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What if Leica made a new modern M film camera, what could be expected?


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1 hour ago, wattsy said:

That's an interesting development and unexpected but the baby steps that Pentax are having to take to get back into manufacturing a film camera suggest that my point above about the loss of expertise and allied industries is not wide of the mark. 

In some of their videos like this one they talk about how this may be the last chance to transmit knowledge and expertise from (now retired) engineers to their younger staff, and their efforts to make this happen. I'd guess it's harder to solve the problem of the loss of allied industries though - you presumably can't just buy a shutter for a manual SLR off the shelf from Copal these days, etc.

Perhaps it would be easier to start with a dSLR design. Apparently some late model film SLRs were developed this way. Though the Nikon F100 was launched first, Nikon's main focus was on the D1 at the time and the F100 was something of a spinoff from it. Similarly, the F6 would incorporate quite a bit of technology from their dSLRs, though it must still have been expensive to develop (maybe too expensive to justify today).

In any case, today's film shooters tend to favour manual cameras, where most of the expertise lies further back in time (Pentax's own once ubiquitous K1000 went out of production in the 90s). I've always wondered whether the Cosina production line could be revived. I think they were making the FM10 for Nikon until around 2017, though perhaps they had been using up new old stock for a while. And again, they were probably depending on those allied industries for key components. Any new film camera has to be a sustainable design, perhaps with more done in-house than was previously the case. I hope Ricoh/Cosina can pull this off with more models to follow, but we'll see.

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3 hours ago, adan said:

Do those suggesting a hinged rear back actually understand how Leica film RF cameras are constructed (ever since 1925)?

The body of the camera is made as one solid piece of steel "tubing" - i.e. the back and the front are one and the same piece of metal, except for the trap-door.

For a reason.

One can drive a RangeRover over it (and very likely a main battle tank), and not crush it.

The camera "guts" (shutter, winding, RF) can easily be slipped in and out of their protective steel shell, as another unit, for servicing.

See splash image here - the shell is on the right side:

https://leica-camera.blog/2011/10/10/repair-of-a-legend/

I’m not sure about that. You’d have to research the reasons for the Barnacks’ design, which I suspect was mostly about ease of disassembly for repair, and limitations in available manufacturing methods. The M’s back door was added to improve ease of use and avoid having to hold the entire back in your hand.

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On 3/25/2024 at 3:04 AM, Borna said:

I was reflecting over the M5 and M7, and what technologies we have for 2024 and coming years.

If money was no object for Leica to bring out a totally new M film camera,

What kind of features would you like to see? 

I know this is a thought exercise, but I think the M6 is just right. The modifications in the 22 reissue address quibbles I recall from the original M6 classic (I used to own an M6TTL many years ago and have an MP now). I'm contemplating buying a reissue M6 despite having the MP BP. I was never big on the M7 and today the charm of (film) Leica M is the lack of features (at least for me). My Nikon F6 is the epitome of full-featured, automated modern film camera. 

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On 3/25/2024 at 10:37 PM, Al Brown said:


Also, every time Leica went out of their classic tracks (think M5, think film CL) it got burnt. Better keep it safe.

Exactly. Also I hope they do something to celebrate 70 years of the M3 but maybe we’ll have to wait until the 75th anniversary. 

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The M5 didn’t sell well because it was much more expensive than previous M’s, while the CL sold very well because it was much less expensive. It wasn’t so much because of the different body design.

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, raizans said:

The M5 didn’t sell well because it was much more expensive than previous M’s, while the CL sold very well because it was much less expensive. It wasn’t so much because of the different body design.

Possibly a reason, yes, but they won no beauty contests nor were queens of people's hearts. The first one was hated from day one for dramatic design departure and the second was stigmatized for cheap japanese build and parts. And cheap parts it has.
The mid-seventies were the first ultra critical time for Leica which was just about to quit the M line. This is also another factor for poor sales. M5 was an Edsel, it was "The New Coke".

Edited by Al Brown
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Today an M5 goes for maybe 60% of the price of an M6, which probably tells you something about people's preferences. But that also means that those who do appreciate its unique qualities are getting (by Leica standards) a bargain.

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Posted (edited)
13 hours ago, adan said:

Do those suggesting a hinged rear back actually understand how Leica film RF cameras are constructed (ever since 1925)?

The body of the camera is made as one solid piece of steel "tubing" - i.e. the back and the front are one and the same piece of metal, except for the trap-door.

For a reason.

One can drive a RangeRover over it (and very likely a main battle tank), and not crush it.

Perhaps not with that strength since 1925. The Barnacks are more lightly built than the M series. When Malcolm Taylor serviced my Leica Standard (1934), he twisted the body back into alignment with his hands. 

Edited by LocalHero1953
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Posted (edited)
14 hours ago, adan said:

Do those suggesting a hinged rear back actually understand how Leica film RF cameras are constructed (ever since 1925)?

The body of the camera is made as one solid piece of steel "tubing" - i.e. the back and the front are one and the same piece of metal, except for the trap-door.

For a reason.

One can drive a RangeRover over it (and very likely a main battle tank), and not crush it.

Yes, I think most people realise the M body is a solid piece of (presumably extruded) metal. It is aluminium as far as I know, not steel. It's obviously nice and rigid and a good platform for the important parts of the camera to be fixed to but I don't think other camera designs using a hinged-back have been shown to be unusually weak or less suitable. I have no idea what force a wheel of a Range Rover might exert (as a child, a friend's mother once reversed her car over my foot without causing any noticeable injury) but I highly doubt that a main battle tank, even taking into account how much the tracks will spread the weight, could be driven over a Leica M camera without crushing it. Of course, I'm assuming that the camera would be on a hard surface rather than soft mud.

 

(I feel that I ought to be underlining various points for emphasis🤣).

Edited by wattsy
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8 minutes ago, wattsy said:

Yes, I think most people realise the M body is a solid piece of (presumably extruded) metal. It is aluminium as far as I know, not steel. It's obviously nice and rigid and a good platform for the important parts of the camera to be fixed to but I don't think other camera designs using a hinged-back have been shown to be unusually weak or less suitable. I have no idea what force a wheel of a Range Rover might exert (as a child, a friend's mother once reversed her car over my foot without causing any noticeable injury) but I highly doubt that a main battle tank, even taking into account how much the tracks will spread the weight, could be driven over a Leica M camera without crushing it. Of course, I'm assuming that the camera would be on a hard surface rather than soft mud.

 

(I feel that I ought to be underlining various points for emphasis🤣).

Well I still have three Nikon F2's from the late 1960's, bought new and used heavily in my work for a couple of decades or more until I moved to the F3 and the F4's. The Nikons were bullet proof, utterly reliable professional tools. I worked in a field of photography that needed fast un-loading / re-loading, ok primarily with an assistant doing those tasks, but with two camera bodies there was rarely a hold-up and never a problem with their style of back opening, ( same too with the F3/F4's ), even with the occasional use of the Nikon motor drive that ate film quickly. Back then I also had a couple of M2's that I loved using for the style of my work but the assistants hated them because of the loading, too slow, too fiddly in comparison with the Nikons, yes I know that the loading was improved with the M4 models onwards but in my experience it was never as swift and sure as the Nikon's removable/hinged back.

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Posted (edited)

Complaining about the different design was probably just a good excuse for the elephant in the room: not being able to afford or justify the investment! The M5 had a price hike that came at the wrong time in the global economy.

Prices from Jason Schneider’s article, https://www.rangefinderforum.com/threads/are-leicas-really-too-expensive-and-what-about-nikons-history-tells-the-tale.4815511/ 

1969, Leica M4 with 50mm f/1.4 Summilux = $612.00 ($5,116.61)

vs.

1972, Leica M5 body = $675.00 ($4,874.40) 

1972, Leica M5 with 50mm f/1.4 Summilux = $948.00 ($6,845.83)

1974 Leica M5 with 50mm f/1.4 Summilux = $1,320.00 ($8,479.91)

Edited by raizans
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vor 3 Stunden schrieb raizans:

Complaining about the different design was probably just a good excuse for the elephant in the room: not being able to afford or justify the investment! The M5 had a price hike that came at the wrong time in the global economy.

Prices from Jason Schneider’s article, https://www.rangefinderforum.com/threads/are-leicas-really-too-expensive-and-what-about-nikons-history-tells-the-tale.4815511/ 

1969, Leica M4 with 50mm f/1.4 Summilux = $612.00 ($5,116.61)

vs.

1972, Leica M5 body = $675.00 ($4,874.40) 

1972, Leica M5 with 50mm f/1.4 Summilux = $948.00 ($6,845.83)

1974 Leica M5 with 50mm f/1.4 Summilux = $1,320.00 ($8,479.91)

1964: Pentax Spotmatic

1973: Pentax ES II

The german Camera Industry went almost completely down the drain.

The market went completely to SLRs, the Ms not much sought after at all.

 

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On point with the topic: I’d gladly take a 1/2000 🙂

 

On a stance that is slightly more grounded in reality: I am not sure any company will ever challenge mechanical Ms. So I don’t expect any new features and frankly I don’t really miss anything…

But when I read the usual MP/M-A/M6 buying considerations, I notice that people pay great attention to small details like materials, finishes, advance levers etc. Yet they cannot get the meter-less BP they want, or the 3-frameline MP they lust for..

So here is something that might be remotely feasible and could be attractive to some customers: A re-vamped built-to-order a la carte program.

  • Reduce the current 5 options to 2 (say black paint MP and silver M-A) to have ready in the store
  • Have an extensive online tool to configure and pre-view your M
  • Expose all existing variations to the customer: Finish, advance lever, meter, framelines (choose from 0 to 6), engraving, rewind lever, frame counter, lugås, whatever….
  • Charge 1K to 1.5K premium

 

My gut feeling is that the experience of configuring and owning a (relatively) individual camera adds something relevant to an (mechanically already excellent) M that digital cannot provide. And that’s where potential new analog customers could come from…

Needless to say, that’s going to be a much more complex manufacturing process…

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5 minutes ago, Fotoklaus said:

Leica did that with the a la carte program but skipped it years ago...

That's right. But if I remember correctly it was positioned as more of a niche option, certainly not with an option to pre-visualize online... I am thinking more "a la carte first" and for film cameras only... While five years since its discontinuation isn't a terrible lot, I do think that the demand for analogue cameras has grown...

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vor 7 Stunden schrieb f8low:

That's right. But if I remember correctly it was positioned as more of a niche option, certainly not with an option to pre-visualize online... I am thinking more "a la carte first" and for film cameras only... While five years since its discontinuation isn't a terrible lot, I do think that the demand for analogue cameras has grown...

I can remember the Homepage to choose the options from and visualize them online. 

But what was an option back then is now sold as a new camera model (M6 new).

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13 hours ago, f8low said:

That's right. But if I remember correctly it was positioned as more of a niche option, certainly not with an option to pre-visualize online..

It was a pretty big thing at the time and quite popular. You certainly could "pre-visualise" the camera – there was a perfectly good configurator which would take you through the options and mock-up the finished camera. I can't have been the only person who would waste a bit of time looking at various permutations and wondering whether I could justify another film body. (I was always quite tempted by a "M4-like" MP – black paint MP body with slanted rewind crank and custom 35-50-90 framelines – but was usually put off by what seemed at the time like a lot of money for what was really a glorified M6. How times have changed.) 

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Posted (edited)
10 minutes ago, wattsy said:

It was a pretty big thing at the time and quite popular. You certainly could "pre-visualise" the camera – there was a perfectly good configurator which would take you through the options and mock-up the finished camera. I can't have been the only person who would waste a bit of time looking at various permutations and wondering whether I could justify another film body. (I was always quite tempted by a "M4-like" MP – black paint MP body with slanted rewind crank and custom 35-50-90 framelines – but was usually put off by what seemed at the time like a lot of money for what was really a glorified M6. How times have changed.) 

Ok interesting, then you and @Fotoklaus are right about that. So if we try to judge whether such a program is more promising today than back in the days, what could we look at? They recently mentioned that hey sold about 500 analogue bodies in 2015 and about 5000 in 2023. They closed the program in 2019. If the increase in popularity was linear, they made 2000 - 2500 in 2019 and more like 1000 - 1500 if the increase is rather gaining momentum over time.... 

If they sold 10-20% a la carte back in the days, that would be 200 to 500 cameras per year. If they could (this is where I pick up the idea of the thread and apply some wishful thinking) bring this to 50% of what is being sold today, we're talking 2500 cameras per year. So I wonder if that 5x to 10x increase in production would allow to invest in a more efficient built-to-order manufacturing than the old system did not have... 

 

Edited by f8low
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