In 1952, Leica opened a factory in Midland, Ontario, Canada.
(There are interesting discussions of how this came to be, here and here).
The “Ernst Leitz Canada (ELCAN)” location was initially intended to be a place for the assembly of cameras and lenses using parts from Wetzlar, Germany. However, under the leadership of Walter Mandler, it became a high-tech research and development centre.
Although Mr. Mandler had planned to stay in Midland for only a brief time, he ended up living there for the remainder of his life. Some of the most groundbreaking — and beloved — Leica lenses were created in Canada during his tenure.
In 1990, Leica sold the plant to Hugues Aircraft. In 1997, the plant was sold again, this time to Raytheon.
Today, I fulfilled a long-standing wish and made the pilgrimage to Midland. The distance — a 2 hr drive from Toronto — is short enough to be easily traversed, but long enough to be inconvenient (hence why I hadn’t previously attempted it).
I knew one thing before I even started: the destination would be a disappointment. The physical appearance of the building is… uhm… not pretty, and it’s under security (Raytheon is a USA defense contractor) so there was no chance of stepping inside and accidentally uncovering a treasure trove of lost Leica lenses/cameras.
Still… I had to go, and I’m glad I did.
I took my trusty Leica M3 (loaded with Kodak Portra 400) and 50mm Summicron Dual Range, and shot 3 frames. There was really no point shooting more, LOL.
(However, I used up the rest of the roll in the surrounding region outside of Midland, but those images await another day.)
↑ Leica M3, Leica 50mm Summicron Dual Range, Kodak Portra 400, and Plustek 8200i.
4 thoughts on “The pilgrimage to Midland.”
Thanks for the super-cool history and tour!!
Hello Peter. I have been meaning to post a comment about Midland for several weeks. It’s been a crazy and busy summer. I found your post quite interesting since I didn’t know about Midland and can appreciate why you made the pilgrimage despite what you found. And I agree that it was worth making. Leica’s history is so fascinating, and thanks for sharing this. Also, let me compliment you on the baseball photographs. I don’t know whether or not you consider yourself a sports photographer, but you have a special talent in capturing baseball photos. Your perspective and how you capture the moment always makes the image special and different. And when they are presented as a series, they draw you into the game or moment. I especially like the ones you shoot when dust that almost appears as smoke surrounds the player or players. Keep them coming. My best.
Hey George! Nice to hear from you! Thank you for your appreciation of this post and also your comments re: my baseball images. I’ve had to learn to photograph baseball or else I would not have had much opportunity to photograph at all, with all of the time spent traveling to locations, playing tournaments, etc. It’s not my preferred way of photographing but I do try to put my own take on it. So happy you’ve noticed and also that you took the time to write to me.