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

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Subject: Was RE: [Leica] DSLR choice - now Zeiss-Ikon
From: at (Douglas Sharp)
Date: Sun Jan 22 08:41:12 2006
References: <BAY101-F874F9A5C031F9682CB118AB1E0@phx.gbl> <> <001901c61f6b$706692d0$7feb4142@D1S9FY41>

So, somebody was rich enough to biopsy one and set fire to the bit that 
came out - a good way for testing magnesium - take a big piece out if 
you forgot your flash ;-)

I wonder if the airlines know that your R9s are a fire risk?
Take an R9 top plate, grind thoroughly, add potassium permanganate - 
light the blue touchpaper and retire immediately. 
The French resistance used a similar mixture for sabotaging railway 
lines, and I'm sure nearly every schoolboy used to shave bits off his 
pencil sharpener too.

Seth Rosner wrote:

> 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!
> Stefan
> ----- 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
>> _______________________________________________
>> Leica Users Group.
>> See for more information
> _______________________________________________
> Leica Users Group.
> See for more information

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)
Message from sethrosner at (Seth Rosner) (Was RE: [Leica] DSLR choice - now Zeiss-Ikon)