Ever wonder why Leica lenses cost so much? Among the many reasons are two big ones: the lenses are all handmade, and are produced in very small batches. Joe Minihane of Humans Invent has a great interview with Leica’s Director of Product Management, Stefan Daniel, who shares some interesting facts about how their manufacturing process works:
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.
Something else you might not know is that material used in lens production is also a bottleneck. The special glass that’s melted for Leica lenses is only supplied once or twice a year, limiting the number of lenses that can be assembled.
Pursuit of perfection: Hand-crafting a Leica lens [Humans Invent]
P.S. Also be sure to check out this video that offers a behind-the-scenes look at the production facilities.