“LEICA” CAMERAS: THEIR HISTORY AND STORY TODAY:

Photo by noqqe on Unsplash

If this is the first time you have seen a Leica Camera, you are not alone. This German made camera has a reputation around the photographic world as literally one of the best cameras made today, including their optics. German optics are really hard to beat, one of the best in the world.

Let’s take a look at their history, and what they have accomplished:

Leica Camera AG (/ˈlaɪkʌ/) is a German company that manufactures cameras, optical lenses, photographic lenses, binoculars, rifle scopes and microscopes. The company was founded by Ernst Leitz in 1869 (Ernst Leitz Wetzlar), in Wetzlar, Germany.

In 1986, the Leitz company changed its name to Leica, due to the fame of the Leica trade-name. The name Leica is derived from the first three letters of the founder’s surname (Leitz) and the first two of the word camera: lei-ca (LEItz CAmera). At this time, Leica relocated its factory from Wetzlar to the nearby town of Solms.

Leica Camera AG is 45% owned by The Blackstone Group[2] which licenses the Leica brand name from the Danaher Corporation-owned Leica Microsystems GmbH.

The first 35 mm film Leica prototypes were built by Oskar Barnack at Ernst Leitz Optische Werke, Wetzlar, in 1913. Intended as a compact camera for landscape photography, particularly during mountain hikes, the Leica was the first practical 35 mm camera that used standard cinema 35 mm film. The Leica transports the film horizontally, extending the frame size to 24×36mm with a 2:3 aspect ratio, instead of the 18×24 mm of cinema cameras, which transport the film vertically.

The Leica had several model iterations, and in 1923, Barnack convinced his boss, Ernst Leitz II, to make a preproduction series of 31 cameras for the factory and outside photographers to test. Though the prototypes received mixed reception, Ernst Leitz decided in 1924 to produce the camera. It was an immediate success when introduced at the 1925 Leipzig Spring Fair as the Leica I (for Leitz camera). The focal plane shutter has a range from 1/20 to 1/500 second, in addition to a Z for Zeit (time) position.

Barnack conceived the Leica as a small camera that produced a small negative. To make large photos by enlargement, (the “small negative, large picture” concept) requires that the camera have high quality lenses that could create well-defined negatives. Barnack tried a Zeiss Tessar on his early prototype camera, but because the Tessar was designed for the 18×24 mm cine format, it inadequately covered the Leica’s 24×36mm negative. Barnack resorted to a Leitz Mikro-Summar 1:4.5/42 mm lens for the prototype, but to achieve resolution necessary for satisfactory enlargement, the 24×36 mm format needed a lens designed specially for it. The first Leica lens was a 50 mm f/3.5 design based on the Cooke triplet of 1893, adapted by Max Berek at Leitz. The lens has five elements in three groups—the third group being three cemented elements—and was initially named the Leitz Anastigmat. Unlike other triplets, the Leitz Anastigmat has the diaphragm between the first and second elements. When the Leica was first vended, this lens was renamed the ELMAX, for E Leitz and MAX Berek. By 1925, the Leitz laboratories had produced glasses with improved optical properties, and Professor Berek designed an improved version of the ELMAX named the ELMAR that had four elements in three groups. The third group was simplified to two cemented elements, which was easier and cheaper to make.[5] Professor Berek had two dogs, Hektor and Rex. The first of these, Hektor, gave his name to a series of Leica lenses, and the name of the second appeared in the SummaREX.[6]

Vintage Leica (mid 1940’s) —–Photo by Alexander Andrews on Unsplash

In 1930 the Leica I Schraubgewinde was first produced, with an exchangeable lens system based on a 39mm diameter screw thread, often referred to as ” Leica Thread Mount” or LTM. In addition to the 50 mm normal lens, a 35 mm wide angle and a 135 mm telephoto lens were initially available. During the mid-1930s, a legendary soft-focus lens, the Thambar 90 mm f/2.2 was designed, and made in small numbers between 1935 and 1949, no more than 3000 units. It is now a rare collector’s item.[7][8]

The Leica II was first produced in 1932, with a built in rangefinder coupled to the lens focusing mechanism. This model has a separate viewfinder (showing a reduced image) and rangefinder. In 1932 the flange to filmplane was standardised to 28.8mm, first implemented on Leica model C, and the Leica Standard the next year.[9]

The Leica III added slow shutter speeds down to 1 second, and the model IIIa added the 1/1000 second shutter speed. The IIIa is the last model made before Barnack’s death, and therefore the last model for which he was wholly responsible. Leitz continued to refine the original design through to 1957. The final version, the IIIg, includes a large viewfinder with several framelines. These models all have a functional combination of circular dials and square windows.

Leica SL2
Today, the Leica SL model is their key flagship camera

The SL2 is, next to the Leica M, the only mirrorless full format system camera designed and crafted in Germany, and is a technical marvel of pure performance and unmatched build quality. The Leica SL2 is the natural evolution of the innovative Leica SL, serving as a groundbreaking embrace of the future of digital photography and videography.

The features of the SL-System

  • CMOS sensor with 47 megapixels for superior image quality
  • Leica Object Detection Autofocus
  • In-body stabilization through sensor-shift technology
  • Leica EyeRes® viewfinder with 5.76MP resolution
  • L-Mount
Leica_M10_CameraOverview_2400x1350
The Leica M-system

The Leica M-System lets you experience photography in its purest form. Lovers of the art of photography have perfected their skills with its unique combined rangefinder and viewfinder technology for more than 60 years. Fast, discreet and compact – closer to the decisive moment.

The features of the M-System

  • Full frame
  • timeless
  • outstanding M-Lenses
  • fast
  • discreet
  • compact
  • rangefinder
Leica V-Lux
This camera has it all: The model V-Lux 5 with a built-in lens of 9.1 – 146mm with a spherical lens

The V-Lux 5 is Leica’s most versatile high-end compact camera to date. The extensive range of its zoom lens covers nearly all distances and subject matter – simplifying your travels by avoiding the need for changing lenses and packing additional equipment.

The features of the Leica V-Lux 5

  • Covering all Angles
  • 20-megapixel Sensor
  • OLED Viewfinder
  • Super-Fast Autofocus
  • 4K Video

There are many other amazing cameras made by Leica. Including an Instant camera. Also, if you want a medium format camera, made by Leica, try their Leica S-system.

Photo by Mika Baumeister on Unsplash

The Leica camera is one camera company that has never lost it’s reputation of being the best. Hold a Leica in your hands, move the controls, and you will know you have a unique instrument, truly a piece of art in itself. In the photo world, it is hard to find a finer camera. As you can tell with the above Amazon links, this camera brand is not cheap, but, you don’t have a camera that is mass produced either. I would invite you to go to their website, and see their own stories, their testimonials, and their product lineup. Go to: https://us.leica-camera.com/

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Published by 123photogo

I have been a photographer for many years. Worked in retail selling cameras and accessories for over 20 years. Taught many photo classes, and have even been a judge in several county fairs. Now, I want to share photo instructions and entertainment with all other photographers around the world.

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