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Thread: What's so great about Leica lens?

  1. #41
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    Default Re: What's so great about Leica lens?

    Thank you for your interesting account. Personally, in my working days in the Micrographic industry, I had the opportunity to visit Leica's Singapore factory and I was impresssed with their precision especially when a lens' drawing needed to be printed by the microfilm enlarger printed I was selling. Microfilm resolution at 240LP/mm for drawings way surpassed today's Zeiss lens(ZE 50f1.4) resolving power of only 45LP/mm. To make an A0 or A1 size print from such high resolution microfilm was no easy task and by golly how stringent they were. So I understand why a Leica lens is so good even by today's standard.


    Quote Originally Posted by raycsk View Post
    Hi,

    2 years ago I had the priviledge of visiting the Leica facility in Switzerland as part of my work and had the rare opportunity to visit the factory where lens are made.

    As we toured the facility the guide explained how the optics are made. This is what I remember:

    They use only pure silica and not recycled glass. The silica melted down and cast into cylindrical blocks (about 1m tall and 300-500mm diameter. These blocks are then left to cool naturally in a special room. Believe it or not, it takea bout 3 years for the blocks to cool. As glass is not actually a solid but a when cooled its actually in a solidified liquid state, by allowing it to naturally cool it will ensure unniformity in density and clarity.

    After 3 years the blocks are taken out, the end portions cut away and only middle sections are use to cut them into smaller discs. I did not believe this but they told me they would cut 3 discs from 3 different blocks just to make 1 lens. So these discs go through a mechanical cutting and grinding process to get it to the desired size. Final stage is handpolished by a mastercraftsman.

    I was fortunate enough to talk with one of these people a 50 plus year old Swiss guy. He told me his apprenticeship took 15 years! I was like wow that's a long time for probation. Polishing a lens depending on the curvature and diameter can take anywhere from hours to days. The larger ones are used in high end surveying and arial photography/scanning.

    Coming back to the 3 discs, after they finish a lens they will check the lens for clarity and other specifics of the glass. Should this fail then the entire batch of lens from this block will be discarded.

    I guess what i learnt from that trip is... the lens manufacture for them is more of a coach building process and there's a lot of wastage.

    Anyway, this is what I can clearly remember and I thought I share my experience. So please do not quote me on this.
    Home is where the heart is.

  2. #42

    Default Re: What's so great about Leica lens?

    It's good that someone shared about Leica's processes and QC, which from various accounts, are phenomenally stringent. Coupled with the high labor costs and long man-hours taken in the various stages of manufacturer, it starts to become understandable why such optics cost so much and are highly sought after. Actually, from what I understand, it starts to get really interesting in the Leitz Scientific Division.

  3. #43
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    Default Re: What's so great about Leica lens?

    Of interest is whether Leica is making a comeback in making lenses for DSLR via partnership with Panansonic. Afterall, there are already a number of Leica D and DG lenses in the market. Even though they are for 4/3 and u4/3. they are still adopting the Elmar, Elmarit, Summicron and Summilux names. I wonder if these lenses are just as good as the R lenses. If they are, then can't really say Leica lenses are expensive anymore.

  4. #44
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    Default Re: What's so great about Leica lens?

    They are different animal and are made in Japan. I tried 14-50 and 25mm, they are good but not like their M-lenses. Actually kind of silly to use M lenses on m4/3. If you can afford the Leica M lenses, go buy a M9 (another silly price) or get a used M6 and start shooting 35mm films. I tried the R lenses on 4/3 and m4/3, better than almost any but at that price, 14-35F2 or 7-14mm Zuiko looks like a bargain. Also very inconvenient to use unless you make yourself an auto confirmation 4/3 adapter; nobody seems to sell one that is assembled.

    Personally I use ZM and VM lenses. VM is great value and the Sonnar and Distogons from CZ are "better" than Leica in some aspects besides price. Gave up using great lenses on m4/3. Just have to wait for the next generation of sensors on them or M9 prices to drop.

    Want to pixel peek, go medium format. Want to take photo, take it with whatever you have. Can't catch the moment if your 1dsMkIII with a 21mmZE is at home sitting in the dry cabi.



    Quote Originally Posted by ManWearPants View Post
    Of interest is whether Leica is making a comeback in making lenses for DSLR via partnership with Panansonic. Afterall, there are already a number of Leica D and DG lenses in the market. Even though they are for 4/3 and u4/3. they are still adopting the Elmar, Elmarit, Summicron and Summilux names. I wonder if these lenses are just as good as the R lenses. If they are, then can't really say Leica lenses are expensive anymore.

  5. #45

    Default Re: What's so great about Leica lens?

    I think the price more than the person behind loh.

  6. #46

    Default Re: What's so great about Leica lens?

    Quote Originally Posted by ttmmfast View Post
    They are different animal and are made in Japan.

    Yep, made in Japan up to Leica's standard, so they are badged Leica. Correct me if I am wrong on that.

    Anyway, the true Leica lenses that come out from the German factory are all manual, even for the R mounts.

    I hope of owning the M mount 35mm F2 Cron soon, small, compact with the very beautiful square hood & renowned optics in the industry. I believe you can read Ken Rockwell's lens testings with Leica vs the Jap world on his web page.

    Of course, who wouldnt want the Noct 50mm F0.95, dream lens!!!!
    Last edited by Royale With Cheese; 23rd March 2010 at 06:30 PM.

  7. #47

    Default Re: What's so great about Leica lens?

    For those of you who are interested in the design and manufacturing of Leica lenses, have a look at 'Leica Lens Compendium' by Erwin Puts. This is a 'must-have' book for all those who are interested in Leica lenses. Some of the things he discussed, such as optical designs and formula are beyond me, but a few things are eye openers. For example, to design a new lens, Leica will require about 2-3 years. Each design is entrusted to one person. After the design has been completed, it is put into trial production for one year. Only when the lens has achieved stable quality during trial production, it is then released for sale. The 35/1.4 Asph is an example of a lens that took 2 years to design.

    Erwin Puts also mentioned that for most photographic lenses, it is only necessary to correct third order aberrations, but Leica will carry out corrections to the 5th and 7th order especially for lenses with large apertures.

    There are also certain urban legends. For example, there is one glass element in the f1.0 Noctilux that costs more than all the other elements added together. This particular glass could only be made in Canada as it production required the use of certain toxic elements. This was the reason the f1.0 Noctilux was only manufactured in Leitz Canada, even though the plant was sold to Raytheon. This plant is now manufacturing military optics. This special glass for the Noctilux required a cooling period of 12 months before it can be used. Now we understand why this lens is so expensive!

    When the Leitz family sold out the company back in the 70's, the company was broken into 3 separate entities. There are now 3 independent companies bearing the Leica name, Leica Camera Germany, Leica Microsystems Germany and Leica Geosystems, based in Switzerland. You will find the name Ernst Leitz or Leitz in the older cameras and lenses. All these three companies are still manufacturing high quality products inherited from the Leitz tradition.


    N.S. Ng

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