Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
jrc

Let's have it out

Recommended Posts

Advertisement (gone after registration)

I've largely kept out of these threads, but I tend to agree with the "M modernisers" like AlanG, despite the fact that I maintain the Epson R-D1 FAQ!

 

I consider myself an image-maker - current project, shot with a Leica M8: Tempus Fugit, and for the way I work I prefer a digital camera designed to be used primarily as a manual camera - hence my choice of the M8. But I think the M concept needs a serious overhaul.

 

People say use another camera if you feel that way. Unfortunately, there isn't one - if I want a small, manual-only digital camera with exemplary image quality and an optical viewfinder. So, I live with its faults. What I'd like is a a digital M modernised so that it functions as efficiently as possible as a photographic tool. If Nikon, say, brought out a "modernised" rangefinder, the M8 would get the boot without a second thought.

 

I've never used a film M (actually, I've never used film), so I came to the M8 with no preconceptions. My opinion? As far as I'm concerned, the M8 is stuck far too firmly in the 1950s, and some of the design decisions are are frankly risible - e.g. that stupid base plate that makes life difficult when using a tripod ...

 

Someone mentioned the Konica Hexar to me recently (which I confess I'd never heard of). After Googling it, I think that's the way a modern rangefinder should be heading.

 

A fair few of my students, friends and acquaintances are photographers, including several who are professional photographers or doing photography degree/post-grad courses. Frankly, to a man (or woman), they consider my M8 an expensive joke, and none aspires to own it.

 

Most of those 20-30-year-old photographers have never used a manual camera, have no interest in one, and a large majority grew up with digital, auto-everything cameras. They are pretty representative of their age group, so it's obvious that the Leica M will become increasingly marginalised unless Leica updates the M concept to make it more attractive to them. If they don't, Leica will become one more name on the roll-call of camera companies that are no longer with us.

 

Of course, I'm not suggesting that Leica should compete with Canon et al. and turn the M into some sort of mini auto-everything-digicam-with-a-strange-viewfinder. What I want is a modern digital Leica M that takes advantage of 21st-century technology to make it a more effective photographic tool as a semi-manual rangefinder camera.

 

Being brutal, it's no good making a camera for a few ageing diehards: Leica should be looking at how to make the digital M more usable and suitable for the upcoming generation of photographers. Otherwise, the user base is simply going to keep dwindling, and the Leica M will increasingly become an affectation rather than a serious photographic tool.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've never used a film M (actually, I've never used film), so I came to the M8 with no preconceptions. My opinion? As far as I'm concerned, the M8 is stuck far too firmly in the 1950s, and some of the design decisions are are frankly risible - e.g. that stupid base plate that makes life difficult when using a tripod

 

You have really never shot a roll of film in your entire life? Not even in school?

Do you mind if I ask how old you are? Seriously, I not trying to be a jerk here.

 

Being brutal, it's no good making a camera for a few ageing diehards: Leica should be looking at how to make the digital M more usable and suitable for the upcoming generation of photographers. Otherwise, the user base is simply going to keep dwindling, and the Leica M will increasingly become an affectation rather than a serious photographic tool.

 

Ok, if you are not going to make it AF or stick an EVF in it, how do you want to change it?

If you take out the mechanical RF unit or add a Contax G series type AF system, it's no longer a Leica M...

 

A while back I suggest some ergonomic changes (AE-L button etc), Live View and a modern matrix metering system, but all of that was pretty invisible and did not change the basic character or appearance of the camera. There's a big thread somewhere if you're interested.

 

I did hang on to the base plate though. I can't remember the last time I put an M-body on a tripod and taking the plate off to reload really isn't a big deal.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

First of all, though Leica is majority privately owned, its stock is still traded, and you can see the company's financial reports here, so there's no need for speculation about the company's financial condition. (Frankly I'm at a loss as to why the weird misconception that Leica's finances are a secret keeps popping up; Googling "leica financial report" brings up the correct page as the first result).

 

Second, I have no idea what the basis might be for the claim that most M8 owners use the camera as jewelry. Where I live (near Austin, TX, USA) there's only one dealer who stocks the M8, and I know the people there pretty well. I know the majority of people who have bought M8s from the store, and without exception the ones I know are shooters - many very accomplished.

 

Third, I'm perfectly prepared to wait to see how the S2 performs in the actual market. It's smaller than a D3, it has MUCH better lenses, it's got higher resolution... why shouldn't pro shooters, especially fashion shooters (since it's not got an AA filter to put moire on woven fabric) who have been shooting D3s and 1DsMkIII's flock to it as the next natural step in quality? Price certainly won't be the issue that stops this crowd from adopting the camera.

 

I took my jewelry for a night out on Thursday; somehow it managed to leap off its gilded chain and do this...

 

 

Guess I better keep a closer eye on it in the future.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I erred in the OP by using the word "jewelry," which, though probably the best word, is inflammatory; perhaps I should have said "engineering." That is, some people like the camera (or the car or the watch) for what it is, as an object, as opposed making images, driving efficiently or telling precise time. There are reasons for that; I've noticed that a lot of people on this forum have engineering backgrounds. However, the point remains: the purpose of owning a Leica for MANY and probably, IMHO, MOST people is not ultimate function, i.e. its ability to produce an image of excellence. This seems so blindlingly evident that it hardly seems worth talking about, and having one or two or ten people saying "Well, no, I don't use jewelry") hardly refutes the point in general. If ti weren't for the people who buy Leicas because they enjoy the *engineering* aspects of the camera, the company would already be dead.

 

As to those of you telling me that the post is trash, or to try another camera, etc., why do you bother to post? This is obviously not your conversation. The fact is, I like Leicas, and have probably ~ $30,000, in Leica gear, and have, when I was younger, actually shot for money (and not only when I was younger -- I was in Iraq a year ago at age 64 and published some of the photos, though I was basically there as a writer.) Anyway, find something else to do.

 

If Leica goes down, a lot of us are going to be stranded with a lot of gear and no way to get it fixed or maintained, except through a dwindling and aging group of Leica repair shops. It's absolutely essential that Leica come up with a strategy that stabilizes the company. The question is, how to do that?

 

I think Leica has to somehow retain traditional customers, and *engineering* customers, and serious shooters, while at the same time, broadening its appeal. That's what I've been trying to talk about; if some of you feel insulted by the suggestion that there are Leica owners who don't primarily think of photography, and would like to pretend that the White Leica and the Safari Leica and all those old Hermes Leicas don't exist...well, that's your world. But those illusions won't save Leica, which is one reason that Hermes dumped the company.

 

I think the S2 is in serious trouble, not all of Leica's making. I would be surprised, but not shocked, if the release were "delayed," as in, delayed forever. If that's the case, and if Leica is left with nothing but the M (the R already being mostly dead), how is it to survive? I don't think it's impossible, but I don't think it'll get done by making an M8.4.5

 

JC

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Advertisement (gone after registration)

However, the point remains: the purpose of owning a Leica for MANY and probably, IMHO, MOST people is not ultimate function, i.e. its ability to produce an image of excellence. This seems so blindlingly evident that it hardly seems worth talking about,

 

I infer from this that you have not bothered to look for any evidence to back up the assertion?

 

I know about 10 M8 owners, of whom I'm the only one who didn't come to the M8 after previously owning a DSLR, and every single owner I know bought the camera to shoot it, in the hope (satisfied in all cases except one unsatisfied owner) that its performance would allow them to take advantage of the quality of their Leica lenses.

 

Most of them have also told me they like the ergonomics and simple control interface of the M8 much better than any DSLR they've ever tried.

 

I do not personally know anyone who actually owns an M8 who (1) doesn't use it to shoot, or (2) claims to have bought it because of engineering, style, or similar considerations. If you asked the folks I know who own the camera why they bought it (and I have asked some but not all), I'm betting most of them would say "because of the quality of the lenses".

 

On the basis of what experiences are you making your claim?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

it might be of interest that the concept of maintaining a niche product is in fact a proven business model.

 

For leica to modify the M series into something like a G1 or Olympus Pen, most likely would doom the company to the death of the "also rans".

 

However maintaining a particular product with a appeal to a specific market is most likely a sustainable business.

 

I do agree with the other poster, that Leica probably could make some easy cash by putting some R lenses on nikon F mounts.

 

And I DO agree that a olympus PEN camera could have a place in the leica product line, maybe even with M lenses, but I do not think it should be though about as a M9.

 

And yes I can afford both my car and cameras, and will likely invest in a M9 when it come out, and shockingly at 45, I am not 70 years old (yet)

 

.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Yawn.

 

Can't we just have one Armchair CEO thread as a sticky?

 

HeHe...

 

Ah the sun is out... Gotta run and wax the Cayenne...

Edited by sfokevin

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I love my M8 for its ability to use wonderful older lenses and for its simple (manual) interface with which I am comfortable. My son feels that all digital devices have a short and limited life span before they are replaced with faster and better products. He thinks nothing of tossing out an electronic device to get another for the new features and speed. It's the way that his generation thinks. I, on the other hand, want to hold on to proven older technology as long as it does the job for me.

 

The M8 has crossed the line into the digital world and as such it has a limited life. Only the lenses will live on and that has to be the Leica business strategy for which I am thankful.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm not a CEO, engineer or marketing manager, just a humble working photographer, so my opinion is probably not relevant. But I will offer it anyway! The main reason Leica does not make money like the big Japanese companies is because its products are actually designed to last. From my humble point of view that's actually a good thing. It may not make the best business sense when most people expect their products to self destruct after five years, but I hope they continue with this line of thinking.

 

If you have access to an engineering firm, optics designers and a production facility please feel free to make your own 'improved' version. I'll give it a go.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Dunno. Leitz, then Leica, has been failing or in danger of failing for most of the last 40-45 years.

 

Market-expansion via the CL almost killed the company...product overhaul via the M5 almost killed the company...product deveopment thereafter in the M line has been exceptionally conservative. The SLR line, which deserved a much better fate, never really won enough users over. It's a miracle they had the nerve and capital to create the M8, and now the S2. With the best will in the world toward the company and all here, I think expecting a major overhaul is wildly optimistic. I would love to be wrong about that...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

i think its so interesting that so many of you are insulted by what OP (jrc) is saying here.

 

if you think your so special, talented,different,knowers of extremely high quailty and dont want it taken away from you then the man is speaking to you!

 

hes asking the question. how does stay afloat? pretend you dont own one of these jewels (sorry! it was that or gems ;-) ) and you stumble upon lovely optics that you too can own!

 

sign me up you say! how much? well lets say youre going to replicate your current system best as possible lens wise and youre looking at 20k? more?

 

since the shop is in germany, or nj and the wait is about six weeks you might consider a back up.

then youll have to have your lenses alligned to camera, so off to germany or NJ or DAG...

 

and on and on we go (and have gone) straight into denial.

 

yes i love my camera.i dont even mind the silly retro senimental base plate but then i dont do enough tripod work...

 

what i would like is to be able to always use my glass. if leica goes under i hope someone somehow will have figured out how to retro fit my lenses to a body thats perhaps a bit more modern or not.

 

maybe instead of trashing JRC we could consider what hes saying and be part of the future?

im just sayin...

melissa

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

What he is saying Melissa, is quite clear; "let's have it out".

 

This thinly-veiled trolling keeps certain people entertained ad nauseam. There are probably better ways to approach the subject of getting Leica to change their cameras. I would send an email to Leica directly if I had something useful to say on the subject.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hello Melisa,

 

Not actually insulted.. and a spirited banter is always a good thing on a Sunday afternoon.

 

However I did read the OP a bit differently, in my interpretation it is saying Leica IS doomed unless they start chasing the same rabbit as the other camera companies.

 

This is where I disagree, Leica can in my opinion live just fine catering to the niche of photographers, pro and otherwise and even the collectors, who prefer a camera of the M type. and I believe that changing the M formula significantly would probably be a nail in the coffin for Leica.

 

but I also agree with the OP that there is a place for such a evf camera, I just don't care for it to be "my" next M camera.

 

Aside from that. I don't think you need worry about what to do with your M glass in the years to come, Epson/cosina created a digital M camera before Leica did, and there are both the Bessa and the Zeiss Ikon still out there, surely if for some reason Leica do not make it, anyone of a number of players will be happy to cater to this niche. I would guess such a even would cause cosina to play a updated RD2 in a matter of very few months.

 

Interestingly, one could argue that the M8 probably have been good for leica in that there were very little incentive to upgrade from a M6 to a M7, the 8 was the first significant departure offering real new features. I am sure that there is a interesting percentage of M6 to M8 upgraders (maybe even M3 upgrades should be counted) so one could speculate that the M8 might be a far more successful product than the M7.

 

At art school I painted with watercolors and drew with charcoals... I still do, I do not feel that winsor newton will not be part of my future, even if they do not come out with a mac plugin. Maybe the M can comfortably be considered a art tool rather than a new smart phone.?

 

.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

hes asking the question. how does stay afloat?

melissa

 

If you were to actually read the link I provided to Leica's most recent financial report, the answer would seem to be:

 

The company increased sales over the previous year by 2,000,000 Euro.

 

Though margins decreased, SG&A expenses increased substantially, and the world economy took a huge hit which depressed earnings, and although earnings before interest & taxes declined, there were still positive net earnings last year.

 

Investment in new product development actually decreased by more than half (a decrease of almost 2 million Euro) over the previous year, presumably reflecting roll-off of investment in the new digital M design and getting over "the hump" of highest investment in development of the new S2 architecture.

 

Total assets increased by 3.4 percent over the previous year.

 

Employment also increased over last year.

 

On the other hand liquidity decreased, the cost of capital evidently increased substantially (not a surprise given the banking crisis), and the company expects a multi-million Euro net loss during FY 08/09.

 

Dr. Kaufmann has evidently put 6 million Euro into the company to improve its capitalization.

 

This isn't the picture of a company in the full flush of runaway success, but it's a markedly better picture than that facing Apple just before Steve Jobs returned, or IBM before Lou Gerstner took over as chairman, just to name two examples familiar to lots of people.

 

Or let's compare the results to Nikon's. Nikon's net sales dropped 8% in 2008/9; their net income dropped 62%, and their cash on hand dropped almost 30%, and total assets dropped by about 10%. Nikon's forecast for the current fiscal year is a 22% decline in sales and a 17 billion Yen net income decline over 2008/9. (Note that this is for the whole Nikon corporation, of which imaging is only a division).

 

2008/9 sucks for most companies. Duh. Leica's not an exception. It's also not doing unusually badly - especially compared to, for example, Franke & Heidecke, which no longer exists as of recently.

 

My reaction to the OP's posting had more to do with the utterly speculative nature of his suggestion that Leica owners don't shoot with their cameras than to anything regarding Leica's financial future. The suggestion that M8 owners don't buy their cameras to take pictures is totally at odds with my personal experience of M8 owners, and is backed up by not even a single anecdotal example; basing a "Leica is doomed" manifesto on a hypothesis which doesn't even square with the observed facts just seems silly to me. If someone could produce a list of M8 jewelry owners - or if participants would actually read the financial statements instead of speculating erroneously that they don't exist - it would at least make the discussion worth having.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
If you were to actually read the link I provided to Leica's most recent financial report...<snip>

 

If you were to actually *read* what I wrote in the OP...

 

The OP contained a lot of statements put together as an argument, and a lot of people answered by picking the statement they didn't like and objecting to it. But the ARGUMENT was that Leica is in trouble, that something has to be done differently if the company is to survive, and that one thing that might be done is to make an ADDITIONAL camera to an M9, with the additional camera to use M lenses as the native glass, and (to shorten this recap a bit) to otherwise function like a G1.

 

Then I asked a question: would people (including traditionalists) be in favor of such a project? Or not?

 

I don't really care whether somebody uses a Leica as jewelry, as long as they buy one and that helps sustain the company that maintains MY Leicas. More power to them. And frankly, it seems apparent to me that Leica has a lot of customers like this - they went through a whole era in which they did almost nothing but cater to those people. I even argued that Leica can ill afford to lose those people (or anybody else.) Would making an M-G1 in ADDITION to an M9 make those people go away? I mean, it might cheapen the brand, which is why there isn't a $300 Rolex or a $40,000 Porsche.

 

Basically, the whole point of my post was to ask what people think the best route is to a sustainable future for Leica -- and I believe that an accessible, M-lens using modern EVIL (in ADDITION to the M9) might be one answer. It might even be an answer if Panasonic built and branded the camera, because Leica would still get the lens sales. But I might be wrong -- and I was seeking an opinion. What I got were people claiming that nobody uses Leicas as jewelry.

 

Sorry for all the caps, but people seemed to be missing the point...And I don't want to stir this any further, but the R just died, the S2 looks (to me) like it has problems, just like other MF brands. Can Leica survive on traditionalist uses of the M alone? Maybe it can. But really healthy companies don't usually go to the owners and get them to kick in an additional six million if they don't really need it...Leica has more than a thousand employees. Given German wage scales and benefits, and the high-skilled work all the way around the company, I would expect this amounts to a payroll in the neighborhood of 100 million Euros....That's a lot of money to come up with, year after year.

 

JC

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't think Leica can survive on just the M and S series, but I also don't think it's time to write either of those lines off.

 

I agree with you that M glass is the crown (ahem) jewel of the Leica line, and that the brand's value lies there. It might well be true that viewing M bodies as loss leaders in order to sell the glass would be a good strategy, but it would be a disaster to compromise the brand's quality image by offering a Leica-branded M body whose quality wasn't up to par - look at the furor over the M8's flaws.

 

Leica by all accounts does well with the D-Lux series, and the company should certainly continue down that path.

 

My basic argument is just that 2008/9 is a bad time to be judging whether a company is in trouble, since, more or less by definition, all companies are in trouble right now. I think Dr. Kaufmann is willing to take a long view and is looking at metrics beyond just quarterly or even annual revenue. I think that's a good thing, and I imagine that if those metrics aren't looking the way he likes, he'll make adjustments.

 

I'm going to wait and see.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Who says Leica is in trouble?

Why should they do anything differently?

What's wrong with the S2?

What are traditionalist uses?

Why would an M9 be limited to current M owners?

How is the term 'engineering' similar to 'jewellery'?

Who says Dr Kaufmann has an exit strategy?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
Sign in to follow this  

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...