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Leica Lens versus Zeiss Lens - Mechanical Build Quality & Durability?

Andre Noble , Feb 15, 2009; 11:48 p.m.


If one can generalize the mechanical build quality of a manufacture's entire lens line - how would those who have used both Leica and Zeiss (Leica M mount type) lenses compare the robustness of the mechanical build between the two?
I already assume based on hours on web research optical quality of Leica lenses and Zeiss lenses is 'fairly' comparable.
As an aside: Some of the best mechanically built lenses I ever handled/owned were the Bronica PS series lenses for their SQ series 6x6 - but boy did they suck optically!


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Ken Hagler , Feb 16, 2009; 01:16 a.m.

I've got two of each: Leica 50mm Sumicron, 75mm Sumilux, Zeiss 50mm Sonnar, and 35mm Biogon. There's no difference in build quality between them--about the biggest distinguishing features in terms of build quality are that the Zeiss lenses have better lens hoods but worse lens caps, which is really a rather trivial distinction.

Darius Jedburg , Feb 16, 2009; 01:36 a.m.

That's not my experience. The Leica lens are built to a far higher standard than the Cosina Zeiss lenses. I have a 50mm Planar, and it is very nice, but actually most of the ones I have seen have stiff focus and feel a lot less solid than comparable Leica Summicrons. I like the chrome, but the black finish on the Zeiss lenses looks very cheap, and is nowhere as nice as the black chrome on the Leica lenses.

Adrian Nasti , Feb 16, 2009; 03:12 a.m.

I own the Planar 50/2 as well and although an optically superb lens, the build quality is not quite on par with my Leica lenses. The focus travel isnt as smooth, and I tend to notice more resistance when I take vertical shots with my M6. I cant fault the optics of the Planar, however....

Steve Bellayr , Feb 16, 2009; 12:36 p.m.

I have not noticed any difference in construction at this point.

Hiromu Kurosaki , Feb 16, 2009; 02:50 p.m.

Both brands are built very well. But if I have to pick one, then it would be Leica, which has better built. But then, it's comparing 100% and 105%, so you may feel differently.
One thing I like about Zeiss is that the aperture ring has 1/3 stop instead of 1/2 stop of Leica. I like the lens cap of Leica better than Zeiss. I like focusing "ring" better than focusing "tub".
Anyway, this is just how I feel about those lens built quality, and optical quality is totally different story so is the pricing...

Frederick Muller , Feb 16, 2009; 04:52 p.m.

You can't fault the build quality of Leica lenses, but there are degrees of it. The best build quality is in their older chrome lenses. The dual range summicron is probably the best built Leica lens I own. Next up are the late-model silver and titanium lenses. The titanium lenses weigh a ton, but they are built like tanks, even better than some of the silver lenses. Finally, the black lenses are nice, but are much lighter.
I do like the build quality of the silver Zeiss lenses. The aperture click stops are nice, and the aperture and focus rings smooth and well damped. However, they are lighter than silver Leica lenses, and one gets the feeling they are not as rugged. It's a subjective impression, but they are probably somewhere in between silver Leica lenses and black Leica lenses in build quality.

Andre Noble , Feb 16, 2009; 10:08 p.m.

Is that really possible that the finish (black vs chrome) would affect the mechanical build quality - or are you also factoring in the durability of the finish itself?

Peter N , Feb 16, 2009; 10:38 p.m.

However, they are lighter than silver Leica lenses, and one gets the feeling they are not as rugged.

The silver chrome Leica lenses have brass barrels and rings, I would guess that the silver finish on the Zeiss ZM lenses is anodized onto an alloy, like the black Leica lenses. That would also account for the difference in weight.

Frederick Muller , Feb 17, 2009; 03:47 p.m.

I don't factor paint finish into build quality, though some might. To me build quality is about the ruggedness of the barrel and mount, the smoothness of the aperture and focus rings, and how well the whole assembly holds together.

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