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Japanese R lenses — any good?

Wondering if your Minolta-designed Leica R lenses are inferior to the German articles?…

Which lenses?

In January 2006, Douglas Herr noted the following:

>  I'd heard that Minolta helps to design
> and even make Leica R lenses. Is it true?
> Which models are they?
Mostly older/discontinued lenses:
16mm fisheye (Leica still has these in stock AFAIK)
24mm Elmarit-R (early version made by Minolta, current version made by Leica from Minolta design)
35-70 f/3.5 (discontinued, early version made by Minolta, late version assembled by Leica with Minolta optical cell)
80-200 f/4.5 (discontinued)
75-200 f/4.5 (discontinued)
70-210 f/4 (discontinued)
500mm Mirror lens (discontinued)

Are they any good?

On a mailing list in July 2001 Sal DiMarco Jnr noted the following:

As I understood the process, Minolta, made the 16mm, 24mm and the various versions of the 80-200mm zoom for Leitz starting in 1974. Optically, they are Minolta design and manufacturer.
However, when the lenses were delivered to Leitz Wetzlar, they were put through the Leitz quality control process and heavily rebuilt in Wetzlar.
First they were optically checked, the rejection rate was 85%. Yes, that's right 85%!
After that, the lenses were re-built to Leitz specifications. So much work was done of the 24mm lens, it was legal to mark the lens "Made in Germany."
Personally, I own the 16mm Fish-Eye Elmarit-R and the very first version 80-200mm ƒ4.5 Vario-Elmar-R and can say they are both excellent lenses. I've seen a six foot enlargement of one of my photos (a portrait of former President Jimmy Carter) and it is to die for.
Lastly, many years ago, while on a factory visit I spotted a pallet of Minolta lenses,(the boxes had stickers says Leicaflex mount) and was told they were being returned Minolta.

So, forget the stigma. The non-German lenses may have been made and designed somewhere else, but they still had to pass Leica specs, which in the 1970s were particularly fierce.

I use the Minolta-designed and manufactured 16mm Fisheye Elmarit-R lens for shooting QuickTime VR™ scenes (hell, it is my main money-earning lens!). I can personally attest that it is still amongst the best fisheye lens designs in the world (provided you stick to ƒ5.6-ƒ11!).

To read a review of the Leica 16mm by Yours Truly, see < leica/16r28.html>.

A note about possible broken links

This FAQ has over 900 external links. Over time it is inevitable some of them will break. If you are bothered by this, see this detailed topic elsewhere in the FAQ.

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