Black is Beautiful

1937 Black Leica II shown with a 1936 Elmar 5cm f/3.5 chrome lens

Toronto. The early Leicas were mostly black – black enamel – and if well used had “brassing” or edges where the enamel wore through to the brass. Shown is a beautiful ¬†example of a clean 1937 Leica II (no slow speed dial on the front) with black enamel body plates and chrome plated knobs.. It has a period correct Elmar 50mm lens made a year earlier in 1936. The lens has the usual bright chrome and satin chrome coatings over brass. This example and the lens will be auctioned in our November 19th event this fall.

The satin chrome process was used at least in 1932 on camera body plates. All camera knobs were satin chrome as well. The satin chrome was much harder than the black enamel and less likely to “brass” with the same amount of use. This made the satin chrome cameras far more desirable (and years later the black enamel cameras much rarer).

Just a quick note on the naming convention used. The letter “I” meant no slow speed dial or rangefinder; “II” meant no slow speed dial while “III” was the whole package, fast and slow speed dials, and a rangefinder. The letter following meant a model variation (a, b, c, d, f, g). The “a” series (Ia, IIa, IIIa) added a 1/000 second to the speed dial, for example, while the f series added a flash contact. Some letters identified internal improvements and slight dimension changes. None of the screw mount models was ever identified by model number on the body, only by serial number and factory records.

When interchangeable lens were offered, the lens mount to film distance was standardized at 28.8mm. Only for cameras made during the transition period (c1930) was it necessary to get a lens that was correctly mated to the particular camera body. The lens had the last three digits of the camera serial number engraved on it as a reference. Note that all screw mount cameras could be sent back to Leitz to be upgraded from I to II or III and from II to III. This made the I and II models even rarer and their original designation only identifiable by serial number.

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