Brief history of Leica Camera AG

A brief history of the major Leica milestones:

  • 1849 The optician Carl Kellner founds an Optics Institute in Wetzlar.

Ernst Leitz I

  • 1869 Ernst Leitz becomes managing director.


  • 1914 Oskar Barnack constructs the Ur-Leica.

Ernst Leitz II

  • 1924 Ernst Leitz II decides to put the 35 mm Leica (Leitz Camera) into mass production.
  • 1925 The LEICA I with inbuilt lens is launched.
  • 1930 The first LEICA camera with interchangeable threaded mount and interchangeable lenses is released.

Leica II

  • 1932 The 100,000th LEICA II rolls off the conveyor belt.
  • 1934 The LEICA 250 ‘Reporter’ contains a ten-metre film and delivers 250 exposures without the need for reloading.

Oskar Barnack

  • 1936 Oskar Barnack dies.

Leica M3

  • 1954 The LEICA M3 with bayonet mount and bright-line rangefinder is launched.
  • 1956 Ernst Leitz III takes over management of the company after the death of his father. German Chancellor Dr. Konrad Adenauer receives a Leica with the serial number 800,000.

Leica M2

  • 1961 The number of mass-produced items exceeds 1,000,000.
  • 1965 The first Leica SLR camera, LEICAFLEX, goes into mass production. It is followed a year later by NOCTILUX 1:1.2/50 mm, the first lens with an aspherical element.

Leica M4

  • 1967 The LEICA M4 is launched on the market.

Leica M5

  • 1971 The LEICA M5 with selective exposure metering through the lens is unveiled.
  • 1973 Leica opens a factory in Vila Nova de Famalicão in Portugal. The LEICA CL compact rangefinder camera is launched.
  • 1976 The LEICA R3 is the first electronic Leica with selective/integral metering.
  • 1980 The LEICA R4 is launched on the market.

Leica M6

  • 1984 Leica presents the LEICA M6 with selective exposure metering and LED display on the viewfinder.
  • 1986 Foundation of Leica GmbH in order to combine all Leica activities on the photographic market.
  • 1987 Ernst Leitz Wetzlar GmbH and Wild Heerbrugg AG merge to become the Wild Leitz Konzern. The new company employs 9,000 people. The LEICA R5 enters the market.

Leica R6

  • 1988 Move to new factory in Solms near Wetzlar. The LEICA R6 with mechanically controlled shutter is launched.
  • 1989 The first Leica compact camera, the LEICA AF-C1, is unveiled.
  • 1990 Wild Leitz Holding AG merges with The Cambridge Instrument Company plc to form Leica Holding B.V. The LEICA TRINOVID BA binocular range is unveiled with a completely new look and mechanisms.
  • 1994 The first digitally controlled Leica, the LEICA R7, is introduced on the market.
  • 1996 The first digital high-performance scanner camera, the LEICA S1, is unveiled. On 25 July, Leica Camera GmbH becomes a limited company and is known from this point on as Leica Camera AG. The company launches the microprocessor-controlled LEICA R8 SLR camera.
  • 1998 The first digital Leica compact camera, The LEICA DIGILUX, is unveiled.
  • 1999 The LEICA C1 heralds the start of a new design line at Leica.

Leica M7

  • 2002 The LEICA M7, with its automatic timer and digital countdown of automatic shutter speed, is launched on the market.

Leica MP

  • 2003 Leica MP launched.
  • 2003 The new LEICA ULTRAVID binocular range is launched, as well as a digital rear panel for the LEICA R9.

Dr. Andreas Kaufmann

  • 2005 The Salzburg-based ACM Projektentwicklung GmbH, under the leadership of Dr Andreas Kaufmann, joins the company. The company successively acquires a majority stake of over 97 per cent by 2006.

Leica M8

Leica M8.2

  • 2006 Market launch of the M8 digital Leica rangefinder camera.

Leica S2

  • 2008 The medium-format LEICA S2 SLR camera for professionals is launched.

Leica X1

  • 2009 With the LEICA M9, the brand unveils its first digital full-frame rangefinder camera (24 × 36 mm). Along with the S2, it quickly becomes a bestseller. The LEICA X1 is launched on the market at the same time.

Leica M9

Leica M9-P

  • 2011 Leica Camera AG completes a turnaround and announces a record turnover of EUR 248.8 million for the difficult financial year 2010/11. The operating result (EBIT) increases sixfold to EUR 41.6 million. The Leica M9-P is launched on the market.

Leica M9 Titanium

Leica M7 Hermès

To be continued…

Source and images credit : Leica Camera AG

This entry was posted in Leica Press Releases and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Trackbacks are closed, but you can post a comment.
  • FCC disclosure statement: this post may contain affiliate links or promotions that do not cost readers anything but help keep this website alive. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. When you click on links to various merchants on this site and make a purchase, this can result in this site earning a commission. Affiliate programs and affiliations include, but are not limited to, the eBay Partner Network. Thanks for your support!