Archived posting to the Leica Users Group, 1998/10/03

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Subject: [Leica] Leica Akademie Seminar experience (long)
From: Pascal <>
Date: Sat, 3 Oct 1998 17:13:30 +0200

Hello friends:

As I told you last week, I participated in the Leica Akademie seminar in 
English language from Sept 28 till Sept 30. Some have already asked for 
information on such LA seminars. This email will give you a few 
impressions of the one I attended. First overview of the program and 
major events, and then my evaluation.

1. The program and major events
- -----------------------

My wife and me arrived on Sunday Sept 27 in Wetzlar by train. Most 
participants were staying at the Hotel Wetzlarer Hof, a three star hotel, 
conveniently located in the town of Wetzlar (nearby the town center).
At 7 p.m. all participants were welcomed by Ms Verena Mueller from the 
LA, and we had dinner together and could get to know each other better.
There were 12 participants: only 4 Europeans (1 Dane, 1 Brit, 1 Hungarian 
and me, 1 Belgian), 1 Australian and 7 Americans. All but two 
participants were male. I must surely have been the youngest at 33...

The course started on Monday Sept 28, and the lessons took place at the 
Leica factory in Solms. The LA is situated in the same building as the 
factory itself and the Customer Service, which is very convenient. When 
you enter the building, your arrive in a hall with reception desk, and at 
the right there are several glass showcases showing selected Leica gear. 
Also, a complete family tree with real cameras is on display, as are some 
historic pieces. All around are very nice photographs (enlargements). 
Very cosy place.
The LA offices are on the right when you are in the hall, next to a small 
coffee bar.

This was the first time since many long years that Leica has taken up 
courses in English. After the GI's had left and until now there had only 
been courses in German. So this year is the first time courses will be 
held in English and French.
Title of the seminar was "experience Leica live. Seminar for amateurs in 
English language" and it was focussed on the R8.

On day one (Monday) we were first welcomed by the director of the LA and 
writer of several renowned Leica M and R books, Guenther Osterloh. The 
courses were given by Francis Pilet and Verena Mueller.
The morning session was on the photographic composition, and the R8 
handling and instructions/ light metering. Lunch was taken at the Leica 
factory restaurant, as on the other days.
In the afternoon we went back to Wetzlar for our first practical 
exercices. These were about focal lenght comparison, perspective 
comparison and depth of field comparison.
In the evening we had a very interesting social event, a medieval dinner 
at Greifenstein Castle. There was even a machine to stamp coins, and we 
all could stamp our own commemmoration coin (1989 - 150 Jahre 
Photographie - 75 Jahre Leica Photographie).

Day two (Tuesday) started with a factory tour. Impressive! It was 
extremely interesting to see how lenses and cameras are being made. The 
amount of hand labor that goes into manufacturing is astounding. No 
wonder that prices of Leica equipment are high. When seeing the 
adjustments made on each Leica M6, the comparison to mechanical watch 
manufacturing came to my mind. Leicas are really pieces of jewellery, and 
not just ordinary cameras made by robots.
Interesting to note, as there have been discussions on this issue in the 
LUG a while ago, is that Leica uses 4 different glass suppliers. Among 
them are 2 European (Schott is one of them) and 2 Japanese companies 
(Hoya is one of them). The special glasses are mostly coming from the 
European firms. Several of the glass/lenses manufacturing machines are 
unique to Leica (the manufacturer of the machine has the obligation not 
to sell them to foreign competion).

Thereafter we looked at our slides made on the afternoon before. Many of 
them were projected and commented.
In the afternoon we went again to Wetzlar for our second practical 
exercise, this time around the subjects of shape and color, people and 
architecture photography. As on day one, every participant could choose 
any R lenses he/she wanted, but, of course, you had to carry them 
yourself! This way I could test the Summilux 35/1.4, the Vario-Elmarit 
28-70/3.5-4.5, the Fisheye 16/2.8 and the Vario-Elmar 105-280/4.2.

The evening was concluded with a social event, a dinner at a Turkish 
restaurant in Wetzlar.

Day three (Wednesday) was spent on lectures concerning the presentation 
of enlargements, information to films and the technical particulars and 
use of flashes with the various exposure modes of the R8. In the 
afternoon we had a look at our slides made the day before, followed by a 
discussion of their qualities/deficiencies.
At the end of the day all participants were awarded a LA certificate.

2. Evaluation
- ---------

This was the first English language seminar since many years. It was 
suggested by many that this experience would be continued and even 
intensified. Indeed, Leica is planning two English and two French 
seminars in '99: one on the R8 and one on the M6. This year was on the R8 
It is difficult for Leica to do much more because of the lack of 
instructors who are at the same time aware of technicalities and speak 
those languages fluently enough
(if they are interested, I would gladly like to offer them my services as 
I speak English, French and Dutch fluently and also have a more than 
average active knowledge and an excellent passive knowledge of German...).

The main issue with the course was its lack of focus. This is somehow 
natural as it was the first course since years. But on the other hand it 
was never said exactly beforehand what the program was going to be about.
Moreover, the participants had a very uneven background. Some of them 
were quite experienced, both with the R8 and other SLR's, others had no 
R8, and still others had an R8 but did not really seem to realize the 
full potential of the camera and were still on a very basic level of 
So the seminar had to cater for different tastes and different levels of 
experience. As you can already grasp from the description of the program 
above, the courses were a bit too general to my taste.
I am using SLR's for 16 years now, and the R8 since April '97, so I had 
no need to hear what at occasions was a rewording of what is already in 
the R8 instruction booklet (that would be useful for those who are yet 
familiar with the R8 only). Also, the focal length, depth of field and 
perspective comparisons are not what experienced amateurs would care to 
This is in no way meant to be criticism of the instructors, well to the 
contrary. They did an excellent job.

On the other hand, such basic topics are essential for beginners. So 
there is clearly  a problem that needs further study. The LA should 
either organize different courses geared towards specific users (as they 
do with the German language courses which are always on specific topics), 
or they should subdivide the group into two (beginners-experienced users).
From what I hear, the seminars in '99 will again be of a general nature 
(read: for beginners), and specialized courses in foreign languages are 
only envisaged in 2000.

I would also suggest to extend the seminar to 5 days in total. The extra 
two days would really be beneficial, as they could be centered around 
specific themes like flash photography, people photography, landscapes, 
nudes etc.

Otherwise, the seminar was a complete success. It was good to be in 
Solms, to visit the factory and to see the "Heimat of the Leica". The 
exchanges with other participants were quite interesting.
All lenses could be tested without exception (what dealer offers such an 
exquisite opportunity?). I could meet several Leica people I had before 
only known by name or via email such as Allan Karadagi from the Leica 
Collection department, who is also a LUGnut, and Isabel Ulzenheimer from 
the Leica Card section. The exchanges I had with both our instructiors 
were also very enlightening. Verena Mueller took the necessary steps so 
that the customer service could do a complete check of my R8 with winder 
(as a consequence of which they replaced the motorwinder contacts) and my 
M6 titanium (controling the accuracy of the shutter speeds). The 
equipment was handed over on Monday morning, and was received back on 
Wednesday afternoon, free of charge (under international guarantee).

On a different note, I heard many interesting and exciting things about 
future developments at Leica which take away most of the scepticism I 
have expressed on this forum about the recent Photokina releases. Leica 
is certainly not down and out! That was really reassuring.

All in all, I got a very favorable impression from Leica and its people. 
Amazing how they still continue to succeed in a world dominated by 
cut-throat Japanese competition. Part of the explanation will almost 
certainly be due to Leica's size and the devotion of their customers. As 
a small (by comparison) camera company there is a very special atmosphere 
that is immediately noticeable when you are walking around in the factory 
at Solms. This is a place where everybody knows everybody if you know 
what I mean. That must have a beneficial effect on the company itself.

I have left Solms and Wetzlar with a sense of regret. This is an exciting 
company with insanely great products and great people! How nice it must 
be to work in such an environment...

That's it for now. I will put up an extra section on my homepage when the 
pictures/slides are developed and let the group know.

Pascal Heyman

- --------------------------------------------------------
Check out:
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Who else than Leica could make a camera like the R8 ?
With that unique design and above all: that ergonomics.
Nikon ? Canon ? Nobody but Leica !
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