Why am I wandering in Wetzlar, sneaking around Solms? I’ve been invited to spend a couple of days visiting Leica to learn more about the company, and especially the imminent, new Cine Lenses distributed by Band Pro. (above: the team working on the Cine Lenses. Anyone waiting for the first batch: rest assured, we did not stop the production line. This picture was taken during the mid-morning break.)
Leica Camera began 161 years ago as the “Optical Institute Wetzlar,” founded by Carl Kellner. In 1865, Ernst Leitz became a partner in the company.
In 1954, the legendary Leica M3 was introduced, with its quick-change bayonet mount.
The Leicaflex was introduced in 1965: the first Leica SLR. In 1966, Leica came out with the Noctilux 50mm f/1.2. It was the first lens with a production aspherical lens element. This is important, because it helps explain the use of aspherical elements in the new Cine Lenses, and why Leica has the grinding and polishing tools to achieve this.
The Leica M8 – the first digital M – came out in 2006, followed by the Leica S-System (larger format) in 2008. The next year, 2009, was very busy. 10 new products were introduced, including the M9 (the world’s first digital rangefinder camera with a full-format 24×36mm sensor) and the X1, a high-aperture compact digital camera with APS-C sensor.
The Cine Lens project is the first time in Leica’s long history that motion picture lenses are being made. We reported about that in our last issue. Some readers wrote in asking whether these were really Leica products, and the answer is yes. The aspherical lens elements are polished on computer-controlled machines to tolerances that I believe are better than 1 micron, and mechanical parts are machined to tolerances better than 10 microns. That’s impressive, when you consider that the size of one photosite on a digital sensor is around 10 microns. We’ll have a full report, with lots of pictures, in our IBC/Cinec issue.