Invention of 35-mm CAMERA (1925) (Barnack ushers in the age of photojournalism with a highly responsive camera)

Not everyone has their own award named after them.  The Oskar Barnack award, given annually to photo journalists, was initiated in 1979 to mark the hundredth anniversary of the birth of the man who invented the 35-mm still camera.  Barnack (1879-1936) had the idea for it back in 1905, but it was not until 1913-1914, while he was working as head of development at the German Camera company Leitz, in Wetzlar, Hesse, that he was able to transform his idea into reality.

Traditional heavy plate cameras were cumbersome to use and required significant preparation before each shot.  It was impossible to take a quick snap of anything.  Barnack’s camera was a tough metal box that could fit in a jacket pocket and used a new kind of film, adapted from Thomas Edison’s 35-mm cine film.  In 1914 Barnack took a picture of a soldier who had just put up the Imperial order for mobilization.  This was a new kind of picture-spontaneous and capturing a moment in history.  Barnack had held up a strip of his new camera film and stretched his arms out.  The length of film between his arms contained thirty-six frames and this has been the number of negatives on a standard 35-mm roll of film ever since.

World war-I put a halt to Barnack’s progress and it was not until 1925 that the Leica 1 camera was introduced (the name standing Leitz Camera). According to one historian, old school photographers regarded the new camera as toylike but over the next seven years almost 60000 of them were sold.

“The first commercially available 35-mm camera was the “Leica I”, manufactured by Leitz of Germany in 1925.
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