International Leica Society

“Shooting with a Leica is like a long tender kiss, like firing an automatic pistol, like an hour on the analyst’s couch,” said Henri Cartier-Bresson. He should have added, “…and like spending a weekend with the LHSA International Leica Society.”

Two hundred Leica fanatics converged on Pittsburgh last week to try new equipment, attend lectures, shoot pictures, swap tales and equipment. The assortment of interesting and eclectic characters included at least one psychiatrist (doctor-patient privilege prevents knowing whether Henri was on his couch). The Leica lovers included doctors, teachers, collectors, historians, enthusiasts, camera dealers, repairmen, software nabobs, professional photographers and photography amateurs (in the best sense of the word, true lovers).

L-R: Jon Fauer, Iain Neil, Rolf Fricke, Andreas Kaufmann, with Leica Summilux-C lenses

What is it about a Leica? Dr. Andreas Kaufmann, Managing Director of ACM (Leica Camera’s parent company) and Leica Managing Director Alfred Schopf discussed the history, future, and branding of this stellar brand. It was, perhaps, one of the first “point-and-shoot” cameras in an analog era when most of the competition was bigger and heavier. It helped that the world’s greatest photographers used Leicas to create some of the world’s most iconic images. For everyone else, Leica was the aspirational gateway to award-winning photography, the keys to the kingdom. It was more than a tool, as we see today in the digital repetition of history.

Street signs from Wetzlar festooned the event to set the theme of the keynote speech about the return of the Leica factory from Solms to its ancestral home in Wetzlar.

Seminar speakers originally came from 7 different countries: Austria, Brasil, China, Germany, Netherlands, Scotland, and USA.  Dr. Edward Schwartzreich presented “Hitherto Unpublished Portraits of Oskar Barnack” (inventor of the Leica camera), and “Extraordinary pictures taken in 1914 by Dr. Ernst Leitz II with the Ur-Leica in the US.”

I was familiar with some of this, having been practically teethed on my Dad’s arsenal of Leica M2 and M3 cameras.

But I was here to learn more about cine lenses from Rolf Fricke and Professor Iain Neil. Rolf Fricke is the co-founder and President Emeritus of the LHSA and a former Marketing Communications Director of the Kodak Professional Photography Division.

Photo courtesy of Rolf Fricke, from his lecture: Early Leitz C-mount 25 mm Hektor-Rapid cine lens on a 16 mm Bolex H16 of 1935. Bolex also made adapters for regular Leica screw mount lenses on its cameras, like this popular 3.5/50 Elmar lens with the VALOO hood that allows convenient setting of f-stops.

Although I had previously written that the new Summilux-C cine lenses were the first Leica lenses for motion picture cameras, Rolf showed compelling examples of Leica 16mm, 9.5mm and 8mm cine lenses and cameras going back to 1936.

Iain Neil is the famous optical designer of the Summilux-C cine lenses and current Managing Director of CW Sonderoptic (the Leica division that manufactures them).

Iain’s lecture began with a summary of the basic design parameters when Andreas Kaufmann, Christian Skrein (member of the Leica board of directors) and Otto Nemenz (President of Otto Nemenz International) first got together to come up with a new line of prime PL mount lenses.

The idea was a set of lenses which had, like the 7 Cardinal Sins, 7 capital virtues: light weight; small size; T1.4; user-friendly focus and iris scales; titanium mount; 32mm diameter image circle; and easy (one-handed) handling.

Stefan Daniel, Leica Director of Product Management (standing). Alfred Schopf, Managing Director (right)

With 8 Summilux-C lenses shipping now, another 3 are expected by NAB, with an additional 4 planned later. Iain’s in-depth lecture will be discussed in a follow-up article.

The great value of historical societies like the LHSA is the preservation of equipment, photos and the history itself—in good times and bad—in ways that  museums and corporations may not be able to manage.

For more information on the LHSA, go to

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