In the venerable optical factory, which had been successfully developing world-class microscopes at Leitz, Wetzlar since 1849, a new idea caused a real stir:
Oskar Barnack wanted to move away from the traditional, heavy plate cameras then used for most photography and search for a completely new form of photographic technology. As early as 1905, he had the idea of reducing the negative format and enlarging the photographs at a later stage. He succeeded in turning this momentous idea into reality 10 years later in his capacity as development manager. From a device to test exposures for cinema film, he developed the Ur-Leica, arguably the first truly successful small-format camera in the world. The small picture format of 24x36mm was achieved at that time by doubling the 18 x 24 mm cinema format. The photographs created in 1914 were of outstanding quality for the time. Delayed due to WW1, the first Leica (a contraction of Leitz Camera) did not enter series production until 1924 and was introduced to the public in 1925.
With Oskar Barnack's sensational new small-format camera, photojournalism was brought closer to actual events and began telling stories in a more dynamic and truthful manner. The reaction among photo artists to the possibility of achieving a "new form of vision" was extremely enthusiastic. The Leica became an indispensable companion for all situations, an "integral part of the eye" or an "extension of the hand". Since this momentous development, users have been able to focus their full concentration on the subject and the picture. Building on this first invention and on the innovative spirit demonstrated by Oskar Barnack, Leica is constantly working to create the perfect tools to extend that unique vision and the unlimited possibilities it represents.