The Leica cameras continue to have a strong following even although the camera prices are very high., introduced in 1925, was widely respected for its quality, portability and simplicity (Leica were making popular binoculars and microscopes prior to this) and sold very well. These qualities are still the foundation of Leica cameras.
I was fascinated to read an article by Philip Greenspun illustrating the power of the Leica brand; in summary Philip is noting how the new Leica M9 uses technology that Canon was using seven years ago and, even so, how popular the Leica M9 is (or is set to be). What I also found out whilst surfing the Web today is that Leica was the camera of choice for Russian (and later U.S.S.R.) spies. In a declassified and decrypted KGB, OGPU, GRU or other Soviet clandestine agency message (part of the Venona files from the NSA) being sent from New York to Moscow in November 1944 it states;
‘Kh’YuS is a good photographer, has a large darkroom and all the equipment but he does not have a Leica’.
Further mentions of Leica cameras are found in messages dated 28 July 1944 from Moscow to Mexico City with an instruction to ‘buy two Leica cameras’ and on the 30th September 1944 (again from Moscow to Mexico City); ‘Buy up quickly, and send to WASHINGTON … 10 “Leica” cameras with a full set of lenses’.
What an endorsement for Leica! Need a reliable and portable camera to do a bit of spying … grab a Leica!
- Per the NSA, ‘the original object of the VENONA program was to examine, and possibly exploit,encrypted Soviet diplomatic communications’. Venona was operational from 1946 to 1980 and was responsible for decrypting messages sent between 1942 and 1945. Venona decrypted messages are believed to be instrumental in widely publicized cases such as Julius Rosenberg and his wife Ethel, Donald Maclean, Guy Burgess and Alger Hiss.
- Stephen Rothery has put together an excellent ‘guide to Russian Soviet Fed, Zorki & Zenit cameras based on the original 1932 Leica II’.
- Check out ‘Leica Rumors‘ for all sorts of great Leica information.