THE LEICA MEET group of photographers were invited to Wetzlar, Germany on Sep 2nd/3rd 2015, for a tour of the new Leica factory and a conversation with Leica CEO Oliver Kaltner. Twenty four of us came. All photos here were taken with a brand-new 28mm Summilux-M f/1.4 that Marina at the factory store was kind enough to save for me 🙂
The new Leica factory. Back in its original home town in Wetzlar, this impressive building was completed in 2014. The entrance lobby is enormous, complete with a photo exhibition, Leica museum, a fully-stocked Leica store and the Leitz Cafe across the way. Open to the public and well worth the pilgrimage.
Our factory tour begins with an overview of the building. Two hundred glass panels surround the building, many of them curved, and each weighing like a Volkswagen. A glass ceiling above the lobby is designed to let light in but prevent shadows from falling on the interior, especially on the exhibition. The building is green and high-tech and functional and beautiful.
The tour focused on what it takes to make lenses – the incredibly tight tolerances, the quality of the glass, aspherical polishing techniques, the high-tech (and low-tech) machines, and the amount of manual labor required to put a lens together. No wonder they cost so much.
A working replica of Ur-Leica (“original Leica”), from 1914. The original is stored in a bank vault and said to be worth millions. This camera invented 35mm photography. Below there’s a photo of the spot in Wetzlar where Oskar Barnack took his first photo with this camera.
Show up unannounced at the Wetzlar Leica factory for simple service and they will do it on the spot. Usually for free. A dozen of us handed over our gear for sensor cleaning, lens painting and various tightenings, and it all came back fixed within a couple hours. What other company offers you this service? Stephen Cosh getting his Leica back as Gunnar Johnsen waits for his.
Gavin Mills waiting impatiently for his 35mm FLE to come back from the paint shop… the number 7 wore out of Gavin’s focusing ring so they repainted it back in and touched up other faded paint. Took an hour to dry. Looks new now.
This photo is taken standing on Oskar Barnack’s plaque (see above). Oskar’s photo (which was taken with a lens longer than my 28mm) is much better than mine. It can be seen here: https://artblart.files.wordpress.com/2015/01/1913_oskar_barnack_wetzlar_eisenmarkt-web.jpg