Another Open Letter to Leica – By Ashwin Rao

Another Open Letter to Leica

By Ashwin Rao

Hi Leica,

It’s me again, Ashwin (from my last letter about a year back… I hope you had a chance to read it). Well, it’s that time of year to read the tea leaves of wish aloud on the interwebs, Thus, here I am again, thinking it’s time to write a letter and get your attention….

With the new year upon us, the photography world has seen many interesting developments. Last year, there was the Fuji X100, copying your style and going toe to toe with the X1, sporting new innovations and a friendlier price tag. It was nominated as one of the most innovative cameras of the year, despite the X1 before it….

Later in the year came the announcement of the Sony NEX7 and the release of the Ricoh GXR. Both are remarkable cameras, Leica, and you should be taking notice….after all, demand for Leica, Zeiss, and Voigtlander glass is at an all time high, as many folks are adapting these lenses for use on these bodies as well as Micro 4/3 cameras such as the Panasonic GX-1 and the Olympus EP-3….

There is a veritable plethora of choices for using Leica lenses. Focus peaking, hybrid viewfinders, and other tech have made it quite feasible to adeptly manually focus rangefinder lenses, which have been notoriously moody lenses to focus in the first place….

Now comes a new announcement….the Fuji interchangeable lens camera, the Fuji X-Pro1. It’s not yet official, but by the time you read this article, it may well be. I’m sure that your insiders have whispered in your ears about this camera (and the threat that it could pose to your install base. It will arrive, apparently, with capable and tiny 28 mm f/2, 50 mm f/1.4, and 90 mm f/2.5 equivalent lenses (when accounting for its APS-C sized sensor). It will have a refined hybrid viewfinder. It will be autofocus (and hopefully improve upon the design of the X100’s AF system). Companies like Novoflex and Fotodiox will surely make adapters for it, so that all Leica M mount lenses will be useable on it. I suspect that the X-Pro1 will have a high “lust factor” for photographers such as myself…..I am already telling myself to look away….look away (likely in vain)….

So why am I writing this letter, you may ask? To brag about other systems, new cameras, and fascinating innovations? To rave about focus peaking and novel uses for M mount lenses? To blather on about 2 MP EVF’s, cross utilization of lenses, and flexibility of systems. No, I am writing to coax you to stay relevant to your target market: folks like me who love photography and who love innovation….folks like me who want to see Leica lead the way, as you did with the M9. Folks, unlike me, who haven’t yet invested in a system, and who would love to try a Leica, but can’t as it is too pricy. It’s time to do grow into new markets, leica, or risk further cornering yourself into a niche.

Now, Leica, I know that you have big aspirations. All of this talk of staying small, refining your base, um….I’m not so sure that I believe you. Why else would you partner with Blackstone to provide more funds for growth and development? Why else would you build new plants to produce lenses and cameras? Why else would your CEO speak in LFI about expanding your production base to meet future demands that the market is setting?

The time of large sensor compact cameras with high performance is upon us. DSLR’s will continue to thrive, but less than in the past decade, as smaller cameras become more capable. Smaller cameras will lead the way through this decade.

Is it possible that the time of the Rangefinder and getting back to the roots of photography are in front of us? Is it possible, Leica, that your greatest days are in front of you? As a fan of your work, I hope so. But I think you need to continue to innovate and refine….

…and if you do, the Rangefinder will thrive. And if you don’t, the RF way could die (well, not really, I wrote that to rhyme and for dramatic effect …)

So, here’s what I hope, Leica. I hope again, against all odds, for a digital CL solution. My prior arguments, essentially remain the same. I think that the time is upon us for you to develop a product that sits between the X1 and the the M9 as a interchangeable lens camera that brings forth and tests Leica’s best innovations.

What should this camera be? It should be a rangefinder, first and foremost. Leica, this is what you are good at, but we need more from you. I feel that the hybrid VF idea is great, if properly implemented, and I suspect that you feel similarly. Having the best of both worlds, a true optical rangefinder focusing mechanism while carrying forth some added ideas such as focus peaking, which has worked wonders on the NEX and GXR camera lines…would be a great way to explore new tech that you can eventually bring to your top teir cameras such as the Leica M10.

The camera should be priced to compete too…Yes, Leica, we all know that you are vain. Your vanity is both the best and worst part of you…it’s why we cherish you and at the same time sneer and mutter at your prices….but once again, in order to win over more market share rather than lose some of your base to Sony, the M4/3 consortium, and Ricoh, you need to compete at their level. You still need to enforce a slight air of superiority by pricing the camera bit more than Sony, Ricoh or Panasonic/Olympus would feel comfortable with. But you need to price a digital CL in such a way as to the Leica brand and pricing structure…how about a $2500 solution, with an APS-H or APS-C sized sensor?

How would this camera be different form what’s out there, and what’s coming? Well, you gotta keep the rangefinder focusing mechanism intact. The manual focus that defines Leica is why I buy into the system. The lenses are now good on many systems, so the Rangefinder focusing system will distinguish you.

The camera’s gotta keep Leica’s style and substance! Metal build, vulcanite, old school looks, and new school technology. Like a German Car (Beemers, Mercedes, you know the ropes)…..

I am sure that from now on, Leica will remain relevant for its lenses. But the lenses work best with the system that they were designed for: The Rangefinder system. And it’s that system that is endangered by cameras like the new Fuji, which looks a lot like a Leica, but has Autofocus as an option, and at a price less than 1/3 of an M9….

So Leica, it’s time to stay relevant with your cameras. I know that you can innovate. You certainly did so with the M9 and the M8 before it (and for all of each cameras flaws, they are great cameras)….But you need to keep those cameras great by refining them and pricing them in the stratosphere for all of the longtime Leica customers. However, there are so many people out there who deserve to be part of the experience. The students, the newbies, the artists, who cant afford such a pricey body as the M9.

So design something for those people, a little sister to the M9, with a lower price, with a rangefinder focusing scheme, and with an M mount….oh yeah, and focus peaking would be nice too if there’s a hybrid VF in the works…

You’ll win over a lot more customers, and you and Blackstone will both be happy for a long while to come!

Your friend, fanboy, and voice of both content and discontent,

Ashwin

141 Comments

  1. And in the end, the conclusion. Strange enough, Leica the name that spans from admiration of optical exellency and conservative philosophy to the ridicule and scorn for being outdated dinosaur that sells out to rich, there`s no other name that results in so much a controversy and debate. It always produce the biggest amount of comment. Why`s that? Maybe Leica still evokes the feeling of basic picture-taking instrument. Small body and minimalistic optics in the wide to normal range which are perfect for situations where “if your pict`s not good enough you`re not close enough”. I hope others will follow the path, not to remove Leica from the it`s market but to make it bigger and more interesting.

  2. First and foremost Leica needs to sort out their electronics.

    Well are Leica owners known to be picky but there is just too many posts about bugs and malfunctions for me to feel comfortable. ( My M9 is in solms right now for a defective shutter)

    After that, its time to think about re-launching the M8 with a new sensor. Seems like the market is stabilizing around 16-18 megapixels and thank god for that.

    Even if Kodak isnt able to in the future it shouldnt be too hard to source a AA-filterless APSC sensor cheaper than the M9 sensor, and stick it in a M8 body with upgraded firmware.
    Leica will never make a $1600 M camera, but I think that a $3000 camera would sell pretty well.
    (The fact that there is such a lively market for used M8s demonstrates this.)

    Heck, I might even be persuaded to accept magnesium or something of that sorts as replacement for the brass if that turns out to be a big cost driver (I think not).

    My guess is that the rangefinder and sensor are the two biggest price drivers in the M9, so it seems hard to get a significantly cheaper camera without sacrificing those two.

    All that said, my M9 has been the best camera I ever owned, all things considered. (price and failure notwithstanding)

  3. I’m not so sure that Andreas Kaufmann understands business as well as he wants us to think. There was an article/interview with him (it was from a cinema publication if my memory is correct) online a month or so ago. It was telling; he had little knowledge of Leica, or not a users knowledge of Leica for some years. His families paper/pulp products was the bringer of high revenue to the family for some time and he was not really involved. His life was spent more around the Green Party and education earlier on.

    It’s not hard for me to believe he showed his ‘business sense’ with the S, no R decision. It boggles the mind how anyone would take a huge part of Leicas customer base and vault them (as I have said before) but the point is, with the Fuji X1 Pro they have a lot further to go in getting the lost numbers back. I agree completely that there is a huge tech revolution happening under Leicas’ feet and they have to do well at Photokina to get anywhere close to the 1% number, which is a very large increase to arrive at with the existing product line and higher end pricing. For years I’ve used the M, and really, it’s been used in certain situations but I actually found the R just as easy to use – actually easier in all circumstances. The optical finder is a nice way learn to conceptualize an image – but that can also be done with any camera.

    As retow said, Fuji (and others) has the idea/imagination – and the pricing, and for the changing tech in digital and quick turn-around, and increasing quality, it’s really difficult to justify the big $$$$ the M gets for what it does. Too, if someone wants a dose of reality, find an M4, put it next to an M9 and feel which is more substantial – there is a difference.

  4. Leica targets 1% market share in a couple of years, from presently 0.15%. They know that it will not happen with the current product portfolio or because of Leica stores. They know the business law: not growing means dying. We will see in September whether they start with the right answers to tackle the challenges. I will use and enjoy my M9 as long as it works. But it might well be my last camera purchase in the USD 7000 range as we now see what exciting cameras can be had for south of USD 2000 (Fuji Pro, NEX7, a GXR FF m-mount?) and it will only get better. The same goes for the Summilux and Summicron fetish prices. The Summilux lenses are still the best m-mount optics in the world, but not 5-6 times better than competitors’ offerings. It will be interesting to see how good the AF Fujinon lenses on the Fuji pro will be.

  5. Many, many comments. Mine are seeped in 40 plus years of using M and R. Leica may be a ‘pretige brand’ and that may be the only place they will survive. Leica has a history of getting late to the party – EXCEPT with the M. But that design is from 1954 and the reason it took off with the M9 is because of pent-up demand for a digital M.

    That will fade. Kaufmann’s idea to build the S2 over the R is a bad marketing move. It seems a stretch that the S will ever bring in more users that the R system had and to me why would a company in Leicas’ position get rid of a huge portion of it’s user base? Technologically speaking, seperate from optical design, Leica is behind the curve in camera design and tech. The M cannot be adapted much further in it’s current form and Leica’s insistence on their chosen path will only make things harder unless they reinvent themselves somehow.

    To me the camera that makes sense for them is Fuji’s X1-pro, a camera I am guessing will pretty much leave Leica’s X1 in the dust – if Sony’s NEX-7 hasn’t already along with Fuji’s line-up. As history has shown many times in it’s past, Leica once again has got caught being behind once again in product development – and the market.

    So, if they gave a diddly about my opinion I believe what would work well for them is to continue on with the M, stopping after the M10 and reinvent the M ‘platform’ in the form of ‘bridge camera’ that would be a model for a new Leica that encompass a reasonable price, allow use of both M and R lenses (through live view) and start off to the future with AF and a new lens line to go with it. If possible, and why not, a hybrid finder that Fuji has shown them how to do. It would be FF of course.

    Give it a sculpted design with a removable batteryw/grip pack for the bottom, it would still be smaller than the feature laiden C&N DSLR’s, some sequencing ability, but give ALL past Leica owners that still have manual glass a reason to move up while giving new users a reason to get in the system. Pricing should be in line with a $4 to $5K body price and there is no reason for it not to be possible if Leica really wants to take itself seriously with photographers instead of pulling further and further away.

    • Fully agree on this one RMR.

      Steve, any chance in doing some Digital testing with Leica R lenses.

      Also please excuse some of my spelling mistakes, old age I’am afraid.

      Ken.

  6. All very interesting, I have been using Leicas since around the early seventies.

    Between the M and R I have both, My preference is the R series and still have several Lenses and bodies.

    I still shoot slide film and simply love that Medium and will never give it up, however with Digital it has been a problem for me as I cannot make up my mind which system to choose as a secondary
    medium.

    Sinse having the M system it should not be a worry to me about getting the Leica M9 but everytime
    I read about the reviews I am amazed, so the other day I went down town to purchass one, the store owner allowed me to play with it outside, I had to use my own 35mm f2 asph is he had no Leica M in stock.

    Well well all the fuss, it still has this cranky focusing as my M7, pick a spot, focus then compose
    then fire then preview.

    Try again, not bad, try again slightly out of focus, try again all this for a body price between 7 to 8000
    Thousand, what about the images, in my view not worth for the asking price.

    Handed it back removed my lens, offered me a good trade-in on my M7,.. no thanks.

    In my bag I also had the R9 with the R 21-35mm ASPH, so attached it to the Canon 600D price
    around 800$ Australian, took it outside shot some scenes, the finder is a little small but my shots are
    in focus, not bad for a 63 year old.

    Wow shots are gorgeous from this cheap little Canon, it must be that Leica lens, so I was impressed so I bought one.

    What about the M9, Sorry not for me, I am keeping my R lenses and I must say
    I am now A CANON CONVERT my images from the 21-35mm and the 28-90mm are simply superb
    Must try my prime lenses when I have time.

    Thank you Canon.

    Ken.

  7. It’s interesting how many people think that Leica prices are based purely on hype. There are many factors, one just has to put their mind to it to realize them.

    1) Materials: Brass and Magnesium are expensive
    2) Tight tolerances: This reduces yield and drives up the cost of parts.
    3) Hand assembly in Germany: Hand assembly reduces yield and labour prices in Germany is quite high
    4) Manufacture cannot meet demand: Self explanatory.
    5) The rangefinder itself is a complex piece of machinery that needs to be calibrated by a human. This is time consuming and expensive to manufacture and calibrate.

    THAT is why an M9 is so expensive, not because it has a red dot on the front. The red dot does afford them the legacy that people respect, which allows them to prices as they do though. If Fuji came out with a $7000 manual rangefinder camera it would be an utter failure, not because it wouldn’t be worth it, but because they don’t have the prestige to back it up. This is precisely why companies like GMC put a Cadillac badge on their high-end luxury cars instead of a Chevy badge. Who would pay $50k for a Chevy? And before you mention the Corvette, there’s a re-dressed Cadillac version of that for more money as well.

    As for Ashwin’s well written letter, I think he echo’s the thoughts of a lot of Leica users or Leica potentials who want a more entry level step into Leica glass. I personally don’t have any desire for a cropped sensor solution for Leica glass, I’ve tried it with the M8 and the NEX and wasn’t happy with either. Full frame would be a different story though… and I’m still waiting for my digital Contax G!

    • Nah. Half of the pricing is the red dot. This is why a Leics LX5 costs much much more than its identical Panasonic sibling. Have a look at the prices for the external VF of exactly these two cameras, prices for all machine made leica-m lens caps, handgrips, etc, ridiulous. They show the Leica premium.

  8. @Ashwin: informative and well written post Ashwin.

    I agree with you. As I’ve mentioned before here and on l-forum and against the well rusted prejudice of many regular posters, the involvement of an investment company like Blackstone (and there aren’t many like that) will prove to be a major step forward for Leica. New and/or improved products, better quality control and all that while keeping Leica’s revered brand values. What’s not to like?

  9. …..you forgot about would there be a chance of replacing any processing power in the m9….i wonder if you could update the RAM simply by putting in new chips or something to make the buffering quicker. that would be awesome. imagine that?!

    and maybe not make it too “characterful” in quick climate changes

    not fussed about replacing lcd screen as i quick it fine in the field

  10. “Your friend, fanboy, and voice of both content and discontent,”

    why don’t you just say “photographer?”

    you’d have to be one first to say that.

    and seriously … this will never happen. they’re probably laughing at you.

  11. When I was a teen I wanted a Patek Philippe.
    I could only afford a Sekonda 🙂

    Should Patek Philippe have lowered prices so I could afford : ofcourse not.

    There has to be a place as there has been for centuries for dedicated craftsmanship producing items of desire.

  12. There is nothing wrong being a Leicafan and dream about a cheap digital Leica “CL” with the traditional rangefinder. But it is far from being realistic.

    The rangefinder, how ingenious it once was is in fact the single part mostly responsible of blocking the M-camera from being modernised.

    How many would really be interested in buying a digital Leica with APS-C sensor for $2500 (if Leica could build such a camera for that price which I seriously doubt) having an unreliable mechanical rangefinder needing adjustement now and then when there are superior modern cameras like Ricoh GXR with M-mount, Sony NEX-5N and soon to come Fujifil X-Pro 1 for half price or much less? Even a slightly bigger APS-H sensor wouldn’t make enough big difference. Besides those few interested can already now buy a little used M8 for under $2000.

    As I see it Leica have two options. They can do either or both.

    First they can make a modern electronic camera for M-lenses. Without the old “garbage” from the past (like the rangefinder) they can design it from scratch like they did with the S2. It will be cheaper to build having electronics instead of delicate mechanics. Of course it will have a fullframe sensor. Anything else would not make sense for the reason mentioned above. With live-view and built-in EVF (and possibly OVF as well, similar to Fujifilm X100/X-Pro 1) and some kind of focus assist working well it would not only be the choice of M-lens owners as well as the R-alternative via adapter but also the dreamcamera for all those seeking a fullframe camera for all the old SLR legacy lenses. At least if it is priced right. Considering the M9 sell for about the price of the introduction price for the new pro-cameras from Nikon and Canon coming this year a price about the same as for Nikons coming semi-pro camera D800 ($3500-4000?) seem apropriate.

    The second alternative is to make a completely new camera with a new mount AF-lenses and APS-C sensor. Something like Fujifilm X-Pro 1. As Leica been in bed with both Minolta and Panasonic. Having a new “love-affair” with Fujifilm seem possible. Imagine a Leica-designed X-Pro 1 with Leica lenses (made by fujifilm but with different optical construction than the fujinon’s) priced at somewhere between $2000-2500 for camera and standard lens and the other leses costing $1000-1200. How does that sound? But as the X1 was not just a rebranded camera from another maker that idea may be just fantasy and Leica will make something that is more different than just exchanging the exterior but still have exactly the same controls like the compacts made by Panasonic for Leica.

    There may in fact be a third alternative merging the two options above. Considering the X-Pro 1 seem to be same size as an M9 one can’t avoid the question if it is not possible to put a fullframe sensor in the camera. Without the rangefinder and shorter registration distance there should be more space inside the X-Pro 1! How about a leica branded X-Pro 1 with a fullframe (FX) sensor? Still with the new mount but with Leica AF-lenses for fullframe and same Leica M adapter Price same as the first alternative.

    For those who absolute desire to use a rangefinder there will always be the M-cameras. We will for sure see a M10 that will be what the M9 should have been. Personally I think a M10 should have a sensor that will allow live-view, naturally a better and bigger screen with some kind of focus assist like peeking and better sealing among other things. As the rangefinder propably make it technically impossible to blend in an EVF in the optical viwfinder as in Fujifilm X100. I also think there should be a port under the hot-shoe for an external EVF for use with wideangles and those lenses with focusshift.

    And before someone ask I do have a couple of M-cameras for film and quite a few lenses for them. But I am still waiting for the best digital solution, preferably fullframe, for not only my M-lenses but for my today digitally obsolete SLR-lenses as well.

    • > For those who absolute desire to use a rangefinder there will always be the
      > M-cameras. We will for sure see a M10 that will be what the M9 should have
      > been. Personally I think a M10 should have a sensor that will allow live-view,

      If/when the video-view M comes, I hope Leica implements a new rangefinder adjustment system that you can use without removing the lens. Most don’t need to adjust the rangefinder too often, but it can be a pretty slow process. Video-view could make it much easier.

  13. Ashwin, I respect you and I like you, but I think you are wrong. The CL was not a success, the digital CL will not be a success. If you want a Leica digital rangefinder you buy the M9, not a lesser M9. What Leica needs to produce is a digital camera like the X-Pro 1, but with better lenses. If you want to sell a lesser camera than the M9 to a mass audience then you need auto-focus. Otherwise you are selling to people who really want the M9.

    • Interesting comment, CCp. I am torn, but there are parts of this which I agree with. The CL was cancelled not for its lack of sucess, but it was cannibalizing sales of its bigger M brother (I believe it was the much maligned M5)….

    • As reported 2011 was most profitable for Leica and they are building a plant to meet demand for lenses.
      But do they have the financial clout for R&D and build a plant for making high volume AF EVIL.

      I think we may see Leica rebadge someone elses EVIL. There has already been PanaLeica Summilux. A rebadged GX1 ? with more Leica lenses. A rebadged X-Pro1 with native Mmount ?

  14. With the X-Pro1’s pending announcement, I suspect that Leica may have to up their lens manufacture even more than previously thought, given that there’s by a Fuji-built M mount adapter, and what sounds to be a promising filter upon which to use M lenses…Exciting times for us photogs….

  15. Well said!.. It is the imperfections in a photographic world, that strives for ever more technical/electronic perfection, that make Leica such a unique offering to those who get it!
    The photographic process that stirs and evokes the soul instead of pixel-peeking into the highest megapixels and low noise ISO performance of a perfect jpeg/DNG file!

  16. By the time Leica will get their “CL” on the market everyone will already have bought the Xpro1 and Fuji are just about to release the Xpro2 for about half the price of the Leica CL.. So, Im sorry Leica, I dont for one second believe that Leica will ever have a chance against Fujifilm. I just want the best, and if Leica cant give it to me, I will happily go somewhere else.

  17. Strangely enough one of the main reasons for Leica’s Digital M allure is its price.
    The rich & famous want it at that price so that they can have a prestige item.
    A cheaper Leica M becomes common !

  18. I work in global luxury marketing, and there is a difference between consumer, premium and luxury. The difference is not technology, and yes sometimes the lack of technology can work in your favor. Leica is luxury, mystique and exclusivity, for the most part. There is many a case study on going too far down market and destroying your core equity. Once you destroy it, it is difficult to get it back. You need to be careful. They are also very small even with the recent capital infusion, R&D by necessity will focus on a limited number of things, and refinements, which means a limited amount of products. Enough technology to be basically up to date, nothing more. I would imagine much of their increased revenue will end up being spent on targeted A&P spending to solidify their current market position as opposed to purely on R&D, where they’ll never catch-up. They should stay focused on their core market and they already know that they can grow within that for a long time and within that market, they’re basically alone. Only when they think they have saturation will they go down market with a true Leica. I don’t of course have access to their plans, but I see things as so: 1) the rich always have money and they target the rich (picking up a few aspirants at the margins (you guys)); 2) in the worst economy since the Depression, we sell everything we can make and demand outstrips supply. Plan: raise prices, spend incrementally to solidify position and to keep innovation at par relative to

    Stop with the technology piece in particular. They didn’t innovate for 50 years and stayed in business. They only went digital because they had to, and clearly were surprised at how fast film disappeared and at how much pent up demand they had.

    Leica is to cameras like a good Swiss brand is to watches: jewelry. No one complains about mechanical, somewhat less reliable, expensive to maintain watches that keep inaccurate time. No one really dives with a Panerai or races cars with a Heuer or flys jets with a Breitling. It’s basically a handmade precision instrument, put together by craftsman with a legacy story and an informal spokesman who has been dead 30 years thrown in for good measure.

    Though they are probably interested in Fuji’s plans, I doubt they are worried at all. And no doubt Fuji doesn’t believe they are really siphoning Leica customers to a large degree. They are just segmenting a niche.

    • OK these companies have to keep up the illusion that professionals do dive with a Panerais, race cars with Heuers, and fly jets with a Breitlings – when, as you say, this isn’t exactly true. So are you suggesting that, at some point, there may come a time (if not already) when almost no big name professional photographer will be taking their photographs with an M Leica – but, to keep selling those cameras at a premium price, to both the rich and aspirational, Leica will have to maintain the story that they do?

      I notice some of these Swiss watch companies “award” their products to high profile sports figures etc. is that just a clever way of keeping up the story that these people use their watches? Do you think Leica’s Oskar Barnak Awards are something similar?.

      I also wonder what Blackstone’s plans for Leica are. In the end they seem to buyout most of the companies they invest in – and they obviously make those investments intending to make a very good profit.

  19. easily fixed…how about Leica just put a red dot on the new Fuji Pro, throw in LR3 “for free” double the Fuji price…Done.

    • Ha ha…there is a similarity between Leica fans and Porsche fans.
      We want evolution of the basic design. And that’s why both makes are so successful. And, expensive.

      • In this arena ‘of never satisfied’ you are one of them who understand that legacy feeds the heart and specifications the mind

    • Thanks, Felix! I am fascinated by Fuji’s move to reportedly compare their sensor to Leica’s with no need for an AA filter due to this 6×6 array, optional magnifaction via optical/hybrid view finder (almost like having multiple magnified optical viewfinders, like the film M’s of old), and now their own M mount adapter….CRAZY! Awesome. We may not need Leica to innovate, if Fuji does it for a cheaper price….

  20. One question may by: What does the Chinese Market demand. In re-reading the LFI article, it was suggested that this market will be the focus of Leica’s expansion, rather than the Americas and Europe, in the coming years….

    • In the segment of the Chinese market that will be purchasing Leica cameras – brand and status is pretty well everything for now.

    • Dear Ashwin. Leica is already doing it, I heard the rumors that they are going to copy Red Flag 20 (a hybrid chinese copy of M-4 and M-5 from 70), complete with Asus circuitry and Sony matrix. The body of limited edition will be of solid gold, the lenses will contain jade elements of highest quality.

  21. The big issue with Leica is lack of innovation in every field.
    Optical and mechanical engineering is no more enough. Electronics and software are at least as important as optics and mechanics.
    You want the best product ? You need the best in every field.

    Leica electronics and software are crap. This dissonance is ridiculous and embarrassing for a company that pursues excellence. That definitely has to change, and it is so easy to do: you need excellence ? Get the best engineers in every field, and give them a dream.

  22. A “matching” camera for the Summarit lenses sounds very attractive and would have a logical place in the product line. However, I’m thinking that the price wouldn’t be around $2,500. That is just 25% more than the X1’s price when introduced. If Leica produces a digital CL rangefinder with Leica style and substance, it is more likely to be priced in the $4K-$5K range, mid-way between the X1 and the M9.

  23. Ashwin,
    You’re dreaming. Leica does what they want and they continue to have the following of people with money that can afford to buy anything that Leica produces. Leica fans will pay $9K for a camera rather than $3K just so that they can say “I have a Leica”. My Leica lenses cost me a fortune are second to none. I don’t want and don’t need an autofocus camera and prefer a rangefinder. You can’t tell Leica what to do. If you want a Canon or a Nikon or one of the cheap 4/3 systems, then buy one. I’m still using my M6 TTLs (a .72 and a .85) and my M7 and enjoying the “old” cameras. People have different preferences. Leica will continue to thrive and can charge whatever they want for their products and Leica fans will continue to buy whatever they make, Why? Because it’s a Leica. The new M10 will probably cost $10K and people will buy it. Leica is in the process of building a new plant that will enable them to deliver the products that Leica fans crave (especially lenses). I sold my Canon and Nikon stuff. I got tired of automated cameras.

    • It’s okay to dream 😉

      I know Leica will ultimately do as they see fit, and folks like me have little to no sway. But market forces do have some sway, as do expectations from new investors…Regardless of all of that, I am still entitled to an opinion….I am essentially hoping that like the Summarit line that was released 3 years ago, Leica things of producing a “matching” camera at an approachable price point.

      I am not into AF that much either,especially if it is inaccurate. I simply stated that the Fuji solution will have this, and with its form factor, I suspect that it will over some (a lot) people who may have been otherwise thinking of an RF solution….

      I have tried out both Canon and m4/3 options, but like Leica, as do you, for the same reasons….

      As you stated, preferences being waht they may be, I decided to write mine out….

      All great points, Rick, and well taken. THanks!

      • PD autofocus is fast but can be inaccurate. CD auto-focus is already dead accurate, but slow. Once on-sensor PD autofocus is properly implemented on full size cameras it should be both dead accurate and fast. Unlike an optical rangefinder it should never need adjustment too.

        Most autofocus lenses are not well designed for manual focus use – but a few are. It is clearly possible to make af lenses where the manual focus capability is not compromised.

  24. Hallo Herr Leica

    M10 Euro ​​5K.
    EVIL aps-c mit auto foucs Euro 2K.
    X2 mit EVF und ohne Blitz.
    Objektiv Produktion Samsung geben.

    Danke.

  25. I agree with a lot of what Ashwin has said.There is indeed a need for a serious modern Leica camera occupying the ground somewhere between the X1 and the M9. This is because Leica must make itself relevant to modern young people. I myself am a retro grouch so still prefer cameras like the M8 and M9. This CL type may come about as Leica extends its marketing efforts to the growing economies of Asia.They could use their strategic alliance with Panasonic to make this a high tech marvel to wow the critics with its functionality combined with robust build quality and old world charm!However we must remember Leica Camera is small and punches way above its weight already so we cannot expect the level of turnover other companies have. In fact it is precisely this lack of built in obsolescence that attracts people to Leica in the first place -though this is a hard act to pull off in a fast paced comsumerist society! The trick is to keep true to the vision which for Leica is about minimalism and functionality I bought my first Leica camera many moons ago. I was already well aware of their quality because of my other hobby ornithology -Leica binoculars are superb- So I imagine I must be like those people who buy Morgan sports cars because they want to be individuals and like having fun -and I have had a lot of fun with my previous M6 and current M8 not a bad thing at all really.

  26. It’s a shame that nearly all of these open letters simply don’t get what Leica is about. Leica produces luxury items. A luxury item is something special (with a special price). Something that you buy with your gut and not your head. A M9 (or any M for that matter) is something like a nice mechanical watch. Leica = Luxury. I always thought the mere existence of the (very nice) Leica boutiques gave that fact away? 😀

    Leica does not offer good value for money, never has, never will and to my mind: never should. If you buy a Leica you do so because you want one and can afford one. If you have to save up to afford one it’s even better as you get a sense of achievement as well – of course if I were to buy it on credit then yes I agree that it’s much too expensive.

    A M9 and a Summilux is not worth the asking price if you were to rationalize it. But if you have to do that then it’s not for you. If you have to tell yourself that it is the best camera on this planet because you payed so much for it then it’s equally not for you. If you get pissed off and kick up a fuss because the rangefinder is out of alignment then it’s not for you. If you miss zooms and video and high frame rates and long focal lengths…. it simply is not for you. If you have to to tell Leica fans that they are idiots and list all the shortcomings you don’t get it. If you complain to Leica about their products… same applies. Leica is knows exactly who buys what and what to charge.They know how to milk their target audience and are doing exceedingly well as far as I can tell.

    I know that I have not bought the best camera in the world (from a technical point of view it’s far from it). I bought something to enjoy… basically it’s an expensive toy (like a flashy car, a nice watch, an expensive suit etc.). I knew exactly what shortcomings it has and I still plunked down 9k€ for a new M system knowing full well that it’s asinine to do so. I beleive I’m one of the 98% of M users who use them simply because they enjoy using them. That’s what luxury is about (at least to me): enjoying yourself. Isn’t it interesting that most pro photographers use Leicas mainly for their personal projects? 😉

    Would Leica start building cameras for the general public with the features and price to match they would be out of business within one or two years. The magic, the mystique would be gone. They will hopefully never be so stupid to try and produce real mass-market (the projected goal of 5% market share is already aiming high!)

    I – as an European (Austrian) – find it interesting that apparently mostly Americans seem to be offended by the way Leica works. Here everyone knows that a Leica is a luxury item and accepts (even like!) that. I never understood why that is… maybe it’s a cultural thing? Probably because there’s no German translation for “bang for the buck” 😀

    oh and btw: Leica is definitely not a German car (they are much too reasonable), if Leica were a car, it’d be a Morgan 😉

    • Ahh…another one from Austria!

      Besides that – I would compare LEICA with a Mercedes Maybach – just the Sheikhs and some Pro-Basketballer are mostly buying one…it’s still “just” a car, “just” a Mercedes, which is affordable for quite a lot of people but with a touch of the upper-10.000 class.

      😉

  27. I’m not an expert but if Leica sell 5 m9’s is it not like Nikon selling 25 D7000’s? People are going to buy M cameras no matter how much they cost.

    With the M9 they did something a lot of other camera manufactures have not done, it’s all about the full frame sensor, Nikon have 2 FX cameras right? What we need and what the whole industry needs is full frame sensors in small bodies if we are still continuing to use our old lenses designed for 35mm film. If Leica brought out a camera with an APS-C sensor I’d be gutted, because I want to shoot with a 50mm lens and not have to compensate for the cropped sensor.

    I use an M6 and that’s pretty much perfection for me apart from the extra features of the M7 which make it a nicer more user friendly camera to use. What Leica did is just made a digital M with a full frame sensor, no other crap features and I respect that. Wish I had one it’s the only digital camera which I think has a soul.

  28. Greetings Ashwin!

    Lovely open letter – I would sign it but as others wrote I don’t think LEICA will “hear” us. I cross my fingers and do hope that the already in development been “missing link” between X1 and M9 will be that good that it at least can compete with the X-1pro from Fujifilm, Nikon 1 and whatever else is out there and will be in 2012.

    Until then I do enjoy my X100 and M9.

    • Yes, the X100 is quite a wonderful camera. I was torn between it and the GXR, option for the latter so that I could use my Leica lenses….but the X100 is great, pushes the envelop, and has clearly lead Fujifilm to innovate in new and promising directions.

      Thanks for the kind words, Michael

  29. If Leica sells M9 at price around $3000, I believe a lot of people will buy it with expensive M lenses.
    I completely believe that the M lenses are worth their money, the only thing stops me from buying M is the stupid M body price.

      • Yeah, at 9K, I won’t get it….seriously ridiculous…the M9 satisfies me plenty….If the M10 is $9K, they will really need something to price into for people like me, who will put down a lot, but not that much…

      • Look the price from M9 to M9P. Leica can easily make money by killing bugs or lifting face in the system. Even to 10K level, might just eliminate some bugs of M9.

      • You’re not going to find me defending Leica’s prices….but that aside, the exchange rate sucks for us American’s right now. It’s not ALL Leica’s fault…but they’re playing way-to-far into the Luxury brand game. Photographers actually have to be able to afford their cameras to prove their worth their sticker to the 1%ers that make up their target market.

        But hey Nikon is going to charge at least $3.5K for the D800 making it really hard for me to afford that too. I’m going to be a last-gen fan unless my wedding business takes off A-LOT.

    • Why? They sell every camera and lens they can make now at 7-8K. It’d be stupid to lower the price. And while Rob doesn’t get it, thousands do. The M9 is the camera a lot of people wanted. Three times more people than the original production estimates. If the M9 wasn’t a product that many, many people wanted and were prepared to pay for then the price would have come down. But it hasn’t. Stores don’t discount M9 prices because there is demand. If you wont drop the 7K for an M9 then there are 5 other that will. The M9 is unique. It’s the only one of its kind.

      I’ve had all the humungocams from Canon and Nikon. And Rob’s right. No one can tell which camera took which shot. But I can. And one of the reasons I shoot is because I enjoy it. And I enjoy it more with a Leica than I do with a Canon, Nikon, Sony or Fuji. For me DSLRs are like driving a Toyota up the freeway. Easy, economical and reliable. The M9 is like driving a Triumph TR6 on a windy road with the top down. Sure it takes a bit longer to get there but the trip is oh so, much more fun.

      Now I can sit back and harp on about all the technical reasons that the M9 is better than the D3X or 1Ds. It’s cheaper, easier to carry. Focus in low light is better and more accurate. The lenses are faster AND smaller and optically perfect. The Leica doesn’t have an AA filter. I could go all day.

      But the reality is I, and many others just enjoy shooting more with a manual everything low tech Leica. Please Mr Leica. Don’t stuff that up.

      Gordon

      • Hey Flash –

        I get it. Really, there isn’t much to get. I could be happy to shoot a M9, D4, or D3100 for that matter. All have merit.

        Your Leica “optical perfection” will never produce perfection in your photography. Only you can do that, and then,when reviewing your work, it just might be your opinion. Many feel Zeiss achieves optical perfection, at least what the naked eye can see. Last time I checked Zeiss glass is built pretty well, it’s heavy and it looks great, at least to me.

        I doubt you can pick out images in any given magazine if you knew nothing of the photographer or circumstances. If you say you can, then you are better than most.

        The point of this whole thread was not whether Leica is worth the money, but will Leica make cameras more financially available to the general public. All I said was don’t hold your breath because from a financial point of view, they don’t have to.

        I don’t make a disparaging judgement on Leica because it is there business model and even though they almost went out of business in the 80’s, they are apparently doing well, very well. And I hope they continue to do so.

        But at the same time, many will agree, there isn’t a camera system out there that have more people mesmerized over “feel”, “build quality”, “sharpness at the corners”, etc. when the cost of the bodies and lenses comes into question.

        • Rob,

          I agree. And as I said I don’t think anyone can pick the camera based on the shot. My point was that it ISN’T any of the technical stuff that’s making Leica sucessful now. The technical stuff is all fluff to cover the real reason people shoot with a particular system. The American sales trainer Tom Hopkins once said that people buy based on emotion and then defend those purchase decisions with logic. Most people who shoot with Leica do so because they enjoy the camera, rather than for any technical merit or lack of that it has. I shot Canon professionally for nearly 20 years. I enjoy shooting with a rangefinder than any SLR and uberzoom I’ve ever owned. I don’t expect the results to be superior. I just choose to use tools I enjoy rather than what may seem, to many, as the logical choice. That’s the same reason when people work so hard to defend its shortcomings. Emotion over logic. They may sprout about the lenses etc, but that’s not the real reason. That’s the logic defending their personal choice. And that choice is almost based on whether the purchase gives you a sense of well being or not.

          This is not directed at you, but I laugh when people say Leicas are too expensive or too elitest, or that they’re going to go broke unless they change their ways. The handmade M9 is cheaper than both the top Canon and Nikon’s production line offerings. An 85 1.2L isn’t remarkably cheaper than a 75mm lux. Yet you can get a discounted 1Ds or D3x all over the place but not a cheap M9. They say Leicas are too expensive for one reason only. They can’t afford one or wont pay that much for one.

          Every other camera company in the world is a little jealous of Leicas growth (and Fujis) in the last three years. Canon or Nikon would kill to have a waiting list for their cameras after two years on the market. But they can’t because their products, unlke the M9 aren’t unique. People will just but something almost the same in a different brand. Leica can’t compete against that and if they try they’ll go under. They need to do what they do best which is small output of a desirable product. If they do go down the Fuji route then Fuji will win. Leica’s certainly a niche product, but it’s a nice niche to be in when you need to double capacity to keep up with demand. And at the estimated 35000 M9’s sold that’s $273 million dollars. A very nice niche indeed.

          Fuji is going to fill another little hole left by Contax. The AF “rangefinder”. The new Fuji system is going to make some people very excited. Others will prefer manual focus and it’s advantages. both can suceed. Neither will have the versatility of a mid range DSLR. But they’ll both be mor fun to shoot with. But there’s probably only room for one player in each category. So it’s going to be a better strategy for Lieca to do what they do best and let Fuji do their stuff. Then they both win.

          Gordon

      • If there really is as much demand as you say then someone else (Zeiss with a Japanese partner?) will eventually step in and build something very similar to the M9 and undercut the price. That’s how Canon got started. The Fuji X1 is getting pretty close. Now imagine what happens when someone makes something similar to that with an M-mount and full frame sensor.

        If the sensor happens to be significantly better than what Leica have in their camera at the time,what are photographers (not brand aficionados) going to buy to put their M-mount lenses on?

  30. The parallel I would draw to Leica currently is to Apple back around 2000… A couple years prior they nearly went under and everyone wrote them off as irrelevant. Then the iBooks and iMacs arrived and things began to pick up. But it was the iPod that saved Apple, then the iPhone kept the momentum going.

    I think we can see similarities in Leica. The M8 kept them from teetering over the brink, but it was the M9 that saved them. The question is, what will be Leica’s ‘iPod’?

    And the Leica Stores are IMO the exact same strategy as Apple’s Stores. Leica has a difficult enough time competing for shelf space at camera stores, so the best way to get their message to the consumer is through their own stores. I have been to the one in Munich and it was a great experience. I could look at, use, do test photos with whatever (lenses) I wanted. No pressure to buy – the sales staff were so easy going, it was a pleasant surprise (not sure if all the stores are that way). That’s the kind of experience I want in a camera store.

    • Hi!
      The eqvivalent you find “shopping” a car today in the upper segments, Lexus, Audi, Porsche all with centres or at least a specific nominated part in the show room. You find it with audio equipment, e.g. Bose, Bang Olufsen, et cetera

    • Fantastic analogy, Ron. I have thought about this, and think I mentioned it in my first letter. Having read the Jobs biography, he suggested that Apple work on 4-5 products to perfection (for Apple, it was the iPod, iPad, iPhone, MacBook line, and Apple TV)…For Leica, it could be the M9, the X1, the S2, the D-Lux series, and something else (the camera that I propose; Leica’s likely EVIL camera…just crossing my fingers that it has an optical RF too….hybrid or not)

    • I think this is a natural comparison to make since Apple was at that time (and still is in some circles) perceived as being the luxury manufacturer when the PC was quickly becoming a low priced commodity.

      But as you say, Apple did not change the game with the Mac, they changed it with the iPod and there is nothing that Leica currently does, or will likely do in the future, that can compare to that game changer.

      And where Apple was able to bring the price of its products down to those of other manufacturers – or make those players compete on a higher level, I don’t see that happening with Leica. I firmly think they will be content to sit up in the rarified air where they currently reside.

      So no, I don’t think you can compare any camera company today to what Apple did with the iPod and iPhone.

      As far as the stores go, think of how busy a typical Apple Store is. They are literally the busiest stores in the Mall whenever I visit. They are able to do this, not because they sell a super expensive goods that only 1% of the population can afford, they pack them in because they offer an amazing product at a good price and combine it with hands on service. The Leica stores are museum pieces in comparison – don’t touch anything because if it breaks you are walking out short a few thousand at a minimum.

      Also, Apple almost when under during the Power-PC days but Leica is financially healthy as an ox. They could keep doing what they are doing in perpetuity and people would still buy their lenses and bodies.

      • Right on, Chad!

        “But as you say, Apple did not change the game with the Mac, they changed it with the iPod and there is nothing that Leica currently does, or will likely do in the future, that can compare to that game changer.” – Perfect.

        And if I may add, it wasn’t until Jobs ported iTunes to Windows did the iPod REALLY take off. I had bought a copy of “Music Match” with lifetime upgrades only 1 week before for $50.00. Jobs made iTunes available for the PC. I downloaded iTunes for free and never looked back.

        For you Apple cultists out there, the PC saved Apple.

        Don’t flame me, we had the very 1st Mac in 1984, and several after that. I was an “evangelist” right along with Guy Kawasaki, for many years as well. Only until the iPod could be used on a PC, did it sell in any numbers to begin to make Apple a power house.

        So for those of you who think your Macs are better than PC’s, just give that PC a hug next time you walk by it at Best Buy. It saved that little sorry-assed company named Apple. 🙂

      • Can’t compare Apple..to Oranges (Leica). Apple truly re-invented and innovated in multiple industries. When it comes to cameras, and for Leica, there is absolutely nothing they can do as far as re-invention or innovation. Anything they can cram in there would be another gimmick that others have already covered and arguably an improvement over an antiquated and closed system (the M). The only hope that Leica has to continue on their path, is to stay exactly where they are and cater to the elite with a product that is easy to use, streamlined, but extremely well built and durable. Once they get caught in the nonsense upgrade cycle of other manufacturers, they are dead.

  31. You are damn right? Read Porsche history and find how the sports car nerds protested when Porsche went inte the SUV market with its Cayenne.
    Now Porsche can afford to develop the famous 911 series and even more cars in a price range affordable for more people without losing customers.
    Their policy is to be above Audi, a family member within the VW group, with prices.
    Last year was all time high for Porsche. All this can be applied to Leica.

  32. You can really see the passion in Ashwin’s letter, but I think it really misses the mark and shares the thinking that leads brands to create products that don’t distinguish themselves and often hurts them in the end.

    Leica has been such a success in recent years despite their high pricing because in the age of HD video enabled, bazzillion mega pixel, super high speed auto focus, Instagram and mobile cameras there are those who rediscovered the joy of shooting with a superbly engineered, well crafted, single purpose camera.

    If Leica was to compromise and start to create a mid-range, prosumer, AF camera to compete in the M4/3 or DSLR range they would lose – Period. Leica’s expertise is not in this area, the advanced consumer digital camera market relies on high degree of software engineering and heavy investment in IC development or at least partnering up or buying out a company with existing IP. For example their partnership with Panasonic was fairly successful and helped Leica get their name into the consumer digital camera market. However those cameras were merely Panasonic P/S cameras with Leica casings and branding (with minor software enhancements). If you look at the initial M8 and M9 cameras the software was/is horrible, slow and bloated compared to a low end Nikon, Sony or Canon DSLR. But, a user works with those discrepancies because of the engineering of the camera, the ergonomics and optics.

    Personally, I believe Leica should continue to focus on producing simple, well crafted, solidly engineered cameras and optics; without the crazy bells and whistles of contemporary DSLR’s. If I want to shoot HD video or auto focus there are plenty of superb cameras on the market already (not to mention the iPhone 4GS). Manual focus is not a bug, it’s a skill, like great photography it takes practice. As for Leica’s pricing … well that’s part of the club, we work for months and years to save up for that one lens or that one body, you really feel like you’ve earn it (unless you’re part of the 1 percent). It’s the difference between owning a Summilux lens and a Tamron.

    At this point I have a fairly large collection of cameras Oly’s, Nikon, Canon and Sony, they all get used and merit some level of respect, but at the end of the day I still love my M9 because it does only what it does best.

    • Hi Derek,
      I actually agree with you for the most part. I agree that Leica would fail if they implemented the same strategies put in place by Panasonic, Sony, and Olympus. THat’s why I feel that having an optical RF is so important to what ever camera is put forth.

      As for bells and whistles, I also agree that the M9 does it so well, but I think a midrange camera may be a nice testing ground for new technology, that may or may not fly in higher level cameras sucha sthe M9 and its successors.

      I agree that MF is a skill. I am faster at manual focus than AF in many cases these days…

  33. Tough to stay relevant in the ADD ridden photography world, when there is nothing new to invent. I wonder how anyone has ever taken a great picture without an EVF over the last 50 years. Of course it would make all the difference in a Leica. I find all of it laughable, but of course it plays well into our hopelessly consumeristic minds and the bogus notion that different or new features would make a company or a photographer more successful.

  34. Leica cannot compete on price with the big Japanese manufacturers unless they outsource as with the X1 – even then it is overpriced.

    Their best strategy is to up-grade their existing most successful model the M9 into a true professional camera. It needs to be far more reliable and robust – that means faster, smoother write speeds, more reliable compatability with SD cards, better implemented sensor cleaning and with less of a need for expensive and time-wasting returns and repairs. An upgrade of the utterly crap rear screen is also necessary.

    Anyone spending 7,000 $ on a body, needs to know that they have something as robust and reliable as a Canon or Nikon professional camera, not a temperamental camera, which is more of an artisan’s boutique delicacy.

    If admirers of the camera’s clean simplicity were more convinced of its reliability, more might stretch to the price.

  35. $2500? For a body? Whew. Still too much. I can afford to split broadband web service with my roommates all year, but I won’t throw 5 months of rent at digital body that will fry in a moist climate, and/or struggles to work below 10 degrees F. I will swallow the pain of one of your $2500 optics, but until your bodies drop to $1000, I will shoot m4/3s or a D5100 or K5. Maybe thats what you want. If you can keep your doors open selling $7000 bodies, then there are too many rich people.

  36. That’s asking a lot…. trying to complete with the ‘yearly upgrade’ brigade might be tad risky for Leica. It’s a whole other market. The M8/9 are the (digital) entry tickets to being able to use the fantastic range of Leica glass, both old and new. Manual focus isn’t a problem, it’s a choice. What’s the demographic of people who can’t afford an M9, but could maybe find $2500 for a CL – and then will never be able to afford another $15,000 of Leica M glass to use on it? I don’t think it’s the mass market anyways.

  37. Somehow I can’t see Leica will be doing it any sooner. It will be a brand dilution for Leica to have a lower entry point camera for their M system from a positioning perspective. They will never be able to compete with the mass produced Nikon/Canon and the likes given the R&D cost vs the sales volumes.
    The affordable Leica’s positions are taken up by the X1, the Panny Leicas and their eventual successors.
    To provide a cheaper M9 will be a poor strategic positioning for the M. It will be corporate suicide. Mmm, it is more like…I own a Porsche 911 and don’t want it to be dumb down to a Cayman.
    The X1 and Panny Leicas are the aspirational introduction to the core value or system of Leica. Eventually, Leica wants these owners to be inspired sufficiently to move up the product ladder!…. Read the aspirational nouveau riches of Moscow, China and the likes… Just follow the launch calendar of the latest Leica boutiques!

  38. Different horses for different courses.

    Leica please just keep doing what you are doing… its worked for decades while others have come and gone, and you almost have at times but right now the demand outstrips your production capability to please don’t go getting huge loans and try to be a big camera company.

    The Japanese and Koreans do that really well and are enough competition for each other… you fill a niche that works for me.

    I see no need for you to copy the market space of others that can fill those areas and volumes.

    Chasing competition rarely works… if customers don’t want your good sales will show but right now that’s not the case.

    • Then buy an M6 and be done with it already. Don’t be such a technophobe, there are tonnes of Leica cameras you can buy if you’re afraid to evolve…
      There is nothing wrong with Leica implementing new, and ground breaking technology into the upcoming M10, while keeping in the spirit of the classic rangefinder. I for one wish that they would innovate for the photographer rather than catering to the collector…

  39. Couldn’t say it better. I got an M9 lately, for the feeling of manual focus and the simplicity of the camera. And because I soon turned 50 and felt foolishly nostalgic. I also got an X100 and I’m sure, if the new Fuji would have been there when I was deciding if I should get a M9, I would still own a Leica – but only the good old M6 with the old f1.5/50mm summarit lens I already owned (and haven’t used for many years)

    And I guess there are many out there like me, loving rangefinder cameras, who have not invested in an M9. And they will be tempted with the new Fuji, specially if the glass it comes with is as good as on the X100.

    So yes Leica, if you don’t want to join Kodak, please read he sign on the wall!

      • I do like the swivel EVF you see with the VF-2. Externals can be a hassle, but with the ability to flip it up more than makes up for the increase bulk and hassle IMO.

      • Recently wasn’t someone from Leica was talking positively about EVFs being “the future”? I took that to mean they ate working on a camera with an EVF.

    • If the X-1 Pro by Fuji will work well, I personally do not need Leica to make something very similar for 50% higher price (unless it will be even more sexy 😉 ), but an X2 in the X1 spirit and with a few updates (completely agree on AF and EVF, and take the AA off the sensor) would be something interesting.

      • I like when companies shake up the market. Fuji seems to be forcing others to follow, just like Apple has done the past decade. Let’s see if Leica responds to Fuji’s challenge.

  40. I find it unlikely that Leica cameras will ever seriously compete with Canon, Nikon, Fuji or Sony.
    I wish that Leica would focus on designing fully automated world class lenses with OEM mounts to fit everybody’s new generation cameras and give those of us looking for ultimate IQ a worthy lens alternative.
    A marketing novice would now argue that could hurt Leica camera sales.
    I don’t think so. Leica camera sales are right now insignificant. A boost of the Leica image is more likely to revive Leica camera sales as well as to put contemporary Leica glass on a lot of the “competitors” cameras.

    • Agreed. The markets are different, but I do feel that there are folks who are using M4/3, Sony, and Ricoh products who might be using Leica products, if there were a price-friendly option. I do feel that this market could be substantial and still yet not compete with the likes of those other cameras…

  41. Ashwin, I think your concept of a intermediate camera positioned between the X1 point and shoot and the manual focus M9 is a bit short on vision.

    Bring back the R series, but smaller and with an EVF. They’ve already gone on record saying that the R-mount lenses will not be abandoned.

    Pricing? Heck, don’t try to make a $2500 camera. There’s plenty of those (buy a Nikon D700/800) and the competitors are full of features, shorter innovation cycles, etc.

    Instead, make a $10-12k baby 35mm S2 with an R mount.

    That will kill.

    • The S2 is the spiritual successor to the R series in everything but name (if not in physical compatibility). It represents something new and forward looking, rather than another M8/9-style homage to Leica’s past. We already have one nostalgia piece (albeit a very capable one in the right hands and for the right uses), we don’t need another.

    • A DSLR system that will be seen as competing in the ’35mm’ DLSR market is a waste of time for Leica. What could work for them though, after they figure out a camera similar to what Ashwin suggests, release the M10 and finally get their M series lens production on track, is a re-release of some R lenses in the ZE/ZF style of Zeiss. I don’t read about anyone pining for a Leica DSLR, but lots lust after the R lenses for use on their Canons, Nikons, etc…

      • But please make the Nikon mount lens version work like a Nikon lens and not focussing the wrong way round for us Nikonians :).

        Leica M is something special, but i don’t think it will change my photography style! Shooting with so many different cameras now and don’t see much difference in the style, only in the outcome of some lens rendering used.

  42. Ashwin – while I appreciate your passion and insight to what is the cult of Leica, largely, asking them to re-define and get a clue, is useless.

    They don’t care. They never have.

    When I first got into photography, I would listen to my brother lament, “Well, that’s just Leica for you…slow to do anything meaningful then charge way too much for it.” That was in the 70’s.

    Leica is like the Chicago Cubs. The Cubs have little incentive to win because they have enthralled themselves as the “Lovable Loosers”. We Chicagoans pack Wrigley field each year to over 2 million. We buy their brand…we drink their beer and eat their hot dogs by the millions. It’s the place to be in Chicago during the summer time. If you are a Cubs fan, you usually are a fan for life. The Cubbies figured this out a long time ago – and since 1984 when they almost got into the World Series, Wrigley Field has been packed. Money rolls in and there is no need to improve.

    Sound familiar? Leica fans are similar. Though Leica performance is top shelf from an optics perspective, does the average guy really like trimming the film and pulling out the bottom of the camera to load it? Though their lenses are considered “the best” by many, many more make equally, if not better images with Zeiss glass at a third of the cost. When Leica introduced the M8, it was just another digital camera. Nothing special about it’s abilities other than a red name badge that said you were cool and the ability to use Leica glass. It’s amazing the extent of LFB (Leica Fan Boys) on Flickr who treat their M8 pictures as treasures compared to the rest of their portfolios.

    I won’t get into the M9 – Steve and others (my self included) have offered a diverse set of opinions about it, and at the end of the day, no one is changing their minds about anything.

    Leica understands it’s market. Guys like you are multiplied by the thousands, hoping against hope that Leica will “get them” and build cameras that make sense and are some what affordable. Your comment about pricing the new Leica slightly higher than the everyday competition solidifies the notion that most buy Leica for status and nothing more. They have you LFB’s by the balls and you know it. Vanity breeds vanity.

    You can’t tell the difference between a well executed Nikon, Canon, Sony image compared to a Leica but you guys are willing to pay double or triple to have those cameras around your neck. No matter what. Don’t get me wrong, I love Leica’s…But I can live just fine without them. Only when the fan base abandons them will they change…but we know that will never happen.

      • I would add, “Only when another manufacturer releases a FF solution that accepts M-glass, will they change”.

        Fuji is going to do more disruption for sure with the X-Pro but Leica will continue to sit on the high throne of elevated pricing as long as none of the other manufacturers dare to slip a full frame sensor into a compact body with a flange distance that supports adapted lenses. All the wonderful innovation we have seen in these compact systems still falls short of using great lenses at their intended focal lengths.

        • I agree. Honestly this Fuji news doesn’t even perk up my ears. Until someone else is producing a small camera with a full frame sensor, I will just keep using my M8 and M6 for when I want the full frame look (and because I enjoy using it more than my Nikon or M8).

        • Who is going to grow a pair (Steve Huff’s words) and put a FF sensor in a small capable highly spec. affordable camera? The APS-C thing has been done already.

    • I take my hat off to you sir. Very well put. In some ways it’s quite sad that Leica’s true potential is being stifled by brand loyalty and corporate ignorance.

    • Yes but I want a full frame camera. I don’t want to hang a hulking great DSLR around my neck. An M9 is the perfect solution. You are forgetting the most important factor here – Full frame

        • Although film has amazing latitude and color, the weak link is in getting a good scan that takes advantage of it. Good lab scans are expensive and all the good home scanners are expensive. I bought a Plustek one ($500) and it is rubbish.

          I love my M6 more than any other camera but scanning is the bane of my existence. I wish I could get a scan that looks like the slides themselves do!

          • Tyson, you ht the proverbial nail on the head. I appreciate and admire the look of film, I loathe trying to get it scanned to a file that is even remotely decent quality.

    • Rob,

      I also do have a lot of respect for Ashwin’s work!

      That said, I fully agree with every single line of your post. Let’s be honest: There is no rationale behind the purchase of Leica M equipment today, except (maybe) for the size/image quality relationship. However, even this is mitigated (and I am being nice here) by the pricing policy of Leica …
      Yet, I am also one of these guys who have purchased an M8 and then an M9 while being fully aware of their major limitations. As I said, there is no rationale when it comes to purchasing Leica equipment … but probably mainly pleasure.

      Ernesto

      P.S. : While I love this site (I come here everyday) I am amazed by the fact that Nikon’s announcement of today (D4) is not even mentioned here.

      • Well, easily one of my best shots was with an M3…Zeiss 50 2.0 glass…but truthfully, I was happy shooting that camera. I felt good, it is good, that’s half the battle when we are in the field:our cameras should be natural extensions of our hands as we compose and press the shutter.

        But I am drooling for a Canon P and not sure why, other than the high marks it get’s from Gandy’s site and of course my brother. And of course, no one has one…vanity is everywhere!

        BTW, what’s a D4? lol…

    • I’m so bored with the accusation that people shoot Leica because it’s a “status symbol”. Yes, the M9 is a $7k camera body. Funny though, I never hear people accuse owners of the $8k Nikon D3x of seeking “status”. How about the $7k Canon 1Ds MkIII? Most people can’t tell the difference between an image created with a Canon 1Ds MkIII and an image created with the lower priced 5D MkII. I guess the 1Ds shooters just want the “status”?

      Or maybe it has to do with something beyond pixel peeping. Like having a camera that feels right in your hands. For me, the Leica M system is more intuitive than an SLR. When I shoot with my Leica, the camera feels like an extension of my body. When I shoot with my Canon it feels like I’m sitting behind a computer. Not to mention weight, inconspicuous shooting, and reliability. My M6 and M9 are the only cameras that have never let me down in the field. I wish the same could be said for my Canons.

      Status has nothing to do with my camera system of choice. If anything, I get more attention when I’m out shooting with ginormous Canon gear. People rarely notice my Leica, and that’s a good thing. Am I a “Leica Fan Boy”? Absolutely. For all the reasons stated above.

      • You don’t hear because Nikon D3x is actually cheaper than M but beside that little detail. 1DsMKIII has extra battery built in which enables second shutter for portraits, is absolutelly moist and dust sealed, virually bullet proof body etc etc. In other words, it is a working tool for a working photographer. People buy it because they need these options, try using m9 in a dusty environment and in the heavy rain when you’re on assignment and see what’ll happen.

        It’s offcourse not the case that all people buy m9 beacuse it is status symbol, some buy it for the fact that it is highly compact unobrusive camera perfect for street shooting and certain types of event photography for example because of the silent shutter but again, like people who buy canon, nikon or sony pro gear for the reason-that equipment enables them to take best photos, camera is just a tool.

        But you won’t see or hear types of photographers I mentioned above saying things like d4 is ugly, not sexy beacuse it is not a jewlery or cuddling and dresing their m9 in fancy leather cases that cost like decent dslr, those are people who buy it as a status symbol

      • LFB –

        Because this was in respect to Leica and not Canon or Nikon, I offered no pinion for the latter.

        But since you asked…absolutely the latest and greatest Canon/Nikon bodies are status symbols for many a photographer. Some have told me they “wouldn’t be taken seriously” if they showed up with something “less” than a 5D or D3.

        I often snicker at the CWAC, MWAC, DBWAC and their top-o-line DSLR’s. Let’s see, latest FF DSLR. Check. Mandatory 70-200 (for shooting pre-school birthday parties). Check. Have the “A” button set at 5.6 all day long. Check. Oh yea, shoot in RAW so you “get all the information”, especially the silly-ass cake falling from little Billie’s chin. Check.

        Now if I offended you about your sensibilities shooting Leica, it wasn’t personal. But I don’t think you can argue with the price/performance points I made. Those are more less facts. If Leica had some true magical optical powers that the commercial world appreciated, not a Canon or Nikon would ever be seen at a professional shoot.

        I understand your affinity with your M6 & M9. I love the M3, couldn’t stand the M4P. But, if you suddenly found yourself without your Leicas, my guess is you would find another system that would serve as an extention of you body – much like my Olympus RC does on some days, my Yashica FX-D, does on others, and my lowly Canon 30D does in the studio.

        But I really surprised myself one day when I felt at one with the world while looking though my 1925 Korona 5×7 view camera. Beyond an extension to my body, it was what I would call FULL FRAME and LIVE VIEW.

        For you, a Leica might really mean something, but to the vast majority of other users, the pictures all pretty much look the same.

        • Wow! More negative generalizations about photographers based on the price of their gear. While I have certainly encountered photographers who purchased cameras beyond their ability, I find it’s generally attributed to eagerness not vanity.

          I am fortunate to have met a lot of great photographers from around the world. Photographers who shoot with everything from iPhones to top of the line cameras. I wouldn’t judge any of them as photographers based on the price of their gear. That’s just silly. Perhaps your observations have more to do with the photographers you surround yourself with and less about their gear.

          When I am shooting a commercial assignment in the studio, then yes, I am most likely shooting with a DSLR. That’s generally the right tool for the job. Not because of image quality, but because of how the camera functions in relation to the job. But you forgot to mention reportage, photo documentary, travel photography, fine art, etc. In many of these situations the Leica is an appropriate tool. And there’s plenty of history to back that up.

          I also disagree that pictures made with Canon, Nikon and Leica all look the same. Lenses do have character. The characteristics may not be visible in EVERY photograph since there are so many variables in photography, but when they are visible the characteristics can be quite striking. I happen to like the look of a 50mm Summilux, others find the look of a Nikon 50mm pleasing, some prefer Zeiss, and so on.

          Would I adapt if Leicas were no longer available? Of course! My passion is for making pictures, not which tool I use. That being said, Leicas are available. I enjoy using my Leica. Other people enjoy their Leicas. Who are you to suggest that it’s because of “status” and not photography?

    • Great comments, Rob. I worry that what you say is right, but yet feel the need to say it nonetheless.

      But the Cubs just nabbed Theo Epstein, so maybe things will change, as they did in Boston, where people may have said the very same things prior to 2004 (where the Curse of the Bambino was firmly in place)…..

      Leica does certainly understand its current market, but if Dr. Kauffman’s words in the recent LFI are any indications, they hope and expect to expand their services with this strategic partnership with Blackstone….

      • Well, my nephew made me more-less a Braves fan…at least that organization doesn’t take their fan base for granted…we’ll see about Leo, that is promising.

        I doubt it about Leica…and I really do want to own a M system…but why pay inflated prices for hype? Canon P will fit the bill, I hope.

      • Hej Ashwin. Probably you don`t remember my pleas long ago for simplyfied FF gear. Leica contrary to manys opinion, was an extremally innovative camera maker. But it was in their beginning. Rapidwinders, remote mechanical operation, conversion to SLR (Visoflexes), rapid focusing units, you name it. And between them most basic models, the MDs. Just a shutter box of extreme fine tolerances and nothing else. You put any lens, preferable wides, good distance estimate (nowdays a pocket laser disto), finder of your choice and you are ready. Can you immagine such philosophy executed in digital version? Preferably with life view, preferably rainstorm sealed, probably with built-in cordless remote, kind of digital Zeiss SW (com`on zeiss), probably with meter readout and why not, a tiny LCD (24mmx36mm) on top of camera shell. That would be a perfect basic picture taking machine. For the rest of task, as we say horses for courses. MF for fashion, Saitz for panoramas, D4/Mk for sports and so on. Do this leica for a reasonable price, 2-3k (you save cost of optical rangfinder) and I`m happy. For the rest Mr. Kaufmann, be my guest. M10, M12, AF with all bells and wistles electronic gadgetry, special editions for sheiks, limited editions- feel free. Recently somebody from NIKON corp wasn`t excluding possibility of return of Nikonos in digital form. When I think about simplified beauty of my NikonosII reincarnated in FF digital form then I regain my faith in mirarcles in camera industry.

        • One more thing. Came to think about all that screaming- what no RF, you must be nuts!! Well, what about famous Lieca red dot. Yes indeed. There could be a place for it. In the form of red diode lighting up as a spot focus confirmation, why not.

    • I disagree with the part about not seeing a difference between Leica images and well executed Nikon, canon, or Sony images but then again I also think there is a difference that can be seen between crop body images and full frame.

      I also believe that Leica will continue to do what they do until someone forces them to change. If fuji or someone comes out with a full frame camera that still has that Leica feel to it then and only then will you see real change by Leica.

    • Unfortunately, Leica doesn’t have to worry about what other consumer camera companies are doing because they are a niche luxury brand. Anyone waiting for Leica to become competitive in price will be waiting forever. It’s just not going to happen.

      While people always tend to focus on results, people never seem to take into account ergonomics and comfort of a camera. Those of us who used mechanical rangefinders appreciate the M9 not because we cannot get better results from another camera, but because it is the only digital mechnical full frame rangefinder on the market. The only true rangefinder to use Leica (Zeiss CV Canon etc) lenses on that is digital. If you don;t care about mechanical rangefinders, then you should not care about Leica.

      So, we don’t use the M9 because we think it makes us look cool etc. There are many better ways to do that…since most people don’t know who the hell Leica is (outside of photo geeks and a few gold diggers). We use the M9 because we like digital, like M lenses, and like the old school design elements that make the M9 feel like the only full frame digital camera that feels like no frills film cameras felt.

      I’m sorry, but Leica does not compete with Fuji or Sony. Leica doesn’t have to sell the amounts of cameras these companies do in order to stay relevant. It doesn’t benefit Leica to change its prices when they cannot keep their products on shelfs. They are selling everything they make for the M.

  43. How about a completely new and reliable Leica with AF lenses that is affordable and does not need to be sent to the factory for adjustments?

    • I think the big questions is if one could design a nice system that would combine advantages of rangefinder focusing (like zone focusing without even looking at the camera) with AF.

    • Yes, manual focus is a bug not a feature. When you focus with a rangefinder you 1) choose a focus spot and 2) use the range finder mechanism to simultaneously measure the distance and adjust the lens appropriately. Task 1 should be left to the photographer, but 2 is definitely busy work better done by a computer.

      As for the affordable part… that would be nice, but I don’t think Leica can match the quality of the big boys at their price points. As long as they don’t have the manufacturing scale of the others, you will have to pay more for Leica products if you want to maintain Leica quality.

      • I disagree. MF is what defines a Leica RF. Yes it can be frustrating at times, but nailing the focusing at the right moment is very rewarding.
        You can also pre-focus by judging the distance between you and the subject and you’re left with minor adjustments to be perfectly spot on. It’s only a matter of a second.

        Getting a Leica M3 is the best thing I’ve done. I’ve gotten so much better with my photography. MF was not an issue, but rather part of the charm.

      • I’ve never owned a Leica, but I hope to change that.

        “Manual focus is a bug not a feature.” I’ve been let down by AF too many times. I bought my first camera, a brand new Nikon FE, in 1982: I guess I’m just used to the MF way of things.

        AF lenses, due to the necessary tolerances involved, don’t focus as smoothly or precisely as a well-made manual focus lens (I’m thinking of a couple of sweet, screw-mount Super Takumars I had on my Pentax DSLR). I think Leica would shoot themselves in the foot with AF lenses that didn’t at least match the Summarit line in manual focus smoothness.

      • I disagree too. Using the rangefinder is one of the best parts of the experience. Having it done automatically makes photography boring. Manual everything is best and makes you feel as thought you’ve taken the photograph, rather than just pressed a button an a gadget based camera.

        • About manual focusing, I think people who never used it, don’t understand the that it can actually be faster than AF. For instance, a during portrait interview session, once achieve accurate focus is achieved, one can simply wait for the right expression or the decisive moment, and click as many frames as possible without worrying about focusing shifting. If you are using AF, it focuses every time you click, often throwing some, if not all, images out of focus. Later, one may find out that the best one is not quite focus. Of course, one can always use AF to first achieve the focus, switch it to manual, but that switching back and forth is extremely time consuming and cumbersome. Also, to give you fast focus, AF lenses are designed differently. They turn lesser distance, throwing things greatly out of focus with slightest movement. They are also often wobbly when AF is disengaged. Not to say AF is inferior or useless, but different. For those who prefer MF, AF systems, no matter how good it may be, just don’t cut it.

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