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May 3, 2012

Leica's first U.S. store


Guess where it's located?

Not New York City.

Not L.A. or San Francisco.

The envelope please: Washington, D.C.

Below, excerpts from John Kelly's eponymous column in today's Washington Post.

Leica opens its temple to photography in D.C.

When I mentioned to some photographers of my acquaintance that I was getting a sneak preview of Washington's new Leica Store — the first U.S. stand-alone retail shop dedicated to the vaunted German camera — they started to salivate.

Frankly, it was unsightly: Little globules of saliva dribbled from the corners of their mouths and dripped onto their pocket-filled, khaki photojournalist vests. Such is the effect that Leica has on some people.

The store opened this week over on F Street NW, near 10th. According to the press release, it's "a unique lifestyle destination." I'll say. It has a cool, Bauhaus vibe. Like the cameras, the color palette of the store is black and red, with cameras and lenses resting in spotlit vitrines trimmed with crimson leather.

"I don’t want to call it a temple," said Roland Wolff, Leica's director of corporate retail. "It is a place you go to celebrate Leica."

I'll call it a temple.

Leica basically invented the modern camera, when an optical engineer named Oskar Barnack was trying to figure out how to elegantly slip 35mm movie film into a compact case for taking still photographs. His 1914 creation [below]


is known as the Ur-Leica, which should give you some idea of the mystical regard some photographers have for the brand.

Leica is best known for its range-finder cameras. With a range finder, you don’t look through the lens, as with a single-lens reflex camera, but through a little window. You focus the image yourself so there's no bzzzzat, bzzzzat as the camera hunts for the proper focus.

The camera is said to be more discreet than an SLR, which is why so many photojournalists have favored them. That photo of Johnny Cash flipping the bird at San Quentin? Jim Marshall used a Leica. That photo of the girl burned by napalm running down the road in Vietnam? Nick Ut used a Leica. The portrait of Che Guevara that adorns a million T-shirts? Alberto Korda used a Leica.

Roland said Leica has always been popular in Washington, which is why they decided to open a store here. He's not worried about the economy. The people able to spend $10,000 on a camera — which is what the body and lens of the flagship digital M9 model [top] will set you back — aren't affected by a bad economy.


Already got a lens/lenses?

The body's a snip at $6,994.89.

Need a lens?

No problema.

Plenty to choose from here.

May 3, 2012 at 04:01 PM | Permalink


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A friend in college showed me his Leica from WW2. Got it from his uncle. His uncle was a Panzer troop leader. In addition to his combat duties, he used the camera to photograph damaged and destroyed Russian vehicles and damaged German vehicles for his after-action reports. His uncle kept the camera (it was Wehrmacht issue) and immigrated to the US after the war. Gave to my friend for his high school graduation.

Wonder what it is worth today.

Posted by: anatares | May 4, 2012 6:12:57 AM

To one day own and use a Leica with at least one of their marvelous lenses is a dream of mine. I'm visiting the D.C. area later this year, and must make this one of my stops. I'm afraid I will be infected with the Leica madness when able to hold one in my hands. I'll take the chance.

Posted by: Matt Penning | May 3, 2012 7:55:43 PM

If you think a new Leica Rangefinder is high-dollar then price the "Monte' en Saar" Leicas - fewer than 500 were built in France from 1949-1950. They are the ultimate in rare Leica IIIs. The Soviets made thousands of knockoffs (worth about $75.00) - but, find a real one and retire.

I'll take that M-9 with a 50mm f0.95 Noctilux http://bhpho.to/evUaW

Posted by: 6.02*10^23 | May 3, 2012 7:18:43 PM

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