Why The Leica Is The The Best

Leica Camera AG, is a German optics enterprise and manufacturer of Leica cameras. The company is primarily known for its high-quality, lightweight rangefinder cameras, which have gained renown from their use as the camera of choice for several famous street photographers. The predecessor of the company, formerly known as 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 owns the Leica brand and licenses the sister 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 35 mm film Leica prototypes were built by Oskar Barnack at Ernst Leitz Optische Werke, Wetzlar, in 1913. Intended as a compact camera for landscape photography, particularly during mountain trips, 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 24×36 mm with a 2:3 aspect ratio, instead of the 18×24 mm of cinema cameras which transport the film vertically.

“There is one thing the photograph must contain, the humanity of the moment.”
Robert Frank

The Leica went through several iterations, and in 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 in 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 had a range from 1/20 to 1/500 second, in addition to a Z for Zeit (time) position.

Single-Lens Reflex Cameras

Conceptually bridging 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 accurately focus long focal-length lenses 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.


Industrial designer Manfred Meinzer was chiefly responsible for the R8 design, along with a team of designers largely new to Leica or drawn from outside. The R8 was intended as a clean break from the previous generation of Leica R cameras, which had been developed in cooperation with Minolta. A key design goal was to evoke the Leica M and its smooth top plate; instead of a raised pentaprism as in previous R series cameras, the R8 has sloped “shoulders” that blend almost seamlessly into the pentaprism housing. The shape is strongly asymmetrical, especially in plan view, with a bulged right handgrip and smaller, tapered left-hand side.

The amazing Leica T

Another goal was to improve the ergonomics and to place controls so they could be easily reached and operated without removing the eye from the viewfinder. Although the R8 is capable of fully automated exposure and (with the addition of the integrally-styled motor drive or winder) automated film transport, the location of the shutter speed dial lends itself to manual exposure control, as many Leica customers preferred this. In this it differs strongly from other contemporary SLRs, which were designed primarily for automatic operation. The top control wheels are sunk into the top plate, with knurled edges protruding at the front where they can easily be operated by the photographer’s fingertips.


The R8 is substantially larger and heavier than the R4-R7 series cameras, being about a third heavier at 890g than the R7. This is partly explained by being built to take and balance the heavier zoom lenses in the Leica R lens range. The styling of the R8 proved controversial, some photographers consider it ugly and dubbed it the “Hunchback of Solms” (Solms is the German town where Leica is headquartered). The size and bulk of the camera attracted a lot of criticism. { Source }

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Angela is a reporter at The Curious magazine, where she writes about fashion, travel, food and style.

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