I'm sure everyone has noticed that the new lenses from Canon are coming with huge jumps in price. The 70-200 f/2.8 II was like $700 more than it's predecessor and the 24-70 II is basically twice as much! L lenses were never cheap... $1200 for a lens is ridiculous to the vast majority of people out there lol... but they were never quite up there with stuff like Leica and Zeiss.
I wouldn't be surprised at all if Canon announced that it's new 35mm f/1.4 II is going to be $3000. I just hope it's going to be as amazing as a Summilux.
Are you comparing the most recent prices of the "predecessors" to the current prices of newly released lenses, or the original list prices? And if you are indeed comparing original list prices of the predecessors to current prices of newly released lenses, have you taken the rate of inflation into account (i.e. inflation-adjusting prior lenses list prices to "today" dollars)?
Sadly, the vaunted dollar is apparently a depreciable
item in and of itself, and it has recognizably less buying power
today than it did only a few years ago, let alone a decade ago. All things being equal, the prices are not that much more expensive, and in some cases (particularly in the case of street prices) may actually be cheaper today.
Taking the 70-200 f/2.8 L IS and its recent Mark II successor as an example:Mark I @ $1700 ~ 2001 = $1700 list
Mark II @ $2500 ~ 2010 = $2500 list (current street @ $2000)
If we account for inflation (CPI only, barring any other cost inflators, such as inflation in raw materials costs...particularly metals, manufacturing and/or shipping difficulties, etc.), USD$1700 ca. 2001 ~= USD$2200 ca. 2011, so a current street price of $2000 and even an original list price of $2500 when you factor in other cost inflators (of which there have been far more than enough to account for the difference of $300 in inflation-adjusted list prices) is pretty much dead-on...the original and its successor have not really changed in price, its more that our dollars are less valuable today than they were in 2001.
So is Canon separating the L line from enthusiast users with $2000-$4000 lenses that can go head to head with the good stuff from Leica (and others... just using it as an example)?
In spite of the dollar inflation stuff from above, I'll happily state that Canon is definitely upping the bar on IQ. Comparing MTF charts (diagrams that depict lens sharpness from center to edge) of new Canon L series lenses with their predecessors shows considerable, sometimes astonishing, improvement in resolution. In the case of the 600mm L II and 500mm L II lenses, at least according to the MTF's generated by Canon, the improvement in resolution is stunning, and effectively makes both lenses "perfect" or "diffraction limited" lenses...almost as close as you can get to mathematically/theoretically ideal. The new 24-70 L II, and even the 70-200 L II, show marked improvements in resolution. That would all be necessary if Canon hopes to keep increasing megapixels (which, if the rumors are true, might result in a 45mp FF sensor that would literally push the limits of even resolution powerhouses like the new 24-70 L II.)
Canon has also really started pushing the envelope with their multicoatings as well. When testing wide-angle lenses in one of my first L-series lens purchases, I compared the 16-35mm L, 16-35mm L II, and 17-40mm L. Of the three, I chose teh 16-35mm L II, in significant part because it handles flare much better than its predecessor or the 17-40, and considerably better than comparable lenses by Zeiss and Leica.
So in answer to your last line, yes...even in inflation-adjusted price consistency (i.e. no real change in price in a normalized price field where all dollars in any year have the same buying power)...Canon is starting to make lenses that can go head-to-head with stuff from "the big boys" like Leica (which are often just Zeiss lenses), Zeiss themselves, etc.