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Leica stubborness will hurt sales

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So now, after three iterations of the firmware in the M8, it seems that Leica won't budge and will stick to their idiotic lens coding system, instead of implementing a menu system, and allowing the use of third party lenses as well as Leica's. This, plus the «Leica filter» blunder message (I absolutely think this is a blunder) will, I'm afraid, hurt their M8 sales in the future.

 

After the initial enthousiasm among aficionados like us, real nuts who are ready to take whatever Leica will throw at us (even me

), and work as their beta testers (thanks again Guy, Sean, Jamie et al) they will have to go deeper, and get to a bigger market. This is where people will realize how expensive the M8 system actually is. And how complicated, when they in fact wanted a clean and simple system. These people - let's call them the «middle class second wave of Leica fans» - or would-be fans - will either already have an M system with a few lenses, among which many third-party lenses - Zeiss or C/V, who are now formidable competitors for Leica lenses - or they will consider buying an M8 plus a few third party lenses because they won't be able to afford the whole Leica stuff, right? This is where they will be told that, no, sorry, you won't get good results unless you buy our lenses and our filters. Then why would they dunk such astronomical amounts in a system to only get second rate results? Adios Leica, hello Canon or Nikon or Fuji... No, the whole digital RF magic won't work, and neither will the so-called fabulous Leica image. We're talking money first here.

 

So, what Leica are actualy doing right now is taking the way on an even narrower niche of buyers, instead of luring an all new market into the M8 system.

 

Stupid policy, if you ask me. And very worrying for the future of Leica.

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I doubt that Leica wants or even could handle a bigger market inthe forseeable future. On consideration, why should they? Their niche is their strength and if they would move out of it the big bad predators from Japan would eat them alive. They did just fine when their mount was still patent protected and I have a feeling this introvertness is their policy for the M system.If they want to expand the Panasonic-related products are far more promising. By the way, I agree this IR thing was, to put it mildly, an unfortunate oversight at the presentation of the camera.But it seems the issue has been handled very well after the initial outcry. And don't forget, the magnification of the internet is by no means an indication of what is happening in the real market.I would call the forum hype a 100% crop of reality

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Makes the R-D1 sound better and better. Leica's got to get smarter than this. They could learn something from the history of microcomputers. Open source attitudes let the PC and Windows become world standards while Apple, with its exclusivity and protectionism had a hard time surviving until they opened things up a bit. I remember, back in the 80s, when you could buy a hard drive for a PC for about two thirds the price Apple charged for the same drive. The difference was a few binary words on the boot track that had to be there for the thing to work on an Apple. Nowadays a lot of people doing graphics prefer the Apple, but the world standard is the PC, because the stuff you can buy for the PC isn't proprietary.

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I agree to a point, the menu would be a simple way to open the market up a little for them, in the same way that for example, HP's new Z series printer makes it very easy to use non-HP paper with the included spectro. It makes the entire package more desireable.

 

That being said, it is unique to have such a wealth of usable lenses on a camera NOT from the camera maker itself-you cannot use X lenses on Y brand cameras for the most part, adaptors aside. In other words it is not unusual to expect a manufacturer to view their ecosystem as the only important one.

 

Think of the pain experienced by Canon shooters when they changed the mount-mountains of glass are now not usable, but it was a design consideration and they have reaped the benefits obviously. This is not as radical as that, but, moving to a dedicated hardware-software system in an optical solution is the only way forward today, and in that tradition of excellence we all demand and expect from Leica, they have made a strong statement, our coding or ymmv. It might be a year out too, why would they implement a menu system when they need to drive lens sales and make profit? The offerings of zeiss and voightlander are soooo tempting, so I think there has to be some trade off-sure you can use those lenses and get very very good results, but the best results, out of the box, rightly should acrue to Leica, since they have done the R&D.

 

Whether or not this slows adoption is another question. The wave of rangefinder adoption has been over for 50 years now, this is really a niche market and at these prices will stay a niche market. But there is value in that position, as we all know, unfailingly, there is incredible fascination with Leica products, I went to an ICP workshop yesterday and showed some prints and the question came up, what camera, and I said, Leica, and the response was, ok, film right? and I said, no, this is the new digital Leica, and instantly the interest was redoubled. It never fails. And yes, the results on paper are just that much better than I can achieve with canon or nikon, having made the comparisions myself.

 

final thought, in the back hall of ICP there is the digital lab, and the staff there have posted samples from digital cameras from 300 dollars all the way up to the mkIIds, printed 13x19, with 100% crops. They also printed a showdown between a 300 p/s and the mkIIds, at 100iso, average daylight scene, normal lens, and honestly, the difference on paper, mind you, so this takes into consideration printing technology too, was there, but not what you might imagine. I'm way ot here, but it was interesting.

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The point of closed systems is well taken. Sigma has no end of trouble reverse engineering Canon's AF system, up to having to replace lens ROMs on older lenses. And even that does not work all the time or forever. If we want to take a swipe at Leica, we should condemn the whole industry for using proprietary lens mounts and electronic interfaces. As Robert points out, Leica is the only company that has retro-compatablity, albeit with limitations, dating back to the first quarter of the last century.

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Makes the R-D1 sound better and better. Leica's got to get smarter than this. They could learn something from the history of microcomputers. Open source attitudes let the PC and Windows become world standards while Apple, with its exclusivity and protectionism had a hard time surviving until they opened things up a bit. I remember, back in the 80s, when you could buy a hard drive for a PC for about two thirds the price Apple charged for the same drive. The difference was a few binary words on the boot track that had to be there for the thing to work on an Apple. Nowadays a lot of people doing graphics prefer the Apple, but the world standard is the PC, because the stuff you can buy for the PC isn't proprietary.

 

the proprietary argument has been around for so long, but the reality is that the reason apple is so good is because it is this way. design an OS for a known motherboard/chipset, package drivers for a known group of hardward etc, and absolutely DON'T depend on OEM's to engineer their own support for third party items. The world "standard" may indeed be PC's but to actual users of computers individually this is irrelevant. Leica is similar in this stance, engineer one product as close to perfection as you can and let the rest do what they may. Quality and innovation will rise to the top, regardless of what the 'standard' (or Lowest Common Denominator) is.

 

all arguments aside, the reality is that rangefinder focusing is niche itself, most people can't get the hang of it or don't want to be be bothered to relearn how to take pictures, so that fact itself is the real limitation on sales, never mind the high ante of getting in.

I suspect sales of rangefinders are remarkably consistent from year to year, maybe a bump in 2007 with the M8. It is a fixed audience, and maybe one that is decreasing with age. Boomers who are late comers to photography with large amounts of disposable income will do more to increase sales than actual "new" interest in the format. I think the "kids" have moved on to more technological solutions. I could be wrong, at that same ICP workshop the youngest member had just returned from cambodia with great images made on actual film with a rolleiflex, a great travel camera. Hope springs eternal.

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I think you should be complaining to the lens makers to get some sort of a coding procedure in place for their lenses. Until Leica has fixed all of the other bugs in the firmware I would doubt they would even consider putting this in.

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Nikon's very recently released D40 has been configured so it only allows AF S lenses

this means that other series Nikon glass, and of course 3rd party glass wont work in AF

think about that, Nikon the #2 dSLR manufacturer actually disabled this ability

even for their own cheaper lenses

 

what you are requiring of Leica, is to be able to replicate the coding in other lenses

which is adding a service that wasnt there in the first place, and is only for 3rd party glass

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Nikon's very recently released D40 has been configured so it only allows AF S lenses

this means that other series Nikon glass, and of course 3rd party glass wont work in AF

think about that, Nikon the #2 dSLR manufacturer actually disabled this ability

even for their own cheaper lenses

 

what you are requiring of Leica, is to be able to replicate the coding in other lenses

which is adding a service that wasnt there in the first place, and is only for 3rd party glass

 

And what's the price of the Nikon D40 again?

 

Retro-compatibility? Nikon F mount is no slouch in this department, AFAIK.

 

Nikon and Canon, to name only two, allow the use of lenses by Sigma, Tamron, Tokina, Zeiss, with no loss of quality in many cases, if not with gain in quality, sometimes. Leica did it for a while. You could use lenses by Zeiss and C/V on a film M. Suddenly, here comes the so-called «M» 8, and you can't use them anymore.

 

The coding is not some sort of mysterious alchimist algorithm. It just indicates the focal length of the lens. There is nothing «to replicate». Then, the menu lets you chose one of three options depending on the coding and the use of a filter. Why doesn't it let you chose the focal lenght as well? Why? Totally unacceptable. And stupid. There is a limit to proprietary measures.

 

Even if the M8 system was «wide-open», how could this hurt Leica? They may sell a little less lenses (and this remains to be seen), but they will definitely sell more M8s. It's their decision. As it is now, when pople see my M8 and ask if they should buy one, I remain reserved and I always warn them of the coding and filter pitfall. It seems to cool them down a lot.

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Guest tummydoc

My 2 cents: I am a collector, and a great deal of Leica's market are collectors. I have dozens of older lenses I would like to shoot with on into the digital age. Sharpie marks wear off, and grinding indents into prized collectors items isn't something I'm about to do. Not to mention the corrections using nearest-substitutes aren't guaranteed effective. I can understand Leica not investing R&D into including menu items for 3rd-party lenses, but leaving the collectors high and dry, that is definitely not cool.

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Guest Bernd Banken
Nikon's very recently released D40 has been configured so it only allows AF S lenses

this means that other series Nikon glass, and of course 3rd party glass wont work in AF

think about that, Nikon the #2 dSLR manufacturer actually disabled this ability

even for their own cheaper lenses

 

what you are requiring of Leica, is to be able to replicate the coding in other lenses

which is adding a service that wasnt there in the first place, and is only for 3rd party glass

 

The D40 is a bottom line DSLR, no one of it's buyers even knows about the fantastic Nikkors of the past....or will buy expensive AF-D lenses.....

 

Bernd

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I think Leica's current position is correct both for technical and commercial reasons.

 

Technically, the firmware image corrections are specific to the actual lens formulation in use and trying to use them with other lenses - whether Leica, Zeiss or CV - will be a compromise. It's one thing for M8 users to jerry-rig the system by coding their own lenses, it's another thing entirely for Leica to include manually selectable support for lenses in the full knowledge the results will be less than perfect. The results may be close but they will not be exact and Leica is right to be a company which doesn't do "close".

 

As for the need to work with Leica filters, not other people's, Leica will have specified their own filter characteristics to complement the transmission of the lens and the characterstics of the filter already in the camera and tuned the firmware to those characteristics. Other filters may come close but Leica has no control over them so for best results, we should use Leica filters. Leica have never said their image correction is optimised for anything other than Leica filters.

 

Commercially, Leica lenses are expensive, of course, more so than the competition which is a consequence of where the lenses are made and the care taken and materials used to extract that last ounce of image quality. Restricting the use of the in-camera correction to Leica's current lenses gives them an added justification for the higher cost. We've already seen, in the 28/2.8, an example of how Leica can produce fine lenses at lower cost and it seems likely there might be other lenses to join the 28/2.8, 50/2, 90/4 at lower cost. Sure, we'd all like a 28/1.4 but a 35/2.8 probably makes more sense for the market.

 

Their choice is simple: keep things as they are and see a few potential buyers vote with their feet - and we know who the loser would then actually be - or else allow manual selection, be seen to be consciously accepting compromised image quality and see people for whom "close" is good enough defect to Zeiss and CV for their lenses.

 

I know which I would choose.

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the proprietary argument has been around for so long, but the reality is that the reason apple is so good is because it is this way. design an OS for a known motherboard/chipset, package drivers for a known group of hardward etc, and absolutely DON'T depend on OEM's to engineer their own support for third party items. The world "standard" may indeed be PC's but to actual users of computers individually this is irrelevant. Leica is similar in this stance, engineer one product as close to perfection as you can and let the rest do what they may. Quality and innovation will rise to the top, regardless of what the 'standard' (or Lowest Common Denominator) is.

 

all arguments aside, the reality is that rangefinder focusing is niche itself, most people can't get the hang of it or don't want to be be bothered to relearn how to take pictures, so that fact itself is the real limitation on sales, never mind the high ante of getting in.

I suspect sales of rangefinders are remarkably consistent from year to year, maybe a bump in 2007 with the M8. It is a fixed audience, and maybe one that is decreasing with age. Boomers who are late comers to photography with large amounts of disposable income will do more to increase sales than actual "new" interest in the format. I think the "kids" have moved on to more technological solutions. I could be wrong, at that same ICP workshop the youngest member had just returned from cambodia with great images made on actual film with a rolleiflex, a great travel camera. Hope springs eternal.

 

Robert, Actually, the reason the Mac was as good as it was is that Jobs had the sense to use a Unix knockoff as its operating system instead of trying to build a new OS from the ground up. Yes, Unix is far superior to Windows in many ways. I built software on it for 15 years before I had to switch to Windows, and I still prefer it, but the world doesn't allow your preferences to get in the way of what needs to be done, or at least it makes you pay a high price if you insist on your preferences. I agree that whether or not a computer/OS combination is a world standard is of no interest to most users, which is exactly why the PC/Windows combination is a world standard. Unless you're in a very small, specialized, niche market, or a major concern like Microsoft, you can't afford to write software exclusively for the Apple, but you can do that for the PC. That's mainly because of the open standards approach.

 

Yes, nowadays the RF is a niche market, which is all the more reason for Leica to open up and let RFers use a range of lenses not made by Leica. Yes, if I need the absolute best technical results I'll want to use a Leica lens, but if I'm doing street work, the difference between an Ultron 35mm and a Summicron 35mm isn't going to be a problem.

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Someone on Leica's executive row should read the current best-selling business book, Wikinomics, and learn about the benefits of openness.

 

One example from the book: the Boeing Company used to be a very stodgy and rigidly hierarchical company until they opened up their engineering organization to incorporate new and often better ideas from their suppliers and customers. The result is the new 787 which has allowed staid old Boeing to recapture momentum and regain leadership in a very competitive commercial space. (I am not a Boeing employee but am a former operator of their products.)

 

Leica could benefit very significantly by being in better touch with both their customers and potential customers in this "wired" world.

 

-g

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Olivier,

 

you are right in blaming leica for "closing" their system. and i do not like that, either. (eg, i did not buy my d2x before their nef-encryption had been made available to other manufacturer's raw comverters.) however, if you at the same time condemn the complexity of the system, it sounds contradictory. it is most likely leica's striving to keep things simple which led them to this coded lens solution.

if, as they claim, it is not just focal length which determines the correction algorithms, but also the distance of the rear element to the sensor and the angle of light rays, it seems to me that the best approach would be for leica to make these algorithms available to third-party lens manufacturers (ie, cv and zeiss), and give (sell) them the license to manufacture coded lenses - or adapters, as would be necessary for many cv lenses.

 

(all this from someone who ordered his first cv lenses - 15 and 50 - after buying the m8, and who was well aware this spells extra effort - hand coding woes, never got it right for my 21asph, so i sent it in for coding - or quality compromises.)

 

cheers,

günter

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I think Leica's current position is correct both for technical and commercial reasons.

 

Technically, the firmware image corrections are specific to the actual lens formulation in use and trying to use them with other lenses - whether Leica, Zeiss or CV - will be a compromise. It's one thing for M8 users to jerry-rig the system by coding their own lenses, it's another thing entirely for Leica to include manually selectable support for lenses in the full knowledge the results will be less than perfect. The results may be close but they will not be exact and Leica is right to be a company which doesn't do "close".

 

As for the need to work with Leica filters, not other people's, Leica will have specified their own filter characteristics to complement the transmission of the lens and the characterstics of the filter already in the camera and tuned the firmware to those characteristics. Other filters may come close but Leica has no control over them so for best results, we should use Leica filters. Leica have never said their image correction is optimised for anything other than Leica filters.

 

Commercially, Leica lenses are expensive, of course, more so than the competition which is a consequence of where the lenses are made and the care taken and materials used to extract that last ounce of image quality. Restricting the use of the in-camera correction to Leica's current lenses gives them an added justification for the higher cost. We've already seen, in the 28/2.8, an example of how Leica can produce fine lenses at lower cost and it seems likely there might be other lenses to join the 28/2.8, 50/2, 90/4 at lower cost. Sure, we'd all like a 28/1.4 but a 35/2.8 probably makes more sense for the market.

 

Their choice is simple: keep things as they are and see a few potential buyers vote with their feet - and we know who the loser would then actually be - or else allow manual selection, be seen to be consciously accepting compromised image quality and see people for whom "close" is good enough defect to Zeiss and CV for their lenses.

 

I know which I would choose.

 

That doen't make much sense to me, Mark. Let's say, for discussion sake, that you could enter lens data via the menu, thus allowing the use of third party lenses. Maybe the quality will be a tiny bit less than Leica quality. Maybe. So what? It's already the case with film Ms, no? If you shoot with a C/V 50/1.5, it may be a tad inferior to, say, a 50 Summicron, but you're already aware of it. You accept the fact that if you buy less expensive lenses, the results may not be entirely up to par. But the difference is minimum. And, most importantly, you are given the choice.

 

The cyan drift in wide-angle images is a much worse scenario. It's not a slight loss of quality, almost invisible to the naked aye. You just can't use third party lenses at all. If Leica allowed it with an intelligent coding system, Leica lenses wouldn't lose their status as the best. But I would be given the choice (rather, my wallet would) to compromise if there was no other way. Then one day, I would get the money and buy the Elmarit 21 asph or the Noctilux I can't afford now.

 

The best possible quality argument is BS. This is why I think the lens coding is a marketing strategy, not a valid technical move.

 

Heck, I already did buy the darn M8. And the darn filters Leica was supposed to ship me. Now, Leica, give me a break!

 

I don't want Leica to decide for me what compromise in quality I am ready to accept. I would hate to love the camera and hate the company, like I do Nikon, exactly because of their dirty little WB encryption scheme in the D2X. And their refusal to give the (at the time) mandatory Nikon Capture bundled with the camera.

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I visited a workshop with LEICA users one day, and beside me, nobody else was interested into anything else than having the system to work as simple as possible with Leica lenses.

 

We are only a small part of the market, playing with other lenses, Sharpie coding and so on.

 

I can understand that Leica wants to keep the results as good as possible with Leica lenses and keep it simple.

 

ZEISS and Voigtländer are free to develop a Digital Camera on their own. They don't do it, so why should LEICA help them??

 

Voigtländer (Cosina) keeps saying they don't want a Digital Camera, ZEISS only offers a Consina made Film Camera.

 

I personally don't want to to set anything - you can always add options and make a system as complicated as an AV-Reviever. Leica decided to do it that way and I accept that, understanding technical AND commercial reasons.

 

You can buy yourself a YAMAHA AV-Reciever and I'm 100% sure, you never get it setup properly. Too many options for a non expert user.

 

You can buy a BOSE or B&O system and there is nothing to set and you can never use any other speakers. It's a system that is made for easy use.

 

I asked one day Leica service why they don't code older lenses. They explained me why.

 

Today, they change the mount to make sure, the coded lens is perfect. On older lenses, the mount is part of the lens body and there is the danger that the hard chrome surface get's damaged outside the coding recess area. Can you imagine you send in your old lens and get it back with the chrome damaged? They simply cannot replace such older parts if they get damaged.

 

And at the end of the day, the filter only needs correction from the coding only below 35mm.

 

Just my 2c....

 

ATB

 

KH

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Come on, these are exciting times for Leica and its users. Admit it, we all were taken back by the line of new digital and film products that Leica introduced at the 2006 Photokina. Leica, its booths, with its new products stole that international show (fortunately I was there). The amazing thing is buyers have not had to wait a year for those new offerings, but only months. Too, almost all high end companies would desire a backorder of purchases, as Leica now has, for their flagship products.

For a ground breaking RF digital body, the M8, a small company has managed three iterations of firmware in just several months to correct early problems. IR, well -- as noted in many threads, it is a problem still present and well known in other imaging systems that were specifically designed to counter that spectrum. No, I am not thrilled about adding an IR Cut filter to a Leica lens for some shooting situations, but at least as a user I have been made aware that this need can and does exist, and there is a solution.

Yes, M lens coding has some haunting similarities to the R ROM contacts for Leica R system users, but as we have seen the lens markings do have real immediate purposes for users who demand the best Leica lenses have to offer. Leica AG is on track for it and us, the users of its products. With its present manifested and transparent user friendly policies, it will remain as a viable niche company and force in an image market dominated by a few giants. Eighteen months ago, even a short-term survival of a company and its outstanding lenses and products was not as assured as it is now.

Leica, by its actions, has clearly recognized that part of its present success and its transparencies flow from its customers and users, a number of who are members of this forum, who have worked and shared their experiences with these products. Thank you all, from one who has benefited from these contributions. Still excited in Clearwater, Florida.

Best of light,

Bill

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The search of Leica for the best technical compromise led to the situation they are in now. I do not think that they took much more business considerations into account when they developed the M8.

 

I do not see this as a big issue, since many users do prefer actually Leica glass, which means that they are willing to pay for it and Leica generates currently lot of profit out of that - several rumors say they hav huge backorders in M glass. So why should they encourage people to use other glass? They use the M8 to generate more demand for their M glass and if they open that up they actually corrupt their own market - so no bad way they choose - at least for them.

 

What new users could be cought into the digital M system? Not sure, there will be some, but for everyone the high price entry barrier will be the first they see - so if they really have the money or need the quality in combination with the RF system then they will jump onto that train, the market is not there (and should not be) there for others.

 

If you compare quality - I myself am working in parallel wit a Nikon D2X and several high end Nikon glass - I can tell you I do NOT see any real quality difference, between M and N, especially with the D2X. This is a wonderful camera and it takes lot of experience to use it the right way (like the M8) to produce outstanding photos out of the box, but once you are there it works perfectly and reliable in both cases. Quality difference is NOT the issue, for sure not, the difference is the way you work with the different systems and the possibilities you have. The RF system will always give you other choices and especially the weight factor is charming :-)) But actually not much more - of course despite of some religious love towards one or the other system.

 

So I think Leica is on their right way, looking forward to a FF R10 with even more MP and better size/weight ratio than the R9/DMR - probably an AF R mount (why not, Nikon did the same 20 years ago and with success).

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