didn't work out, and still others say it was some replacement material of unknown origin used by Leitz during a time of wartime shortages. None of these scenarios appear to be accurate.  Lahue and Bailey comment in Glass, Brass, & Chrome (p.45ff), that Leitz had been supplied with shutter curtain material by the American manufacturers of Graflex until the beginning of the War.  They go on to mention a few rare post-WWII Leicas that had red and black curtains as a result of a postWar agreement with Graflex.  The authors of this book are clearly well informed but it is clear that they are not referring to the red shutter curtains used in this example which was built in the midst of WWII. 

However, the most reliable information regarding the red shutter material may come from van Hasbroeck (cf. "The Leica: A History Illustrating Every Model and Accessory", 1983, p.84).  He mentions that the first 1576 IIIc's produced in 1939 have German black shutter blinds.  After serial number 362,401 Leitz used material originally obtained from Kodak in 1937 which was dyed red on one side.  This material had been part of research into production of heat-resistant shutters.  By 1941, according to van Hasbroeck, the supply of Kodak red shutter blinds had been exhausted and Leitz resorted to use of German produced black material produced from parachute cloth begining with serial #379,226.  By that time, about 14,000 IIIc cameras had been manufactured with red blind material which was nearly half of the total wartime production.  Presumably the vast majority of these cameras had their shutters replaced with black material.

This claim that the red material was originally obtained from Kodak may be related to the claim of Lahue & Bailey that it was obtained from Graflex.  Although Graflex had become independent of Kodak in 1926, the latter authors may have found information that linked the supply of red shutter material to both Graflex and Kodak.  However, Lahue & Bailey are clearly in error when they claim that the material was used only in rare post-WWII IIIc models.

The red shutter models of the IIIc are uncommon though perhaps not rare, and command premium prices on the collector market these days.  However, few if any fake wartime IIIc's are known to exist since they had the stepped upper housing which was expensive to copy.  None the less, an authentic red curtain IIIc will draw a 50-100% premium over those cameras that have the conventional black shutters.  There have been a few documented attempts to color the front curtain but these were usually the result of restorations of authentic wartime IIIc's.