Saturday, May 18, 2013


We have discussed the cost of Leica prices here on several occasions, with the main reasons being the extremely tight tolerances that Leica applies to their equipment, and the fact that mass production is totally absent at Leica.

Quite often we can see people argue that Canon and Nikon equipment is so much less expensive, that Leica is just charging more because they established themselves as a luxury brand.

It is interesting that just recently both Nikon and Canon have proven the argument that they would have to charge similar prices like Leica if any of their equipment were made in rather limited numbers.  Both companies introduced lenses which, by their very nature, cater to only a limited market.  For that reason mass production does not enter the discussion.  Thus the cost of these lenses is rather high.

One of the lenses is the Canon EF 200-400 f/4L IS USM 1.4x lens with a cost of $11,799.00 and $649.00 for the custom case.  Nikon introduced the Nikkor 800mm f/5.6E FL ED VR lens at a cost of $17,896.95.  That puts either one of these lenses solidly in the price category that Leica is so often criticized for.

Canon EF 200-400 f/4L IS USM 1.4 lens with fitted case 

Nikkor 800mm f/5.6E FL ED VR

I have often argued that neither Nikon or Canon are able to perform miracles, that their equipment would sell for similar prices as Leica equipment does if it were made along the same guidelines as Leica.  These two new lenses from Nikon and Canon (Nikon makes as many lenses in one day as Leica manufactures during a whole year) seem to prove that point.  As a matter of fact, the high sales volume of most of their lenses allows both companies to regain the development costs of these two lenses faster than is the case with Leica, otherwise they would be even more expensive.

The old adage of ‘you get what you pay for’ still is true today, and it is good to see that Leica is applying their high standards across the board.


  1. How much tighter are the tolerances that Leica applies compared to Canon and Nikon?

  2. There is no short answer to your question. Tolerances vary depending on what is being addressed. For instance, mechanical tolerance are quite different from the optical tolerances. I can categorically state that any tolerances important to the overall performance of the Leica cameras and lenses are tighter on the Leica system compared to either Nikon, Canon or any other high end camera and lens manufacturer. Just one example, the mechanical tolerances applied by Leica are 1/100 mm (1/2500 inch) compared to approximately half of that with Nikon and Canon.
    To learn more, simply put "Leica tolerances" in the search function on top of this article and you will find several articles that address this topic.

    1. The only other companies that applied the same mechanical tolerances were Zeiss with the Contarex and Alpa. Both companies have not made any cameras for quite some time.

  3. I should also mention that information about this is very difficult to come by. I have researched this topic for quite some time, with limited success. I was able to receive some of this information from Nikon, Canon, and the old Minolta company. Most answers, however, were along the line of 'we don't know, we are only a sales organization.'
    I got a similar answer from Bronica, but they tried to be very helpful and referred me to their headquarters in Japan. Unfortunately, I never got an answer. The worst answer I received was from Pentax. They told me the information I was seeking was too complicated and that I wouldn't be able to understand it.

    1. That is a rather arrogant answer from Pentax.

    2. Well, I have to assume that the answer was not so much arrogant but a feeble attempt to cover the fact that they didn't know what I was talking about. I asked not just about mechanical rtolerances of their cameras and lenses, but also about their tolerances regarding refracting index and Abbe number, sphericityand centering.