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Jack MacDonough

M8 in Economist

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While I'm posting, here are some select historic prices from my old cataologs:

 

1971 Helix Camera:

 

Leica M4 w/ 50 f2 DR Summicron $519

35 2 $195

50 2 rigid $186

50 1.4 $255

50 1.2 $870

90 2 $195

 

Nikon Ftn w 50 1.4 $458

35 2 $189.50

50 1.4 $148

50 1.2 $199.50

85 1.8 195

______________________

 

So clearly Nikon and Canon have held down their lens prices over the years and Leica has not. I think that really is at the heart of the matter in all of this.

 

Interesting. Thanks Alan. My memory was close. One of the jobs that helped put me through college was selling Leicas and other fine cameras back in that time. It was like working in the candy store. There were far too many great deals. I paid $200 for a M2R that had about 10 rolls of film run through it. My M4 was about $400 but Leica had a dealer sales promo that brought the price down to about $250. I remember the 50 being somewhere around $200 (black) and the 35 being somewhere around $250, as was the 90. Less dealer discounts, of course. And, yes, the Nikon was just a little bit less.

 

Of course, starting wages for a 20 something kid just out of art college was a little under $1,000 per month, so both Leicas and Nikons were expensive. Today, kids with a BFA probably start out at $4,000 a month... so yesterday's Leica kit for a young person was just over a month's wages and today's kit is 2-3 month's wages.

 

There are other ways to adjust for inflation like houses and cars cost 10 times more today that they did in 1971. If you use that index, then Leica's prices are only 15-25% above the inflation index. But kids out of photography school don't start out at $10,000 per month. In fact, most pros with 30 years of experience would be dancing for joy if they cleared that much. So wages are the best way to judge prices. Leica is out of line.

 

Tom

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Alan,

 

The heart of the matter is the dramatic fall of the US$ and the dwindling purchasing power of the american Leica customers (- and the customers in countries payed currencies 'more or less' pegged to the dollar). The difference in 'price difference' between 77' and today regarding Nikon and Canon could be explained by the difference in the $/Y rate is somewhat different than the German Marks/$ rate back in 77' to the €/$ difference of today.

 

Typically, the 1Ds /1Ds II and 1Ds III have had a price tag of 8,000 $. Canon seems to have made this a point. What this price has amounted to in Yen through the years, I don't know ( trade nothing in Yen). But, in my local currency 8,000 $ has become less and less: I gave 52.000 NOK for my 1Ds in 2003 - 48.000 NOK for the 1Ds II and gave 45.000 NOK for the 1Ds III back in April. Had I waited another month, I might have saved an additional 4.000 NOK.

 

Interestingly, back in 77' the US$ did a similar nose dive as it does today. - Back then I did a lot of business with Caterpillar which was very competitive here here in Europe due to the weak dollar. At some point in the late seventies the dollar reached as low as 4,85 to NOK (my local currency: NOK= Norwegian Kroner). With a rate of 4,98 to the NOK it is not quite there yet, but it will be. Soon, experts say. - Making US made earth moving equipment just as competitive today.

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Alan,

 

The heart of the matter is the dramatic fall of the US$ and the dwindling purchasing power of the american Leica customers (- and the customers in countries payed currencies 'more or less' pegged to the dollar). The difference in 'price difference' between 77' and today regarding Nikon and Canon could be explained by the difference in the $/Y rate is somewhat different than the German Marks/$ rate back in 77' to the €/$ difference of today...

 

I'm sure there are various results from the currency exchange values over the past 30 years or so. Leica has to consider that as they trade world wide. Are Leica, Nikon, and Canon lenses are more competitively priced in Europe? How come a Mercedes isn't 4 to 10 times the price of a comparable Lexus as are the camera lenses.

 

I don't know how to compare the changes in cameras because it is hard to know how much a factor it is to develop and manufacture the digital technlogy in them. Whereas lens production is a more straightforward process as concerns Leica. (It probably hasn't changed much for them over the years.)

 

I feel the $8000 price of the 1Ds is an anomally. So I don't look at it in comparison with other models. It is simply priced as high as the market can bear due to lack of competition. The Nikon D3 is similar but has to compete a little bit with the 1DMIII. What else are Nikon shooters going to turn to? Consider why a 21 meg FF sensor in place of a 10 meg 1.3x sensor should add $3500 to the selling price of an otherwise identical camera. The place to see the competitive market forces at work is in the lower priced models.

 

It doesn't really mater what the reason are. Canon and Nikon found ways to keep their prices down and Leica didn't. By the way, Canon lenses are priced about the same as they were 5 years ago.

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Considering that:

- Leica is stuff is pretty much hand made

- is a small company (only about 1000 employees total)

- has to cover R&D, design, tooling costs to keep ahead

- does not have the 'popular appeal' (no-one knows Leica anymore except the in-crowd)

- aims to make top of the line products

I find their prices extraordinarily low.

 

If I get a technician to do some minor machining & construction work (i.e. nothing complicated) then the clock starts at about 1000 euro and increases rapidly. This is the internal 'non profit' level of cost calculation.

 

I bought an IR Thermal Imaging camera at work recently with 3 Germanium lenses & this cost about 30.000 euro with a sensor with less pixels than a 1st generation cellphone. Any decent microscope objective will cost 500 - 5000 euro. Even a voltmeter or a power supply can be in that price range. Take a high-end stereo system, maybe 10.000 euro for a basic set, you can get something (roughly) similar mass produced for 500 euro or so => factor 20.

 

Bottom line: small turnover => high prices so yes we are paying for being in the exclusive product market segment (as the word exclusive implies).

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...Of course, starting wages for a 20 something kid just out of art college was a little under $1,000 per month, so both Leicas and Nikons were expensive. Today, kids with a BFA probably start out at $4,000 a month... so yesterday's Leica kit for a young person was just over a month's wages and today's kit is 2-3 month's wages.

 

Today, kids with BFAs in photography probably have to work as camera store clerks, assistants, wait tables, or do other low paying jobs. If they try to start a photo business, they'll be lucky if they make a few hundred a month until they somehow find a way to get work. More and more schools are turning out more and more inexperienced "photographers" into a market where a "good" photographer's skills are becoming less and less appreciated and valued. Getting an actual job in photography that pays $4,000 per month right out of school would be a dream come true.

 

As for Leica prices and inflation. $4300 invested in Berkshire Hathaway at the start of 1981 would be worth $1,322,000.00 today. It makes you wonder doesn't it?

 

Photography is a very difficult and competitive field that is getting undermined by nearly free stock photos, the low-ballers, the ignorant, and all kinds of other market forces. In that context one often can't contemplate if one's lenses are hand made or not. I don't think the average working photographer (or emerging pro) can be the Leica M's target market.

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But I thought the idea was that the M8 sensor was marginal (compared to 5D and D3) for low light work at high iso's, so I priced the fast lenses.

 

Hi Alan,

 

Even among fast lenses, there are good non-Leica options. Various Zeiss lenses are F/2.0 and then among the better CVs we have:

 

CV 28/1.9

CV 35/1.2

CV 35/1.7

CV 50/1.5

 

So, even with fast lenses, one can assemble an M8 system with excellent, yet quite affordable, lenses.

 

Cheers,

 

Sean

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Sean,

 

I have read your test with great interest. It shows smaller differences between the WATE and the Voigländer 15 mm 4,0 - compared to my experience. - Well, tests I have done in my own living room. Shiny silverware out in the edges looks far better with the WATE. Even with both lenses focused at the same distance. Which makes a lot since the Voigtländer isn't focusing coupled. In every day practical use the difference in sharpness is even greater due to the focusing coupling of the WATE. - As you state in your test.

 

That focus-coupling difference certainly can mean a lot and its very difficult, for that reason, to ever focus the CV 15 as precisely as the WATE. Comparing resolution between the two requires a lot of work with focus bracketing (20 distance variations at minimum). Even if the two are focused at the same distance (according to the lens barrel markings) they're not really focussed at the same distance.

 

So, I agree, and you know I wrote about this, that the WATE does have an advantage in normal use.

 

But then, if one can work with an 18, there's also the superb, and coupled, Zeiss 18.

 

Cheers,

 

Sean

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Today, kids with BFAs in photography probably have to work as camera store clerks, assistants, wait tables, or do other low paying jobs. If they try to start a photo business, they'll be lucky if they make a few hundred a month until they somehow find a way to get work. I don't think the average working photographer (or emerging pro) can be the Leica M's target market.

 

You're probably right. I studied design and photography and found work somewhat easy to come by in the early 70s. I got the assignments because I could shoot the ad, layout the ad and then make the color seps and comp negs. It was always a living but I would have made more money pounding nails. Moving from advertising to art repro has proven to be much more lucrative. Shooting and printing art is a specialty that your average client's brother-in-law has not yet mastered with his wonderzoom DSLR. I don't imagine it is much fun being a newbie or a working pro these days.

 

But that is exactly my point. Make the M for the M crowd, but make something small, light, affordable and desirable for everybody else. A cash cow.

 

Tom

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Even among fast lenses, there are good non-Leica options. Various Zeiss lenses are F/2.0 and then among the better CVs we have...

 

No offense Sean, but this is missing the point about what Leica can do in the future. Unless you feel that the existence of CV lenses will sell enough additional M8's to keep Leica profitable for some time to come despite the fact that those lenses take lens sales away from Leica.

 

Paradoxically, what is so special about the pictures from a Leica if people are happy with the results from the M8 when using much less expensive CV lenses? This leads to the question, "Should Leica make similarly priced fast lenses as these CV's?"

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Photography is a very difficult and competitive field that is getting undermined by nearly free stock photos, the low-ballers, the ignorant, and all kinds of other market forces.

 

Photography's just an activity. It's not inherently a business, and neither customers nor competitors are required to support anyone's particular business model based on it. The music industry is learning the exactly analogous lesson the hard way; they aren't the first and they won't be the last to learn it.

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No offense Sean, but this is missing the point about what Leica can do in the future. Unless you feel that the existence of CV lenses will sell enough additional M8's to keep Leica profitable for some time to come despite the fact that those lenses take lens sales away from Leica.

 

Paradoxically, what is so special about the pictures from a Leica if people are happy with the results from the M8 when using much less expensive CV lenses? This leads to the question, "Should Leica make similarly priced fast lenses as these CV's?"

 

Hi Alan,

 

I know of many actual examples of people who bought the M8 specifically to use it with Zeiss and/or CV lenses. In fact, I get e-mails on that subject quite often. This is an old debate on this forum. I believe that having a diverse range of lenses available (various price points, various ways of drawing, etc.) encourages M8 sales. Rather than restate the whole argument, see my (second, I think) M8 review. In a nutshell, is it better that Leica sell an M8 to a person who will use it with CV/Zeiss lenses or sell no M8 at all to that person? And, in the former case, won't that person perhaps be a Leica M lens customer in the future?

 

Your earlier point was that the combination of an M8, or two, and fast Leica lenses, is just too expensive for many people. I agree. But there is certainly a middle ground between an all-Leica kit and a no-Leica kit.

 

As for what's special....any combination of camera and lens can be special and/or desirable. Leica + Leica is just one recipe. My favorite fast 28 is the current 28 Summicron. My favorite fast 35 is the 35/1.4 Lux ASPH and my favorite fast 50 is the current 50/1.4 Lux. But I also like many, many other lenses on the M8 and R-D1.

 

Cheers,

 

Sean

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So why not stop and think what an M8 system costs vs. a 5D system?

 

M8 $5500

M8 $5500 (2nd body)

21 2.8 $4000

28 2.8 $3300

35 1.4 $3900

50 1.4 $3300

90 F2 $3200

Total for a basic Leica system of two bodies and 5 lenses: $28,700

 

Canon 5D w/24-105 f 4 IS $2600

Canon 5D body $1900

24 1.4 $1170

35 1.4 $1150

50 1.4 $325

85 1.2 $1825

16-35 2.8 II $1350

70-200 2.8 IS $1574

100-400 IS $1360

Total $13,254 - for a pretty comprehensive Canon system of 2 cameras and 8 lenses. Plus if you sell the 5Ds in a year or two for a new model, you won't lose too much.

 

These are current B&H prices.

 

Alan--I think the problem with making this comparison is that the vast majority of M8 buyers are already invested in the M system and own a variety of lenses that can be used with it. This is why so many of us were eager to have Leica introduce a digital M in the first place. The primary investment, then, is for a couple of bodies. I seriously doubt there are large numbers of photographers who are buying into the M8 system from scratch.

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Alan--I think the problem with making this comparison is that the vast majority of M8 buyers are already invested in the M system and own a variety of lenses that can be used with it. This is why so many of us were eager to have Leica introduce a digital M in the first place. The primary investment, then, is for a couple of bodies. I seriously doubt there are large numbers of photographers who are buying into the M8 system from scratch.

 

Also - stepping in here late, so hope this still fits...Isn't it the case that a lot of us have BOTH M systems and SLR systems - I have from film through to now - they're different! I need my 5D and I need my M8 if I'm going to meet clients' needs and my own.

Best

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In digital you can get similar quality in print from cameras bodies ranging in price from $1,000 to 8,000 if you put a decent lens on the camera. Every major manufacturer makes a least a couple of outstanding lenses that would fit the bill.

 

So the choice of camera comes down to other issues. Workflow, need for weather proofing, speed or some aspect of ergonomics. The reason I own an M8 is the size and the rangefinder. Unfortunately RF manual focus cameras being such a niche market a hefty premium is required and that's not going to change as I don't see camera's based on 1950's ergonomics suddenly becoming the rage in the larger market.

 

There is not much point in comparing a 5D to a M8 as the 5D does not have an RF and is not that small. If all I needed was a good image I'd go out and get a DSLR body for around $1,400. and a good lens.

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Alan--I think the problem with making this comparison is that the vast majority of M8 buyers are already invested in the M system and own a variety of lenses that can be used with it. This is why so many of us were eager to have Leica introduce a digital M in the first place. The primary investment, then, is for a couple of bodies. I seriously doubt there are large numbers of photographers who are buying into the M8 system from scratch.

 

Hi Brent,

 

Interestingly enough, I think a lot of photographers have indeed bought an M8 as their first rangefinder camera. That's what I'm hearing in e-mail, etc. Naturally, of course, photographers who were already using RF were waiting for this camera.

 

Cheers,

 

Sean

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Interesting thread.

 

The rangefinder is at the end of the day a niche product with a specialised way of capturing photographs which is Leica's crown jewel that has keep it at the top of this niche.

 

The question then is whether Leica can come up with an affordable, high volume cash cow photography tool that will leverage on the Leica reputation. A reputation that is mainly built on optics and the rangefinder.

 

Optics. Leica has wisely chosen to partner with Panasonic to do the heavy lifting for the high volume consumer arena.

 

Rangefinder. Leica has built the M8 to appeal to leica aficionados to retain their interest.

 

 

Mind you, I'm relatively new to rangefinders and the way it captures photographs. I think Leica got it right when they asked for images that showed the advantages of the rangefinder, although I think it is a very difficult to put it across visually.

 

For myself it is very much a preference and the feel of the camera. You really need to put an M8 in the hands of the photographer and really explain the principles. This forum helped tremendously.

 

I got the M8 largely due to the weaknesses of DSLRs in wide angles and precision manual focus but these qualities which I value will not help Leica in the business.

 

What photography market is large enough and lucrative enough for Leica to bring their expertise into and yet leverage their reputation.

 

Maybe for the discerning consumer, a 24 - 50 mm f2.8 EFOV camera with a really good 6 megapixels that can deliver excellent details up to 8x10 prints at ISO 3200.

 

Zone focus, preferrably 3 distance settings. Tri-elmar styled zoom with an excellent zoomable optical viewfinder. Keep it simple and small and solid and leica mechanical precision in focus and zoom mechanism. Surprising to me was the appeal of the M8's mechanical precision to ladies who handled the M8.

 

Liveview. Programme, Aperture priority and manual (Three modes). RAW and just one JPEG size. Auto-ISO.

 

For the pros. What would appeal to the rank and file pro photographers who do the bread and butter stuff?

 

Until handling the M8, I had very definitive ideas of where I use my DSLRs and the rangefinder. I find myself thinking crazy ideas ....... well maybe another post for another time.

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Hi Brent,

 

Interestingly enough, I think a lot of photographers have indeed bought an M8 as their first rangefinder camera. That's what I'm hearing in e-mail, etc. Naturally, of course, photographers who were already using RF were waiting for this camera.

 

Cheers,

 

Sean

Sean,

 

You are correct in your assessment that individuals are buying M8 as a first rangefinder experience. I am one of them. In addition, to the M8, 50Lux, 28Cron, 35lux, WATE,75Lux, CV50. Also please note that with your reviews, I have been able to make what I believe to be the best choices. I am pleased with the M8 and the Leica glass. Sean, thanks for your help.

 

Jet

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Hi Brent,

 

Interestingly enough, I think a lot of photographers have indeed bought an M8 as their first rangefinder camera. That's what I'm hearing in e-mail, etc. Naturally, of course, photographers who were already using RF were waiting for this camera.

 

Cheers,

 

Sean

 

I very much hope you're right and that there are a lot, rather than just a few. This would indeed be sweet music to Andreas Kaufmann and the Leica workforce.

 

It would also indicate that there are a significant number of photographers for whom the whole picture making experience is important--not just the end result. That's really what it comes down to for me. I'm not going to say my M8 puts out better quality images than I can get from my DSLR system. That is sometimes the case, sometimes not. But I will say that I enjoy using my M8 much more than any other digital camera I've ever picked up, and when I am enjoying the process that is generally when I do my best work.

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Hi Brent,

 

Interestingly enough, I think a lot of photographers have indeed bought an M8 as their first rangefinder camera. …

Cheers,

 

Sean

 

Thats me (almost) too. My first camera was a Konica C35 (cheap RF), then thirty three years of SLRs/DSLRs. So pleased that Leica made the M8, I have never enjoyed photography as much as I do now.

 

Jeff

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First rangefinder M8 as well for me (at least effectively). I had (have and never use anymore) a Olympus XA which is also a rangefinder and in addition about 1 month before I bought the M8 I got a M2 with summaron 35. One film (well 2 actually) through the M2 was enough to convince me. I bought a M8 with 28 ASPH, then a 2nd hand 90 TE and recently a 2nd hand MATE.

 

If I was Leica I would market our love of the product. Let's face it this is one of the most dedicated, critical and enthusiastic forums on the web regarding photography. So where does all that energy come from? Not from being a Hermes like fashion statement I can assure you. Ask Leica users to write a short essay of why they love their stuff - even if (or because) it is 50 years old ergonomics and technology. You don't buy a Leica you marry one - including imperfections.

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