The Visoflex Continued
We've covered some of the adapters you're going to come across, and a lot of what you need to get started with the Visoflex II, so i guess i should try and explain the Visoflex III. The Visoflex III was produced around 1964 and finished production in 1984, so we're talking about a proven design and production line that ran for a considerable amount of time. Unlike the I, II, and IIA, the Visoflex III was the first to be designed exclusively for the M. The Visoflex III and II/IIA can also use a LTM to M adapter for your old LTM lenses, and you can couple them on if you wish. Like the Visoflex II, and IIA, the III can use the 65mm Elmar and the 90mm and longer lenses focusing to infinity down.
Unlike the Visoflex II, the Visoflex III included the functionality of having an automatically returning mirror like the IIA. However the real prizes of using the Visoflex III were the incorporation of true MLU, or Mirror Lock Up, and a rotating mounting bayonet, which meant you could mount the Visoflex unit with the 4x OTXBO/16499 "eye level" magnifier attached. This makes the Visoflex III handier, as you could effectively have a favourite lens set up and ready to go by just mounting the entire unit on the Leica. This is a great idea, but the real world difference between the II and III, in this instance of setting up, is 5 seconds. This is one of the considerations you should make if you're on a budget. As an aside, i should mention that as well as the standard Viso III there was a special model known as the 'Scientific' which had changeable screens. Rob Deane sent me some images, and i gotta say, i'd like one.
Over the last few days i've been through an immense learning curve when it comes to using the Visoflex III with the M5 . My first thoughts in the way of advice is to say "Don't do it! Ever!" Leica produced two different types of arm for the Visoflex III, and one of these was produced specifically for use with the M5/Visoflex III combination, and it appears to be a very hit or miss level of success in finding out which one you have. The Visoflex gurus (who shall all be thanked for their help at the end of this section) i've consulted with have been most generous with their time and experience. If this were a war film.."many brave Leica vets gave their lives to bring you this information.."
The actuating arm of the original Visoflex III has a different curvature than the arm they created for the M5. The arm needed for the M5 is straighter and due to the M5's increase in height has a longer screw. How can you tell that you have the right arm for your Visoflex III and M5? Everything will work. If you don't have the right arm, you may have a misalignment of the arm to the shutter release, or you may be able to trigger the mirror, but it won't auto-return for your next shot. The good news is that several folks have fashioned their own arms for the Visoflex, Ed Schwartzreich in particular wrote a great article for LHSA about his 'Universal Visoflex' which is a compliment to his genius. If you do intend to buy a Visoflex III for your M5, i'd recommend one of the three following choices.
One: Have, or know someone with the technical ability to fashion an arm for your Visoflex.
Two: Try and find the arm seperately from a repair source or try Leica themselves.
Three: Get a return option for the Visoflex unit you're buying, explaining to the seller that you have an M5 and you're not sure the combination will work outlining the above information.
As an addendum, Jack finally got some answers to his problem. I'll pretty much include Jack's email verbatim, as i think it wil help anyone who might go through Jack's experience. This information is as of 17/5/2000
Leica can supply an arm for the Viso III that will fully function on the M5. Although the new arm looks identical to the earlier one; the trick is that the hole where it mounts onto the body of the Viso is cut at a slightly different angle, so that the mirror will release just a tad sooner. Jack was told: "We have this arm in our parts stock. It is part # 042-717.001-185 and the cost is $60.00. We accept Mastercard, Visa or checks. You could send your order to: Leica Camera Inc. 156 Ludlow Ave Northvale, NJ 07647 Att:parts dept Or Phone 201-767-5728 Fax 201-750-1540 E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org Please include a copy of this letter with your order. Thank you for using Leica Camera Dave Elwell, parts dept." The only other thing one would need to know is to unscrew and set aside the nipple on the end of the adjusting screw.
I would now like to thank the following people for this very educational experience. Jack Hill for introducing the conundrum, Marc James Small for advice, help and encouragement. Roy Moss for no nonsense and humourous "use any other combination but that one" advice. Tom Abrahamsson for being so fast off the email call for help, he's a bona fide gun-slinger. Ed Schwartzreich for great advice, good information and inspiration. Kip Babington for suggestions and the clarity of perception to realise it really is like talking about cars over the phone. To John Collier who's advice and technical ability will always floor me, and lastly to Henning Wulff who provided some much needed adjustments to the previous page. Thanks folks!
This is probably a good point to talk about the two most common magnifiers. There is the 4x [90 degree] OTXBO/16499 "eye level" magnifier which i've mentioned on the previous page. This is probably the easiest to use as it presents the image with a right-way-round and upright view of the world, whereas the 5x OTVXO/16461 "waist level" allows you to look down on the screen with an image that is reversed left to right. Matheson reasons that the waist level magnifier is good for copy stand work and low angle photography. I agree that the finder is good for that, but the real question here is what would you like to do with your Visoflex? If you plan on walking around with your Visoflex, get the 4x "eye level" without a doubt. I should mention, to avoid any confusion, the magnifiers can be used with the Visoflex II, IIa and III.
If you do want to do copying work, or more importantly, you want to start using a bellows unit with your Visoflex for more macro work, then you might want to consider getting a 5x OTVXO as well. For those who wear glasses--Never fear! The magnifiers can be easily viewed while wearing glasses, and Leica conveniently provided the magnifiers with a rubberised lip to the magnifier eye piece. Once upon a time...for those who didn't want to wear their specs while using their Visoflex you could, at one point, purchase correction lenses for the magnifier eye piece that could deal with varying levels of short-sightedness, but sadly not for astigmatism. Neat though huh?
are a few differences between the Visoflex II and III, so i'll walk through
some of the main ones i haven't mentioned.
On the side of the Visoflex III is a small knob with 3 small coloured dots on it which provide you with different mirror functions:
Black dot to White dot: Pressing the release arm gently, lifts the mirror, and then if you release the arm the mirror will return to its normal down position. Think of it as a casual, laid-back kind of MLU.
I think this feature was mainly added for those who were using the M5. It's pretty difficult to take a through the lens light reading when you have a large piece of mirrored glass between the lens and the meter.
Yellow dot to White dot: This is sometimes referred to as a controlled "spring shot" for long distance action or portraits whereby the mirror stays down for an extended time to enable you to see the image up until the split-second shutter release and mirror "black out". The yellow dot is also your normal shooting setting.
Red dot to White dot: This keeps the mirror raised. In other words, MLU: Mirror Lock Up. It keeps the vibration to a minimum allowing you to frame your shot, raise the mirror and shoot. No shaky's.
In conclusion, I'm still shooting for the Visoflex II on any Leica M that precedes the M5. With the exception of the auto-return mirror, a little extra time and ingenuity can bring the same functionality without the 3 dot knob. Now, if you happen to be using the M5, we know that you have to use the Visoflex III due to, at minimum, it's extra height. But for the life of me i can't see why you couldn't use the Visoflex II on any M4-P or M6. The M6 TTL is going to need the Visoflex III due to its extra height. Due to the nature of the metering, the Visoflex III is going to be the most convenient for light meter equipped M's--period. I seem to remember when the TTL was initially released, someone said they could squeeze a toothpick between the magnifier and the body. Almost.