Last month, Erwin Puts, the world's leading expert on all things Leica, published a new book entitled Leica Chronicle: an evolutionary history of the Leica camera and its lenses. The book is considerably smaller and handier to hold than the physical version (there was also an electronic version) of Erwin's recent sold-out Leica Compendium. There's a good reason for that: this is the first volume in a projected four-part series.
Here's the roadmap:
Volume One: Leica Chronicle: an evolutionary history of the Leica camera and its lenses, published in 2012;
Volume Two: Leica Practicum: the theory and practice of Leica rangefinder photography (analog and digital), planned for 2013;
Volume Three: Leica Optics: the design of Leica lenses, their selection and use, also planned for 2013;
Volume Four: Leica legend: an icon of modern times, planned for 2014.
Although primarily a reference work, with virtually all Leica cameras and lenses covered or at least mentioned, in many cases the entries are delightfully entertaining little mini-essays spiced with little-known facts, insights into performance, and corrections of incorrect conventional wisdom. For example, I never knew that the 1953 collapsible 50mm Summicron—Cartier-Bresson's favorite lens for decades—had not just a thorium radioactive element, but that the rear element was flint glass so the lead in it would protect the film from radiation.
The book offers many extras as well: a discussion of the most beautiful Leicas, samples of brochure covers, tables of special edition models, extensive information on serial number ranges, and so on. I get the impression that there are gems of insight and information lurking in every nook and cranny of the book's 298 pages.
The timing of publication was no accident: it contains full information about all the new developments announced and introduced at Photokina 2012. I was also intrigued to see the S lenses discussed and dissected. Erwin points out that the Summarit-S 70mm ƒ/2.5 normal lens performs best at its wider apertures, which makes it unfortunate that many owners stop the lens way down due to habits retained from using medium-format film cameras.
A remarkable fact about Leica Chronicle is that Erwin did everything himself: he researched it, wrote it, did the editing, layout, typesetting and design himself, self-published at his own expense—and he's doing the distribution: the book is available from his website. Erwin told me that he produced a large press run and that he expects his supply to last until sometime around Christmas.
I forgot to mention that the book is copiously illustrated. A must for fans of Leicaphilia.
Original contents copyright 2012 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved. Links in this post may be to our affiliates; sales through affiliate links may benefit this site.
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