The Leica KE-7A

The KE-7A is a specialized black chrome M4 made in 1972 by Leitz in their Midland Canada plant and offered in a limited run of 505 pieces  for the U.S. Army. 460 of those units were acquired by the Army. Where the remaining 45 civilian pieces went is unclear.

KE-7As were fitted with modified shutters to operate in temperatures to -20 degrees Fahrenheit, were dust sealed for military field conditions and made to withstand explosive concussion (i.e. bomb blast). The 460 military versions were engraved to indicate that they were standard issue US Army property ( specifically, each with FSN (Federal Stock Number), Cont. (contract designation), and U.S. (United States) markings) and came supplied with a Leitz Midland made 50mm f2 “Elcan”.  The Elcan 50mm f2  (“Elcan” being a contraction of “Ernst Leitz Canada”) was constructed of 4 elements for minimum size for military use. Where the “KE-7A” designation comes from is anyone’s guess.

In 1972, the M4 had been discontinued and replaced by the M5. I can only assume that the Army had placed its order during M4 production and Leitz were committed to provide a camera based on the M4 design. As with all assumptions, this may be wrong.

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8 thoughts on “The Leica KE-7A

  1. StephenJ

    …and if you want one, here is:

    A snip.

    Tim, you say that the lens is designed for lightness, does this mean it is not the same as a Summicron of the same era (Mandler)?

    It looks the part, but I miss the titanium…

    …. Zagato for me! 🙂

  2. Rob Campbell

    Have to admit, though, that nothing in the camera world, with the possible exception of ‘blad 500 Series, has ever had so much visceral sex appeal as those classic M3-style cameras.

    It was a masterpiece of desire/mechanical designing. I think that original visual excellence has not only underwritten/lent desirability to everything else Leica since, but is the real reason the particular body-type continues to this day: it just manages to look so timelessly beautiful. I suspect that should the day come that Leica abandons the M-style, it will effectively cut is own throat.

    If you can afford it, why wouldn’t you buy? Such a purchase doesn’t preclude owning other cameras in your collection.

  3. Slow Joe Crow

    The KE-7A designation is the US Army Signal Corps model number. Based on a quick search, KE is a film camera, the number is related to film format and the suffix is the specific type. The KE-7 without the A is a Kodak Signet 35mm rangefinder camera, the KE-4 is the Combat Graphic 70mm rangefinder camera, and KE-12 is a 4×5 Speed Graphic.

  4. Tom

    Nikon used to offer a ‘winterisation’ service of their cameras prior to use in low temperatures which basically consisted of stripping lubricants from the shutter mechanism which would otherwise have thickened in the cold and resulted in inaccurate timing. I wonder if this is what Leica did here? Upon returning to warmer climes you used to return your Nikon for relubrication, lest premature wear result.

  5. Archiver

    I feel like Leica came across some kind of visual and haptic design which hits humans in some preprogrammed archetypes. The M series cameras from the M2 to the MP/M-A seem to tap some visceral sense of aesthetics, much in the same way that people are naturally attracted to symmetrical faces. I cannot think of a camera more visually appealing than a Leica M.

    This camera itself is fascinating, and it would be lovely to have a current model with the same kind of hardiness.

  6. kenji

    Anyone knows if there were some variation in the KE-7A?
    i have seen some with silver hotshoe connection plate and silver shutter release instead of all black. i did see a few set with this variation, and they will also have some kind of white paint on the frameline selector and timer.

    Also, i’ve seen one copy with silver hotshoe and shutter release but came with black frameline selector and black timer instead.

    Anybody notice these or seen any other variations ?

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