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Leica Seeks To Claim Title For Fastest Lens

September 18, 2008

Leica Camera AG, a small German maker of cameras and lenses is hoping to gain bragging rights by making the world’s fastest lens for still cameras.

Before camera makers made it a goal to outdo each other with the number of megapixels and the zoom range of their lenses, lens speed was the top priority that could distinguish one camera from another.

Leica this week announced that the latest version of its Noctilux lens will have an aperture number of 0.95, thus allowing it to gather 11 percent more light than the older version, which had an aperture of 1.

The ability to gather more light helps a camera perform better in low-light situations, but an increase as small as 11 percent is virtually unnoticeable. However, it is enough for Leica to gain bragging rights, even though Japan’s Canon Inc. developed a 0.95 lens for a few years in the 1960s.

However, either the previous or the new Leica Noctilux lens is substantially faster than the zoom lenses that come with regular digital cameras ““ with an aperture number of 3.5.

The key to capturing more light is achieved by using a larger glass surface for the lens. The Noctilux lens weighs 1 pound, 6 ounces ““ drastically more than the Leica cameras it mounts on.

Stefan Daniel, a product manager at Leica, said he expects the lens to cost $10,000 when it goes on sale in December.

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