Archived posting to the Leica Users Group, 1998/05/09

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Subject: [Leica] Japanese Optics Yet Again
From: Marc James Small <>
Date: Sat, 09 May 1998 17:22:29 -0400

At 03:23 PM 5/2/98 EDT, LRZeitlin wrote:
>Actually the US recognition of the quality of Japanese optics occurred
when US
>press photographers covering the Korean War bought Nikon RF cameras in Japan
>and found that the lenses were better than contemporary Leica or Contax
>optics. David Duncan popularized the Nikon among Life photographers. In
>fact, the Japanese have always been in the forefront of optical manufacture.
>Even before WW2 Japanese optical equipment could always stand comparison with
>the best of German and US gear. During WW2 the Japanese even delayed putting
>radar on their battleships because their optical rangefinders were so
good. It
>was a stupid decision but it shows their faith in their optics.  

The story about Duncan and the quality of Japanese lenses has been so
thoroughly discussed on this list that I would recommend to Mr Zeitlin, and
other interested new subscribers, that a jaunt through the Archives might
be in order.

The Japanese lenses, being direct thefts of German designs, could not
possibly be "better".  Being exact copies, made from Zeiss and Leitz
designs without the formality of payment, they are arguably as good, but
certainly not "better".  The stated reason Duncan and his cronies claimed
the "better" part was to convince their editors that they were using
quality lenses -- but the REAL reason the photographers used Japanese
optics was simple convenience and economics:  German lenses were all but
unobtainable and, when they could be found, cripplingly expensive, while
the Japanese lenses were extremely inexpensive.  In an era when
free-lancers owned their own gear (there was extremely little "pool"
equipment in the early '50's), this made sound sense.  If you were going in
harm's way, it made sense to lug around a $10 lens in place of that $200
German lens;  when the barrage or ambush hit and you dove for cover, it was
better to bust the $10 lens than the German original.

As to the comment about Japanese rangefinders slowing up their radar
deployment, I am apoplectic.  I would suggest Mr Zeitlin post this
suggestion to the WWII-L list for speedy, and perhaps rude, rebuttal, as
there are a number of people quite interested in the topic on this list and
the issue of the slow deployment of radar by the IJN has recently been
discussed there.

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