Last week I questioned whether the production run of the Leica 50mm Summilux ASPH Matte Black Chrome lens was limited to only 500 units, given the continued availability of this lens (brand new) several years after its introduction.
George, one of the participants in that discussion, wrote to me today with some follow-up commentary I thought was worth sharing (with his permission):
Peter, here is what I found out through Steve Huff’s and Thorsten Overgaard’s sites and the Leica Store in SoHo—all of which is very confusing. I sent this post to Steve Huff for comment thinking that he might have some insights and have been waiting. But I haven’t heard from Steve, so I thought I would post it on your site, and if I hear from Steve, I will let you know.
In January, 2016 Ken Hansen sent Steve Huff the LHSA black chrome limited special edition 50 mm Lux lens, of which there were 500, to review. On his website, Steve mentioned that he bought this same lens for $3600 in the M8 days when it was in black paint and also a LHSA limited special edition. He said he sold the lens for $8,000. Thorsten Overgaard in reviewing the 50 mm Lux black chrome limited special edition lens on his website also mentioned the earlier version black paint limited edition and its appreciation from $3600 to $8,000 as a good reason for him to hold on to his black chrome limited special edition. Clearly both Steve and Thorsten believed that only 500 of the black chrome 50 mm Lux limited edition lens were produced and that it would similarly appreciate. Interestingly enough, Steve mentioned that the only identification of the 50 mm Lux black chrome lens as a limited edition was the Leica Historical Society (LHS) name on the box. And he mentioned that Ken Hansen had a few lenses remaining, but B&H was also selling them. However, said Steve, “there were only a few available [remaining] in the world.”
Now when I bought my lens from B&H shortly after Steve received his lens (in fact, I learned about the lens on Steve’s website), there wasn’t the LHS name on my box, which makes me wonder if there were two productions of this lens at the same time—the LHSA so called limited edition as well as another production not associated with LHSA. It seems the only thing that made this lens a limited edition is its association with the Leica Historical Society of America (LHSA that amounted to simply a name on 500 boxes.
Nevertheless, B&H continues to this day to use the original LHSA limited edition advertising for all black chrome 50 mm special edition lenses for sale since essentially it is the same identical lens albeit for the LHS name on the box, which is really false advertising by B&H although you can understand why they might be confused.
Leica SoHo said that they believe that Leica produced another 500 lenses (who knows when) after I purchased my lens but will not know for sure until they see production numbers. When such production numbers will be available, they don’t know. The SoHo store has two of the lenses for sale and is not selling them as limited edition lenses. I don’t know how many B&H has, but they do state in their description that it is a limited edition of 500.
Therefore, it appears to me that the problem is with B&H and Leica. While Leica apparently continues to produce and sell this lens, B&H continues to use the advertising associated with the LHSA limited edition of the lens. It seems (again who knows for sure) that Leica has not been clear with its customers that this lens was not in fact going to be limited to 500 produced and that the only thing making it limited is the LHS name on a box. Also, it seems to have even fooled Steve Huff and Thorsten Overgaad. In fact, Overgaard doesn’t even mention LHSA but simply describes the lens as a limited edition. If this lens is truly not limited in production like the black paint edition that Steve Huff owned in his M8 days, I don’t see how it could possibly experience a similar appreciation. I didn’t purchase the lens as an investment, but I did think that I had purchased a “limited edition,” which it appears I don’t have. In fact, my box doesn’t even say Black Chrome Special Edition on it, although it has the correct serial number.
Nevertheless, here is what Leica said about this Special Edition lens, which B&H includes in its advertising: “As part of a limited edition of 500 pieces, this black-chrome finish Summilux-M 50mm f/1.4 ASPH lens features a matte black exterior as well as an outer design that resembles the first edition of this lens from 1959.” Are “pieces” boxes or lenses?
Borrowing from the famous movie, Cool Hand Luke, “what we [may] have here is a [serious if not egregious] failure to communicate.”