Leica certainly has their share of both rabid fans and harsh critics, but no matter what side of the fence you may fall on, there are two undeniable facts tied to the red dot. The first is that they are priced into the stratosphere. The second is that their lenses are almost universally the best in the world. To help illustrate why, Leica has put together a short video highlighting step-by-step what sets their glass apart from the rest of the pack.
Almost no one will deny that portion of that almost $5,000 for one of Leica's Summilux-M 35mm f/1.4 ASPH lenses (also available in silver) is a luxury tax, but when you put one in your hands and you start taking pictures, you know most of your hard-earned money has the finest engineering Germany has to offer to back it up. A few years ago the now-defunct website Humans Invent interviewed Stefan Daniel from Leica about the R&D and production of their lenses. When asked why it is so important that Leica hand-finshes lenses, he said:
First of all, we do our production in batches, not in serial production. So, we do batches of 50 or 100 lenses and that requires a lot of work by hand. You cannot automate production of a single lens element, or the lacquering of the rim of a lens for only 50 lenses.
It doesn’t make any sense. So we use hand work because it’s more efficient. Also, in doing it by hand, our skilled people know exactly what they’re doing and they can assure perfect quality. Doing it by machine, you have to do control checks afterwards and maybe that’s not getting the result that everybody wants.
The entire interview has been archived by La Vida Leica! and is definitely worth the read for some insight on how the "Rolls-Royce of cameras" thinks when building optical perfection. Even though almost all of their lenses are prime, manual focus only, and have absolutely no frills like vibration reduction, they still have over 100 parts. If the interview and video haven't satisfied your lust for Leica "lens porn," here's an extended video showing how Leica makes and assembles binoculars and rifle scopes: