PW20-Feb-2012

World's Most Expensive Camera Lens

There are a fair number of rare and exotic camera lenses available from different optics manufacturers. Some offer a particularly large aperture, others an extreme telephoto reach, and still others are notable for the control they provide over perspective or angle-of-view. The Leica APO-Telyt-R 1:5.6/1600mm carries the somewhat dubious honor of being the world's most expensive lens ever produced for civilian use.

Leica most expensive lens
Leica APO-Telyt 1600mm f/5.6: a two million-dollar-lens [megapixel.co.il]

It is Leica's longest, biggest, and heaviest telephoto lens. It was delivered in 2006 on special order from a rich photography aficionado, Sheikh Saud Bin Mohammed Al-Thani of Qatar, at a price of 16 million Hong Kong Dollars - the equivalent of 2,064,500 US dollars. The lens is a unique copy, but a prototype is on display at Leica's factory showroom in Solms, Germany, and can be admired there.

Unfortunately, little is known about the technical specifications of the lens. It has a bayonet mount for Leica's R-series manual focus SLR-cameras, is approximately 1.2m long (1.55m with lens hood attached), has a maximum lens barrel diameter of about 42cm, and weighs no less than 60kg. With a focal length of 1600mm, it covers a diagonal angle of view of merely 1.5 degrees. The lens should be compatible with Leica's 1.4x and 2x APO-teleconverters, giving rise to whopping 1:8/2240mm and 1:11/3200mm optical systems, respectively.

The designation APO-Telyt suggests that the lens contains apochromatic lens elements to correct for chromatic aberration. In good Leica tradition, this correction should not only apply to the center but throughout the entire image circle, so that color fringing should be well controlled. Yet, getting sharp images from such a behemoth of a lens will be a major challenge and requires very solid tripod support. The Danish Leica expert Thorsten Overgaard reported that Sheikh Al-Thani had commissioned a specially-equipped Mercedes four wheel drive to carry his expensive lens and move it around. Whether this setup has been successful in sufficiently steadying the lens is unclear, however, since no images taken with the lens have been made available...

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