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Which Leica models for the future?


NZDavid
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With the sad news of the end of the R line and nothing new forthcoming so far, I think it's time yet again for a revaluation of the Leica product line. I think it needs streamlining. Can you narrow it down further?

 

1) Leica M. The iconic Leica. Evolving digital models. Market: photojournalists, enthusiastic amateurs. Especially suited for travel and people photography.

 

2) Leica M film model. For the traditionalists. But MP or M7 or both?

 

3) A new digital Leica CL. More manual controls than the D-Lux 4. Market: first-timers to pros. A Leica for everyone.

 

4) Pana/Leicas? Does Leica need them? Or should it concentrate purely on Leica-branded lenses?

 

5) Some kind of DSLR. A big gap here. A more affordable S? A huge market.

 

6) S2. High quality, but a very very limited market: high-end commercial photogs only. Few will be able to afford it.

 

To sum up, my top three picks would be M, CL, S.

 

Whatever future models Leica produces, they should all embody Leica's core values: technical precision; concentration on the essentials; robustness and reliability. All three of these criteria must be met for the product to be successful and a true Leica!

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I agree. Electronics are shrinking--or rather, doing more in a smaller volume. Sensor prices are inevitably falling. I can see a future for the M8 sensor format in a 'Digital CL' or 'CM' as the regular M goes full frame, which it will certainly do sometime. That 'CM' should have an extended M bayonet, permitting both auto-focusing and back-compatibility. Neither the technology nor the market was ripe for the Contax G cameras, but times will come ... A CM should be based on leading-edge thinking, not necessarily on leading-edge technology.

 

It remains a fact that system cameras, RF or SLR, are irrelevant to ninety percent of camera users, who will be adequately served by mobile phone cams, and stunt lenses like the Noctilux or the wide Summiluxes are irrelevant to ninety percent of the remaining niche of M users. The wide popularity of the system camera from the 1960's to the 1980's was to a great extent founded on the bling factor. A Nikon was an object of pride -- no matter that most purchasers never bought more than just one 'kit lens' for it. The future of Leica cannot be founded on bling -- bling is a fickle thing. Now it's here ... now it's somewhere else. Serious users stay on.

 

Meanwhile, the forte of the M is its ability to let the user choose its focus point with great precision -- essential to the use of very fast lenses. I do not doubt that opportunities will arise to introduce electronic enhancements, but the essence of the Leica M remains the combination of a direct finder with quick and precise rangefinder focusing.

 

The old man from the Age of the Box Camera

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They are not practical tools. My own Summilux lenses -- 35mm ASPH and 50mm ASPH -- are relics from the age of slow slide films. Even then, I did not buy the 50mm for its speed, which I did not need even then, but for its superior resistance to flare, where the Summicron does not exactly excel. My own most used lens today is the 28mm Summicron. I would not spend any money on a 28mm Summilux, if it existed.

 

I do not doubt that wide Summiluxes and the Noctilux are purchased by some people who manage to persuade themselves that they need them; we humans are notoriously inept at distinguishing 'wants' from 'needs'. Especially when the persuasion comes from within our own heads.These are the people who diss Summarit lenses as 'inferior' and not fit for the real fans, whose real delight is in price tags, not in optical performance. But I would not purchase any of these lenses -- 21 and 24mm Summilux, 0.95 Nocti -- even if I were rolling in money, because I hate large, unwieldy lenses. Even in the case of the M8, my first priority for a successor is not full format or even the ability to make a decent espresso, but shrinking it back to M4/M6 proportions.

 

Let's face it. A sizeable segment of Leica buyers perceive the stuff as bling-bling. Maybe we should not complain: These people are a source of income. But the situation is not without its dangers. Leica should try to expand its base of serious users, instead of catering to the jewellery customers. Who knows what fancy may attract these people next?

 

The old man from the Age of the Box Camera (usually f/11 ... )

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Ah yes, "very fast lenses". But in this era of zoom lenses, a f:2 prime lens is again a 'very fast lens'.

 

The separation of sharp and unsharp is a prime tool of conscious photography, a way of directing the attention of the viewer, and simply to create a sense of depth in the image. But it is not always necessary to hit a person across his head with a bat in order to attract his attention. In my experience even a 1:2.8 24mm lens is adequate to create this feeling of depth. Yes, I can have it even with a 1:4 18mm. There is no need to completely wipe out the background. A whisper can be more effective than a shout.

 

The old man from the Age of the Cooke Triplet

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Well, Lars, It does not work that way for me. The ability to separate background and subject in a wideangle shot is something new, and very expressive in photography. We are only just beginning to explore it. What does not work for your may well work for other users. No need to be dismissive.

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Well, Lars, It does not work that way for me. The ability to separate background and subject in a wideangle shot is something new, and very expressive in photography. We are only just beginning to explore it. What does not work for your may well work for other users. No need to be dismissive.
My edit expired :(

 

The argument of " not needing" is meaningless. Nobody needs a Leica like one needs a pair of pants or a roof over one' s head. The amateurs amongst us can easily switch to matchbox collecting, the pros can feed their family using any number of other systems. So it is always " want" . If you use "need" in a technical sense, you are wrong, as you cannot get the effects of a Noctilux or fast wide in any other way; you need that specific lens.

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I would say the PanaLeica's are very necessary, a relatively easy income stream and very profitable too I would imagine (considering the additional income for the use of the Leica name on the Panasonics).

 

I'm not convinced about a digital CL, its hard to see how they would cut the cost significantly compared to an M8. Maybe when the FF M arrives they would consider a lower cost crop M body based on a sensor similar in size to the current M ?

 

The S2 will be very interesting to see how well it does - very well I hope! I don't know how you say that 'few will be able to afford it' assuming it is priced competatively to other MF digitals (which is Leica's intention) they presumably have done their research, know the market and the realistic sales volumes.

 

The rumoured new EVIL 'DSLR' probably isn't going to be made by Leica, that is my understanding from the threads on the subject. Without more detail its difficult to speculate on the market for such a camera.

 

What I do beleive there is a gap in the market for is a traditional high quality compact camera akin to a CM, but in digital form (with a large sensor). The Panasonic G1 and new Olympus are getting there but it should have a shutter dial, manual focus ring (as well as AF), ideally an aperture dial too, and most importantly an optical viewfinder!

 

 

 

 

 

With the sad news of the end of the R line and nothing new forthcoming so far, I think it's time yet again for a revaluation of the Leica product line. I think it needs streamlining. Can you narrow it down further?

 

1) Leica M. The iconic Leica. Evolving digital models. Market: photojournalists, enthusiastic amateurs. Especially suited for travel and people photography.

 

2) Leica M film model. For the traditionalists. But MP or M7 or both?

 

3) A new digital Leica CL. More manual controls than the D-Lux 4. Market: first-timers to pros. A Leica for everyone.

 

4) Pana/Leicas? Does Leica need them? Or should it concentrate purely on Leica-branded lenses?

 

5) Some kind of DSLR. A big gap here. A more affordable S? A huge market.

 

6) S2. High quality, but a very very limited market: high-end commercial photogs only. Few will be able to afford it.

 

To sum up, my top three picks would be M, CL, S.

 

Whatever future models Leica produces, they should all embody Leica's core values: technical precision; concentration on the essentials; robustness and reliability. All three of these criteria must be met for the product to be successful and a true Leica!

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[ ... ]What I do beleive there is a gap in the market for is a traditional high quality compact camera akin to a CM, but in digital form (with a large sensor). The Panasonic G1 and new Olympus are getting there but it should have a shutter dial, manual focus ring (as well as AF), ideally an aperture dial too, and most importantly an optical viewfinder!

As Leica people themselves seem to sense, the greatest sacrifice in photographic (as opposed to carrying) convenience that present compacts impose on us is the absence of a real finder. The absurdity of holding the camera one foot in front of your face, without any support, while you try to compose a tiny picture, went out with the Newton finder early in the twentieth century. And at its end, it returned! Not because it was a good solution, but because it was cheap. Anybody who cares at all how his pictures look needs a 'face contact finder', direct optical, reflex or electronic.

 

Jaap, I have never denied that superfast superwides (if the equivalent of a 28mm lens deserves that last appellation) do a new trick. But the very real risk is that the trick is a stunt that does not prove very worthwhile in the long run. Remember fisheye lenses? Remember mirror lenses? Where are they now?

 

The old man from the Age of the Box Camera

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<<What I do beleive there is a gap in the market for is a traditional high quality compact camera akin to a CM, but in digital form (with a large sensor). The Panasonic G1 and new Olympus are getting there but it should have a shutter dial, manual focus ring (as well as AF), ideally an aperture dial too, and most importantly an optical viewfinder!>>

 

James, yes, that's what I meant to say! Absolutely. Not necessarily a CL with interchangeable lenses. Anyone else keen on this?

 

S2 -- I hope it will go well, too. Good for the commercial photogs, just a shame about the sky-high price.

 

Lars, a viewfinder -- yes!

 

I also agree faster and more specialized lenses are a specialist niche for well-heeled aficionados only.

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1) Leica M. The iconic Leica. Evolving digital models. Market: photojournalists, enthusiastic amateurs. Especially suited for travel and people photography.

 

2) Leica M film model. For the traditionalists. But MP or M7 or both?

 

As I have said many times before, I would like to see a FF digital M, with no UV/IR filtration and a form factor that is better (for me!) than the M8. As to film, I suspect that as long as emulsion is made there will be a demand for a film M. Although I am a happy M7 user if I had to start again today from scratch I would most likely go for an MP.

 

3) A new digital Leica CL. More manual controls than the D-Lux 4. Market: first-timers to pros. A Leica for everyone.

 

Absolutely. Something that embodies the Leica traditions of small, light, discreet, fast and high quality photography. I'm not even too bothered about interchangable lenses - a fast 40mm equivalent prime would do for me.

 

4) Pana/Leicas? Does Leica need them? Or should it concentrate purely on Leica-branded lenses?

 

Yes they do. It is not only a revenue stream but a way of taking the Leica name to a new generation. I would love to see a Leica-branded cameraphone, for example, because of the brand-buzz and pull-through it would create.

 

5) Some kind of DSLR. A big gap here. A more affordable S? A huge market.

 

6) S2. High quality, but a very very limited market: high-end commercial photogs only. Few will be able to afford it.

 

I'll take these two together.

 

I'd like to see a digital body capable of making the most of my R glass, but it's not a deal breaker for me. I'm happy to reserve them for film use, and for my occasional macro and tele needs I'll continue to use Olympus.

 

I'm not in the target demographic for the S2. I'd be very happy to see it successful, for all the right reasons, but it isn't what I want or need.

 

Whatever future models Leica produces, they should all embody Leica's core values: technical precision; concentration on the essentials; robustness and reliability. All three of these criteria must be met for the product to be successful and a true Leica!

 

Hear hear.

 

I picked up a 1929 Leica catalogue the other day. The language used is far more verbose than today's advertising copy, and 90% could not be claimed in today's far more litiginous world, but the thing that shines through for me is the absolute confidence in the products being described as being world-beating. Core values are important, and were clearly in place 80-odd years ago.

 

Regards,

 

Bill

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Too much thinking on your side.

 

Create a full frame M9 with live view. Such camera should accept M and R lenses. This would make the M a top camera in every market segment, solve the R tragedy and also allows to generate a profit from all those new M lenses.

 

Add the S2 for large sensor and SLR shots.

 

What else is missing? A low price M9 as soon as you can build it more affordable.

 

Anything else would be a surprise to me.

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I have never denied that superfast superwides (if the equivalent of a 28mm lens deserves that last appellation) do a new trick. But the very real risk is that the trick is a stunt that does not prove very worthwhile in the long run. Remember fisheye lenses? Remember mirror lenses? Where are they now?

 

Lars. I think that there will always be room for specialist lenses - for example I use the Canon 15mm a great deal - for underwater use, and also Canon's 24/1.4 in low light (I recently shot for a client at 1600ISO at f/1.4 and struggled to get faster than 1/6s) and I will get hold of a very wide Summilux in due course too I hope - but suspect that you are suggesting that there is a difference in why such lenses are often bought and how they are actually used (to my mind there is little point in buying an f/1.4 lens unless you are going to use it at f/1.4!).

 

zapp. An M9 which is full frame and incorporated a zooming facility in live view would be a useful tool indeed :).

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Jaap, I have never denied that superfast superwides (if the equivalent of a 28mm lens deserves that last appellation) do a new trick. But the very real risk is that the trick is a stunt that does not prove very worthwhile in the long run. Remember fisheye lenses? Remember mirror lenses? Where are they now?

 

The old man from the Age of the Box Camera

I don't think it really compares, Lars. Mirror lenses failed because of technical/optical inferiority (no aperture, low contrast, horrible bokeh and fisheye lenses are still around, but are basically one-trick ponies, and are used to enhance a photograpic symbology which is ummm..unusual?

These superfast-(super)wides are universal lenses that add another dimension. Something quite different. I quite like it, but I tend to use all my lenses wide open anyway. Others may differ. If you are into nose-to-horizon sharp WA shots, there is not much sense in paying the premium for 1.4.

Edited by jaapv
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Don't really need autofocus--I'm happy with the performance of my M8's most of the time, but for very fast, and especially long and fast lenses, like the 75mm Summilux, and the 75mm Summicron, and the Noctilux, especially in poor light, electronic focus confirmation would be very welcome. This would have the advantage of requiring no modification to the lenses or mount.

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OK, maybe something the size of the Barnack cameras, or if not that small, as Lars suggested, maybe the size of my M2, 6, but with electronic focus confirmation, using M lenses. Very compact, able to use fast lenses. I think the very compact size would matter to me more than FF, especially as the chips and electronics continue to improve. As others have noted elsewhere, e.i. 400 was plenty most of the time. How often was I really concerned with needing more than a two stop push of Tri-X or HP5? As Jaapv pointed out, the other reason for the fast lens was isolating the subject.

 

And to think I used to think Promicrol was great...

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