Erwin Puts seems to generate controversy, if threads on other Leica- and photography-related websites are any indication. One blogger called him "the world's leading expert on all things Leica." Another wrote (in the same blog): "I was quite disappointed by Puts' Leica Compendium
[a prior Puts publication]...he did the editing himself, and it shows. The quality of the writing is poor." Some point out the high prices of his books, although it is often unclear whether they are complaining about the retail price, or the admittedly high prices the books command when the short print runs sell out and they appear on eBay and other used book sellers' websites.
To put the latter point in perspective, the new book I'm reviewing, Leica Lens Saga
, cost me $49.95 plus shipping from CameraBooks.com. It is 386 pages long, hard bound with two sewn-in ribbon bookmarks, printed on nice, crisp, white coated paper which provides excellent support for the readable roman typeface and multi-color graphics. Detailed table of contents and index help make the book a useful reference tool. Compared to other recent publications specializing in Leica subject matter, the retail price strikes me as reasonable. Being a self-published book, it is not surprising that the print run is short, and that retail stocks sell out rather quickly. My sense is that if book publishers are reluctant to print this title due to a (probably correctly) perceived small retail market, it takes a certain amount of courage and determination (and, presumably, cash on the barrelhead) to make books such as these available by self-publishing with the help of commercial printer/binders. Leica Lens Saga
is, if anything, a highly specialized book. It's subtitle is Berek's Legacy: the 50 mm lens for Leica rangefinder cameras.
Mr. Puts summarizes the book thus in the introduction:
This book explores and explains how the standard lens for the Leica coupled rangefinder is being designed and why it performs as well as it does. The main idea can be described as follows" the evolution of Leica lenses has been made possible by the progress in lens design technologies and the progress in manufacturing technology...The performance or 'fingerprint' of the Leica lens for the rangefinder camera is determined by the physical constraints of the lens.
* * * * * * * *
Special attention will be given to the analysis of the development of the Leica standard lens from the original Elmar to the current Apo-Summicron-M 50 mm.
With text covering the physical laws of light and optics, the types and theory of lens aberrations, methods of measuring optical performance, and ray tracing and other tools of lens design, substantial portions of the book are necessarily tough sledding, and especially so for readers lacking the requisite background in mathematics, particularly trigonometry. If this were a textbook for use in undergraduate courses, it might be attractive to a technical book publisher such as Springer Verlag or Wiley. As it is, rather, geared toward very limited audiences (lens and opto-mechanical designers, lens performance critics, and Leica enthusiasts and collectors), self-publication is the only practical means of getting the book to press and into readers' hands. If occasionally awkward wording or the occasional typographical error is the price to pay for self-publication, it seems an eminently reasonable one. If english is not his first language (and I do not know whether it is or not), Mr. Puts has done a very creditable job of writing and editing the english text. While the cost of the book has undoubtedly benefitted by Mr Puts doing the editing (and indeed, the typesetting and graphics as well), it does not seem to me to have been at the expense of understandability.
Those interested in a closer look at Leica Lens Saga
will find the table of contents, introduction and part of the first chapter available as a pdf file at Erwin's website: http://www.imx.nl
. In addition to CameraBooks.com, the book can also be ordered directly from Mr. Puts, through his website.