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There never was a Leica camera that looked quite like this one supposedly issued to the U-Boat service of the German navy in WWII.  Certainly the very few that ever existed don't look as pristine as this as they have, literally, been through the war.

This camera seems to have the look of a real pre-war Leica II.  It is engraved with "E. Leitz Wetzlar" on the top deck.  The lens cap reads "Leica" and it appears to have a 50mm Elmar f/3.5 lens.  But as well marked and beautiful as it is, and in spite of the silky smooth controls, this is a fantasy that never existed.  This is really a Russian Zorki rangefinder, copied to a very large degree from a Leica II, and produced in huge numbers between the end of WWII and the mid 1950s.

Whoever worked on this camera was able to strip down, repair, paint, engrave, and reassemble what is today a beautiful looking camera.  To a Leica collector it is very easy to tell this is a fake with telltale features including chrome front screws which should be painted black.  The shutter release is without the internal threading for a Leica cable release and the internal rangefinder cam that connects the lens to the rangefinder system is entirely the wrong shape.

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So, we know what it is not: what it is - even as a fake - is quite fascinating.  Not only was the craftsmanship on this camera outstanding, but someone knew a great deal about WWII German U-boats.  The camera is supposedly presented at Wilhelmshaven, Germany, where the Kriegsmarinewerft built and launched U-boats.  There is a rear presentation plate to "the brave submarine commander, in grateful recognition."  There is also an engraving indicating that the commander was in charge of the U-boat flotilla "Weddigen", the first Nazi flotilla to be formed in 1935.  The usual German eagle, swastika and "M", supposedly for "Marine", are emblazoned on this little camera.

Other fantasy Leicas have appeared on the market but few of them have the extensive engraving and presentation plaques that have been added here.

Have I put any film though it?  No, and I doubt I will.  As a camera is it more of a collectible than a user as I would hate to blemish the beautiful finish on this interesting "Leica".  Have you ever encountered one of these Russian fakes?  If so, share your experiences here.
 


Comments

Me lika Leica
09/10/2012 14:23

I saw one of these once at an street fair in St. Petersburg - didn't look this nice though - just a chrome "Leica" with some poor engraving and a $300 price tag!

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Some1
09/10/2012 21:07

How can they do that? Isn't this a breach of copyright?

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Commie Collector
09/10/2012 21:12

Nah, the Soviets have copies other countries for years - just look at cameras like the Kiev 80 - a total Hasselblad knockoff!

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KNEB
09/10/2012 21:16

Take a look at the Kiev 16 - now there was a camera that had to be designed entirely in the CCCP as it was capital B zarr!

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Jason S
09/11/2012 11:18

Used to use a "KNEB 80" - made a better doorstop than a camera!

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