Tuesday, January 22, 2019


The new Leica M10 has been very well received.  It is considered by many the digital Leica M that comes closest to its analog forerunners.  But not only do its roots go all the way back to the first Leica M, the M3, it still has many of the original design features of the original prototype Leica, the Ur-Leica.  The basic body shape has never been changed and even the accessory shoe, which first appeared on the Ur-Leica, is still unchanged, not only on Leica cameras, but on cameras worldwide.

The development of the first Leica, from the onset with the original prototype, the Ur-Leica, to the first marketed Leica, the Leica I or Model A, including the pre production models, called 0-Series cameras, has been thoroughly described time and time again.  However, one of these prototype versions  is virtually unknown.

This camera is thoroughly described in the Book “Barnacks Erste Leica” (Barnack’s First Leica), written by Dr. Günter Kisselbach.  I did get permission from Dr. Kisselbach to use some of the pictures from the book

It is a large, very well-illustrated book by the very personable Dr. Günter Kisselbach, an ear-nose-and-throat specialist in Wetzlar, who is the younger son of Theo Kisselbach, the former director of the original "Leica Schule" (Leica School).  Dr. Kisselbach’s older brother Wolfgang Kisselbach was the overall manager of the construction of the new factory buildings and museum at Leitz Park in Wetzlar.

The book is entitled "BARNACKS ERSTE LEICA" (“Barnack’s first Leica"), and it features a camera in great detail that is very similar to the 0-series camera with the same optical finder, except that it is all brass with brown leather covering and has a different flat dial between the viewfinder and the rewind knob for setting the slit width (in mm) of the focal plane shutter. Evidently Theo Kisselbach kept that camera when he retired and his son Günter inherited it.  He thoroughly studied it and had it disassembled and adapted for picture taking by expert repairman Ottmar Michaeli .  All of this is beautifully illustrated in the aforementioned book.

By "First Leica", Günter Kisselbach means Barnack's first practical camera (still not named 'Leica'!) after the Ur-Leica. On page 187 of that outstanding book there is a photo of "Prototyp Nr.3".  That camera has no lens mount, a folding, recessed open frame viewfinder frame on top and an exposure counter on the front of the camera. There is no rewind knob, and the accessory shoe is located where that knob would be.”

Barnacks Handmuster (Sample)




Top of 0-Series Leica for comparison

Since this camera is so very close to the 0-series cameras, one must assume that the so-called prototype Nr. 3 was made prior to it and I feel it is not wrong to refer to it as the second (not third) prototype.  However, since no date for this camera has ever been established, this is simply conjecture on my part.  What I can say with certainty at this point is that two other prototypes exist from the time prior to the 0-series cameras.

The development of the Leica from the Ur-Leica to the Leica 1

Ur-Leica from 1913

Socalled Leica Prototype 3

Special Leica Prototype, originally owned by Theo Kisselbach

Leica 0-Series camera with folding viewfinder

Leica 0-Series camera with optical viewfinder

Laeica Model 1 or Model A
The first Leica marketed in 1925

For more information on Barnacks Handmuster (Sample) camera go to:

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