This is the cover of one of the handful of hybrid copies made by Fred and Jo Mazzulla of Stenger’s 1949 book “Die Geschichte der Kleinbild Kamera, bis zur Leica” in which the translated text lies side by side with the original German. Scan from the LHSA Archives done by Doug Drumheller for this article.
To celebrate LHSA’s 50th Anniversary, here is the second of three parts of a special translation of Erich Stenger’s history of the Leica Camera, originally published in 1949 in German for the E. Leitz Company’s 100th Anniversary. The translation was arranged for by Fred and Jo Mazzulla, and issued in a limited edition volume with side-by-side German and English language pages.” ∙
researches leading to the leica
Who would be better qualified to give information than Oskar Barnack, the inventor himself ? Let us give the floor to him first:
“How I came to build the LEICA. Well, I’ll really have to go back two and a half decades. At that I was eagerly photographing with my 13 x 18 cm. camera with six duplex dark slides and large leather case, which looked like a carpet-bag. That was a lot of baggage when I went out on a Sunday to roam the Thuringian Forest. Panting up the mountains the idea must have occurred to me; at any rate, I still remember how I started experiments, dividing up the 13 x 18 cm. plates into small sections, trying to get 15 to 20 exposures on one plate by means of a lens with a short focal length and a special device. But it was a complete failure. The enlarged pictures were by no means nice to look at (on account of the coarse grain). I dropped the whole idea for the time being, although the realization, ‘small negative, large picture’ had already been born.
“In the meantime a change took place in my occupation as I entered the Optical Works of Ernst Leitz, Wetzlar, in 1911. Here my work, among other things, also included cinematographic camera technique. In 1912 I built my first motion-picture camera and I now rapidly approached the right way of solving the problem, owing to the fine grain of the motion-picture film. An enlargement of the motion-picture format to postcard size was not bad at all.
“But in the meantime my standards had gone up. The postcard and, still more so, the 6 x 9 format, are all right for family pictures, but the real photograph does not begin under 13 x 18 or, better yet, 18 x 24 cm. Even these sizes appear quite small after seeing pictures 50 cm. wide. There is no denying it, the larger the picture the more it seems to create a plastic and natural effect. For that purpose the motion-picture format was too small. Since the motion-picture film could not be made wider because of standardization, I had to make the other dimension as long as feasible to get the best possible utilization. I took twice the motion-picture format right away; that is 24 x 36 mm., and it was quite effective. That was how the LEICA format was found. In other words, it was not the product of brain-racking thought for months on end, as was quite often the case with camera parts which did not show it at all. I still consider the 2:3 side ratio to be the best and most serviceable.
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