Archived posting to the Leica Users Group, 1996/04/11

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Subject: nikon/canon lenses on SM leicas
From: Arthur Wouk <>
Date: Thu, 11 Apr 1996 18:27:21 -0600 (MDT)

i may be one of the few people old enough to remember the story about
this matter as it was originally told.

apparently, what the photographers in japan found when they came to
cover the korean war was a selection of lenses and bodies from canon
and nikon which were cheap, and whose quality compared well with the
lenses available from germany. remember that we are talking 1948.
leitz was still making IIIcs, i believe. certainly the new IIIf models
didn't arrive till 1950. there were very few IIIds made.

from canon and nikon they could get faster lenses than were available
from wetzlar, and they tried them they worked, and wer every bit as
good as the older, often prewar leica equipment available.

one of the gems of my collection is the nikon 35mmf1.9 SM lens, which
i acquired by chance. mint. last seen priced about $300 to a
collector. i acquired it with an M3 system, where it was used with a
japanese SM->BM converter. there was NO leica lens that fast available
ever, i think. it is said to have excellent optical characteristics.

towards the end of the korean war, and later, when canon went to the
black/chrome lenses, they made a 35mm f1.8 (which i also have, and
which is also said to be optically excellent. i can't afford to use
such lenses of course, the collector's price is similar to the nikon

both contax, and leitz were very slow to wake up to what was
happening. when i was at the university of alberta, i had a colleague
in the physics of optics there, who had been with zeiss in the early
50s. he told me that when these cameras came in to laboratory at
zeiss, and the bodies and leses were given a thorough going over, the
technical people were appalled by the quality of what they saw, and
tried to persuade the management to do soemthing to improve their
product line to compete. well, zeiss is gone, and leica, if not for
the collectors, would probably be gone by now too. 

if you don't agree that it was the collectors and their dedication to
leicas which made people try to keep leica going through its recent
incarnations, explain why you feel that way, please. the burden of
rpoof is on you.