Monday, November 30, 2015


I came across a rather interesting publication called “The Brander.”  According to their ‘About us’ information, “A steady flow of new stories about brands and their creators, generated by renowned journalists and high-end photography - that is "The Brander". The independent publication of Zurich’s branding agency Branders portrays big, small and exclusive brands from all over the world. Feedback? Yes, please.”

The article caught my eye and I received authorization to republish it here.  The article was written by Franziska Klün with photographs by Henning Bock, translated by Tessa Pfenninger.  Even though their visit was still to the old location in Solms, it still conveys a very good picture of how Leicas are made.

Mr. Bock's photographs appear at the end of the article.

 Dr. Kaufmann in the lobby of Leica AG in Solms

Once a revolutionary and a Waldorf school teacher, now an entrepreneur and a cowboy: Andreas Kaufmann saved iconic photography brand Leica from going under.Almost ten years ago, Kaufmann, having come into a significant inheritance, jumped in to save the legendary camera manufacturer from bankruptcy after the company failed to make the transition to the digital era. Today, Leica is on expansion course again.

Situated roughly in the middle of the state of Hessen, about an hour away from Frankfurt am Main, lies an unremarkable town called Solms, the seat of the company where the stuff of photographers’ dreams is still being made. One hundred years ago, Leica invented the first small-format 35mm camera, thereby revolutionizing the world of photography. Since the 1980s, the company has been manufacturing its high-tech products in these plain, flat-roofed premises with corrugated facades in Solms. Cameras that Magnum photographer René Burri once described as the most magnificent shooting equipment in the world. Despite delivery periods of up to 12 months for one of these iconic devices "Made in Germany," the waiting list boasts such names as Elizabeth II and Brad Pitt.

To date, however, visitors are still greeted at Leica with the words: "Please don't be alarmed." Conditions inside the building are a lot more primitive than might be expected. The reception area with its over-dimensional silver-colored Leica and shiny showcases lives up to its representative task, but once you pass through, it is like traveling back at least two decades in a time warp. Empty vending machines from a previous era stand about in harshly lit corridors. Through glass sectioning, employees can be seen working in crowded conditions. Wearing white lab coats, they sit bent over lenses and cameras. This is where the famous devices are made, with a single camera potentially costing as much a brand new VW Golf.

Back to the roots

Soon, however, the workforce will be leaving Solm with its cramped conditions and depressing corridors. A new production site is being built in Wetzlar, only ten kilometers away. Next year, one department after the other, a total of 1,500 employees, will be relocated to the large production complex in Wetzlar, back to where it all began. Wetzlar is where, in 1913, Oskar Barnack, the head of development, invented the small-format 35mm camera and helped the company, named Leitz in those days, achieve global fame.

Leading the way back to this hallowed location is 60-year-old Andreas Kaufmann, who is so busy he doesn't even have an office in Solms. He lives in Salzburg, Austria, and is always on the go, which is why arranging a meeting with him here in Solms can easily take up to six months. Kaufmann is Chairman of the Board of Directors at Leica and currently owns 55% of the company. In 2004, when he bought into the company, it was teetering on the edge of bankruptcy. Asked about this period, Kaufmann says: "I reached a point in life where I asked myself: Do I want to remain a teacher forever, or should I start doing something with the legacy I was entrusted with?"

First revolutionize the world, then save Leica

In his previous life, before Kaufmann rescued this important protagonist of photographic history from ruin, he says his main objective in life was to revolutionize the world. In his student days, Kaufmann studied political science, economics and literature, and wore his hair long. He continued dabbling in politics and was present at the founding of the Grüne Partei (The Greens), a green political party founded in the early 1980s in West Germany. He also taught at a Waldorf school for 15 years.
Kaufmann and his two brothers were left a large inheritance by their aunt. While nobody knows the exact figures, the inheritance was large enough for the brothers to form a holding called ACM with the purpose of becoming stakeholders in undercapitalized German companies, prioritizing those that manufactured in Germany. Leica numbered among those companies.

To be sure, Leica’s problems were entirely self-inflicted. Right until the Kaufmann brothers became stakeholders in 2004, the company managers in Hessen believed that the digitalization of the camera industry was a passing phase they could ride out. Despite having some revolutionary ideas in their portfolio that might have saved them, Leica completely failed to make the transition to digitalization until the year 2006. Under Andreas Kaufmann's aegis, and at a time when cell phones featuring integrated cameras were already quite common, Leica introduced its first digital camera. It took three long years before the turnaround could be declared successful: Since 2009 Leica has been operating in the black. At present, their turnover has achieved almost 300 million euros and some 140,000 cameras leave the manufacturing location in Solms annually. A long and winding road: Apparently Kaufmann’s brothers soon found the road too rocky, and in 2005 they sold their shares. Something Kaufmann doesn't comment on. In retrospect, some say the first phase was sheer madness or a kamikaze mission. Kaufmann himself says: "It was an act of faith."

He believed in Leica, because he believed in the people behind Leica. He says: “What the skeptics didn't see at the time was that we were dealing with highly qualified, extremely committed people who would really be able to achieve something if they were given the opportunity to do so." Kaufmann provided another massive cash injection. At one point he owned 96.5% of the company. Wasn't he ever worried he would end up losing everything?

I'm not afraid to live. Our destiny is in God's hands, so you might as well have a little faith and stop worrying.

And he certainly appears to be very laid-back: Wearing a loosely fitting suit and dark glasses, he exudes high spirits. People who know Kaufmann well say he gives himself no airs and that he is an extremely genuine person. Even under pressure, like on this autumn afternoon, after having traveled long and far by car and plane, with lots of delays, nothing is too much trouble for him. Would you mind answering our questions while you're being photographed, is that okay with you, Mr. Kaufmann? – Sure, no problem, he says, and smiles. He replies in lucid, well-turned phrases and follows the photographer's instructions cheerfully. And despite being pressed for time, he asks some questions about the lenses in use. After all, Kaufmann is a passionate amateur photographer.

When asked about the inheritance his aunt left to him and his brothers, he tells us how they were prepared for it from an early age. "We were raised very frugally. That had a strong impact on how we view money." They received 5 euros pocket money that was all. "People who don't maintain an especially costly standard of living take risks more easily. After all, if things go wrong, you're still alive. So really, money is only a means to an end, a facilitating instrument for my interests." Kaufmann also feels that getting up every morning in order to fight another round to keep Leica on the successful path of the past few years is in part for his aunt.

The capital I inherited was never intended to be spent on consumer goods. It was always clear that it should be invested in business, should be handled in a responsible manner.

Can Kaufmann imagine a life today without Leica, without working? "In our family we say: Cowboys die in their boots." To him, Leica is a long-term project that he will never tire of. In any case, lazing at the Côte d'Azur is not his idea of fun; working makes him much happier. "Retirement is not for me." And then it's time for him to leave again, back to Frankfurt where he has a pressing dinner engagement. With a final cheery smile, he gets into his car and drives off.












I have mentioned on several occasions that one reason for the superior quality of Leica equipment is the fact that it is mostly hand made.  The Leica bench made process is totally without any assembly line work.  This allows for the various assembly steps to be accompanied by immediate checks and rechecks, something that is impossible to do with assembly line work.  The pictures in the Branders article clearly show the total absence of any assembly line, that the equipment is totally hand assembled on individual desks in clean rooms throughout the factory.

From my own visits to the factory I can attest that quality and quality control during each step in the manufacture and assembly of Leica cameras and lenses is paramount at Leica.  No part, assembly or sub assembly will ever go to the next step in the production unless they met the rather high quality standards set by Leica.  That, combined with tolerances much tighter than those applied by other camera and lens manufacturers assure the superior quality of anything with the Leica name.

For the original article go here.


To comment or to read comments please scroll past the ads below.
All ads present items of interest to Leica owners.


For more information on KOMARU and for orders go to:

For more information and pre orders go to:

Click on image to enlarge
Please make payment via PayPal to GMP Photography

Click on image to enlarge
Please make payment via PayPal to GMP Photography

Click on image to enlarge
Please make payment via PayPal to GMP Photography

Saturday, November 28, 2015


It appears that full frame cameras have reached a level of maximum pixel counts, or at least have considerably slowed in being offered with ever increasing resolution.  It used to be that the industry was doing a great job in convincing the general public that the higher the number of pixels, the better the camera.  This was definitely the case when we had to deal with 1 or 2 megapixel cameras.  But those days have definitely gone, and manufacturers have put more effort into improving sensors other than just increasing the number of pixels offered.  We now have cameras with incredible ISO sensitivities, low noise, great color accuracy, high res video capability etc.

So the question is, how big an enlargement one could one possibly make with a high quality, full frame sensor.  I researched the topic and wasn’t able to come up with anything definite.

Being that today’s full frame sensors use the same image dimension as 35mm film, I included 35mm in the equation. That doesn’t mean that we can simply equate a 35mm negative with files obtained from a full frame sensor, as a mater of fact, there are several factors that lead to a slight image degradation with film that do not exist with digital sensors.  Based on that, one can reasonable expect that a high quality full frame sensor can deliver a sharper image than a 35mm negative.

Ernst Haas image chosen for the Kodak Colorama

The biggest enlargement ever made of a 35mm photograph was the one for the Kodak Colorama at Grand Central Station in New York in 1977.  The original picture was taken by Ernst Haas with a Leicaflex SL and a 50mm Summicron-R lens on Kodachrome 25.  The finished Colorama consisted of 20 vertical panels of 3 feet width and 18 feet height for a total size of 18 x 60 feet This was the first time a 35mm picture had been used for this project.  It presents a 508 times enlargement to achieve the width of the image.  It was a definite testament of the quality of the film and that of the Leica camera and lens.

Based on modern sensor technology, we can reasonably expect enlargements of the Kodak Colorama size to be as good or better than what was done back in 1977.

That brings up the question of what the largest picture ever made might be.  A little research rendered the following result:

The largest picture ever was made with what is certified by the Guinness Book of Records as the largest camera in existence.  It is basically an old hangar building at the disused El Toro Marine Corps Air Station in Southern California, which has been made light tight to ensure no light gets in except through a little pinhole in one side of the hangar. To create the image which is described as "The Great Picture", a huge sheet of made-to-order canvas was suspended inside the hangar and coated with 80 liters of a liquid photo emulsion made by Liquid Light.  This made the entire canvas photosensitive.

The Great Picture Hangar

The exposure time of the world's largest camera was set to approximately 35 minutes, after which the canvas was developed in a pool of 2300 liters of developer.  Needless to say, photography at this scale does not come cheap!  The world's largest photo was 313 square meters (3375 square feet) in size.  That compares to a standard 35mm film frame of 24 x 35 millimeters, which equals 8.64 square centimeters, or 0.00864 square meters.

While this is certainly a very impressive achievement, the camera is definitely quite limited in terms of subject matter.

In 1900, the Chicago & Alton Railway decided that they wanted a mural of their Alton Limited train to hang on the wall of their headquarters.  There was no suitable enlarging equipment available at this time.  Virtually all photographs were contact printed, meaning that the negative needed to be of the size of the final print.  To solve this problem, they hired the J. A. Anderson Company of Chicago to build what turned out to be the largest, portable camera ever.  The camera weighed 900 pounds and was designed to take photographs on an 8 x 4.5 foot photographic plate, which added another 500 pounds to the weight of the camera.  An exposure time of 2 ½ minutes was necessary to take the photograph.  This was the largest photograph ever until “The Great Picture” was taken many years later.


The Alton Limited train picture taken with the Mammoth Camera

What does this have to do with Leica?  Basically nothing, but it is interesting to see what efforts have been taken by some to go into the opposite direction of Oskar Barnack when he designed the Leica.  It is interesting to note though that the railroad picture could easily have been taken with a Leica, considering that the Kodak Colorama image by Ernst Haas had a dimension of 18 x 60 feet, making the railroad picture of 8 x 4.5 feet rather small in comparison.  Of course the difference in camera size is much greater, and the first Leica was designed by Oskar Barnack just a scant 13 years after the Mammoth camera.


To comment or to read comments please scroll past the ads below.
All ads present items of interest to Leica owners.


For more information on KOMARU and for orders go to:

For more information and pre orders go to:

Click on image to enlarge
Please make payment via PayPal to GMP Photography

Click on image to enlarge
Please make payment via PayPal to GMP Photography

Click on image to enlarge
Please make payment via PayPal to GMP Photography

Friday, November 27, 2015


The one thing Leica is most often criticized for is the cost of their cameras.  Subsequently a lot of photographers chose other makes of cameras because they are so much less expensive.  A lot of them are, without doubt, but let’s take a look at the top models from other manufacturers.  After all, you have to go to the very best to find something that comes at least close to a Leica in terms of performance.

Here is a list of cameras both medium format and full frame, camera body only, from the same major camera dealer in descending order, based on price.

1          Hasselblad H5D-200c Multi-Shot Medium Format DSLR   $45,000

2          Mamiya 645DF with Leaf Credo Series 80 digital back   $28,495

3          Leica S (Type 007)   $16,900

4          Leica S-E Medium Format DSLR Camera (Typ 006)   $10,995.00

5          Leica M-P   $8,791.20

6          Canon 1D C   $7,999
7          Leica SL and Leica M Monochrome   $7,450.00

8          Pentax 645Z   $6,996.95

9          Nikon D3x   $6,999

10        Leica M 240   $6,500

11        Nikon D4S DSLR Camera   $5,996.910  

12        Leica M-E   $4,790.00

That makes Leica look quite attractive.  But what about lenses, one might ask?  Without doubt, Leica lenses are among the most expensive on the market.  But they also present the best performing line of lenses on the market.  One reason is the way they are made.  The bench made process, employed by Leica, allows for the implementation of much tighter tolerances which is needed to achieve absolute top performance.  This method of production does not allow for any mass production procedures, all of which is expensive, but it also assures an unsurpassed level of quality.

In comparison, not all competitor lenses are of equal performance.  Most other companies make so called kit lenses which are meant to keep the prices of their camera-lens combinations rather low.  These lenses generally are of a rather poor performance and should not be used for any price comparisons.  Instead, take a competitor lens that is made to much higher quality standards.  Even then you still have a mass produced item with the shortcomings associated with mass production.  Then, if you go beyond that and take a lens that is sold in only relatively low quantities, with other words, a lens that is similar in production numbers to Leica lenses and the cost suddenly rises to similar levels.  For instance, take the Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 800mm f/5.6E FL ED VR Lens, and you are looking at $17,997.

But one does not have to go to such extremes.  When it comes to performance, one manufacturer outside of Leica has definitely a very good reputation of their own, the company of Zeiss.  Their 55mm f/1.4 Otus Distagon T* lens sells for $3,990.  In comparison, the Leica 50mm f/1.4 Summilux ASPH has a price of 3,745.

Recent articles on this blog showed some of the advantages of the Leica digital sensors.  Taken any of the Leica cameras equipped with those sensors, combined with a Leica lens, and you have a camera with unsurpassed performance with, what turns out to be a competitive price as well.


In today's global market place, buying cameras in different countries is not difficult at all.

Have you ever wondered what Leicas are selling for in other countries?  It is no secret that prices do vary considerably depending what continent or what country you are in.  I have often compared prices with my sister who lives in Germany and we have come to the conclusion that Leica prices in Germany are roughly the same numerically in euros or dollars.  Considering the exchange rate between the two currencies, that makes Leica equipment definitely more expensive in Germany than in the US.

This is by no means a very scientific comparison, but it does display a certain trend.  To make comparisons between a large number of countries is almost impossible, for a variety of reasons.  The currency exchange rates often differ from one day to the next.  Prices will also vary from dealer to dealer and among cities or areas within a country.

A while ago I got help from a reader of this blog.  Torben Chrona Christiansen publishes the LEICA INDEX (  He did a tremendous amount of research on this topic.  As he explained, it was virtually impossible to include all countries, nor does he consider his results totally accurate because of the problems associated with this.  He decided to compare prices of the Leica X2 in 21 different countries and after researching the prices in those countries, he decided to publish the prices based on one particular day, November 21, 2014 and the prevailing exchange rates for that particular day.  Since these countries do have currencies of their own, he also decided to use the US dollar as the currency for the comparison.

Here are his results from the least expensive to the most expensive country.

1   Indonesia: $1624
2   United States: $1629
3   Malaysia: $1662
4   Sweden: $1689
5   Hong Kong: $1701
6   Canada: $1727
7   Australia: $1730
8   Japan: $1796
9   United Kingdom: $1884
10 Italy: $1912
11 Spain: $1981
12 Croatia: $2000
13 Netherlands: $2107
14 France: $2170
15 Germany: $2170
16 Denmark: $2294
17 Russia: $2310
18 Taiwan: $2368
19 China: $2384
20 South Africa: $2548
21 Brazil: $2788

Leica X2 best price

That makes for a difference of $1164 between the lowest and the highest country, a surprisingly large amount.  It seems to be an easy decision to buy Leica equipment in a country with the lowest prices.  But there is more to consider.  You will need to examine the warranties and how they compare, if they are even valid in your country.  There will also be some extra cost attached to buying in another country, where the main extra costs are tax and shipment. This can in some cases be a very big factor.

You might pay a higher price if you buy locally, but if something goes wrong, you have your dealer service to rely on, and, if you are like me, once I have made the decision to get a new piece of Leica equipment, I want to get my hands on it right away.  Buying locally eliminates the waiting period for the camera to arrive.  Much to consider.

My thanks to Torben Chrona Christiansen for giving me permission to use his data for this article.

For the complete article, go here


To comment or to read comments please scroll past the ads below.
All ads present items of interest to Leica owners.


For more information on KOMARU and for orders go to:

For more information and pre orders go to:

Click on image to enlarge
Please make payment via PayPal to GMP Photography

Click on image to enlarge
Please make payment via PayPal to GMP Photography

Click on image to enlarge
Please make payment via PayPal to GMP Photography