If you paid good money for a lens made by big brand, would you feel cheated if it turns out that it was actually made by somebody else? It's an interesting question – and one that has been brought to the fore by speculation that Leica once again outsourced the design of its lenses.
According to a new report, the Leica DG Vario-Summilux 10-25mm f/1.7 (opens in new tab) and Leica DG DG Vario-Summilux 25-50mm f/1.7 (opens in new tab) Micro Four Thirds lenses are not, in fact, designed by Leica, but rather by Konica Minolta.
So, if you bought a pricey Leica lens, would you a) expect it to be designed by Leica, and b) would you be upset if it turns out that it was made by someone else – especially an extinct camera brand that died a dinosaur-like death years ago?
Now, things are slightly muddier when it comes to Leica-branded Micro Four Thirds lenses (opens in new tab). Given Leica's ties with Panasonic, it is widely accepted that these optics are actually designed by Panasonic – hence them being nicknamed "Panaleica" lenses among the photo community, to distinguish them from 'real' Leica-designed glass.
For reference, Leica has a history of rebadging Panasonic products, such as the Leica V-Lux 5 (opens in new tab) (a Panasonic FZ1000 (opens in new tab) with a red dot on the front), Leica D-Lux 7 (opens in new tab) (a Panasonic LX100 II (opens in new tab) in a new body), and arguably the Leica SL2 (opens in new tab) (whose specs and performance are uncannily similar to the Panasonic S1R (opens in new tab)).
So, many already assumed that these Leica lenses were designed by somebody else. But the suggestion by 43 Rumors (opens in new tab) that this somebody else is actually Konica Minolta, rather than Panasonic, feels even more obfuscatory.
Again, this isn't the first time that Leica has been accused of putting its name on lenses that somebody else designed. It was claimed that the L-mount Leica Vario-Elmarit-SL 24–70mm f/2.8 ASPH (opens in new tab) is actually a rebodied version of the Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 AF DG DN (opens in new tab). And this practice may have been going on for some time, as it was also said (opens in new tab) that the Leica Vario-Elmar 28-70/3,5-4,5 lens from the Nineties was a repurposed Sigma lens.
This practice certainly feels… less than transparent. Ultimately, if a lens delivers the goods optically, it doesn't matter who designed it. We can't help wondering, though, how much outrage there would be if it was discovered that Canon wasn't designing its own lenses. After all, what's the point in buying into a system if you don't know what you're actually getting? Especially a premium brand with a premium price tag.