With his supremely flexible prototype small-format camera, Oskar Barnack already provided impressive documentation of the events taking place in his home town. When the production Leica A actually went on sale in 1925, photographers were quick to make use of the new, portable, simple, and quick method of photography, creating masterpieces of artistic imagery and gripping reportage. Just as today, the Leica camera helped to produce a lot of the images that expand our knowledge and influence our perception of the world.
What was started in 1914 with the Ur-Leica quickly turned into a lasting success. In 1932, around 90,000 cameras were already in use. By 1961, the number had increased to a million. Milestones in the development include the rangefinder cameras such as the legendary Leica M3 in 1954 and the M6 in 1984. At the same time, the Leica lenses were beginning their success story and Leica binoculars impressed the world with their performance and comfort. The R-System commenced in 1976 with the Leica R3 - the first electronic Leica. In 1989, the first compact point-and-shoot model entered the market. 1998 also saw the launch of the first digital camera - the Leica Digilux. Without exception, all developments are focused on the requirements of the user and are characterized by the highest quality, focus on essential functions, and comfortable user-friendly controls.
Milestones in the Leica product history
|1849||The optician and mathematician Carl Kellner founds an optical institution for the development of lenses and microscopes in Wetzlar.|
|1887||The 10,000th microscope is produced.|
|1907||Start of binocular production under the management of Max Berek.|
|1914||Oskar Barnack creates the Ur-Leica.|
|1923||Production of the first 25 prototypes of a small-format 35mm camera named the "Null-Serie" for test purposes.|
|1925||The Leica with built-in collapsible lens is presented at the Spring Trade Fair in Leipzig. 1,000 cameras were produced in the first year alone. The first small-format enlarger is introduced under the name of FILAR.|
|1926||The first small-format 35mm projector is launched under the name of ULEJA.|
|1930||The first Leica camera with interchangeable threaded mount and three vest pocket lenses is launched. The Lehr-Atelier is set up in the optical factory Ernst Leitz in Wetzlar to introduce researchers, technicians, journalists and scientists to the advantages of small-format photography in both theory and practice.|
|1932||The Leica II with coupled rangefinder and built-in viewfinder is made available for the first time. Additional screw-mount lenses enter the market. Leica photographers now have seven vest pocket lenses with standardized thread at their disposal. The Leica II with the serial number 100,000 is manufactured.|
|1934||The Leica 250, dubbed the "Reporter", contains 10 meter film and delivers 250 exposures without reloading. Combined with a spring motor, it becomes the preferred device used in reconnaissance aircraft by the German air force.|
|1954||The Leica M3 with bayonet mount and high-magnification rangefinder marks the end of an era for screw thread cameras. Film transport is made significantly easier with the use of a rapid-wind lever.|
|1957||The Leica IIIg ,the last Leica screw thread model, is introduced.|
|1963||Groundbreaking new development in the form of LEICA Trinovid binoculars is presented at the Photokina exposition. It featured an elegant new slim line design, a new central focusing control, and a true internal-focus system to prevent suction when adjusting.|
|1965||The Leicaflex marks the first Leica single-lens reflex camera to enter series production.|
|1966||The Leica Noctilux 1:1.2/50 mm is the first 35mm lens with an aspherical element.|
|1967||The Leica M4 is launched with a simplified film loading system and new rewind crank.|
|1968||The Leicaflex SL is the first camera in the world with selective-area metering.|
|1971||The Leica M5 is the first rangefinder camera in the world with selective light measurement through the taking lens.|
|1973||The Leica CL is launched as a compact rangefinder camera. A new factory in Portugal starts operation.|
|1975||Newly developed glass types enable the construction of the extremely high-aperture objective, the famed Leica Noctilux 1:1.0/50 mm.|
|1976||The Leica R3 is the first electronic Leica with selective/integral light measurement.|
|1980||The Leica R4 is the first Leica with multi-program automatic exposure.|
|1984||The Leica M6 with selective light measurement and LED display in the finder is launched.|
|1988||The Leica R6 with mechanically controlled shutter is announced.|
|1989||The first Leica compact camera LEICA AF-C1 is launched.|
|1990||The binocular series LEICA TRINOVID BA is launched with newly developed lenses and a totally redesigned mechanism.|
Leica introduces the first binocular with integrated laser rangefinder: Geovid 7x42 BD.
The first digitally controlled Leica is presented, the LEICA R7.
First Leica lens with molded asperical lens is introduced.
Leica introduces the first Leica spotting scope: Leica Televid.
|1996||The microprocessor-controlled single-lens reflex camera, Leica R8, is launched.|
|1998||The Leica M6 TTL with TTL flash exposure measurement is introduced. The Leica Digilux is launched - the first digital Leica compact camera.|
|1999||With the Leica C1, the new design series in Leica compact cameras, is launched|
Leica M7 with automatic timer providing digital countdown digital display of long exposures.
The Leica R9 with low weight and extended flash control options is launched.
Leica Duovid is worldwide the first high performance binocular with dual magnification.
|2003||The new binocular range Leica Ultravid in a new design and improved optical system is launched. A digital rear panel for the Leica R9 is announced.|
||The Geovid is redesigned - more compact and improved construction: Geovid 8x42 BRF.|
||The Digital-Modul-R is introduced and the analog R8/R9 becomes a digital SLR-camera.|
|2006||Leica introduces the digital rangefinder camera Leica M8.|
The Leica S2 medium-format digital camera for professional photography is launched.
||The Leica M9 appears as the brand's first full-frame, 35 mm format, digital rangefinder camera. The M9 and the S2 soon become enormously successful. Parallel to this, Leica introduces the Leica X1, the first digital compact camera to bear the prestigious ‘made in Germany' label.|
||The exclusive special edition Leica M9 "Titanium" is introduced to the market. This special edition is the result of a collaboration with Walter de'Silva, the prominent automobile designer.|
||The M9-P upgrade is availbale. The wide-angle lens Super-Elmar-M 1:3,4/21 mm ASPH. for the M-System is launched, as well as the Magnus riflescope line.|
||In May, Leica launches the world's first ever digital camera made exclusively for black-and-white 35 mm photography, the Leica M Monochrom. The company presents the next generation of the digital Leica compact camera "made in Germany", the Leica X2. In September, Leica premieres the Leica M at photokina in Cologne. This new milestone in the history of Leica camera is equipped for the first time with a newly designed and constructed CMOS sensor and features such as Live View and full-HD video. As a logical advance, the new Leica S has further improved imaging quality and sensor sensitivity and also features predictive autofocus, higher speed and improved handling.|
||With the Leica X Vario, the company adds a new digital compact camera to the Leica X family - the first to feature a zoom lens and full-HD video capability. The Leica C is launched as the first model of a new line of Leica digital compact cameras.|