an automatic camera in 1932

Leica II 1932 courtesy of Rama (France) Creative Commons Share (see Wikimedia Commons)

Toronto. Today we don’t even think about focussing. On our digital camera or phone we just move the little green or yellow outline to the desired spot to focus, set white balance, set ISO, etc.

The example below is from my Apple iPod Touch and uses a yellow outline (not yet focussed when I captured this screen shot for an email). And using any  digital camera? Piece of cake these days.

Not nearly as easy  some 88 years ago! You had to set the aperture based on the light, gauge the distance, and shoot – on B&W film. No colour yet for the minicams.


The mincam revolution was well underway led by the tiny Leica which in the late 1920s offered  just a fixed lens and a built-in viewfinder to create a tiny 24 x 36 mm B&W image. But things were moving fast on the Leica front. In 1930, the lens of the innovative little camera was made interchangeable and a year later in 1931 the distance from film-plane to lens mount was standardized meaning any Leitz lens would work with a camera, not just those custom matched at the factory!

But 1932 was the big event. The camera that year came out with not only a built-in rangefinder, but one that was coupled to the lens so that aligning the rangefinder images was done by focussing the lens! The short lived tag line for advertisements was “the Automatic camera” which I saw in an old National Geographic magazine. Other miniature cameras quickly responded with built-in coupled rangefinders too and the race was on!

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