Jump to content

What's the true story surrounding the birth of Red Scale Elmars?


Recommended Posts

Advertisement (gone after registration)

Hello,

Recently I decided to buy an Elmar and (because of its size) make it my everyday lens, mostly for b&w film with the lens stopped down.  I was about to get any old, black scale one, as I won't use it wide open, but I was kindly warned on types of haze that can't be cleaned, so I started looking for a more recent version, a screwmount red scale one with tab for aperture instead of ring (really collapsible for carrying), and finally I found a totally clean one I ordered from the Leica Store in San Francisco: I din't let it go also because it's number 1010xxx, so, from 1952, my mother's year of birth... It´s really totally clean: maybe the change of mount soon to come, and the new fast lenses offered, made the owner keep this one untouched and well stored...

After reading all I've been able to about RS Elmars, I'd appreciate some clarification (and corrections, please) on early 50's RS Elmars... Thanks.

I've read Leitz factory recalculated the lens' formula (was that with help from Midland and early computers?) in 1951, and from that year they made the first screwmount RS Elmars with a diamond shape scale mark, possibly until 1953, when the mark was changed to a triangle. (My lens has the diamond shape). 

Coating old lenses was common in the factory back then, and I've heard there were some unnumbered RS Elmars that used old glass just coated, but yet with the first formula... It's often said that "true" RS Elmars (recomputed formula) are a few milimeters longer and have the triangle mark always...

So, here are my questions:

Are all diamond Red Scale Elmars, old elmars with the first formula just coated?

Why would Leitz do that, when they had been selling coated elmars, common black scale ones, for years?

Why not use the same black scale they had been using?  Commercial cheating? I doubt it...  

A different type of glass but yet with the first formula?  

Are all diamond ones, adapted elmars, or are some diamond ones true red scale elmars?

What change in the optics made Leitz offer the diamond RS ones as the new elmars in 1951 and 1952, before the triangle ones were produced?

Thanks in advance...

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • Replies 102
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

Top Posters In This Topic

Popular Posts

3 is 48.6mm and 1 is 49.6mm according to a table which I have:   The full table is below:   0 - 50.5mm 1- 49.6mm 3 - 48.6mm 4 - 50.7mm 5 - 51mm 6 - 51.3mm 7 - 51.6mm 8 - 51.9mm   I imagine the word 'nearest to' could be added here. Leica was, in my view, on a journey from a craft business to a mass manufacturer of camera lenses. The company hardly decided that on this day/week/month we will manufacture Elmars at, say, a focal length of 51mm. If JC or anyone has information from VIDO

whoa- 6 pages for the Red Scale Elmar! I can't add much- excpet to say I found this red scale Elmar at the bottom of a box at a fleamarket- I paid $5 AUD for it- my greatest ever leica Coup:   Hello guest! Please register or sign in to view the hidden content. Hallo Gast! Du willst die Bilder sehen? Einfach registrieren oder anmelden!    

Hi, After four pages of kind information from forum members, I’d like to offer future readers the  complete short answer I was looking for:  one that’s good just for uninformed forum members: I’m no expert and I’m just trying to practice my English and share information, so this is my view, and perhaps a romantic one, not an absolute…  Thanks everyone !!! After producing for twenty-five years the lens that made the Leica name famous worldwide, the 50mm f/3.5 collapsible Elmar lens was recomput

Posted Images

The Red Scale lens from SN 905000 onwards (1951) have a recomputed optical formula using different glasses. These glasses are recognised by a noticeably flatter curvature of the front lens.Your RS Elmar fits within the range of SNs for the lens. Earlier Elmars had coating for some years and this practice was continued for the RS. From about 1953 the diamond mark on the lens was replaced by a triangle. There has been some discussion about an intermediate design, but I have seen no definitive evidence to that effect. Others may wish to contribute on this aspect. I have more than 15  5cm /50 mm Elmars and while my Red Scale example is good, it is not dramatically better than the other examples which I have, dating back to 1926. Some say that there is no difference in the output from red and black scale versions. There was some degree of difference in the length of different Elmar examples from the beginning. I have measured quite a few of them. The average barrel on RS Elmars is only slightly longer than those of earlier models, about 0.5 mm according to the data I have. There is, however, a design change in that the distance and depth of field scales have changed places on the RS models.

 

I hope this information is of use to you. It is possible to read too much into design variations which are far more common with the 5cm/50mm Elmar lens than most people realise. Van Hasbroeck lists 22 variants, but I believe there are more.

 

William

Edited by willeica
Link to post
Share on other sites

The 2.8 Elmar was added when the IIIg was released, initially only available in LTM, but soon after in M mount. The original 2.8 Elmar on a borrowed M2 was what sold me on Leica, but after I bought my new M4 I succumbed to a Summicron for 50 instead, in spite of the $88 price for a new 2.8 Elmar. I now have 50 mm Elmar from 1941 and a few from the 1950s including red & black scale and M mount 3.5 and 2.8. I find all have lovely performance, with differences less than my variation in focus and steadiness.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks everyone...

I'm talking exclusively about what hapenned between 1951 and 1953 (before M mount), so I mean screwmount lenses only, and just including the first two versions ever of the red scale elmar 50 3.5, both LTM: diamond ones (starting in 1951) and triangle ones (starting in 1953): I understand for the first three years all those elmars were diamond ones... It would seem Leitz offered them, for a considerable amount of time, as the new elmar, after the 1951 recomputing...

I think I'll number my questions so they can be answered more easily...

1) What was new with those diamond ones, compared to the previous black scale coated ones? Some people say diamond ones had new glass with a recomputed formula; some say a new type of glass only; some say some of those lenses (when not numbered) were adapted old glass, just coated and put inside new red scale housings; some say all diamond ones are adapted old glass, but in that case I ask:

2) Did Leitz sell, for three years, old glass with the old formula, as something new?

3) Is someone 100% positive about a diamond red scale elmar having the recalculated formula, and perhaps the flatter front element when compared to black scale ones, or is that the case with triangle ones only?

4) Finally, what new optical fact made Leitz change from diamond to triangle?

Thanks a lot...

Edited by Juan Valdenebro
Link to post
Share on other sites

Juan, of course the history of Elmar is complex, and, above all, one must always remember that for high volume items like the Elmar is, the '50s were also complex years to track if one whishes to sete exactly what and when and from which s/n was modified : sales were ramping up after the first difficult years of post-WWII era, staff was growing, manufacturing operation had to be re-organized, changes from R&D (like the new schema of Elmar) had to be implemented into a production line that was working full capacity...

So, surely "mixed" situation could occur.. like "old" optical cells inserted into "new" mounts and similar... examples do abound in Leica history (for mass items, surely the lens cell assembly was ONE department, the mount machining/manufacturing another, the final assembly another one, I guess) ; another factor not to forget... Leitz took care a lot about maintainability of his products... and for high volume products this mean to manage spares... which can have a timing of their own depending on feedbacks/need for items in field... but spares of course can be used ofr manufacturing new items, too (just after war this has been a general practice at Leitz, for limited supply of materials) : to partially answer, without pretending to be a real expert, basically my thougths are :

 

 - The RS Elmars /diamond  had the new recomputed glass : exceptions surely exist (probably, but not surely, in lower s/n)

-  Very probably, all RS Elmars/triangle  have the new glass

-  The switch diamond/triangle is not related to tech specs modifications : is a matter of style/design and a symbol that was highly standardized in lot of Leitz lenses of that era (you see it in Summarons, Summarex, Summitar...) , so an "armonization" of a certain symbol 

Link to post
Share on other sites

Here are the RS I have with years and symbols : the first is  with out SN the second is 772xxx the last is 1 244xxx

 

1950 1     f 22 ▼  
1950 1     f 22 ▼        
1952 1     f 22 ♦  
1953 1     f 22 ♦  
1953 1     f 22 ▼  
1953 1     f 22 ▼  
1955 1     f 22 ▼  
1955 1     f 22 ▼  
1955 1     f 22 ▼  

Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks again...

Dear Luigi,

I've read lots of your posts here, including this and other subjects...  In one of them you shared the link to the huge article by Marco Cavina (in Italian):

http://www.marcocavina.com/articoli_fotografici/50mm_Leica_a_telemetro/00_pag.htm

I noticed, when he initially lists the lenses, he names the diamond ones as recomputed from 1951, and he does the same with the triangle ones, but without a different year...  That made me think could it be that both were offered from 1951 and then the tale about all diamond ones being adapted ones, and all triangle ones being new formula might be true?  But when he talks about every lens later in the article, with photographs, he only exhibits a triangle one, what made me think is he considering the triangle ones, the real ones? I wrote Marco and he answered today... It seems nobody really knows... Here´s his message:

 
"Dear Juan,
 
no official claims has ever been delivered by Leitz about this topic, so the only way to have a sure answer and not a guess is to unscrew the glass elements from a diamond red scale sample AND from a previous postwar Elmar and ask a skilled optic/glasses shop owner to measure the curvature and refractive power of their elements to see whether they match or not.
 
As far as I know all the red scale have a recomputed formula but, as I said, these are always tales not supported by sure evidence; MTF diagrams performed recently on a Zeiss K8 MTF reading hardware on a former Elmar and on a red scale showed a very different character and figures (more astigmatism and less contrast the older, higher contrast and sharpness on axis but with stronger field curvature the red scale), so evidently something changed but I don't know which series of red scale Elmar was tested here.
 
Anyway, at now, I have not a definitive answer to your question, sorry!
 
Best regards,
 
Marco"
Link to post
Share on other sites

 

Thanks again...

Dear Luigi,

I've read lots of your posts here, including this and other subjects...  In one of them you shared the link to the huge article by Marco Cavina (in Italian):

http://www.marcocavina.com/articoli_fotografici/50mm_Leica_a_telemetro/00_pag.htm

I noticed, when he initially lists the lenses, he names the diamond ones as recomputed from 1951, and he does the same with the triangle ones, but without a different year...  That made me think could it be that both were offered from 1951 and then the tale about all diamond ones being adapted ones, and all triangle ones being new formula might be true?  But when he talks about every lens later in the article, with photographs, he only exhibits a triangle one, what made me think is he considering the triangle ones, the real ones? I wrote Marco and he answered today... It seems nobody really knows... Here´s his message:

 
"Dear Juan,
 
no official claims has ever been delivered by Leitz about this topic, so the only way to have a sure answer and not a guess is to unscrew the glass elements from a diamond red scale sample AND from a previous postwar Elmar and ask a skilled optic/glasses shop owner to measure the curvature and refractive power of their elements to see whether they match or not.
 
As far as I know all the red scale have a recomputed formula but, as I said, these are always tales not supported by sure evidence; MTF diagrams performed recently on a Zeiss K8 MTF reading hardware on a former Elmar and on a red scale showed a very different character and figures (more astigmatism and less contrast the older, higher contrast and sharpness on axis but with stronger field curvature the red scale), so evidently something changed but I don't know which series of red scale Elmar was tested here.
 
Anyway, at now, I have not a definitive answer to your question, sorry!
 
Best regards,
 
Marco"

 

 

The late Dennis Laney stated in his book 'Leica Collector's Guide' in respect of the Red Scale Elmar that 'it has been suggested that for a brief period there was an intermediate design' . He  quoted an article by Barry and Ann Nicholson Jones in LHSA Viewfinder Magazine No 1 of 1997 as a source. I have read the article and while it contains some discussions about the staggered introduction of the triangle mark and minimum aperture (see below), it contains nothing definitive about 'intermediate designs'. It does contain some speculation about 'intermediate lenses' with slightly flatter elements (not as flat as Red Scale) prior to the introduction of the Red Scale in 1951, which may have been what Laney picked up. It does state that the 'article is in no way definitive'. I have never seen any definitive evidence for an intermediate design prior to the Red Scale, but intermediate designs were not unknown in Leica history particularly in the early 1930s and the early 1950s when Leica designs were undergoing step changes. I will be seeing Jim Lager in Chicago in a few weeks from now- we are both speakers at the LHSA AGM- and I will ask him if he has come across such an intermediate design.

 

As for my Triangle Red Scale, the front element looks somewhat flatter, but not significantly so. Marco is correct is saying that you would have to take the lens apart to see any significant differences. What he says about MTF diagrams is interesting, but, just like James and Tom, I don't see any really significant image quality improvement from the Red Scale variants. It is only when you go the Summicron series that you will see significant improvements over the Elmar. The first two lenses on JC's list are interesting, but they may be later 'conversions' given the use of a triangle rather than a diamond and the fact that one has no SN and the other one has a pre Red Scale SN. JC quotes minimum f stops of f 22 which would seem to indicate that these lenses are from the late 1940s onwards. Elmars had an f stop of f18 in the 1930s which then changed to f16 in the 1940s and to f 22 before the end of the 1940s, which continued until the end of production

 

From a user perspective the possibility of an 'intermediate design' makes little or no difference. From a collector perspective this would be interesting, but one would have imagined that definitive evidence of such an 'intermediate design' would have emerged before this. JC might like to add something in respect of the first two items on his list above as they might throw some light on the matter.

 

William

Link to post
Share on other sites

We need to take inro consideration that lenses were upgraded, repaired and this may influence findinfg on when RS have been introduced and when switch diamond/triangle may have occured. You may find RS Elmars with no SN, an abvious prove of being upgraded. Similarely, I have seen lenses with extremly low SN but with all other features like RS: 1456762 with diamond, 743794 and 833825 with triangle. I assume that they have been converted being non RS originaly.

 

Research on a sample of 360 interchangeable Elmar 3,5 5cm, including 64 RS shows as follows:

1. highest SN found as non RS is 1 011 363

2. Lowest SN RS with triangle found is 909158 ,this was delivery to Royal Air Force from August 3rd, 1954

3. lowest SN found with diamond found was 970527

4. highest SN found with diamond was 1 087 321

5. highest SN with triangle, and highest RS  found was 1 842 242

 

Known fact is that higher SN does not neccessarily mean later production date, SN were assigned in batches, some SNs were not used at all. And delivery could have happened much later than than the production (see delivery to RAF above), Letz did produced on stock as well. "Grosses Fabrikationsbuch Leica-Objektive" from Hartmut Thiele is not reliable to determine production date of particular SN, I have seen some RS Elmars with SN above 1 000 000 which are in Thiele's Buch listed as different lenses.

 

Wagner (Vidom Nr 70) is stating that RS had diamond first, replaced by triangle in the same year. Furthermore he is stating that RS Elmars had new optical formula compared to non RS, however no change in optical characteristics between diamond and triangle. 

Wagner is quoting (after Hasbroek) 905 000 as first RS, the earliest evidence he found was however 967 546. 

In a nutshell: RS have new optical calculation, no optical differences between diamond and triangle, SNs of non RS, diamond and triangle are overlapping, however everything happened in the same year (1953). 

Link to post
Share on other sites

We need to take inro consideration that lenses were upgraded, repaired and this may influence findinfg on when RS have been introduced and when switch diamond/triangle may have occured. You may find RS Elmars with no SN, an abvious prove of being upgraded. Similarely, I have seen lenses with extremly low SN but with all other features like RS: 1456762 with diamond, 743794 and 833825 with triangle. I assume that they have been converted being non RS originaly.

 

Research on a sample of 360 interchangeable Elmar 3,5 5cm, including 64 RS shows as follows:

1. highest SN found as non RS is 1 011 363

2. Lowest SN RS with triangle found is 909158 ,this was delivery to Royal Air Force from August 3rd, 1954

3. lowest SN found with diamond found was 970527

4. highest SN found with diamond was 1 087 321

5. highest SN with triangle, and highest RS  found was 1 842 242

 

Known fact is that higher SN does not neccessarily mean later production date, SN were assigned in batches, some SNs were not used at all. And delivery could have happened much later than than the production (see delivery to RAF above), Letz did produced on stock as well. "Grosses Fabrikationsbuch Leica-Objektive" from Hartmut Thiele is not reliable to determine production date of particular SN, I have seen some RS Elmars with SN above 1 000 000 which are in Thiele's Buch listed as different lenses.

 

Wagner (Vidom Nr 70) is stating that RS had diamond first, replaced by triangle in the same year. Furthermore he is stating that RS Elmars had new optical formula compared to non RS, however no change in optical characteristics between diamond and triangle. 

Wagner is quoting (after Hasbroek) 905 000 as first RS, the earliest evidence he found was however 967 546. 

In a nutshell: RS have new optical calculation, no optical differences between diamond and triangle, SNs of non RS, diamond and triangle are overlapping, however everything happened in the same year (1953). 

 

Thanks Jerzy. Your conclusion about RS lenses having a new optical formula and there being no difference between original diamond and triangle RS lenses fits with all of the available evidence. Converted lenses may be another case, however, hence my queries about the first two lenses on JC's list. Your point about Leica not following strict SN sequence for both cameras and lenses is absolutely correct. I have seen cases where obviously wrong dates of manufacture/issue have been claimed. SNs are more of a guide than absolute proof. An example of this would be II Model Ds with SNs which indicate 1932, but which must have been issued in early 1933 as there is no way that Leica issued and sold so many cameras by 31st December 1932. There is, however, no real problem at this stage in granting such a camera a 1932 date, as there is no real significance now in saying it is from either 1932 or 1933. Returning to the RS Elmar, the point which Jerzy makes about diamond and triangle models overlapping fits with what is said in the Nicholson Jones article from 1997 in Viewfinder. Trying to determine exact manufacturing and issue details 65 years later is nearly impossible. All we can do is to use the best evidence available to us now to determine such matters as best we can.

 

William

Edited by willeica
Link to post
Share on other sites

We need to take inro consideration that lenses were upgraded, repaired ....

Similarely, I have seen lenses with extremly low SN but with all other features like RS: 1456762 with diamond, 743794 and 833825 with triangle. I assume that they have been converted being non RS originaly.

 

Thanks Jerzy... so you saw a RS 743xxx with triangle... and JC has a RS 772xxx with triangle... this confirms my general feel that pretending to track precisely the glorious story of the Elmar is a vain exercise even for hard nosed historicians...

   

 

And, about the "intermediate design" and the curvature quoted by Marco Cavina... it's widely (and I think, officialy recognized by Leitz) that design DID change at a certain time (let'say "905.000" for what is worth) and this, also for wide evidence, did change  (in better) the rendering... but imho this does not imply that all the previous Elmars (even limiting to postwar items) were strictly identical in geometry of the glass components... Elmar = high volume item, I insist... and factory had to source glass... within an acceptable final rendition, they could have qualified 2-3 kinds of glass, to choose with depending on supply, which could require small variations in machining and final geometry, though within the specs required by the inside-made mounts.

 

(I see similar behavior in some contemporary high volume devices... when you inspect a modern computer from, say, HP, you can discover that the RAM boards mounted into can come from Toshiba or NEC or someother - for the same HP product code - they have certified 2/3 suppliers and manage supply/manufacturing needs/logistic... there can be slight tech differences between, but within the manufacturer' specs) 

Edited by luigi bertolotti
Link to post
Share on other sites

There has been a long discussion in the german forum some years ago about the topic of post-war changes of the 5cm Elmar:

 

https://www.l-camera-forum.com/topic/142392-elmar-355-cm-neue-linsen/?hl=elmar

 

This discussion was based on telewatt's finding of a list of production items for the Elmar, which showed different order numbers for lenses up to serial no. 650 700 and from 650 701 onwards. This lead to the question whether these differences for spare parts indicated that the optical formula of the lens was also changed at the same time - much earlier than the introduction of the red-scale Elmar. 

 

On the other hand the assumption of an "intermediate" version, which was brought up by Marco Cavina in his italian article and Barry and Ann Nicholson Jones in LHSA Viewfinder Magazine No 1 of 1997 - already mentioned above.

 

The serial number 650 700 seems to be the right one for the change from f/16 to f/22 as smallest aperture for the lens - so you would not find a red scale with f/16. Though other similar changements took place before: uncoated to coated; change from old aperture marks with f/18 to international standard with f/16 as smallest aperture. Even different glass sorts used during this time were mentioned. The original question, if there was a new optical formula already introduced with no 650 701 remained unsolved.

 

From all I can see all these minor or may be big changes didn't change the results from the Elmar. In spite of all the differences in MTF graphs I could not see any difference comparing two versions of red-scale - one with triangle and one with diamond -, a M-Mount 1:3.5/5cm and a nickel version from 1931 - coated later. Even one uncoated old version did not show the significant differences in contrast one would expect (when I compare an uncoated Summar to a later coated version the differences are striking; I even found astonishing differences between a screw mount version of the later 1:2.8/ 5cm Elmar and a M-Mount version - the screw mount being on par with the older 1:3.5 version and the M-mount much weaker - but that is perhaps material for another thread). 

 

I think Luigi's assumption is right that for the classcal 3.5-version lack of glass used formerly or some other exterior reasons lead to changements. 

 

They were not really motivated by the aim to improve the lens. The lens design had so much "latitude" that it didn't suffer nor change to the better by many changes. 

Edited by UliWer
Link to post
Share on other sites

JC, I haven't seen that after my recent online searching...  As far as I know, but I don't know very much

 , f/22 became the smallest f/stop for 50 3.5 elmars before the Red Scale ones appeared, so it's often said all RS elmars continued going to f/22.  Even if some f/16 ones exist, f/22 was the general rule... Who knows if in case of adapted lenses it was possible to have one made down to f/16 only...

Back to my original question, has anybody heard about all diamond elmars being adapted?  Where could that have come from?  And, are there triangle ones adapted? Did adapted lenses have serial numbers at all? Did they have serial numbers above 1 million?

Sorry for asking this much...

J.

Edited by Juan Valdenebro
Link to post
Share on other sites

Have you read the Viewfinder article I referenced above? This represents the origins of the comment by Laney which is probably the cause of most of the rumours out there. I believe that you are looking for information beyond the best already available. Is there a reason why you are seeking this? Do you have concerns about the lens in your possession? On the basis of what you told us it would seem that the lens is probably a genuine original Red Scale model.

 

William

Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...