1990's Leica

Leica Mini

Leica Mini

First introduced in 1991, the Leica Mini was a fully automatic compact point and shoot 35mm rangefinder. Although Leica didn’t build it (manufacturing was outsourced to either Panasonic or Minolta), the Leica Mini was and is still an incredible camera deserving of the iconic red Leica dot.

The 1990s weren’t the best period for Leica.

After several failed flagship projects, Leica went into partnership with Japanese camera makers, including Minolta and Panasonic. From these partnerships, Leica launched several cameras. One of these was the Leica Mini.

Features of the Camera

One of the best features of this camera is that it can fit anywhere. Thanks to its compact nature, you can carry the Leica mini anywhere.

It’s also light and doesn’t come with added accessories; therefore, making it the perfect camera for vacations or family events.

Other than its compact nature, the Leica mini also comes with a bright and clear viewfinder.

And unlike other compact cameras at the time, it doesn’t feel like you’re looking through a keyhole. Although it’s not massive, the Leica mini viewfinder isn’t too small either. It’s just the right size.

Another great feature about the Leica mini is the fact that it’s a fully autofocus camera. Thanks to the infrared autofocus system, your work as a photographer is made easier.

Another feature that makes your work easier as a photographer is integrating the simple but effective center-weighted metering. With this metering, you don’t have to worry about exposure. All photos taken with this camera are perfectly exposed.

Thanks to the autofocus system and center-weighted metering, the Leica mini is the perfect street camera. All you need to do is point and shoot.

And that’s not all!

With the Leica mini, you don’t have to worry about the quality of your photos. The camera comes equipped with a fixed Leica Elmar 35mm f/3.5 lens. With this lens, you can be sure that 90% of the photos you take will be sharp and of excellent quality. 

The Flash

The Leica mini also comes with a built-in flash system. With this camera, you have the choice of three flash modes.

  • On
  • Off
  • Auto

When talking about the Leica mini flash system, it’s also essential to speak of the green LED in the viewfinder. This LED can signify several things, depending on the flash mode chosen.

  • Flash Auto Mode: When set in auto, the LED lights up to signify that flash is ready.
  • Flash Off: When the flash is set off, the green LED lights up to indicate that focus and exposure have been recorded, and the camera is ready to shoot. If the LED doesn’t light up, it means that there isn’t enough light.
  • In some instances, the green LED flashes rapidly, indicating that flash is not ready (auto mode), or the subject is too close to the camera (85 cm). If the LED flashes when the flash is set to off, it signifies that the shutter speed will be less than 1/30 sec.

Design and Physical Build

The Leica mini wasn’t a Leitz manufactured camera. At first glance, the camera looks like either a Minolta Freedom Escort or Panasonic 625AF.

Despite not being manufactured by Leica, the camera is impeccably designed. In true Leica minimalist fashion, the camera didn’t come with tons of controls and buttons.

All buttons are ergonomically placed and easy to locate. And unlike other point and shoot cameras at the time, the lens is located far enough from the right hand to avoid interference when shooting.

Shortcomings of the Camera

One of the biggest shortcomings with this camera is that it doesn’t feel as well built. The Leica mini feels plasticky and creaks when you squeeze it.

For a Leica, this shouldn’t be the case.

The camera also lacks the red LED light in the viewfinder. Although the green LED indicates multiple things, it doesn’t indicate whether flash will or won’t fire when the camera is set on auto mode.

Another flaw with the Leica mini is that the camera doesn’t remember your flash preference when switched off. Coupled with the fact that it automatically switches off after five minutes, the Leica mini can be quite stressful to use, especially in situations when you don’t need the flash.

Final Thoughts

I’ll be honest.

The Leica mini wasn’t the best compact 35mm camera at its time. However, it was an excellent camera.  

It came with some unique features, isn’t complicated to use, and can fit almost anywhere. It also comes with an excellent viewfinder, superb optics, and is a great street camera.

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