Leicaflex_SL_15.jpg

Leicaflex

Creator
Leitz
Date(s)
1964

The Leicaflex was the camera of choice for Associated Press photographers during the Vietnam War. The Leicaflex was a single lens-reflex (SLR) camera that utilized a pentaprism finder with a mirror (Pasi 2012). The mirror was movable and resided behind the lens. The mirror reflected the image from the lens to the pentaprism and, finally, onto a glass screen—the viewfinder (Fig. 2)(“SLR Cameras”). This reflection allowed for the photographer to look forward rather than down. AP photographer Horst Faas described the Leicaflex as, “a camera that made it possible that you were at all times aware of things happening around you,” a concern since Robert Capa had died while photographing the First Indochina War (“Shooting Vietnam”; Pritchard 2014). The Leicaflex featured a frame counter and self-timer, creating more options for taking photographs. The Leicaflex made use of interchangeable lenses and the shutter speed could be set up to 1/2000 of a second (Pasi 2012).

The body of the Leicaflex was sturdy; its only weak spot being the battery cover (Pasi 2012). They were easy to disassemble and reassemble. According to Faas, “The other wonderful things [about] the Leica was that you could actually take it apart like a rifle, clean it out, dry it out, put it together again with a set of little screwdrivers and it will work again - something that is impossible with today's electronic chip cameras” (“Shooting Vietnam”). This sort of camera body would greatly benefit photojournalists during the Vietnam War due to the harsh, and often wet, weather conditions: “It happened very often that you fell into a water hole or in the river and you couldn't operate anymore, your whole being there was useless,” said Faas (“Shooting Vietnam”). Whereas other cameras would be rendered useless, the physicality of Leica cameras allowed the parts to dry out and remain functioning. 

Sources

Pasi, Alessandra. Leica: Witness to a Century. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2012.

Pritchard, Michael. A History of Photography in 50 Cameras. New York: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2014.

"Shooting Vietnam: Remembering Horst Faas." NPR. Last updated May 14 2012, http://www.wbur.org/npr/152670241/shooting-vietnam-remembering-horst-faas.

“SLR Cameras.” Media College. Accessed December 12, 2015, http://www.mediacollege.com/photography/camera/slr/.

Photographs:
"Leicaflex SL." Camerapedia. Accessed October 10, 2015,
http://camerapedia.wikia.com/wiki/Leicaflex_SL.

"SLR Cameras." Media College. Accessed December 12, 2015, http://www.mediacollege.com/photography/camera/slr/.

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