Is Leica's Brand New Lens Actually Made by Sigma?

Is Leica's Brand New Lens Actually Made by Sigma?

When Leica announced its brand new Vario-Elmarit-SL 24-70mm f/2.8 ASPH last week, it was interesting to note how similar it is to the 24-70mm f/2.8 DG DN Art released by Sigma last year. Has Sigma built this lens in Japan so that Leica can stick a red dot on it?

The similarities are striking. Both have 19 elements in 15 groups with 11 rounded aperture blades — nothing surprising there. Looking a little closer, the minimum focusing distance is all but identical: 7.1” (18cm) on the Sigma, and 7.09 “ (also 18cm, apparently) on the Leica. The size is also very close: 3.5 x4.8 “ (88 x 123 mm) for the Leica, and 3.46 x 4.84 “ (87.8 x 122.9 mm) for the Sigma. Both have a magnification ratio at 24mm of 1:2.9.

Leica Rumors has been on the hunt, with one of its forum members pointing out the similarities between the optical design of the two lenses. If you lift the diagrams from each website (Sigma, Leica) side by side, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the lenses are identical:

Screenshot from Leica website.

Screenshot from Sigma website.

Leica Rumors also spotted a response in the questions section of the product listing on B&H Photo. When asked if the lens is made in Germany, this was the response:

Screenshot from B&H Photo website

Notably, all other SL lenses are made in Germany, as emphasized on the Leica website:

Screenshot from Leica website.

Leica customers might ask what extra features they can expect to see if they choose to spend $2,795 on the Leica lens rather than $1,059 on the Sigma lens.

Which one would you buy? Let us know in the comments below.

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Andy Day is a British photographer and writer living in France. He began photographing parkour in 2003 and has been doing weird things in the city and elsewhere ever since. He's addicted to climbing and owns a fairly useless dog. He has an MA in Sociology & Photography which often makes him ponder what all of this really means.

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I'm hard pressed to see a design difference, although there may be other ergonomic differences that may justify someone buying one or the other. But this rebranding under the red dot of Japanese-manufactured lenses is really nothing new, even if the prices that Leica tags to their variant are a bit insane. I'm not sure that there is a dramatic difference between Japan and Germany, as to which technicians were assembling the parts. Design is more important when it comes to these two countries, but both are at the top of the photographic world. The difference, and like every other luxury brand, boils down to how bad do you want that logo on your gear, and perhaps which one looks/feels better in use. Oh, and obviously, how much cash you have in the bank.

Pretty sure that Cosina made a zoom for the Leica R system back in the 1980s, so there’s precedent.

"pay for brand" =)

From an optical point of view they are exactly the same. But that is not a bad thing imo.
I mean..first it means the Sigma is at Leica goodness level, second this allow Leica to sell a lens at a way lower price than usual.
And since nobody is forced to buy a Leica (to use on an SL) one can choose to pay an extra to have the brand, maybe a little better construction and warranty, or save quite a bit of money and still have the some optical quality.
It's a win-win if you ask me.

Many of the Leica TL/CL lenses have 'Made in Japan' stamped on the back. These are genuinely some of the sharpest lenses I have ever used so, to me, being 'produced to Leica's ultra precise parameters' is of more significance than '(maybe) made by XYZ Co.'

I have 2 "Leica" m43s lenses that are at best, 0.2% better than my Lumix lenses. I don't think I'll ever buy one again.

Plot twist, Leica has been making Sigma lenses for decades as a way to fund their overpriced nonsense

Minolta made Leica lenses for the CL and the R system.

The CL and the R were joint ventures and as such they shared components and some design elements for some beautifully made and innovative camera's and lenses .The Minolta lens coatings were very good but not the same as the Leica , not better just different !
.Remember that just about every manufacturer has or will at some time do a joint venture as technology is not exclusive and no company specializes in everything , just look inside any piece of electronics .The attitude that the brand name is all bad or all good is so silly and you see it with gross generalizations for so many fans of brands .

Two lenses may be identical in every technical aspect, but we know the most important factor in photography is the photographer. If the photographer believes that his/her Leica branded lens is uniquely better, he/she may be influenced by the very belief or by the state of mind, and actually make a image that is different than if he/she were holding a Sigma. This may be the "Leica magic". Placebo effect is real.

This is a good point. Working with beautifully engineered equipment and having confidence that it is as good as it gets, inspires confidence in the whole process. And can show in the work.

When a manufacturer makes products , in this case Sigma there will be some variables such as cost of manufacture vs selling price .A Sigma lens is not necessarily a Leica lens on the basis of the time spent getting the components that make up a lens to Leica spec .Leica generally would have variations such as the coating and the overall lens barrel finish and even metals used etc that may differ from the Sigma Art .This is not to say one is better -- just different .If the Leica version is also going to be a lower volume item I would expect it to cost more - also .