Leica Auxiliary Reproduction Device Boowu

Apr 13, 2018  By Dick Gilcreast

During the many years I was able to do restoration and rebuilding of historic aircraft one day a week at the New England Air Museum in Windsor Locks CT, a number of situations arose where visitors had actually had some long ago contact with the aircraft I was working on. Sometimes they had snapshots to show, and I needed a method of obtaining a quick copies for the museum’s files rather than a studio setup. Today any cell phone might do the job instantly, but back then the solution was an old BOOWU. That solved the problem at the museum as well as on other research trips.

The snapshots with the handwriting underneath shown on the following pages came from someone who had access to the pits during the Thompson Trophy Race at Cleveland in 1938, and got photos of one of the leading contenders in the race — the Marcoux-Bromberg Special — as well as its pilot Earl Ortman. The small prints of Ortman and his airplane could be quickly and easily copied with the BOOWU at the 4×6 inch A6 setting.

This yellow and black aircraft was famous at the time, having placed second in the two previous years. It would have won in 1937 except for a miscue given to the pilot on the newly installed radio. And in its 1936 version it was featured in the film “Test Pilot” with Clark Gable and Spencer Tracy. The Marcoux placed second in 1938 and again in 1939, and ever since has been known as “The Bridesmaid”. The New England Air Museum was able to retrieve the disassembled parts of the airplane from storage in a leaky garage in Michigan, and the restoration began on the wooden wings which were in very poor condition from water damage. This picture of the airplane in its final 1939 race version was made on roll-out after restoration with a contemporary Leica IIIa and 50mm f/2 Summar, to be properly in keeping with its date.

The BOOWU was originally designed for screw-mount cameras (1952 to 1962 — dates from Collectors Guide, Laney), and and several M versions followed (1956 to 1976). The units can be pre-set for three standardized paper sizes:

A4 — 8.25×11.5 in. — approx. 8×10 or 8×11

A5 — 5.75x 8.25 in. — approx. 5×7 or 5×8

A6 — 4.25×5.80 in. — approx. 4×5 or 4×6

There are three extension tubes to be mounted on the camera, each one the proper thickness for accurate focus at its specified setting, with the lens focus set at infinity. Into the tubes are screwed the four extendible legs. The legs are adjustable to three marked clickstop extension settings for use with the proper extension tube, and are then clamped tight to prevent slipping.

The assembled setup is quite rigid, and can be easily set up for desktop copying. Back in the day I picked the screwmount BOOWU and have seen no reason to update it. Besides all the older screw-mount cameras, it can work with any bayonet mount M camera with the simple addition of a bayonet adapter to the camera, eliminating any problems with mounting as reported by Will Wright a few years ago when he found a newer M camera with thicker front levers would not mount on an older M-type extension tube designed for the earlier M3 and M2.


The following content is accessible for members only, please sign in.

You might also like

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

More Story
The Legacy of Oskar Barnack Did you see the Leica camera that just sold for almost $3,000,000?  There is a legacy to the Leica brand that transcends...