This is what they call the double whammy: A German holding company created several brands for use on Kickstarter, where they pimped new Made-In-Germany camera lenses at prices of $3,000 or more. Then the “brands” went bankrupt without fulfilling all of their Kickstarter orders. As is common practice on Kickstarter, that doesn’t mean you get your money back. So a lot of people paid three grand and didn’t get a camera lens.
The people who did get their lens? Well, that’s the second part of the double whammy.
As photo-nerd side PetaPixel explains, the “Meyer Optik Nocturnus” was actually just the made-in-China “Mitakon Zhongyi Speedmaster”, a well-regarded but in no way upscale lens made entirely in China and sold by most outlets for $895. There was, however, one critical difference: some of the engraving on the lens is a pale blue instead of the orange seen on the Mitakon.
This is where the concept of “Made In Germany” gets fuzzy. In the United States, “made in USA” is strictly defined by the FTC. Thankfully, the FTC is willing to enforce these rules in many cases, as Shinola and New Balance can attest. Made In Germany” isn’t quite as strict, and it lacks the same rigorous enforcement. So you can never be sure.
A variety of spaghetti statements made by the former and current license holder for “Meyer Optik” haven’t exactly clarified things. Were these lenses assembled in Germany from Chinese parts? Were they fully-assembled Chinese lenses with blue writing applied in Germany? The most likely scenario is that no assembly or finishing steps were taken in Germany and that the lenses were complete Chinese imports.
Now, before you laugh at these rubes who paid three grand for a 50/50 shot at receiving an $895 Chinese lens, consider that Porsche put a “W” VIN, traditionally meaning W(est Germany), on Boxsters (like mine) which were completed in Finland. Alright, that seems a bit iffy, but most of the parts and panels were German. But if you go to your local Porsche dealer right now, you’ll see that the Cayennes for sale have a “W” VIN despite being manufactured soup-to-nuts in Bratislava. Strictly speaking, Bratislava was only part of Germany between October of 1944, when the Wehrmacht reacted to a pro-Allied uprising in “Independent Slovakia” by occupying the city, and April of 1945, when the Russians marched en masse. This is not much justification for a “Made In Germany” label, is it?
The moral of the story: Don’t trust the label. And if you want a German lens, buy a Zeiss. No, scratch that: 100% of Zeiss lens production is now done in Japan. At least Zeiss puts an honest label on those products, which is more than you’d get from “Meyer Optik”.