Tuesday, December 14, 2021


Oskar Barnack                                                  Max Berek

By Heinz Richter

In a few weeks, on February 20, the LEICA Barnack Berek Blog will reach its 9th anniversary.  But its origins go back a lot further, to January 1979, long before the internet and all of its conveniences.

At the time I was co-owner of Photo Visuals, the first store ever to sell Leica equipment exclusively.  As a service to our customers we decided to publish information about Leica on a regular basis.  As a name, we chose “The Barnack & Berek Newsletter.”

Many people are familiar with Oskar Barnack as the inventor of the Leica camera back in 1913 and even though it was far from us to take any credit from him, we felt that rarely any mention of Professor Max Berek was ever made.  Yet without him the Leica would probably never have come into existence.  He designed the first lens for the preproduction Leicas and the success of that little camera played no small part in the decision of Ernst Leitz II to manufacture it.

Max Berek would have had little reason to design his lens without the farsightedness and genius of Oskar Barnack, yet the success of the Leica might never have happened without both of them.

The Barnack & Berek Newsletter created a lot of interest, more than we ever envisioned, and it quickly grew from the initial 8 pages to well over 30.  Initially the newsletter was sent to our customers free of charge, but the greatly expanded versions began to put a drain on the operating budget and we asked the recipients if they were willing to pay for it.

To our surprise, most were willing to do so and subscribed.  That led to the thought that we had outgrown the designation of a newsletter, that a new name might be in order.

We didn’t want to eliminate the tribute to Oskar Barnack and Max Berek and after some deliberation decided on BB - Magazine for Leica Owners.  The growth continued and we considered changing the magazine from black and white to color.

Leica experts like James Lager, who is known for his many books on Leica and Rolf Fricke, one of the co-founders of the Leica Historical Society of America among others submitted articles to the BB Magazine and many readers sent in their photographic work to be published.

Unfortunately the economic slowdown of the early 80s made a switch to color impossible.  As a matter of fact, at that point we were barely breaking even with the black and white version. 

To make things worse, several of our advertisers withdrew their ads for economic reasons and we were forced to discontinue publishing of the BB Magazine.

I never realized how much I missed writing many of the articles, but resurrecting the magazine was out of the question.  Enter the internet.  At the beginning of 2012 I began to think that a blog about Leica might be of interest.  Not that this hadn’t done before, but most other Leica oriented blogs are promoting current Leica equipment or they are dealing with just used equipment and the history of the Leica.

To offer something of interest for all that are interested in Leica, this blog will always try to reach a balance between contemporary and historical items of interest.  This has been the case from the very beginning of the Leica Barnack & Berek Newsletter and the BB Magazine.  I decided to use the same format for the LEICA Barnack Berek Blog.  Its growth and success over the last 8+ years seems to prove that decision to be a good one.

For other articles on this blog please click on Blog Archive in the column to the right

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