Leica’s History With Stefan Daniel
Our Leica Story video series continues with The History of Leica. Chris and I spent a Saturday with Stefan Daniel, Global Director Business Unit Photo, Leica Camera AG. Our day started off with a morning stroll through Wetzlar. Chris, Jim Wagner (our host from the US), and I did a sunrise – early morning shoot of the town. It was a fine time to see the town before it came to life. We shot sunrise from the bridge, followed by a coffee and pastry at a corner cafe.
During our stroll, we stumbled upon a shoe repair shop. As we were shooting through the windows of the shop, the owner saw us and invited us in. He was the nicest person and continued to work hard while he told us his story. It was a great chance for me to use the M10 to photograph him while he worked.
As the town came to life, we strolled the town with Stefan and Jim and were shown some of the historic sites. The most iconic of these spots was where Oscar Barnack took the first photo with a Leica camera.
I have had people ask why we chose to do a story on Leica. The answer is simple: It’s the most iconic and influential camera maker in photographic history. Granted, there are a lot of camera companies and each has its own story, but Leica was the company that pushed photography forward and changed the way the world took photographs.
We saw throughout our visit the dedication of the employees at Leica, and how each person there strives for perfection. While some say it may be just a German thing, I would have to disagree. In Leica’s case, it is Leica cultural-heritage things. There is no second-best or close enough at Leica. It’s all about perfection. This is something that dates back to Leica’s roots.
We met employees who have worked at Leica all their lives, many as part of apprenticeship programs. All you need to do is hold a camera or focus a lens and you’ll know instantly what quality is all about. Quality is defined in their products, not only from engineering and manufacturing but the image that the Leica cameras produce.
In our video below with Stefan Daniel, we go through the history of Leica and even discuss some pivotal moments. Leica’s name is a derivative of the words Leitz Camera: LEItz CAmera. As discussed in the video, the company was founded in 1849 as the Optical Institute, and then a few years later was named Ernst Leitz Optical, and was primarily focused on making microscopes.
Oskar Barnack changed everything in 1917. In short, he made a camera that used 35mm motion picture film, turned it on its side, and doubled the frame size. The format he invented then is still the format used, even in the digital age. The story goes that he also invented the traditional 36 exposure roll of film, as it was the length of his arms when stretching out a piece of film.
To tell the whole amazing story of Leica it would take a book several inches thick. You can learn more by checking out Oscar Barnack and related links on the page. There are also numerous books on the subject. You can find them HERE ON AMAZON. If you really are a Leica aficionado, then I strongly recommend Eyes Wide Open! 100 Years of Leica Photography.
Our video below is about 25 minutes in length, though it will give you a good history lesson. Stefan does a great job of telling the history and setting the stage for the coming videos on our visit to the factory.
History Of Leica Video