Now that we all carry cameraphones in our pockets, it's hard to imagine that the biggest breakthrough in photography actually happened back in 1914 – when
Suddenly, photographers could throw away their heavy tripods and exploding flashguns, and step out of their studios to walk the streets and take photographs with this new mobile camera.
Barnack, a German optical engineer who specialised in microscope research, was also a keen amateur photographer, but his health was poor and he couldn't carry the heavy cameras of the time. He quickly turned his prototype Ur-Leica into a lasting success. By 1932, there were 90,000 cameras. By 1961, a million cameras were in use.
Anyone who is anyone in photography has used the "miniature miracle", as it was known at the time – from
People who own them swear by them. Some have their Leicas locked up in bank vaults and many watch the value of their cameras soar as photographers become disillusioned with digital photography.
Milestones in their development include the rangefinder cameras like the legendary Leica M3 (in 1954) and the M6 (in 1984), a
The R-System, an SLR camera that many Leica M users never came around to, kicked off in 1976 with the Leica R3 – their first electronic camera. In the late 1980s, they introduced their first point-and-shoot model first digital camera, the Leica Digilux.
Leica has become photography's badge of style – though not everyone knows how to use them properly. As
My firm favourite is the M2. It's so quiet, so beautiful and the rangefinder is so precise. I have traded many cameras over the years, but I would never give up my M2. If I was sent to a desert island I would take it with me – provided I could get some film and paper.
I could never afford a black Leica, so I bought a silver one and covered it in black tape. Nobody could see it, and nobody could hear when I took pictures. I took the Nureyev photograph on it, one of my favourites.
I used the Leica M series for everything, from the late 80s up to the early 2000s, when everyone working for news media had to ditch film. At that time, Leica were not making a suitable digital camera. Its future looked set to be as an exquisite accessory for the mega-rich (it was owned by HermÈs for a while), among them the Queen, who is a longtime owner – and doubtless has an exceptional archive of the "pstairs-downstairs" life of grand houses.
In the last few years, at last, Leica have made up for lost time. With the new M Type 240, it has produced a camera that could be as revolutionary for documentary video as its first camera was for still photography.
What makes the new Leica so special is that the rangefinder gives the intimacy of a small camera, but you also get its legendary lenses. I think a new kind of journalistic video will be able to take a very large step forward thanks to the M type 240, and the new video camera could be as important as those early Leicas.
I'm not sure how the traditional telegram of congratulations will be delivered to Leica on its 100th birthday – but it's not far to Leica's Mayfair offices from the Mall.
Most Popular Stories
- Chobani Counters Competition With Expanded Lineup
- Automakers Turn to China to Fuel Sales Growth
- Pope Francis, Huge Crowd Joyously Celebrate Easter
- GM Boosting China Production Capacity
- GOP Making Bold Play for Oregon Senate Seat
- Delay in Ferry Evacuation Puzzles Maritime Experts
- Report: Iran VP Says Row Over Reactor Resolved
- NASA's Space Station Robonaut Finally Getting Legs
- Confusion, Anger as Sunken Ferry's Relatives Wait
- Iran Denounces U.S. Ruling to Sell Property