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The Leica was the first 35 mm camera. The first prototypes were built by Oskar Barnack[?] at E. Leitz Optische Werke[?], Wetzlar, in 1913. Barnack used standard cinema film, but extended the image size to 24 x 36 mm. Barnack believed the 2 : 3 aspect ratio to be the ultimate choice, and left room for a 36 exposure film length.

The concept was developed further, and in 1923 Barnack convinced his boss, Ernst Leits II, to make a prototype series of 31. The camera was an immediate success when introduced in Leipzig as the Leica I (for Leitz Camera) in 1925. The 50 mm f/3.5 objective was designed by Dr. Max Berek at Leitz, and was one of the reasons behind the success of the camera, the other being its compact size and reliability. The focal plane shutter had a range from 1/20 to 1/500 second , in addition to a Z for Zeit (time) position.

In 1930 came the Leica I Schraubgewinde with an exchangeable objective system based on a 39.5 mm thread. In addition to the 50 normal lens, a 35 wide angle and a 135 mm telephoto objective were initially available.

The Leica II came in 1932, with a built in rangefinder coupled to the lens focussing mechanism.

Barnacks word, "Small negatives -- large images", would soon change the world of photography.

Due to the strength of the Leica brand, the Leitz company changed name to Leica in 1986. The Leica company still produces a range of very high quality, expensive, cameras and interchangeable optics, including compact cameras, M-System rangefinder cameras as direct ancestors of the first Leica, and R-system single lens reflex cameras.

See also: 135 film

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