At the beginning of the meeting, Mr. Schopf briefly introduced himself. He emphasized that he has spent over half of his professional life in optics/optoelectronics; including the ARRI company.
A digital solution in the form of a R10 was not presentable. Such an investment would have been to great for Leica. The development of the S-System cost €30m. A similar effort for a digital R was not fundable.
What is the digital solution for R-Lenses?
The bad news: there is no current solution. Leica is working on a solution without a mirror, but detailed specifications are currently “open”.
Future announcements will only be made, if the solution is deliverable.
Mr. Schopf emphasized that currently Leica needs time to recover economically.
There is currently a shortage of replacement parts, because the relationship with the vendor, who have been bought by Hasselblad, is bad.
A solution has been found for dying DMR batteries. Failing batteries can be repaired with new cells; information is available from Customer Service.
In general with regard to the development of digital cameras
Mr. Schopf: Leica are evaluating sensors are on the market to find out which solutions are available. New solutions will be worked out in cooperation with the chip manufacturers. This kind of collaboration is vital for Leica.
Leica introduced the fourth S-System lens, a 120mm, at Photokina
During Photokina, prototypes were tested with a central shutter; they worked without failures. Market introduction is planned for 2011.
The S-System will be developed further. Planned introductions are:
24mm Ultra –Wide-angle
30mm super wide-angle (incl. Optional central shutter)
a tilt-shift lens has not been decided yet demand is under observation and has to be analyzed.
The S2 firmware is programmed by Leica, internally; therefore customer wishes can be actioned quickly.
The further market-development of digital medium format cameras was questioned with regard to observations, that important competitors had halved the sizes of their Photokina stands in comparison to 2008.
The S2 has sold very well worldwide, Leica still has a backlog in delivery.
Regionally, sales in Europe are going well, the USA is limping a bit behind while in Asia inquiries boom. Currently the camera is bought mostly by amateurs because professionals need a complete system, which can only be delivered slowly.
With regard to delays in the delivery of central shutters states Mr. Schopf:
“The development started with an external vendor; unfortunately it turned out the vendor could not meet our quality requirements. Development costs multiplied and the vendor was insisting on prepayments. Therefore Leica decided to continue the develop by itself. Currently Leica is not satisfied, as satisfactory quality criteria have not yet been met."
The upcoming development concentrates on a successor for the X1.
The cooperation with Panasonic will be continued.
The big media buzz on the Fuji X100 demonstrates the the X1 has set an important trend. The X100 is currently an early prototype for which no clear specifications have been set. Dr. Kaufmann sees the X100 as “a sales promotion” for the X1.
X1 Hyperfocal Mode
By end of 2010 there will be a new firmware for the X1, which will include functionality similar to a hyperfocal mode.
Leica sees much room for a further development, with less interest on contemporary features like HD Video or GPS but classical Leica virtues:
- simple handling
- sublime grace design
- outstanding picture quality
Problems with the coverings will be corrected fast and at no charge
Leica D-LUX 5
The Leica D-Lux5 was highly welcomed and Leica has already taken 14,000 orders.
Role of the M9-Titan
The M9 Titan is not only a special model but also a technology carrier.
With the LED illumination of the Finder frame and the new wearing concept this model would be, in comparison to cars, a “concept car”.
AF Help / Focus confirmation
The question was raised whether it is possible to integrate an AF Help into M9 or successors. The answer was no: The M9 is based on a CCD sensor, who cannot produce a live view. The sensor can only be read out 2 times in a second. In addition the sensor would warm up which would increase noise.
Leica prefers optical focusing over the rangefinder. AF functionality would be possible with a future CMOS sensor, which could be used for upcoming generations.
No statements were given to further developments of the M-System.
Possible variants of the M9
There is a certain demand for chrome Leica M; Leica are analysing whether production makes sense.
Finder variations underneath the current 0,68 magnification are not satisfying with regard to focusing precision, longer magnifications can be principally thought of, but are not planned. Leica refers its customers to magnifying glasses from external vendors.
An a-la-carte program is currently open, a demand for personal engraving is definitely existing.
Delivery situation for lenses
The M9 started much more successfully than planned; after 9 months the number of pieces was reached which was planned for the complete production cycle. This generated an enormous demand for lenses, but production is not easily to be scaled.
In addition, for some of the glass blanks the delivery time is more than 6 months.
Mr Schopf asks for some understanding as no compromises want to be made with regard to quality.
Mr. Schopf: the M9 Sensor is most delicate part of the camera, in addition it can only be tested once the camera is completely manufactured.
The reason for cover glass breakages have been extensively analyzed: this was due to the production process of the sensor vendor. The problem is resolved; it if appears again it will be repaired free of charge.
The firmware has reached a stable status, there a no severe bugs anymore. Currently it is worked on partially appearing problems like the “magenta cast” and green edges. Stefan Daniel is sure that this will be resolved with a new firmware.
The wish for a better sealing of the body is on the wish list but can only be accomplished with a new body.
It was indirectly stated that there are minor gaps in the range, but there is an intent to fill these gaps.
Firmware development will remain in Leica's hands and will not be opened to external developers or users. A changed firmware always means a massive intervention into the complete system which can also harm the camera.
There is a group of firmware beta testers and their findings flow into the further development.
The Pradovit D1200 did not reach the intended sales numbers. Leica currently thinking about how to proceed but it is likely that no successor will be planned.
Move to the Leitz-Park
The move is delayed as banks in the beginning of 2009 were not willing to fund even though ACM’s financing was very conservative
Currently a new Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system is being built up which will collect all data from different company entities (CS, Academy, Marketing) to serve as a common database for a all customer contacts.
And finally, the question was raised whether Leica continues to produce film cameras.
In short, the answer is “Yes, we build MP and M7 as there is a demand”.
Many thanks to my fellow Mod, Klaus, for doing the first part of this translation.