/ 50.54306; 8.39028
|Industry||Photography, Digital Imaging, Still cameras, SLR cameras, DSLR cameras, binoculars / monoculars, binocular telescope, laser rangefinder|
Dr. Andreas Kaufmann (Chairman, Board of Directors),Oliver Kaltner (CEO)
|Products||cameras, photographic lenses, binoculars and other optical equipment.|
|Revenue||€ 365 million|
Number of employees
Leica Camera AG (pronounced [ˈlaɪka]), is a German optics enterprise and manufacturer of Leica cameras. The company's main products are cameras of the same name. The company specializes in high-end and expensive cameras.
The earliest Leica prototypes were developed by the company Ernst Leitz during the first years of the 20th century, but marketing did not commence until the mid 1920s. The Leicas were innovative, by orienting the image frame sideways for the 35 mm film as opposed to the cine-camera tradition of across the film-strip. The cameras were compact with collapsible lenses, for hiking and biking. The rangefinder feature was added with the Leica II during 1932, and that year both rangefinder and viewfinder cameras became available with interchangeable lenses. During 1933 the Leica III offered slow speed shutter controls and a fast 1/1000th shutter speed, and various iterations of the III (a,b,c,d,f,&g) series became the flagship models and best sellers into the late 1950s. Further iterations of the models I and II were offered, but did not sell well.
Prior to WWII Leica and competing Contax cameras from Zeiss Ikon were considered to be the finest 35mm cameras, but post-WWII the companies had competition from Soviet and Japanese copies. Through the 1950s Japanse quality and innovation, along with low pricing, devastated the European camera industry. Leica became an expensive type of camera bought largely by professional or serious photographers. However, the advent of reflex camera technology made rangefinders somewhat obsolete, leaving Leica the main product of a diminishing market segment. Despite never using reflex viewing or consumer digital production to any major extent, Leica has remained a notable trade-name into the 21st Century.
The original producer of the cameras, Ernst Leitz GmbH, is now three companies: Leica Camera AG, Leica Geosystems AG, and Leica Microsystems GmbH, which manufacture cameras, geosurvey equipment, and microscopes, respectively. Leica Microsystems AG actually owns the Leica brand and licenses the other two companies to use it.
The name Leica is a combination of the first three letters of Ernst Leitz's surname and the first two from the word camera: lei-ca. The first 35mm film Leica prototypes were built by Oskar Barnack at Ernst Leitz Optische Werke, Wetzlar, during 1913. Intended as a compact camera for landscape photography, particularly during mountain hikes, the Leica was the first practical 35 mm camera that used standard cinema 35 mm film. The Leica transports the film horizontally, extending the frame size to 24×36mm with a 2:3 aspect ratio, instead of the 18×24 mm of cinema cameras which transport the film vertically.
The Leica had several model iterations, and during 1923 Barnack convinced his boss, Ernst Leitz II, to make a pre-production series of 31 cameras for the factory and outside photographers to test. Though the prototypes received a mixed reception, Ernst Leitz decided during 1924 to produce the camera. It was an immediate success when introduced at the 1925 Leipzig Spring Fair as the Leica I (for Leitz camera). The focal plane shutter has a range from 1/20 to 1/500 second, in addition to a Z for Zeit (time) position.
Barnack conceived the Leica as a small camera that produced a small negative. To make large photos by enlargement, (the "small negative, large picture" concept) requires that the camera have high quality lenses that could create well-defined negatives. Barnack tried a Zeiss Tessar on his early prototype camera, but because the Tessar was designed for the 18×24 mm cine format, it inadequately covered the Leica's 24×36mm negative. Barnack resorted to a Leitz Summar lens for the prototype, but to achieve resolution necessary for satisfactory enlargement, the 24x36 mm format needed a lens designed specially for it. The first Leica lens was a 50 mm f/3.5 design based on the Cooke triplet of 1893, adapted by Max Berek at Leitz. The lens has five elements in three groups-- the third group being three cemented elements-- and was initially named the Leitz Anastigmat. Unlike other triplets, the Leitz Anastigmat has the diaphragm between the first and second elements. When the Leica was first vended, this lens was renamed the ELMAX, for E Leitz and MAX Berek. By 1925, the Leitz laboratories had produced glasses with improved optical properties, and Professor Berek designed an improved version of the ELMAX named the ELMAR that had four elements in three groups. The third group was simplified to two cemented elements, which was easier and cheaper to make. Professor Berek had two dogs, Hektor and Rex. The first of these, Hektor, gave his name to a series of Leica lenses, and the name of the second appeared in the SummaREX.
During 1930 the Leica I Schraubgewinde was first produced, with an exchangeable lens system based on a 39mm diameter screw thread, often referred to as " Leica Thread Mount" or LTM. In addition to the 50 mm normal lens, a 35 mm wide angle and a 135 mm telephoto lens were initially available. During the mid-1930s, a legendary soft-focus lens, the Thambar 90 mm f/2.2 was designed, and made in small numbers between 1935 and 1949, no more than 3000 units. It is a rare collector's item presently.
The Leica II was produced first during 1932, with a built in rangefinder coupled to the lens focusing mechanism. This model has a separate viewfinder (showing a reduced image) and rangefinder. During 1932 the flange to filmplane was standarised to 28.8mm, first implemented on Leica model C, and the Leica Standard the next year.
The Leica III added slow shutter speeds down to 1 second, and the model IIIa added the 1/1000 second shutter speed. The IIIa is the last model made before Barnack’s death, and therefore the last model for which he was wholly responsible. Leitz continued to refine the original design through to 1957. The final version, the IIIg, includes a large viewfinder with several framelines. These models all have a functional combination of circular dials and square windows.
Early Leica cameras bear the initials D.R.P., which stands for Deutsches Reichspatent, the name for German patents before May 1945. This is probably a reference to German patent No. 384071 "Rollfilmkamera" granted to Ernst Leitz, Optische Werke in Wetzlar, on 3 November 1923.
Ur-Leica ("original Leica"), from 1914
Leica I, 1927
Leica I, from 1927, with collapsible Leitz Elmar 1:3,5 F=5 cm lens
Reproduction of the Leica Prototype, 1913, 1:3,5
The company had always had progressive labor policies which encouraged the retention of skilled workers, many of whom were Jewish. Ernst Leitz II, who began managing the company during 1920, responded to the election of Hitler during 1933 by helping Jews to leave Germany, by "assigning" hundreds (even if they were not actually employees) to overseas sales offices where they were helped to find jobs. The effort intensified after Kristallnacht during 1938, until the borders were closed during September 1939. The extent of what came to be known as the "Leica Freedom Train" only became public after his death well after the war.
After the war, Leitz continued to produce the late versions of the Leica II and the Leica III through the 1950s. However, during 1954, Leitz began vending the Leica M3, with the new Leica M mount, a bayonet-like lens mount. The new camera also combined the rangefinder and viewfinder into one large, bright viewfinder with a brighter double image in the center. This system also introduced a system of parallax compensation and a new rubberized, reliable, focal-plane shutter. Leica continues to refine this model (the latest versions being the MP and MA, both of which have frames for 28, 35, 50, 75, 90, and 135 mm lenses, which show automatically upon mounting).
Post-war models bear the initials DBP, standing for Deutsches Bundespatent (Federal German Patent), instead of the DRP (Deutsches Reich patent) found on pre-war models. A number of camera companies built models based on the Leica rangefinder design. These include the Leotax, Nicca and early Canon models in Japan, the Kardon in USA, the Reid in England and the FED and Zorki in the USSR.
Leica IIIf (1950), one of the last screw-mount Leicas, with 50mm/f1.5 Summarit
Leica M3 chrome Singlestroke (1958) with Leica-Meter M, Booster and collapsible Elmar f=5 cm 1:2,8 M39 lens with adapter
Leica’s MP of 2003 and M3 of 1954
Modern Leica M series.
Until at least the mid-1950s, Leitz offered factory upgrades of earlier Leica cameras to the current model's specifications. The upgraded cameras retained their original serial number.
From 1964, Leica produced a series of single-lens reflex cameras, beginning with the Leicaflex, followed by the Leicaflex SL, the Leicaflex SL2, and then the R series from R3 to R7, made in collaboration with the Minolta Corporation. The Leica R8 was entirely designed and manufactured by Leica. The final model was the Leica R9, which could be fitted with the Digital Module back. Leica was slow to produce an auto-exposure model, and never made a Leica R model that included auto-focusing. Leica's U.S. official website announced (25 March 2009) that the R-series has been discontinued. The reason given was that "new camera developments have significantly affected the sales of Leica R cameras and lenses resulting in a dramatic decrease in the number sold. Sadly, therefore, there is no longer an economic basis on which to keep the Leica R-System in the Leica production programme."
Conceptually intermediate between the Rangefinder Leicas and the SLR Leicas was the Leica Visoflex System, a mirror reflex box that attached to the lens mount of Leica rangefinders (separate versions were made for the screwmount and M series bodies) and accepted lenses made especially for the Visoflex System. Rather than using the camera’s rangefinder, focusing was accomplished via a groundglass screen. A coupling released both mirror and shutter to make the exposure. Camera rangefinders are inherently limited in their ability to focus long focal-length lenses accurately and the mirror reflex box permitted much longer length lenses. Throughout its history, Leitz has been responsible for numerous optical innovations, such as aspherical production lenses, multicoated lenses, and rare earth lenses.
The earliest Leica reflex housing was the PLOOT (Leitz's five letter code for its products), announced during 1935, along with the 200 mm f/4.5 Telyt Lens. This date is significant because that it places Leica among the 35 mm SLR pioneers. Moreover, until the 1964 introduction of the Leicaflex, the PLOOT and Visoflex were Leica’s only SLR offerings. A redesigned PLOOT was introduced by Leica during 1951 as the Visoflex I. This was followed by a much more compact Visoflex II during 1960 (which was the only Visoflex version available in both LTM [screwmount] and M-bayonet) and the Visoflex III with instant-return mirror during 1964. Leica lenses for the Visoflex system included focal lengths of 65, 180 (rare), 200, 280, 400, 560, and 800mm. In addition, the optical groups of many rangefinder lenses could be removed, and attached to the Visoflex via a system of adapters. The Visoflex system was discontinued during 1984.
Leica offered a wide range of accessories. For instance, LTM (screwmount) lenses were easily usable on M cameras via an adapter. Similarly Visoflex lenses could be used on the Leicaflex and R cameras with an adapter. Furthermore, certain LTM and M rangefinder lenses featured removable optical groups that could mount via adapters on the Visoflex system, thus making them usable as rangefinder or SLR lenses for Visoflex-equipped Screwmount and M rangefinder cameras, as well as being usable on Leicaflex and R cameras. Leica also offered focusing systems, such as the Focorapid and Televit, that could replace certain lenses’ helicoid mounts for sports and natural-life telephotography.
The Leica R4 (1980) and Leica SL2 MOT (1974).
The Leica Visoflex II (1960)
Leica’s answer to the SLR: a Leica Visoflex II on Leica IIIf
During 1986, the Leitz company changed its name to Leica (LEItz CAmera), due to the fame of the Leica trade-name. At this time, Leica relocated its factory from Wetzlar to the nearby town of Solms. During 1996 Leica Camera separated from the Leica Group and became a publicly owned company. During 1998 the Leica group was divided into two independent units: Leica Microsystems and Leica Geosystems.
On October 1, 2012 Leica Camera AG was delisted from the Frankfurt Stock Exchange after Lisa Germany Holding GmbH acquired the remaining minority shares stock resulting in the company being owned privately.
On November 26, 2013 Leica Camera AG announced the purchase of Sinar Photography AG, Zurich, the Swiss manufacturer of view cameras.
During May 2014 Leica Camera AG finished building a new factory at Am Leitz Park 1 in the new industrial part of Wetzlar and relocated back to the city where it started.
The Leica is particularly associated with street photography, especially in the mid-to-late 20th century, being used by such noted photographers as Henri Cartier-Bresson, Elliott Erwitt, Robert Frank, Bruce Gilden, Bruce Davidson, Inge Morath, Martine Franck, Sebastião Salgado, Alex Webb, Joel Meyerowitz, Garry Winogrand, Mark Cohen and Ralph Gibson.
It was also used by wartime photojournalists such as Larry Burrows.
Leica also makes a line of cine lenses used for cinematic projects. During February 2015 their design team was awarded an Academy Scientific and Engineering Award for the optical and mechanical design of the Leica Summilux-C lenses.
Leica cameras, lenses, accessories and sales literature are collectibles. There are dozens of Leica books and collector’s guides, notably the three-volume Leica, an Illustrated History by James L. Lager. Early or rare cameras and accessories can have very high prices. For instance, an anonymous buyer won a bidding battle for a rare 1923 Leica camera that sold for 2.6 million euros ($2.8 million) at an auction in Vienna. Notably, Leica cameras sporting military markings have very high prices; this started a market for refurbished Soviet copies with fake markings.
Leica-branded lenses, such as some Nocticron or Elmarit lenses, are used on many Panasonic (Matsushita) digital cameras (Lumix) and video recorders since 1995. Panasonic/Leica models were the first to incorporate optical image stabilization in their digital cameras.
During 2014, to commemorate Leica camera's 100th anniversary, they partnered with Swiss watch manufacture Valbray to develop a limited edition chronograph wristwatch with Valbray's signature Leica aperture inspired dial.
Leica 35 mm series with interchangeable lens screw mount style Leica bodies:
The "M" within the nomenclature of this series of cameras comes from the first initial of "Meßsucher" (or "Messsucher"), which is the German word for "Rangefinder".
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The Leica S1 Pro is a scanner camera with a very high resolution (26 megapixels) for stationary use introduced during 1996. On a 36×36 mm sensor 5140×5140 pixels get scanned and optically transferred to a connected computer. The object lens adapter system was exchangeable, thus object lenses of the systems Leica R, Leica M, Hasselblad, Mamiya 4, 5×6, and all mechanic object lenses from Canon (FD), Nikon, etc. can be used with the S1. The software for the S1 is a special SilverFast version, originally developed by LaserSoft Imaging for high-end scanners. Approximately 160 cameras were built and mostly sold to museums, archives and research institutes. Later on Leica introduced the S1 Highspeed with very quick scanning and the S1 Alpha with half the resolution to the market.
In 2008, Leica announced plans to offer an S-System DSLR with a Kodak-made custom CCD image sensor measuring 30×45 mm and containing 37 million pixels. This sensor has a 26% longer diagonal and 56% larger area than a "full-frame″ 24×36 mm DSLR sensor and outputs an approximately 5000x7500 pixel image.
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The Leica S2 is thus essentially a medium format camera in a "35 mm SLR"-sized body. The new "Maestro" image processor used in the S2 was developed by Fujitsu based on the Milbeaut and the autofocus system (Leica's first to see production) was developed in house. The S2 series body, lenses and accessories were available during 2009. A series of new Leica lenses is manufactured specifically for the S2 and Leica claims they offer unsurpassed resolution and contrast at all apertures and focusing distances, even exceeding the sensor's capabilities. Lenses offered for the S2 include Summarit-S in normal (70 mm), wideangle (35 mm), and macro (120 mm) varieties, and Tele-Elmar (180 mm) portrait-length telephotos; these are available in versions that feature integrated multi-leaf blade shutters ("Central Shutter", or CS), in addition to the focal-plane shutter in the camera body, to enable higher flash sync speeds.
Leica announced the Leica S (Typ 006) during September 2012. It replaces the Leica S2, having a new sensor board with improved noise characteristics.
Leica announced the Leica S (Typ 007) during September 2014. It replaces the Typ 006's CCD with a new CMOS image sensor. It offers improved noise characteristics, stills at 3.5 frames/second, and 4K video.
During 2014, Leica announced Leica T (Typ 701), the first camera with a body made completely of aluminum. Initially there were two available lenses for the camera, the Leica Summicron-T 23 mm f/2 ASPH and the Leica Vario-Elmar-T 18–56 mm f/3.5–5.6 ASPH. More lenses have been announced for 2015.
The Leica SL has the same mount as the earlier released Leica T (Typ 701), leading to the mount being rebranded from T-mount to L-mount. Crop lenses intended for use with the Leica T are now designated 'TL'.
C-LUX 1 (2006)
C-LUX 2 (2007)
C-LUX 3 (2008)
D-LUX 2 (2005)
D-LUX 3 (2006)
D-LUX 4 (2008)
D-LUX 5 (2010)
D-LUX 6 (2012)
D-LUX (Typ 109) (2014)
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V-LUX 1 (2006)
V-LUX 20 (2010)
V-LUX 2 (2010)
V-LUX 30 (2011)
V-LUX 3 (2011)
V-LUX 40 (2012)
V-LUX 4 (2012)
V-LUX (Typ 114) (2014)
Introduced with the Leica X1 on September 9, 2009. APS-C size sensor in a compact body. No viewfinder (hotshoe finder optional), fixed prime lens. During May 2012, the company introduced its successor, the Leica X2. During 2013 the Leica X Vario (Typ 107) was announced: a compact body with a 16.2 MP APS-C size sensor, a fixed variable-aperture zoom (F3.5 - F6.4, 28–70 mm equivalent) and no viewfinder (plug-in electronic viewfinder optional). During 2014, Leica announced two updates on the series: the Leica X-E (Typ 102) featuring a 24 mm f/2.8 lens and the Leica X (Typ 113) which has a 23mm f/1.7 lens.
On 8 September 2013 Leica announced the Leica C (Typ 112), a compact camera with an electronic viewfinder based on the Panasonic DMC-LF1.
Leica Q (Type 116) compact full frame camera with a Summilux 28 mm f/1.7 ASPH lens was officially announced during June 2015.
Note: Noctilux means f/0.95-f/1.2, Summilux means f/1.4, Summicron means f/2, Summarit means f/2.5 in the current lineup (f/1.5 in one of the 50 mm), Elmarit means f/2.8, and Elmar means f/3.5-f/4. Noct, Lux and Cron are commonly used as short forms for Noctilux, Summilux and Summicron, respectively. For example, 50 Cron uniquely identifies the Summicron-M 50 mm f/2 construction, although the exact version is not specified. Many Leica M lenses went through several revisions through the years.
Leica was traded as LCA1 on the Frankfurt stock exchange until October 2012.
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|35mm series cameras||
|M (rangefinder) film series||
|Digital M (rangefinder) series||
|R (35mm film SLR and dSLR) series||
|Leica S (medium format) series||
|TL mount (Autofocus MILC) series||
|Digital compact camera series||
|Digilux (digital) series||
DSLR, SLT and MILC cameras with HD video (uncompressed – ) mode (comparison)
D / 1 series
645 / K /
Fujifilm X / G
Timelapse - Slow motion - Fast fps - HDR - Panorama - GPS(opt.) - WiFi(opt.)
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