Barnack built three Ur-Leicas between 1913 and 1914 (Pic: Leitz AG)

In 1913, Oskar Barnack, an inventor and visionary who worked in the microscope department at Ernst Leitz, captured the first photograph with the Ur-Leica, the first 35mm still camera that would go on to define the Leica brand.

Stephen Dowling, founder of KosmoFoto, has written up an article detailing the history behind the first image captured on a Leica camera. In it, he details how Barnack, ‘an enthusiastic amateur photographer who often took cameras with him on his travels, ’took inspiration from his work on Leitz’s first cinema camera to develop a compact stills camera that would, after a decade of tinkering, go on to become the first Leica camera.

Oskar Barnack

‘Barnack realized that by doubling the dimensions of [cinema] film – 36mm instead of 18mm – he could build a camera that was much more ergonomic and pleasing to use,’ says Dowling. ‘Instead of the film being transported vertically, as it was in a cinema camera, Barnack’s prototype camera transported the film horizontally. The perforated cine film was much easier to advance using toothed rollers than the mechanisms in larger cameras. The little negatives would be easy to make prints from in an enlarger.’

First image taken from the Ur-Leica by Oskar Barnack 1913, Eisenmarkt, Wetzlar, Germany

The first image captured with that camera, pictured above, was done so in the historic Eisenmarkt in Wetzlar, Germany. The photograph depicts ‘a crowd of shoppers in front of the Binding am Eisenmarkt’ and the location of its capture is now marked with a commemorate plaque that showcases an outline of the Ur-Leica and the phrases ‘First Leica picture was taken here 1913 by the inventor and visionary Oskar Barnack.’

A commemorative plaque marks the place where Oskar Barnack first tested his Ur-Leica in Wetzlar.

To read the full story and learn more about Barnack and his Leica legacy, head on over to KosmoFoto:

The first picture taken on a Leica


About Film Fridays: We’ve launched an analog forum and in a continuing effort to promote the fun of the medium, we’ll be sharing film-related content on Fridays, including articles from our friends at 35mmc and KosmoFoto.

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