Barnack, Oskar

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b. 1879 Berlin, Germany
d. January 1936 Wetzlar, Germany
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German camera designer who conceived the first Leica camera and many subsequent models.
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Oskar Barnack was an optical engineer, introspective and in poor health, when in 1910 he was invited through the good offices of his friend the mechanical engineer Emil Mechau, who worked for Ernst Leitz, to join the company at Wetzlar to work on research into microscope design. He was engaged after a week's trial, and on 2 January 1911 he was put in charge of microscope research. He was an enthusiastic photographer, but excursions with his large and heavy plate camera equipment taxed his strength. In 1912, Mechau was working on a revolutionary film projector design and needed film to test it. Barnack suggested that it was not necessary to buy an expensive commercial machine— why not make one? Leitz agreed, and Barnack constructed a 35 mm movie camera, which he used to cover events in and around Wetzlar.
The exposure problems he encountered with the variable sensitivity of the cine film led him to consider the design of a still camera in which short lengths of film could be tested before shooting—a kind of exposure-meter camera. Dissatisfied with the poor picture quality of his first model, which took the standard cine frame of 18×24 mm, he built a new model in which the frame size was doubled to 36×24 mm. It used a simple focal-plane shutter adjustable to 1/500 of a second, and a Zeiss Milar lens of 42 mm focal length. This is what is now known as the UR-Leica. Using his new camera, 1/250 of the weight of his plate equipment, Barnack made many photographs around Wetzlar, giving postcard-sized prints of good quality.
Ernst Leitz Junior was lent the camera for his trip in June 1914 to America, where he was urged to put it into production. Visiting George Eastman in Rochester, Leitz passed on Barnack's requests for film of finer grain and better quality. The First World War put an end to the chances of developing the design at that time. As Germany emerged from the postwar chaos, Leitz Junior, then in charge of the firm, took Barnack off microscope work to design prototypes for a commercial model. Leitz's Chief Optician, Max Berek, designed a new lens, the f3.5 Elmax, for the new camera. They settled on the name Leica, and the first production models went on show at the Leipzig Spring Fair in 1925. By the end of the year, 1,000 cameras had been shipped, despite costing about two months' good wages.
The Leica camera established 35 mm still photography as a practical proposition, and film manufacturers began to create the special fine-grain films that Barnack had longed for. He continued to improve the design, and a succession of new Leica models appeared with new features, such as interchangeable lenses, coupled range-finders, 250 exposures. By the time of his sudden death in 1936, Barnack's life's work had forever transformed the nature of photography.
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Further Reading
J.Borgé and G.Borgé, 1977, Prestige de la, photographie.
BC

Biographical history of technology. - Taylor & Francis e-Librar. . 2005.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Barnack, Oskar — ▪ German photographer born Nov. 1, 1879, Lynow, Brandenburg [Germany] died Jan. 16, 1936, Bad Nauheim, Ger.       designer of the first precision miniature camera to become available commercially, the Leica I, which was introduced in 1924 by the… …   Universalium

  • Barnack, Oskar — (1.11.1879 16.1.1936) Deutscher Feinmechaniker und Konstrukteur. Von 1902 bis 1910 im Werk von Carl Zeiss beschäftigt, um 1911 zu den optischen Werken von Ernst Leitz in Wetzlar zu wechseln. Dort entwickelte er ab 1913 die erste Kleinbildkamera… …   Das Lexikon aus „Bernie's Foto-Programm"

  • Barnack — Oskar Barnack Oskar Barnack (* 1. November 1879 in Lynow, Nuthe Urstromtal; † 16. Januar 1936 in Bad Nauheim) war ein deutscher Feinmechaniker. Oskar Barnack entwickelte zwischen 1913 und 1914 als Entwicklungschef der Firma Leitz in Wetzlar die… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Oskar Barnack — Born 1 November 1879(1879 11 01) Lynow, Nuthe Urstromtal, Germany Died 16 January …   Wikipedia

  • Oskar Barnack — Nacimiento 1 de noviembre de 1879 …   Wikipedia Español

  • Oskar Barnack — Gedenkstein in der Schladming Anlage …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Oskar Barnack — Barnack, avant 1936 Crue historique à …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Barnack — Bạrnack,   Oskar, Feinmechaniker, * Lynow (Landkreis Luckenwalde) 1. 11. 1879, ✝ Bad Nauheim 16. 1. 1936. Als Mitarbeiter der Firma Ernst Leitz (Wetzlar) konstruierte er eine die Verwendung von Kinefilm ermöglichende Kleinbildkamera, die er bis… …   Universal-Lexikon

  • Oskar Barnack — …   Википедия

  • Oskar Barnack — (1.11.1879 16.1.1936) Deutscher Feinmechaniker und Konstrukteur. Von 1902 bis 1910 im Werk von Carl Zeiss beschäftigt, um 1911 zu den optischen Werken von Ernst Leitz in Wetzlar zu wechseln. Dort entwickelte er ab 1913 die erste Kleinbildkamera… …   Das Lexikon aus „Bernie's Foto-Programm"

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