“Small negatives, large pictures”

— Oskar Barnack, German, optical engineer, industrial designer, father of 35 mm photography, creator of first Leica Camera


In June 1914, Oskar Barnack, an engineer for Leitz, the leading manufacturer of microscopes, constructed the first functional model of a compact camera, with 35 mm. movie film. Barnack’s mind was abuzz with the idea of a small, light camera, which could take photos in succession in a simple and quick way. His idea was to use manufactured movie film, meaning that it was available on the market, and hence comparatively cheaper. “Small negatives, large pictures” was his motto. This is how the Leica Camera (= Leitz / Camera) came into being one hundred years ago. Its launch had to be delayed until 1925, owing to the Great War, but it meant much more than simply marketing a new camera; it meant a radical change in how we record reality. Light, weighing just 400 grams, easy to handle and carry in a bag, the Leica enabled spontaneous, dynamic and flexible shots, which were impossible to do up until then.