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Monday, 16 June 2014


So when people talk about lenses being an investment, they're not kidding!


As a young-ish amateur photog with no Leica experience, I am continually befuddled by Leica's pricing. If Leica had cracked the code on creating cameras/lenses that are so optically perfect that nothing could compare at any price, I could understand the pricing. I'm not seeing any evidence of that.

From what I can tell, Leica has created well-performing systems that feature a high level of synergy between camera and lens, and everything comes with a very "premium" level of fit and finish. The name also goes a long way in this world. But do these qualities justify the pricing? Of course, one can find many wonderful images created with Leica gear. But the came is true of Canon or Olympus or many others...

So, is Leica like Rolex? Selling high-priced gear that is, under the surface, no better at purported purpose (i.e. telling the time) than many less-expensive brands?

Or is the "right" way to understand Leica's pricing that it is EXACTLY like Rolex, and the point of choosing the brand is to show that you have money, status, and taste? That is certainly a valid objective from a business standpoint, but not one that is relevant to a photographer of humble means such as myself...

[Please note this is a serious question and not trolling! I respect the opinions of TOP's readers, and I sense that there are many Leicaphiles here...]

[Hi RDaneel, Yes, we have numerous Leica users here, although not everyone has bought into the system lately. It's a great brand and there's no reason to shun it. I think you essentially answered your own question, however--for more, go to Wikipedia and type in "Veblen good."

For "a photographer of humble means" such as yourself, the most important thing to remember might be that there is no magic bullet in photography, and that a great deal--certainly a majority--of the greatest work in the history of the medium was made with relatively modest equipment. There's a lot of prejudice about status among humans, cutting BOTH ways. But there's really no good reason for it in photography. --Mike]

Is it just me, or is $8,000 kind of a lot of money for ANY camera lens? (excepting the exotics like the f0.95 Noctilux and its ilk)

"R LM OIS WR"... that's the sound of an agonizing walrus after being hit by the debris of an aeroplane.

I hope Leica sells a ton of those 50 APO's... enough to allow them to lower the price of their rangefinder bodies!

Dear Mike,
I don´t know if it is just me, but this is something similar to hypercars. They have become so prevalescent, so "everywhere" due to the mass media and the press coverage, that a Veyron does not impress me any longer. Nor does any hypercar or even a very expensive car for that matter.
I even find a 120.000$ Mercedes quite, well, pedestrian so to speak.

And so does that Leica Lens. They are not rare objetcs any longer. I´ve got so used to see them [virtually, on shops] that they are just a single "meh".

I get "excited" for fair discoveries. Or lenses that ad even some character. The Helios 85, for instance.

For me, that Leica news [or "technology for technology sake"] is just the highway for "meh".

The new Fuji lens will be of interest to Fujifilm X-E2 and X-T1 owners who want a single "does-it-all" lens. It will be of little use on an optical viewfinder based camera like the X-Pro1, which is much more suited to the use of those fabulous, shorter-focal Fuji primes like the 14, 23, and 35mm.

The 18-135 still a little slow on the long end, though. What many other X-T1 users and I are waiting for are the constant aperture f/2.8 "pro zooms", the 16-55/2.8 OIS WR and the 50-140/2.8 OIS WR, which will be optically stabilized and weather-resistant, and will take the Fuji zoom lens lineup solidly into the realm of professionals.

Your word play around a price rise vs the full cost of a lens is very confusing, but also, as far as I can see this sentence is simply wrong:

"The price after July 1 will be $8,250. Until then, You can order it and the Fujifilm XF 18–135mm for the same amount."

Since it suggests that you can buy the $8k lens for nine hundred dollars.

I really like being able to keep a 40mm Canon pancake lens ($200) on two cameras simultaneously - one for color and one, with a yellow filter, for black and white. I may have to rethink that strategy vis-a-vis the APO Summicron. :)

Right now, for the OM mount, there are 4 of the 50mm f2 Zuiko macros rangeing in price from $470 to $1150 for a 'mint boxed' lens. No personal experience but most users say it's quite good. Only in a dead mount but there are plenty of adapters to mirrorless systems. I suppose if you want to use the EVF and had a OM to M adapter you could use it on an M240 Leica.

It would be interesting to see how they compare, being 20 years apart in lens design.

This makes the Summicron-T "reasonably" priced, while maintaining the T-mount lenses' snob appeal vs. the competition. Is that all there is to[u]it?

Speaking for myself, I feel the 50 Lux ASPH is good enough for my usage. Leica can issue all the press releases they want, make all the claims they want, they are not getting any more of my money (for lenses).

Re: the Fuji lens, count me in. I'm eager to see how it does. It's quite a bold new design! (N.b. I need another lens like the Middle East needs another grain of sand.)

Re: Leica lenses, here's more "numerology" for ya.

I guess somebody's gotta pay for the new Leica Concrete Park...and guess who's nominated? (Jack MacDonough, that's who!)


After reading this, I really regret selling my 50/2 Summitar... yeah, paying the rent was important but that was probably the last time I'll be able to own a really great Leica lens.

Ah, well, I do have my absolute favorite portrait of my son thanks to it and that's a memory that won't go away.

I've always liked the Leica lens
It's really a Mercedes-Benz
But for one who shops in Muji
I'm more comfortable with the Fuji
Does that make senz?

I guessed: A Leica, a very expensive Normal, that's got to be around dollars 3000.
And then; $7000! For a normal lens.
What can you even do with a normal lens? Cat photos?

I am sorry, but for me when I look through a viewfinder with a normal lens on, I get bored instantly. It is like an bicycling with one of those old type 30 kg bicycles; it can be done but it's work, not fun.

I have not heard of: "anomalous partial dispersion elements" before and I looked further and it appears to be the same as Nikon's ED and Super ED glass:

"Extra-low Dispersion (ED) and Super ED glass help correct chromatic aberrations, or optical color defects, caused when different light wavelengths do not converge at the same point after passing through optical glass. Calcium fluorite crystals were once used to correct this problem in telephoto lenses, but the substance cracked easily and was sensitive to temperature changes. So Nikon created ED glass, which offers all the benefits, but none of the drawbacks of calcium fluorite-based glass."

Seems like a good thing but is not unique to Leica. In my review many of the Zeiss lenses feature this same glass too.

(Damn seems my comment disappeared.)

That is a high price.
And I get bored just looking through a 50 mm lens. I just don't know what they are for, emotionally.

I have a 50mm from the eighties I got for about $900 a few years ago, is there really that much difference in the real world?

I asked Mike in a seperate e-mail if the total price might have been an error. Nope, dat's the
price. Then remembered, its Leica.

Here in Canada the price could well be 1/3 to half again as much. Too rich for my blood although no doubt a superb design of glass.

At least there weren't any Hasselblad Android phone cams back then.

Its only drawback, if it has even one, is that enough other lenses are close enough to it in performance that the differences might not be easy to detect in practice

Mike, expect a visit soon from the enforcer of your local Leica Cult Fanclub chapter. There is no lens that's close enough to this 50mm because this one has the Leica Look™; anyone looking at pictures made with it will know immediately they were taken with a Leica lens—to think otherwise is preposterous! That's what you're paying $7,000 extra for.

It's interesting to note that in 1988 the manual focus Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 AI-S sold for less than its AF counterpart, which again sold for less than its Canon counterpart.

[Canon was distinctly second fiddle to Nikon in 1988. Its ascendency had just started with the introduction of EOS the year before (the initial response to which was considerably negative) and really arrived with the D30 of 2000 and Digital Rebel of 2003 and the company's CMOS sensors' reputation for best high-ISO performance in the first half of the decade of the 2000s. --Mike]

I did the same thing that Tim did. I don't own a Leica, don't plan to own a Leica, but thought that at $900 bucks that would be worth buying and hiding in my safe for a couple of years to resell later. Kinda like a bullion investment. Oh well...

I love that there is a "regular" lens that retails for $8,000. Please note that B&H is offering $30 off Lightroom if you purchase it with the lens. I don't know how anyone can pass that up.

As someone who loves photo history, it makes me a bit sad to see Leica effectively pricing itself out of relevancy. Sure, the cameras and lenses are incredibly well-made, but $8000 for a 50mm f2 is pretty much insane. Leica isn't even on the radar of most younger photographers anymore and is seen as little more than a luxury brand for people who collect cameras as much as take photographs. That said, I respect anyone who takes a Leica and really uses it, hauling it wherever and making great work.

It appears that Fujifilm is on its way to becoming the digital Leica of the future. Great quality at 1/10th the price, small primes and unique bodies.

In my younger days as a newspaper photographer in the late 70's, I had an M4, M2r, 21/3.4, 28/2.8, 35/2, 50/2 DR and a 90/2. I probably did not have $5,000 in the whole kit.
Over $8,000 for a 50/2 is freaking ridiculous!
Just my two cents.......

In 1966-67, I had the opportunity to travel to, work and study in Hong King and Taiwan. I could have purchased a black M3 with black 50mm Summilux f/1.4 for about $350!; as it was all borrowed money from family, I 'saved' about $50 by 'settling' for a chrome M3 and 50mm Summicron. On the way home, I bought for a close friend a black Nikon F (with the meter prism) and a 50mm f/1.4 for about $288.
I don't remember State-side prices, but I think the U.S. dollar was very strong and both Nikon and Leica had 'exclusive rights' distributorships, so prices were much higher. (Anybody have some real numbers?)

By the mid/late 1970s at the height of the SLR camera craze--Canon AE-1 timeframe and later--I worked part-time at a local retail photo store (NOT Mail Order!) and we typically sold the bodies for wholesale price or pennies more (AE-1 for $263.50), and made more profit on the UV filter than on the camera body!

So Leicas were always more, but not always a lot more (if you didn't purchase locally).

I've started locating and photographing old photo advertisements and posting them on my site, index is here. I've got some 1967, 69, and 73 ads there. Some of those companies were really scummy -- things like listing the "upgrade" price from some benchmark camera rather than the full price; read carefully. And Olden likes to mix new and used, which isn't inherently scummy but keep your eyes open.

In 1969 I bought a Miranda Sensorex and 50/1.4 lens for $280 at a big Minneapolis dealer (Century Camera, long gone).

In the early days of Canon's EOS system, their AF lenses cost more than Nikon because each one had to contain a focus motor, whereas Nikon had made the intelligent engineering decision to provide a motor in the camera to drive AF on all lenses. Third-party lenses charged about $50 more for a Canon AF lens than a Nikon because of this, also. (Nikon found that was kind of slow in the big lenses, and started adding motors to them, and then as costs dropped to nearly everything.)

In the long run, Nikon has nearly given up on that approach, but their higher-end cameras still support it last I checked (my D700 does, I still use an 85/1.8AF and a 135/2 AF DC).

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