Leica I Model A – Leica Ia
The Leica I a (also known as Leica 1 Model A) was the first mass produced 35mm camera. After the first Leitz prototypes the Leica I Model A became the first Leica released to the market in great numbers. During the 1920s it sold in the thousands before being eventually replaced by the Leica I Model C.
Compared to the following Leica models the Leica I Model A seems obviously very rudimentary. For instance, it does not have an internal rangefinder. To focus the camera you need an extra rangefinder that you can attach to the hotshoe. The lens is fixed to the camera body and not interchangeable.
You can actually still use this vintage Leica with regular 35mm film and the results are outstanding. Of course you have to be patient.
Leica Code: LEABE with Elmar Lens
Weight: 431 g / 0.95 Lb
Baseplate length: 13.7 cm
Previous Leica Model: “o” Series Leica prototypes
Following Leica Model: Leica I Model C
All Leica I (a) cameras are easily recognised due to they typical “hockey-stick”.
Leica I Mod A lens types
Although the Leica I (a) still technically uses a 39mm mount, the lenses are fixed and cannot be removed. The Leica I (a) comes with four different fixed lenses:
Anastigmat 50mm F3.5
- Supplied from 1925, from no. 126 to n0. 300.
Elmax 50mm F3.5
- Suppplied from 1925 to 1926 from no. 300 to 1 300.
Hektor 50MM F2.5
- Produced in small batches in 1930 adn 1931 with a total production of about 1 330 copies.
Elmar 50mm F3.5
- Supplied from 1926 from no. 1300 to 71 429
There are a lot of variations of the Leica 1 Model A. Leitz Wetzlar made many small adjustments to the camera throughout the years. These include:
shutter speed dials
- early models have a six speed shutter dial. From no 626 they have seven speeds.
film exposure meter
- up to no.400 the film exposure meter marks 40 instead of 0
- Early models use a mushroom release button – later models use the standard release button
- Early cameras have rounded engravings and double feathered arrows
- Some Leicas have a golden (Luxus-Leica) or calf skin finish
Buying a Leica I (a)
Leica I (a) cameras are very saught after. The Anastigmat, Elmax and Hektor sell in the 5 digit range (and above). The Elmar version is available at around 1 000 dollars on Ebay. You can imagine that therefore a lot of copies exist. You have to be very careful when buying such a collectors item. Most copies are either Zorki replicas that have been transformed into a “Leica” or real Leicas that have been manipulated. I have seen original Leica 1 Model A cameras that used to have a Elmar lens that have been forged into a Elmax lens.
A good way to be on the safe side is to double check the serial number. Keep away from golden Leicas and any Leica with Swastikas and other WWII engravings on it – most of them are fakes. Also, russian copies have an “O” instead of “R” printed next to the rewinding mechanism.