Leica M Lens Brochure Circa 1980: Nowhere Will You Find the Word “Bokeh”

From the 1980 M4-P sales brochure (you can find the full brochure here at The Online Darkroom).

Hits: 1987

14 thoughts on “Leica M Lens Brochure Circa 1980: Nowhere Will You Find the Word “Bokeh”

  1. ScottP

    Yep, these are the vintage of my newest Leica lenses.

    But the important question is, have you pre-ordered your Noctilux-M 75mm f1.25 yet? I hear it’s a Bokeh-lover’s dream. (It has “more bokeh” than the f1.4. Which it should, for $13k.)

  2. Kodachromeguy

    Oh, yes, that “bokeh” stuff over which contemporary DSLR photographers with their kit lenses are so obsessed. 25 years ago, no one worried about it. I never heard any real photographers complain about the bokeh in Nikon, Leica, Hasselblad, Rolleiflex photographs, despite 6-blade apertures. There may be two factors in the current craze about bokeh. 1. It has become a fad for techno-dweebs (like equivalence, well depth, photons, cheating ISO, etc.); 2. New multi-element zoom lenses and digital sensors cause optical aberrations that look harsh on the final digital file. Maybe film was less sensitive? Regardless, I doubt most people out and about with their cameras care much about it.

    1. ScottP

      Well, for one thing it means (A) you need the fastest lens made. Street photography at f1.2. So, “lots of bokeh.”
      F2 lenses are too slow for real photography.
      I’m especially fond of discussions of bokeh in wide-angle lenses.
      And (2) any lens that is “soft wide open,” or exhibits vignetting at f1.4, or demonstrates flare when you include the sun in your picture, is a failure.
      Still trying to find an important, memorable photograph in which any of those things would matter.

  3. Rob Campbell

    Yeah, I quite liked the regular shape of the oof highlights on the 4/150 Sonnar – quite fetching, those shapes; reminded me of car logos; wasn’t it Chrysler had a badge shape like that?


  4. Nico

    I spent 20 years of my life taking picture without even knowing the word “bokeh”… Then, I found out it was an key term to use to be considered as a “serious” photographer… never paid attention to “bokeh”, never will..

  5. Colin West

    I see it as an “Emperor’s New Clothes” thing. Good photographers obviously have the ability to spot good “bokeh” and almost no-one wants to admit that they aren’t that discerning. So it takes on a life of its own. Still bloody annoying though.
    There was another Japanese word that was applied to food. “Umami” or “deliciousness”. Fortunately that pretentiousness seems to have died a much-deserved death.


  6. Randle P. McMurphy

    Whats wrong with this word ?
    Bokeh is better then start to describe how a optical system renders out of focus right ? Everybody knows what you are talking about then.
    Maybe start argue about “Kindergarden” too – nobody uses the word in 1864 right ?

    1. Leicaphila Post author

      Nothing wrong with the word. It’s the fixation on it that that’s a modern phenomenon. Hence the title of the post i.e. in 1980, nobody gave a shit about “bokeh.” Even Leitz.

      1. Rob Campbell

        In 1980 I don’t think I’d ever heard of it, probably because I’d never heard of the Internet, either. How cool those days of personal experience and not crowd-following mindsets.


  7. Pritam Singh

    You are right, nobody gave a shit about “bokeh” in 1980. It’s curious how the photographic fraternity has focussed on the “quality” of the out-of-focus parts of a photograph for the better part of two decades, ever since the word entered the English-speaking firmament.
    The phenomenon always existed, just nobody fussed about it so much.

  8. Jon

    Agreed – the bokeh fad (as expressed by the current propaganda) is something that can leave anytime thanks. The originators of the term – the Provoke era Japanese photographers and “are-burr-boke” never mentioned anything about ‘dreamy lenses’…it was about a blurred aggressive style, a total approach to images (and to some degree, life), a grainy realism, etc. Not the fetish we’re seeing now. I’m far more interested and impressed with their work than I am with most pics produced by anyone’s new wonder lens that usually is used to shoot those ‘dreamy’ (yet painfully boring) stock shots of a couple holding hands in a grain field at sunset…

  9. Hernando

    I’ve had the same thought, that up until the 90’s when the Japanese concept and word “bokeh” infiltrated photography circles, no one really cared. I had certainly never noticed any special attention being given the idea of quality of the OOF areas of an image in the countless photography magazines and ads I’d read since the 70’s.

    Still, it made me wonder whether glass designers didn’t somehow consider that as yet unnamed quality of the created image when designing their optics. It would stretch the bounds of credibility to imagine that their lens lines would just happen to have nicely rendered oof areas purely by coincidence? Wondering aloud…

  10. Scott Youmans

    There is a reason beyond shutter speed that photographers have favored fast lenses. Subject isolation. Perhaps there has been a recent craze in terms of the quality of the out of focus areas but the fact remains that selecting an aperture that yields the depth of field desired for a particular image is one of the main things outside of the framing of the image that the photographer has control over. There is a big difference between a portrait for example taken at f/1.4 or even f/2.8 and one taken at f/11. The difference in quality of the out of focus areas between two fast lenses might not be of interest to everyone but if I’m going to spend several thousand dollars on a lens it’s something I might want to take a look at whatever the word is that describes it.

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