The Future of the Leica M

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 Post subject: The Future of the Leica M
Unread postPosted: Thu May 07, 2015 5:14 pm 
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Today's front page report on the potential direction of the M towards a slimmed-down version with an optical/electronic rangefinder replacing the bulky and complex Messsucher mechanism has left my head spinning. The one thing which will (hopefully) stabilize my noggin' is the belief that Leica will preserve the elegant Bauhaus-informed design, superb finish, and tactile qualities that characterize the current M and its variants.

When digital came within consumer reach and film began its slow decline, I gradually stopped shooting, and eventually (and to my later chagrin) sold my trusty M4-P. I remained in a kind of photo-depressed state for years, until the quality of digital photography improved to the point that I felt like taking up a camera again. My relatively late "discovery" of digital Leica M cameras brought certain elements back to my shooting that I thought had been lost. Once again I carry a camera everywhere, and gradually I am seeing more of the world around me as through a compositional frame.

Finding that Leica had made the business determination to retain the essential characteristics of their M system as they entered the digital market left me with the impression that those characteristics are deeply ingrained in their corporate values. The sense that those values will continue to guide product development in Wetzlar gives me hope that the next generation of M cameras will not disappoint.


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 Post subject: Re: The Future of the Leica M
Unread postPosted: Thu May 07, 2015 7:12 pm 
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It's a new paradigm, for sure... But from what we currently know, the actual operation won't be all that different. Sure, the viewfinder won't be purely optical anymore - but will still function the same. And the svelter size will be more like traditional film M bodies.

We hope (and believe) that Leica is modernizing where they can for all the right reasons.

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 Post subject: Re: The Future of the Leica M
Unread postPosted: Fri May 08, 2015 12:05 am 
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I chose a digital Leica specifically because it *wasn't* modern. I tried the Fuji fake-finders and they left me annoyed. I would go back to shooting a DSLR full-time before I'd switch to a Leica with a Fuji-like hybrid finder.

The thickness of the Leica isn't that big of a problem because it's not even as big as your average compact DSLR. I would hope that Leica would still offer the option of a REAL digital M camera along with the new "improved" option. I mean the M-E is still out there along with the CMOS M's.

And let's be real about this. Even if they do use a "cheaper" rangefinder mechanism, the savings aren't going to be passed down to the consumer. I still expect the average price to be around the $7500 mark.


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 Post subject: Re: The Future of the Leica M
Unread postPosted: Fri May 08, 2015 1:17 pm 
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I agree with both of you: the current digital M-variants are far more comfortable to hold and carry than the professional-grade DSLRs I've have experience with. I'm speaking of the camera body; obviously the M-series lenses are much more compact and usually lighter than most professional auto-focus lenses. At the same time, it took me a while to get used to the heavier and bigger digital M camera body, and although I am quite comfortable carrying and using it, I do miss the feel of the M4-P I used to have.

As to savings being passed on to the customer, I think much will depend on the R&D costs Leica incurs in developing the next generation of "M" cameras. For example, by using a hybrid rangefinder, will Leica engineers gain more freedom in terms of numbers of parts, parts arrangement and machining/finishing/assembly/quality control? Will they design the camera around their own sensor, and if so, what mechanical, circuit and firmware changes might be needed (or not?) Will another manufacturer's sensor be used, and if so (same questions)? What design opportunities (or limitations) are created by the decision to continue to use M-series lenses? All of these have potential cost consequences. At the same time, the retail price determination are also likely to be influenced by market factors such as prevailing and forecasted rates of exchange (particularly between the dollar and the euro), forecast distribution costs, prototype testing results, and retailer and consumer focus groups responses. When Leica made the decision to market the M-E, they priced it significantly lower to enable a broader range of consumers to access their new products. If they achieve cost savings in the new generation of cameras, I think their pricing decisions would be influenced by the wish, and need, to sell as many units as possible while maintaining the highest standards of design, manufacture and support.

The high price of new Leica gear is - I strongly suspect - a double-edged sword for Leica management. Certainly they understand that exclusivity, closely allied to high prices, is and always has been part of the appeal (or, shall we say "allure") of the brand. Cheapening the product or its service would be wrong-headed. At the same time, maintaining the highest possible prices by failing to reflect cost-savings resulting from, say, new and improved technologies could also be unwise, especially for retailers faced with stocking a newly-designed product which ultimately may - or may not - appeal to the consumers. Build a better mouse-trap and the world will beat a path to your door, assuming you pitch the mousetrap at the right price point.


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 Post subject: Re: The Future of the Leica M
Unread postPosted: Sat May 09, 2015 1:15 pm 
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I'm feeling sorry for the little person writing these cover pages lately, agressively asking for consent. Let's forget that painful read of "noise".

I'd so much like Leica to focus on one thing - realize who they are, what they stand for.
To my perception it's: a small optical expert company with innovative mindset to make photography compact and easy as an perceived "natural organ" of the photographer.

What are the markets Leica will certainly loose out against the brutal competition? Electronics! Even on Software, but it is clear, that there's room to manover for Leica.

Dying Markets? Medium-Format is a struggling market for many manufacturers.

I can see excellence in:
- optical products
- historically aligned camera products
- user interface both digital and mechanical
- personalized service
- collectors markets products
- art advertising

I see a lot of confusion in the portfolio, too, and with the potential customers who wish to purchase the right product for themselves.

I therefore would re-organize fundings to:
- further develop and market the T model as the historically disconnected generation camera line with its innovative mechanical and software User Interface
- further stick with M as the rangefinder (not EVF) camera and allow for a lighter more basic entry model at the same level of image quality, that does not require R-Adapter mount supporte for extra-heavey R Tele lenses or the like.
- get rid of the X-factor of confusion and avoid creating a Q-factor of even more confusion
- keep the partnership for compact cameras as is
- Raise Manufacturing and Marketing of optical products for native M43, APS-C and Full-frame cameras of competitors, at a high level of quality, produced by Leica Portugal/Japan
- Let the direct commercial results decide about the future of the S-line, or divert/rename it to Linhof or the like.
- drive strong peer-2-peer marketing between local leica-shops and leica-users for leica-motivated/sponsored activity beyond trainings, go for photowalks, joint activity, NOT academy or old-fart-club activity, open events will increase bounds between the brand and the fan/photographer/user.

I may be wrong in many things, but I believe some simple tweaks (as above) may improve the current situation.

Best regards,
Carlos.


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 Post subject: Re: The Future of the Leica M
Unread postPosted: Sat May 09, 2015 4:20 pm 
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I strongly disagree on dropping the X line, though the Q arguably should be part of it (X series). X cameras may not be technological leaders, but everyone I know who has ever used one reached about the image quality. It's not for everyone, but it is definitely for me.

As for the M, I really hope that this new rangefinder less rangefinder is marketed as a lower cost M, like the old CL was against the M5. It could easily have the T mount, as the M mount adapter T works well with M lenses. With its full-frame sensor, electronic rangefinder and lower build costs and smaller size it will make a great entry into the M system, and an even better backup body that can do double duty as an autofocus family snapper for existing M users.

Had such a thing been available I might have considered one as a color backu for my M Monochrom instead of going for an M-E (no regrets, LOVE the files from it) as my color backup.

Either way, progress is inevitable, but a tradition-bound company like Leica with such a fanatical user base needs to be extremely careful in hair modern features are integrated. They already proved they understand the balance first with the M8 and M9 bringing the film users to digital, then with the M240 bringing then modern features to a still traditional M user experience.


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 Post subject: Re: The Future of the Leica M
Unread postPosted: Sat May 09, 2015 5:30 pm 
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Will the traditional rangefinder digital M be dumped altogether, or will this new model run alongside it?

It would be nice to have a 'cheaper' alternative I guess.

I suppose that if the film M's are still on the Leica menu, then the mechanical rangefinder mechanisms will still be in production. If so, it would be feasible to reintroduce the existing (digital) M should this turn out to be the modern day equivalent of the M5. (lovely camera IMO)

I know something...... I'm sticking with film.


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 Post subject: Re: The Future of the Leica M
Unread postPosted: Sat May 09, 2015 7:57 pm 
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I can't understand how people constantly ask for a degraded cheaper model, yet asking for the same value-proposition as with the top-end. It's ridiculous.

That's what the T model is here for, to interest new people and provide a flexible, yet cheaper alternative, that is NOT an M, but can be of similar appreciation some time soon, when fully understood by the Leica Marketing department and the many potential users out there.

My ask for a lighter M is purely based on the heftiness of the M, it's just a tat too much of weight and size, rather on the edge of what I was looking for, giving up all my DSLR gear. I love the M6, liked the M9 size/weight, but prefer the sensor and image quality of the M. By getting rid of all the body-structure to support the flexibility of the M240 to mount R lenses of any kind, it may get lighter and just that little thinner to fit well again into our average hands.

X was messed up by marketing/positioning, T was not promoted rightly, Q what? a third? NOOOOOO. Please do ONE really good, and that can only be a system.
While X has no benefit to a user over a Fuji/Sony, Q unknown, but by the aggressive rumor/non-rumor writer wouldn't have either over a Sony R1R and beyond 60% of an M.
Both are a waste of money if followed.

Make the T a compact, IQ monster, with a Fun for its easy UI. Noone else has that!

t&br,
Carlos.


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 Post subject: Re: The Future of the Leica M
Unread postPosted: Sat May 09, 2015 9:37 pm 
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There are some distinct product lines that Leica has, each with their place - even if they are stretched out a bit...

C: Super compact, techy camera (possibly for younger folks)
D/V-Lux: Affordable all-in-one sort of cameras, super-zooms

X/X2/X-Vario: APS-C format compact cameras, high-IQ w/fixed lens
T: APS-C format, technological system camera w/interchangeable lenses
M: Ultimate IQ, build, traditional digital rangefinder w/interchangeable lenses

The Q would fit in between the X/T and M... Full frame, compact, high-IQ but fixed lens.

The new "M camera" could be a budget model, or it could be Leica testing new technologies such as the digital rangefinder and who knows what else. I doubt it would replace any existing M lines... The new M Monochrom for example, which just came out. No, I think there will still be something big for Photokina 2016, and likely a traditional M-style camera. Perhaps it will incorporate some of the things of this new model, perhaps it will be the higher-megapixel camera everyone's thinking about. But we're talking a year and a half down the road...

One good thing a lower cost M camera would be good for - selling lenses, getting people hooked on the M system. Much like Zeiss with the Ikon camera, as a means to sell ZM lenses.

Leica can't just keep pumping out M models with minor tweaks. It's worked for decades with film cameras, but film technology and digital technology move at very, very different paces. And the rangefinder market is just about saturated.

As for the T... It will likely never see ROI. It's a nice camera, nice system. It's just not moving like some have hoped. A lot of that may have to do with price... With so many excellent Japanese camera systems, such as Fujifilm, at a much lower price point, it's a hard pill to swallow.

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 Post subject: Re: The Future of the Leica M
Unread postPosted: Sun May 10, 2015 6:28 am 
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I know the different families and am not pointing out the details of all of them, because - they are too many. 3 lines are ok, 4, 5, 6 are too many. 1) M 2) T? 3) compacts

And pointing the T as too expensive and not getting the planned ROI is exact the outcome of the most dumbest marketing ever, since the Mini M desaster that Leica made.

It's the only camera aside of the M that has real growth potential, but not if you don't understand how far different genius its qualities are that need further strong development to show it to the blind, too. It's beyond M, X, or any other.

Ok, let's keep the idea that the M can't create new revenues out of new camera versions. Than invest in Q and cheapo-M. Yes, let's do.
So we get an R1R super special Leica Q compact. What does that have to provide that Sony can't catch up in a msec, at the same quality at 50% the price, jointly with Zeiss?
ZERO! dead on arrival product.

Now a cheapo-M with a T-Mount and EVF. APS-C and Full-Frame.
We see how expensive a T is, so a M camera with T-Mount and M-Software, would be costing around 5K, the least and provide you with:
A APS-C system with an old CMOS sensor and a new mount with only some average, but already expensive T-Mount Zooms. Not even the smart T-GUI would have been selected and improved - a total fail, as this will be. If smartly played the future UI and Leica'd have well understood it - not so the market, yet. I trust Sony doing it soon, but until then it's Leica's window of opportunity.
Regardless - this cheapo (not so) M is a total fiasko again. Make it cheaper, based on the X with x design, so actually, it could be:

The new X-System with a historic Leica M39 look EVF (as so many have complained and wanted for so long) and T-mount.
Yes, I see this being sold a few times, like with every X, is being sold a few times.
The T-mount will not get you new customers, if it remains as expensive in lenses as is today.

No, the strategy must be to sell more lenses, regardless, arrogant old views, sell it to everybody. The Panasonic Leica lenses are great and cheap enough.
Make them mass-produced in Japan/Portugal and sell them to all M43 and APS-C systems (X, E), bite away the revenues that Fuji and Sony need from Lense-selling, bite away from Zeiss either.

Camera-wize use that production to make better fitting (>iQ) sensor-lens combination with a T-mount on an EVF-X, but that's a limited camera again by concept.

I still trust the Leica T concept can create more success if well played on the long-term.

M, will continue and still I'd love to have a smaller M8ish like body on all of them.

T&br,
Carlos.


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