Glossary of Leica Terms

The widespread use of abbreviations and proprietary terminology in Leica-related documentation can be puzzling, so hopefully this inventory of definitions will help to clarify the meaning of particular terms. If you are looking for information on serial numbers, these can be readily found, for example, in the Leica Wiki or in Erwin Puts' Leica Compendium. The 2011-edition of the latter sold out quickly, but can sometimes be found on ebay, while a soft copy (without illustrations) of Puts' earlier Leica Lens Compendium is available as a free pdf-download on a separate page of this site.

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Lens designation for optical systems that have been corrected to reduce astigmatic distortions. Also the name of some early Leica fixed camera lenses (1920-21).
Lens-name prefix indicating apochromatic correction, that is the use of special glass elements to make red, green, and blue light rays converge to the same spot for superior contrast and sharpness, as well as color fidelity.
leica apo telyt r module 2.8 400mm
Leica APO-Telyt-R Module 2.8/400mm
The designation APO-Telyt describes a line of apochromatically-corrected telephoto lenses first introduced in 1975 with the APO-Telyt-R 3.4/180mm. All optics in this series were produced for the now discontinued R-mount, with the exception of the APO-Telyt-M 3.4/135mm. The latter is currently the longest focal length available for the M-series rangefinder system. The lens family includes such highly acclaimed optics as the APO-Telyt-R 4/280 or the APO-Telyt-R Module system. It also contains two exotic lenses – the APO-Telyt-R 5/600mm and the APO-Telyt-R 5.6/1600mm – of which only one or two copies are known to exist. Despite being manual focus only lenses, the APO-Telyts have kept their value and continue to trade at premium prices on the pre-owned market.
Lens-name supplement indicating existence of aspherical lens elements that are used to correct for optical aberrations, while making it possible to maintain a compact lens design.


Barnack, Oskar (1879-1936):
oskar barnack
Oskar Barnack, 1934[]
Oskar Barnack was a master mechanic, who designed the first Leica camera and developed the 35mm film standard. He worked at Carl Zeiss in Jena and in 1910 moved to Ernst Leitz in Wetzlar as head of microscope development. Barnack was fascinated by the emerging movie industry and himself an amateur photographer. However, due to suffering from asthma, he struggled to transport and handle the heavy and bulky plate-camera equipment and, thus, went about developing an imaging system that would be easier to handle. Barnack's idea was to replace the large and cumbersome photographic plates of the time with small commonly-available movie-film that would subsequently be enlarged in the darkroom. The resulting compact and portable camera (the Leitz Prototype I or Ur-Leica of 1913/14) made it possible for photographers to work in ordinary outdoor settings with available light and without necessarily attracting attention to themselves. Also, the camera utilized the relatively inexpensive motion picture film, such that twelve pictures now could be taken for the costs of a single 5 x 7 plate, and 40 exposures could be made in a single loading. The outbreak of World War I and its aftermath prevented the Barnack-design to be marketed to the public for several years, but when the Leica I was launched in 1925, it became a commercial success and established the 35mm film format as the standard for photographic imaging.


Camera Alphabet:
Camera lines
Designation Description
C Zoom-lens compact film cameras
D-Lux Compact digital cameras with a 1/1.7" sensor
M Rangefinder ("Meßsucher") cameras
Q Fixed lens full-frame digital cameras
R Reflex cameras
S Medium format (Scanner) cameras
T Interchangeable lens APS-C cameras
V-Lux Superzoom digital cameras
X Fixed lens APS-C cameras
Z-2X Compact film cameras with a two-times zoom
Leica has had the habit of naming many of its camera lines with single letters or single letters with postfixes, giving rise to an alphabet of camera systems.
Designation for the only Leica camera for the APS-format.
Designation for a compact viewfinder film camera ("Compact Leica") with M-bayonet that was produced in cooperation with Minolta during 1973-76.
Designation of enthusiast compact film cameras, produced during 2003-07, with a Summarit fixed or zoom lens that succeeded the Minilux series with a more classic design ("Classic Minilux").
Designation of (Leica S) lenses that have a Central Shutter mechanism.


Designation for a series of digital cameras with moderate zoom or interchangeable (FourThirds) lenses.
Digital-Modul-R camera back that makes digital photo capture possible with the R8 and R9.


Designation for lenses produced by Ernst Leitz CANada for the US military.
Designation for lenses with a maximum aperture of (mostly) 1:3.5 to 1:4.5.
Designation for early fixed camera lenses with aperture f/3.5 and a focal length of 50mm (1921-25)
Ernst Leitz:
Entrepreneur and founder in 1869 of Ernst Leitz Optische Werke in Wetzlar/Germany, which is the predecessor company of today's Leica Camera AG.
Designation for teleconverter lenses.


Family Tree:
Leica Stammbaum
The Leica Stammbaum in Solms, 2013[gmpphoto]
The Leica "Stammbaum" or family tree was an iconic display of Leica cameras that used to greet visitors at the entrance of the company's headquarters in Solms. The tree-like arrangement retraced photographic equipment history from the Ur-Leica of 1914 to the era of digital M-cameras one hundred years later. It showcased all the rangefinder and reflex camera models that Leica produced over time. Representations of the family tree were printed in Leica product catalogs or could be purchased as laminated posters. When Leica moved to its new headquarters in Wetzlar in 2013, it was decided to display the historic camera models individually in the company museum. At that time, the tree-structure was acquired and re-populated for presentation in the Leica Store Manchester, before being sold at a Christie's auction in September 2016 for £360,000. – More on the Leica Family Tree.
Five-letter codes ("Bestellworte"):
Five-letter codes were pronounceable telegraphic letter combinations that used to be assigned for identification to each Leica product during 1928-60. For example, "ATOOH" refered to the Leica IIIb, "HIKOO" to the Hektor 2.5/12.5cm, and "LEICA" to the Leica I, model A. Since then, Leica has been using numerical five-digit product identification codes. The full list of the five-letter codes is available as part of the leica-wiki on the l-camera-forum.


Designation for a group of lenses produced between 1930 and 1955. According to historical anecdote, the first lens of its type was named after Oskar Barnack's dog.
Designation for wide-angle lenses produced by Carl Zeiss for the Leica M-system.


Brand name derived from the founder's company name "Leitz(sche) Camera".
First series of single lens reflex cameras by Leica, released in 1964.
Light meters that attach to the hotshoe and couple with the shutter-dials of certain M-series cameras.
Trigger winding device for certain M-series cameras.
Lens names:
Selected lens names
Lens designation Maximum aperture
Noctilux 0.95-1.2
Nocticron 1.2
Summilux 1.4
Summicron 2.0
Summarit 2.5
Elmarit 2.8
Elmar 2.8-4.5
All Leica lenses are labelled with trademarked names alongside their description by maximum aperture and focal length. While originally these designations were sometimes related to the origin or optical design of the particular lens, they nowadays only refer to groups of optics that share the same maximum aperture opening. The lens names are sometimes qualified with prefixes, such as "APO-", indicating apo-chromatic correction, "Tele-", to describe long focal length, or "Vario-", to identify a zoom lens. Some deprecated lens names of older lenses did not follow this aperture-centered categorization, though. For example, "Telyt" lenses are characterized by their long focal length rather than a particular lens speed. Since only a few other camera makers (e.g. Voigtländer, Zeiss) have a similar lens-designation scheme, the lens names have contributed to the differentiation of the Leica brand as a special and perhaps more "personal" photographic tool.
Leica Thread Mount: screw mount to attach 35mm lenses to camera bodies with a width of 39mm and a thread of 0.977mm per turn. LTM lenses have a flange-focal-distance of 28.8 mm.


leica m mount patent
Drawing from the M-mount patent filing
The M-mount is a bayonet-style camera-lens coupling mechanism that was introduced with the Leica M3 rangefinder camera in 1954 and has been used on all subsequent Leica M series cameras, as well as the Minolta CLE, Konica Hexar RF, Voigtländer Bessa, Rollei 35RF, and (the latest) Zeiss Ikon. The patent for the M-bayonet ("Bajonettvorrichtung für die lösbare Verbindung zweier Kamerateile") was registered by Ernst Leitz GmbH at the German patent office on 10 February 1950 and published on 23 October 1952 (patent number DE853384). Hugo Wehrenfennig was credited with the invention. The bayonet has a diameter of 44mm and a relatively short flange-focal distance of 27.8mm, so that many other lenses, such as Leica R or LTM, can be mounted on an M-mount camera via corresponding adapters. The M-mount features four tabs and a connector that transmits the focusing distance of the lens to the optical rangefinder in the camera. The newer version of the M-mount that was introduced with the Leica M8 also has six-bit markings on the flange that provide the camera with information on the lens that is being attached, so as to enable digital corrections of lens-specific imaging flaws.
Designation of compact film cameras, produced during 1991-97, with an Elmar fixed or zoom ("Minizoom") lens.
Designation of enthusiast compact film cameras, produced during 1995-03, with a Summarit fixed or zoom ("Minilux Zoom") lens.
Designation of all-mechanical rangefinder cameras ("Mechanical Perfection") in the M-series.


Designation for lenses with a maximum aperture of 1:1.2, first introduced with the Leica DG Nocticron 1,2 / 42,5 mm.


Designation for a 1:4/35mm shift lens ("Perspective Adjustment") produced by Schneider-Kreuznach for the Leica R-system.
Designation for a 1:2.8/28mm shift lens ("Perspective Control") produced by Schneider-Kreuznach for the Leica R-system.
Designation of Leica's series of slide film projectors.


Red Dot:
leica red dot
The Red Dot is being put in its place[]
The term "Red Dot" denotes the small, red, circular branding logo on (many) Leica cameras. The adhesive sticker has a diameter of 12mm (for the Leica M) and is placed into a dedicated pit. It will usually be destroyed upon removal. In case you damage or lose your camera's red dot, Leica will be happy to sell you a replacement sticker (SKU: 710 271 000 000). Alternatively, one can also procure black logo stickers from specialized vendors, such as, that make the camera more discrete. In casual terms, the expression "red dot" denotes the branding power that Leica has developed over time. For example, the D-Lux and V-Lux series are technically largely identical to corresponding cameras from Panasonic, but the Leica-branding of these cameras results in a substantial price premium – both in the new and in the pre-owned market.
Opto-mechanical Range Finder mechanism that makes it possible to focus M-system cameras.
Read Only Memory chip that stores the characteristics of R-system lenses for transmission to the R8 or R9 cameras.


Six-bit code:
leica m 28mm 28 six bit coding
Six-bit code on Elmarit 28mm
The Six-Bit Code is a colored engraving on the flange of M-lenses that makes it possible for digital M-cameras to recognize the lens that has been mounted. Thanks to reading this code through mount-based sensors, the camera can include information on the attached lens and its focal length in EXIF data and make digital corrections for lens-specific flaws, such as color-cast or vignetting, in line with lens profiles stored in the camera's firmware. Six-bit coding was introduced for all M-lenses sold since 2006 (when the Leica M8 was launched), but many older lenses can be retrofitted with the code. The coding is realized through physical pits on the lens mount flange, which are filled with either white or black paint. The six digit binary code makes it theoretically possible to distinguish up to 64 different lenses.
Designation for 1:2/50mm lenses during the 1930s.
Designation for a 1:1.5/85mm portrait lens that was produced during 1943-60.
Designation for some wide-angle lenses produced during 1946-1974.
Designation for 1:2/50mm lenses that were produced during 1939-53.
Designation for wide-angle lenses produced by Schneider-Kreuznach for Leica cameras.


Lens-name prefix for telephoto lenses.
Designation for a 1:2.2/90mm soft-focus portrait lens produced during 1935-49.
Lens pre-fix indicating the ability to change between three focal lengths on certain M-mount lenses.


leica ur leica
The Ur-Leica[]
The Ur-Leica was the prototype of the first Leica 35mm camera. It was built in 1912/13 by Oscar Barnack as a compact camera that made it possible for the photographer to capture ordinary outdoor life without carrying the heavy and cumbersome equipment typical for the time. The Ur-Leica was also the first camera that used the 24x36mm film format, which was derived from 18x24mm film then common for large theater projections. It was fitted with a 50mm lens, which later became the normal focal length for the 35mm format. After World War I, developments of the compact camera continued, leading in 1924 to 31 copies of the pre-production Leica O-Series camera, before the Leica I was introduced to the public at the Leipzig Spring Fair in 1925 and subsequently became a commercial success.


Mirror reflex box, released in 1951, that attaches to the lens mount of Leica rangefinders and made it possible to properly focus telephoto lenses.
Black, rubberized material that used to be applied to Leica camera bodies prior to the 1980s in order to give the surface texture and provide the photographer with a solid grip. However, over time natural oxidation and exposure to ultraviolet light can result in the deterioration of the Vulcanite cover, such that the material becomes brittle and peels off. More recent Leicas have therefore been using "leatherette" vinyl covers, which are chemically more stable, easier to replace when damaged, and less expensive to apply.


Designation for a 1:1.5/5cm screw-mount lens produced from 1936-50.

Further Reading

The past fifty years of Leica photography have been dominated by the M and R-systems. The evolution of these lines of cameras (and the ancestors) is graphically illustrated in the Leica family tree. Descriptions of the advances made with each new camera model are contained, respectively, in the Leica M compendium and the Leica R compendium. Last, but not least, much of the attraction of Leica for photographers is due to the excellent quality of the company's lenses, and you can get an overview of all the options and specs by checking out the M lens catalog or the R lens catalog on this site.