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Wonder what Leica has been up to since 1900s? This Leica timeline helps shed light of what the camera manufacturer has been doing since its inception.

Leica Timeline Table Of Contents


The Leica timeline below is to track the evolution of the Leitz (future Leica) company for pretty much every year. This allows one to have a good idea where in history each product line was released as Leica is one of the most historically important companies in photography as they invented the small camera format. Enjoy the Leica timeline!

Leica Timeline

1807: Josef von Fraunhofer becomes head of glass melting department in Benediktbeuern
1826: Nièpce takes first photographic picture
1839: Daguerre announces the technique of daguerreotype
1839: Fox Talbot develops the negative-positive procedure
1840: Petzval calculates the first photographic lens
1846: Zeiss establishes Optical Workshop in Jena
1848 – 1933: German Age: industrial, scientific, technical and cultural progress
1849: Establishment of Carl Kellner Optical Institute in Wetzlar
1855: Steinheil establishes Optical Institute Munich
1869: Leitz acquired the Optical Institute from Belthle, true start of Leitz Werke
1870: Leitz employed about 20 people
1879: very popular Grosze Mikroskop Ia introduced
1884: Schott established the Glastechnische Versuchsanstalt
1886: Schott announces new optical glass
1887: 10000th microscope manufactured
1888: George Eastman improves movie film material
1894: Lumiere brothers create first cinematographic equipment
1899: 50000th microscope manufactured
1900 – 1914: Vertigo Years, Fin de Siecle
1900: Paris world’s fair: Leitz microscope gets gold medal
1900: Ernst Leitz employs 400 people, making 4000 microscopes/year (10 microscopes/employee)
1900-1903: global economic crisis
1905: Barnack starts photography with a large format plate camera
1907: Ernst Leitz produces 100000th microscope
1907: Leitz starts manufacture of binoculars, a 6 x 18 binocle
1908: Barnack outlines his small camera
1910: The Optical Institute of Leitz produces 9000 microscopes/year
1911: Barnack changes position from Zeiss to Leitz
1912: Berek becomes manager of the department for scientific research at Leitz
1913: Ur-Leica constructed
1913: first binocular microscope
1918 – 1933: Weimar Republic: artistic revolutions, surrealism, cinematography
1920: Handmuster constructed
1920: Ernst Leitz dies, Ernst Leitz II takes over
1923: 0-series production started
1924: Leica prototype
1925: Leica I introduced at the Leipzig Fair
1925: Berek creates Anastigmat/Elmax/Elmar
1926: Leica Compur introduced as a cheaper camera
1926: Leitz introduces the Uleja, the first 35 mm projector
1927: Leitz introduces Filoy, the first 35 mm enlarger
1929: October 24: Black Thursday: Great depression
1929: Leica Luxus introduced
1930: Leica I with interchangeable lenses
1930: Elmar 3.5/35 mm
1929 – 1935: Leica camera is adopted by many artists ushers in a new way of photography
1931: Hektor 1.9/73 mm, Elmar 4/90 mm, Elmar 4.5/135 mm
1931: Agfa introduces Agfapan, panchromatic emulsion with speed of ISO 32
1932: Leica II
1933: Leica Reporter, Summar 2/50 mm
1934: Leica III
1935: Leica IIIa
1935: Kodak announced Kodachrome slide film
1935: Hektor 6.3/28 mm, Thambar 2.2/90 mm
1936: Xenon 1.5/50 mm
1937: Leica IIIb
1937: new 35 mm projector VIII S with condenser lenses:
1932 – 1960: Golden Age of Leica photography
1940: Leica IIIc
1943: Summarex 1.5/85 mm
1948: Canon’s founder Mitarai uses the slogan “Beat Leica” for his organization
1949: Leitz glass lab installed
1950: Leica IIIf with flash synchronization
1951: one-millionth lens is produced, Ernst Leitz II turns 80
1952: Leitz Canada, Midland has been established
1953: Summicron 2/50 mm
1954: Leica M3 introduced to fend off competition of Japanese companies
1955: Leitz Midland: digital computer installed; lens design and development facility installed
1956: Dr. Ernst Leitz II dies, Dr. Ernst Leitz III becomes head of Leitz Werke, joined by brothers Ludwig Leitz
and Günther Leitz
1956: Leica IIIg
1956: Leitz Focomat IIc
1957: Leica MP, Leica M2
1957: Summicron 2/90 mm
1957: Leitz Midland; 10000th Canadian-built lens shipped (Summicron f/2 90mm)
1958: Super-Angulon 3.4/21 mm, Summicron 2/35 mm
1958: Automatic slide projector Pradovit
1959: Summilux 1.4/50 mm
1959: Leitz Midland: 10000th Leica camera assembled
1960: Leicina 8S introduced
1961: Leica M1, Summilux 1.4/35 mm
1962: Leitz Cinovid movie projector introduced
1962: Leitz Midland: staff increased to 166
1963: Trinovid binoculars introduced
1964: introduction of the Leicaflex I, drop in sales of the rangefinder camera
1965: Elmarit 2.8/28 mm
1966: new production facility for cameras in Oberlahn
1966: Noctilux 1.2/50 mm aspherical
1967: Leica M4 tries to revive the CRF market.
1968: Leicaflex SL
1968: Leica Society UK established
1969: Summilux-R 1.4/50 mm
1970; Leicina Super Introduced
1970: Elmarit-R 2.8/28 mm
1971: introduction of the Leica M5
1971: strategic cooperation with Minolta
1972: Leicaflex SL MOT, Summicron-R 2/35 mm
1973: Leitz Portugal established, Wolfgang Koch is
the life and soul of the factory
1973: Leica CL: the compact rangefinder camera
1974: Leitz sells majority of stake to Wild Heerbrugg
1974: Leicaflex SL2
1975: rangefinder production stopped in Wetzlar
1975: Apo-Telyt-R 3.4/135 mm
1976: Noctilux-M 1/50 mm
1976: Leica R3 introduced, made in Portugal
1977: M4-2 produced in Canada in the Leitz Midland factory
1978: Focomat V35 Autofucus enlarger introduced
1979: centenary of birthday of Barnack.
1980: Leica R4, Leica M4-P
1980: Summilux-M 1.4/75 mm and Summilux-R 1.4/80 mm
1984: Integration with Wild/Heerbrugg AG
1984: Leica M6, Summilux-R 1.4/35 mm
1985: Leica sales reach a peak in USA with turnover of $ 8 million, dropping to half in 1987
1986 Leitz sold the rest of the stake to Wild and merged into that company: end of Leitz Werke
1986: Foundation of Leica GmbH
1986: Leica R5
1984: Leica M6 introduced: the company polishes its
myth imago
1986: Lothar Kölsch head of optical design Wild Leitz Wetzlar
1987: Leica R6 introduced: mechanical precision in SLR
1988: Leica GmbH established: camera company is now independent
1988: Apo-Macro-Elmarit-R 2.8/100 mm
1989: Leitz glass lab closed
1989: Leica Camera GmbH established in Solms
1990: Wild Leitz Holding merges with Cambridge Instruments UK
1990: Lothar Kölsch head of lens design department of Leica Camera
1990: New generation of binoculars
1990: Change of name to Leica Camera GmbH
1990: Summilux-M 1.4/35 mm ASPHERICAL
1991: Leica Mini, Leica R7, Leica R6.2
1992: Leitz Geovid binocular with compass and IR
distance measurement
1990: Leica sells Leitz Midland to Hughes Aircraft
1993: Apo-Telyt-R 4/280 mm
1994: Apo-Summicron-R 2/180 mm
1994: management buy-out by K-D Hofmann
1995: Vario-Apo-Elmarit-R 2.8/70-180 mm
1995: Minilux introduced
1996: Leica AG: Leica becomes a stock company (IPO = initial public offering)
1996: introduction of the Leica R8 and Leica S1
1996: Summicron-M 2/35 mm ASPH
1997: Leica M6 ‘ein Stück’
1998: Klaus-Dieter Hofmann is leaving as president of Leica Camera Group
1998: Leica Digilux (Fuji)
1998: M6 TTL, Elmarit-M 2.8/24 mm ASPH
1998: Apo-Summicron-M 2/90 mm ASPH, ApoTelyt-M 3.4/135 mm
1998: Apo-Elmarit-R 2.8/180 mm, Vario-Elmarit-R 2.8/35−70 mm ASPH
1999: Leica Z2X, Leica C1
2000: Cooperation with Matshushita
2000: Leica Digilux 4.3, Leica C11
2000: Leica 0 (replica)
2000: Leica Motor M
2001: Hermès takes a part of the company
2002: introduction of the Leica M7: last attempt to
promote traditional concepts
2002: Peter Karbe becomes Head of the Optical Department as successor of Lothar Kölsch
2002: cooperation with Panasonic
2002: Digilux 1
2003: Leica MP: resurrection of the classical M6
2003: Leica CM
2003: Leica Digital Module R announced
2003: Leica Summilux-M 1:1.4/50 mm ASPH: best high speed standard lens in the world
2004: decision to design the M8 has been made
2004: Leica a la carte program introduced
2004: Leica APO-Summicron-M 1:2/75 mm ASPH.
2004: M7 Titanium “50 years M-system”; digital M officially announced
2004: Kodak stops the research activities in silver-halide emulsions
2005: Kodak stops making Kodachrome. Existing stock will be sold as long as demand holds
2005: actual delivery of the DM-R
2005: Leica Macro-Elmar-M 1;4/90 mm
2005: company is technically broke
2006: September: Lee is appointed as CEO of Leica
2006: introduction of the Leica M8
2008: February: Lee is fired
2008: Leica Noctilux-M 0.95/50 mm ASPH.
2007: Kaufmann owns 95% of stock
2009: Leica M9 and S2 introduced: start of new strategy
2010: Leica M9T
2011: Leica M9-P
2011: Blackstone acquires 44% minority stake
2012: April 25: Start of buildings in the Leitzpark
2012: Leica M Monochrom
2012: Leica M-E (Typ 220)
2012: Leica M (Typ 240)
2014: Leica M-P (Typ 240)
2015: Leica M Monochrom (Typ 246)
2015: Leica M (Typ 262)
2016: Leica M-D (Typ 262)
2017: Leica M10
2018: Leica M10-P
2018: Leica M10-D
2018: Leica C-Lux
2019: Leica M-E (Typ 240)
2020: Leica M10 Monochrom
2020: Leica M10-R
2020: D-Lux 7
2022: Leica M11


I hope you enjoyed this Leica timeline! While it is a small company, Leica is still very prolific in their camera and lens releases and hopefully this year by year overview proves that.

Credit to the late Erwin Puts for putting this together. Leica timeline

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