The Leica camera - history
This famous photography brand was first brought to public attention at the Leipzig Trade Fair of 1925 when Ernst Leitz of the small German town of Wetzlar launched the Leica I, a full-frame 35mm film camera invented by the company's brilliant engineer and designer Oskar Barnack and based on his 1913 prototype UR-Leica.
Leitz continued to launch innovative camera models, introducing a lens coupled rangefinder camera for measuring object to film distance as well as mounting interchangeable screw thread lenses, the most famous of which throughout the decades prior to WWII was the 5cm Elmar f/3.5, still made in collapsible form as the 50mm f/2.8 Elmar-M. These small format compact film cameras were beautifully made, expensive and appealed to a wide variety of photographers, especially professionals who forged ahead with new and intimate ways of reporting world events.
The Leica M3 of 1954 featured a new M bayonet mount for objectives and top-plate design; the standard lens, a 5cm or 50mm, f/2 Summicron with Lanthanum glass in its cell layout became a worldwide bestseller and is still for sale today. The Leica M4, M4-2 and M4-P were all later design modifications of the Leica M3 with new features in their viewfinders; the larger Leica M5 featured an integral Cds exposure meter for ttl exposure metering and spawned a compact model, the Leica CL (from which the Minolta CLE was eventually derived.). Leica also began to offer single lens reflex cameras from the late 1950s with the Leicaflex and later, with the Leica R models. But while well made and featuring superb lenses, the reflex systems have never been quite as popular as the rangefinder cameras. In the 1980s, Ernst Leitz Wetzlar became Leica Camera Gmbh and it was during this decade the Leica M6 was launched incorporating a ttl Leica spot meter. It was followed by the M6TTL and later by the electronic M7. A Leica MP is Leica Camera AG's current model for film lovers. Following various experiments with the S series digital scanning cameras designed for studio use, Leica offered different digital compact cameras based on models designed by FujiFilm and later by Panasonic; the Leica D-Lux 4 is the latest incarnation of a highly specified compact. The Leica Modul Digital-R brought digital imaging to the Leica R8 and R9 single lens reflex cameras but this was discontinued and is about to be replaced by the latest larger format dedicated digital system called Leica S2. Leica's transformation of its standard 35mm rangefinder camera body to digital capture was manifest in the Leica M8 at photokina in 2006 and a revised version, Leica M8.2 in 2008. In addition to its regular production, the company has produced many special editions of the Leica rangefinder camera and customers can now order their own 'a la carte' versions.