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The Leica History [a work in progress]
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The Leica History - Page 1 - Page 2 - Page 3 - Page 4
 
© 2009 Thorsten Overgaard - photographed with leica R8 DMR and 19mm Elmarit-R
   
 
   

The Grandfather of 35mm Photography

By: Thorsten Overgaard        Continues on Page 2 --->     Page 3 --->     Page 4 --->

 

  Oscar Barnack selfportrait ca. 1914
 
Oscar Barnack self portrait ca. 1914
   

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.

"Barnack's camera"

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, "Small negative, large picture", involving a small camera and an enlarger.

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.

 

"Barnack's camera," or the Ur-Leica
"Barnack's camera," "Barnacks apperatus", or the Ur-Leica as it is called, built by Oskar Barnack in 1912-1913. Other prototypes were made after this one, and finally a limited run of 31 Leica O Series in 1923 to test the waters. It was first really introduced to the market as Leica A at the 1925 spring fair in Leipzig, and then they sold 1,000 the first year.
The original camera (above) resides in a safe at Leica Camera AG. Probably only one (some say only two or three) were made, and this one was supposedly renovated after a fire. Photo: © 2012 Thorsten Overgaard.

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.

 

test shot done by Oscar Bannack ca. 1914 in the city of WetzlarA test shot done by Oscar Barnack ca. 1914 in the city of Wetzlar, using the Ur-Leica.

 

  Carl Kellner
  Carl Kellner

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 I senior
 
Ernst Leitz I (ca. 1917)
Photo: Oskar Barnack
   
  Ernst Leitz II junior
  Ernst Leitz II
   

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 [1871-1956]
Ernst Leitz II was partner in the business since 1906 and takes over after his fathers dead in 1920. When he decides to start production of the Leitz camera in 1924 there is 1,000-1,500 employees in the company.

Ernst Letiz II 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).

Ernst Leitz II was awarded the title honoarry citizen of Wetzlar in 1949. He built the house "Haus Friedwart" (now a tourist attraction) with his second wife Hedwig Wachsmuth [1877–1937] after his first wife, Elsie had died in 1910, leaving Ernst Leitz II alone with their three kids in his previous house, "Rosenberg" at Laufdorfer Weg 3.

Henri Cartier-Bresson was stayed in Haus Friedwart when he visited Wetzlar, and was a friend of the Leitz family and Ernst Leitz II's daughter of his first wife, Elsie Kühn-Leitz (1903-1985).


Ernst Leitz II took the miniature camera, the first Ur-Leica to New York and made this photo in Manhatten, 1914 or 1924.

 

Dr. Henri Dumur [1885–1977]
As Ernst Leitz I's eldest son Ludwig Leitz (who had taken care of the American arm of the business) had died in a riding accident in 1898, the Swiss grendnephew of Ernst Leitz, Henri Dumur, was imported to Wetzlar where he trained to become a manager. First as commercial director, later (during the World War II years) the managing director together with Ernst Leitz III. A Leica IIIf ’Henri Dumur’ model was dedicated to him.

 

The Leica IIIf "Henri Dumur" model
The Leica IIIf "Henri Dumur" model

 

Ernst Leitz III [1906-1979]
He joined the family business as an apprentice mechanic in 1924 (and studied physics in Berlin). When Ernst Leitz KG and Ernst Leitz GmbH were combined in 1930, the barely 24-year-old was appointed managing director, with Dr. Henri Dumur. He stayed as CEO till 1974 and then retired to be Vice Chairman of Ernst Leitz GmbH for another four years. He was a founding member of the CDU in Wetzlar in 1948 and was on the city council as well for a long time.
Considering how many cameras they made and sold during his period, it is amazing that no picture seem to exist of Ernst Leitz III.

 

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Timeline

The Ernst Leitz factory in Wetzlar, Germany
The Ernst Leitz Optical Industry factory buildings ca 1940 in Wetzlar, Germany. They were called the Leitz High-Rise Buildings I and II and was finsihed in 1935 and 1938, designed by Wetzlar architect Jean Emil Schmidt (who also designed both the 1907 facotory building and Ernst Leitz I's private villa up the hill at Laufdorfer Weg 6 in Wetzlar ... which Ernst's artistic sister Ella Bocks also had a hand in designing).
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 Museum which one can go visit to see their large collection of Leitz products.
(There is also a private Leitz Collection and Optical Museum in Bedford, Pennsylvania, USA)

 

 

  UR-Leica cameras

1849
Optical Institute was established by Carl Kellner (1826-1855).

1863
Ernst Leitz I Senoir joined the Optical Institute.

1865
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
Leitz had sold 100,000 microscopes, making the firm easily the biggest producer worldwide. They now began manufacturing of binoculars as well.

1914
Ernst Leica II takes patent on the Leica when visiting New York with the Ur-Leica.

1920
Ernst Leitz II
Junior takes over the company after his fathers dead.

1925
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 (and had actually manufatured 800 by the day it was presented).

1926
Leica presented Leica I number 2000 to Dr. Paul Wolff who later became a great ambassador for the Leica camera (see my article "Dr. Paul Wolff and the Leica").

1931
Curt Emmermann founded and wrote the first pioneering Leica magazine, "Die Leica" from 1931-1942 that was the forerunner of Leica Fotografie International that today is known as LFI.


"Die Leica" by Curt Emmermann. Legendary German magazine, 1931-1942. The above is a reprinted editon in 4 volumes from 1981.

 

1932
As a measure of the dominance of firstly Leica and secondly, the 35 mm film format, the Soviet government commence production of exact copies of the Leica II at the FED Commune, the first being produced in October 1932, six months after the release of the original Leica II.

1935
The Leica camera is now the most profitable department of the Leitz company.

1937
Leica-photographer Anton F. Baumann’s book "Das Farbige Leica Buch" was published by Knorr & Hirth in Munchen in 1937, the first book with colour plates engraved directly from 35mm transparencies. It was translated to English and published in 1938 as "The leica book in color".

1946
Leica no 400,000 was made.

1948
The Leica M bayonet is designed by Hugo Wehrenpfennig and patentet.

1949
Leica establishes the Leitz Glass Research Laboratory that existed till 1989. Amongst the things they worked with and developed was LaK 9 glass. The Leitz Glass Laboratory developed 35 new glasses from 50,000 experimental melts, making Noctilux, Summilux and other lenses possible.

 

  Dr. Ludwig Leitz II
 
Dr. Ludwig Leitz II was a sculptorer and the designer of the rangefinder in the Leica M3. He was also co-owbner of the company from 1956-1974.

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 (1906-1979), Dr. Ludwig Leitz II (1907-1992) and Günther Leitz (1914-1969) 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.

  Walter Kluck
  Walter Kluck

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
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 had lost the market in Russia after World War I. 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).

Leitz in Canada
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. Read more about Leica and Cine lenses in my article "The Leica Summilux-C and Leica Summicron-C Movie Primes"

 

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 Raytheon ELCAN.

 

Leica Microsystems
The original Leica building in the center of Wetzlar, Germany anno 2013, now housing only Leica Microsystems.


1954
The Leica M3 with the Leica M Bayonet is introduced to the market (model code IGEMO).

  Photo by Walter Sanders
  A man looking at the 800mm telephoto lens on exhibit at Photokina Fair in 1966. (Photo by Walter Sanders/Time Life Pictures/Getty Images)

1956
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.

1966
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!
1966 is also the year Leitz introduced the Leitz 50mm Noctilux-M f/1.2, which incorporated aspherical surfaces.

 

1966
Dr. Knut Kühn-Leitz (born 1936, grandson of Ernst Leitz II and son of Elsie Kühn-Leitz) joined Leica as executive assistant to Ernst Leitz III. He was instrumental in the cooporation with Minolta Camera Company and the establishment of the succesfull production in Portugal and remained in the company (appointed managing director from 1971) till the Leitz family sold their shares. He lives in Wetzlar where he takes care of the Haus Friedwart and have written several books about the Leitz Family. The most recent, Ernst Leitz II: "Ich entscheide hiermit: Es wird riskiert" (May 2014).

Knuth Kühn-Leitz by Thorsten von Overgaard in Villa Haus Friedwart in Wetzlar
Knuth Kühn-Leitz in Villa Haus Friedwart in Wetzlar, April 2014. © Thorsten Overgaard.

 

1969
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

 

1972
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. Wild boiught 25% of Leitz to begin with.

 

 

Leica in Porto, Portugal

1973
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.

  Dr. Werner Simon with Henri Cartier-Bresson
  CEO Dr. Werner Simon with Henri Cartier-Bresson in 1988, presenting him with a Leica M6.

1984
The Leica M6 was released with internal lightmeter, and later the Leica M6 TTL with lightmetering Through The Lens. Dr. Werner Simon was the chairman of the photographic division of Leitz in 1984, and he was one who strongly pushed for the Leica M6, believed the real revolution of the unit, as he was convinced that with a modern light meter, it would make a bold statement in the market for Leica. He served as Leica CEO from 1987- 1993.

1986
Foundation of Leica GmbH in order to bundle activities in the photo market.

 
  Wild Leitz, 1987

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.

1988
The factory moves from Wetzlar to Oskar Barnackstrasse in Solms, just 10-15 minutes drive from Wetzlar. The factory remained here till it moved back to the newly designed and build factory in Wetzlar in April 2014.

1990
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.

 

 

Leica Camera AG anno 1994 by Holger Jacoby
For a unique look into the Leica Camera AG in Solms in 1994, click on this image to see a series of photos by German photographer Holger Jacoby.

1995
Matsushita (Panasonic) started making all their cameras with Leica lenses (all lenses made in Germany but assembled in Japan). From 2006 and onwards Leica lenses are made in Japan to Leica specifications by Panasonic with 2 main differences: Lenses made for the Leica branded camera's are made on German made imported machines using Leica lens coatings, whereas Leica lenses made for Panasonic Lumix branded camera's are made on Panasonic mass production machines to (minimum) Leica specification but use Panasonic's own Nano-coatings.

1996
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.

1998
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.

2001
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. Year unknown, but the cars could indicate in was the 1970s. c

 

2002
Andreas Kaufmann and his two brothers buys Weller Feinwerktechnik in Wetzlar via ACM Projektentwicklung in Salzburg, the family holding company. In 1994, Uwe Weller took over Leica Camera AG’s machining division, which became the Weller Feinwerktechnik. (In 2005, the mechatronics division of Leica Microsystems in Weilburg was integrated into the business, followed in 2006 by the machining division of the Zeiss-Hensoldt Group in Wetzlar).

 

2003
Andreas Kaufmann and his two brothers buys Via Optik in in Wetzlar as a part of the strategic investment of the Kaufmann family in Wetzlar’s optical industry. Via Optik was founded in 1922 as Feinwerktechnik Wetzlar GmbH, as part of the Ernst Leitz GmbH as a supplier of mechanical components. In 1965 they made the bright viewfinders for SLR cameras.

 

2004
Andreas Kaufmann and his two brothers buy 27.4% of Leica Camera AG via ACM Projektentwicklung in Salzburg. They already know the Leica people quite well as they already have bought one company from Leica Camera AG (Via Optik) and are subsupplier via anohter (Weller Feinwerktechnik).

 

2006

Leica Camera AG announces a series of new digital cameras at Photokina in September 2006. Amongst them, the long aviated Leica M8 digital camera:

 

Leica M8 silver
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 ..."

 

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2007

CW Sonderoptik is established in Wetzlar by Andreas Kaufmann to develop Summilux-C Cine Lenses.

 

2008

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.

 

New lenses introduced at Photokina in September 2008
Most notable, the replacement for the 1969 edition Leica 50mm Noctilux-M f/1.0 was announced; as the 50mm Noctilux-M ASPH f/0.95 was introduced as a new and most impressive low light lens for the 35mm camera range.

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 S2 at Photokina
Leica S2 and 180mm APO-Elmar-S at Photokina 2008 (photo courtesy David Farkas)

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).

 

2009

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-ceo-andreas-kaufmann-on-dw-tv-deutche-welle
See this tour of the Leica factory from Deutche Welle TV [DW-WORLD] and interview with Leica CEO Dr. Andreas Kaufmann, Berlin photographer Jim Rakete on the Leica past, present and future. Click on the picture for the video to open in a new window.

 

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.

 

Leica M0 first sight via Flickr
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 first sight via Flickr
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 1951, 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.

You can read more about these cameras in these articles:
Leica S2 medium format camera
Leica X1 Digital Rangefinder Camera for Reportage
Leica M9 digital rangefinder - "Leica M Reloaded"

Leica M9 Digital Rangefinder
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.

 

2010

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).

Adolf Alfred Schopf, new Leica Camera AG CEO
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.

Leica M9 Titanium and 35mm Summilux-M Titanium
New limited edition of 500, the Leica M9 Titanium with Leica 35mm Summilux-M ASPH f/1.4 titanium. The one used on the picture by Annette Soelter is a pre-production model at Photokina 2010. Photo: Thorsten Overgaard.

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 35mm Summilux-M ASPH f/14 limited edition of 500 set, designed by by-Walter de'SilvaLeica 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.

Leica M9 titanium
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).

testing the Leica S2 with the new Leica 120mm Summarit-S CS f/2.5
Photographers testing the Leica S2 with the new Leica 120mm Summarit-S CS f/2.5 lens at Photokina 2010. Photo: Thorsten Overgaard.

Leica X1 digiscoping adapter (model 42331)
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.

Leica Customer Service
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.

Leica reception area in Solms
The "old" factory display a newly renovated reception area with a flagship store, meeting facilities and the Leica Gallery Solms. © 2010 Thorsten Overgaard

The Leica Gallery in Solms
The Leica Gallery in Solms as of 2010. © 2010 Thorsten Overgaard

Leica Camera AG flagship store in Solms
The Leica Camera AG flagship store by the entrance and reception as of 2010. © 2010 Thorsten Overgaard

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.

 

 

2011

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.

 

Leica Store Shanghai, Chine, 2011
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 still image First Leica Summilux-C and RED EPIC video grab from Tom Lowe via ImageShack.us (as of March 25, 2011)

 
  Leica Summilux-C prime lenses
Leica Summilux-C Primes and RED Epic
Leica Summilux-C out for at test shoot in March 2011 with Tom Lowe of Timescapes.org

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 and Summicron-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 Summilux set and $100,000 for thre Summicron set. They 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, read more about Leica and Cine lenses in my article "The Leica Summilux-C and Leica Summicron-C Movie Primes"

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.

 

 

Back to basics on June 21, 2011: Leica M9-P

 

Leica M9-P in silver chrome with the new Leica 21mm Super-Elmar-M ASPH f/3.4The Leica M9-P introduced. Photo by:© Thorsten Overgaard 2011. All right reserved.

The new Leica M9-P is a reality, in chrome and black, with sapphire glass on the screen on the back, no red dot on the front, no M9 in white letters on the front, but with the classic Leica engraving on top. The P is for Pofessional. See the special page in the Leica M9 review for more from the Paris event.

Also a new Leica 21mm Super-Elmar-M ASPH f/3.4 accompanies it. You can see an image of it on the link.

 


Magnum Photos' Vice President, photographer Christopher Anderson and Dr. Andreas Kaufmann

 

Leica and Magnum

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
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.

 

The Leica Store in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
New Leica Store in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, July 2011. More from the opening here.
G19, The Avenue K, 156 Jalan Ampang 50450 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
. © 2012 Thorsten Overgaard

 

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 after Leica Camera AG more or less collapsed in their hands in 2004 few months after they had bought 27.4% of the stock. Long story short, Kaufmann decided to take over all of the Leica Camera AG stocks that the family owned in 2005, and his brothers were free to invest in other things (one of them retiurned to the pulp paper industry).

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.

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.

 

2012

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.

Leica R to EPIC RED converter   RED EPIC with the worlds best zoom, the Leica 35-70mm Vario-Elmarit-R ASPH f/2.8
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$)
    Photo by Clayton Haskell

 

Documenting America with Leica cameras

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

Leica M9-P in silver with white leather and white leather strap
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.

See more in my article "To You, Henri" and "Prelude to the Leica M Monochrom".

 


CNN-slideshow
: Danish war photographer Jan Grarup presented his printed book (only in Danish) "Mærket for Livet" and as English e-book "Marked for Life" of soldiers in Afghanistan, and their memories and tatoos, all pictures made with the Leica M Monochrom, in October 2013.

 

The Leica presentation in Berlin further presented the Leica 50mm APO-Summicron-M ASPH f/2.0 lens and five new S-lenses with Central Shutter, as well as the Leica X2.

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.

The Making of the Leica M9-P »Edition Hermès« – Série Limitée Jean-Louis Dumas from Leica Camera on Vimeo

 


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 hire@leica-camera.co.uk ).


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.

 

Photokina 2012

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).

See my first impressions here in the article from Photokina 2012, "Prelude to the Leica M article: Photokina 2012 release notes"

 


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:

 


 


Thorsten Overgaard photo expo in Singapore, November 2012. Buy prints online.

 

 


Scaling production facilities, stabilizing
the income and dealing with some unforseen problems

2013

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.

 

Leica Store Miami
"A moment in Istanbul."
The Leica M 240 started shipping on March 1, 2013 and the above is one of my first images with the camera, made with the Leica 50mm Noctilux-M ASPH f/0.95 in Istanbul. Pretty much straight out of the camera, via in Lightroom 3.6. © 2013 Thorsten Overgaard.

 

Leica M starts shipping

March 1, 2013: The Leica M Type 240 digital rangefinder started shipping on I got my fist final production sample a few days later and have been working on my continious user-report ever since, my first article, "The Leica M Type 240 Experience - Three Months and 9,000 pictures later" and the pages dedicated to the video feature of the Leica M240, "The Leica M Type 240 for Filmmaking".

You may also join my mailing list (by filling in your e-mail in the very top of this page) to stay in the know, and/or join the Leica M Type 240 User Group on Facebook.

 

Problems

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.

 

Oskar Barnack
Dr. Oskar Barnack in his office. Photo by Julius Huisgen.

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.

 

New Leica Store Miami

March 20: The new Leica Store Miami opened.

Leica Store Miami
Leica Store Miami
opened on March 20, 2013

 

 

Leica Camera AG's new Portugal Factory opens

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.

 


The entrance to Leica Camera in Porto in Portugal featuer this large Leica M camera that houses the security. Photo by António Freitas via MNL/Manuel das Neves Loureiro.

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:

Leica - 40 years in Portugal

 

Leica buys 25.1% of I-SHOT-IT.COM

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 California based 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 lead judge in the competition since it started in 2010. Anyone can participate in the competition with any film or digital photo they have taken them self, from any period, with any camera. The judges can't see the identity, camera or any other inforamtion of the photos we judge; only the photos.

There are several competitions going on over the year, with themes from flowers and dogs to landscapes and black & white. The winner is awarded a cash price and a Leica camera.

Link to official 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.

Leica Mini M
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
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.

 

Leica Store Los Angeles
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 clutch
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?

Leica M 240 (RED)

 

 

October 2013: Leica Camera AG was voted Entrepreneur of the Year in Germany by Ernst & Young and may win Entrepreneur of the Year Internationally on June 7, 2014.

 

Leica Cine Lenses

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 Cine Lenses
The Leica Cine Lenses are produced and marketed by CW-Sonderoptik GmbH in Wetzlar but on display in for example Leica Store Los Angeles.

 

The great expansion in Asia

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.

 

Leica Store Beijing
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 cameras Sinar Photography. Already on December 12, Sinar announced that they now present the Sinar p MF-L that takes Leica S body and adds Sinar front to it.

Ansel Adams with his 4x5" camera
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.

LeicaRumors.com brought this Time Line of Leica History.

The actual celebration of the 100th 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.

 

 

New Leica Stores in London, Kyoto, Singapore and more ...

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.


Leica Store in the Burlington Arcade, London
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.

 

T-party

April 24, 2014: Leica released the new Leica T camera that is in the tradition of the original Leica, on the forefront of industrial design and made of metal. Available for (pre-)order at B&H Photo that ships worldwide and now also takes PayPal.

As Kristian Dowling wrote in his review: "This is a very simplistic camera and is clearly aimed at the newer generation of photographers that have grown up with touch screen communication tools like the iPhone and Android devices." Further sample photos and reviews at Steve Huff, Ming Thein, Jono Slack, Reid Reviews and Luminous Landscape.


Leica T in Leica Store Los Angeles
From the release party of the Leica T in Leica Store Los Angeles where there was a hip and young crowd, DJ, beer and a strong presence of Instagram. © 2014 Thorsten Overgaard.

 

 

The Leica homecoming to new factory in Wetzlar, Germany

April 11, 2014: Leica moved the last people and parts from the old factory in Solms, to the new Leica campus in Wetzlar (at Am Leitz Platz 1, Wetzlar, Germany). I happened to visit both the old and the new factory on the day, and this is my reportage from Solms and Wetzlar (click on the photo to see and read):


My visit to the new factory in Wetzlar, as well as the old one in Solms.
© 2014 Thorsten Overgaard.

 

 

100 years exactly

May 23, 2014: The new Leica factory in Wetzlar officially opened, with a 100 year WestLicht Auction of 2x100 rare items. The Leica Museum and Leica Gallery Wetzlar officially opened the same day.

The celebration is that it is "exactly" 100 years since Oskar Barnack produced the prototype of the first Leica. (The actual 100 year of the introduction of the Leica is in year 2025, so keep a little champagne till then).

British photojournalist Tom Stoddart did this great feature on BBC to celebrate the 100 years gone past: "One hundred years of Leica cameras".

 

Macro-M adapter announced

May 23, 2014 Leica announced a new Macro-M adapter especially for the Leica 90mm Elmar-M f/4.0 lens (trat previously came with googles and an angeled viewfinder), but it is casically a remake of the Leica OUFRO macro adapter that was made till the 1970's. Now available in a new, updated edition. Read my article about Novoflex tubes and Leica bellows and adapters to add macro to the Leica M 240 here.

 

28mm Summilux-M f/1.4 ASPH lens

The long rumored Leica 28mm Summilux ASPH f/1.4 was presented in the special kit that will be made in 101 limited sets (Leica M-A, Leica M Monochrom and three Leica Summilux lenses (28/35/50mm). The lens now exist, hence it might be in stores soon.

 

Leica M Monochrom in silver chrome finish

Several limited editions has been made of the Leica M Monochrom in silver over the last year. Now it is also available as a standard camera - a welcome choice between the black and silver chrome. More on the Leica M Monochrom in my article here.


The price at BH PHoto is $6,998 and one can buy worldwide via PayPal and "buy now, pay in 6 months" without intersts (you buy now and if you pay the balance within 6 months, it is interest-free).

 

Jason Heward new CEO of Leica Camerea Ltd UK

Jason Heward

July 16, 2014: Commercial Director of Leica Camera Ltd (UK) since September 2012, Jason Heward is new CEO after David Bell stepped down. Here is an interview with him on Gadabouting from just a week before he was named new CEO. In the interview he talks about "a shift from Leica customer to Leica owner. Our owners are seeking a relationship with the Brand, not just a product. This is why we focus on the conversation. We want our experience to be authentic, where Leica owners can immerse themselves into the world of photography." Follow Jason Heward on Twitter.

 

Leica becomes 75% partner with Leica Shop Vienna and WestLicht Photographic Auction house

August 1, 2014: Leica Camera AG acquired 75% of the Leica Shop Vienna and WestLicht Photographica Auction from Peter Coeln (born 1954) who started the vintage trading of Leica and other camera brands in 1991 after he stopped as a professional photographer (and thus was the first to use the name Leica Shop; Leica Camera AG then used Leica Store for their shops), and later added the WestLicht Gallery and Museum in 2001. It is e bit unclear if and WestLicht Schauplatz für Fotografie (gallery, cafe and museum) is part of the acquisition, but the Leica Store Vienna that Leica Camera AG and Peter Coeln started in the center of Vienna in 2012 is part of the acquisition.

Apart from the store and gallery, Peter Coeln also started OstLicht Gallery (EastLicht Gallery) a couple of years ago and has a big personal collection of polaroids, photographies and cameras which are likely not part of the acquisition.

Here is a video we did with Peter Coeln in 2013 "Inside Leica Store Vienna with Peter Coeln". Full press release at Leica and story at LeicaRumors.


Video: Inside Leica Store Vienna with Peter Coeln (On The Road With Joy Villa and Thorsten von Overgaard)

 

 

 

The continued production of Leica M7 and Leica MP film cameras ... and now also the Leica M-A

Contrary to rumors, the Leica MP and Leica M7 film cameras are still being produced (as can be seen in the below video from in 2009). 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 M ...

On May 2014 Leica Camera AG announced their new film camera, the Leica M-A, made in 101 pieces to celebrate the 100 years anniversary of Leica. A camera we may likely see in shops as well.


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).

 

 

Leica personalities

 

  Dr. Andreas Kaufmann
 
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)

 

Joy Villa interviews Dr. Andreas Kaufmann in Solms in January 2013 about his first Leica camera ... and his first Leica factory. © 2013 Joy Villa & Thorsten Overgaard. All rights reserved.

 

"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

 

 

 

Stefan Daniel

  Stefan Daniel of Leica Camera AG
 

Stefan Daniel
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, a great expert on design of lens mounts and bodies in the golden period of Leitz Midlands, Ontario between 1960 and 1980), 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
   

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. Helmut Marx
 
Dr. Helmut Marx
   

Helmut Marx, was a great German designer and one of the key designers (together with Paul Sindel) of the 1966 - 1975 Leica Noctilux-M 50 mm f/1.2 (No. 11 820), the first Leica lens to incorporate aspherical surfaces in its optical formula.

He was employed by Ernst Leitz from 1952.

 

 

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. He was an expert on the chemistry and properties of the different optical glasses. 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

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.

The Karpe designs set could be 21mm Summilux-M ASPH f/1.4, 50mm Noctilux-M ASPH f/0.95 and a 75mm Summicron-M ASPH f/2.0.
The Mandler design set could be the 21mm Elmarit-M f/2.8 (or the 21mm f/3.4 Super-Angulon-M), 50mm Summicron-M f/2.0 and the 75mm Summilux-M f/1.4.

 

Peter Karbe

  Peter Karbe of Leica Camera AG
  Peter Karbe at the factory in Solms, with an original notebook of Max Berek from 1930.
Photo by: © Thorsten Overgaard, September 2010.
   

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.

 

TIME Magazine November 2, 1953 with a Leica on the cover
TIME Magazine November 2, 1953 with a Leica on the cover. By: BORIS ARTZYBASHEFF

The story inside TIME magazine is "Two Billion Clicks" about that Americans in 1953 will be taking 2 billion pictures that year and be spending $300 millions on equipment and camera gadgets. Furhter, the Mericans spent $100 million on developing and printing in 1953, as against $20 million in 1940 (65% of the market share fo this was Kodak Eastman).

They state that Americans with their photogrphy are "practicing an important art, the most typical art of the 20th century, and perhaps the only national folk art yet produced by the US" but also goes over discussing (with them self) the status of photography versus Leonardo da Vinci. TIME counts that there in 1953 was 55,000 professional photographers in the U.S., and 35 million amateurs.

 

 

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 with Leica M6
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

 

The Fabulous Chandeliers
My 2011-remake of the above Jacob Sisters, here with The Fabulous Chandeliers in Sydney, Australia posing with the Minox Leica M3 dummy. © 2011 Thorsten Overgaard. From left it's and Shirrelle (Kate O'Connell), Ronnette (Rhianna Knight) and Dixie (Chelsey Knight). Should you want the Minox, go for the one with a real viewfinder and preview screen on the back (several models exist that look the same, but the viewfinder is mandatory. The images files are not Leica standard).

 

 
 

Che Guevara
with 90mm

The Kiss (LIFE)
Mick Jagger by Bob Bonis
Mick Jagger by
Bob Bonis with M3

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.

 


Now, that is a bag with a Leica kit ... © 2013 Thorsten Overgaard.

 


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).

 

photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson
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 with his Leica
Stanley Kubrick's (1928-1999) self-portrait with his Leica.

 

Jacques Henri Lartigue
Jacques Henri Lartigue (1894 - 1986).

 

Vivian Maier
Vivian Maier wit her Leica IIIc (1926-2009)

 

Don Hunstein
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.
I visited Don Hunstein in 2014 in New York and photographed him. You can see the images and read The story Behind That Picture here: "Freewheelin' With Don Hunstein".

 

Wim Wenders presents Leica M8

 

Miles Davis with his Leica on the cover of the Live at Newport 1958
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.

 


Magnum photographer Inge Morath now and then. The photo to the right is from 1958.

 


The Clark Family and the Leica: The story of Joe, Bernice and Junebug Clark of Detroit, USA is a story of real Leica users. Back in issue 1/1961 of the Leica Photography International magazine the family was featured in a 6-page story "One-Family Show" with the following intro:
"Joe's son Juneberg Clark not only didn't learn how to use a Leica untill he was three, but never earned a dime from his pictures until he was five!" (where he sold his first image to The Detroit News for whom he then worked for at age 6).
Junebug was 11 in 1961 when the family was featured in the LFI, and in 2011 the family donated the entire archive of photos shot by the mother, father and son to The University of North Texas that will curate, digitize and archive the collection for educational purposes. The collection represents one of the most extensive family archives from the golden age of American photography. The Clark's work has been featured in Life Magazine, National Geographic, Look and Newsweek.

The father, Joe Clark originally took work in Detroit as a nightwatch but was was so handy with the Leica that his images was soon exhibited, which then lead to assignments for companies and magazines. When the son Juneebug was born, he too handled the Leica pretty well, and one afternoon when Junebug was taking a bath in the backyard and dad was out, mother Bernice took up the Leica and made some pictures that ended up in magazines and was the kickstart of her lifelong career.
Junebug Clark is a teacher at MAYBORN School of Journalism today.

 

Seal Henry
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

 

Leni Riefenstahl  with Leica
Leni Riefenstahl (Helene Bertha Amalie "Leni" Riefenstahl, 1922 - 2003) with her Leica.

 

Mary Ellen Mark
Mary Ellen Mark Self-portrait with Marlon Brando on the Set of “Apocalpyse Now” 1979

 

Daniel Craig with his Leica
Daniel Craig with his Leica

 

Nikki Sixx with "The SEXY BEAST", his Leica M9
American musician of Mötley Crüe and radio host Nikki Sixx with "The SEXY BEAST", his Leica M9. You can find his photo blog "Some Call me Sizxx" here


Lou Reed with his Leica M8
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 Leica M4 of Garry Winogrand
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, Ellen Von Unwerth
David Bowie 2003, by Ellen Von Unwerth

 

David Beckham wiht Leica
Our friend David Beckham was spotted with his Leica in the BBC documentary "David Beckham Into the Unknown" in July 2014.

 


Portrait of Magnum photographer Dennis Stock (1928 – 2010) by Andreas Feininger, 1951. Feininger took this now-iconic photograph for Life magazine, after Dennis Stock won first prize in a competition for young photographers.

 

Jan Grarup
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.


Lasse Jensen with Leica M6Danish 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.

 

Ilse Bing
German pioneer avant-garde and commercial photographer Ilse Bing (1899-1998) self portrait. Known as "Queen of the Leica". She gave up photography in the 1950's after a 15 year almost explosive career with exhibitions at Louvre in Paris, Mueum of Modern Art in New York and dedicated her time to writing poetry, made drawings and collages, and occasionally incorporated bits of photos.

 

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 Eisenstaed, the LIFE photographer who photographed "The Kiss", here in the UN building in New York, 1961 (photo by by Lisl Steiner). He 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.

Alfred Eisenstaed with Marilyn Monroe
Alfred Eisenstaed with Marilyn Monroe in Beverly Hills, 1953

 

Jessica Lange with Leica on set in 2012
Jessica Lange
(born 1949) is an avid Leica photographer on set, in life and doing photo projects and exhibitions. In 2008 she published her book 50 Photographs along with an exhibition at the George Eastman House. In 2010 she published her book In Mexico along with an exhibition. In 2013 she made a children's picture book It's About a Little Bird, and in 2014 she exhibited in Moscow's Multimedia Art Museum.

 

Hyoni Kang
The daily kit of Hyoni Kang (Ford's Supermodel of the World 2008) include the Leica C-Lux.

 


Batman movie director Zack Snyder is also an avid Leica photographer. The first released image from the 2014 Batman movie was tweeted by Zack Snyder on his twitter - shot with the Leica M Monochrom.

 

Scarlett Johansson using her Leica M6
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).

 

Penelope Cruz with her Leica
Another notable photos from "Vicky Cristina Barcelona," Penelope Cruz with her Leica (or Woody's or whatever).

 

Otto Umbehr
Selfie anno 1948 of German entertainment photographer Umbo alias Otto Umbehr (1902 - 1980). Founding member of the Umbo Delphot (Deutscher Photodienst GmbH) agency in 1928 that was closed when the Nazis came to power in 1933. His archive of more than 50,000 negatives burned in 1943.



Elvis Presley with his Leica (1968)

 

Catherine LeRoy
French born Catherine LeRoy (1944-2006) in Vietnam, the first woman photographer to win the Robert Capa Gold Medal Award.


German photo legend Hanns Hubmann (1910-1996) with his Leica in 1988.

 


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.

 

Georgii Petrusov
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).

 


British photojournalist and Leica user Tom Stoddart did this great feature on BBC to celebrate the 100 years gone past: "One hundred years of Leica cameras". Above is his historic image from Sarajevo, a woman conquering war with beauty and elegance. See more on his website, featuring also exclusive behind-the-scenes photogrpahs from the Tony Blair campaign.


Annie Leibovitz with her Leica M6
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

 

Katy Perry with Leica - Ellen von Unwerth Photoshoot 2012
Katy Perry with Leica - Ellen von Unwerth Photoshoot 2012

 

Brad Pitt with his Leica R8 DMRBrad 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.
Brad Pitt with his film Leica.

 

Ralph Gibson with his 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.

 

Lisa Snowdon with leica R9
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.

 

Sarah Lee by Richard Pohle
London-based photographer Sarah Lee of The Guardian with her Leica M-E. She also writes for The Guardian photography blog. Photo by Richad Pohle.

 


Woody Allen found the big smile for this event where he was gifted a special edition of the Leica M9 whilst being in company of beautiful women and the owner of Leica, Dr. Andreas Kaufmann.

 

Jon Oringer
shutterstock.com
founder Jon Oringer with one of his Leica cameras.

 

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Audrey Tautou
Audrey Tautou has also been an avid Leica shooter since a producer handed her a Leica a few years back. Here she is in 2009 with her Leica M8 in a Chanel No 5 film (See the movie on YouTube).

 

Yul Brynner self portrait with his Leica M3
Yul Brynner self portrait with his Leica M3

 

Magnum photographer Bruce Guilden with his Leica
Magnum photographer Bruce Guilden with his Leica in New York.

 

William Eggleston with his Leica
American photographer William Eggleston (born 1939) with his Leica. See some of his photographs here: Artsy.

 



Dr. Who also uses Leica to document his travels. Of course.

 

Bruno Mars with Leica.
Bruno Mars with Leica.

 

photographer Birgit Krippner with her Leica in New York
Austrian/New Zealand/New York photographer Birgit Krippner. See this interview with her about her and her Leica M9.

 

Grace Kelly with Leica
Grace Kelly with Leica

 

Doug Herr
Not all Leica photographers are M photographers. Doug Herr of Wildlightphoto.com in Sacramento County, California, is a Leica R user, specialized in birds of western North America.

 


Elliott Erwitt in France

 


Elliott Erwitt interview via Twitter in July 2010, "Elliott Erwitt Answers Your Questions"


Christian Bale with his Leica
Christian Bale with his Leica

 

Charles Bronson with Leica M3
Charles Bronson with Leica M3
, from his television series, Man With A Camera, 1958-60

 


Another current Leica M shooter, Rania Matar, published her book Ordinary Lives in 2009.

 

The well-used Leica MP of Jim Marshall
The well-used Leica MP of Jim Marshall (1936-2010) who photographed The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Bod Dylan, Johnny Cash, Janis Joplin ... them all. Also a video about him here.

 

Suzy Parker with her Leica in New York, 1953
Model, actress and photographer Suzy Parker in New York, 1953 (photo by by Peter Stackpole)

 

Dr. Paul Wolff
Dr. Paul Wolff
(1887-1951) was a prominent German photogrpaher and one of the first to adopt the Leica from he got one of the 31 prototypes that were made in 1924. Whilst many of his photographs are published, a great deal of his archive burned during the World War II. He published 25-30 books with his photos from 1914 to 1950, amongst them the book "Meine Erfahrungen mit der Leica" (1934; there was an exhibiton of the same name the year before) and the "Meine Erfahrungen mit der Leica farbig" (1944, "My experience with Color Photography") . Photo by: Willi Klar, 1940. Read my article about Dr. Paul Wolff here: "Dr. Paul Wolff and the Leica"

 


Brigitte Bardot with Leica

 

 

The Leitz Park Project

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).

Leica Camera AG as of May 9, 2013 by Thorsten Overgaard
The Leica Camera AG factory building in Leitz Park, Am Leitz Park 1, Wetzlar as it looked when I visited on May 9, 2013. The road to the left outside the image is Sportsparkstrasse with has a nice little cafe for coffee and food just 100 meters from the Leica factory.
Leica M Type 240 with Leica 21mm Summilux-M ASPH f/1.4. © 2013 Thorsten Overgaard

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.


The 2008 design of the new Leica factory in Wetzlar.

 

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 Customer Service when it opens official on May 23, 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 happened over several months between January and May 2014.

 


An animation of the new Leica Factory in Leitz Park, Wetzlar. Made by Michael Kesselbach in January 2014.
Via LeicaRumors.com

 

Leitz-Park in Wetzlar
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.

 

 

Continues on Page 2 -->

   
   

LEICA HISTORY PAGE 2

CONTINUES ON PAGE 2 --->

   
 

Thorsten Overgaard, March 2005
Latest edit: June 14, , 2014

Thank you to:
Heinz Richter
Erwin Puts
Peter Karbe
Dr. Knut Kühn-Leitz
Walther Benzer
David Farkas


   
   

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

Leica logo

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...

 


 

 

Also visit:
Leica History Page 2 -->

Overgaard Photo Workshop
Leica Definitions
Leica History
"Photographer For Sale"
Leica Lens Compendium
Leica Camera Compendium
Leica 50mm Noctilux-M ASPH f/0.95
Leica 35-70mm Vario-Elmarit-R f/2.8
Leica M9 and Leica ME
Leica M Monochrom
Leica M Type 240
Leica Digilux 2
Leica X

Leica 35mm Summilux-M ASPH f/1.4
Leica S medium format dSLR
"On The Road With von Overgaard"





Thorsten Overgaard
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.

Feel free to e-mail to thorsten@overgaard.dk for
advice, ideas or improvements.

 

 

 

 


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