Archived posting to the Leica Users Group, 1998/07/28

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Subject: RE: [Leica] potential image quality
From: Alan Ball <>
Date: Wed, 29 Jul 1998 07:33:05 +0200

On Tuesday, July 28, 1998 6:25 PM, Eric Welch [] 

> I'm not talking about build, and smoothness of focus and ruggedness (once
> it's put together right). I'm talking about optical characteristics.
> Freedom from flare, tonal modulation, color "bias." Contrast. Color
> differentiation. Lack of chromatic aberration and a horde of other
> aberrations (to varying degrees, of course). The overall optical effect 
> the lenses alone justifies their use. The rest that you mention, are
> whipped cream on the rhubarb pie.

Eric (and Erwin),
Eric, I knew of course that was what you had in mind. I contend that these 
concepts, and you may add sharpness, are NOT real differenciators between 
Leica and the competition in normal 35mm shooting conditions. By 
competition I mean most of the prime lenses and so-called "pro" zooms of 
the other main manufacturers. By "normal 35mm shooting conditions", I mean 
hand held shooting with 100-400 ISO stock.

I would like Erwin's opinion on what I write here, of course:

1.Flare: flare is a pretty well corrected problem since a very long time on 
all 'classical' prime lens constructions. I never had flare problems with 
any modern prime lens, whoever the maker is. I do not use zooms, but from 
what I read here and there, Leica does not seem to have more or less flare 
control problems than the others with complex construction zooms. As you 
know Eric, one of the rare users of the 70-180 f2.8 has recently complained 
quite convincingly about important flare problems with that lens in the 
Compuserve forum. Just and example of the need to avoid generalizations.

2. Tonal modulation: is this measured ? I find this is one of the less 
'measurable' opinions: the emulsion and the enlargement ratio are more 
important factors here than the lens. Erwin: would you argue that Leica 
lenses, as a range, have superior tonal modulation than the competition ? 
And how would you explain this ? I love my leica M slides, find them very 
rich in detail and 'modulation' but so did loads of slides coming out of 
other hardwares...

3. Color "bias": this would only be noticeable and relevant on slides of 
course. So, what is exactly the colour bias of Leica lenses ? Do you mean 
it is "warm" ? Thus not "true" ? Do you mean it is "neutral" and that the 
competitors are not "true" ? Anyway, if such a bias does exist across the 
line (this sounds possible because the coating technique is the same across 
the line), it would be a matter of taste rather than 'performance'. I do 
not trace color 'bias' on my Velvia Leica M pictures compared to my Velvia 
Nikon pictures: I enjoy (sometimes too) vibrant colours in both..

4. Contrast: this is one of the more obscure concepts in my eyes, depending 
on where you analyse it. I would find 'lens contrast' to be a measurable 
complement to "sharpness" and just as exacting to maximise in "normal 
shooting condition": this is a heavy tripod, ISO 25, f5.6 thing again. I 
might be wrong and would certainly like to read Erwin on this. Other usages 
of the 'contrast' concept make it a cousin of tonal range, more related to 
the emulsion/paper/scanner side of things. But I do often find a little 
more 'punch' in my Leica M slides compared to what I used before. Just 
cannot define that "punch".

I do not have time to go on with this today. And i am not qualified to do 
so anyway. I revert to Erwin's original post on this matter and keep on 
wondering if the defense of the Leica advantage could be a battle that is 
fought on the wrong battlefield. Personnaly, I LOVE Leica, but not for the 
reasons that come back in most of the posts. Unless you use your Leica like 
a Hasselblad or a view camera, you are not fighting the optical battle. And 
if you are using your Leica the heavy tripod/f5.6/ISO25 way, why are you 
not using the larger formats which bring a REAL imaging advantage ? I do 
not believe available revenue is a dominant constraint in this list, so   
owning and using different systems and formats must be quite common. I find 
it masochistic to annihilate the portability of 35mm...

Friendly regards

> I use a tripod and 100 ISO film many times. I use slow chrome film for
> personal use, and for commercial freelance jobs. What's more, I own TWO
> tripods. :-) I use Broncolor lights when I need location lighting. And
> Leica lenses deliver the extra quality when I need it in terms of
> sharpness. But my contention is optically, they have a lot more to