Leica fact 17: Leica 1A variants with the Elmar lens

After the introduction of the Leica 1 with the ELMAR lens in October 1925 Leitz as changed the camera in a number of details.


Three major variants

1 As of 1930 customers could choose between the ELMAR 3.5 5 cm lens and the faster HEKTOR 2.5 5cm lens. Leitz supplied some 1130 Leica 1A with this fixed HEKTOR lens. All of these cameras were of the latest type. 

2 Apart from the cameras with the lenses in meter, also lenses in feet have been delivered. Until approx., serial number 2400 the “feet” ELMARS the shortest focus distance was 3,5 feet. Between number 2400 and 46000 the shortest focus distance was 1,5 feet (Close focus Leica). After 46000 3,5 feet was the standard again.

3 Gold plated cameras were made (LUXUS Leica) with a Lizard body cover (green, blue, red and brown), in total probably 95 copies. Apart from that 168 cameras were delivered with calfskin leathering. All of these cameras are extremely rare and expensive (from 400.000 euro for the LUXUS and from 15.000 euro for the calfskin).


Smaller differences

Apart from these major variations, many smaller differences between Leica 1A exist. 

The continuation of developments improved the user experience and was a reaction of external developments.  

In their book ‘The 10 different variants of the classic Leica 1A with Elmar 1:3.5 F=50mm’ Angela and Prof. Dr. Henning v. Einem recognize 10 variants. In this short article not all variants can be discussed.  

Buttons: variants exist in the height of the film-winding button. Later buttons are less fine milled than the structure in the beginning. Higher buttons and a large milling of the rewind and winding button are easier to operate.

Temporarily buttons have feathered arrows.

Vulcanite: the early vulcanite body covering had a large structure structure than the later versions. The introduction of the finer structure took care of a better grip.

Lettering:  the shape of the engraving has changed. Later versions have depth of focus scale. With that the photographer could see on the camera the depth of focus, depending on distance and aperture, instead of consulting a depth of focus scale.

The bottom cover: the bottom cover has been adjusted to enable the use of a new film cassette (model B). Furthermore the open/close button became a chrome version instead of a black one.

The film transportation mechanism:  also this has been adjusted to the utilization of the Model B cassette. Also the mechanism has been changed, by which there was no need anymore to depress the shutter release button while rewinding the film.

The release button:  The first approx. 7000 cameras had a mushroom type shutter release button.  Later on this button was dimpled to better accommodate the bridged wire release. Beginning 15700 there was a treaded release button for a more traditional wire release. This latter change came together with the changed rewind transportation mechanism.

There are other changes than the ones described above. 

If you want to know which type Leica 1A you are the proud owner of, and if this camera still has the original features please contact me through the contact page.