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.
- 35mm format:
- The 35mm format is the common name for a film or image sensor size that was initially introduced by Oscar Barnack in the Ur-Leica. This format is sometimes also called the "Leica format". The 35mm-name derives from the gauge of the film strip, which (including perforations) measures 35mm. The receptor area of the film or sensor is 36x24mm.
- Auction Madness:
- Leica Auction Madness is a casual expression that captures the extraordinary success of Leica vintage equipment sales a major auction houses. Leica lots regularly beat expert estimations and sell for five, six or even seven figure US-dollar amounts. The strong interest from collectors is fuelled by Leica's long history of small batch manufacturing, the use of exquisite materials and premium craftsmanship. – More on Leica auctions.
- Barnack, Oskar (1879-1936):
- The Leica CL was a compact viewfinder film camera ("Compact Leica") with M-bayonet that was produced in cooperation with Minolta during 1973-76. The CL had a different rangefinder than the M-cameras that was less precise and less suitable to focusing fast or long lenses. Leica released two optics specifically designed for use with the CL: the Leitz Summicron-C 40mm f/2 and the Leitz Elmar-C 90mm f/4. Both lenses can be mounted also on a regular M-body, but Leica did not recommend to do so, because the coupling cams are different. About 65,000 CLs were produced and sold. – In November 2017, Leica introduced a new digital CL, which is a 24 megapixel L-Mount camera with an APS-C sensor, integrated electronic viewfinder and touchscreen.
- DMR (Digital-Modul-R):
- ELCAN is the abbreviation for Ernst Leitz CANada, which from 1952 to 1990 was the North American subsidiary of Leica (now part of Raytheon) with a design and production facility in Midland/Ontario. ELCAN focused on specialty optical instruments for the military. Several high performance M-mount and R-mount lenses bearing the ELCAN designation were produced in small numbers, which nowadays makes them sought after collector's items.
- Ernst Leitz:
- Extender is Leica's term for its tele-converters. The company produced one 1.4x and two 2x converters for its R-system that extend the focal length of the lens to which the converter is attached, respectively, by 40 percent and 100 percent, while reducing the maximum aperture by one or two stops. The two newest of the Extenders carry the APO-prefix, indicating that they are optimized for combination with apochromatically corrected tele-lenses. – More on the Leica Extenders.
- 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" referred 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.
- Geovid is the trademark of Leica's sports optics. The company produces a range of binoculars, spotting scopes, and riflescopes. Modern Geovids are weather-proof, feature high-performance optics, and offer laser-based distance measurement.
- The Hologon 15mm f/8 was an ultra wide-angle lens produced by Carl Zeiss for the Leica M-system (Leica order number 11003). It was produced from 1972 to 1976 and came with a dedicated viewfinder, as well as a neutral density filter that made it possible to stop the fixed-aperture lens down to f/16. The Hologon provided a previously unavailable angle of view of 110°, which opened up new creative experiences for Leica M-shooters. Only about 500 Hologons for Leica-M were produced, which makes the lens one of the most desirable collectible optics today.
- The Leica IFLEX is the micro version of the Visoflex I. It was introduced in 1953 and features a rotating screen holder for two interchangeable screens. The IFLEX was produced both in screw mount and bayonet versions.
- Jony Ive Leica:
- Kaufmann, Andreas:
- Andreas Kaufmann is an Austrian entrepreneur, who has been playing a substantial role in Leica's evolution since the mid-2000s. In 2004, Kaufmann acquired a 27.2 percent of the stock of Leica Camera AG and deepened his investment further in 2006 to hold a majority of 96.5 percent. Kaufmann subsequently served as, respectively, chief executive officer and chairman of the Board. Under his leadership the company was restructured and returned to profit, and the headquarters moved (back) to Wetzlar.
- Leica is a brand name derived from the founder's company name "Leitz(sche) Camera". It was initially only used for cameras, while lenses and accessories bore the Leitz/Wetzlar label. In 1986, the founding family changed the legal form of the enterprise from a privately held firm to a limited liability company, Leica GmbH, and sold its controlling stake to outside investors. The headquarters and camera production was subsequently moved from Wetzlar to a new facility in nearby Solms. Since then, all the company's products have been branded as "Leica".
- The Leicaflex was Leica's first single lens reflex camera, released in 1964. It was a very solid, fully manual SLR with an exceptionally bright viewfinder. However, technologically it was lagging behind the competition of the time. Its successors, the Leicaflex SL and Leicaflex SL2, addressed some of the shortcomings by adding a fully-focusing viewscreen, TTL-metering, and a hotshoe. Yet, Leica ultimately replaced the Leicaflexes in favor of the R3 that it had developed in cooperation with Minolta. – More on Leicaflex and R-system cameras.
- LeicaRumors.com is a website specialized in reporting news and information on upcoming product releases from Leica ("Leica news, before it happens"). Its focus is on new cameras, lenses, and special editions, but the site frequently also features information that is of interest to collectors, such as auction outcomes. LeicaRumors.com was launched in August 2008 and has grown to regularly receive more than 200,000 visits per month. The site claims to have no formal affiliation with Leica.
- Lens names:
- All Leica lenses are labelled with trademarked names alongside their description by maximum aperture and focal length. While originally these designations were 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: A Noctilux has a maximum aperture opening of f/0.95-1.2, a Nocticron f/1.2, a Summilux f/1.4, a Summicron f/2, a Summarit f/2.5, an Elmarit f/2.8, and an Elmar f/2.8-4.5. 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.
- LTM (Leica Thread Mount):
- LTM is a screw mount to attach 35mm lenses to camera bodies with a width of 39mm and a thread of 0.977mm per turn. Leica introduced the LTM with its Leica II rangefinder camera in 1932. LTM lenses have a flange-focal-distance of 28.8 mm. Adapters make it possible to use LTM-lenses on M-mount cameras while maintaining infinity focus and rangefinder coupling.
- Max Berek:
- Max Berek (1886-1949) was a mineralogist and mathematician, who joined Ernst Leitz Optische Werke in 1912 and became the head of microscope development. He also designed the first lenses for the company's new 35mm cameras. In particular, he calculated the Elmax 50mm f/3.5 lens for the Ur-Leica, with "Elmax" being an abbreviation of "Ernst Leitz and MAX (Berek)".
- Noctilux is Leica's designation for its fastest M-lenses. The first optic in this family – the Noctilux 50mm f/1.2 of 1966 – was the world's first mass produced aspherical camera lens. It was replaced in 1976 by the Noctilux-M 50mm f/1, which in turn gave way to the Noctilux-M 50mm f/0.95 Asph in 2008. The primary purpose of these ultra-fast primes is low-light photography and portraiture, where the razor-thin depth-of-field makes it possible to easily isolate the main subject. All Noctilux lenses are relatively big and heavy, and the use of an external viewfinder is often desirable, as the lens will otherwise partially obstruct the view through the finder. – More on Leica M lenses.
- Ocular To-R:
- The Leica Ocular To-R is an adapter that makes it possible to use R-system lenses as telescopes. It attaches to Leica R-lenses via the bayonet mount. The Ocular contains a Schmidt-Pechan-prism that rotates the image by 180°, so that the latter appears upright and correctly sided. The Ocular has an eyepiece with a focal length of 12.5mm. Focus is achieved via the focusing mechanism of the lens. – More on the Leica Ocular To-R.
- PC Super-Angulon:
- PC Super-Angulon was the designation for a 2.8/28mm shift lens ("Perspective Control") produced by Schneider-Kreuznach for the Leica R-system. The lens has a large image circle diameter that makes it possible to displace the optical axis by 11mm horizontally and vertically. The PC Super-Angulon has a preset iris with an iris closing lever, so that image composition can be done at full aperture. The lens is then stopped down via the lever immediately before pressing the shutter release. – More on Leica R lenses.
- The Q (Typ 116) was Leica's first compact digital camera with a full frame sensor. It was released in June 2015 and featured a 24MP sensor, a 3.68 million dot electronic viewfinder, and a Summilux 1.7/28mm lens. The body of the camera was machined from a solid block of aluminum.
- Red Dot:
- ROM-lenses are lenses for Leica's R-system of SLR that are fitted with Read Only Memory chips. The latter store the characteristics of the lens for transmission to and use by the R8 or R9 cameras. In particular, these cameras can use the lens-specific information to correct for lens vignetting (in connection with the Digital Modul-R), to adjust the zoom reflector on flash guns according to the focal length, or to correctly display aperture information if accessories, like tele-extenders, are attached to the lens. The ROM chip came with all newly sold lenses from 1996, but could also be retrofitted by Leica technicians to older lenses. – More on different Leica R-lens versions.
- Six-bit code:
- Thambar was the designation of a legendary 90mm f/2.2 soft-focus portrait lens produced by Leitz during 1935-49. The thread-mount lens is known for yielding dreamy soft skin similar to the Hollywood portraits that were popular in the 1930s. Only about 3,000 Thambars were produced, and good copies/sets continue to fetch premium prices at photography auctions (See here for current offers on eBay). – In October 2017, Leica re-issued a Thambar-M 90mm f/2.2 for the M-bayonet mount, which is optically identical to the original and features only minor modifications to the exterior design of the lens.
- UVa is part of the inscription on Leica-branded ultraviolet filters. The latter are intended for use in high altitude areas, where UV exposure is high. UVa filters block the non-visible ultraviolet A-spectrum (wavelength of 400-315nm), and thereby help to reduce haziness and a blue color cast in images recorded on film. Since digital sensors are not sensitive to UV light, UVa filters have lost their color correction function in digital photography, but continue to be used as a means of lens protection. – More on Leica UVa filters.
- The Visoflex is a mirror reflex box, first released in 1951, that attaches to the lens mount of Leica rangefinders and makes it possible to work with macro or telephoto lenses. Its prism housing contains a viewscreen to judge and adjust focus, so that a rangefinder camera turns into a single lens reflex. More recently, Leica has also been using the Visoflex designation for its electronic viewfinder accessory for digital cameras.
- Vulcanite is 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.
- Walter Mandler:
- Walter Mandler (1922-2005) was one of Leica's most famous lens designers. For most of his career, Mandler worked at ELCAN, Leica's subsidiary in Canada. There he undertook pioneering work in using computer aided design, retrofocus configurations, and apo-chromatic corrections for the development of new screw mount, rangefinder, and reflex lenses. Walter Mandler is credited with the design of more than 45 Leica lenses, including such ground-breaking optics as the first Noctilux and the first APO-Telyt.
- The X-series is a line of compact digital cameras with a large APS-C sensor. The first camera in the family, the Leica X1, was launched with a 35mm equivalent Elmarit prime lens in September 2009. It was in later years joined by models with a zoom lens, a fast Summilux wide-angle, and a rugged, shock and waterproof version. All X-series cameras share a design that is reminiscent of Leica's M rangefinder cameras.
- The Leica Z-2X was a compact film camera with a two-times Vario-Elmar 35-70mm f/4-7 zoom lens. It was produced from 1997 to 2002 in black or silver finish, and was available with or without a databack. In 2000, a Jaguar limited edition of 1000 units was produced in black and racing green with the Jaguar logo on the lower front.
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.