Archived posting to the Leica Users Group, 1997/09/02

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Subject: Re: L versus M
From: Marc James Small <>
Date: Tue, 02 Sep 1997 13:18:55 -0400

<sigh>  Once again, the 'bokeh' debates.  Without getting that grand
re-addition to our group, Mr Welch, fired up -- and, gads, sir, but it is
GRAND to have you back where you belong! -- let me point out the following,
with the understanding that it is not universally accepted.

First, I DO have a scad of Canon gear -- and EOS 10s at the nonce with some
great lenses and I've had a slew of FD stuff over the years.  So I know the
breed.  Canon lenses are superb.  No question.  But the optical analysis
ought to run a tad deeper.

Leica didn't have the funds in the 1920's and 1930's to design lenses which
would blow the doors off of Zeiss and Voigtlander products -- they were,
after all, the 'new kids' on the block, a small microscope works which had
moved only lately into photography.  Their lens designer, yclept Max Berek,
used a trick to make Leica lenses 'seem' to perform better than they
actually do, by emphasizing out-of-focus softness.  Thus, the in-focus
portion of the image pops out at the viewer, producing the 'Leica glow', as
Gianni Rogliatti calls it.

This was seen as a cheap trick by the larger houses, but it built a
foundation for the magical effect of Leica lenses.  And it also explains
why older designs do not test well, but produce images which stand out from
those of other houses.

This changed following Berek's death in the early 1950's.  Certainly, Leica
lenses produced today test competitively and, in many cases, blow the
competition away.  But such was not always the case -- and the Leica 'glow'
of 1930 has become the 'bokeh' of today.

Marc  FAX:  +540/343-7315
Cha robh bas fir gun ghras fir!