Once photographing meant a large box camera on a tripod, shifting film plate after each shot - and working with a dark cloth over your head and the camera.
But then something happened...
The Leica was extremely compact and could be fitted with a very high quality lens that enabled photographers to work in ordinary outdoor settings with available light. It was always instantly ready to capture life and action effortlessly from any angle with the photographer often able to remain unnoticed. Without the usual heavy equipment, photographs of people no longer had to be confined to stiff conventionally artistic poses.
Oskar Barnack was headhuntet from Carl Zeiss to be the manager of the Research & Development Department at Leitz. He became the designer of the Ur-Leica which he made two (possibly three) samples of in the period 1912-1913 with the purpose to test film stock and/or lenses for movie films. Or perhaps because he couldn't carry the traditional large plate cameras and wanted a smaller camera for him self. The reasons told today are many, but that the Ur-Leica was designed as a compact means to test film stock is the most reliable.
As early as 1905, he had the idea of reducing the format of negatives and then enlarging the photographs after they had been exposed.
In any case, he learned that it could actually be turned into a new type of compact as the "rotated" film format of film was plenty sharp (the film format was 24x18mm for large cinema theater screens, and rotating the film inside the camera and doubling the area made the 24x36mm format). With the development of an enlarger the reduced negative format could then be printed in a larger size than the negative.
Another Leitz employee, Max Berek, was instrumental in developing a lens for this camera, as he developed the first 50mm f/3.5 lens as the optimum focal length for the 24 x 36mm format.
Ernst Leitz II decided to put it into commercial production in 1924 after they had produced a limit run of 31 Leica O Series cameras the year before. Ernst Leitz II made this decision on his own as all of his advisers warned him against the large risk it would involve for such a rather small company to enter the camera market.
Eleven years later, in 1935, the camera and enlarger section was the most profitable for the company that still produced microscopes and huntingscopes.
A 1923 handmade prototype no 107 of the [between 25 and] 31 made - only twelve of them are known to exist today - was sold on May 28, 2011 for €1,320,000. In May 2012 prototype no 116 was sold for 2,160,000 at the 21st WestLicht Photographic Auction in Vienna. Those cameras didn't have a model name at the time, just a serial number. See page 2.
A test shot done by Oscar Barnack ca. 1914 in the city of Wetzlar, using the Ur-Leica.
Ernst Leitz I Senior [1843-1920]
Ernst Leitz I becomes partner in the factory "Optical Institute" [founded 1849 by Carl Kellner to produce optical microscopes] with its twelve employees in 1865 together with the widow of the original founder and her husband, Friedrich Behltle (an apprentice of Kellner who married the widow after Kellner died in 1855 of Tuberculosis at age 29).
Ernst Leitz II
Ernst Leitz I (ca. 1917)
In 1869 he takes over the sole management and expands it under his name: Ernst Leitz Optical Industry. Twenty years later there is 120 employees and they have sold their microscope no 10.000.
The company is run as a family company, as it was tradition in those days where sons would take over their fathers work and often 2-3 generations would be in the same company. In fact also amongst the amployees, sons and gransons would often follow their parents careers in companies like Leitz.
Leitz family ownership of the company will last for more than 100 years this way, till they had to sell in the 1970s.
Ernst Leitz II aka Ernst Leitz Junior
Ernst Leitz II takes over after his fathers dead in 1920 and when he decides to start production of the Leitz camera in 1924 there is 1,000-1,500 employees in the company. He was also the one helping hundreds of jews flee Germany during the World War, together with his daugher Elise Kuhn-Leitz (see story about the "Leica Freedom Train" on page 2).
The Ernst Leitz Optical Industry factory buildings ca 1940 in Wetzlar, Germany. Today the street has been named Ernst Leitz Strasse, the buildings painted white and are the home of Leica Microsystems GmbH.
Leica Camera AG was re-located in Solms a few kilometers from Wetzlar in 1988 (but returned in 2014 to a new building outside Wetzlar). Many Leica Camera AG employees will claim they grew up in Wetzlar with a view to the red Leica logo that was later added (and still exists) on the rooftop of the building to the right.Next to the building is the Leitz Collection and Optical Museum which one can go visit to see their large collection of Leitz products.
1849 Optical Institute was established by Carl Kellner (1826-1855).
Ernst Leitz I Senoir joined the Optical Institute.
Ernst Leitz I Senior became a full partner of the Optical Institute.
1869 Ernst Leitz I Senior [1843-1920] takes over the company and rename it Ernst Leitz Optical Industry.
1907 E Leitz, Wetzlar began manufacturing of binoculars on top of being one of the leading producers of microscopes in the world.
Ernst Leitz II Junior takes over the company after his fathers dead.
The debut of the Leica Model A (or Leica I) at the Leipzig Spring Fair. The first cameras had Berek's 50mm Elmax lens in a non interchangeable mount. The Elmax name is purportedly named after Berek's dog, Max. (Later, the 50mm Hektor lens was introduced and again is supposed to be named after another of his dogs). Leica sold 1,000 cameras the first year.
The Leica camera is now the most profitable department of the Leitz company.
Leica in France
Immediately after the war it became apparent to Ernst Leitz II that it would take the German industry several years to be able to produce enough goods to start exporting again. On the other hand, the majority of the German population was hardly in a position to buy Leica cameras.
The Leitz factory in Wetzlar, West Germany had suffered only minor damage, but there was still a shortage of certain raw materials, so that the resumption of the production of civilian products was progressing rather slowly. The frightening thought that the Soviets could be at their doorsteps within hours of a new conflagration caused the company patriarch Ernst Leitz II and his sons Ernst Leitz III, Ludwig Leitz and Guenther Leitz to realize the desirability of a safer location for the company, a second repository for its archives and for a core of experienced workers who could carry on the firm's tradition of superb craftmanship in the he event of the loss of the main plant.
The Leitz family had to look for a solution. It appeared to have come when Mr. Walter Kluck joined the Ernst Leitz Co.
Before Walter Kluck started to work for Leitz, he had considered opening a manufacturing plant in France, together with a friend. When presenting this idea to the Leitz family, it was generally agreed upon that manufacturing Leicas in France would open the export market a lot sooner.
The decision was made to start the operation in the Saar territory which was under French occupation at that time. A lot of regulations had to be overcome, however, and in order to speed things up, some of the machinery necessary was taken out of Wetzlar by night and transported to the new location. So it was by some dubious means that this new venture got its start.
Initially Leitz coated only lenses of prewar production and later even manufactured complete lenses and mechanical parts for the Bolex motion picture cameras. Finally even cameras were made. They had the famous “Monte en Saare” engravings, cameras with a considerable collector's value today.
Leica IIIa "Monte en Saare" Nr. 359402, a French made Leica
Leica in Canada
Things in Europe didn't look too good, however. The cold war began to heighten and the Leitz family started to make plans to avoid losing the entire operation once again to war. The solution seemed to be an entirely different region. Suggestions like North Africa, South America, Spain and Ireland came up, but eventually someone mentioned North America, particularly Canada.
An exploratory team consisting of Dr. Ernst Leitz III and an administrative assistant, Karl Seng (who spoke flawless British English), traveled extensively for many weeks in search of an appropriate location.
1952: The manufacturing plant in Midland, Ontario, Canada
After a lot of considerations, Canada was finally chosen as the most logical place. After all, North America was the largest export market (as it is also today where ca. 75% of Leica products are sold).
Ernst Leitz Canada (ELC)
Another reason for going to Canada instead of the US at the time was that the name Leitz was still under alien property control in the US and Leitz would not have been able to use their own name in this country. It was also the case that the American immigration laws at the time were rather tight and it would have taken too long to get entry permission for the number of people necessary to start such a venture. Thus Canada was the best choice!
But other obstacles had to be overcome. One was that Leitz needed permission from the German government because something like this had never been done before. Leitz was actually the first company to take such a step. It was also necessary to establish a program that would allow some quick sales right at the beginning because at the time Leitz was allowed to bring only $50,000 into the country and they had to make sure that they would not run out of money before new revenues started to come in.
Unfortunately, the new facilities were not quite ready for operation when the “Leica people” arrived. To avoid losing precious time, an assembly facility was temporarily set up in the Midland Ice Arena! Under the leadership of Walter Kluck, the first lens components were finished after only one week and the first completed Leica lenses and cameras were ready after only four weeks.
Soon after moving into the new facilities they started not only to assemble but to actually manufacture parts as well. After only three years of operation the Midland design department was established. Initially it dealt only with mechanical designs, but after borrowing an optical designer from Wetzlar, optical design was also taken up. This designer had a very good reputation and it was planned to “loan” him to Midland for only six months. He never made it back to Wetzlar and his skills were primarily responsible for establishing Midland as one of the foremost lens design departments in the entire world.
The gentleman's name was Professor Walter Mandler. His crowning achievement was the design of the 50mm f/1.0 Noctilux. The design department became so successful that at the time most of the Leica lenses were designed in Midland rather than in Wetzlar.
Otto Geier, supervisor of the Optics Department of Ernst Leitz Canada (on the right), with the legendary lens designer Dr. Walter Mandler. Most of the Leica lenses were designed in Midland rather than in Wetzlar.
During the company’s growth period, the key responsibilities were shared by three Walters: Walter Bauer for Manufacturing, Walter Kluck for Marketing and Walter Mandler for Research and Development.
Besides the Leica program, Ernst Leitz Canada (ELC) became involved with the production of optical equipment for other companies, such as Hughes Aircraft, RCS and Picker X-ray. All told, there were about 100 companies that did business with Leitz. Besides the civilian market, Ernst Leitz Canada was also heavily involved in manufacturing for the US Defense Department, primarily the US army but also the Navy. The research done for those branches has greatly helped the development of civilian products as well. This is because the requirements of the armed forces are always pushing towards the limits of optical design capabilities, resulting often in the best possible instruments to be developed. One such cast-off to the civilian market was the 180mm f/3.4 Apo Telyt-R.
One of the most unusual military developments was an underwater camera system which Leitz developed for the US Navy. It primarily consisted of a complete set of lenses for underwater work, not only for 35mm cameras but also for medium format, 16mm motion picture and TV cameras. These were rather unique lenses because they were not part of a camera that was simply put into a water tight housing. Instead the lenses were designed to be exposed to the water with their front element. The usual way of using under water housings for conventional cameras incorporates lenses that are designed to work in air. When designing such lenses, Leitz even takes the refractive index of air into consideration.
The Leitz under water system instead was designed according to the refractive index of water. As a matter of fact, since this system was to be used primarily in salt water, it was the refractive index of salt water that was used in the design of these lenses. However, not all oceans have the same salinity. So Leitz went one step further and took the refractive index of the salinity of the various oceans into consideration.
Leica UW serial 240-0044. Sold for 72,000 Euro on November 24, 2012.
This was possible with an interchangeable front element of their water contact lenses. This overall design actually considers the water as an integral lens element of the entire system. To avoid the need to test these lenses in the various oceans all over the world, Leitz built a large water tank that could be flooded with water of the appropriate salinity.
The correction of these lenses is so good that, when water is clear enough, there is no way of telling that the pictures were taken under water. Leitz was the first company to suggest such a design.
What is even more amazing is the fact that the thick water contact front element is so strong that the lenses can be used in the greatest ocean depths without any problems at all, including the deepest part on earth; the 36,200 feet deep Challenger Deep of the Mariana Trench.
Ernst Leitz Canada ELCAN underwater mition picture camera housing
Despite the many exotic projects for the US Army, Elmar also produced quite a lot of civilian and ordinary lenses. One can get an ide by simply searching "ELCAN" on eBay and one will see lenses for Olympus Pen, Canon and many other uses.
Camera Production in Midland
In the middle of the 70s Ernst Leitz Canada decided to look into the manufacture of cameras as well. Until then the whole operation had been dependent on selling their wares to others. They had been compared to a tire company supplying tires to car manufacturers. Ernst Leitz Canada's success was entirely dependent upon the successes of the companies they supplied.
It was decided that the manufacture of cameras would add a great new dimension to the Canadian Leitz operation. After Wetzlar had given its blessing and given 100% support to this venture, all the tooling for the M4 cameras was moved to Midland and a great number of specialists from Wetzlar helped to get this venture off the ground.
The first camera of this new venture was the Leica M4-2 in 1978. Basically identical to the old M4, it was modified to accept a motor winder which greatly enhanced the versatility of the camera. Soon additional development of this camera resulted in the Leica M4-P in 1981 with the added versatility of a 28mm and 75mm viewing frame and a motor winder capable of running continuously at the rate of three frames per second.
One little known fact is that in 1970 Ernst Leitz Canada was awarded the design and manufacturing contract for the new 70mm IMAX projection system and in 1983 Ernst Leitz Canada began work with Panavision for their state of the art cinematographic lenses. Steven Spielberg's "Empire of the Sun" from 1987 is one of the movies that was made with Panavision Primo-L Lenses from ELCAN (and was Oscar-nominated for Best Cinematography). These are just two examples of the many designs and manufacture they did for outside companies, both for civilian and military use.
Steven Spielberg on the set of Empire of the Sun in 1986 where they used, amongst others, a 800mm Panavision Primo-L lens from ELCAN.
Thus Midland had developed into a fully independent camera and lens manufacturer by the end of the 70s. Their name Ernst Leitz Canada and their trade mark ELCAN have earned the highest reputation throughout the world and it was only a matter of time until additional new and exciting developments from this branch of Leitz would make the news.
Midland, Canada, a replicat of Wetzlar
When Leitz decided to build the manufacturing plant in Midland there was no doubt that it should operate and manufacture at the same high standards that the world had grown accustomed to with the products from Wetzlar. Thus it came as no surprise to me on my first visit to Midland that the interior was very much like that in Wetzlar. Although the buildings were not anywhere near as large as the main plant in Wetzlar, the interior of the actual work areas was almost identical.
Ernst Leitz Canada assembly line
Quality control was as tight as in Wetzlar. Everywhere, regardless of what work was being performed, there were people doing checks and rechecks. Virtually all workbenches had some sort of testing instrument on them. The whole place had a rather unhurried atmosphere. The workers were under no time pressure at all. Everyone could take the time necessary to do things right. This was further enhanced by the total absence of assembly lines. All work was done on individual workbenches.
The same was the case in the lens grinding department. A lot of the work was performed by machines, but some lens elements would be grinded by hand. It is a known fact that nothing can replace hand grinding when ultimate precision is of the essence, and Leitz was still doing it.
While there were obviously a lot of people from the Midland area employed there. It was very obvious that there still was a large German contingent, easily recognized by the many German accents that could be heard in almost all conversations.
1982 marked the 30th anniversary of the Midland operation. It had established itself as one of the foremost optical design companies in the world.
November 1990: The Hughes Aircraft Company, California, purchased Ernst Leitz Canada Ltd., and the Company’s name was changed to Hughes Leitz Optical Technologies Ltd. Hughes Aircraft relocated their equipment/machinery and technology of a sister operation in Des Plaines, Illinois, to Midland.
Long story short, the company Raytheon acquired the optical departments of Texas Instruments and the Midland factory, and is today named RaytheonELCAN.
The original Leica building in the center of Wetzlar, Germany anno 2013, now housing only Leica Microsystems.
A man looking at the 800mm telephoto lens on exhibit at Photokina Fair in 1966. (Photo by Walter Sanders/Time Life Pictures/Getty Images)
The sons of Ernst Leitz II; Ernst Leitz III, Ludwig Leitz and Günther Leitz, take over the management of the firm after their father's death.
In April production starts in the Oberlahn plant. Also this year Leica introduces the 800mm Tele Elmarit-R lens at Photokina, the lens that was sold in the US with a complimentary Volkswagen beetle with it!
Leica supplied a Trinovid 10 X 40 especially modified monocular for the NASA Apollo 11 which became the first optical device used on the moon.
Advertisement for the Leica M4 introduced in 1966. One of the best-selling Leica M cameras (along Leica M6 and Leica M9).
Wild Beerbrugg and Leitz Wetzlar coorporation
Beginning of cooperation between Leitz Wetzlar and Wild Heerbrugg, a company founded in 1921 in Switzerland manufacturing different optical instruments, such as surveying instruments, microscopes and instruments for photogrammetry among others.
Leica in Porto, Portugal
The Portugal plant in Vila Nova de Famalico near Porto starts production. The reason Leica started production here was they had the opportunity to buy a precision watch factory that had gone bankrupt. By buying this factory they acquired not only a factory and precision tools, but also a workforce (of mainly women) who knew how to do precision work. See further down about the 40th anniversary and new factory in Portugal that opened in 2013.
Foundation of Leica GmbH in order to bundle activities in the photo market.
Wild Leitz, 1987
On the January 1st, 1987, Ernst Leitz Wetzlar GmbH and Wild Heerbrugg AG merges to form the Wild Leitz group. The new company employs a total 9,000 people.
The facotry moves from Wetzlar to Oskar Barnackstrasse in Solms, just 10-15 minutes drive from Wetzlarer. The factory remained here till it moved back to the newly designed and build factory in Wetzlarer in May 2014.
The merger of Wild Leitz Holding AG with The Cambridge Instrument Company plc creates the new Leica Holding B.V. group. So now the Leica name also stands for the leading manufacturer of microscopes, surveying and photogrammetry systems, as well as optical-scientific instruments. Incorporation of the Zett-Geräte-Werk (former Zeiss-Ikon) into the Leica Camera Group and foundation of Leica Projektion GmbH.
Leica Microsystems GmbH (including Leica Biosystems), Leica Geosystems AG, and Leica Camera AG is now three completely independent companies without any remaining legal, operative or financial linkage.
Leica Camera AG is today listed on the Frankfurt stock exchange, with ACM Projektentwicklung GmbH (Salzburg, Austria) holding more than 96% shares. Leica Geosystems AG is a Swiss company and part of the Swedish Hexagon Group. Leica Microsystems GmbH is a German company owned by the US concern Danaher Corporation listed on the New York Stock Exchange.
The use of the Leica brand is the only remaining connection between the three companies, on account of the long history and heritage of these now independent companies. Leica Microsystems is the owner of the Leica trade name and trademark and has granted licenses for their use by the other companies.
On April 1st, Leica takes over the camera division of Minox GmbH, manufacturer of sub-miniature and miniature cameras.
On July 25th, 1996 the Leica Camera GmbH is transformed into a public company. Now the company is called Leica Camera AG.
The 31st Dcember 1998, the Leica Camera AG patent for the Leica M bayonet mount ran out, opening up for 3rd party lenses with Leica M bayonet mount.
Leica Camera AG started coorporation with Panasonic (Matsushita), developing lens designs for Panasonic Lumix cameras, Panasonic cameras and Panasonic video recorders, as well as some of the Panasonic projectors (only those with the "Leica" are made by Leica). The coorporation also includes co-production of later Panasonic/Leica "twin cameras" sauch as the Leica Digilux, Leica D-Lux, Leica V-Lux. Some developed and produced by Panasonic, with a Leica edition designed by Leica, others developed by Leica and produced by Panasonic (the Leica Digilux 2 is one such).
The Ernst Leitz Optical Industry factory on Ernst Leitz Strasse in Wetzlar ca. 1940-1950
Leica Camera AG announces a series of new digital cameras at Photokina in September 2006. Amongst them, the long aviated Leica M8 digital camera:
Announced in 2006: Leica M8 in chrome. Also available in black.
Leica M8 takes the role as preferred rangefinder camera for professionals
The Leica M8 digital camera had a few problems in the beginning that required Leica Camera AG to issue free filters to their customers. Without IR cut-filters black tones in certain light conditions would turn purple: The UV-filter in front of the sensor was simply too weak. A feature that later turned out to make the Leica M8 perfect for infrared photography. Amongst others, Lou Reed had much fun using the Leica M8 for infrared photography.
After months of discussions and frustrations, one could read comments like these from professional photographers on the Leica User Forum (July 2007):
"I have to confess I haven't used my Canon 5D since getting an M8. But then again the same thing happened to my film SLRs when I bought my first M - an M2 - a number of years ago, so I haven't been surprised.
"I still use my Canon 5D along with my Leica M8, but I use my Canon Mark II's and a large selection of lenses (from 8mm - 500mm). When you are a working photo-journlist, the Leica M8 becomes just another tool in the bag. Yes, I must say that the Leica M8 bag (a Domke F-6 Little Bit Samller Bag) now goes on every assignment (even If I do not get a chance to use it)"
"I sold the Canon 5D when I got the M8, but I still use the Canon MK II Ds"
"It depends completely on the type of assignment. If I need longer f/2.8 zooms, as when doing theater work or sports, I'll still use the 5D. But for any kind of portrait, documentary and editorial work I almost always opt for the M8. The 5D is an excellent camera, but I prefer the look of the M8 images. I also find the somewhat smaller file size a bit more manageable when I come in with several hundred RAWs."
"well ... I've been using the Leica M8 for like a month and a half. now. as much as i wasn't totally impressed the first time 'round ... I have perhaps changed my feelings about it ... and ... as much as i want to fight it ... give me an m8 ..."
At Photokina 2008 Leica introduced the updated Leica M8 called Leica M8.2. Apart from the new darker black lacquer, leather-like "vulcanite" leather finish and - more notable - the black Leica dot (on the silver edition of the camera the red dot has been maintained; and one could actually also order the black camera version witht the 'original' red dot), the changes was mainly to be found in the details exterior and inside:
A new metal blade focal plane shutter that reduced the shutter sound to nearly a whisper, a new scratch-resistant sapphire crystal as cover glass for the screen on the back of the camera, a "S" snapshot mode (where the camera decides everything but aperture and focus) as well as a new compact charger.
The 2008-edition Leica M8.2 with Summilux-M ASPH 21mm f/1.4 and 21mm external viewfinder on top.
Also two other impressive lenses were introduced in the Leica 21mm Summilux-M ASPH f/1.4 (pictured on the Leiac M8.2 camera above) and the Leica 24mm Summilux-M ASPH f/1.4. Leica also introduced a new compact Leica 24mm Elmar-M ASPH f/3.8 lens for the M cameras.
Leica plan to start delivery of the Leica S2medium format digital SLR camera as well as the first four lenses from November 2010 (with another five to follow shortly).
Stopping production of new R lenses
In February 2009 Leica announced that they would stop the production of the traditional R-lenses as well as the Leica R9 film camera. Remaining stocks were sold with 25-50% discounts.
Leica stopped developing the R10 camera
In July 2009 Leica Camera AG announced that they would not develop a Leica R10 fullframe digital SLR camera based on the Leica S2, with new auto focus R-lenses, as promised. They were of the opinion that the promised camera would turn out to be so expensive that there would be no market for it. Though they would at a later stage present "a digital solution" suitable for R-lenes.
Meanwhile, it ain't over till it's over! there is many great second-hand Leica R lenses, and these can actually be used on Canon dSLR cameras (such as the Canon 5D Mark II or Canon 1ds Mark III) using for example the Novoflex Leica R to Canon adapter. It's still manual focus lenses, but with focus confirmation in the Canon camera. Another possiblity is to have the Leica R lenese refitted with Nikon bayonets by the company Leitax (thogh that will make the lenses unusable on Leica R cameras).
On february 20, 2009 Leica introduced the Leica 18mm/3.8 lens, an accompanying 18mm viewfinder and a new Leica 58 flash for all Leica cameras - (the flash will fit the Leica S2 as well).
Leica and viral marketing - The Leica M9 introduction
Introducing a collection of ground-breaking new products- and viral marketing at its best On September 9, 2009 at 9:09 AM Leica announced that they would present what Leica Camera AG CEO Rudi Spiller called "a collection of new groundbreaking products."
As soon as the video below came out on August 31, 2009, speculations went like a wildfire, and within hours it was reported that the long awaited/rumored Leica M9 was actually shown in the video as a teaser. And if you watch the video at 0:54 you will notice an ISO button on the camera back that is not on the Leica M8 or Leica M8.2. Few seconds later in the video, at 0:58 you will notice that the top plate of the camera is missing the picture counter and that the round left side of the body has been lowered.
In matter of hours from then people from all walks of life had used their personal knowledge to try to 'reverse-ingeneer' the actual M9 from the two small glimpses in the video. Did it in have the same size or would we be presented for a new "German Tank" a la the slightly bigger Leica M5 (that looked like a monster because Leica had to incorporate lightmeter technology into the camrea)? Would it even be technically posible to maintain the size of a "classic Leica M" and still achieve a full frame sensor? One Leica user had used special software to figure out the sizes of the new M9 based on the size of the flash shoe (and had it almost right).
The teaser video on YouTube revealing first sights of the new Leica M9 - Leica's return to full frame 24x36 mm which they originally invented in 1908.
A few days later, on September 2, 2009, this prewiev of the Leica M9 digital rangefinder camera and a (totally unexpected model, the) Leica X1 appeared on Flickr by a user in Vietnam (where the Leiac X1 was made). And was removed within two hours from posting when only 250 people had viewed it! If it was the user himself or if Leica had something to say on this, nobody knows. But it fueled the speculations further.
First sight of the Leica M9 via Flickr. Fact og fiction? Could be pretty close to reality per the glimpses in the video above and the specifications revealed 'by accident' on the Japanese Leica site later in the day (see below).
Leica X1 fist sight via Flickr. Fact og ficion? It looked like a cool idea, a digital version of the original Ur-Leica and the Minilux with its legendary 40mm f/2.4 lens. This one has a 24mm Elmarit f/2.8 fixed lens (which becomes a 35mm lens due to the smaller sensor). But nobody had ever heard that Leica worked on such a camera ... could it be just a computer-made design?Would it have interchangable lenses and thus perhaps be a remake of the Leica CL that was the compact smaller camera that took M lenses in the 1970ies? Nobody knew, nobody had expected Leica to come up with a new camera like this!
Later the same day, a Leica user was able to find an official M9 presentation on the Leica-Camera Japan website. This had been there long enough for translations to have been saved in web hisgtory, though the site itself was removed and the webmaster had set up an active filter to prevent any serarch engine to remember what was there.
But before it disappeared in smoke, the Japanese Leica website revealed a Leica M9 full frame 24x36mm 18 MP camera available in black paint and painted grey. No need for IR/UV filters anymore. The body measures 139 x 37 x 80 mm. A 2,5" monitor on the back, revised button layout (with an ISO button on the back).
Could this really be true? Leica had so far stated that a full frame sensor would be impossible on a Leica M, and who had ever heard about a painted grey Leica M ?
Classic Leica ad from before viral marketing ...
Repeat after me: Leica is Great!
Leica M9 is confirmed on September 9, 2009 at 9:09 AM in New York
In 2008 Leica Camera AG had officially said (once again) that a full frame Leica M was impossible. In July 2009 - two months before the introduction - the head of product development, Stefan Daniel (see below) had revealed that Leica Camera AG was in fact working on a solution, but that it would take considerable time.
As it turns out, Leica was not only able to present the Leica M9 with full frame sensor on September 9, 2009 at 9:09 in New York, they had also had a number of photographers beta-testing the Leica M9 since July 2009. The presentation also revealed a final production sample of the new Leica S2 medium format camera and a Leica X1 with APS-sized CMOS sensor.
The Leica M9 in metal-grey paint with a black 50mm Summilux-M ASPH f/1.4 lens on. You can read my Leica M9 article with test photos, tips and tricks here. An article that has since then beome known as "The Worlds (Possibly) Longest Camera Review" with more than 18 pages with four years of continious user-reporting based on photographing more than 160,000 images.
The results for first half of 2010 showed a 139.6 % increase in sale of Leica cameras, and an overall 100% increase on all Leica Camera AG products from the Leica CRF 1600 laser rangefinder (used to measure distances) to Leica binoculars. The 140% increase in sale should be viewed with the general 10% increase in sale of cameras worldwide (130 million cameras in 2009 to 140 million in 2010)
The main reasons for the increase given in the Half year financial report from Leica are the newly developed cameras Leica M9, Leica X1, Leica S2 and the V-Lux 20. Even the bulk of product development of the M9 and S2 was in 2009 and prior, Leica has almost doubled the amount spent on product development in first half of 2010.
Operating result (EBIT) improved from € –7.2 million first half of 2009 to € 13.9 million for first half of 2010.
The new Leica 35mm Summilux-M ASPH f/1.4 saw the light. An improved design without focus shifts and able to (that is my opinion from the ones I have tested) produce Leica M9 files as sharp and detailed as a Leica S2 file. The balance, the feel and size of the new Leica Summilux-M ASPH f/1.4 simply feels right on the Leica M9 body.
In August 2010 Leica Camera AG announced their new CEO, Alfred Schopf (he comes from ARRI who works with the film industry).
Alfred Schopf, new Leica CEO as of September 2010. Photo: Thorsten Overgaard
At a Design Preview event at Photokina 2010 on September 20, 2010, Leica presented a Leica X1 in black, a Leica V-Lux 2 (as follow-up to the Leica V-Lux 1) and a Leica D-Lux 5 (as a follow-up to the Leica D-Lux 4). Most notable - or newsworthy at least - was the release of a 500 pcs limited Leica M9 in solid titanium with 35mm Summilux-M f/1.4 ASPH titanium lens (see image by David Farkas here) designed by Italian car designer Walter de'Silva who earned fame for his Alfa Romeo 156 design and these days work for Audi and VW where he has designed Audi A5 and VW OPassat CC and the VW Scirocco.
This special edition Leica M9 titanium is the first limited edition that features technical advancements as well beyond the usual special edition colors and leather: The frame lines are mechanical, but red LED illuminated. The hand-grip on the camera is also a completely new thing never seen before, and the titanium lens shade is also a completely new design. Price of the package is 22,000 Euro including a story book. Read more under "Sexy stuff for the worlds most sexy camera"
Leica M9 Titanium with Leica 35mm Summilux-M ASPH f/1.4 limited edition of 500 set, designed by by-Walter de'Silva. All 500 sets were pre-reserved withing a week of the release, all planned for shipping in December 2010.
Visitors at Leica Camera AG at Photokina 2010 admires the Leica M9 titanium. Photo: Thorsten Overgaard.
At the Leica M9 Titanium event Leica Camera AG also honored the inventor of the digital camera, Steve Sasson by giving him the 4th million Leica camera produced. Sasson invented the first portable digital camera in 1976 while working at Kodak (luckily for Sasson the 4th million Leica Camera turned out to be a Leica M9 titanium and not a Leica D-Lux 4!)
The most intersting new thing at Photokina may have been the release of the Leica 120mm Elmarit-S Macro f/2.5 for the Leica S2. This is the lens needed for fashion photographers and many others to draw use of the Leica S2 medium format camera. With this lens sale of the Leica S2 will pick up serious speed - though the actual awaited 120mm with central shutter will not start delivery till spring 2011 (with a completely new Leica-designed central shutter that was tested in pre-production samples at Photokina, in the Leica S2 studio).
Photographers testing the Leica S2 with the new Leica 120mm Summarit-S CS f/2.5 lens at Photokina 2010. Photo: Thorsten Overgaard.
Small news: For those who like to watch the real stars, Photokina 2010 also offered a new Leica X1 digiscoping adapter (model 42331) so that the Leica X1 can be attached to a Leica digiscope. Photo: Thorsetn Overgaard.
Speaking of which, in August 2010 Leica Camera AG came out with their financial report, displaying a profit of 9 million Euro for first quarter, compared to a minus og 6 million Euro for the previous first Quarter.
And while all this happens, customers are still in the line for Leica M9 cameras and a number of exotic lenses which are also on waiting lists due to demand (21mm, 24mm, 35mm and 50mm Summilux lenses, 50mm Noctilux and 75mm Summicron mainly).
The main facility is in the soon to be "old" factory in Solms (which has been expanded with a few extra wooden buildings and also feature a new reception area with a new Leica Solms flagship store).
Customer Service is in a seperate building in Solms, a few minutes away by car, and features a nice waiting area for cutomers coming by with their equipment for service and adjustment.
If you camera needs a doctor, visit Leica Camera AG Customer Service in Solms. See more on page 2.
Leica Camera AG also features a Leica Academy school in an old monastry in the hills outside Solms.
In case you din't get the memo, Leica Camera AG officially said at Photokina 2010 that the Leica M9 is now subject to the Leica M a la carte program, which means that one can get special leather, special engravings, sapphire glass on the screen and similar special to order.
Leica Camera AG, and Dr. Andres Kaufmann in particular, have made no secret that there till be more Leica Flagship Stores (on top of the 14 existing as of January 2011). In March 2011 Leica Camera AG opened Leica Store no 15 and no 16 (at 1010 Nanjing Road West) in Shanghai and Beijing (As the Chinese market has shown huge interest in the past years (and enough to empty out the Hong Kong stores and a few others) this seem like the right move), and on April 21 the 17th store opened in Leica Store Rome, Italy. The 18th store is the Leica Store Marseille, France.
The 19th Leica Store Kangnam and 20th store Leica Store Chungmoo-ro opened in Seoul on May 5, 2011. Also, the German Leica-chain Meister Camera opened their Leica Store München on May 19, 2011.
Also, in 2011-2012, autorized Leica dealers will be installing shop-in-shop concepts, Leica Bortiques, in their traditional stores in a design that aligns with the Leica Stores.
Opening of the 16th Leica Store in Shanghai, March 2011.
May 27, 2011: Leica introduced the new 14.8 megapixel Leica V-Lux 30 pocket camera with a 24mm - 384mm zoom lens.
LEICA Summilux-C™ lenses. In April 2011 Leica will be delivering the first set of their line of Cine lenses (as presented in April 2010 at NAB), among them a 40mm T1.4 with "Multi ASPH" but also 18mm, 21mm, 25mm, 35mm, 50mm, 75mm, and 100mm PL mount primes designed to deliver ultra-high optical performance for film and digital capture. Leitz Canada developed and manufactured Panavision Primo lenses a well as the optics for the IMAX-projector for many years.
The Summilux-C lenses can be ordered in an eight-lens set, 18mm, 21mm, 25mm, 35mm, 40mm, 50mm, 75mm, and 100mm. The price is 178,000$ for the set and can only be ordered as such, handmade and gone through several quality controls. BandPro Inc in Burbank and New York who have gotten five complete lens sets for demo purposes projected in March 2011 that new orders would be delivered in first quarter 2012. It's going to be a long waiting list for these ones.
While you count the money, have a read about the new lenses in this PDF article from Film & Digital Times October 2010, "Leica Cine Lens Saga"
The Leica 120mm Elmarit-S Macro CS f/2.5 and other CS lenses (CS = Central Shutter, meaning there is a shutter inside the lens as well, on top of the shutter curtain in the camera that sits just in front of the sensor) will start delivery in spring 2011, probably along with the other CS lenses as Leica have developed an entirely new central shutter for their Leica S lenses (they were in fact pre-tested during Photokina 2010 where the Leica S photo studio used them non-stop for seven days).
More new Leica M lenses will be announced. Leica Camera AG are working on filling the gaps in the M lens range. Judging a glimse in the firmware of the Leica M9 that show the existence of en not-yet-existing 14mm f/2.8 lens, this might be a coming lens. While the 21mm Elmarit-M f/2.8 and 24mm Elmarit-M f/2.8 lenses seem to be skipped in 2011 and not replaced by new lenses (the 21mm Summilux-M and 24mm Summilux-M should be more intersting to have), we may hope for a new 90mm Summicron-M ASPH f/2.0 in 2011.
Part of the introduction of the Leica M9-P in June 2011 was also the announcement of a collaboartion with Magnum Photos (a picture agency founded in 1947 by photographers Robert Capa, David "Chim" Seymour, Henri Cartier-Bresson, George Rodger and William Vandivert)
Leica will draw on the extensive history of Magnum and their photographers use of Leica cameras and colloborate on new projects as the one below by Christopher Anderson.
"Leica & Magnum: New York, Ten Years Later by Christopher Anderson" is a collaboration with Leica Camera AG, Magnum Photos and The New Yorker
Leica M9-P Hammer Tone Limited Edition
Leica M9-P Hammer Tone Limited Edition 100 pcs. celebrating the Leica Store Tokyo Ginza 5 year anniversary June 2011. The Leica M9-P Hammertone with Leica 28mm Elmarit-M ASPH f/2.8 and hammertone lens shade, price is listed to JPY 1,197,000 (ca. 15,000 $) for the set, and sold out in few days. See a real-life Leica M9-P Hammerthorne in use in Tokyo on the Leica M9 review page 15.
Steve McCurry first to recieve Leica Hall of Fame Award
September 1, 2011 Leica Camera AG named their first awardee of the Leica Hall of Fame Award, Steve McCurry. The price was a Leica M9-P with his signature engraved. His probably most famous photograph is the "Afghan girl" Sharbat Gula, a photograph that was taken in 1984. "More than almost anyone else, Steve McCurry has recorded the terrible consequences of war and persecution and has thus had decisive influence on our perception of world affairs for decades. For his work, he deserves our thanks and recognition," was the words of Andreas Kaufmann when he handed over the award.
The award will be awarded in the future whenever Leica Camera AG feel somebody deserve it.
Leica D-Lux 5 Titanium
October 19, 2011: Leica Camera AG announced the Leica D-Lux 5 Titanium. To most this may seem as an innocent event, but it seem to be no secret that in the past - before the M9 and S2 fever - Leica Camera AG wouldn't be existing without the sweet income from the small cameras. That these still sell well may be illustrated by the fact that when I visited one of the two small Leica Store Hong Kong in November 2011, they had sold 20 of those new D-Lux 5 Titanium in just the first 6 hours of that day.
When I visited a large Broadway camera store in New York in August 2011, the owner told me that he sold more Leica D-Lux 5 than the Fuji X100 (which he happened to have in stock).
Blackstone invests in Leica Camera AG
October 20, 2011: Leica Camera AG announced in a press release that a minority, 44%, of the stocks had been sold to Blackstone so as to finance future expansion around the world. The guess is that Dr. Andreas Kaufmann (via acm Projektenwicklung GmbH) originally bought 95% of Leica Camera AG for approximately 60 million Euro, and that the 44% of the minority stocks was sold for 130 million Euro. In between a considerable amount has been invested in R&D, epansion of the factory facilities and new Leica Stores around the world (though most likely financed by external sources and not by Andreas Kaufmann via acm Projektenwicklung GmbH).
The buying of Leica Camera AG was originally done by Andreas Kaufmann and his two brothers, but seemingly they were not as interested in Leica as Andreas Kaufmann, why they wanted to place some of their investments elsewhere. Hence they had to be bought out.
Andreas Kaufmann have told in interviews that his 'overnight fortune' from the family had to be used to develop something that made sense and moved things forward. He could not live with just inveting in papers. Seen in the mirror, he has taken that responsibility to forward original ideas quite serious - and made good business in doing so.
Big Leica: Artist Anat Ronen did this Leica M2 wall painting on November 2011 in Florida.
December, 2011: Leica Camera AG started delivery of the 30mm Leica Elmarit-S ASPH f/2.8 for the Leica S2 medium format camera. The LFI (Leica Fotografie International) 08/2011 brought a test and article about the new lens.
The LFI (Leica Fotografie International) 08/2011 brings a test and article about the new 30mm Leica Elmarit-S ASPH f/2.8 lens.
Paul Smith and Leica
Paul Smith and Leica Camera AG limited edition Leica D-Lux 5 leather cases for Christmas 2011.
December 2011: The Leica Store Mayfair in London as well as the Paul Smith stores in London will started offering these two limited edition Leica D-Lux 5 leather cases for approx 200 Pounds. Only 150 of each available.
January 2012 the first RED EPIC users started playing around with the Leica adapters that will enable RED EPIC video cameras to take Leica R and Leica M lenses. As if it wasn't hard enought to get Leica M lenses, this won't make it easier. And the R lenses that seemed to have dropped a little in price are likely to go op again, especially on the more exotic ones that are suitable for video.
The Leica R to EPIC RED converter. A similar exist for Leica M lenses to be mounted onto RED EPIC.
RED EPIC with the worlds best zoom, the Leica 35-70mm Vario-Elmarit-R ASPH f/2.8 that only 200 has been produced of (second-hand price ca. 10,000$)
Leica introduced a collaboration between Leica Camera AG and "Facing Change: Documenting America" (FCDA)
FCDA was founded in 2009 by the Pulitzer Prize-winning photographers Lucian Perkins and Anthony Suau and is a non-profit collective of dedicated photographers and writers producing and publishing collections on under-reported aspects of America's most urgent issues, while highlighting the efforts of individuals and organisations working to affect positive change. The project involve photographers like David Burnett, Alan Chin, Debbie Fleming Caffery, Danny Wilcox Frazier, Stanley Greene, Brenda Ann Kenneally, Andrew Lichtenstein, Carlos Javier Ortiz, Lucian Perkins and Anthony Suau. For more, see www.facingchange.org
Facing Change: Documenting America - Debbie Fleming Caffery: "There is a lot of lazy-ass photographers out there not doing anything. You know, just driving by, taking a picture. Walking out in the middle of the street, taking a picture and they think they have a masterpiece. My advice to them is really to get into a project, spend a lot of time in it and if it's people, get to know the people. If it is a landscape, get to know the landscape. Just get emotionally involved somehow."
Ernst Letiz II [1871-1956] was posthumosly awarded the Courage to Care Award by the ADL (Anti-Defamation League) for the efforts the factory and Leitz family did, saving 200-300 jews and their families during World War II by "employing" them and send them to the US (see next page for more on The Freedom Train"). During the Holocaust, the family who owned Leica, the Leitz family, secretly gave German Jews who would be killed by the Nazis a camera and a ticket to America, thus saving lots of lives.
The Leica 3B camera is often referred to as the "Freedom Camera" because it was given to German Jews so they could sell it for money once the got to America.
Kurt Enfield was one of the jews saved by Leitz and who later served as photographer in the US Army.
White Leica M9-P Limited Edition
Yet another limited edition of Leica M9-P has been presented in Tokyo. Only 50 samples of the white Leica M9-P in silver with white leather and white leather strap will be produced. The camera features something very special in that it has the Leica 50mm Noctilux-M ASPH f/0.95 in silver. So far we thought there would only ever exist the 20 bayonet mount and 20 screw mount that Leica Shop in Vienna had made in 2011. But now there will be 70 byonet silver Noctilux lenses around (and the prices of the 20 made last year for Leica Shop in Vienna had reached astronomic price levels).
Leica Store Washington
April 1, 2012: Leica Store Washington opened as the newest official Leica Store. Till now Leica Camera AG have also opened 54 in-store Leica boutiques inside authorized dealers, as in for example inside the fotoREISEL in Sydney.
The New Leica M Monochrom "Henri"
A new digital rangefinder aimed at taking over film photography
May 10, 2012 in Berlin: Leica Camera AG announced a new Leica M Monochrom camera based on the body of the Leica M9 and Leica M9-P but with a new developled black and white sensor. There had been rimors that Leica Camera AG was working on a new camera with the name "Henri" named after Henri Cartier Bresson. A more basic camera, and if one listened well, Andreas Kaufmann had aired a drem of making a camera and sensor that would outcompete film cameras.
This camera was the Leica M that basically is a Leica M9 where the sensor is stripped for the color filters. This makes the camera 1 stop more light sensitive (hence the base ISO of the sensor is 1 stop faster, 320 ISO), and the sensors allocated to capture RGB colors (Red, Green and Blue) would now capture simplu light (hence the images are much more detailed; in many ways the 18MP sensor behaves as a 37MP when the images are printed very large), and as a small revolution, the black & white files would be DNG files.
Peter Turnley is a traditional Leica M film photographer that turned to the Leica M Monochrom. Photo above is one of his classic film photographs, from the book "French Kiss".
The outer of the Leica M Monochrom was very much based on the Leica M9-P without any logo, but in a very subtle matt black paint and discrete leather covering. The Leica M Monochrom since the launch in Berlin has become the preferred camera for photographers like Peter Turnley and Jan Grarup and has turned out to form a new market if minimalistic Leica M users: Some incorporate the camera as yet a Leica M camera and use it alongside their color Leica M rangefinder, but quite a few sold everything else and went with the Leica M Monochrom - often with classic Leica lenses such as the Leica 50mm Summicron-M f/2.0 frm the 60s mixed with some yellow, gren and orange filters. A new generation of 'film users gone digital', just as Andreas Kaufman wanted and postulated with the Leica M Monochrom.
As expected the introduction of Leica M10 was not presented. But as Dr. Kaufmann said, the event in Berlin on May 10 was planned so as to get some of the many new products of 2012 launched. Because at Photokina there would be even more ...
But then, as he said, there was one more thing:
Leica M9 Hermès Limited Edition
May 10, 2012: Also in Berlin, Leica Camera AG presented a limited edition Leica M9-P Hermès that represented a re-design Leica M9-P by Audi designe Walter de'Silvar. The Hermès comes in two editions:
One set of the Leica M9-P Hermès has been sold out for a long time, that is the one that comes with a a limited edition Hermes Camera Bag and three redesigned lenses in silver that have redesigned lens barrels with Hermès-orange numbers: Leica 50mm Noctilux-M ASPH f/0.95, Leica 28mm Summicron ASPH f/2.0 and Leica 90mm APO-Summicron-M ASPH f/2.0.
The smaller set conist of the camera and a Leica 50mm Summilux-M ASPH f/1.4.
As can be seen, the body of the Leica M9-P Hermes Edition has been remodeled by Walter de'Silva. More interestingly the lenses has also been redesigned as well so these limited edition lenses (100 pcs. Noctilux, 100 28mm pcs. Summicron and 400 pcs 50mm Summilux-M ASPH) are quite unique with a different lens barrel design and Hermes orange numbers on the distance in feet, not to mention silver lens shades.
May 17, 2012: The ever-expanding "Leica Embassy of London", the Leica Store Mayfair announced the opening of the Café Optik serive- and hangout-place for customers, as well as a Leica S daylight studio dedicated Leica S shootings (can be rented and is complete with make-up rooms, flash setup, S-experts and all by sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org ).
Leica Store Mayfair now includes a daylight studio exclusively for Leica S users, as well as a café with fresh coffee, second-hand equpment and a sercice center.
Leica Store Mayfair in London is expanding to three buildings, including this Café Optik that serves coffee and offers second-hand and demo used Leica equipment.
September 18-23: Photokina is in Cologne, German every second year and Leica had their release party on the evening of September 17 where they pesented the new Leica S (aka Leica S3), the Leica M 240 (aka Leica M10) and Leica ME (the rebranded Leica M9 with lower price tag). Also the Leuca D-Lux 6 and an a la carte program for Leica X was presented (making the Leica X avaqilable in many colors).
The Photokina 2012 pre-opening event at Leica Camera AG, September 17, 2012. Leica M9 with Leica 50mm Noctilux-M f/1.0
Leica Camera AG have also rented the whole Hall 1 at Photokina for a photo and camera exhibition. Just to set the entrance to Photokina straight ...
A Special Edition Paul Smith Leica X2 was also presented at the Photokina 2012 (alongside the new Leica X2 cameras you can get custom made in many bright colors). In this video the camea is presented, then stolen by american acresss Joy Villa from the Leica Starhill Gallery and Leica Boutique in Kaula Lumpur, Malaysia. (iPhone video by Thorsten Overgaard, December 2012)
Interview with product manager Stefan Daniel on the floor of his office about the new Leica M 240
September 20: On the third day of Photokina 2012 I met with overall product manager of Leica Camera AG Stefan Daniel who supposedly was born in the Leica factory ... or was he?
The video was the first longer interview about the features of the new Leica M 240 and answered quite a few questions about the new sensor, Live view and other features. I had flown in from New York to visit Photokina for three days, then back to Washington. I wanted to do the interview on the floor beacuse everybody at Photokina had worked so hard, and I was also sort of ready to lay down:
Scaling production facilities, stabilizing
the income and dealing with some unforseen problems
Consolidaing: After two years (2010-2011) with major expansion (in 2011 the sale raised 57% and the consolidated income grew to tenfold $ 45 million), year 2012 is estimated to end with a 10% increease in sale, simply because the production facilities could not output more. As an example, there is a two year waiting list on the Leica 90mm Summicron-M ASPH f/2.0 lens. So 2013 will be the year where Leica Camera AG will be expanding the production facilities, with the help from Blackstone Group LP who took an indirect 44% ownership in 2012.
The problems with delivering the Leica M 240 became more obvious than ever in March and April of 2013 simply by the fact that very few cameras left the factory. The history of the Leica M 240 was that it was introduced at Photokina in September 2012 were ample prototypes available for guest to try out. But no final production sample cameras.
"Dr. Kaufmann, the Leica M 240 have turned out to be a little more troublesome than I had originally expected." (Dr. Oskar Barnack in his office)
Leica M 240 shipping in small numbers
Whilst the new Leica M-E was available right after the Photokina introduction, the Leica M 240 was to bedelivered in "early 2013". I spoke with product manager Stefan Daniel in January 2013 where he said they wanted to build up a large enough stock to deliver to all dealers. "We don't want to start shipping just 50 cameras," as he stated. His estimate was that the Leica M 240 would start shipping in "end of April". When the camera actually started shipping March 1, 2013 it looked promising. At least till eager customers realized that the camera shipped in very limited numbers... The delievery of the Leica M 240 didn't catch up till and of 2013, and in January 2014 the camera was - sort of - available as stock in many stores around the world.
Leica 50mm APO-Summicron-M ASPH f/2.0 recall
In the end of 2013 Leica had to issue a recall of the Leica 50mm APO-Summicron-M ASPH f/2.0 they had launched at Photokina 2012. Not that very many lenses had shipped. The lens was supposed to be shipping few weeks after Photokina, but Leica Camera AG kept tunning into unforseen problems. And whilst they were still fighting with the problems of making the lens, users started reporting about flares and fog inside he rawther expensive lens. Hence Leica issued a reacall, and finally in January 2014 said they had put further production to a hold till they had figured out the reason (for the coating to - in some but not all cases - cause flare and/or fog inside the lens.
March 2013: The rather discrete factory in Portugal was - likewise the one in Germany - replaced with a complete new factory, and this one opened fully operational in March 2013, celebrating 40 years of Leica manufaturing in Portugal..
The Portugal factory (Leica Aparelhos Opticos de Precisão SA) origin from when Leica Camera AG bought a bankrupt precision watch factory in 1973 and made it their Portugal factory. Today the CEO of Leica Portugal is Pedro Oliveira and the general manager is Dr. Carlos Mira.
The 52,000 m2 Leica factory in portugal currently employs 750 people and will be expanding to somewhat 2,500 employees in the coming years. Almost every Leica lens, the Leica S and Leica M 240 camera is made from raw metal in the Portugal factility, then shipped to Germany for final assembly, adjustment and quality control.
It's part of the story to understand that "Made in Portugal" is not necessairly a downgrade. The original establishment of the Portugal facility was not to move productin to Portugal, but to take over a complete and working facility that could produce to the high standard of Leica. A task the coorporation with Minolta years earlier had shown was not an easy one. In Portugal Leica Camera AG found a culture used to and capable of presicion assembly, and made it theirs.
Speaking of which: The Leica 75mm Summilux-M f/1.4 exist as both "Made in Canada" and "Made in Wetzlar", and generally the German version is the most sought after, and most expensive. What most people who buy this lens (that is only available second-hand and have gone to hights of $6,000) fail to recignize is that the "Made in Canada" lense are often the best. The designer of this and many other classic Leica lenses, Walter Mandler, was actually running the Canada factory. So that put "Made in Germany" versus "Made Elsewhere" in perspective ...
A video from the opening of the new Leica factory in Portugal, attended by the prime minister:
May 17, 2013: The owner of the majority of Leica Camera AG, the Austrian based holding company ACM Projektentwicklung (Andreas Kaufmann) acquired 25.1% of the on-line photo competition I-SHOT-IT.COM that was founded by Hartmut Hennige in September 2010. Ohter investors are Matthias Frei of Zurich. I have been the judge in the competition since it started in 2010. Link to press release.
The Mini M Incident
June 11 2013: After the highly succesful viral campaign prior to the Leica M9 release in 2009, someone tried to repeat the success with a campaign for "The Mini M" which - probably to their full satisfaction - created a roar of expectations in the Leica community.
However, if one started reading the blogs and forums to see what the users expected to be able to buy, it was far from the product Leica Camera AG was in fact planning on releasing.
The clash between the expected and the actual "Mini M" became obvious on June 11, 2013 when Leica Camera AG released the compact camera. Not a Leica M, and cetainly not a Leica Mini M, but a Leica X compact camera with a zoom.
If internet forums could kill, this day would have marked the end of Leica!
I address the Leica X Vario a little in my Leica Digilux 2 article. Else I recommend looking at the sample pictures and intitial article Jono Slack have done here after having had the camera for betatest since December 2012.
The viral campaign that Leica launched on their website and on their Facebook page for the Leica Mini M that turned out to be a Leica X Vario will most likely go over in history as a very effective campaign, with a lot of wrong speculations and a lot of disappointed users. Reason being that a Leica Mini M addresses the Leica M audience, whereas the Leica X Vario addresses another group. Hence the campaign created a great impact on a target group that is unlikely to actual buy the camera, whereas the ones that will actually buy the camera was unlikely to have heard about it before they stepped into a camera store and ask for a camera to take with them on holiday. We learned "not to mess with the M", Leica Camera AG said after the campaign.
Admiring a print in the Leica Store Los Angeles. People pop in throughout the day to talk, have a coffee, show their pictures and try out new Leica stuff. February 2014. Leica M 240 with Leica 50mm Noctilux-M ASPH f/0.95. Thorsten Overgaard @ 2014
A new era of Leica Stores: Leica Store Los Angeles
The Leica Store Ginza in Tokyo was the first Leica Store, and set a quite high standard for how a Leica Store should present the brand. Largely made by use of the most exclusive materials and with no shortcuts, by Japanese designers and the store manager Shiyo Takahashi (who used to be with Hermès), the store might have been a little hard to follow by German designers and the folks at Leica Camera AG when they rolled out the concept in a growing number of new cities in the years to follow.
With the new Leica Store Los Angeles om 8783 Beverly Blvd., West Hollywood, CA 90048 that opened on June 20, 2013 the bar for how a Leica Store can look, have been raised. The subtle admiration Leica Camera AG has for Apple and their Apple Stores is obvious in the spacious new store that features a large store space, a bright gallery with workshop spaces, as well as a distinct link to the art world with the large stainless "Fake Leica" sculpture by Liao Yibai (Expect the art to play a larger role in relation to Leica Camera AG in the future, not only in the form of Leica Galleries).
The spacious Leica Gallery Los Angeles on the 1st floor includes a library and a nice open atrium/event space.
The Leica Store Los Angeles was so grand that it seemed impossible to make it profitable, but as it has happened before, bold moves by Leica Camera AG have turned out to be unexpected profitable. Soon after the opening of the Leica Store Los Angeles, the location became popular as a film location as well as for special events. It's a nice space, and being associated with Leica and Made in Germany is a new intersting possibility for eventmakers in Hollywood.
December 2013. The beautiful large Leica Store Los Angeles (here with the Astrid Kirchherr Beatles exhibit on show) has grown to become not just a Leica home in Los Angeles. It is also used for events and filming. Recently a film crew was filming George Clooney in the store. In other words, you never know who you might stumble into at Leica Store Los Angeles. Photo: Leica Store Los Angeles.
A zen moment in the Leica Store Los Angeles. The open atrium on 1st floor for those who need a cigarette while considering which lens to get next. Thorsten Overgaard, Fbeuary 2014.
Camera Fashion Statement
September 2013: New Leica C-Lux with WiFi. Already in a Bloomberg interview in December 2012, CEO of Leica Camera AG, Alfred Schopf, mentioned that "Leica will introduce Social Media capabilities in cameras in the future". In September 2013 Leica introduced that camera, the new Leica C-Lux. Specially designed for women (but unisex if you want it to be), with clutch, handbag and more. But also with WiFi that allow the user to remote control the camera, use it as a surveillance camera controlled by your iPhone via WiFi and post images directly from camrea to social media.
A step that, if one consider it, will give some interesting new features in the future Leica M digital rangefinders and Leica S medium format cameras. It is also notable that in times where camera manufacturers mainly compete on megapixels and features, Leica Camera AG come up with a camera that - besides the fact that it has a Leica lens and a red Leica dot on it - comes with a complete cosmetic kit of bags and purses, as well as technology on the forefront. It's a sign.
Leica C camera inside a Leica clutch, designed by Audi.Introduced in a video with Swizz fashion blogger Yvan Rodic whom everybody who has ever been to a fashion week anyewhere, have see on first row and on the streets capturing street fashion for his blog facehunter.org.
Leica M 240 (RED)
October 8, 2013: Leica Camera AG presented photos of the Leica M 240 (RED) designed by Apple designer Jonathan Ive and Marc Newton. A one-off camera to be sold for charity in November 2013.
Jonathan Ive and Marc Newton spent nine months on that Leica project and the process involved an astounding 947 different prototype parts and 561 different models before the design was completed. Jonathan Ive to Vanity Fair: “I found it a very odd and unusual thing to put this amount of love and energy into one thing, where you are only going to make one. But isn’t it beautiful?”. Marc Newton added, "You discover that very few people have the level of perfection we do. It is actually very sick”. Photo: Annie Leibovitz for Vanity Fair.
It is a one-of-a-kind limited edition, only one piece produced to support Bono's (RED) project. On November 23 it was sold for $1,805,000 at the RED auchtion at Sotheby's. It is likely that Apple and Leica Camera AG each spent much more deveoping the camera.
It is not very likely that the camera will be used that much. It will be a collectors item mainly for someone who value Leica, Apple designer Jonathan Ive and supporting a good cause. But Apart from the obvious PR and test-coorporation between Leica and Apple, some of the features we may see used in future Leica M models. Just as it wss the case with the Leica M9 Titanium designed by Audi. For example the bottom plate with the new design of the release mechanism. Or perhaps the shutter speed wheel on top of the camera. And who knows what's inside?
The Leica C lenses for moviemaking have been in the horizon since Photokina 2010, but delivery is occuring now. The set is sold in a case with six lenses, and only as a set. The expensive Summilux set is $200,000, the less expensive is the $100,000 set.
Leica in Asia has been exploding under the ownership of Andreas Kaufmann and the management of CEO of Leica Camera Pacific Asia Pte. Ltd., Sunil Kaul. No less than nine new Leica Strores in Asia in 2013, inceased sale in all countires of Asia, and Leica taking over the distribution in Australia from an agent to running things them self.
It is a common misunderstanding that "Chinese buys all the Leica cameras and lenses" becasue fact is that somewhat 75% of Leica cameas are sold in the US. And the market structure in Asia is more detailed than that: To give an idea, many people in Hong Kong buy their cameras from Europe. The Chinese buy from Hong Kong and Singapore and elsewhere. The store in Shanghai rarely have stock, so nobody really know who buys in China. And European dealers does parallel import into Hong Kong where the demand for rare limited editions and second-hand collectors items seems unlimited (why the prices are high). Japan have experienced a period after the tsunami where the Yen was so high that even the Japanese users would buy from elsewhere - though by the end of 2013 the Yen was stabilized, and so was the Leica prices.
But, point is, it's never as simple as it looks. And don't blame the Chinese, the problem is rather that Leica Camera have experienced extreme growth in denamd since the presentation of the Leica M9 in 2009.
October 14, 2013: Leica Store ribbon cutting in Beijing, China. Far left is CEO of Leica Camera Pacific Asia Pte. Ltd., Sunil Kaul and number fourth from left is CEO of Leica Camera AG, Alfred Schopf.
Large Format History: Sinar bought by Leica Camera AG
December 1, 2013:Leica Camera AG announced that they had bought the worlds leading producer of large-format camerasSinar Photography. Already on December 12, Sinar announced that they now present theSinar p MF-L that takes Leica S body and adds Sinar front to it.
Ansel Adams did not use Sinar, but he looks incredible stylish in this photo with his non-Sinar 4x5" camera.
With the Leica S medium format camera introduction a few years ago, Leica Camera AG had to build up a new organization from the ground, consisting to a large degree of former Hasselblad, Capture One and Mamiya Leaf staff in order to address the medium format market.
The acquisition of Sinar could be seen as an expansion of offers to this segment of professional photographers - many of them working in a studio and thus very different from the Leica M users.
The acqusition of Sinar also gives Leica access to Swiss staff with a different culture and a client base of professionals tudio photographers. Not to mention that Sinar have workflow software and color calibrators that - with some adjustments - might be used under the Leica brand as well.
2014 - The Year of New Leica Camera AG Version 100
Celebrating the 100th year home on my kitchen table, a Leica Oskar Barnack Series 0 Rangefinder Camera case and my Leica leather calendar (a gift from Leica Korea).
January 21, 2014: This day marked the 100th year of the Leica M camera that started out as just two prototypes in 1914 (as described in the top of this page).
The year 2014 is the anniversary year, hence Leica Camera AG did not celebrate the day in any other special way then issuing a press release. For my part, I participated in the celebrations by having my Leica M 240 and my 50mm Noctilux staying at the factory in Solms being adjusted after a year of heavy use.
The actual celebration of the 10tth anniversary of Leica M and Leica Camera AG as a still camera manufacturer will likely take place in two significant events of 2014, the official opening of the new Leica Camera AG factory in Letiz park in Wetzlarer in May, and at Photokina 2014 in September.
Likely, those events will also be the occasion to feature a new Leica M Monochrom as well as limited editions of the Leica M 240.
The New Leica Factory in Leitz Park, Wetzlar
Leica Camera AG officially started building the new headquarter in Wetzlarer on April 28, 2012. Due to the state of the world the plans of building the new factory had been paused for a couple of years after that the first buildings of Leitz Park had been completed (and occupied by sumsuppliers to Leica Camera AG and with tight relations to Andreas Kaufmann).
If one imagine an industrial park with a number of companies that are separate, but related in building and distributing Leicas, then that is probably close to the ideal scene of the Leitz Park that is in the outskirts of the already existing industrial area of Wetzlar. One may see one new Leica factory, but the other buildings that has been there for some years, are related, though not Leica Camera AG.
The Kaufmann-owned companies Viaoptic GmbH (molded optics, gears, lens assembly), CW-Sonderoptik GmbH (Leica Cine lenses) and Weller (founded by Uwe Weller in 1994 when Weller took over the machining division from Leica Camera AG, Dr. Kaufmann is Chairman of the Advisory Board) have been producing from the Leitz Park complex since 2009.
Leica Camera AG had been planning to add an additional factory to their existing since 2008, The building was originally planned to finish in spring 2011 but the building project was paused when the "global finance crisis" sat in.
Wetzlar is the place where Leica Camera AG originated, but it is also a slightly larger city than Solms that Leica Camera AG moved to in the 80s when the Leica business was separated. Interestingly, the camera division with its 1,000 staff was just 1/10th of the Leica brand back then - but when one say Leica, it's the cameras people think of.
The future development of the Leica Camera AG presence in Wetzlar may be a Leica World combining Leica, photography with art and and design. To begin with, the new building will feature a Leica Store Wetzlar, a Leica Gallery Wetzlar and of course the factory with production, research & development and Cutomer Service when it opens official in May 2014. The department staffs of Leica Camera AG in Solms have know for more han a year where and how they would fit into the new building, and the actual moving to the new building will happen over several months between January and May 2014.
The Leica factory as it looked in June 2011 when the building had been paused for a souple of years. In the background the two existing buildings with
the Leica sub-suppliers Viaoptic, CW-Sonderoptik and Weller in full swing, employing approximately 250 persons. Photo: Thorsten Overgaard June 2011.
New Leica Store in London
Leica in London have grown an impressive Leica empire over the last few years. First one building, then one more ont he other side of the street on Bruton Place (and they are not done yet). Now they expand the empire a a couple of thousand meters with a Leica Store in the historic location, Burlington Arcade, a shopping street with a ceiling over, from when the upper class had a need to shop in privacy.
London will soon see a new fully renovated Leica Store in the Burlington Arcade. The store was taken over in December 2013 and set up as a pop-up store but will be closed for complete renovation in early 2014.
According to rumors, 2014 will present many new Leica Stores, in many placs, amongst them Japan and Australia.
To be continued ...
The continued production of Leica M7 and Leica MP
Contrary to rumors, the Leica MP and Leica M7 film cameras are still being produced in 2010. They sell all over the world, though the Asian market seem to snap up the majority. If one revisit the Leica Camera AG website and take a look at the Leica M7 and Leica MP, one will see a classic design that is easily to fall in love with. And the prices are almost cheap, compared to the digital rangefinder Leica M9...
In April 2009 the film below was made of the assembling of the Leica M7 and Leica MP film cameras:
Click to watch the film from April 2009 from the Leica factory where one can see the Leica M7 and Leica MP film cameras being assembled (even in this digital age).
Dr. Andreas Kaufmann [born 1954]
Dr. Andreas Kaufmann:
First he bought a Canon PowerShot in 1999, then a Leica in 2003, then the entire Leica factory.
Dr. Andreas Kaufmann, a wealthy photography aficionado of Salzburg, Austria, took over Leica step by step from 2004-2006 with the intention of rescuing the company. Dr. Andreas Kaufmann is not the typical capitalist: He helped found Germany's environmental Green party in 1979, have been demonstraing against neuclear power, and taught history and German for 15 years at a Stuttgart school that follows the Waldorf model (derived from Rudolf Steiner).
In 2004, he took a small stake in Leica (via acm Projektenwicklung GmbH), raising it in steps to 96.5% by 2006 and 97.5% by 2010. The rest of the shares are publicly traded on the Frankfurt exchange. His fortune is estimated in the hundreds of millions of Euro and derives from a family owned pulp and paper company his family owned and managed for 101 years. The company acm Projektenwicklung GmbH is the company of the three brothers Andreas, Christian and Michael Kaufmann. In 2004 they sold the stocks in the family business since 1903, Zellstoff Frantschach AG to Mondi in London.
Kaufmann is probably more visionary than most can imagine. Either he saw which unpolished diamond of engineering know-how and unused lens and glass technology Leica Camer AG was hiding, or he was just lucky to buy a factory with a lot more potential than anyone knew was there. In any case, he doesn't seem to rest on the laurels and has the will and the economical power to push the development further than anyone ever imagined possible.
Read this story on Andreas Kaufmann and Leiac Camera AG in the Ernst & Young magazine.
"The Japanese camera producers have started to copy Leica, again. That is a good sign, I think." - Dr. Andreas Kaufmann, September 2010 (referring to the Fuji X100 inspired by the Leica X1)
"The Leica is a tool for developing creativity,
in the way that you can create things a little bit different.
If you have the intention of becoming an artist – or are an artist – Leica helps you." - Dr. Andreas Kaufmann, January 2013
Photo: David Farkas 2008
Stefan Daniel, Director of Product Management and overall responsible for the development of the Leica M9. He has been with Leica since he was 16 years old (that is 25+ years now). He started as an apprentice in the machine shop when he was just 16 years old, and has now worked his way up to manage Leica's largest product family.
"There is no reason to mention in the camerea specifications what is not there" - Stefan Daniel at Photokina 2012
about why the specifications of the Leica M does not mention the AA filter. See video interview.
People who move the limits of technology
Max Berek, Gustav Kleinberg, Otto Zimmermann, Walter Mandler, Ernst Pausch, Horst Haseneier, Walter Kluck, Erich Wagner, Helmut Hildebrandt, Henry Weimer, Andre de Winter (an important Expert for mechanical Design), Ludwig Schauss, Helmut Marx, Paul Sindel, Lothar Köelsch, Iain Neil, Walter Watz, Michael Heiden, Jan Schroeder and Peter Karbe are some of the names there would be in the Leitz and Leica hall of fame if one such existed for Leica engineers and developers through the times. Here are a little more history about some of them:
Professor Dr. Max Berek
Professor Dr. Max Berek [1886-1949]
Max Berek was the architect of the first Leica lens which Ernst Leitz asked him to design for the "Barnack's camera." The lens was a f/3.5 50mm and was known as the Leitz Anstigmat and later the Elmax [Ernst Leitz Max Berek]. Five elements [with the last three elements in one group] helped to give the lens and outstanding performance which, according to Leica lens expert Erwin Puts, would result in an outstanding MTF measurement if done today.
He was employed at Leica in 1912 after he had finished his studies in mathematics and mineralogy in Berlin. He later won world fame for his inventions in the area of polarization-microscopy; the Brek compensator and the formula to compute depth of field of microscopic vision which are still in use today.
During the war, he was stripped of his doctor title by the government because he refused to corporate with the Nazi Party. After the war his status as a doctor was reestablished. He worked at Leica till his death in 1949.
Dr. Walter Mandler [1922-2005]
Was a famous lens designer of Ernst Leitz Canada at Midland, Ontario. Walter Mandler dominated the optical development within Leitz from about 1950 till about 1985. He was 'wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter' (science assistant) in the department of Max Berek and had intimate knowledge of the challenges and problems associated with the lenses for the small Leica format. When Leitz decided to set up a new company in Canada, he was asked to structure and manage the optical department there. Already in the fifties, the Leitz designers recognized the fundamental problems of small format and high-speed lenses and on both sides of the Atlantic solutions were created. In Wetzlar it was professor Marx who explored the first attempts of an aspherical design and in Midland it was Mandler who sought the service of the computer to speed up the design process. The period from 1950 to 1970 was one of the most exciting periods for optical designers as new approaches and insights could be explored without cost considerations, because of intense competition.
Dr. Walter Mandler
Dr. Walter Mandler was the father of legendary lenses such as the 50mm Noctilux-M f1.0 (designed 1969), the 35mm Summilux-M f1.4 (designed 1958), the 75mm Summilux-M f1.4 (designed 1980), the 80mm Summilux-R f1.4 (designed 1980) and the 180mm APO-Telyt-R f3.4 (designed 1975). Also, one can guess he was the designer of the Elcan series (see next page) that came out of Leica Canada. He retired in 1985 but continued as an optical advisor for Leica for many years. For an overview of the Mandler designed lenses, see my Leica Lens Compendium.
New trend: Having a Mandler and a Karpe set of lenses
I often get qestions as to which lenses I can recommend, or which are the most famous Leica lenses. It's individual depending on your use and shooting style, but the Mandler lenses definitely has a "classic Leica look" that one will be able to recognize in the images of the 70ties in LIFE Magazine (by to name an example). It's an era of fashion and design and all, a certain film workflow in black and white - but on top of it all, it's also possible to recognize the shooting style of the Leica M as well the distinguished look of Leica lenses.
But with designer
Peter Karbe and that technology drive his lens designs has required, modern Leica lenses has that Leica look, but with more contrast, improved sharpness, micro details and color accuracy. And with a new type of bokeh (how the out-of-focus areas of an image looks). Some of the new lenses simply seem to "see more" details than the human eye. But it's a more crisp and alive look than the Mandler lenses. All due to pretty advanced lens design and applied technology, parted with the new workflow of digital (workflow; this is simply how you get images. In the old days your "workflow" might have been that when you used Kodal GoldII and sent those tolls into a certain photo shop for prints, you got a certain look. If you changed film or lab, you got a different look. Today your "workflow" is that you shoot in this or that quality on the camera, use Lightroom or Aperture for processing the files, publish the images in Flickr or do your own print. That is what a "workflow" is).
In any case, and to make the point I was aiming to make: One should consider both the Mandler and the Karbe look. The Mandler was and is great, but the Karpe is today's look and - in my opinion - not only defines the new look of Leica but also utilizes the advantages all new technologies from glass design, optical design (made possible by new advanced machines with near-to-zero tolerances in grinding glasses), as well as the ruthless detailed look made possible via digital sensors and 100% enlargments on computer screens. So get a set og Mandler lenses, and get a set of Karpe lenses so as to utilize all you can from Leica.
Peter Karbe, head of Leica optics design, has worked on the 50mm Summilux-M ASPH f/1.4 (according to rumor, he worked the lens design for ten years, and in his spare time), 75mm Summicron-M ASPH f/2.0. As the head optics designer at Leica he has also had a great deal to do with the new Leica S lenses. Here's an excerpt from a talk David Farkas of Dale Photography in Hollywood had with Mr. Peter Karbe at Photokina in 2008: "Sitting with Peter you really get the feeling that these lenses are his children. Talk of certain lenses puts a small smile on his face and a glint in his eye. Then, he’ll go on about why it is special and unique. For instance, many know of his many years of work on the 50mm Summilux ASPH. He is extremely proud of this lens, pointing to the MTF-chart and exclaiming that wide open at f/1.4 it resolves 40lp at above 50%. He went into how he came up with the modified special double gauss design and how the back half of the lens is identical to the 35mm Summilux ASPH, while the front half is identical to the 50 Summicron. This was the secret to achieving such performance in a fast 50.
Then, he said that one Saturday morning over his first cup of coffee in his kitchen he thought about [Dr. Walter] Mandler. Apparently, after Mandler designed the Noctilux, he used the same design to build the 75 Summiux. And while Peter doesn't like the 75 Lux , he decided that he needed to design a 75 based on the 50 ASPH design. Shortly thereafter, keeping everything the same, except for removing one lens element in the first doublet behind the central ASPH element used to correct for aberrations caused at 1.4, he minted the design for the 75 APO Summicron ASPH.
I asked if the design was the same why the 75 was an APO lens and the 50 wasn’t. Here is a bit of a shocker… the 50 lux ASPH is an APO lens, containing an APO correction element. But, he thought the idea of an APO 50 was a bit silly so they never put it on the lens or in any marketing materials.
He really believes in revisiting the past for inspirations on the future. Peter said that he often thinks about what his predecessors from decades ago would do with today’s technology. This was his inspiration with the Summarits. Classic designs with a modern twist. He studies and claims (who would doubt him) that he is familiar with the designs of almost all of the Leica lenses made to date. He has his favorites as well as examples that were not so successful.
According to Peter, the great leaps in lens design were brought about by technological advances. The first was with new types of glass, then with coatings, followed by computer modeling, and now just recently, advances in mechanical design and manufacturing. This is why the S lenses and the new 21 Lux are as lightweight as they are. A lot of attention is now being paid by the design team to the manufacturing process. Karbe has organized small design teams in his fast-growing department to be more efficient and productive. An optics designer is paired with a mechanical designer and a production manager to develop the entire product, not just the optical path. Handling, feel, ease of manufacture, and consistency in quality control are equally important to imaging performance. Also, by using more shared designs and more common components, more lenses can be brought to market faster. The 35 and 50 Summarit. The 75 and the 90 Summarit. The new 21 Lux and 24 Lux are all examples of this. With the 21 and the 24, one designer did both lenses simultaneously as they are fundamentally the same optical formula.
Another interesting thing I learned was that Leica started using computer-aided modeling back in the 1960’s before anyone else. Since that time, they have had their own proprietary software (kept up to date, of course) based on calculations made at Leica over the last 100 years. He says this is one of Leica’s real advantages that no one can copy. The foundation of knowledge and expertise is handed down from each generation of lens designers to the next. The Leitz Glass Works has also been invaluable in learning about new formulations and the handling of exotic glass elements. These latest exotic glasses require a great deal of care in handling. Much like a piece of raw steel, this glass reacts adversely and rapidly with gasses in the air. They use a wet to wet to wet process in Solms, whereby the glass moves through the grinding, polishing and coating steps in one go, not spaced or binned. This is crucial to maintain the performance of these expensive elements which can cost more per ounce than pure silver.
We talked more about how the type of glass for certain lens elements are chosen and how, based on his experience, he just knows what effect this will have on aberrations. We discussed the trade-offs lens designers have to make and how MTF only tells part of the story."
"Aperture is only for depth of field, not light control." - Peter Karbe, September 2010 (on how to use the 50mm Noctilux-M ASPH f/0.95 lens)
Revival of a legend | Made in Germany. Report by Joanna Gottschalk, December 2012. Leica is forever. That motto was the brand’s selling point - and very nearly its downfall. After failing to keep pace with the digital revolution, in 2004 the German company almost went bankrupt. Then investor Andreas Kaufmann stepped in, and brought Leica back from the brink.
Users of Leica
Some of the famous users of Leica has been Aleksandr Rodchenko, André Kertész, Walker Evans, François-Marie Banier, Garry Winogrand, Ed Clark, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Annie Leibovitz, Ernest Hemingway (IIIf), Robert Capa (Endre Ernö Friedmann aka Frank Capa), Jan Grarup, Robert McNeely, Bruce Gilden, Eugene Smith, Robert Frank, Ilse Bing (Queen of the Leica), William Klein, Nobuyoshi Araki, Garry Winogrand, Inge Morath, Lee Friedlander, Sheikh Saud Al Thani, Leni Riefenstahl, President Dmitry Medvedev and Sebastião Salgado. To name a few.
The German entertainers, The Jacob Sisters holding a big Leica M in 1967.
The dummy camera made of wood by the way still exist in a collection in the USA.
Queen Elizabeth II used to use a silver Leiac M3 witn a Leica 50mm Summicron-M f/2.0 (Serial 15xxxxx) and also got a Leica M6 gifted from Leica Camera AG. She got the choice between a black and a silver Leica M6 and chooed the silver one with 50mm Summicron-M f/2.0
Other Leica users of fame is Bryan Adams, Seal, Annie Leibovitz, Lenny Kravitz, Eric Clapton, Miles Davis, Ann Curry, Chow Yun Fat, Katie Hoff, Scarlett Johansson, Brendan Fraser, Jeff Bridges, Brad Pitt, Brigitte Bardot, Charles Bronson, Andy Lau, Woody Allen, Jamie Cullum, Paris Hilton, Kanye West, Yul Brynner, Wim Wenders, Bruce Springsteen, Posh Spice ... the list goes on.
The famous head shot of Che Guevara, reproduced on millions of rebellious T-shirts and student walls: that was taken on a Leica with a portrait lens — a short telephoto of 90 mm — by Alberto Díaz Gutiérrez, better known as Korda, in 1960. As is the pearl-gray smile-cum-kiss reflected in the wing mirror of a car, taken by Elliott Erwitt in 1955.
Leica again, as is the even more celebrated smooch caught in Times Square on V-J Day, 1945 — a sailor craned over a nurse, bending her backward, her hand raised against his chest in polite half-protestation. The man behind the camera was Alfred Eisenstaedt, of Life magazin. He did 80 frontpages for LIFE magazine in his lifetime.
When the lost Beatles and lost Rollign Stones photographs emerged in 2010, it was thanks to their road manager from 1964-1967 Bob Bonis who always carried his Leica M3. How unbelieveable it might be, he was road manager for the hottest tickets back then .... and photographed them when they tried to fix their car that had broken down, when at the pool outside the hotel - and many other exclusive moments. All available as book and prints from NeverFadeAwayGallery.com.
Magnum Photos and Leica
As of 2011 Leica Camera AG and Magnum Photos International are collaborating to draw on their shared legacy; looking back to the iconic stories their relationship has produced and commissioning new work from the current generation of Magnum photographers. As can be seen in this Magnum in Motion video:
The famous photo of the "Napalm girl" by Huynh Cong 'Nick' Ut of Associated Press was taken on June 8, 1972 with his Leica M2 and Leica Summicron 35/2 on a Kodak 400 ISO B&W film.
The photo very much changed the view on the Vietnam war, though President Nixon doubted its authencity - he thought it might have been 'fixed'.
The 9-year old girl in the photo, Phan Th? Kim Phúc, survived her burnings from the napalm bombing after 14 months in the hospital. The photographer took her to the hospital before he delivered the film to AP. She later founded an organization to help children of war.
The image won the Pulizer Price.
From grandfather to grandson - A Leica M3
A sweet story unfolded as I met this 17 year photographer with his Leica M3 and a rare collectors kit in a bag, in Paris, September 2013. All was bought from new in the 50s by his grandfather and now handed over to the grandson. They are both equally thrilled to see the camera is still being used, thought the dream is to get a Leica M 240.
Vietnam photographer Larry Burrows Leica M4 picture from January 1966 of marines recovering a body comrade (girl to the right in the picture is Catherine LeRoy, the first woman photographer to win the Robert Capa Gold Medal Award (see below).
The famous Leica-user, Magnum photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson (1908-2004) photographed in New York in 1947 by fellow photographer Arnold Newman. http://www.henricartierbresson.org
Stanley Kubrick's (1928-1999) self-portrait with his Leica.
Don Hunstein with his Leica. Don is the master behind the famous cover for Freewheelin' Bob Dylan and many behind the scenes photos of musicians like Duke Ellington, Miles Davis and who else came by Columbia Records where Don worked for 30 years. His book of music photography "Keeping Time: The Photographs of Don Hunstein" is available at Amazon and elsewhere. Short video at BBC.
Miles Davis with his Leica on the cover of the Live at Newport 1958. In an 1976-interview by Sy Johnson available online here Miles talk about the Leica he got in Germany and how much he liked it. He said he had the clerk set the shutter speed and aperture at the store when he bought the camera and hadn't changed them since.
Seal is another big fan of Leica, with a private collection of 35+ Leica cameras that he uses at home, on tour and out and about. Follow his website and photo blog at seal.com
Mary Ellen Mark Self-portrait with Marlon Brando on the Set of “Apocalpyse Now” 1979
Lou Reed is known for his quote, "God should have a Leica". Here he is with his Leica M8 that he did quite a lot of infared photography with. Read an article about his photography and exhibitions here.
The well-used Leica M4 that belonged to Garry Winogrand (1928-1984). Read an interview of 1982 with him.
The Leica M3D that belonged to LIFE photographer David Douglas Duncan, also known for photographing Pablo Picasso through many years. The camera wa sold for 2.2 million dollars.
David Bowie 2003, by Ellen Von Unwerth
War photographer Jan Grarup with his Leica M Monochrom in Afghanistan, 2013. Multiple winner of World Press Photo Award, the Oskar Barnack Award the Danis Press Photographers Association yearly awards.
Danish Middle East correnspondent Lasse Jensen has been reporting from the Middle East for Danish television for more than 25 years. For his blog and him self he uses a Leica M9 and have used Leica M3, M6.
John Mayer with his film Leica M7. He has a few, a Leica M silver and Leica M9 in black.
The World Press Photo Award winner 2009 was taken with a Leica M6 TTL and 28mm by Anthony Suau. Above is a small video with him about winning the prize for the worlds finest press photograph of 2009, and shooting with his black Leica M6 TTL film camera and 28mm f/2.0 Summicron-M ASPH using a Voigtländer 28/35mm mini finder in the hotshoe.
He previously won the World PRess Photo Award in 1987 and a Pulitzer Prize in 1984 for
his photographs of the famine [hunger] in Ethiopia.
Alfred Eisenstadt, the LIFE photographer who did "The Kiss" and who also received a special edition Leica M3 serial no 1000001 from Leica Camera AG in 1960, re-fitted with gold plated parts in 1989. He originally owned and used 35/1.4, 90/2, 35/2.8 and a 65/3.5 with the camera. He also owned and used two Leicaflex SLR cameras and Telyt 200mm, 280mm and 400mm lenses.
Classic beauty meets classic beauty: Scarlett Johansson using her Leica M6 during filming in Spain of "Vicky Cristina Barcelona" with Woody Allen, June 2007 (unknown photographer; from a blog). Or, the camera might be Woody Allen's own as he is a Leica fan as well (and by the way received a honorary Leica M8.2 from Leica in 2008).
Another notable photos from "Vicky Cristina Barcelona," Penelope Cruz with her Leica (or Woody's or whatever).
Elvis Presley with his Leica (1968)
French born Catherine LeRoy (1944-2006) in Vietnam, the first woman photographer to win the Robert Capa Gold Medal Award.
Catherine LeRoy's image of Corpsman Vernon "Doc" Wike during the battle for Hill 881 in 1967 in Khe Sanh, Vietnam, and as a portrait years later in 2005. For more images, see the book Great Photographers and Writers in Vietnam.
Photographer Georgii Petrusov on the Red Square in Moscow, 1936. Photographed by Alexsandr Rodtschenko. The inserted image is the result of the work (which was sold at Sotherbys in 2008 as Gelantin silver print).
Annie Leibovitz with her Leica M6 she uses for assignments and for private family photos. She uses several cameras such as Hasselblad, Mamyia, Leica S2, Leica M6, Canon, Nikon - and no particlur brand (the famous John Lennon photo of him naked next to Yoko Ono, taken hours before his death, was a 6x6 shot). Photo from the 2008-documentary "Annie Leibovitz: Life Through a Lens" by Barbera Leibovitz
Brad Pitt is also, besides being interested in architecture and design, an enthusiastic photographer. One the above shot he's using a Leica R8 DMR but uses Leica M cameras as well. He did a very nice black and white series of his wife Angelina Jolie for W Magazine (November 2008 edition).
Brad Pitt with his film Leica.
Ralph Gibson with his Leica. He started his career as a photographer in the US Navy and later become assistant to Robert Frank before he set out for himself.
One of the reasons I always keep my Leica DMR digital back fully charged is the chance that model and photogarpher Lisa Snowdon may stand at my doorstep one day, asking if she could lend it for her Leica R9. She can, and a few lenses too.
Thorsten Overgaard, March 2005
January 25, 2014
Photo above: The Old City in Aarhus, Denmark, photographed by Thorsten Overgaard with Leica R8/DMR digital back and 19mm Elmarit-R f/2.8
LEItz CAmera = LEICA
Founded 1849 in Wetzlar, Germany. First as "Optical Institute" (1849), then "Ernst Leitz Optical Industry" (1869), Leica GmbH (1986), Leica Camera AG (1998).
Grandfather of 35mm photography
Leica invented the 24x36mm film format, the 35mm camera, the film enlarger for the darkroom (1920s), the flash shoe, the length of a roll film (with 36 pictures; this was how far Barnack could stretch his arms), auto focus lenses (in the 70s), the "reporter" film back (Leica 250 with 250 pictures in 1933), and more...
Thorsten von Overgaard is a Danish writer and photographer, specializing in portrait photography and documentary photography, known for writings about photography and as an educator.
Some photos are available as signed editions via galleries or onlline. For specific photography needs, contact Thorsten Overgaard via e-mail.