Archived posting to the Leica Users Group, 2006/01/22

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Subject: Was RE: [Leica] DSLR choice - now Zeiss-Ikon
From: sethrosner at (Seth Rosner)
Date: Sun Jan 22 07:49:45 2006
References: <BAY101-F874F9A5C031F9682CB118AB1E0@phx.gbl> <>

Here 'tis friends, from the mouth - or pen - or computer of him who knows:

Hello Seth,

here comes the world shaking answer:

The top cover of the LEICA R9 is made out of magnesium alloy. It was made 
out of zinc die cast on the R8. Obviously you have found a mistake in the 
spec! You're the first since 2002!

All the best and hope to see you soon!


----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Frank Dernie" <>
To: "Leica Users Group" <>
Sent: Sunday, January 22, 2006 4:09 AM
Subject: Re: Was RE: [Leica] DSLR choice - now Zeiss-Ikon

> Hi Bill,
> I think the situation boils down to the difference between "good  enough" 
> and "the best material possible". Clearly either the  manufacturers are 
> lying, which I do not believe, or are convincing  people that the 
> materials are good enough by writing things such as  you quote. The shell 
> of a camera is hardly a high tech structural  element. It is a cosmetic 
> cover which keeps dirt out. The precision  stuff is inside. The worst load 
> case a camera will experience it to  be dropped, I expect. Then who is to 
> say what is good enough? With  respect to Leica (almost on topic), dropped 
> onto the top plate a  brass plate will probably dent, a zinc (probably 
> mazak) will dent or  crack and so will magnesium. What actually happens 
> depends at least  as much on what angle it lands, what it lands on and 
> from what height  than the material of the shell.
> What I take issue with, and it irritates me a great deal, is that the 
> marketing propaganda presents magnesium as new and superior. It may 
> indeed meet all the criteria somebody has set for a camera - hardly  any 
> sort of high tech duty cycle. The fact that magnesium is "rugged,  robust 
> and durable" in a camera context only questionable in the  durability 
> sense. There is probably a hard cheese being made  somewhere in the world 
> which is rugged and durable enough for a  camera shell - he joked - but I 
> am sure you get my drift. I won't  repeat what I have already written 
> about magnesium but the butt of my  concern is the durability issue. I 
> have many Leicas. The lovely old  black ones have "brassing". Had they 
> been made from magnesium rather  than brass there would be holes in them 
> where it had corroded  through. I have seen a magnesium helicopter gearbox 
> casing from an  aircraft that had been inadvisably used by its owner to 
> land on his  boat. At its first inspection from new the casing was scrap, 
> less  than 12 months old. Marinized helicopters have aluminium casings I 
> believe.
> Chrome plated brass lenses I have are like new, regardless of age. 
> Aluminium and brass are OK if used all the time, the wear rubs of  oxide 
> spots. Some of the wartime IIIc cameras have blistering chrome  plate 
> where the aluminium is corroding underneath. If they had been  magnesium 
> they would be corroded through.
> I have looked at a few pro photographers C*non long lenses which are 
> painted magnesium too. Where they have chipped the paint off one can  see 
> the surface plating. As long as the bangs don't break through  this 
> coating they may be OK. They obviously don't care about  longevity anyway 
> because they change things frequently. Maybe  magnesium can be made 
> adequate anywhere weight is the dominant factor  and long life is 
> irrelevant (digicam?). Magnesium can not be made  good, even its best 
> alloys make it useable rather than good.
> If any of my engineers proposed a finishing process which -required- 
> moving through 3 countries I would ask what he had been drinking.  That 
> would be of questionable acceptability for a high tech  application never 
> mind a dust cover. In the Leica case I would bet  that is because the 
> castings are done in France, the cameras made in  Portugal and the QC, 
> packaging and attachment of the "made in"  sticker in Germany.
> Well Bill you and I have gone on a bit here, I ask the indulgence of  any 
> Lugger who has got this far. I do not doubt that magnesium can be  made 
> "good enough" structurally for a camera shell. I do not believe  it can be 
> made "as good as" any of the alternatives historically used  - including 
> fibre reinforced plastic. An unused component with  perfectly applied, 
> undamaged, surface coating MAY be "durable" but a  used one with a surface 
> scratched to bare metal, like a typical pro  used camera, will not be as 
> durable as any of the traditionally used  alternatives.
> Frank
> On 21 Jan, 2006, at 18:00, Bill Marshall wrote:
>> Frank,
>> I truly appreciate all of the information that you have presented &  the 
>> fact that you have lent your expertise to this discussion.  Thank you for 
>> your patience with me who knows next to nothing about  this subject other 
>> than what I can learn from reading. I'm just a  guy who likes cameras & 
>> who is trying to understand the marketplace.
>> I certainly understand that Marketing Departments are paid to hype  their 
>> products & that these departments can be prone to  exaggeration. So, I'm 
>> not surprised when they claim that something  is "rugged," "durable," or 
>> "robust" & it is so only to a very  limited degree. However, it's 
>> certainly confusing to read about the  testing that Nikon & Zeiss say 
>> that they have done & to read their  claim that magnesium meets the 
>> highest standards of professional  use (Nikon's claim) in terms of 
>> resistance to corrosion & of shock  resistance and for this not to be 
>> true. This would be more than  marketing hype & exaggeration. It would be 
>> misrepresentation, a  blatant lie. While I certainly don't put it past 
>> the corporate  community to engage in such deceipt, it would be 
>> surprising coming  from companies like Nikon & Zeiss. I assume that Canon 
>> & Leica have  done similar testing although it is not explicitly stated 
>> in their  materials, so it only adds to my confusion when companies of 
>> their  stature also represent this material as strong & as fit for its 
>> intended purpose.
>> Some time ago, I corresponded with Hasselblad about the Zeiss Ikon, 
>> specifically in regard to the magnesium body plating as well as  other 
>> matters. Since they couldn't answer my questions, they  referred me to 
>> one of the engineers at Carl Zeiss AG. In an  exchange of several lengthy 
>> e-mails, he assured me that they had  subjected the camera to intensive 
>> testing in their environmental  test lab for extremes of temperature, 
>> humidity, shock, and  vibration, that they had insisted on improvements & 
>> modifications  where they felt necessary, & that the camera met all of 
>> their  standards in this regard.  The tone of his letters bore no 
>> resemblance to someone from a marketing department.
>> I don't know if the following sheds any light on the discussion,  but 
>> here is what Leica has to say on the subject in a press release  about 
>> the R9:
>> "Magnesium is particularly difficult to manage with respect to  corrosion 
>> resistance and scuffing. Leica for the first time employs  a 
>> plasma-chemical process for coating the light metal. This  transforms the 
>> surface of the magnesium into a thick ceramic layer.  In the process, 
>> special demands are placed on the magnesium alloy  and on the preparation 
>> of the surface. Special lacquers are then  applied to achieve an 
>> extraordinarily long-lasting finish. A  greater fabrication effort is 
>> also required for casting the  magnesium in the molds because this takes 
>> place at temperatures of  700 degrees C (1292 degrees F) as compared to 
>> 400 degrees C (752  degrees F) in the die-casting process."
>> More from Erwin Puts on the matter:
>> "Magnesium is the lightest of all commercially available metals  with a 
>> specific gravity of 1.75. It is in itself not a strong  metal, nor has it 
>> good elasticity. You need to create an alloy and  use a considerable 
>> thickness or utilize deep sections to obtain  good stiffness. It is a 
>> very high cost material and does not  possess good corrosion 
>> characteristics. The painting and casting  and shaping of the topcover is 
>> a process that takes place in three  countries (Germany, France, and 
>> Portugal) before it ends up on the  R9."
>> Again thanks for sharing your knowledge & for your patience with me.
>> Best regards,
>> bill
>> _______________________________________________
>> Leica Users Group.
>> See for more information
> _______________________________________________
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Replies: Reply from at (Douglas Sharp) (Was RE: [Leica] DSLR choice - now Zeiss-Ikon)
In reply to: Message from billgem at (Bill Marshall) (Was RE: [Leica] DSLR choice - now Zeiss-Ikon)
Message from Frank.Dernie at (Frank Dernie) (Was RE: [Leica] DSLR choice - now Zeiss-Ikon)