Missing image
the Leica I, 1925, 1:3,5

Leica is a camera produced by a German company of the same name. The company, formerly Ernst Leitz Gmbh, is now three companies: Leica Camera AG, Leica Geosystems AG, and Leica Microsystems AG, each producing cameras, geosurvey equipment and microscopes, respectively. Leica Microsystems AG is the owner of the Leica brand, and grants licenses to Leica Camera AG and Leica Geosystems.


Leica Camera History - "The Grandfather of 35mm Photography"

The Leica was the first practical 35 mm camera. The first prototypes were built by Oskar Barnack at E. Leitz Optische Werke, Wetzlar, in 1913. Barnack used standard cinema 35 mm film, but extended the image size to 24 x 36 mm. Barnack believed the 2:3 aspect ratio to be the ultimate choice, leaving room for a 36-exposure film length.

Barnack's words, "Small negatives -- large images", would soon change the world of photography.

The concept was developed further, and in 1923 Barnack convinced his boss, Ernst Leitz II, to make a prototype series of 31. The camera was an immediate success when introduced at the 1925 Leipzig, Germany Spring Fair as the Leica I (for Leitz Camera). The Elmar 50 mm f/3.5 objective (a 4-elements design influenced by the Zeiss Tessar) was designed by Dr. Max Berek at Leitz, and was one of the reasons behind the success of the camera, the others being its compact size and reliability. The focal plane shutter had a range from 1/20 to 1/500 second, in addition to a Z for Zeit (time) position.

In 1930 came the Leica I Schraubgewinde with an exchangeable objective system based on a 39mm thread. In addition to the 50 normal lens, a 35 wide angle and a 135 mm telephoto objective were initially available.

The Leica II came in 1932, with a built in rangefinder coupled to the lens focussing mechanism. This model had a separate viewfinder (showing a reduced image) and rangefinder (showing an enlarged double image which was properly focussed when it became one image). The Leica III added slow shutter speeds down to 1 second, and the model IIIa added the 1/1000 second shutter speed. Also significant about the IIIa is that it is the last model made before Barnack's death, and therefore the last model he was wholly responsible for. Leitz continued to refine the original design through to 1957. The final version, the IIIg, included a large viewfinder with framelines, similar to the M3 finder, but still with the separate view- and rangefinder. These models all had a functional combination of circular dials and square windows that was quite esthetically pleasing, although somewhat busy in appearance.

Missing image
Modern Leica M series

In 1954 Leitz unveiled the M3, a bayonet lens model, considered by many to be a design miracle for its combination of simple appearance with functional flexibility. It combined the rangefinder and viewfinder into one large, bright viewfinder with a brighter double image in the center, and introduced a system of parallax compensation. In addition, it had a new rubberized focal-plane shutter, which is known for reliability and is probably the quietest focal-plane shutter ever made. This model has continued to be refined (the latest versions being the M7 and MP, both of which have frames for 28, 35, 50, 75, 90, and 135 mm lenses which show automatically upon mounting the different lenses); but the basic quality and simplicity of design has not changed.

Leica also produced a series of SLR (single-lens reflex) cameras beginning with the Leicaflex, followed by the SL, the SL2, and then the R series from R3 to R7, which were made in collaboration with the Minolta Corporation. The R8 was designed and manufactured by Leica. The current model is the R9, which now has an optional Digital Module back. The Leica SLRs were well-received. The optics were excellent, but Leica was slow to produce an auto-exposure model, and never made a version that supported auto-focusing. This and the high price of the optics made them less attractive to working photographers.

Leitz was also responsible for numerous optical innovations (first use of aspherical production lenses, first use of multicoated lenses, first use of rare earth lenses, to name a few). From the 30s to the 50s, the Leica competed with the German Contax camera to be most sophisticated and best built camera on market. Leica lenses developed a mythology -- that photographs taken with them were recognizable from photographs taken with other lenses. There has been much controversy about this.

A number of camera companies built models based on the Leica rangefinder design. These include the Leotax, Nicca and early Canon models in Japan, the Kardon in USA, the Reid in England and the Fed and Zorki in the USSR.

Very early examples of Leica cameras and rare accessories are highly sought after by camera collectors and can fetch extremely high prices. Cameras carrying markings that show they were issued to the German army or airforce carry very high premiums. There exist many fake Leica cameras, usually based on Soviet cameras, with the Leica name engraved on the top-plate.

In 1986, the Leitz company changed its name to Leica (LEItz CAmera), due to the strength of the Leica brand. At this time, Leica moved its factory from Wetzlar to the nearby town of Solms. In 1996 Leica Camera separated from the Leica Group and became a publicly held company. In 1998 the Leica group split into 2 independent units: Leica Microsystems [1] (http://www.leica-microsystems.com/) and Leica Geosystems.

The Leica company still produces a range of expensive, very high quality optical products, including compact cameras, M-System rangefinder cameras (direct descendants of the first Leica), R-system single-lens reflex cameras, digital cameras (in association with Panasonic) such as the Leica Digilux 2 / Panasonic DMC-LC1, binoculars, and spotting scopes.

Missing image
Leica M6 Black Paint

List of Leica Cameras and lenses

Below is a list of cameras and lenses produced under the Leica name.

C (point and shoot) series

  • C1
  • C2
  • C3
  • Leica Minilux 40mm (http://www.overgaard.com/leica/leica_minilux.html)
  • Leica Minilux Zoom
  • Leica CM 40mm (http://www.overgaard.com/leica/leica_cm.html)
  • Leica CM Zoom

M (rangefinder) series

  • Leica I - was introduced first time to the market at the 1925 spring fair in Leipzig, based on the Ur-Leica prototype developed by Oscar in 1913 and the Prototyp 1 developed in 1923. Followed by Leica Luxur and Leica Compur (a total of 60,586 was made of the Leica I, Luxur and Compur). From 1930 with interchangable lenses.

Leica 35mm series with interchangeable lens screw mount style Leica bodies:

  • Leica II - 1932. Leica introduces the rangefinder in the camera with this model.
  • Leica III - 1933. Leica incorporates slow speeds to the shutter design in this model.
  • Leica IIIa - 1935. Leica incorporates fast shutter speeds to the shutter design.
  • Leica IIIf - 1950. Leica incorporates flash syncronization and a self timer.
  • Leica IIIg - Produced till 1960 (Total 798,200 screwmount cameras had been made by then).

Leica M series with interchangeable lens bayonet style Leica bodies:

  • M3 - The M3 was introduced at the German Foto Kina exhibition in 1954. It was the first of the M series Leicas that are still manufactured today - the first interchangeable lens bayonet style Leica body. In an advertisement from 1956, it was regarded as a "lifetime investment in perfect photography"; a statement that has proven to be true after more than fifty years since its release.
  • MP -1956 - 1957 (Total 402 sets were manufactured)
  • M2 - 1958 (88,000 sets weremanufactured)
  • M1 - 1959 - 1964 (9,392 sets were manufactured). A scaled down version of the M2 for scientific/technical use.
  • M4 - 1967 - 1971 (50,000 sets were manufactured); 1974 -1975 (6,500 sets were manufactured). With added rangefinder framelines for 35mm and 135mm lenses.
  • M5 - 1971 (31,400 sets were manufactured). With added integral TTL lightmeter. First Leica with a light meter.
  • CL - 1972 (the compact M5). Also exists as Minolta CL, Leitz-Minolta CL and later the Minolta CLE.
  • M4-2 - 1977 - 1980 (17,000 sets were manufactured). With stronger gears for the adaptation of a motor drive. First M with hotshoe for electronic flash.
  • M4-P - 1980 - 1986. Added rangefinder framelines for the 28mm and 75mm lenses.
  • M6 - 1984. Improved light meter. From 1997 M6 with .85 magnification viewfinder for easier focusing with long lenses and more accurate focusing with fast lenses. The 28mm framelines are dropped.
  • M6 TTL - 1998. With .72 and .85 viewfinder versions. From 2000 the .58 viewfinder camera for eyeglass wearers are added to the line.
  • M7
  • MP (http://www.leica-camera.com/produkte/msystem/mp/index_e.html)

R (SLR) series

  • Leicaflex (http://www.wildlightphoto.com/leica/std.html) - 1964
  • Leicaflex SL and SL mot (http://www.wildlightphoto.com/leica/sl.html) - 1968 with TTL metering.
  • Leicaflex SL2 (http://www.wildlightphoto.com/leica/sl2.html) - 1974
  • R3 - 1976
  • R4
  • R5 and R-E (http://www.wildlightphoto.com/leica/r5.html)
  • R6
  • R6.2 (http://www.wildlightphoto.com/leica/r6.html)
  • R7
  • R8 (http://www.leica-camera.com/produkte/rsystem/r8/index_e.html)
  • R9 (http://www.leica-camera.com/produkte/rsystem/r9/index_e.html)
  • R8/R9 DMR Digital Module R (http://www.leica-camera.com/produkte/rsystem/digitalmodul/index_e.html)

Digilux (digital) series

  • Digilux
  • Digilux 4.3
  • D-Lux (http://www.leica-camera.com/digitalekameras/d-lux/index_e.html)
  • Digilux 1 (http://www.leica-camera.com/digitalekameras/digilux1/index_e.html)
  • Digilux 2 (http://www.leica-camera.com/digitalekameras/digilux2/index_e.html)
  • R8/R9 DMR Digital Module R (DSLR) (http://www.leica-camera.com/produkte/rsystem/digitalmodul/index_e.html)

Leica lenses on Panasonic

Leica lenses are used on many Panasonic digital cameras and video recorders.

Leica M lenses

Leica R lenses

  • Leica 15mm f/3.5 Super-Elmar-R - 1980
  • Leica 15mm f/2.8 Super-Elmarit-R ASPH - 2001
  • Leica 16mm f/2.8 Fisheye-Elmarit-R - 1970
  • Leica 19mm f/2.8 Elmarit-R 1st version
  • Leica 19mm f/2.8 Elmarit-R 2nd version - 1990
  • Leica 21mm f/4.0 Super-Angulon-R - 1968-1992
  • Leica 21mm f/3.4 Super-Angulon-R - 1968
  • Leica 24mm f/2.8 Elmarit-R
  • Leica 28mm PC-Super-Angulon-R
  • Leica 28mm f/2.8 Elmarit-R 1st version - 1970
  • Leica 28mm f/2.8 Elmarit-R 2nd version - 1994
  • Leica 35mm f/4.0 PA-Curtagon-R
  • Leica 35mm f/2.8 Elmarit-R 1st version - 1964
  • Leica 35mm f/2.8 Elmarit-R 2nd version
  • Leica 35mm f/2.8 Elmarit-R 3rd version
  • Leica 35mm f/2.0 Summicron-R 1st version - 1965
  • Leica 35mm f/2.0 Summicron-R 2nd version - 1976
  • Leica 35mm f/1.4 Summilux-R
  • Leica 50mm f/2.0 Summicron-R 1st version - 1964
  • Leica 50mm f/2.0 Summicron-R 2nd version - 1977
  • Leica 50mm f/1.4 Summilux-R 1st version
  • Leica 50mm f/1.4 Summilux-R 2nd version
  • Leica 50mm f/1.4 Summilux-R 3rd version - 1997 (ROM contacts)
  • Leica 60mm Macro-Elmarit-R 1st version - 1972
  • Leica 60mm Macro-Elmarit-R dn2 version
  • Leica 75mm f/2.0 Elcan-R code C-341 - Extremely rare
  • Leica 80mm f/1.4 Summilux-R
  • Leica 90mm f/2.8 Elmarit-R 1st version - 1964-1996
  • Leica 90mm f/2.8 Elmarit-R 2nd version - 1983
  • Leica 90mm Summicron-R 1st version - 1969
  • Leica 90mm Summicron-R 2nd version -
  • eica 90mm APO-Summicron-R ASPH - 2002
  • Leica 90mm f/1.0 Elcan-R - Extremely rare
  • Leica 100mm f/4.0 Macro-Elmar-R bellows version
  • Leica 100mm f/4.0 Macro-Elmar-R helical version
  • Leica 100mm f/2.8 APO-Macro-Elmarit-R
  • Leica 135mm Elmarit-R 1st version - 1965
  • Leica 135mm Elmarit-R 2nd version
  • Leica 180mm Elmar-R - 1976
  • Leica 180mm f/2.8 Elmarit-R 1st version
  • Leica 180mm f/2.8 Elmarit-R 2nd version
  • Leica 180mm f/3.4 APO-Telyt-R - 1975-1998
  • Leica 180mm f/2.8 APO-Elmarit-R - 1998
  • Leica 180mm f/2.0 APO-Summicron-R
  • Leica 180mm f/3.4 Elcan-R code C-303 - Extremely rare
  • Leica 250mm f/4.0 Telyt-R 1st version -
  • Leica 250mm f/4.0 Telyt-R 2nd version
  • Leica 280mm f/4.8 Telyt-V
  • Leica 280mm f/4.0 APO-Telyt-R
  • Leica 280mm f/2.8 APO-Telyt-R - 1984-1997
  • Leica 350mm f/4.8 Telyt-R
  • Leica 400mm f/6.8 Telyt-R - 1968-1994
  • Leica 400mm f/5.6 Telyt-R
  • Leica 400mm f/2.8 APO-Telyt-R - 1992-1996
  • Leica 450mm f/5.6 Elcan-R, code C-329 - Extremely rare
  • Leica 500mm f/8 MR-Telyt-R
  • Leica 560mm f/6.8 Telyt-R - 1971-1995
  • Leica 560mm f/5.6 Telyt-R - 1966-1973
  • Leica 800mm f/6.3 Telyt-S - 1972-1995 (sold including a free VW Fox)
  • Leica modular APO-Telyt-R 260/400/560 head
  • Leica modular APO-Telyt-R 400/560/800 head
  • Leica 21mm-35mm f/3.5-f/4.0 Vario-Elmar-R zoom - 2002
  • Leica 28mm-70mm f/3.5-4.5 Vario-Elmar-R zoom
  • Leica 70-180mm f/2.8 Vario-APO-Elmarit-R zoom
  • Leica 35-70 f/4.0 Vario-Elmar-R zoom
  • Leica 35-70mm f/3.5 Vario-Elmar-R zoom
  • Leica 35-70mm Vario-Elmarit-R ASPH zoom - 2000 (only 200 was made)
  • Leica 70-210mm f/4.0 Vario-Elmar-R zoom
  • Leica 75-200mm f/4.5 Vario-Elmar-R - 1976-1984
  • Leica 80-200mm f/4.5 Vario-Elmar-R zoom
  • Leica 80-200mm f/4.0 Vario-Elmar-R zoom
  • Leica 105-280mm f/4.2 Vario-Elmar-R zoom

Leica / Leitz enlargers

  • Leitz Focomat Ic
  • Leitz Focomat IIc
  • Leitz Focomat II (modified fro American millitary), code EN-121A - Extremely rare
  • Vincent electrical shutter (for enlarger) - Extremely rare
  • ELCAN 52mm enlarger lens (20x-25x enlargements) - Extremely rare
  • ELCAN 20mm enlarger lens (40x-75x enlargements) - Extremely rare

Internal Links

External links

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