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Erwin Puts on the future of the Leica M system

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If I were Erwin I'd chose a larger font size for the web pages, that way it wouldn't take so many words to fill the page.

 

This is in all seriousness by the way. I have the feeling that he sometimes writes the article, sees that it only fills a third of the page, and adds more words.

 

Writers are conditioned to do that because they are usually paid by the column inch. More words equal more money.

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Oh goody, an unsubstantiated rumour - not had one of those for a while...

 

Please - attribute or speculate - don't present fluff as "fact" - it just gets tedious.

 

Regards,

 

Bill

 

How do you know it is unsubstantiated rumor ??? This information comes directly from a very trustful Leica source here in Switzerland. This is the same source that made me know about the M8 6 months before it was launched in sept. 2006. A Leica addicted friend of mine also reserved his future M9. Great Leica M photographic moments to come, get ready...

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Well, yes, that may well be the case. I do not think it is an option in the near future, as there will have to be a motherboard under the sensor chip for quite some while to come.

 

Yes, there might be the opportunity to make the sensor board and the DSP board co-planar which could reduce the thickness of the body by 2 - 3mm. I think the lens mount would still protrude from the front of the camera, unlike the flush fitting now.

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I am greatly relieved to find Steve Unsworth had trouble with Puts' essay, since recently Steve lowered a wrecking ball on my head when I called Puts a bore ;-)

 

But seriously, I think Puts was asking a question many of us have answered for ourselves, and answer every day: given the technological advances in other systems, does the M have a role, a future? And we answer yes, because there are ineffable qualities to it that we respond to. Respond to sufficiently to make a virtue of what others would call a flaw: manual focus.

 

I realize reading Puts' essays is a little like deciphering a Zen koan, but I actually think he's trying to sort through his own ambivalence. He seems to recognize that, as HC-B saw it, the structure of a rangefinder makes it an extension of the eye, and he seems to admire that. But he also recognizes that, given the choices that are out there, one is making a purely subjective choice when one chooses a rangefinder, because objectively -- in his analysis -- other systems are technically better. Yet still he is drawn to write about the Leica M, over and over, it's a big part of his life's work. He seems torn between head (CRMs are inferior) and heart (oh, but they are glorious.) And so he writes a pretty long essay that wanders and doesn't come to a conclusion. I have empathy for him. He's struggling, and his struggle renders his essay inconclusive.

 

Boiled down: the M camera (not its lenses, which he says continue to be better than the competition, and perhaps have even widened their lead), is not as great an instrument as its competition. And still we use it. And still we love it. Not everything is rational.

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How do you know it is unsubstantiated rumor ??? This information comes directly from a very trustful Leica source here in Switzerland. This is the same source that made me know about the M8 6 months before it was launched in sept. 2006. A Leica addicted friend of mine also reserved his future M9. Great Leica M photographic moments to come, get ready...

Maybe because there is nothing to substantiate it? Unnamed sources are no sources.

Having said that, it would be good for Leica as a company to announce something substantial for a wider market than the S2 in the camera field this year, be it a M9 or a R series succesor. Preferably both

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I'm now starting the suspect whether those well-versed and crystal clear technical papers on the old Leica site were actually written by Erwin Puts or not.

 

Reading the Puts blog does give me an impression that they're totally 2 different persons. The Erwin on the web is sounding more like a philosopher than anyone and is best at confusing me with a lot of self-conflicting random thoughts.

 

I think it boils down to pre- and post-digital Puts. He was in his element before digital, but he has never really found his footing since. I still use his book regularly, but I don't recall any essays of substance of his on the topic of digital.

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I read the Puts' article after going through all the comments so far. As many articles by Puts it is a bit philosophical but offers a certain perspective. Yes, it is a bit long but it discusses a relevant topic.

 

What I take from it (and from earlier articles): the M camera was launched as an alternative to the big tools in the market and helped to take photos which have not been possible before.

 

Unfortunately, Leica apparently never understood/remembered this: instead of sticking to the original body (more or less) and keeping some "traditional core values" (such as the bottom plate of the camera) they should have taken the idea of "no-hassle-picture-taking" to the current market situation:

 

Which camera is the most silent today?

Which camera offers the best relation of qualitiy and small size?

Which camera is the fastest to use?

Which camera is the most robust?

Which camera can be used best at night at low light?

 

These are values which Leica are advertising today. But which Leica is - nowadays - really the camera of choice for any of these questions/situations?

 

However, I am confident with the current team at Leica and hope that they will come up with a solution.

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Writers are conditioned to do that because they are usually paid by the column inch. More words equal more money.

 

Contrary to popular opinion, writers are not paid by the number of words they submit; they are paid by the number of words that are published. When a journalist’s article reaches a magazine or newspaper, it will be edited by a staff member with some knowledge of the topic, then edited again by a subeditor. During this process, any superfluous material will be removed and the style adjusted to match the style used by the publishing house. So a writer who has 'padded' his text will find that the published version – and his fee – have shrunk.

 

And it’s much the same in the world of book publishing. The publishing house will set a target length, but unless the writer is a ‘big name’ author who can insist that his text be used without changes, the text will be revised by an editor and any excessive verbiage removed. If the result if significantly below the target length, the writer will have to produce additional material to make up the shortfall.

 

Erwin’s articles often show a problem I’ve seen when editing texts. A writer working in other than his native language will often have difficulty in making sure to his own satisfaction that he has expressed what he was trying to say. This can result in a very pedantic style that seems excessively ‘wordy’ or rambling to a native speaker. The more difficult the writer’s thesis, the worse the problem can be, and the more he may fall back on rules of grammar and sentence-construction from his own language – rules that will result in a rather odd-sounding passage in the English language.

 

Asked to deliver a talk or lecture in other than his native language, the same writer will inevitably spend some time beforehand in the company of native speakers, so will be experiencing ‘live feedback’ that helps polish his style. I’ve heard Erwin lecturing at an LHSA function, and found that his spoken style is almost free of the ‘schoolmasterly’ tone found in some of his writings. He is a good public speaker.

 

One thing is certain – he is making a better job of writing in English than most native English speakers would make of writing in Dutch.

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There is something that many people don't consider when discussing the future of Leica

 

The immediate gratification consumerist culture that coincided with the rise of digital is almost OVER....The culture is changing...People are changing....We are entering an era where customers are going to demand quality and are going to wait to spend their money on products that will last. They are going to want to purchase a camera system and stick with it for life. THey are going to want to purchase high quality products that are timeless. The fast food mentality of buying a new DSLR every year is going to start to fizzle out....People are going to start sobering up...and are going to think about 10 years from now instead of the moment.

 

The megapixel wars are going to matter less and less.....It's not all that relevant to look at digital's past to predict digital's future. The future is going to be very different from what we've seen already.

 

Leica is a company that is driven by a philosophy that matches perfectly with the era that we're about to enter. The M system isn't going anywhere....I think Leica's best days are still ahead....it's just going to be a rough few years as this cultural transition takes place and really takes root

Edited by Gentleman Villain

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I don't believe this at all. In the spirit of Puts' favourite analogies of cars and mountain bikes, there is no evidence that people now want to keep these longer even though the basic requirements of these products have been met long ago. What we see is more bells and whistles, ease of use, lower prices. Vendors will not let you hang on to something for very long, quality or not. In this thread alone there have already been two people who (apparently) preordered an M9 without knowing what it is.

 

Especially amateurs, who account for the largest buyer's segment, and who do this for their pure enjoyment, will surely want to stay up to date with the trends. Pros I think to a lesser extent.

 

Agreed that the M had better not go anywhere.

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the M camera (not its lenses, which he says continue to be better than the competition, and perhaps have even widened their lead), is not as great an instrument as its competition. And still we use it. And still we love it. Not everything is rational.

 

I have 4 x Canon dSLRs including a 5DII. I use these as workhorses.

 

Out of choice, if I am able, I will always pick up the M8 in preference. 10MPixels and ISO160 are as effective as they were when launched, yield excellent images and will continue to do so. Not suitable for everything of course but very usable for a lot.

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I think Erwin Puts made a nice move of opening the discussion (again). There have been some attempts at this before, mostly rewarded with severe push-backs. But hey, true, the Leica M-series has a lot of hidden and not-talked of features, there are some raisons d’être – not just the lenses.

 

Erwin’s question is: How to retain a significant place in the photographic universe for an M-camera?

He states: let go of your ego. To discuss the form of an effective photographic instrument we must disassociate ourselves from the collector’s emotions and habits. What is it we can think of: an CRF, M style - a true DCRF (digital coupled rangefinder camera). A DCRF uses a cam that transfers the placement of the lens into a analogue or digital measurement. This is presented to the user in some way. Why not?

 

It means a different feedback on focus. A blinking LED or a true projected double image? Anything goes here.

 

Thinking about it, I do have some remarks:

The fact remains that the RF has a big raison d’être we often do not hear about: the RF has a much better focusing concept than a SLR, and this advantage outweighs the impossibility to frame correctly.

Bob Schwalberg once (LF 3/65) calculated it for full frame 35mm: the 35 mm M2 (at 0.7 enlargement) has an effective measuring base (Meszbasis) of 48 mm, compared to the Leicaflex SLR with a 35mm lens having just a 4,3 mm effective base (central split image). The RF thus outperforms a SLR in precision by street lengths. With a 50 mm lens it is the same 48 mm against 9,5 mm. This means a Noctilux can be focused in a RF, not in a SLR. Even a 90 mm on a M2 RF body outperforms a SLR with 48 mm against 28 mm. Talk street lengths: or razor sharp focusing. Talking about an M8, with the smaller sensor size than FF, we should value this size difference into the equation, and the effective base would become something like 32 mm if I am correct. The 90mm is still a sharp focuser on the M8.

 

So the real discussion should be:

 

 

  • Can a technology be conceived that provides real and effective focusing with the quality of the M2 and the M8 using electronic means, disregarding any user’s emotions and habits?
  • Can the focus be as precise and predictable?
  • Can it be as fast? Do we immediately understand what is happening?
  • Can it be as intuitive in use? (Look at the time we have to decide to shoot: it is our right brain at work not our left hemisphere)
  • Can it adopt to any lens make?
  • Could it maybe correct for unlineair cam shafts (think a inner focus lens that needs extra complicated components, hard to adjust) by referring to a translation table in memory referenced to a specific lens?

 

If this would all be possible, then a DCRF would be of help.

 

I placed the ‘C’ in brackets, because the measurement could also come from other devices than said coupling device to a analogue or digital converter of the effective distance the lens is focused on.

 

I think it is possible. But note, the large measurement base of 48 mm or even 62 mm (M3) should be our design goal, even if virtualized. This means special effects have to be used to present this, like the needle that gave feedback in some camera’s with a logarithmic range of a stop plus or minus – the scale cannot be linear (an effective base of less than 1 mm would be the result).

 

In this way, and I agree with Puts: we keep simplicity while adopting the new digital age. [All apart from the special haptics of the RF.]

 

Look what it will give us: no expensive optical apparatus, versatility. Lens design simplicity even. Lower costs over the whole line. And Leica can dominate the stage.

 

Let’s go a step further: why have a coupled rangefinder at all? Focus detection could also be done by making use of a small mirror - a lot like in a DSLR (including the S1 – codename Einhorn as my aunt in Wetzlar refers to it - and S2 have).

And then throw in a digital framing device that is independent of preconceived ideas, just can adopt to any lenscode and move with parallax correction. Any lenscode, an eight-bit code is needed, but then it would cover all this M-mountable lenses in use.

 

What are your ideas on such a development direction? I do like Erwin's style, it might be the Dutch way of a discours, but look at it, it has very clear building blocks. And it stirrs the audience!

 

Alberti

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Alberti, you are right.

 

To try to put it even simpler, the key survival characteristics of the M system are that it

 

1./ does not need mirrors,

2./ has a large inventory of excellent lenses that

3./ can be focused manually at great precision.

 

One should be able to build on this.

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You don't need mirrors just because the sensor can be a focus sensor based on contrast. It will be slower, but much more precise for digital capture. That for AF lenses.

 

Even for manual focus lenses, the sensor can say you if the subject is in focus with very high precision. Leica would need some kind of CMOS sensor and the lens should be open for light gathering, but it can be useful.

 

In my opinion, a manual focus M Leica only can be marginally improved with digital technology. But many people don't want something different (me included). An improved or updated M8 would be perfect (up to date sensor, improved electronics, better interface taking the S2 as a model... so minor changes). The point is this: that kind of a camera is a niche product. I don't care about it, but maybe Leica does.

 

The M concept is based on size and ergonomics on the one hand, and rangefinder/viewfinder on the other hand. You can keep the first and change the second, not for an evolution of the M system, which is good as it is, but for a new type of product that will be the future. The Micro 4/3 is based on the same idea, but using a format 4 times smaller.

 

You can take the basic specifications of the M system (bayonet, mount-to-flange...) and build a quite different camera from it, but you would need new AF lenses.

 

Therefore, my own answer to Puts' questions is this: the M system cannot evolve in a substantial way for people liking the M system as it is. You can improve it marginally, but that's all many of us will tolerate. Reflex systems cannot substantially evolve either, and many people like them as they are.

 

However, the M system can be the base for a different type of product with a huge potential niche market. Something like the M market was in the 50s (not niche) but for the XXI century. A new reflex system is something of the past, as rangefinder cameras are. They both have a market now (larger for reflex cameras), but the EVF AF cameras are the future, but small size cameras (like Micro 4/3) and even large format cameras. Reflex systems with large distances from mount to sensor will be threatened, firstly APS based systems, then the larger ones... Electronics evolves... very, very fast!!!

 

Backward compatibility? The M lenses on Micro 4/3 are a good example of the possibilities. It isn't perfect, but it can be done easily.

Edited by rosuna

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But many people don't want something different (me included).

You've hit the nail squarely on the head as far as I'm concerned. I actually like manual focusing with the M coupled rangefinder! I also like the simplicity of controls (in fact I'd happily lose specification from the M8 - shooting jpegs is irrelevant to me, as is auto ISO) because it puts me back in the driving seat - I control the M8 not the other way around. And I like its size and weight. I'm not defending it or saying its perfect, I'm just saying that it suits me fairly well as it is. Sure a 'better' sensor would be nice, and yes FF, if possible would be too, but I am happy to retain the original M concept as far as possible - evolution around a primary concept if you want. My M8 takes good images - it also takes poor ones, and those are down to me.

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Just for your info, here is the immediate future of Leica M (Leica source):

 

Leica M9 launched end of this year:

18.5 Mpx

Full frame

No more IR filters needed

Same size as current M8

 

Already reserved one by my Leica dealer here in CH

 

Interesting.

 

This is very similar to what a representative of the Norwegian Leica importer told me back in March. But he told me that the 'M9' will be available just after Fotokina in 2010. That is a year later than what your source is saying. Cathay Photo, Singapore, confirmed practically what you say regarding specs (18 mill. pixels, no filter Full Frame), just last week, but knew nothing about when M9 will be in the shop. If Leica manages to make the M9 available already this year, then that is quite fantastic.

 

M9 will be expensive, the above sources say. With today's currency rate the price will be $ 10,000.

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Interesting.

 

This is very similar to what a representative of the Norwegian Leica importer told me back in March. But he told me that the 'M9' will be available just after Fotokina in 2010. That is a year later than what your source is saying. Cathay Photo, Singapore, confirmed practically what you say regarding specs (18 mill. pixels, no filter Full Frame), just last week, but knew nothing about when M9 will be in the shop. If Leica manages to make the M9 available already this year, then that is quite fantastic.

 

M9 will be expensive, the above sources say. With today's currency rate the price will be $ 10,000.

 

Very similar info indeed. I was also informed on march and told not to disclose till last week. The target price I was given was around same price as M8.2. I will try to give you more details if I am allowed.

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