Panasonic Re-Affirms Nature of 'Panasonic Leica' Lenses - Panasonic Designed with Leica Input and Ap

Discussion in 'Micro 4/3 News and Rumors' started by Amin Sabet, Feb 25, 2014.

  1. Amin Sabet

    Amin Sabet Administrator

    Apr 10, 2009
    Boston, MA (USA)
    DC Watch Japan posted an interesting interview with the Panasonic team members who are responsible for the design of the new 42.5mm Nocticron lens.


    In the course of this interview, it is confirmed that Panasonic lenses bearing the Leica label are Panasonic designs, approved by Leica. Here is <strike>the Google Translation</strike> a translation from Japanese to English courtesy of Canonista:

    For those of us who have been following Panasonic's relationship with Leica for years now, this is not new information. In the earliest days of fixed-lens Panasonic compact cameras with Leica-branded lenses, the following account of the relationship was published on the Panasonic Japan site (original source has since been removed):

    Interesting that this latest interview from DC Watch suggests the same dynamic: submission, feedback, revision, approval.

    Some people point to the fact that the Panasonic Leica lenses are designed and produced by Panasonic as indicating that they are not "Real Leica Lenses", and on that all I have to say only "Who cares?". In the past year, I have used a dozen modern Leica M lenses from the $7,000 24mm f/1.4 Summilux ASPH to the $11,000 50mm f/0.95 Noctilux ASPH, and as far as I am concerned, some of the non-Leica branded Lumix lenses like the Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 have as much magic as their mega-expensive made-in-Germany counterparts. Panasonic deserves huge props as a lensmaker.

    Still, this is a question that comes up again and again in the forums, and we now have our answer. Again.

    Addendum: The original title to this post was "Panasonic Re-Affirms Nature of 'Panasonic Leica' Lenses - Panasonic Designed, Leica Approved". Taking Canonista's translation into account, it seems that Leica is providing input with regards to design revision prior to approval, and the post title has been modified to reflect this.

    [Thanks, Canonista!]
    • Like Like x 13
  2. OzRay

    OzRay Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 29, 2010
    South Gippsland, Australia
    Ray, not Oz
    My understanding, and this was discussed years ago elsewhere, was that Leica oversaw the quality control and other manufacturing processes of Panasonic lenses, but not the actual optical designs crafted by Panasonic. The difference is subtle, but important if correct. Japanese lens manufacturing is so good, that sometimes I think it detracts having the Leica moniker on the lens, as some 'will' scoff that it's not a real Leica lens.
  3. T N Args

    T N Args Agent Photocateur

    Dec 3, 2013
    Adelaide, Australia
    call me Arg
    I saw that and read it the same way as you. However, I think it would be much advisable to have a native Japanese speaker confirm it. There are too many subtleties possible in the meaning of phrases and terms, to be sure we got it right (i.e. that Google got it right, too).

    Also interesting to mull over whether the designs by Panasonic for Leica branding are using any Leica design typologies, or is it 'anything goes designwise, just look at results'? Especially ones that get a Leica-like name like Nocticron.

    Totally agree about Panasonic lensmaking abilities standing on their own merits, too.
    • Like Like x 1
  4. Lawrence

    Lawrence Mu-43 Veteran

    Oct 8, 2011
    It is an interesting interview about the collaboration of Panasonic and Leica to make the Lumix PanLeica Lens. Hoping for more PanLeica lens in the future.

  5. The name on a lens doesn't hold a whole lot of weight with me, but "real Leica" or not real Leica, the Panasonic Leica 25mm f1.4 (m4/3), 14-50mm f2.8-3.5 (4/3) and 14-150mm f3.5-5.6 (4/3) lenses are a few of my favourites of all-time. That 14-150mm in particular is a fantastic lens, and not just a fantastic lens for a superzoom.
  6. Serhan

    Serhan Mu-43 Top Veteran

    May 7, 2011
    I saw a Panasonic add 5.5 years ago and it was saying that they were using Leica Quality Assurance (QA) for Leica branded products, which means they use the Leica Quality Control Standards for production for those products. Also I found it on Panasonic website:
  7. fortwodriver

    fortwodriver Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Nov 15, 2013
    Toronto, Ontario, Canada
    I secretly wonder if "Panasonic designed and produced" somehow secretly means that these are really being manufactured in the Tamron factories... ;-) You give them your design, specify your tolerances and out comes a lens at the other end...

    Tamron does an awful lot of brown-bag-soup-n-sandwich lens production for other companies.

    Likewise with the "invisible" Konica-Minolta lens development group.
  8. Serhan

    Serhan Mu-43 Top Veteran

    May 7, 2011
    I checked my copies, 12-35mm was made in Japan and 35-100mm was made in China. Similarly Sony shifted its Sony Zeiss branded lenses to Thailand and produced second sharpest 50-55mm lens after Zeiss branded Otus. So as long as they produce with high quality tolerances of Leica/Zeiss, it doesn't matter where they manufacture it. Similarly Sigma is producing high end lenses lately with computer aided design/production.
  9. fortwodriver

    fortwodriver Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Nov 15, 2013
    Toronto, Ontario, Canada
    Also, remember Leica almost went entirely tits-up. If I remember correctly, before Kauffman bought into Leica, Panasonic was already working to acquire the Leica brand. There was some serious interest in the brand as far back as Panasonic's late analog video systems.
  10. Jonathan F/2

    Jonathan F/2 Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Aug 10, 2011
    Los Angeles, USA
    If Leica just rubber stamps the lenses for approval, I think that's a bigger indication that Panasonic is a better lens maker than they are given credit for.
    • Like Like x 3
  11. dhazeghi

    dhazeghi Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Aug 6, 2010
    San Jose, CA
    This more or less reconfirms what I read a couple years back as well. Honestly, I find the whole thing a bit silly. There are plenty of great non-Leica-branded Panasonic lenses, and a number of not-great Leica-branded ones (mostly on their point-and-shoots). Still, if the label makes people happy and/or attracts them to m4/3, I suppose why not.
    • Like Like x 3
  12. tomO2013

    tomO2013 Mu-43 Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    Oct 28, 2013
    One thing that I did take from this interview, and I find it very positive to say the least, is that Leica are not afraid to reject and push back on a design that is submitted.
    I like hearing that another company has said 'not good enough, improve this / that / the other before we will certify you' - irrespective of who that other company is.
    It's been suggested many times on these boards that the relationship between Panasonic and Leica was merely financial. Hopefully this interview will quash this belief once and for all.

    And totally agreed on the quality of Panasonic's existing glass line - they make some superb pieces of glass, even without an expensive logo out front!
  13. HappyFish

    HappyFish Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Sep 8, 2012
    I am that crowd that says !
    these are not real leica lens just license deal marketing thing :) 

    but forgot who was saying they dumped all there leica glass cause many others are just as good or nicer

    reality to me is I don't care so much as long as a lens is good its like Zeiss and CV are Japanese now ? thats fine I don't care again as long as they are good :) 
    and yeah props to Panny and Oly :) 
  14. Canonista

    Canonista Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Sep 3, 2011
    Thanks for the link Amin. It is a very interesting read. Since the Google translation left certain passages unclear, I did a quick and dirty summary translation as follows:

    Panasonic’s technical relationship with Leica dates back to 2000 with the development of a video lens, followed in 2001 with digital camera lenses.

    Naming convention:
    Lumix = Emphasis on compact size/weight & convenience
    Leica = Emphasis on IQ

    Currently, there are no Leica branded zoom lenses, but if there is a market for them, it is possible to design them, subject to their being heavier, bulkier.

    For a lens to achieve a Leica designation, the design parameters are extremely high. Where Panasonic lacked experience in designing a particular type of lens, the fact it could turn to Leica for advice has been a considerable benefit.

    Panasonic is responsible for the design and manufacture of Leica brand lenses, but it is all subject to approval of Leica before the lens can be commercialized.

    The proposed design is submitted to Leica, who then advises on changes. The process is repeated numerous times until Leica finally approves the design.

    The difference in lens performance and manufacturing tolerance is very clear as between the Lumix and Leica branded lenses. In addition to high MTF levels, coma aberration and distortion are held to a very strict standard at Leica. Once those standards have been cleared by Leica, Panasonic must then clear Leica’s very stringent manufacturing standards. Only after all of those hurdles have been cleared, will a lens be approved by Leica.

    Compared with the Lumix G series lenses, which are subject to some of the highest industry standards, Leica lenses are another rank above. It is not just about the resolving power, but the very high emphasis on photographic quality.

    By photographic quality, we refer to the quality of the bokeh, and the edge-to-edge sharpness. For example, bokeh is affected by different types of aberration, and Leica would suggest that by adjusting the aberration in a certain manner, a softer bokeh could be achieved. Through this type of input, the IQ of the lens is of course improved, and Panasonic builds on that know-how, so that it may later be used to improve the G series line of lenses.

    Leica engineers have enough experience to be able to discern from Panasonic’s design specifications what the resulting photographic quality of the lens would be like. They check everything from the shape of the aberration to the spot diagram. Leica has over 100 years of experience in camera development, and in designing lenses, they have the proper tools and indices with which they can evaluate and provide very precise comments.

    Panasonic has struggled to decide how to incorporate Leica’s philosophy and indices towards camera design, and more specifically, how to reflect that in our lens design. By filling the gap bit by bit between the Leica ideal, and Panasonic’s capabilities, Panasonic seeks to enhance the value of its products.
    • Like Like x 23
  15. Canonista

    Canonista Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Sep 3, 2011

    According to the interview article, the Nocticron lens is made exclusively at Panasonic's Fukushima (yes, in that region) plant.
  16. T N Args

    T N Args Agent Photocateur

    Dec 3, 2013
    Adelaide, Australia
    call me Arg
    Thanks to Canonista for the more sophisticated translation. I found it most helpful.
    • Like Like x 1
  17. b_rubenstein

    b_rubenstein Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 20, 2012
    Melbourne, FL
    It would be interesting to know what Leica is reviewing for design approval. It may very well not be a physical prototype lens. It may be detailed design and analysis documentation. For instance, all the MTF graphs that lens/camera manufactures publish are derived calculated and not measured data.
  18. Amin Sabet

    Amin Sabet Administrator

    Apr 10, 2009
    Boston, MA (USA)
    Indeed, thank you very much! I edited the first post to reflect your translation.
    • Like Like x 1
  19. agentlossing

    agentlossing Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Jun 26, 2013
    Andrew Lossing
    I think you're right. It's the glass more than anything else that keeps me with M4/3... even though I don't own a lot of native glass! It's just so darn good.
  20. madmaxmedia

    madmaxmedia Mu-43 Veteran

    Feb 20, 2010
    Thanks for the info, it is topically interesting for sure.

    As far as the actual lenses go, I'm not too concerned as it's not like Leica rubber stamps a whole range of merchandise (when is the special Ed Hardy edition Panasonic lenses coming out???) The PL 25 is a just a great lens, regardless of Leica name or not, Leica design or not, etc.

    The proof will always be in the pudding (well, in the pictures of the pudding...)
    • Like Like x 1
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