A Tribute to Old Leica Cameras - The Fotografica-Pen

A beautiful handmade German Limited Edition pen; a tribute to classic rangefinder cameras, especially Leicas. Made from the same materials used for these classic cameras, the Fotografica-Pen is also made with amazing attention to detail. There's even an actual Stanhope 'optical bijou' lens from the 1950s fitted inside the top button.

So why a Leica? For Stephan C. Lucht, the creator of this pen, it is a tribute to his grandfather, who never left the house without his beloved Leica M3.

In more general terms, there's something very special about old Leica rangefinder cameras - they are the cameras used to make some of the most iconic images in travel photography and photojournalism. For much of its history, many, if not most, of the photos in the pages of National Geographic Magazine have been taken with Leica cameras - 9 out of 10 photos, it was said at one time. It was these cameras that started street photography, most famously in the hands of Henri Cartier-Bresson. They transformed photojournalism - largely in the same person's hands.

The original Leica camera was invented by Oskar Barnack - he loved photography and the outdoors, but health problems meant he couldn't carry the large and heavy cameras of the day. Using film designed for movie cameras, but turning it sideways, gave a good enough sized image that enlargements were possible, keeping the size and weight of the camera down. Putting the film into small canisters meant more film could be carried, and changed while out and about. But a small camera with small film needed a very high quality lens.

Leica have a reputation for making some of the best optics in the world. Their lenses made 35mm photography possible at a standard high enough for professional use. Before that time, the type of cameras that were used to produce good quality prints used huge photographic plates, making the cameras themselves huge and unwieldy. To make an image on a tiny piece of film that could be enlarged to a good-sized print, while remaining good quality, needed a really good lens. One that was better than almost anything around at the time. Max Berek, optical engineer at Ernst Leitz, managed to design lenses that were good enough, while still being small and light.

Leica's cameras and lenses from the 1930s onwards are still in use today by photographers who love film; and the lenses can still be used on many models of digital cameras using simple adapters. Many Leica lenses from the 1960s are still better than most lenses available today.

If there wasn't already enough reason to love Leica, the company and its founding family, led by Ernst Leitz II, formed what became known as the Leica Freedom Train, saving many people's lives. As Hitler rose to power in Germany, Leica pretended to be reassigning staff to their offices in other countries. In reality, they were moving not only Jewish employees, but their families, and even friends of the families of employees, out of Germany before the borders closed. On arrival, the people were given a Leica camera, helped by their local Leica offices to find jobs, and given a weekly payment until they did.

If all that has convinced you that you need the Fotografica-Pen, you can get one from us here. If it's convinced you that you need a Leica camera, you may need to save up for a bit longer!

18 December 2014

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