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Wednesday, July 16, 2014



Newer and more advanced production methods have resulted in a relatively large number of lenses with aspherical elements.  This has led to considerable advances in lens performance. The 50mm F/2 Apo Summicron ASPH is such a lens.  It approaches the limits of what is physically possible.  Performance wise, this lens is unsurpassed.

However, that isn’t to say that some of the older Leica lenses are suddenly outdated and undesirable.  As a matter of fact, we can go back almost 40 years and still find a lens that is possibly equal in performance to the current 50mm Summicron.

This lens is the 180mm f/3.4 Apo-Telyt-R.  It reached the market in 1975.  At that time it was no longer a secret that Leica had developed the lens for the US Navy as part of a high resolution 35mm camera system.

The system used Leicaflex SL2 cameras, the standard 35mm Summicron-R, a 75mm f/2 Elcan-R, a 180mm f/3.4 Elcan-R (later reincarnated as the Apo-Telyt-R), and a 450mm f/5.6 Elcan-R.  This system was used by the US Navy starting in the early 1970s.

Leica 180mm f/3.4 Apo-Telyt-R

One of the problems of lens design is accurate color correction and the Navy presented Leica with the problems of developing lenses that could focus more than just the visible spectrum accurately.

Even today, most of the photographic lenses have what is referred to as “primary color correction,” where only part of the visible spectrum is focused at any time.

The solution to the problem lay in the development of glasses with what are considered “anomalous” properties; the combination of high refracting indexes with low dispersion.

Such properties are found in artificially grown crystals; an example is the calcium fluoride elements made famous in the Canon FL series telephoto lenses.

But such crystals have a very large temperature coefficient, and elements made from them are both brittle and extremely soft.  The temperature related expansion of calcium fluoride elements is so great that most lenses made with them are subject to changes in focal length with temperature changes, and therefore have no proper infinity stop or distance markings.

The softness of the material also leads to design constraints.  For instance, the Canon 300mm FL lens has a thin, conventional glass element in front of the “front” calcium fluoride element, primarily for protective purposes.

Not an ideal situation.  Lenses made of these crystal elements demand extreme care to assure proper performance, and the military considered them incompatible with the kind of treatment they were likely to receive.

The glass research lab in Wetzlar set out to develop a glass that had the optical properties of crystals like calcium fluoride, but without the negative side effects.  They did indeed develop such a glass, today commonly referred to as “apo glass.”  It was/is used in a variety of Leica lenses, including the Apo-Telyt, the 800mm Telyt-R, and the Noctilux 50mm f/1.  Their designer, Dr. Walter Mandler, was the man whose genius brought us those lenses, but also the 35mm Summilux, and close to fifty other lenses for Leica cameras, in addition to lenses for RCA television cameras, IMAX projectors, and Picker X-ray equipment.


How good are the Elcan lenses, specifically the Apo Telyt 180mm f/3.4?  While most photographic lenses have a color correction from 400 to a maximum of 700 nanometers, the Leitz apo glass allows correction up to 900 nanometers.  In simple terms, this means that all colors of the visible spectrum and infrared are focused in a single plane.

The Apo-Telyt proved to be the best lens of the set, making it one of the very few lenses for 35mm cameras that do not require refocusing when used with infrared films or sensors.  For instance, when used with an adapter on the Leica M8, M9. M-E and M Monochrom and with an infrared filter, the lens can be focused normally and does not require any refocusing to compenmsate for the infrared focus shift

The US Navy conducted comparison tests with the 180mm f/2.8 Elmarit-R.  These demonstrate the effects of the apochromatic correction of the Apo-Telyt.  Both lenses were tested at f/3.4 with blue, yellow-green, red and infrared light.  The maximum focus shift of the Apo-Telyt was +/- 0.045mm.  The shift of the 180mm f/2.8 Elmarit-R (at f/3.40 was +/- 0.25mm.

In practical applications, such correction translated into fantastic sharpness.  Increased resolution is readily apparent, made possible by greatly increased contrast capabilities.

The Navy test showed that the Kodak 5069 film, developed in H&W 4.5 developer consistently achieved resolution figures of 600 lines per millimeter.  To make enlargements with this kind of detail required a specially modified Leitz Focomat II enlarger and lenses.

It is safe to say that regardless of manufacturer, the Leitz Apo-Telyt-R 180mm f/3.4 is still one of the very best lenses ever made for 35mm and digital photography.

For more information go to:


This article has a lot more information on the Apo-Telyt and the tests conducted by the US Navy.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014



By Daniel Grotta-Kurska

Reprinted by permission from
Philadelphia Magazine
February 1974

Please Note:
Even though this article was published years ago, its basic message is as true today as it was then, and I thought it to be interesting reading even today.

 “You keep telling yourself that it’s only metal, glass and fabric, that the damn thing’s nothing more than a machine; a collection of gears, springs and ball bearings.  Your mind says that it’s only a camera, just like an Instamatic or Polaroid or a Brownie.  But then you take it into your hands, heft it up and down a few times to feel the balance, try out its flawless focusing, fire off a couple shots to hear its ultra-quiet shutter and it becomes an unmistakable instrument of perfection, a thing of beauty.  Then you know for a certainty that in this entire world there’s only one thing like a Leica, and that’s another Leica.”

A Leica is a Leica is a Leica, just like a Rolls-Royce is a Rolls-Royce and a Rolex is a Rolex and a Bang and Olufsen is a Bang and Olufsen.  The Leica is, without a doubt, the very finest 35mm camera in the world.  Leica is the ultimate of ultimates, the most coveted, sought after, and proudly possessed piece of photographic equipment anywhere.  Whether they admit it or not, inside every Minolta or Pentax or Nikon owner there’s a Leicaphile trying to get out.  Unfortunately the Leica system, being the best, also happens to be the most expensive.  This means that it is priced out of the reach of most serious and professional photographers, who have to make do with their Nikons and spin all sorts of rationalizations and justifications to explain to themselves and others why they didn’t really want a Leica in the first place.  This makes for a rather odd situation; whenever photographers get together, they usually talk about photography, but whenever Leica owners assemble, they inevitably talk about……Leicas.

 Leica owners belong to a select fraternity who share their status, style and elegance with each other and it doesn’t matter a twit whether they have the latest model or a 45-year-old Model A.  A Leica is a Leica is a Leica.  Well, not quite.  There are super select Leica purists who, for example refuse to acknowledge the existence of the CL model because it was assembled in – horrors! – Japan.  Still other Leicaphiles refuse to use the reflex models because they believe Leica should only make rangefinders, the M series cameras.

Leica Model A

Owning a Leica can be an infectious, incurable disease.  Since Leica owners are already at the top, the only upward mobility left to them is to own more Leicas.  Occasionally you’ll meet an elderly doctor or a distinguished lawyer who is perfectly content with his one camera and lens, but they are very much the exception.  Once you have the basic camera, the next step is to possess the entire current camera system.  At current (1974) market prices, a system can easily cost $10,000 and up.

After the current system, the really hard-core Leicaphiles inevitably start collecting systems.  Over the years, Ernst Leitz, the firm that makes Leicas, has produced so many different models, lenses and accessories that even it isn’t sure where it all ends.  But according to its records, in the 50 years that it has been marketing 35mm cameras, it has produced a grand total of 1.3 million Leicas (1974), or an average of 27,000 cameras per year.  That means that, in addition to being very expensive, used Leicas also happen to be relatively rare these days.

Leica owners might seem to be a trifle eccentric, but Leica collectors come across as out-and-out high class cranks.  They’re an ultra-secretive, paranoid lot who are afraid of fire, theft, and Acts of God.  One center city lawyer prizes his Leica collection so much that he keeps it all in two bank vaults, in two different buildings.  Another Main Line collector declines to reveal where his collection is squirreled away, but admits that he wouldn’t dare keep it in anything as unsafe and uncertain as his……home.

This type of behavior isn’t at all unusual; most Leica collections, in fact, rarely see the light of day.  Since the only person who could possibly appreciate the mystique and beauty of a bunch of cameras is another collector.  Leica collections are almost never displayed at home or publicly exhibited.  In a way, the Leica collector is like the millionaire art enthusiast who recruits brigands to loot the world’s finest museums of their masterpieces and then build a secret room in his mansion just to privately gloat over the paintings from time to time.

Every collector whom I encountered while writing this article made me promise that I wouldn’t reveal his name, address, or anything else that could remotely identify him.  Two of them were so uptight that they actually had me sign legally binding documents prepared by their respective attorneys swearing me to anonymity.  And still another collector refused to give me his name and would only speak over the telephone.  Incidentally there are ten serious and 250 occasional collectors in Philadelphia, but within a few days time, most of them knew that I was writing an article for the Philadelphia Magazine.  They have a very efficient grapevine.

No Leica collector starts with the idea of becoming a collector; it just sort of happens that way.  “You get hold of your first Leica and start using the thing and then you want accessories.  Then you happen to see an old Leica somewhere and buy it because it looks so good.  Somehow you never seem to get rid of equipment and it just keeps accumulating.  Then one day, you take out everything, look at it and ask yourself, “Good grief! Where did it all come from?”  From that day you are a Leica collector.”

Through the years, Ernst Leitz has produced (manufactured is a misnomer, since almost everything is virtually handmade) an incredible variety of lenses and accessories for its many camera models.  Some collectors want to own at least one of everything Leitz has ever made, while others concentrate and specialize.  The center city lawyer, for example, has a relatively small collection (30 camera bodies and approximately 60 lenses), but has four ultra-rare Model B cameras.  A teenage collector with little money to spend concentrates his efforts in finding small accessories, such as optional finders, lens hoods and filters.  Other collectors pass up the cameras in favor of lenses or instruction booklets, or Leica technical manuals, or old advertisements.  And if that isn’t enough, still other collectors haunt camera stores to track down the original red boxes which once held Leica cameras and accessories.  Nothing Leitz ever produced or printed is without value.

Some Leica items have stories to go with them.  Many Leitz lenses, for example were designed by Professor Dr. Max Berek.  Like a comet discoverer, he who designs new lens formulas gets to name them.  Berek decided to immortalize his two favorite dogs, Hector and Rex, with the Hector and Summarex series lenses.  Incidentally, one of Berek’s classics is a lens that was designed back in 1926 and was so outstanding that it is still produced by Leitz.

Leitz Summarex 85mm f/1.5 on Leica IIIg

A recent classic is the M4 camera which was only produced between 1967 and 1971.  It is perhaps the most rugged and reliable piece of machinery ever built on God’s green earth.  One (true) story is that the Leitz people once put the M4 through an endurance test to see how long the shutter would continue to work before breaking down.  To do this, they rigged the camera to a machine that did nothing but mechanically cock and shoot the shutter, once a second, day and night.  The machine broke down long before the M4 did.  Another true tale concerns the M4 that was accidentally dropped 2,000 feet from an airplane.  The photographer eventually retrieved it, dusted it off and continued to use it as if nothing had happened.

Leica M4

More important than classics to collectors are the rarities, or those models which had very limited production runs.  One such camera was the Luxus Leica, a blatantly ultra-luxurious model for people rich enough and silly enough to buy it.  The Luxus was available in red, green blue or brown leather.  Even snakeskin.  And believe it or not, even gold plated.  Less than 100 were made in 1929 and it rates as one of the rarest Leicas.  Another model is the Leica 72, a half frame prototype.  Then there is the Leica Gun telephoto camera, of which only a few were made.  Other desirable models include the 250-exposure Leica FF, a special gray model IIIc used by the Luftwaffe, a 90mm screw mount Summicron lens manufactured in Germany (all other Summicrons, heaven forbid, are made in Canada), and a IIIc with a self-timer.  Every collector is also aware of persistent, unsubstantiated rumors that Leitz secretly produced cameras in South America during World War II, but so far, nothing has turned up to confirm that.

Leica Luxus

Leica 72

Leica Gun

Leica 250 with electric motor

Leica collectors are the first to cheerfully admit that they are probably crazy.  “Being unmarried is almost a prerequisite for serious collecting,” says one bachelor collector who has spent over $35,000 in the past 20 years on Leicas.  “I don’t know of any wife in her right mind who would put up with this kind of insanity.  A Leica collector needs two essential things: an understanding family and a big bank account.”

Their insanity is manifested in many different ways.  One collector with 30 cameras, for example, shoots less than 20 rolls of film each year.  Another visits the bank vault three or four times a year, unwraps his collection, fires each shutter off a few times and then wraps them back up in Wonder Bread plastic bags.

There is a strong competitive streak among Leica collectors that has to be seen to be believed.  It is perhaps the ultimate in one-upmanship.  One might have a rim-set Model B, but the other would gloat over his slightly rarer dial-set Model B.  Or one might have three Model A cameras, but the other might have one with a lower serial number.  And then there is the variation of “I paid $2,000 for mine,” only to be topped by another who proudly announces “I got it for only $35.”

Leica collectors constantly haunt camera shops, watch newspaper ads, attend estate auctions and ask their friends if the know anybody that might have Leica hardware.  The serious collectors eventually join the American Leica Historical Society which is only one of many Leica clubs around the world.  The society exists primarily for collectors who want to buy or trade equipment.  They have even managed to coin a word for their mania – Leicacunabula.  Incidentally, most of the ads in the LHSA publication Leicalog have box numbers instead of names and addresses.

A two day Leica factory technical seminar at the Bellevue Stratford in Philadelphia drew about 150 people, but as usually happens at these affairs; practically all those present were less interested in the technical lectures than comparing their Leicas.  The overwhelming majority of students were successful, conservatively dressed, middle aged men, although there were a few wives and one or two teenagers.  It seemed that most of the men suffered through lectures and slide shows, waiting for the coffee breaks in order to really come alive.  I learned some very interesting things through those breaks.

-The largest private Leica collection in the world is, ironically enough, owned by a Japanese rubber tycoon named Kenijiro Nakamura.  But the third largest collection is right here in America, in Miami, owned by – sorry, no names please.

-The 2 M4 bodies I had to sell for $150 each in 1971 in order to pay the rent now go for $600 each.

-Leica equipment has no depreciation.  Virtually every model and lens made is worth as much or more than it cost originally.

-Old Leicas make damn fine investments.  For example, in 1963 a 105mm Alpine lens could be had for $35, but you can’t touch one today for less than $600.  Five years ago a Leica IIIc with lens cost $49, but now the body alone goes for $125.  And a model B which originally sold for less than $100 was bought by a Montgomery County collector for $2,900 in December and one went for a reported $4,000 in Japan a week earlier.

-Some insurance companies, such as Liberty Mutual, now offer low cost fine art insurance for old Leicas, just as if they were oil paintings by old masters.

-In the past three years, old Leicas have appreciated in value by an average of 300%.

-Leica has, through the years, spawned a lot of imitators such as Canon, Nicca, Tower, Zorki, Ixa, Yashica and others.  Some of them have been identical carbon copies.  Enterprising but dishonest mechanics now have a brisk trade modifying them and selling the counterfeit Leicas as ostensible rare models.

“The market took off like a rocket about three years ago,” says one serious collector.  “Why, I’m not certain, but it could be nostalgia for all things old, or that indefinable mystique about Leica’s legendary quality.”

“My wife hates cameras,” says one local dentist, “but she likes Leicas as investments.  She thinks they are a hell of a lot better than the stock market.”

But why do people collect Leicas and why are they now considered to be valuable works of art?  “They have the feeling of perfection,” surmises the lawyer.  “In an age where everything is breaking down, it is reassuring to take a 50 year old camera and have everything work as perfectly as the day it was built.”

If Leica collectors are crazy, then maybe they are crazy like foxes.      

Saturday, July 12, 2014




Cameras That Have Owned Me

By Jerry Page

When I reached my twelfth birthday, my father presented me with an Argus A, not because he felt I was mature, not to celebrate my imminent manhood, not for anything other than self-preservation.  He had often noticed, when emerging from the darkroom, negatives on freshly developed strips that he could not recall taking.  Of course not…

As long as I can remember, I have been obsessed with recording everything I could see, hear, taste, or touch.  I don’t know why; I suppose it would take a psychiatrist specialized in manias to figure it out, but no matter.  The sensation of having to “make sure” that I really did see a particular scene, really did hear a particular sound, has always been with me.

And one day while my father was at work and I at home, I discovered where he kept his Argus C-2.  Eureka!  I found it!  Surreptitiously I began taking the C-2 out to record: the apartment, the new Philco radio which stood 3 ½ feet high and had push buttons, the tops of cars as they passed in the street below.  My Argus A was my father’s defense against the clutter on his film strips, and clutter I had done, rapidly.  Everything interested me, and anything particularly appealing (like a tree branch heavily bent with leaves, shimmering in the sun) I photographed from as many angles as possible.

Mind you, “Art” was not on my mind.  I harbored no secret desire to be a photo journalist like Clark Gable in “Too Hot to Handle”, I just needed to be sure I could really prove to myself that I had seen what I had seen.

And so I passed a number of pleasant years.  By and large my parents indulged me, with only occasional rumblings about the cost of panchromatic.  We lived in Flatbush, a section of Brooklyn, New York, which was about equidistant from everywhere; I pointed out to them the money I was saving by walking, not spending carfare.

And so I am probably the only (then) sixteen year old who knows precisely where he was on December &, 1941, when Pearl Harbor  was attacked: I was shivering on the beach at Coney Island (a brief five mile walk from the apartment) racing up and back on the sand trying to frame a tanker lumbering up the Narrows dead center in the sun’s rays streaming from a broken cloud formation.  I got the picture (one of my better ones right up to the present) and wound my way home, ducking into apartment house basements each time I heard airplane engines, since I guessed that after Pearl Harbor, Brooklyn was next.

I was eventually drafted, and I found myself at Fort Dix one cold February morning with my “quarter” moccasins (pennies were for girls), my Argus, and three rolls of film.  At some point in the following years I discarded the loafers, but the camera went all through the war with me.  Security in the Combat Engineers seemed to be confined to knowing the day’s password; no officer ever objected to the presence of the camera – and some of the scenes I recorded are moving up to this day.

The Argus survived the war, but not the return home.  Three days after I returned, the girl I was with dropped it and cracked the bakelite casing.  That ended the romance, as I mourned my friend’s passing.

But I also discovered that other cameras existed, and so did camera stores.  It was quite a revelation, and the beginning of a six month quest.

I had no intentions of replacing the Argus with another.  I really missed the rangefinder on the C-2, as a number of fuzzy prints showed, but what I really wanted was a Contax II.  I settled for the C-2 and vowed the Contax would be mine eventually.

I eventually did get it, and it was a great disappointment.  It had a 50/2 Sonnar; I was fascinated with the increased print contrast, and the opportunity to shoot in murkier light (f/2 was FAST) – and of course, it handled like an exquisite machine.  But the hair in the sweet cream proved to be the rangefinder; I could adjust the focus for what seemed like minutes until I was “dead on”, then find the scene had changed.  Candids were out of the question.  I couldn’t yet afford the 28/2.8 Tessar which, I was told, I could leave at f/8, preset the distance to 15 feet, and voila!  Everything would be in focus.  But, I asked myself, if I could do that, why do I need a rangefinder in the first place?  There was something wrong with either the argument or the camera, and I wouldn’t pierce the argument.

Someone mentioned that he’d tried a Voigtländer “Prominent” and was impressed.  So what do you suppose I bought next?  With the Prominent I gave up some shutter speed, but gained and (ever so slight) improvement in the rangefinder.  The problem with the Prominent was the 100mm lens – the reflex housing weighed a ton and was very awkward.

I changed to a Robot Royal 36S.  Scenes couldn’t keep up with the spring-wound motor, and every time I pressed the shutter release, all cats within 50 yards would arch their backs and wail to the winds - it was fingernails on the black board.  The Royal 36S had only a few interchangeable lenses, and the rangefinder spot was still minuscule.

The first of New York’s Camera Barns opened one balmy spring day in 1959, on Liberty Street across from the building where I worked.  I wandered in and met Fred, affable owner and ace salesman; after a few minutes of well-wishing on both sides, I erupted with my constant complaint, the shortcomings of 35mm cameras.

Fred (that marketing genius) suggested that I might try one of the new 35mm reflexes that were finding their way to market, but the black-out during exposure left me afloat in the ether, and the noise equaled that of the Robot.  Fred continued the erosion of my soul and gave me a look through the current Canon and Nikon rangefinder models, probably aware that my disappointment was only increasing.

And then he reached way back on the shelf, turned to me and murmured quizzically (I’m positive the snake knew all along the nature of the Adam he had to deal with),

“Well, this just came in.  I don’t know if it’ll please you more than the others; its called an M3…”

The instant my right eye opened through the viewfinder, that electric shock of recognition hit me.  I KNEW I was going to leave the store with this camera.  I didn’t know what it cost, whether it was new or used, not even who made it.  But it was mine, and that was all I really needed to know.  The rest was peripheral.

Some periphery.  When my feet finally touched earth, I learned the camera with its 50/1.5 Summarit was used, cost $400, and was made by E. Leitz, Wetzlar, Germany.  So this was a Leica!  Where had I been the last 34 years, to remain oblivious?  Ignorance, thy name is Page! At last I had discovered that Leicas existed.

To ease my anguish at the thought of having to sell my wife to a white-slaver and put my son up for adoption, Fred maneuvered my plastic, covetous soul away from the Summarit to an f/3.5 Elmar.  He convinced me that with improvements in film emulsions, I really didn’t need the speed of the Summarit – as long as I had that marvel to hold and transport the film.  And, he assured me, he’d always be able to get me all the other great Leitz lenses.

Leica M3 with 50/2 Summicron

 Did he ever!  In time, as Leitz produced new lenses, there I was with my hot little hands out, gleefully grabbing up a 135/4.5, a 90/2.8 Tele-Elmarit, a 50/2 Summicron (I really did need the speed – Kodachrome was still ASA 10).

And fortuitously, I got an unexpected benefit from the discovery of Leica, the benefit that to this day puts Leica atop Everest: the glass up front.  My concern had always been focusing, the view in the finder; the Leitz lenses, beginning with that Elmar, changed all that – rapidly.  From the first roll of film I was getting the sort of separation between planes in the pictures, the snap and contrast that I assumed only professionals with their paraphernalia could get.  Instead of one or two pleasing pictures per roll, I could count fifteen or sixteen that had enough impact to make me go back and look at them again and again.  I have an idea of what kids mean when they talk of a “high” – I can feel like that with almost every roll of film I get back.

Depth, realism, whatever term you use to express the essential of photography for you, is what those Leitz lenses deliver time after time, more consistently than any others I’ve tried, and as I look back I realize I have tried most.  So while I was pleased to discover that I could truly “see” through the viewfinder, the greater pleasure took place when I projected those slides:  what miracles those lenses were, and are.  


Most people, when traveling to Germany from other countries, will go to Bavaria which certainly is worth the trip.  As a matter of fact, southern Germany in general seems to have more appeal to foreign travelers than the rest of the country.  Yet other areas have a distinct charm of their own.

One such area is the Lüneburger Heide or Lunenburg Heath in English.  It is a large area of heath, geest and woodland in northeastern part of the state of Lower Saxony in northern Germany.  It forms part of the hinterland for the cities of Hamburg, Hanover, and Bremen and is named after the town of Lüneburg.  Most of the area is a nature reserve.

The remaining areas of heath are kept clear mainly through grazing, especially by a North German breed of moorland sheep called the Heidschnucke. Due to its unique landscape, the Lüneburg Heath is a popular tourist destination in North Germany.

Following is a series of photographs taken by Marlies Amling FROM Weilburg, Germany.  Weilburg is only a few miles from Wetzlar, the headquarters of Leica Camera AG.

All photographs were taken with Leica R4 equipment and a variety of Leica lenses.

 The Heidemuseum, a building typical for the area with half timbered construction and a thatched roof

Celle, the capital of the area


Storage Barn

Sheep Barn


Out for a walk on Sunday

Thursday, July 10, 2014


No digital camera makes it as easy as the Leica M8 to use infrared light to create surreal pictures that stand out in radiantly bright green leafs in extreme contrast of a dark sky, for example.  As is known, the barrier filter of the sensor cover glass is very weak for design-related reasons.  Therefore an additional blocking filter is always recommended for normal photography to avoid a magenta cast of skin tones or black textiles. The M9, ME and M monochrome are also ideal to create the effects of long light waves.
For this nothing more is necessary than an infrared filter like the B + W IR 093 Black Red 830 F PRO.  All B + W filters are made from high quality optically ground and finely polished, plane-parallel and streak-free glass.

The filter blocks out all visible light, resulting in pure infrared photographs.  Light transmission starts at a wavelength of 800 nm with just 1 percent and rises at 900 nm to 88 percent.
Since infrared filters have a very large exposure factor and therefore require long exposure times, it is always recommended to use a stable tripod.  Automatic exposure control should not be used because the exposure meter is calibrated for visible light only.  The optimum exposure values can best be determined through a series of tests. The distance settings require some practice as well.  As a rule of thumb for infinity focus under IR conditions multiply the focal length by 300.  For example, for a 50 mm lens that is 15 meters.

These filters are available in sizes E39, E46, E49, and E55.

For sample images go to:

LEICA PRACTICUM - A new Leica book by Erwin Putz

"Leica Practicum" is dedicated to the practical side of Leica photography. Erwin Puts discusses the specialties about the Leica principle and delves deeply into the philosophical and theoretical discourse about the nature of Photography. In addition, the reader is given an insight into the principles of silver halide and digital photography.

Text in English, 449 pages, 239 illustrations

40, - €

To order, go to:

Monday, July 7, 2014


From July 25 to November 9, 2014 the exhibition “Walker Evans – Ein Lebenswerk (a life’s work)” can be seen at the Martin-Gropius Building in Berlin.

Foto: Pabst Blue Ribbon Sign, Chicago, Illinois 1946
Collection of Clark and Joan Worswick Walker
© Evans Ealker Evans Archive
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

On display are more than 200 original prints from 1928 to 1974. They includes both some of his iconic work as well as rarely published photographs from 50 years of his creative time. With its sober recordings Walker Evans (1903-1975) shows a uniquely authentic picture of America. He gained public attention for the first time with his documentation of poverty in America in the times of the Great Depression in the 1930s. His work is significant for the photographing style, which is referred to as "documentary style." Over the decades up to the present the extensive photographic work of Walker Evans continues to gain recognition as being a great example for this style of photography.

Thursday, July 3, 2014


Leica Exhibition at the Pressehaus

Wetzlar (iba). The photo exhibition "Leica - Legende und Leidenschaft" (Leica - Legend and Passion) opened in the foyer of the Pressehaus in Wetzlar, Elsa-Brand-Ström-Straße 18

To mark the 100th anniversary of the Leica and the relocation of the company in the anniversary year of 2014 to Wetzlar, newspaper photographer and editor Reimund Black has accompanied the people behind the brand, and won exclusive insight into the company and its architecture. His unique perspective shows Leica in a whole new light.

<p>Leica-Ausstellung im Pressehaus. (Foto: Reimund Schwarz)</p>
Leica exhibition at the Pressehaus (Foto: Raimund Schwarz)

A high-quality brochure of the Leica project of the Wetzlar Neue Zeitung newspaper shows photos and articles about the people behind the world famous camera brand.  It is available at a special price of five euros the Pressehaus. The brochure can also be ordered at (0 64 41) 959-272 by phone. The exhibition is on display at the opening times of the Pressehaus, weekdays 9-6, Saturdays 9 to 12.

Monday, June 30, 2014


Leica has published the long awaited firmware update for the Leica M.  You can download it here.  

This update incorporated quite a few improvements, designed to increase the performance and the overall handling of the camera.

>  Users of older lenses, including Leica screw mount lenses can now be used with live view when used with the new manual lens detection.

>  A new item in the menu is “Exposure Simulation.”  When set to “Permanent,” Live View will show the accurate image brightness depending on the manual shutter speed and aperture selected.  However, this will only work with shutter speeds shorter than 1/30s.

>  This update includes additional Auto ISO options all of which are now visible when using the ISO button.

>  To avoid camera shake when using auto ISO in conjunction with long lenses, a “Maximum Exposure Time” feature has been added.  It allows to be set to 1x, 2x or 4x the focal length.

>  “Auto ISO” is also available when exposure times and apertures are set manually.

>  The color of “Focus Peaking” can now be set to red, green or blue.

These are the main changes.  There are a lot of additional changes, all of which will ultimately enhance the operation of the camera.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014


From [m]ittelhessen

X-, S-, T- UND M-LINIE - Die Produktion der Kult-Kamera ist Handarbeit

Wetzlar. In dem Raum mit den großen Glasscheiben herrscht höchste Konzentration. 1000 Lux strahlen von der Decke. Die Mitarbeiter tragen weiße Kittel, Hauben und Reinraumschuhe. Kein Staubkorn darf stören. Der riesige Raum ist das Herzstück der Leica Camera AG: Hier werden täglich 400 Kameras gebaut - in Handarbeit, versteht sich.

<p>Das "I-Tüpfelchen": Auf der letzten Produktionsstation wird das Logo eingesetzt. (Foto: Schwarz)</p>
Das "I-Tüpfelchen": Auf der letzten Produktionsstation wird das Logo eingesetzt  (Foto: Schwartz)
70 Mitarbeiter reichen sich in der Kameramontage in Schichtarbeit auf den unterschiedlichsten Positionen die Leicas von Hand zu Hand. Die Fertigungsstraßen liegen dicht beieinander, die M- wird zwischen der S- und der X-Reihe montiert. Ständig wird kontrolliert und justiert, jeder Griff sitzt. Stimmt eine Einstellung nicht, geht es zurück auf null, einem Tisch, an dem Fehler repariert werden. Denn bei Leica diktiert nicht der Akkord das Tempo auf der Fertigungsstraße, sagt Christian Rinker, Leiter der Kameramontage, "sondern allein die Qualität". Jede Kamera bekommt einen Laufzettel, jeder Mitarbeiter unterschreibt seinen Arbeitsschritt. Doch wie baut man eine Leica? Wir begleiten eine M (Typ 240) vom Anfang bis zum Ende.

<p>Die Sensorlage wird geprüft - sie kann sich während der Montage verändern, was aber nur selten passiert. (Foto: Schwarz)</p>
Die Sensorlage wird geprüft - sie kann sich während der Montage verändern, was aber nur selten passiert.
  (Foto: Schwartz)

Position 1: In einem kleinen Transportbehälter gehen die einzelnen Kamerakomponenten der M auf die Reise: eine vormontierte Hülle wahlweise in Schwarz lackiert oder Silber verchromt, dazu die Platine, der Bodendeckel, die Deckklappe. Die Teile aus dem Werk in Portugal werden nach der Wareneingangskontrolle digital erfasst, bekommen einen Code. Rinker: "Damit ist der digitale Fingerabdruck da, jede Kamera ist mit Nummer im System erfasst." Dann werden die ersten Teile der M von Hand vorsichtig über das Rollenband weitergeschoben.

<p>Der Sensor wird gereinigt und es wird zu 100 Prozent sichergesttellt, dass kein Staubpartikel mehr vorhanden ist. (Foto: Schwarz)</p>
Der Sensor wird gereinigt und es wird zu 100 Prozent sichergestellet dass kein Staubpartikel mehr vorhanden ist.
(Foto: Schwartz)

Position 2: Das Sensorboard wird montiert. Es ersetzt in den digitalen Kameras den Film, der in die analogen Modelle noch eingelegt werden muss. Rinker: "Das Boardset aus Sensor und Imageboard macht das Bild." Ist das hochempfindliche Stück eingelegt, wird es kalibriert und die Kamera erneut gescannt - das Board ist jetzt im System der Kamera zugeordnet.

<p>Mit einem Pinsel wird die Optik gereinigt, Belege am Suchersystem beseitigt und die Deckkappe aufgeschraubt. (Foto: Schwarz)</p>
Mit einem Pisel wird die Optik gereinigt, Belege am Suchersystem beseitigt und die Deckklappe aufgeschraubt.
(Foto: Schwartz)

Position 3: Nun wird der Sensor justiert, damit er den richtigen Stand zum Bajonett - hier wird das Objektiv aufgesetzt - hat. Rinker: "Justieren wir nicht richtig, werden die Bilder unscharf." Ist richtig justiert, sendet der Computer ein grünes Signal - die Reise der M kann weitergehen.

<p>Die M wird "angezogen": Die Kamera wird mit einem Leder, dass bei Leica gestanzt wird, versehen. (Foto: Schwarz)</p>
Die M wird "angezogen".  Die Kamera wird mit einem Leder dass bei Leica gestanzt wird versehen.
(Foto: Schwartz)

Position 4: Hauptkörper, Rückschale und Imageboard werden zusammengebaut, die M nimmt langsam Gestalt an.

<p>Endkontrolle: Die M kommt noch einmal auf den Prüfstand, dann unterschreibt der Mitarbeiter das Handwerkszertifikat. (Foto: Schwarz)</p>
Endkontrolle: Die M kommt noch einmal auf den Prüfstand, dann unterschreibt der Mitarbeiter das Handwerkszertifikat.  (Foto: Schwartz)

Position 5: Mit einem feinen Pinsel wird die Optik gereinigt, Belege an Okular und Suchersystem werden beseitigt, dann wird die Deckkappe aufgeschraubt. Die M ist erkennbar!

<p>Hier geht es los: Bei der Wareneingangskontrolle werden alle Kamerateile digital erfasst. Dann geht die M auf dem Rollband auf die Reise. (Foto: Schwarz)</p>
Hier geht es los: Bei der Wareneingangskontrolle werden alle Kamerateile digital erfasst.
Dann geht die M auf dem Rollband auf die Reise.  (Foto: Schwartz)

Position 6: Per Computer wird die entsprechende Firmware aufgespielt. Jede Kamera hat ihre eigene Software. Die M bekommt also Leben eingehaucht.

<p>"Es passt wunderbar": Christian Rinker. (Foto: Schwarz)</p>
"Es passt wunderbar".  Christian Rinker.
(Foto: Schwartz)

Position 7: Der Verschluss und die USB-Schnittstelle kommen auf den Prüfstand. Sechs Minuten lang probiert die Mitarbeiterin alle Funktionen der neuen M durch. Rinker: "Wir verlassen uns nicht nur auf die elektronischen Prüfsysteme, sondern vor allem auf das menschliche Auge." Anschließend werden die Verschlusszeiten elektronisch abgeglichen und die Mitarbeiterin drückt auf den Auslöser: Die neue M macht ihr erstes Foto.

Das Leder, mit dem die "M" angezogen wird, stanzt Leica selbst

Position 8: Der mechanische Aufbau des Entfernungsmessers wird unter die Lupe genommen. Denn: Die digitale Leica kommt ohne Autofokus aus und arbeitet stattdessen mit einem mechanischen Entfernungsmesser. "Die Kamera muss sofort erkennen, an welcher Position das Objektiv steht", erklärt Rinker. Das Objektiv muss in beide Richtungen spielfrei funktionieren. Das Sahnehäubchen in der Kameramontage dauert zwischen sechs und zwölf Minuten. Der Mitarbeiter auf dieser Position ist - wie alle Mitarbeiter der Montagelinie - angegurtet, also geerdet, um die feine Technik der Kamera vor einer erhöhten Stromdosis durch elektrostatische Ladung zu schützen.

Position 9: Die M wird in eine schalldichte Prüfkabine mit speziellen geometrischen Formen geschraubt und ihr Mikrofon getestet. Besteht sie den Audiotest, kann es bei der Videofunktion beruhigt heißen: Ton ab!

Position 10: Die M wird zum Beledern vorbereitet und abgedichtet, um sie vor Spritzwasser zu schützen.

Position 11: Bleibt der Sensor in der Toleranz? Die M wird in alle Richtungen gedreht und der Sensor mit Wasserwaage richtig positioniert.

Position 12: Die Sensorlage wird geprüft. Rinker: "Hier sehen wir, ob sich während der Montage die Lage des Sensors verändert hat." Das ist laut Montageleiter nur selten der Fall - im Schnitt einmal die Woche.

Position 13: Endspurt: Die M wird "angezogen". Zuerst wird das Gehäuse mit Alkohol gereinigt, dann das Leder, das bei Leica selbst gestanzt wird, von Hand auf die Kamera geklebt.

Position 14: Endreinigung: Um eventuelle Schmutzpartikel zu entfernen, wird der Sensor der M unter einer sogenannten Laminar Flow Box gereinigt. Die Box funktioniert wie eine Luftschleuse, es gelangen keine Staubpartikel hinein, alte Partikel dagegen werden hinausgeblasen. Rinker: "Wir stellen hier zu 100 Prozent sicher, dass alle Sensoren, die die Montage verlassen, sauber sind. Die Sauberkeit wird durch eine softwaregesteuerte automatische Schmutzerkennung sichergestellt. Wer an diesem Platz sitzt, muss sehr gute Nerven und Geduld haben."

Position 15: Alle Äußerlichkeiten kommen jetzt noch einmal auf den Prüfstand: das Fenster, der Bajonettring, das Display, die Einstellungen. Stimmt alles, unterschreibt der Mitarbeiter das Qualitätszertifikat, das mit jeder Kamera ausgeliefert wird. Und dann? Na klar, das Logo. Der kleine rote Punkt wird von Hand ausgerichtet und aufgeklebt. Die M ist fertig.

Der Mann der Montage

"Die Herausforderung nehme ich an!" Mit diesem Satz trat der gebürtige Aßlarer Christian Rinker im September 2010 seinen Job in der Montageabteilung bei Leica an. "Montage war immer schon ein Steckpferd von mir", sagt Rinker und startete in der Objektivmontage durch: Innerhalb der ersten zwei Jahre erhöhte er die Menge der montierten M-Objektive um 45 Prozent. Inzwischen ist Rinker Leiter der Montage (Kameras, Objektive und Sportoptik) sowie stellvertretender Werksleiter. "Es passt wunderbar. Hier bin ich angekommen!"


From [m]ittelhessen

Wetzlar (iba). An einem geheimen Ort werden Schätze archiviert: Seit Monaten sichtet und pflegt Günter Osterloh alte Leica-Kameras, rund 300.000 Seiten Werkstatt- und Versandbücher, Ferngläser, Balgenkameras, Faltmodelle oder tausende von Platten aus einer Zeit, bevor es den Film zum Einlegen gab.

<p>An einem geheimen Ort werden Schätze archiviert. (Foto: Schwarz)</p>
An einem geheimen Ort werden Schätze archiviert (Foto: Schwarz)

Osterloh, unter anderem Verfasser von Anwenderberichten, ehemaliger Produktmanager sowie Leiter der Leica-Akademie bis 2002, sortiert und listet das Material im Leica-Archiv. Viele Stücke werden in das neue Leica-Museum im ebenfalls neuen Firmensitz des Unternehmens in Wetzlar wandern. Die Leica wurde in diesem Jahr 100 Jahre alt und das Kamerea-Unternehmen kehrte zu diesem Jubiläum nach Wetzlar zurück.

Thursday, June 19, 2014


Leica T system

By Rick Bronks

The much anticipated arrival of a compact interchangeable autofocus lens camera from Leica has finally happened, and I got my hands on one for a few weeks. Did I like it? Was it any good? Read on to find out. Gallery of images at the bottom of this post. 

Make no mistake - this is a beautiful looking piece of kit. It's solid. Really solid and it feels amazing to hold. It's the camera I want to dearly love, and it seems like an ideal partner for someone who has a larger DSLR kit and wants a smaller kit as a backup, or indeed as a second camera if you are already a Leica M shooter (like me). I thought I'd give my opinions on using it in a 'real life' situation, on a recent trip I took.

 Taken with the Leica T

There's a LOT of choice out there at the moment if you're in the market for a compact system camera- there are some outstanding models and lenses to be had. So is there space in this crowded marketplace for the sexy Leica T?

Leica has always been about high quality- and exacting standards. I am a massive fan of their M rangefinder and their lenses are some of the best in the world. With this experience it should only be good news for the new Leica T.

I travelled with the Leica T and the 18 to 56 f3.5-5.6 ASPH Vario-Elmar lens. I wasn't able to check out the faster 23mm f2 ASPH but I quite liked the idea of carrying one camera with a nice zoom range on the lens and seeing how I got on. I also had the Viewfinder attachment and an adapter to use my existing M series lenses.

Taken with Leica T
The camera is carved from a single piece of aluminium - very much like the unibody Apple laptops. Leica caused a viral stir with their 'most boring ad ever' which features a person hand polishing the case for 45 minutes. That's Leica. Handmade excellence. Audi have also had a hand in the design of the camera - and if you were to pick one up you'd feel how amazing it is.

 Leica T

It has a 16.3 megapixel APS-C sensor (same as in most consumer DSLR cameras) and the ability to shoot up to 1/4000 of a second.
It also has 16Gb of internal memory- which is a great idea if you are prone to leave your memory card at home - or as an emergency 'reserve' if you fill your own card on a shoot. The ISO is from 100 to 12,500 but it was totally unusable at this setting.. I rarely used it at 6400.

I love the fact the camera comes with a battery charger - but can also be charged via micro USB. I did find it takes longer via USB but it means that you can keep a cable handy and top up the battery from pretty much anywhere there is a computer or even a phone charger. I left it charging overnight and it was fine.

 Taken with Leica T

The camera is operated via a very large rear touch-screen and also a couple of dials that can be assigned to various functions. There's the usual shutter button and a cute but averagely powerful pop-up flash. Leica have developed a clever way of attaching a shoulder strap - there's no traditional lugs but these little posts that clip into the body, and can be removed using a little tool - the result is that it keeps the clean lines of the camera when you don't want a strap attached. They also do a few different and very vibrant colours and snap on cases to match too. Like this one. In yellow.

 Leica T

There is also Wi-Fi and an associated app which lets you control the camera from an iPhone or iPad. Nice idea but the problem I had was that the camera AND your iDevice need to be on the same physical wireless network to talk to each other - so while I was travelling I couldn't get the images onto my iPhone because there was no wifi network, which seemed to defeat the point in having wifi. Other devices use each other to create the network so it doesn't matter where you are. I think this needs looking into - because its a nice idea to be able to pull images off the camera and send them via the phone, but you're more likely to need this feature when you're travelling. A solution is to use the Apple SD card adapter and just import the card  and images into your device, but thats not as cool.

The battery pops in underneath and is quite cool in the way that it forms the base of the camera so there's no flaps to fiddle with, but the battery slots right into the bottom of the camera much like pro-DSLR bodies or indeed Leica's own medium format S-system.

 Taken with Leica T

I found the screen pretty good in most light apart from really bright sunlight - but this is common to all cameras with an LCD. I also had the clip on viewfinder which I used when the sun was too bright. The electronic viewfinder which also has a built in GPS (that does drain the battery quite a lot)

The resolution of the viewfinder is excellent and the refresh rate is good too - so you can frame and shoot with decent accuracy.

I did get used to the touch screen after a while - the problem is that we're all used to using iPads and other touch screens so there's the inevitable comparisons. This screen and the usability of the interface will never compete with those of Apple - purely because Leica don't have the massive resources of Apple or Microsoft. They're a small company who have to pretty much develop from the ground up and not with huge teams.

You can customise the 'home' screen with the features you commonly use and re-order them.

The lens is also solidly built. No plasticy feeling  here. It felt good and the zoom was smooth. The lens hood proved quite effective too.

Leica T

So what's it like to actually use?

It is great in the hands - I didn't feel the need to use any grips or cases with zoom attached. The lens wasn't too heavy and the whole unit felt nicely balanced. In the future with perhaps a longer lens it may be tricky but right now it's perfectly fine.

Autofocus seemed pretty good in all but the dimmest of light. I did find the white balance a little slow to change when I moved from outdoors to indoors. Sometimes I felt it wasn't too sure or was a little too indecisive. It's not lighting-fast but it's consistent and fine.

For me the biggest disappointment was that the camera's useable ISO is no more than 3200 and even then there's a fair bit of noise in the shadows. I was hoping that because the lens was quite a lot slower than the usual lenses I shoot with (f14, f2.8),  I'd be able to push another couple of stops out of the camera by upping the ISO to compensate for the f5.6 maximum aperture at the zoom end on the lens. Alas, I wasn't able to and this was a little annoying. Even at it's brightest f3.5 I felt myself needing to shunt up the ISO in an averagely lit room.

 Taken with Leica T

I started trying to use the camera as a more manual camera - and wasn't getting on with it at all. I'm not convinced this is what Leica had in mind with this unit. I popped the ISO into auto mode and never allowed it to max out more than 3200 ISO.

Once I did this I found it a lot more pleasurable to use. I tended to use P mode most of the time and let the camera figure out the settings -it was quicker and less fiddling on the screen, so I missed less shots.

I did use Aperture Priority by setting one dial to be my F-stop controller and the other as exposure compensation. I left the camera on auto focus and auto ISO.

 Taken with Leica T

At the moment Apple haven't updated their OS to be able to read the RAW files so I knew I was going to have a bit of a round-trip to get the images into my image editor (Aperture). I shot RAW and JPEG fine and the picture settings I had set to all neutral.

I found the neutral settings ok - did find the skin tones a little pale but nice enough and smooth. The colours were good but not overly rich and fake.

I was using Aperture to edit the JPEGS and actually found them amazingly robust. For the shots in this review I actually exported the RAW files using Photoshop's Raw editor then saving as TIFF files then re-imported into Aperture.

This let me pull some more details from the RAW files than using the JPEGS but I don't think the difference is massive - but it's certainly better using the RAW/TIFF converted files. I am sure that editing the images natively once they are able to be read by OSX that this process will be a lot better.

I have to admit I was impressed with the images once I was using the TIFF  files. The colour is good and there's a heck of a lot of detail.

 Taken with Leica T

In good light the lens performed like a champ. Once you're in a low light environment you're going to be in bother. This what what infuriated me about this - that this wasn't the all-rounder I really wanted it to be.. once indoors it was a bit of a struggle to get a decent shot. I'm not talking pitch black here.. just what I would call normal early evening light indoors. Perhaps a little window light and some artificial light. I was shooting wide most of the time to keep the aperture at 3.5 but at anything more than 3200ISO it was pretty poor in terms of grain and noise. Spot metering helped me get a decent shot of the singer you can see above.

With the 23mm lens at f2 this may not be so much an issue- but it was disappointing I couldn't really push up the ISO past 3200.

 Taken with Leica T

When I travel I like to shoot video too - Video shooting on my M240 is quite tricky handheld, so I usually throw my RX100M2 into the bag to use as a point and shoot and also for video clips. I was excited to use the T for both stills and video. If it performed then I'd be even more excited about it's possibilities.

Unfortunately the video quality was just about ok. I was shooting in 1080p the whole time and whilst it was good, it wasn't anywhere near as good as my small RX100M2. The colours are a little washed out and the images looked over-sharpened. Don't get me wrong - its not 'bad' but it's just not up to my standards and I was a little disappointed. For most people though I am almost certain it would be fine- and looks good (not excellent) on a 48inch LED TV.


The Leica T is a fine looking camera that is capable of taking very good images. Leica have firmly placed their feet into the CSC (compact system camera) market with a potentially exciting product. The touchscreen is very nice too - and although the interface and operation may not be as finessed as other devices it's very useable.

The additional viewfinder has a good screen and is helpful for framing in sunlight or using as a 'brace' when shooting video. It also adds GPS if you want to log your travels- but be prepared to carry a spare battery.

The camera produced a good JPEG out of camera and they're quite robust in editing if (like me) the system can't read the DNG files it produces as it's RAW output.

Video quality is 'ok' if not a little disappointing, and the 18-56mm lens is a little on the slow side.

The ability to use M lenses means that you can perhaps start your foray into the world of Leica at a much more friendly price point and then perhaps graduate to their Rangefinders once you've saved enough!

What's for certain is that this is a very interesting camera. Albeit with disappointing performance at high ISO's.

I want to love it.. but not quite yet.

Leica T

To see Rick’s gallery images go to:

Rick Bronks writes about himself:

I am all about great images and stories.

My work has a strong narrative, with elements of lifestyle.

I am firmly established as one of the leading photographers in the live events world.

I am a qualified member of the BIPP (British Institute of Professional Photography) and a certified European Photographer.

My professional career began with eight years working in TV, producing national TV shows as well as documentaries and award shows for SKY TV.

I learnt how to shoot with broadcast cameras and edit video. I am an Apple Certified Professional in their industry standard editing and motion graphics applications.

My background in TV enables me to offer my clients a video production service alongside stills photography. I am able to shoot both stills and video at an event and turn the content around very quickly.

Member of the British Institute of Professional Photography & Federation of European Photographers