Tuesday, July 7, 2015


Many Leica enthusiasts are familiar with the pre-production models of the Leica, the Nullserie, which were made in 1923, two years prior to marketing of the first Leica, the Leica 1 ore Model A, which was officially introduced at the Leipzig Spring Fair in 1925.
Many photographs do exist of these two models and the differences are clearly visible.  But how did these two cameras differ internally?

It was common practice to make detailed drawings of the design of cameras which, of course, included these two models as well.  Unfortunately these were never published by the company and thus very few have ever seen them.

Fortunately, the well-known Leica (and Ferrari) historian Ginanni Rogliatti obtained permission from the Ernst Leitz Wetzlar GmbH, as Leica used to be called, in to publish a reprinted series of these drawings in 1980.  These came in the original size and were limited to a total of 1000.  They were numbered and signed individually by Gianni Rogliatti.

I am the lucky owner of set number 11 and am happy to share them on these pages.  Unfortunately Sig. Rogliatty signed them with a fountain pen with the result that his signature on the three prints has faded substantially over the last 35 years.  Only a faint version of his signature is still visible.

The first drawing is dated June 13, 1923 and shows one of the Nullserie designs.  Supposedly 30 of these cameras were made, but it is assumed that some of them were nonfunctioning.  The actual number of working cameras is believed to be no more than 20 cameras.  It is also thought that during the production of these cameras several changes were made.  One of these changes is quite visible on photographs which show the camera with an early folding viewfinder which had to be used with the camera about one foot distance from the eye.  Later models had a standard viewfinder as did the later Leica 1.  The Rogliatti drawing shows the Nullserie camera with the folding finder.

The other two drawings are of the Leica 1 or Model A, with one of them dated May 8, 1924.  The other one has no date.  In spite of the very obvious outward differences between the Nullserie and the Leica 1, it is surprising to see that internally the differences are rather minor.  All the controls for film wind and rewind as well as the shutter speed adjustments are in the same position and are of a very similar design.  This is also the case with the focal plane shutter as well as the film wind mechanism.

Leica 1

Leica 1 Top

I have the framed drawing hanging in my office right by my desk.  Even after all these years of owning them, I never get tired of looking at them and comparing the inner workings of these cameras which were to change photography as no other camera, before or after, ever did.

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Leica Akademie Chicago

with Craig Semetko - August 2015

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