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Fontenelle archives 87 . Leica KE-7A and matching ELCAN f/2 50MM


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On last January 10th, "vickko" launched a thread "Any KE-7A enthusiast out there?" which generated numerous comments, but no direct illustration was ever provided (even if some proposed links gave access to photos).

As I just scanned some photos of the civilian version of the KE-7A I had in my Fontenelle Collection, I propose same hereunder.

The illustrated version is serialled 1294910 and came with its matching ELCAN f/2 50MM lens nº 276-0017. But I also had the military version (photos not yet found, sorry) "SERIAL Nº 1294776, FSN 6720-1654-7115, CONT, F42600-71-C-2429, US" and its ELCAN nº 276-0226 with screwing-in hood engraved C42-LS.39F.

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Thanks for this - very interesting.

 

What was the reason to develop the Elcan when there was an excellent 50mm f2 available - the mighty Summicron?

 

Hi, Michael.

Here is the answer to your question as proposed by Dennis Laney :

"The performance of the 50mm f/2 Summicron exceeded the specification required by the contract (in the competitive tender by the US Army), so a simpler, less expensive lens was designed at Midland. This was a four-element lens, similar in optical construction to the Colorplan 90mm f/2.5 projection lens. Its performance was rated by Mandler between that of a 50mm Summitar and a Summicron". About this rating, see Viewfinder Vol. 12, 1979, nº 1, page3.

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"The performance of the 50mm f/2 Summicron exceeded the specification required by the contract (in the competitive tender by the US Army), so a simpler, less expensive lens was designed at Midland. This was a four-element lens, similar in optical construction to the Colorplan 90mm f/2.5 projection lens. Its performance was rated by Mandler between that of a 50mm Summitar and a Summicron". About this rating, see Viewfinder Vol. 12, 1979, nº 1, page3.

 

Many thanks - very interesting. I suppose cost of production was a factor - supplying over specification doesn't seem like a good reason to design a new lens.

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Many thanks - very interesting. I suppose cost of production was a factor - supplying over specification doesn't seem like a good reason to design a new lens.

 

AGREE, I know the Laney (and others) versions, but they don't give a source of this information!

The reason is for sure another.

 

Think: to make a new lens, only a batch, limited quantity (there is even a prototype, handmade in Germany, production is Canada, because Usarmy, at the time, couldn't buy out of continent) may cost less?

 

Moreover the camera was more expensive than plain M4: special black finishing, particular lubricants, tropicalization, exceptional outer box, special cap for the lens, even special hood...and so.

 

Even if it were...(but IMHO it was not)

 

For the biggest army in the world, with almost illimited funding, they look in order to spare few bucks buying a lot of cameras? All in all the cost of a bomb?

I'm skeptical.

 

cheers.

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AGREE, I know the Laney (and others) versions, but they don't give a source of this information!

The reason is for sure another.

 

Think: to make a new lens, only a batch, limited quantity (there is even a prototype, handmade in Germany, production is Canada, because Usarmy, at the time, couldn't buy out of continent) may cost less?

 

Moreover the camera was more expensive than plain M4: special black finishing, particular lubricants, tropicalization, exceptional outer box, special cap for the lens, even special hood...and so.

 

Even if it were...(but IMHO it was not)

 

For the biggest army in the world, with almost illimited funding, they look in order to spare few bucks buying a lot of cameras? All in all the cost of a bomb?

I'm skeptical.

 

cheers.

 

It is true that Laney does not quote a reference, but I can confirm that as soon as 1979, when I acquired my first KE-7A, the story was already exactly the same and accepted by all LHSA members.

Moreover, your further comments are wrong :

- there was no "prototype hand made in Germany", since the lens was "adapted" in Midland from an existing Colorplan design;

- the extra cost of the body has nothing to do with the cost of the lens;

- the means of the USArmy and its "unlimited funding" have nothing to do with the costs for Leitz, and you seem to ignore how a competitive tender works, even for a very rich official service.

Now, you are perfectly free to be skeptical...it's a way of thinking for many people. For some, it is a base for investigation and submission of corrective FACTS.

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It is true that Laney does not quote a reference, but I can confirm that as soon as 1979, when I acquired my first KE-7A, the story was already exactly the same and accepted by all LHSA members.

Moreover, your further comments are wrong :

- there was no "prototype hand made in Germany", since the lens was "adapted" in Midland from an existing Colorplan design;

- the extra cost of the body has nothing to do with the cost of the lens;

- the means of the USArmy and its "unlimited funding" have nothing to do with the costs for Leitz, and you seem to ignore how a competitive tender works, even for a very rich official service.

Now, you are perfectly free to be skeptical...it's a way of thinking for many people. For some, it is a base for investigation and submission of corrective FACTS.

 

-The handmade prototype is published on Lager vol.2 book "Lenses", totally different from the production lens (between others is collapsible), also "made in germany" engraved on the barrel, C276 - n.0001168 on front ring.

 

- The extra cost was not only for the body, but even for special accessories like the cap for the lens , hood etc.

 

-Consider even the extra cost for the packaging, as you know for sure, camera had a huge wooden box, then box with extra insulation, sealed paper bag, etc.

 

- It's very hard to believe that a lens made in a unique batch has a lower price than a 5cm. elmar made in thousands and thousands, and that Us-army want to spare only with the most important part, the lens.

Better, I add my experience back in '80.

To a my request to Leitz Canada if it would be possible to have this lens produced again, they told me that the price would be too high and without benefit for common user in comparison of a common lens .

 

- It's not a genuine Colorplan scheme (5lenses) it's a 4 lenses scheme, air spaced, but having very high quality glass, really expensive.

They are:

1-lens Lak9, 2-lens exclusive Leitz glass 672460, 3-lens SF63, 4-lens LaFN7 (project n.276 Edwards, Mandler e Wagner).

 

First and last lens Lantanium based, second lens exclusive Leitz project, third high refractive glass, cheap ones are not here!

 

All in all, absolutely no evidence of a cheap production, even if the myths and rumors survive because repeated again and again.

 

There is more to say, in my opinion, regarding a little, greatly underestimated, particular.

The lens have only air spaced elements: so, suitable for extreme use, we have not cemented glass, less problem making heavy work (in a high temperature range- nearby explosions).

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-The handmade prototype is published on Lager vol.2 book "Lenses", totally different from the production lens (between others is collapsible), also "made in germany" engraved on the barrel, C276 - n.0001168 on front ring.

 

- The extra cost was not only for the body, but even for special accessories like the cap for the lens , hood etc.

 

-Consider even the extra cost for the packaging, as you know for sure, camera had a huge wooden box, then box with extra insulation, sealed paper bag, etc.

 

- It's very hard to believe that a lens made in a unique batch has a lower price than a 5cm. elmar made in thousands and thousands, and that Us-army want to spare only with the most important part, the lens.

Better, I add my experience back in '80.

To a my request to Leitz Canada if it would be possible to have this lens produced again, they told me that the price would be too high and without benefit for common user in comparison of a common lens .

 

- It's not a genuine Colorplan scheme (5lenses) it's a 4 lenses scheme, air spaced, but having very high quality glass, really expensive.

They are:

1-lens Lak9, 2-lens exclusive Leitz glass 672460, 3-lens SF63, 4-lens LaFN7 (project n.276 Edwards, Mandler e Wagner).

 

First and last lens Lantanium based, second lens exclusive Leitz project, third high refractive glass, cheap ones are not here!

 

All in all, absolutely no evidence of a cheap production, even if the myths and rumors survive because repeated again and again.

 

There is more to say, in my opinion, regarding a little, greatly underestimated, particular.

The lens have only air spaced elements: so, suitable for extreme use, we have not cemented glass, less problem making heavy work (in a high temperature range- nearby explosions).

 

Sorry, but I do not see the points.

Why are you mentioning the Elmar lens , when the USArmy tender specified f/2? And again, why to speak about packaging cost since it was also part of the tender terms? You know what is a tender? and finally, I thought we were speaking of ELCAN lenses, then why to quote the Wetzlar collapsible C276 prototype illustrated by Lager?
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Sorry, but I do not see the points. Why are you mentioning the Elmar lens , when the USArmy tender specified f/2? And again, why to speak about packaging cost since it was also part of the tender terms? You know what is a tender? and finally, I thought we were speaking of ELCAN lenses, then why to quote the Wetzlar collapsible C276 prototype illustrated by Lager?

 

Sure, we are speaking about the 50mm. ELCAN lens.

For this reason we can not ignore the only known prototype of this lens that is part of the full story (and of the business).

The lens is, as you know, the C276 0001168 lens made in Germany under ELCAN specifications

(there are a lot of reason for it, too much long to tell, we go too far, we should speak of the relationship between ELCAN and Leitz regarding military supplies and not only, etc.).

 

However if one asks to Leitz to realize a lens (military or not) with particular features (what are they?) , and they decide to make a totally new one, this means:

after the calculation and design they make a prototype which then further you can modify before approving production (as in this case with the barrel), then at the end we have a unique limited run.

The price is for sure more than a lens that they still have in production.

 

I was referring to elmar as a random example because cheap, with not expensive glass, four elements (like ELCAN), it would be an easy task for Leitz even to improve the scheme without to calculate a new lens with sophisticated glass ( for ex.the story of the- aborted- 40mm. Elmarit f2,8 & 40mm. Summicron f2 shows, between others, that it can even made in short ) and a stop more, f2.

Moreover the lens had a unique different barrel (in comparison with normal production) cap and hood, all only for this batch, no economies of scale.

 

Again: there are not cheap lenses in the ELCAN production for the Leica camera line (no need to remember the 90/1, 66, 180...) and I don’t see nothing cheap even in this 50mm ELCAN story.

 

Frankly I do not understand how they can rise to speculation without producing evidence (I am not referring to you, of course).

However, if someone can prove otherwise, is welcome.

 

I know how tender terms works, and I know how Leitz thinks.

 

Leitz would never have risked his reputation by providing something “cheap”, to earn a little marginal profit (if any) so we can finally imagine that If they had to respect a maximum figure (but we don’t know how much it was) did everything they could to earn as little as possible by providing an expensive unique product even with, between others, one expensive SF63 high refractive glass (not present in elmar or summicron) instead of plain regular production-easy to make lens, which can also be, knowing Leitz...

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  • 7 years later...

Is there anyone know what is the serial number for the last Leica KE-7A both civilian and military version?

 

Edited : I found it, 1293771 - 1293775 and 1294501 - 1295000 so I assume the first one 1293771 until 1294955 are military version. Serial No : 1294956 - 1295000 are civilian version.

 

Please CMIIW!

Edited by Arai
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I had always understood the reason for the cement-less design of the Elcan lens was to increase its resistance to thermal shock, moving from wildly differing temperatures. For example if used outside in the arctic, then being moved into a heated room or aircraft or the reverse. This would have been important as around the time of its design, Leica was moving from the organic Canada Balsam cement to the far more rigid UV activated Epoxy cement. This would have been less able to resist thermal shock without damage to the cemented elements than the more flexible natural balsam. 

 

Wilson

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I should be ashamed because I had serial #7 and sold it for a fortune to a chap in Florida. Complete kit with perfectly operating shutter. The outcome for me was buying three Leicas including a pristine black enamel M4 and black M2. Oh, and two payments against my mortgage.

Edited by pico
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I should be ashamed because I had serial #7 and sold it for a fortune to a chap in Florida. Complete kit with perfectly operating shutter. The outcome for me was buying three Leicas including a pristine black enamel M4 and black M2. Oh, and two payments against my mortgage.

Now I’m lucky enough to own the one of the last 5 KE-7A.. , but I’m curious, should the seal at the 5th screw is C seal or L seal?

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Is there anyone know what is the serial number for the last Leica KE-7A both civilian and military version?

 

Edited : I found it, 1293771 - 1293775 and 1294501 - 1295000 so I assume the first one 1293771 until 1294955 are military version. Serial No : 1294956 - 1295000 are civilian version.

 

Arai

 

I have 1294953 and its a civilian version. By the way hello to the group I’m a new member and this is my first post. Greetings

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Now I’m lucky enough to own the one of the last 5 KE-7A.. , but I’m curious, should the seal at the 5th screw is C seal or L seal?

As the KE-7A was made at the Leitz Canada plant in Midland (Ontario), the seal should be a 'C'.

 

As a side note - the 'C' seal was also used by the service dept. of Walter A. Carveth, who were the Leica agents in Canada when the KE-7A was produced.

 

Cheers,

 

Jan

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Is there anyone know what is the serial number for the last Leica KE-7A both civilian and military version?

Edited : I found it, 1293771 - 1293775 and 1294501 - 1295000 so I assume the first one 1293771 until 1294955 are military version. Serial No : 1294956 - 1295000 are civilian version.

Arai

I have 1294953 and its a civilian version. By the way hello to the group I’m a new member and this is my first post. Greetings

Hello Mauricio,

Interesting, so maybe we were wrong, there are more civilian ver other than recorded..

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