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LC-A Big Book Chapter 69: A Warm Welcome to the Leica

Kodak well and truly announced its active presence on the German market. The Brownie had immense success there before US products disappeared from Germany during the First World War. During this time, German producers decided to develop and promote their own products and seriously combat the models from overseas.

Interestingly, Kodak led the market for years with its Brownie models without any serious competitors achieving similar success. There was simply no other manufacturer in the world that was capable of producing a film format as flexible as the roll films used in the Brownies! German producer Agfa even gave up its developments in 1905 and only retook the quest of producing film which could compete 10 years later.

Kodak well and truly announced its active presence on the German market. The Brownie had immense success there before US products disappeared from Germany during the First World War. During this time, German producers decided to develop and promote their own products and seriously combat the models from overseas. Agfa restarted producing film in 1915, and in the following years many handy affordable cameras with simple optics were released from German manufacturers such as Ica, Optische Anstalt Goerz, Zeiss Ikon and Agfa. Box-cameras were also produced in France, Italy, Great Britain, Hungary and AustraJ’a. By 1925, Kodak wasn’t the only promoter of simple to use compact cameras anymore, and it was exactly during this year that the Germans launched their really big challenge.

The Leica was introduced in 1925 at the Leipzig Springfair and was an immediate success. Its name was short for Leitz Camera and named after its manufacturer, Ernst Leitz. Never before had a camera been so handy, practical and reliable. It featured an excellent Jens and functions built into one. Considered as a “prestigious” item, as it was not at all cheap, the Leica became popular both amongst professional photographers and amateurs who could afford the little gem with interchangeable lenses. The camera also used 35mm film. This kind of compact film was at this time already in use by a dozen other camera companies and was initially invented in 1892, 33 years before the introduction of the Leica. The German camera however significantly took part in the increasing popularity of this particular type of compact film. To wit, the Leica inventor Oskar Barnack conceived a frame size of 24mm x 36mm to be used with the 35mm spool. At his time the frame size of 35mm film was not really defined. Many cameras used a smaller frame and took 40 exposures instead of today’s usual 36 exposures on a 35mm spool. But as the beautiful Leica used this kind of frame size, it casually defined the photographic format that is still mostly used with 35mm film today. The original Leica was followed by numerous models and can definitely be considered as a milestone of compact camera history. It added to the small size and the easy handling of compact cameras (such as the Brownie) the attributes of outstanding optics and functions and was used, as one of the first compact cameras ever, both by professional photographers, amateurs and also the up and coming artistic photography scene.

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written by ungrumpy

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This is the original article written in: English. It is also available in: Spanish & Deutsch.