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Wednesday, March 4, 2015


Rare Leica & Nikon Camera Auction

Upcoming Auction: March 14, 2015 at 10:00AM EST

Stan Tamarkin Rare Camera Auctions has announced the next auction date.  Their next auction, on March 14, 2015, will be on-line only.  The auction includes Leica and Nikon rangefinder gear, Leica “copies,” and a remarkable group of Fine Art photography books.

An illustrated catalogue can be found on line.  The bidding will be done through their on-line auction partner,, and they have been able to reduce the buyer’s fee, for this auction only, to $17.5%.

Among the featured lots there is a black Leica M3, a Leica VOTRA Viewer with VOTIV Stand, a black Nikon SP, a Gato Sonne V, and a Leotax DIII, and photo books by Sam Haskins, Jill Freedman, Helmut Newton, and many more famous photographers.

                  Black Leica M3                                   Leica VOTRA Viewer with VOTIV Stand        Gato Sonne V Leica copy

Their next full-scale photo gear auction is planned for the late summer of 2015 and they are currently accepting consignments.  For more information and consignment inquiries, please contact Dan Tamarkin at




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Tuesday, March 3, 2015


Today Leica Camera AG officially announced that Oliver Kaltner, the former marketing manager at Leica, will be their new CEO, effective April 1, 2015.  He is replacing Alfred Schopf, who held that position for more than four years.  He decided to leave his position to pursue new professional challenges.  Already yesterday it was reported that Oliver Kaltner was elevated to his new position upon the wishes of Blackstone, a major shareholder at Leica Camera.

Oliver Kaltner

The official press release reads as follows:  

Oliver Kaltner is appointed to the Board of Leica Camera AG

The Supervisory Board of Leica Camera AG has appointed Oliver Kaltner (46) on September 01, 2014, as the new CEO of the company.

Alfred Schopf, since August 2010 CEO of Leica Camera AG and responsible for the areas of Product Management, Sport Optics, customer care and public relations, is leaving the company at his own request at the end of the fiscal year on 31 March 2015 in order to pursue new professional challenges. He will be available to Leica as a consultant until the end of the year.

From November 2009 to August 2010 Alfred Schopf was a member of the Leica Supervisory Board. Previously, he held a number of senior positions with companies in the optical and opto-electronics industry, including management and the board of ARRI in Munich and the Jenoptik AG.

Oliver Kaltner has been a Member of the Board of Leica Camera AG since September 1 2014 and is responsible for Marketing, Sales and Retail as well as for the development of trade and distribution partnerships. He has extensive experience in the consumer electronics and IT industry, category management and brand management. Most recently, he was General Manager of Microsoft Germany, responsible for the Consumer Channels Group, which he successfully expanded in terms of turnover and profit. As a member of the Board he was responsible for the redesign of Microsoft Germany GmbH to a devices and services organization as well as the evolution of the entire change of management processes for the consumer business. Further stages of his career were executive and managerial positions, among others at Sky AG, Sony Germany GmbH, Electronic Arts Inc. and Nike GmbH.

"I regret that Alfred Schopf has decided to step down from his position as CEO after he led Leica in recent years through the most challenging times. With his great skills as well as his management style. He was able to significantly contribute to the continued growth and thus contribute to the success of the company. In addition to numerous major product launches and the return to Wetzlar to the new corporate headquarters he pushed in particular the global expansion of Leica Stores. I thank Alfred Schopf for the great contributions he has made, wish him well in his future endeavors and I am pleased that he will be available with his experience for a while in an advisory capacity,” said Dr. Andreas Kaufmann, Chairman of the Board Leica Camera AG.

"At the same time, I am pleased that, with Oliver Kaltner, I have found an excellent successor with great strategic competence, commercial expertise and an excellent flair for innovation, who, since his start at Leica, succeed with enormous dedication and passion for the brand and who was able to achieve considerable success in terms of growth, transformation and digitization. The Supervisory Board of Leica Camera AG expressed their full confidence in Oliver Kaltner and I wish him every success in the important task of leading the traditional enterprise of Leica into the future,” added Dr. Kaufmann.



For more information click here



Monday, March 2, 2015


What if...?  How often have we contemplated certain occurrences in the light of what has or hasn't happened?

With the recent introduction of a cell phone with a Leica lens by Panasonic a while ago, the question has certainly come up if we will ever see a Leica cell phone.  This reminded me of a book by W. Erb about the Leitz (Leica) company.  It contains a short paragraph with a transcript from a newspapaer article that translates as follows:

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Panasonic cell phone with Leica lens

“On September 1864, the 39th meeting of the German Naturalists and Physicians took place in Giessen. (Giessen is a town very close to Wetzlar)  Particular efforts were made to remain competitive during the subsequent exhibition of microscopes.  For the young mechanic (Ernst Leitz) there was a special task.  Phillip Reis planned to demonstrate his invention, the telephone, since his first try in Frankfurt on October 16, 1861, had failed.  Ernst Leitz successfully completed the preliminary work with the help of his technical knowledge, so that on September 21, 1864, the final recognition was not denied the inventor.”

Phillip Reis

File:Johann Philipp Reis telephone.jpg
Reis' Telephone

Ernst Leitz
Photograph by Oskar Barnack

After reading that short paragraph one has to wonder: What if Ernst Leitz had become interested in telephones?  Could there have been a Leitel (Leitz Telephone)?  Considering the fact that Ernst Leitz did not start his work at the Wetzlar Optical Institute until 1865, this seems to be a possibility.

It is also interesting to note that Alexander Graham Bell did not show his invention of the telephone until 1876, twelve years later, yet he is generally credited with the invention of the telephone.   The above account very much proves that this is not at all the case.

Alexander Graham Bell

Besides Reis and Bell, many others claimed to have invented the telephone. The result was the Gray-Bell telephone controversy, one of the United States' longest running patent interference cases, involving Bell, Thomas Alva Edison, Elisha Gray, Emil Berliner, Amos Dolbear, J. W. McDonagh, G. B. Richmond, W. L. Voeker, J. H. Irwin, and Francis Blake Jr. The case started in 1878 and was not finalized until February 27, 1901.  However, regardless of the claims by Bell and others, nobody demonstrated a working telephone prior to Phillip Reis.

For more on the Panasonic phone go here



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Sunday, March 1, 2015


Every once in a while we come across lenses from manufacturers other than Leica which are of definite interest and well worth their use on Leica cameras.  One such lens is the new Petzval lens from Lomography.

The Petzval name is one of the most famous in the history of optics and the development photographic lenses.  It was first introduced in 1840 by Joseph Petzval, a Hungarian mathematician, inventor, and physicist best known for his work in optics.  Photography was just in its infancy, with photographic materials and lenses being very slow.  Especially portraiture was difficult because lenses were essentially too slow in those days.

Petzval set out to overcome that problem by designing a much faster lens.  When he designed his famous portrait lens in 1840, it constituted a quantum leap in optical design.  The lens had the unheard of aperture of f/3.6.  Petzval's portrait objective lens (Petzval Porträtobjektiv) was an almost distortionless anachromatischer Vierlinser (double achromatic objective lens, with four lenses in three groups). The maximum aperture was substantially higher than the Daguerre standard of 1839, the Wollaston Chevalier lens with a maximum aperture of f/16. The speed of f/3.6 with a focal length of 160 mm made crucially shorter exposure times possible — using exposures of only about 15 to 30 seconds compared to the 10 minutes previously. Thus, snapshots became possible for the first time.


Petzval allowed the Viennese entrepreneur Peter Wilhelm Friedrich von Voigtländer to produce the lens for a one-time payment of 2,000 guldens, without a patent or a contract, which later led to a lasting controversy between Petzval and Voigtländer. Voigtländer, who had confirmed the design of the lens through his own calculations, produced a prototype, and in May 1840 he began production of the lens for the daguerreotype cameras in 1841, making a fortune in the process.

Now Lomography is resurrecting this lens in partnership with Zenit of Kranogorsk, Russia.  The New Petzval Lenses will be manufactured by a team of optics specialists at the Zenit factory. They are built from brass and feature premium glass optics.

Photos shot with a Petzval lens are immediately recognizable for their super-sharp focus and wonderful swirly bokeh effect at the non-focused areas, including strong color saturation, artful vignettes and narrow depth of field.

The new lens will have a focal length of 85mm with a maximum aperture of f/2.3.  Apertures will be set via Waterhouse stops down to f/16.  The image circle has a diameter of 44mm with a field of view of 30degrees.  The closest focusing distance is 1 meter.

The lens is right now being made available for Canon EF and Nikon F DSLR mount cameras.  Either one of these will allow use on the Leica M and Leica Digilux 3 with an adapter and thus constitutes a welcome addition to these cameras.




The original Petzval lens (left) and the new version

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Friday, February 27, 2015


Next Friday - Spontaneous Relationships by Allen Bourgeois

Spontaneous Relationships
Allen Bourgeois
March 6 - 28
Reception: March 6, 6 – 8:30pm
The Rangefinder Gallery
300 West Superior St
Chicago, IL
Please join us Friday, March 6, for the opening reception with the artist of our newest exhibition Spontaneous Relationships, by Allen Bourgeois

More Upcoming Exhibitions at The Rangefinder Gallery
A Time that Was - Poland in the 1980s
Dennis Chamberlin
April 3 - April 24
Reception: April 3, 6-9pm
The Rangefinder Gallery
300 West Superior Ave

First Fridays at The Rangefinder Gallery

Join us on the first Friday of every
month for a new photographic exhibition
and opening reception!

For More information go to:



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The New York Times published an article by Nick Bilton, titled “Leica Cameras Have Eye-Popping Prices, With Photos to Match.”  It is refreshing to see that this turned out to be a well written article that avoids the typical ‘you pay for the name’ or ‘you pay for the red dot’ or worse, ‘other cameras are just as good…’  He writes:

“Today’s smartphones can take pretty crisp pictures, so buying a regular camera might sound like a waste of money. Now imagine buying a fully manual Leica digital camera that, with a body and lens, can cost as much as $20,000.

Ridiculous? Perhaps. But the hard-core photographers who own a Leica swear by its craftsmanship, lens quality and lack of bells and whistles…”

Leica M9, special white finish edition

He continues to explain the differences between rangefinder and DSLR cameras and lists some of the various Leica cameras currently on the market.  Of course that includes the Leica M and ME.  But he makes special mention of the Leica M Monochrom.

Leica M Monochrom

“Leica also offers the Leica M Monochrom, an 18-megapixel camera that can shoot only black and white. Some people might ask why anyone would buy a camera that cannot even take a color picture, but Leica has poured years of research and development into optimizing the sensor on this camera for the subtlety of black-and-white photography.

The results from the Leica M Monochrom are astounding. Pictures have the tonality and contrast that make them look as if they were shot with real black-and-white film. The M Monochrom can also shoot at an ISO up to 10,000, which allows pictures to be taken in extremely low light.”

The article makes special mention of what sets Leica lenses apart from their competition, especially in terms of performance.

“Leica makes a lens the way it should be made, with metal and glass, while everyone else is making plastic lenses that are meant to be thrown away in a couple of years,” said Ken Rockwell, a photographer and expert on cameras and lenses. “The Leica lenses are so special because they are smaller, faster and sharper.”

Mr. Rockwell notes that Leica’s lenses are still assembled by hand in Germany.

“The Leica glass,” Mr. Michel said, “adds that special ethereal quality to the image that no D.S.L.R. can match.”

Leica Noctilux 50mm f/0.95

He goes on to say that the control he has with a manual Leica lens made him realize that  today’s abundance of buttons and features on most cameras often makes people take poorer pictures.

Of course the price of Leica lenses is discussed.  Rather than dismissing the Leica lenses as too expensive, he mentions their outstanding overall performance and that he would gladly give up some of his other high tech gadgets for Leica equipment.  He continues to say:

“This was true decades ago and is still true today. Henri Cartier-Bresson, considered by many to be the father of photojournalism, said in his biography, “The Mind’s Eye,” that when he discovered the Leica camera in the beginning of his career, “It became the extension of my eye, and I have never been separated from it since I found it.”

Nick Bilton finishes the article by warning that buying a Leica does not automatically allow one to take the same photos as the world’s best photojournalists.  He finishes by saying that it is not the camera that takes good pictures, that it is the person holding it.

For the complete article go here



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Wednesday, February 25, 2015


People often wonder if Leica makes their own glass for the manufacture of their lenses.  They used to, as a matter of fact, they operated their own glass research lab where they developed many of the exotic types of glasses that are used in their lenses today.  However, for a relatively small company, that proved to be unsustainable, and they closed the lab as well as their glass manufacturing operation.

The Leitz Glass Laboratory, which operated until 1989, was the driving force of Dr. Gustav Weissenberg, of the Mineralogical Institute of Marburg, Germany.  The Institute grew crystals, and Weissenberg’s idea was for it to create optical glasses as well as to meet the demands by optical designers for high refraction glasses to correct aberrations.  He wanted to replace the highly radioactive thorium oxide in existing glasses with an oxide free of thorium.  So, in 1949, the Leitz brothers established a glass laboratory within their company to pursue Weissenberg’s research.

After lengthy experimentation the glass laboratory discovered that lanthanum oxide offered the best chances for success.  They found that glasses could be created with a refractive index of n 1.7.  However, such glasses could not be made in large quantities because their strong propensity for crystallization made it difficult to prevent crystal grooves, or striae.  Other substances, such as zirconium oxide yttrium oxide, and tantalum oxide, had to be incorporated to produce more stable high-refraction glasses in large numbers.  Leitz then granted the German company Schott a license to produce the new LaK 9 glass exclusively for Leitz.

Meanwhile, the Leitz optical designers wanted to design lenses that were even faster than f/2, and the dreamed of doubling the speed to f/1.4.  This required glasses with refractive indices close to n 1.8, and for this they had to find the right technology.  Evaporation at the surface of the molten glass while the high temperature in the crucible is being lowered can easily cause striae, which can only be prevented by stirring to produce constant blending of the molten mass.  In order to accomplish this, technicians had to incorporate interference factors, so that one oxide would prevent another from crystallizing.  Laborious experiments led to three new types of Leitz optical glass, with refractive indices of ne 1.80 and ne 1.82 and a dispersion value of ny 45.  These new types of glass made the design of the 50mm f/1.4 Summilux lens possible

Platinum crucible

Stirring rod

Pouring of molten glass

But for glass types with indices of refraction higher than ne 1.8, it was difficult to obtain enough chemicals with sufficient purity at a reasonable cost.  At the time, one kilogram (2.2 lbs.) of 99.99 percent tantalum oxide cost the equivalent of nearly $200.00.

In 1966, Leitz introduced the 50mm f/1.2 Noctilux, which incorporated aspherical surfaces.  Then years later, it was producing the 50mm f/1.0 Noctilux , which did not involve aspherical surfaces.  This was made possible by still another new type of optical glass: one with a higher zirconium oxide content.

The company was seeking a lens with a maximum aperture of f/1.2, for which optical glass with a particularly high index of refraction was necessary.  Ultimately, it wanted to double the maximum aperture of the 50mm f/1.4 Summilux lens to f/1.0.  The higher zirconium oxide content permitted production of the 900403 glass with a refractive index of ne 1.9005 and a dispersion value of ny 40.

Comparison of optical glasses
The large circled dots indicate glasses used in Leica lenses, the small circled dots indicate Leica glasses not currently in use.  The plain dots indicate glasses from other manufacturers

These developments were not without difficulties, however.  The new lenses utilized glass with a very high melting point of nearly 1600 C (2912 F).  That came close to the melting point of the platinum crucibles.  Also, the shape of the stirring tools in relation to the viscosity of the molten glass was important for the homogenization of the glass.  So, the temperature of the melt in the crucible had to be lowered considerably before it was poured out.  Workers then had to cool the slabs at a carefully controlled rate over 10 to 12 days and nights in order to prevent molecular tension.  Furthermore, the glass was still quite susceptible to crystallization.

Another area of investigation at Leitz was correction of chromatic aberrations in apochromatic lenses with long focal lengths.  Fluorite, grown in single crystals, possesses such anomalous partial dispersion for correction of the fourth color in optical glass.  Leitz competitors liked to use these calcium fluorite crystals for lens elements in telephoto lenses, but Leitz did not regard them as suitable for photographic lenses because they have very poor shape retention.  Also, because of their low index of refraction of only ne 1.43, the fluorite crystals require strong curvatures, which are disadvantageous.  Leitz preferred to search for a true glass with an amorphous structure.


The company discovered that the fluorites remained stable in metaphosphate suspensions.  By incorporating several fluorites, it was able to optimize the proportions so as to avoid creation of striae during the cooling process.  Eventually it succeeded in developing a true glass with anomalous partial dispersion and a refraction index greater than ne 1.544.  With that, Leitz became the first lens maker to manufacture such lenses.  The 800mm f/6.3 Telyt-S was such a lens [see blog article “Dancing Bear and his Magic Lens”].  It attracted a great deal of attention at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich.


A few years later, with the addition of titanium oxide, Leitz was able to produce glass with an anomalous partial dispersion value of ny 66.6 and a refraction index of 1.544.  This glass was used in the 180mm f/3.4 APO-Telyt, which ranks to this day as one of the best lenses ever made.  Since then, the company has made a number of lenses with apochromatic correction, and it is creating new ones regularly.

Overall, the Leitz Glass Laboratory developed 35 new glasses from 50,000 experimental melts.  For a time, these glasses were used exclusively in Leica lenses.  Without the laboratory, in fact, most of the modern lenses of the period 1949 to 1989 would not have been possible.  Because of its work, the company produced up to 10 metric tons of glass a year, partially because of close communication between glass researchers and lens designers.  Other large glass manufacturers were often behind Leitz/Leica because optical glass is of only minor importance to them.  Phototropic glasses, construction glasses, television tubes, baby bottles and the like are their real moneymakers.  When these companies do undertake to develop optical glasses, it is only for those for which they anticipate a large demand.  It was the exotic wishes of the Leitz Company that permitted it to develop the glasses it did during the 40 years it held sway in this area.

Once it was possible with new technology to derive maximum performance from optical glasses, however, Leica closed the Leitz Glass Laboratory.  The growing number of glass manufacturers and new methods of processing glass and manufacturing lens elements also made this desirable from a financial standpoint.  However, some of the rare glasses developed by Leitz are still not available to any other lens manufacturer.  Instead Leitz has these glasses made exclusively for them by other companies like Schott, for instance.  Still, the company looks back with pride to the breakthroughs of the researchers and designers at the laboratory.



For more information click here



Tuesday, February 24, 2015

LEICA NEWS 2-24-2015

Leica M-P ‘Correspondent’ Designed by Lenny Kravitz

Leica Camera is pleased to present the Leica M-P 'Correspondent' designed by Lenny Kravitz for Kravitz Design.

The Leica M-P ‘Correspondent’ was created in collaboration with the musician and avid photographer Lenny Kravitz. The set consists of the Leica M-P (Typ 240) and two lenses: the Summicron-M 35 mm f/2 ASPH and Summilux-M 50 mm f/1.4 ASPH. A...  See More

Oscar winner “Birdman” was shot entirely with Leica C lenses

Four Oscars® for Birdman

Movies shot with CW Sonderoptic's Leica Summilux-C lenses had an award-winning time.



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