Saturday, January 26, 2019


Text and Pictures : José Manuel Serrano Esparza

Other persons much more knowledgeable than me about the legendary German photographic firm products have already brilliantly explained here at Leica Barnack Berek Blog the most important features of the gorgeous 24 x 36 mm Leica M10-P digital rangefinder camera, including its amazing shutter.

Anyway, that state-of-the-art mechanical shutter, by far the most silent ever made, beating in this regard the cream of the crop of previous both analogue and digital Leica M cameras shutters, and the chance I had to listen to it from an exceedingly short distance while an M10-P was being shot at its maximum 5 fps rate (though I couldn´t hear anything, to such an extent that I thought that the shutter release button wasn´t being pressed by the man handling the camera and that he was kidding me), encouraged me to write these humble lines, about what is highly probably one of the greatest mechanical achievements attained in the history of photographic technology.

Jesko von Oeynhausen (Product Manager of Leica Camera AG) listening to the Leica M10-P mechanical focal-plane shutter, the quietest one ever made both in the analogue and digital domains. He has been the mastermind behind the digital 24 x 36 mm Leica M cameras made from 2009 until now and is a world-class expert on electronic photography and images, aside from being a consummate expert on creating specific sensor architectures for digital Leica M cameras. The camera is coupled to a 6 elements in 4 groups Summaron-M 28 mm f/5.6 with 6-bit coding, a wonderful and tiny lens featuring an overall length inferior to 2 cm and with the same optical properties as the lens produced by Ernst Leitz Wetzlar between 1955 and 1963, in addition to yielding a unique vintage image aesthetics, with a look reminiscent of analogue photography.

Whispering shutters have always been a tradition in Leica cameras since the launching into market of the Leica 1 Model A (first mass produced 24 x 36 mm format photographic camera of the firm, which appeared in the Leipzig Fair of 1925), subsequently been followed by screwmount rangefinder models like the Leica II Model D (1932), Leica III (1933), Leica IIIa (1935), Leica IIIc (1940), Leica IIIF (1950), Leica IIIG (1957) and M bayonet rangefinder ones like the Leica M3 (1954), Leica M2 (1958), Leica M4 (1967), Leica M5 (1971), Leica M4-2 (1978), Leica M4-P (1981), Leica M6 (1984), Leica M7 (2002), Leica MP (2003) and others.

Ninety-five years of evolution of first-class horizontally travelling mechanical focal-plane shutters boasting rubberized cloth curtains and delivering a whispering almost inaudible sound on shooting during the photographic act, significantly enhancing the discretion when getting pictures from very near distance to subjects, the scope where Leica rangefinder cameras have always excelled.

Nearly a century of steady improvements in the mechanical shutters of 24 x 36 mm format Leica rangefinder cameras, firstly implemented by Oscar Barnack (a genius of mechanics, industrial design and miniaturization of components, on whose shoulders Ernst Leitz II put the future of the firm) between 1924 and January 1936, by Dr. Ludwig Leitz, Willi Stein (head of Leica Design Department after the Second World War and main creator of the Leica M3 and the M camera concept) and Friedrich Gath between February 1936 and mid seventies, and by Peter Loseries (designer of the Leica M6 and M6 TTL) and Otto Domes (designer of the Leica MP) between early eighties and 2003.


Gorgeous minimalist appearance of the Leica M10-P right top panel showing from left to right : the Leica M10-P letters engraved on the hotshoe, the dial for shutter speeds between 8 s and 1/4000 s + B ( with Aperture Priority Mode indicated by the A position and the shortest possible flash synchronization speed of 1/180 s marked by the lightning symbol ), and on its top is located the shutter release button featuring a thread for cable. On lower right area of the image are also visible the top gap and thumb rest milled from the same block of metal, the convenient and fast thumbwheel for navigating in the menus (setting the selected menu options/functions, exposure compensation values, enlarging or reducing pictures viewed and scrolling through saved images) and the sturdy metallic strap lug for camera transport. Out of focus, in front of the camera body is attached a nifty 6 elements in 4 groups Summarit-M 35 mm f/2.4 ASPH with a 12440 square shade.

And already within full digital era, only one year and eight months after the release in January 2017 of the Leica M10 (the milestone 24 x 36 mm format digital rangefinder model with which the German photographic firm crowned eleven years of development of digital Leica M camera concept, with the added bonus of a 4 mm thinner body in comparison to its predecessors, getting the most similar digital Leica M camera to the analogue Leica M3 built hitherto), Leica Camera AG surprised the whole photographic industry with an utterly unexpected announcement in August of 2018:

Front view of a silver chrome Leica M10-P coupled to a 9 elements in 5 groups Summilux-M 35 mm f/1.4 ASPH. On front top right area of the camera can be seen the large window of the viewfinder having a magnification factor of 0.72x , while on front top left area, under the shutter speed dial, is placed the small window of the rangefinder (a masterpiece of precision made up by more than one hundred optical and mechanical components). The lever on the right of the lens is the frame selector with bright-lines for 35/135 mm, 50/75 mm and 28/90 mm, something which is a great advantage in photographic genres like street photography, photojournalism and travel photography, because you can steadily see what is happening around the frames. The silver tiny rounded window placed between the rangefinder little window and the screw (a bit over both of them) is the brightness sensor, and the silver rounded button with a ring concentric to it located under the RF window, slightly on its left, is the single custom button to help with accurate focusing setting it to manually magnify the image in live view mode.

they had built a new 24 x 36 mm digital rangefinder camera, the Leica M10-P boasting the most silent mechanical shutter ever made both in the analogue and digital times.

This has been a landmark technical feat, since it has meant in practice to significantly reduce not only the shutter noise on shooting in comparison to the Leica M10 but also with regard to reference-class whispering almost imperceptible sound delivered by the mechanical shutters of well-known both screwmount and M mount Leica analogue rangefinder cameras excelling in this scope, particularly the latter ones in which the moving mass could be kept low thanks to the relatively low weight of the cloth curtains in symbiosis with their comparatively moderate acceleration on traversing the film gate and the controlled and gentle braking of the two cloth curtains resulting in an amazingly quiet and almost vibration free operation of every Leica M camera spring driven focal-plane shutter ( wholly redesigned with respect to the ones featured by screwmount Leica cameras), which had its diachronic apex in this regard in the Leica M6 rubberized cloth horizontal focal plane mechanical shutter in which Peter Loseries and Otto Domes managed to reduce friction of components to negligible levels.

It´s true that in the beginning there were some inevitable doubts, but the Photokina Köln held between September 26 and 29 of 2018 dispelled them and everybody could verify that Leica Camera AG statement was true:

Stefan Daniel (Leica´s Global Director of Product Division) holding a silver chrome Leica M10-P coupled to a silver chrome Noctilux-M 50 mm f/0.95 ASPH lens and shooting at its maximum burst rate of 5 fps. Absolutely no noise could be heard up to a distance of roughly 20 cm from the camera, and only approaching an ear very much to it you will be able to discern an exceptionally low trace of sonority. A man boasting a tremendous tactile sense of precision and artisan soul, he started as a raw Leitz Wetzlar apprentice in precision mechanics in 1984, has worked in virtually every manufacturing and repair department of the firm and is currently the greatest expert on Leica rangefinder cameras in the world along with Gunther Osterloh (who succeeded the legendary Theo Kisselbach as Director of the Leica Akademie in Wetzlar), and probably the most important man along with Dr. Andreas Kaufmann and Jesko von Oeynhausen in the digital implementation within XXI Century of " Das Wesentliche " (a photographic tool focused on the essentials and built without compromises) Leica keynote strongly based on the classical roots of the brand during its analogue heydays of XX Century.

the mechanical shutter of the 24 x 36 mm format Leica M10-P digital rangefinder camera yields a much lower noise than the already whispering one delivered by any analogue Leica screwmount or M rangefinder camera or digital Leica M camera manufactured until now.

Front view of the Leica M10-P camera body held by Stefan Daniel and showing the most long lasting and efficient lens mount in the History of Photography : the four-part Leica M bayonet designed by Hugo Wehrenfenning in 1953, featuring large dimensions (with an external diameter of 44 mm and a flange distance of 27.8 mm) and enabling that the maximum quantity of light coming from the optical system of the lens can reach the outermost corners of the image. The slightly curved very thin area on lower right area of the bayonet mount has got the mission to interact with the M lenses featuring 6-bit coding to optimize performance, something also feasible with non aspherical Leica M lenses harking back to 1954 (and with LTM39 mount ones dating back to 1925 through adapter) and lacking it, by entering the specific lens type. Behind the curtains and not visible in the image is a full frame 24 megapixel CMOS sensor boasting specially designed microlenses to minimize vignetting with wideangle lenses. 
Even, however incredible it may seem, this stunning almost silent shutter release noise of the Leica M10-P is also kept while shooting at the fastest speed of 5 fps, to such an extent that you will have to put your ear very near the camera to be able to hear a hint of sound.


A riveting sight showing the amazing level of craftsmanship achieved by the German photographic firm in the Leica M10-P : the fluted shutter speed dial and on its right the shutter release button, threaded for the insertion of cable and under which is the on/off switch. Needless to say that the precision of the machining of metallic components, the elegance of shapes and the appearance of the materials textures are simply exquisite.

To all intents and purposes, this would mean one of the greatest technological breakthroughs made hitherto in XXI Century with an utterly mechanical device in such a tiny space.

Because with the M10-P, Leica has been able to beget a mechanical shutter with  impressive and unmatched quietness beating not only the already very quiet shutter noise of the Leica M10 but also the even more exceedingly low noise generated by the  

state-of-the-art mechanical focal plane shutters of the analogue Leica M6, M6TTL and Leica MP developed by Peter Loseries and Otto Domes between 1984 and 2004, which were considered virtually impossible to better in terms of operation quietness, since they were the technological summit of many decades of constant improvement since mid twenties, with five different previous turning points:

a) The horizontally travelling focal plane shutter invented by Oskar Barnack in 1924 for the Leica 1 (Model A) that would be launched into market the following year.

b) The focal plane shutter invented by Oscar Barnack in 1933 for the Leica III with two different dials : a big one on top of the camera for setting short exposure times and a small one in front of it for slow speeds (1/20 s, 1/8 s, 1/4 s, 1/2 s and 1 second that would be decisive to increase chances of getting pictures handheld at very low speeds with available light up to 1/4 s and between 1/2 s and 1 s if the photographer had where to support his/her back) working through a train gear built for it inside the shutter mechanism.

c) The patent of March 10, 1934 in which for the first time Ernst Leitz Wetzlar presented a design of a self-capping focal plane shutter prototype including the essential traits of the focal plane shutter with non rotating shutter speeds dial of future Leica M cameras whose lineage would begin twenty years later, in 1954, with the Leica M3 and whose forefather was the Leica IV prototype from 1936 designed by Willi Stein.

d) The camera shutter mechanism patent of August 8, 1936 by Dr. Ludwig Leitz and Willi Stein which significantly improved some lack of accuracy at the shortest and longest exposure times in Barnack´s original focal plane shutter from 1924 that could sometimes be visible as uneven exposures of the image surface.

e) The utterly new and mechanically controlled focal-plane shutters of Leica M cameras from M3 model onwards designed by Willi Stein, Dr. Ludwig Leitz and Friedrich Gath, in which the shutter speeds were formed by control cams and by a gear train as a delay mechanism, in addition to feature from 1957 a dial with uniform geometric calibration for the exposure times (unlike Barnack´s original shutter from 1924 in which shutter speeds were not calibrated in uniform intervals).

Already in 1954, this mechanical shutter was exceptional and very reliable, because top priority was put on improving its travel cycle and solving the uneven exposures (particularly on using the fastest shutter speeds, when the right side of the image received more light than the left one) brought about by the acceleration that took place when the slit set with the shutter speed dial (and which remained constant while it crossed the film gate) traversed the film gate.

It meant a technical tour de force, which was solved by the synergy between Dr. Ludwig Leitz´s brainstorm (letting the two shutter curtains travel in an independent way, to avoid limiting the slit width, as well as using accurate measures of the dynamic work stages to attain that the two successive edges of the shutter curtains keep identical time interval from each other at every spot on their way through the film gate) and the use of drive springs with very special metallic alloys which were of invaluable help to get even exposures.

Therefore, if the mechanically timed shutters of the analogue Leica M6, M6TTL and MP rangefinder cameras improved to the utmost by Peter Loseries and Otto Domes were virtually unbeatable in terms of almost imperceptible noise, evidence suggest that from a conceptual viewpoint, on designing and manufacturing the M10-P, Leica Camera AG has been inspired by the long Leitz tradition of amazingly whispering focal-plane mechanical shutters of Leica M analogue cameras, but striving upon beating them in sound quietness, building an utterly new mechanical shutter with different design (and whose top priority has been from scratch to insulate the vibration through the use of rubber dampened bearings) and an assembling of it inside the camera body different to analogue Leica M models.

In addition, evidence suggest that there could have also been significant changes within the Leica M10-P camera body to make symbiosis with the new mechanical shutter and enhance even more the incredibly low noise generated by it, which would explain the slight increase in price of the M10-P with respect to the M10, because this further effort in miniaturized precision engineering and handcrafted way of doing things, with manual quality control unit by unit, is very time consuming and increases the production cost.

Leica engineers and technicians do know every inch inside the Leica M10-P, and their commendable huge effort and craftsmanship philosophy on tuning its mechanical shutter within the scarce space available in the camera body has paid off.

But this level of excellence and reliability can´t come cheap, since it requires vast mechanical skills, knowledge, tons of manual labour and top class materials, proving that in the age of computerized design and electronics, there´s still some space for state-of-the-art traditional mechanics engineering at its best with a product like the Leica M10-P mechanical shutter, made in XXI Century but whose ontology, qualitative fundamental tenets and search for perfection are conceptually related to other artisan mechanical wonders in different technological scopes and periods of late XX Century like Eraldo Ferracci´s tunings of Ducati 888 and 916 90º V-Twin bikes desmodromic engines with eight valves (four per cylinder) opened and shut mechanically during early nineties in AMA and SBK World Championships; each basic Porsche 911 modified by Alois Ruf with extensive mechanical upgrades and crafted bodywork; the balance shaft which neutralized the single crankshaft gyroscopic effects of the two-stroke engined V4 Honda NSR500 from 1992 with which Mick Doohan would win five consecutive 500 c.c World Championships from 1994 onwards; the IWC Destriero Scafusia watch from 1993 designed by Richard Habring, Gunter Blumlein and Kurt Kraus, made up by 750 individual components emphasizing an stunningly accurate mechanical time measuring and stirring of emotions, etc.

The mechanical shutter of the Leica M10-P has been a remarkable technological accomplishment and a dream come true : to beat the also mechanical shutters of legendary Leica M analogue cameras in exceedingly low noise on shooting , so Leica Camera AG has managed to reach new incredible levels of discretion during the photographic act.

Providing the shutter of the M10-P with rubber dampened bearings alongside with some inner body changesseems to have been the fundamental aspect which has enabled it to have the upper hand in almost inaudible noise with respect to the reference-class ever Leica M mechanical shutters improved up to the boundaries of the scientifically possible by Peter Loseries and Otto Domes between approximately early eighties and 2004, and which aside from generating an extremely quiet noise on shooting, were able to get still unsurpassed shutter lags (time elapsed between the instant in which the shutter release button is pressed and the beginning of the exposure) of around 12 milliseconds, far shorter than the professional reflex cameras whose shutter lags often range between roughly 90 and 120 milliseconds.

Albeit some might have thought that no improvement was needed in the scope of 24 x 36 mm format digital Leica rangefinders in this regard (since most of them deliver a very low shutter noise, not as exceedingly quiet as the analogue M cameras, but very whispering, like the M10), the Leica M10-P mechanical shutter is by far the most silent of them all, achieved departing from a basic sound being identical to the Leica M10 but damping it in a very skilfull way to reduce its already almost imperceptible noise even more.


In the same way as happens with the Leica M-10 (the best selling digital Leica M camera of all time and with which Leica has managed to create a kind of digital Leica M7 in terms of compactness, versatility and extraordinary optomechanical quality, as well as being as svelte as its famous film siblings),

The classic Leica logo on top of the Leica M10-P and shared by it with the analogue Leica M models of the brand from the glorious times of Ernst Leitz GmbH Wetzlar is another special characteristic not present in the previous Leica M digital cameras like the Leica M Typ 240 and the Leica M10. On far left can be seen the very beautiful ISO dial with sensitivity values between 100 and 6400, which must be lifted out of position to be adjusted and avoid knocking it out of the desired setting. And on the left of the letters Made in Germany can be seen the eyepiece of the excellent and very large 0.73x magnification viewfinder coupled to the rangefinder (also being feasible to attach an optional Visoflex electronic viewfinder with GPS on the accessory shoe) . Both this top plate and the bottom plate of the camera are of top-notch quality and milled from solid brass blocks. 

the Leica M10-P is an ode to the classical values of the halcyon M cameras analogue times of the brand between 1954 and 2003, particularly embodied by the Leica M3 and the Leica MP.

Detail of the Leica M10-P gorgeous ISO dial. The machining accuracy of its grooved edges is unutterable, in the same way as happens with the long bend of the semielliptical base holding it and the alluring smoothness of contours in this top far left area of the camera.

Hence that the Leica M10-P oozes elegance and minimalism to spare, dazzingly crafted exclusively in metal and with a raft of adopted retro design features shared with the M3 and MP legendary analogue cameras:

- The round shutter release button located on far right of the top panel and featuring a standard thread for cable.

- The shape of the shutter speed dial (with speeds between 1 s and 1/1000 s + B in both the Leica M3 and Leica MP and between 8 s and 1/4000 s + B in the Leica M10-P), though in both analogue models its border is knurled, while in the Leica M10-P is fluted.

- It has the same dimensions as the Leica MP and a thickness of only 33.7 mm.

- There isn´t any Leica red dot logo on the front of the camera.

- A sumptuous finish of metallic surfaces.

- Top and bottom plates milled from solid brass blocks (while the chassis is made of magnesium alloy).


If the quietest mechanical shutter ever made is by far the most relevant and distinctive feature of the Leica M10-P, it isn´t less true that

Christian Chladek, manager of Leica Akademie Austria, holding a silver chrome Leica M10-P coupled to a Summilux-M 35 mm f/1.4 ASPH

the presence of a large screw in front of the camera instead of the Leica red logo is probably its second most prominent and meaningful trait, because right off the bat a major goal with this camera was to beget a masterpiece of craftsmanship and painstaking attention to detail, along with a first-class build quality with noble metals and alloys.

The conspicuous front screw of the Leica M10-P is located just over the top area of the M bayonet lens mount. Behind it and inside the camera body there is a much smaller screw to adjust the vertical alignment of the rangefinder, whose cam can be seen in the lower middle area of the image.

And Leica Camera AG has undoubtedly fulfilled that aim, with the icing on the cake being that screw which is a sign of appreciation to the extraordinary mechanic prowess that has been the firm hallmark for more than a century, since the times of mechanikmeister Oskar Barnack and his 1914 Ur Leica and subsequently followed by other world-class experts in this area like Wilhelm Albert, Dr. Ludwig Leitz, Willi Stein, Friedrich Gath, Peter Loseries, Otto Domes, Heinz Zimmermann and others.

Masters of traditional precision mechanics who were able to meticulously fill every cubic millimeter of space inside analogue Leica M camera with screws, gears, drums, pinions, levers, bolts, flywheels, springs, hoops, curtain latches, ribbon rollers, drive shafts, sprockets, drum bearing plates, coupling discs, cams, slow speed escapements and other metallic miniaturized components.


It is a first for M cameras, enabling to get accurate live view focus setting the magnification point, in addition to zoom or flip through images without having to use the 4-way controller on the camera rear right area. It features a 1.04 million dots and 3 inches display very similar to the high resolution rear LCD of the Leica M10.

This is a significant addition making possible to position the area to magnify in live view or double-tap to jump straight to an enlarged view, as well as being able to swipe and pinch-to-zoom in playback mode.

On the other hand, there is a new spirit level on the LCD and in the viewfinder. This built-in level gauge can substantially help to get perfectly framed and level shots, as well as being a time saving feature.


The Leica M10-P is at its core a Leica M10 and if it is a subtle update of the hugely successful M10 or a significant upgrade is not easy to answer, since it will depend mostly on the photographer´s needs.

Both cameras seamlessly blend the classic Leica M rangefinder compactness, timeless beauty of lines, smoothness of contours,

Rangefinder of a 0.72x VF Leica M6 featuring an effective baselength of almost 5 cm.

exceedingly accurate RF, superb build quality and precision mechanics with a 24 megapixel CMOS digital sensor and streamlined and efficient operation, alongside a second to none optimization for shooting handheld even under very dim light conditions without needing any flash, monopod or tripod whatsoever.

It all in symbiosis with the comprehensive slew of extraordinary and highly luminous manual focusing Leica M lenses able to yield exceptional image quality.

Evidently, the Leica M10 features a really whispering mechanical shutter which won´t be even heard by vast majority of persons photographed. Such is its quietness.

But truth is that however incredible it may seem, the Leica M10-P mechanical shutter plays in another league in this sphere, and the sound it delivers is much more silent and muffled.

Stefan Daniel holding a black chrome finish Leica M10-P coupled to a 5 elements in 5 groups Apo-Summicron-M 90 mm f/2 ASPH. The compactness of this mirrorless with rangefinder camera and the attached lens (the longest of the M-System alongside the Apo-Telyt-M 135 mm f/3.4) is truly commendable. Twenty-one years after its design in 1998, this formidable lens is presently the second best in the world 90 mm f/2 prime ever made for 24 x 36 mm format (only beaten by the 11 elements in 9 groups Apo-Summicron-SL 90 mm f/2 ASPH), boasting an exceptional build quality, a low weight of 475 g for its focal length and luminosity and delivers extraordinary resolving power and contrast at every diaphragm and distance, with astonishing uniformity of optical performance between center, borders and corners, being a stellar performer in portraiture, landscape and fashion.

And irrespective of how Leica engineers and technicians have managed to achieve this mechanical feat, it works and could be a game changer for some Leica users taking advantage of it on getting pictures in contexts where maximum unobtrusivenees feasible is top priority, particularly in scopes like street photography, photojournalism, classical music concerts, etc.

Obviously, it´s not easy at all that the exceedingly low noise of the Leica M10 shutter can disturb subjects, but when you shoot with the Leica M10-P, the even much more silent sound it produces makes one feel throughly discreet on making photographs in quiet environments.

It is apparent that the Wetzlar photographic firm has upped the ante in this mechanical technological field.

Both the Leica M10 and the M10-P are premium products with a sumptuous finish and delivering superb image quality, in spite of the fact that Leica usually hasn´t got the cream of the crop digital sensors (a scope in which Sony with its huge electronic expertise and massive wherewithal invested on R & D and Canon are the technological spearhead, as well as having enough economical resources to manufacture better and better sensors within short periods of time).

But the 24 x 36 mm CMOS sensors inside the Leica M10 and Leica M10-P are top-notch, deliver admirable dynamic range and

A Leica M user shooting handheld with a Leica M10-P coupled to a 6 elements in 4 groups silver chrome Summarit-M 35 mm f/2.4 ASPH lens with its 12440 square shade. This is an exceedingly beautiful, tiny (length of 33.9 mm and a largest diameter of 52 mm) and very light (197 g) lens with smooth focusing and a relatively short focus throw, whose 9 blades diaphragm enable it to get an outstanding creamy bokeh quality in images with shallow depth of field. In addition, alongside with the Summaron-M 28 mm f/5.6 (with which it shares a great price/preformance ratio) it is nowadays probably the most adequate Leica M lens for getting the fastest AF on earth using the hyperfocal distance technique, as well as delivering a pretty interesting optical performance, with a very high resolving power and contrast at medium distances, while at the shortest ones it yields a kind of impressionistic painting signature.

the reference-class optical prowess of Leica with its fabulous aspherical Leica M lenses

Another Leica user shooting with a Leica M10-P coupled to a 9 elements in 6 groups Summicron-M 28 mm f/2 ASPH, a fabulous prime designed by Michael Heiden and delivering exceptional image quality in synergy with the extraordinary mechanic construction made by engineer Holgen Wieland.

confer the German photographic firm a lot of advantages, because the sensational opto-mechanical quality of its highly luminous primes and their uncommon uniformity of first-rate performance between widest aperture and f/8 will be able to utterly match any digital 24 x 36 mm format sensors featuring between 30 and 120 megapixels that can appear in future.

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  1. The shutter on this camera is absolutely amazing. It is good to see that Leica still has a few aces up their sleeves.

    1. You are right. Nobody was expecting this. and yes, it once again underscores that Leica is still one of the leading manufacturers and designers of camera. Bit let's not forget that they are the leading manufacturer of lenses. Currently there is no manufacturer that has the overll perfomance level of the Leica lenses.

    2. Are you saying that the likes of Canon and Nikon are incapable of making lenses of that quality level?

  2. No, not at all, but as long as they mass produce their lenses, they will never reach the performance level of the Leica lenses. Mass production is incapable to assure the necessary tight tolerance levels to reach that level of performance. To give you an idea, Nikon makes about as many lenses in one day as Leica makes over the course of a year.

    1. But mass production has become a lot better over the years.

    2. Yes, but so have the production methods at Leica. But it isn't just tolerances, the differences start already with the selection of the optical glasses for their lenses. Leica's standards are substantially higher as to the accuracy of the refracting index and the Abbe number, the measure of dispersion.

    3. Do you have any figures for that?

    4. Yes, Leica applies a standard of +/- 0,0002% for the accuracy of the refractive index. This compares to an international standard of +/- 0.001% as applied by other companies. The accuracy of the Abbe number, the measure of dispersion, is +/- 0.2% For Leica compared to +/- 0.8% internationally.

    5. For the manufacture of individual lens elements Leica allows production tolerances of no more than 1/4 lambda or 1/4 of the average wavelength of light which corresponds to approximately 500 nanometers or 0.0005mm for the lens surface. In comparison, other lens manufacturers apply tolerances of 1/2 lambda or 0.001mm. Similar tolerances are applied for the thickness of a lens element as well as its centering along the optical axis. For the production of aspherical lens elements Leica applies tolerances of no more than 0.03 micrometer or 0.00003mm. For an extensive article on this go to

    6. Impressive. One last question, what does dispersion mean?

    7. Dispersion is the amount by which light entering a glass element is split up into the spectral (rainbow) colors, just as with a prism.

  3. Do glass manufacturers make glass specifically for Leica to meet their standards?

    1. I am not sure but it is doubtful. However, Leica does specify their requirements. What is more important is that each piece of glass delivered to them is tested to make sure that it meets their requirements. If not, it will not be used.

    2. However, there are some proprietary glasses which are made specifically for Leica and which are not available to anyone else. These are some of the gl;asses that were developed by the former Leitz Glass Research Laboratory in Wetzlar. One such glass is the so called Apo glass. As far as I know it is still the glass with the highest refractive index, 1.9005, along with an astonishingly low Abbe number (dispersion) of any glass ever developed. These glasses are made under contract, mostly by Schott.