Archived posting to the Leica Users Group, 2000/08/27

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Subject: Re: [Leica] Value of test reports/Psychology of Leica owners
From: "Dan S" <>
Date: Sun, 27 Aug 2000 15:09:49 GMT

About every 2 months or so the LUG get's into this same, painful discussion. 
  The real reason so many in the group don't believe in technical testing is 
that these tests don't give Leica the kind of overwhelming advantages that 
those money bled buyers felt they paid for.  Yes, they are better.  But 
these folks want a full slam dunk, which is just not going to happen...ever.

Few groups on earth have more trouble with buyers remorse than Leica owners, 
with the possible exception of Rolls Royce drivers.  We are a group of 
people who achieved our adolescent day-dreams too soon.  Once we have the 
thing we desired we spend the rest of our lives wondering why it did not 
bring instant and permanent gratification to our life.  Are we trying to 
convince others of the logic of a $2000.00 35mm lens, or ourselves.

A hint to "test bashers" to make your lives easier.  Use test information as 
a guidepost in making your own buying decisions, but don't expect it to 
"justify" an expense, monetary or emotional.
A Leica or any other luxury purchase is as much emotion as logic.  Lets 
respect both sides.

Best wishes
Dan States
Madison WI

Erwin Puts wrote:

>Recently we could read on this list a remark about the value of the
>measurement of characteristics of a lens that are related to image quality.
>In fact a reappearance of Mr. Johnston's well-known view about lens 
>it is stated that any objective lens test (that is a test that tries to
>establish numerical values on a set of parameters) can only capture those
>characteristics of optical performance that are irrelevant or unimportant
>for the true appreciation of a lens' performance by an artistically or
>expressively trained photographer's eye. Those aspects of a lens that
>delight or excite the working photographer in viewing his/her results in
>print or on screen, cannot be measured or even discussed objectively.
>As we are entering the domain of belief or even religion here, it is futile
>to try to argue against this view. You can not discuss in any meaningful 
>unless you try to follow the same set of rules or basic premises.
>The more intriguing question is why do some persons believe that 
>in lens testing is irrelevant or counterproductive. The obvious fact that
>all manufacturers use MTF tests and all other kinds of measurements to
>create and produce the lenses with characteristics that some only wish to
>discuss in personalised statements is a logical contradiction. But so be 
>Why negate the value of objectivity in lens testing and evaluation? One 
>obvious reason is a commercial one. Quite recently I was emailed by a
>customer in an USA store who asked me this: the salesperson had for sale 
>Summilux lenses 1.4/35, one the aspherical and one the ASPH. The aspherical
>was twice as expensive as the ASPH, because the salesperson stated that the
>first (aspherical) version was much better optically than the current 
>version. Now this is nonsense and that I told the buyer, who went for the
>ASPH version for half the price. If the salesperson had presented the buyer
>with objective test reports he would never have made this statement  and so
>could not justify the difference in price. Yes, yes, the aspherical is a
>collectors item and because of scarcity may demand a higher price, but that
>is not what the salesperson told the customer who was obviously not
>interested in a collectible.
>Second reason why objective lens reports are not popular is the loss of fun
>factor. If we believe whatever report the discussion is closed. It is
>established that lens A is better than lens B. Period. So buy lens A if you
>need best quality and start taking pictures. No fun at all? But if we
>believe that a test can not give conclusive evidence we are in for a never
>ending discussion, which is enjoyable in itself. Then we can point out that
>PopPhoto notes that the 1.4/35 asph has best wide open performance of all
>lenses tested, that Modern however remarked that stopped down the asperical
>is better, that Viewfinder in an article did not find significant
>diferrences, but noted more coma in the far corners, that CdI gave 5 stars,
>but that a friend who is a professsioal photographer swears by the ASPH, 
>that a noted NatGeo-rapher had sold his as he was not content with the 
>and so on. Of course I am fantasising here, but the message is clear and
>The discussion on this list re the quality and merits of the Minolta and
>Leitz designs is a proof.  I am not going to jump into this discussion, I
>already overstretched, regrettably, my backbench postion by commenting on
>Dan's presentation of 4 comparative pictures.
>There has been a reference to a site which presents the results of several
>magazines of the same lenses. While it is helpful to note that test results
>stray widely, it does not answer the fundamental question: if we want to 
>reliable info based on measured results, which one to trust.
>There are so many stories here that are not true that I do not know where 
>The notion that you should need  a statistically representative sample to
>make meaningful statements, is not realistic: first: a representative 
>would comprise at least 20 items. Which magazine can afford this? And what
>manufacturer can give 20 lenses per magazine. As there are about 200
>magazines in the world who need fair treatment, so the factory  would have
>to deliver 4000 lenses. Assume the Leica  1.4/35 aspherical which has been
>produced 2000 times. The full production is not enough to deliver the 
>to all magazines. And would magazines be happy with 20 lenses. Not all all!
>It takes me a few months to test one item!! And is it necessary? No, QC
>nowadays secures minimum standards. Is it true that a magazine gets
>specially prepared versions of a lens? Most unlikely. The magazines I work
>for get off the shelf boxes. My Leica test lenses are taken from the shelf
>by myself. Is it true that a magazine keeps testing a series of lenses till
>they find one that meets their standards? Nonsense. Try to work for a
>magazine and you will find out that this is impossible. You have a 
>get a lens in week one, test it in week two, find in week three it is not
>OK, ask a new one (often if it is a new lens, only one is available!!!) and
>you get one three weeks later, you test it etc. Deadline passed. No review
>needed anymore as all other magazines have reports on the lens!
>Every magazine has its own procedure of testing and style of reporting. YOU
>CANNOT COMPARE THEM!!! Unless you know intimately and in great technical
>detail what they do and how they work.
>Magazines do not tell you or in such terminology that you do not understand
>what exactly they are doing. Take Photodo. MTF tests are fine. The crucial
>question at what distance they set the focal plane, when testing the lens 
>never answered. I asked them several times to specify this simple fact. 
>refuse. Without such a knowledge the results are most misleading. If you do
>not know about the basics of optical shop testing and the magazines are as
>evasive as the Russians about the sinking of the Kursk, you are in the
>desert. Compare this behaviour with the one at Zeiss or Leica where the
>people explain to the most minute detail what they evaluate, why they do 
>what the results are, what interpretations they use, where the grey areas
>are, what the margins are and I must say I believe the manufacturers data
>more than the results in the magazines.

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Replies: Reply from Ted Grant <> (Re: [Leica] Value of test reports/Psychology of Leica owners)