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Leica Lens Availability— Supply Likely To Tighten Even More

Leica 50mm f/1.4 Summilux-M ASPH
The world’s best 50mm lens

With more and more ALLVIEW cameras able to take Leica M lenses (Sony NEX, Fuji X-Pro1, RED video, etc), demand that is already sizzling hot is likely to go ballistic, e.g. the Leica *mm f/* Unobtanium-M ASPH lens line.

Even though Leica raised prices on the M lens line by about 7% for 2012 (multiple years running now), this will cause no slackening of demand in a market whose customers can afford it. And the video guys... well they order lens kits, and that’s why 90% of Zeiss ZE and ZF.2 sales now are for video use.

Wait times for some coveted lenses like the Noctilux can be 2 years or more. Wait times for the Summilux 50/1.4 can be around a year (what I was told last July).

In short, if you’re an M shooter lusting after a new M lens, I strongly advise you to find one now (use my link there to monitor in-stock status at B&H Photo), and get on a waiting list. Especially for the f/1.4 lenses, which never show up as in stock.

What are some outstanding Leica M lenses that are in a slightly less demand than others? I’ve seen these show up in stock very briefly at B&H within the past few months:

  • Leica 18mm f/3.8 Super-Elmar-M ASPH
  • Leica 24mm f/3.8 Elmar-M ASPH
  • Leica 28mm f/2.8 Elmarit-M ASPH
  • Leica 35mm f/2 Summicron-M ASPH
  • Leica 50mm f/2 Summicron-M
  • The 35/50/70/90mm f/2.5 Summarit-M line.

The Carl Zeiss ZM lenses for Leica M are also relatively scarce, but generally only backordered by a few months. Ditto for Voigtlander M lenses.

As an apropos point— today I saw the Leica 21/3.4 Super-Elmar-M ASPH and the Leica 35mm f/2.5 Summarit-M briefly appear in stock, then disappear as they were snapped up. Bookmark my in-stock status page for Leica (blue prices are in stock).

Reader comments

Fred M writes

Just read your latest blog entry on Leica lens scarcity. I am also noting a general scarcity of M mount lenses from Zeiss and CV as well.

I have no special knowledge or insider information on what is driving lens scarcity but I'm just a little skeptical that the NEX cameras, m4/3's and the upcoming Fuji X1Pro are driving this scarcity.

I have two hunches.

The first is that many long time RF users were finally lured into the digital RF arena by the M9. Personally, I sat out the M8 even while my M6 saw very little use, I wanted full frame. By happenstance, I had purchased a Panasonic GF1 lured by the excellent and well reviewed Panasonic 20/f1.7. Almost as an afterthought I ordered a Novoflex adapter so I could use my 20 year old 35 and 50 Summicrons as short telephotos on the Panasonic. Didn't take me long to realize why I had never been able to part with these lovely little lenses nor my M6 for that matter. I quickly placed an order for an M9. Not long after that I bought a new 28 Elmarit and I currently have an order in for a 21 Elmarit.

Would I have gone out and spent $5000 for an 35 and 50 Summicron for my Panasonic or even the well regarded Nex7? No way, not a chance. Would I then have gone out and spent another $5000+ for a 28 and a 21, even for the technically superior (to the GF1) Nex7? Even less of a chance.

Am I surprised that as the demand for M9's has been sated that the demand for new lenses has increased. Nope. The M9, far more than the film cameras before it can actually exploit the technical excellence offered by modern lenses, and owners like me can see that and have been willing to part with the money for that.

My second hunch is that the Leica is seen as a luxury good throughout the world and in parts of the world with "new money", e.g., Russia and China, the Leica's are being snapped up as status symbols as well. Ever seen a $10,000 handbag? Well, the families that are buying that and exquisite Swiss watches that are the timekeeping equivalent of my Timex Ironman are the same families snapping up M9's and a passel of Summiluxes….

DIGLLOYD: [ NEX-7 is used in what follows as a proxy for all ALLVIEW cameras.]
I don’t think that the consumer cameras like the NEX-7 are by themselves are driving the scarcity, after all the NEX-7 is hardly out, and the X-Pro1 isn’t out. But I am aware of NEX owners buying Leica M glass, and when the supply is very limited, any incremental demand has an impact.

But here is a fair point: existing Leica M camera body owners now have an incentive to continue to invest in additional Leica M glass (and not sell existing lenses), knowing they are not bound to a Leica camera body any longer. And my samples with the 50/1.4 Summilux show just how good the image quality can be— stunning. So by no means do I think that the average NEX-7 user is out there considering Leica M lenses, rather I think that there are M users looking at ALLVIEW cameras.

Video users have very large budgets, and the latest RED cameras apparently support M lenses, and that demand could be huge.

Let us also remember that the NEX-7 is one of a long line of future ALLVIEW cameras of many brands. The SMART move is to invest in 'glass', then regularly transition to whatever current camera fits that glass.

So I don't think the lens cost is unreasonable when one thinks in terms of many years of use, with increasingly capable cameras. And when the Leica M lenses have deep reserves of performance for any conceivable resolution for the next 5 years, at least. The fly in the ointment is ray angle for wide angle M-mount lenses.

I agree that once one owns an M9 with its full-frame sensor capable of matching or exceeding any of today’s DSLRs(Jan 2012) in real resolution (think no AA filter + Leica M glass!), the lust for more M lenses is stoked. It has been for me, certainly.

I am disappointed to agree that the “status symbol” demand is likely very significant, but I don’t know this for a fact. I’ve always had a distaste for collectors who buy up interesting lenses, then put them onto a shelf (the Nikon 28mm f/1.4 aspheric and 50/1.2 NOCT also come to mind).

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