Oskar Barnack

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Oskar Barnack
Oskar Barnack.jpg
Oskar Barnack
Born (1879-11-01)1 November 1879
Lynow, Nuthe-Urstromtal, Germany
Died 16 January 1936(1936-01-16) (aged 56)
Bad Nauheim, Germany
Nationality Germany
Occupation Engineer
Engineering career
Projects Camera
Leica I, 1927, invented by Oskar Barnack

Oskar Barnack (Nuthe-Urstromtal, November 1, 1879 – Bad Nauheim, January 16, 1936) was an inventor and German photographer who built, in 1913, the first 35 mm camera called Ur-Leica at Ernst Leitz Optische Werke (the Leitz factory) in Wetzlar.[1]

Life and career[edit]

He was an engineer at the Leitz company and suffered from asthma, so he proposed reducing the size and weight of cameras to be able to take photographs abroad. The name given to the camera was Leica which is an anagram obtained from Leitz Camera and began marketing in 1924.

Between 1913 and 1914 he adapted for the photographic use the format of the 35 mm film that was used in the cinema by building the first small-format photo camera. The perforated film rollers on the side allowed for a larger number of photos without the need to change the plate in each photograph. In addition, this film was transported horizontally, extending the frame size to 24×36 mm with a 2: 3 aspect ratio, instead of the 18x24 mm film cameras that carried the film vertically. Negatives in this small format could be expanded to obtain larger positive images in a location adapted for positivization. But to carry out this process, the camera had to have high quality lenses that generated negative ones of the same quality and well-defined. Therefore, to create their cameras, he used various types of lenses to find the best quality in the images. Initially a Zeiss Tessar was tested, but Tessar was designed for the 18×24 mm film format, so the 24x36 mm Leica negatives were partially covered. Later, a Leitz Mikro-Summar reader of 1:4,5 and 42 mm will be tested for the prototype, but in order to achieve the necessary resolution for a satisfactory expansion, the 24x36 mm format needed a specially designed lens for this. Leica's first lens that emerged consisted of a 50 mm f/3.5 design based on the "Cooke triplet".

In 1923 Barnack convinced his boss, Ernst Leitz II, to make a series of pre-production of 31 cameras for the factory and for outdoor photographers. Although the prototypes received a mixed reception, Ernst Leitz decided in 1924 to produce the camera. It was a success when it was presented at the Spring Fair of Leipzig in 1925 as Leica I (for the Leitz camera).

He was also one of the first photographers who made graphic reports in which the relationship of people with their surroundings could be contemplated, in this way he made what is considered as the first report done with a 35 mm camera and which shows the flood caused by the Lahn River in Wetzlar.

In 1979, on the occasion of the centenary of its birth, the Leica Oskar Barnack Prize was awarded, endowed with 5000 euros and is awarded in July at the Meetings of Arles.

Oscar Barnack Prize[edit]

An international jury awards the Leica Oskar Barnack Prize to professional photographers, whose powers of observation capture and express the relationship between man and the environment in the most graphic way in a sequence of a minimum of 10 to a maximum of 12 images.

Input presentations must be an autonomous series of images in which the photographer perceives and documents the interaction between man and the environment with an acute vision and contemporary visual style: creative, breakthrough and innovative. Only one entry per photographer is accepted. In addition to these categories of "Leica Oskar Barnack Prize" and "Leica Oskar Barnack Award Newcomer Prize", ten finalists will be awarded with a cash prize of 2,500 euros for their series. [2]

The winner of the main category "Leica Oskar Barnack Award" receives a cash prize of 25,000 euros and also a Leica M camera and a loan worth 10,000 euros.[2]


  1. ^ Lance Day, Ian McNeil, ed. (1996). Biographical Dictionary of the History of Technology. Routledge. ISBN 0-415-19399-0. 
  2. ^ a b "International Photo Contest – The Leica Oskar Barnack Award". International Photo Contest – The Leica Oskar Barnack Award. Retrieved 2017-12-13. 

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