I was having problems loading my Leica IIIf with 35mm film. It’s not advancing, and some of holes ripped in the effort. After much annoyance and destroying of film (womp), I'm trying to figure out what went wrong. I think it’s because the take up leader strip is too short. The films leader strip is about 1 inch, but in the manual, it shows it as 4 inches.

Could the short leader be the problem? Is there anyway to resolve that?


Old Leica screw-mount cameras were designed to be used with longer leaders. You have two options:

For other cameras, illustrations often do not match reality.

  • Pull the film further out of the cassette. The length of the leader itself typically doesn't matter as long as the film is properly wound onto the take-up spool.

  • Look for jams elsewhere in the camera. Ripped sprocket holes indicates something is preventing film from unwinding from the cassette. I doubt a "short" leader would be the cause.

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    The older Leicas do load film a bit differently than a typical 35mm camera, and normally need the leader to be longer. Lecia at least used to make trimmers for that purpose, and there are third-party trimmers being made today, for example: photonbox.com/filmtrimmer.html – David Rouse May 20 at 12:56
  • Edited answer. Included links to YouTube videos demonstrating how to load film with and without trimming the leader. – xiota May 21 at 5:50
  • If you are thinking of buying a leader template, try just using scissors to cut something approximately right. That's what I do with my IIIc, and it's fine: the shape is not critical. – user82065 May 21 at 8:52

From memory the film is not pulled by the take-up spool but by sprockets that engage the film perforations. Make sure to pull out enough film to cover both top and bottom sprockets with the film perforations.

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    For the older screw mount Leicas you must trim the leader as per the diagram that you'll probably find under the baseplate when loading. Films had longer leaders at the time that these cameras were released. You'll find plenty of articles and videos showing how to do this. – David Gibson May 20 at 13:25

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