The LEICA name is a contraction of LEItz Camera. The Leica factory, which is headquartered in Wetzlar in Germany, was established in 1849. Oskar Barnack, camera creator, had the idea to use 35 mm film to design a small camera as accurate as scientific equipment. This prototype called UR-Leica was robust, compact, light, and very much loved by photographers for the exceptional quality of their optics Leitz Elmar. The prototype invented by Oskar Barnack has truly revolutionized the history of photography.
The 21st century is resolutely a digital one, and the image is present everywhere now in our daily lives. From now on, we are all photographers, but are we fully aware of everything we owe to Wetzlar firm which for a century contributes to excellence in photography?
Oskar BARNACK & Max BEREK, inventors of genius
The Leica factory, which is headquartered in Wetzlar (Germany), was established in1849. Originally, the optical institute von Ernst Leitz was dedicated to the design of microscopes. Photographic equipment of the Leitz firm sector grew up for 1885 to produce cameras and film projectors. The photographic revolution, conducted by the brand Leica (LEItz CAmera), was born by the union of the talents of Oskar Barnack (camera creator) and Max Berek (optical designer).
Oskar Barnack, camera creator, chose to use 35mm film to design a small and robust camera body, as accurate as scientific equipment. This prototype was designated UR-Leica (URbild meaning in German prototype).
Max Berek, optical designer, optimized the qualities of the cinematographic film, designed an anastigmatic lens without reflection or deformation, able to restore a similar perspective to that seen by the human eye: a lens Elmar 50mm f 1:3,5.
Subsequently, all cameras 24 X 36mm of all brands have been equipped with a standard 50mm focal length lens.
It is difficult to trace the history of a camera as mythical as the Leica M. In a few words and pictures, we invite you to go back through the century to discover the universe Leica!
1923 – LEICA 0
The Great War has forced the Leitz firm to delay the production of his small camera. Oskar Barnack directed in 1923 a designated pre-production Leica 0 (30 units) to test this new model to the public. The year two-thousand was celebrated by production to two-thousand copies of a functional replica of the famous Leica 0 with viewfinder iconometric folding, consistent with the original drawings of the instrument n°104 kept at the Leica Camera Museum.
1925 – LEICA I
With the Leica I, photographic film 24x36mm became the most widespread standard format in film photography. The performance achieved by this unit was in this simple expression: « small negatives, large pictures! ». The retractable Elmar lens reduced the dimensions of the camera. The focus was performed by modulation on the screw thread, with the possibility to adapt a rangefinder on the accessory shoe. This Leica was declined to multiple versions incorporating new improvements.
1932 – LEICA II
The Leica II incorporated a rangefinder coupled with the focus setting on the lens. A direct sight and a rotating prism formed two pictures. It was then enough to activate setting focus on the lens until the two pictures are superimposed for the sharpness of the subject.
1933 – LEICA III
The Leica III had a rangefinder with a magnifying glass for a more precise focus. It hat two selectors for shutter speed: one for high speeds on the hood, and the other for slow speeds located on the side of the housing. Leitz workshops could add on request a flash synchronization socket.
1949 – LEICA Ic
Designed without viewfinder or rangefinder, this unit was originally intended to be assembled on a microscope or a reflex Chamber. With the multitude of accessories offered by Leica, this model could also receive a screw M39 lens, viewfinder and a rangefinder on its two accessory shoes.
1957 – LEICA IIIg + LEICAVIT
Armament Leicavit system added under the plate of the camera allowed a quick arm and the progress of the film. The cocking lever has been integrated to devices from the Leica M3 in 1954. A very precise additional viewfinder, fixed in the axis of the lens, allowed a greater brightness. The framing was adjusted for perspective on the housing (from 35mm to 135 mm focal length).
1951 à 1962 – VISOFLEX I
From 1951, the term Visoflex referred Leica all reflex Chamber that can be intercalated between the cameras on the one hand, and screw M39 lenses or a macrophotography bellows on the other hand. Nevertheless, the Visoflex ancestor was a first reflex Chamber Ploot Leica dating back to 1935. It allowed aiming directly through the objective lens. It was possible to adapt the camera to a microscope or a telephoto lens.
1963 à 1983 – VISOFLEX III
This reflex Chamber for bayonet lenses allowed transforming all telemetry cameras M in real reflex camera. Several cameras without viewfinder or rangefinder models have been designed specifically for Visoflex. It was possible to adapt telephoto Telyt lenses to a focal length of 560mm. The Leicaflex, first reflex camera Leica (inspired by Visoflex), dated 1965. It has opened all devices R lines.
1954 – LEICA M3
With the M3, Leica stopped the screw mounts and proposed a more secure mounting for its objectives: the bayonet. This model had a more precise rangefinder viewfinder with automatic Parallax correction. The rapid cocking lever facilitates the progress of the film. In addition to these major developments, this camera could receive a meter Leicameter-M cell coupled diaphragm and speed of exposure control for the first time.
1958 – LEICA M2
Produced from 1958 to 1968, the Leica M2 has often been considered as « little brother » to M3. The aesthetics of the Leica M2 extended stylistic evolution of the M-cameras. The viewfinder was 0,91 to 0,72 and three caches indicated the field covered by the lenses of 35, 50 et 90mm (innovation very appreciated by reporters).
1959 – LEICA M1
Leica M1 is a version of the M2, devoid of Rangefinder. This box was intended for use by adapting a Visoflex. It could also be used with a large angular lens with viewfinder dedicated involving a shooting in hyperfocal, or with a 135 mm with dedicated viewfinder lens. The rangefinder, however, could be added to the request by the Leitz workshops.
1967 – LEICA M4
Part of the production of the Leica M4 was entrusted to the Canadian subsidiary of Leitz. The rewind crank was tilted with a more convenient folding lever. The angled cocking lever was articulated at its end. The viewfinder included four frames field for focal lengths 35mm, 50mm, 90mm et 135mm.
1971 – LEICA M5
The seventies witnessed the rise of reflex cameras, at the expense of the telemetric one. With the Leica M5, Wetzlar firm reacted upsetting both the technical and aesthetic of its M range criteria. This model included a light meter cell and distinguished by innovative design hiding under the sole rewind crank.
1973 – LEICA CL
The Leica CL was the first camera designed in partnership with Japanese firm Minolta, in a context of democratization of photography. This small rangefinder camera had the advantage of being lightweight and included a built-in cell. Proposed with two dedicated objectives (Summicron C40 and Elmar C90) Leica CL was also able to receive all optical M-series.
1984 – LEICA M6
Reconnecting with his mythical design line, designed Leica M6 in 1984 incorporated a light meter to selective measurement and display to LEDs in the viewfinder. It could additionally be equipped with a charging motor to perform three shots per second! Leica M6 became the favorite camera of reporters.
2002 – LEICA M7
The Leica M7 proposed an automatic mode on the barrel of gear selection. The trigger was electromagnetic. The power of the meter as the trigger was performed with two 6 volt batteries. To not disappoint purists, the Leica M7 allowed a use without battery for times of 1/60th and 1/125th of a second, which the command was mechanical.
2006 – LEICA M8
The Leica M8 resolutely marked the entry of the mark in the digital era. Sensor of this first digital M-camera was in the APS format, with a resolution of 10,5 megapixels. The Leica M8 has a great success because he managed the feat of being both rangefinder and digital !
2009 – LEICA M9
With advances in digital, the increase of the definition of the shots required memory cards still more efficient, both at the level of storage, the speed of writing and reading capabilities. The Leica M9 was the first model has a CCD sensor full format (24x36mm) 18-megapixel resolution.
2012 – LEICA M typ 240
Leica M Typ 240 was equipped with a CMOS sensor full format with a resolution of 24 megapixels, integrating the video for the first time. M Typ 240 had a built-in microphone, and Live-view screen. An electronic Visoflex allowed mirrorless sight reflex.
2017 – LEICA M10
The new Leica M10 find the original dimensions of film M-cameras, making it the thinnest digital M-camera. His 24 Mp CMOS sensor focuses on photography (absence of video function). It allows shooting up to 5 frames per second. Field in viewfinder has been enlarged by 30% in order to optimize the vision of the subject. This camera integrates a module WLAN allows to connect to an IPhone or an Ipad.
LEICA à la carte
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Raymond Depardon, David Douglas Duncan,… We cannot mention all those who have chosen Leica for their photographic practice!
This short historical presentation relies on a few specific models that have forged the Leica myth. The Leica Camera A.G. Museum, located at Wetzlar in Germany presents a detailed and exhaustive completeness of the collection of the brand. In addition to the museum space, you will find exhibitions and campus, all in a setting architectural completely inspired and dedicated to the art of photography !
Leica has also developed many series limited, in partnership with the best designers of the world. Film, digital, SLR, rangefinder, compact or series of exception, there is necessarily a Leica to meet your expectations.