Leica Angst

Erwin Puts agonises about leadership change at Leica Camera, and how his beloved coupled rangefinder camera concept is becoming fast regarded as obsolete.

I certainly share a certain apprehension, in that the Leica – even the eminently desirable M8 – represents an aesthetic which has no real place in our current commercial atmosphere. The Unfortunate side effect is that Leica must consider diluting core values in order to remain relevant. That could potentially spell the end of the very highly-regarded – and rightly so – M range of cameras.

The M is the sacred cow, the Camera That Must Not Change. Mea Culpa: I am happy as a clam that I have perhaps the most minimalist Leica available on the market today, and it would sadden me greatly to be forced to see that great range of cameras go the way of the dinosaurs, since there is nothing actually wrong with the mechanism itself, and it’s an enormously satisfying way to take photographs.

But the satisfaction of a few weirdoes like me does not constitute a sustainable business plan for a company that employs people with a very finely-honed skill set, who in turn rely on their salaries to feed themselves and their dependants.

The Leica III was in its day one of the finest cameras money could buy, but its excellence was overtaken by events, and the M is no different.

If Leica is serious about building cameras, engineers must take a long hard look at what makes a camera worth having as a camera; focus (no pun intended) less on being a luxury accessory or status symbol, but instead think long and hard about what professional photographers actually want. If that means re-thinking or retring the M, then that is what must be done.

Some notions to go on:

  • Think about the kind of leaps of innovation of which Leica was capable in the past, and think about the kind of leaps of innovation that are possible, “blue sky”, today;
  • Think about the advantages of the current competition, and think about applying Leica’s core values of no-holds-barred engineering excellence to building on those advantages;
  • Think about what pisses people off about digital cameras today, and think about engineering solutions to this problem.
  • Digital is here, and there’s no use denying it. Think about the strengths that film still has, and think about how to improve digital photography in such a way that it approaches film in these terms.

Build a camera that is not only the finest camera money can buy, but also a camera that a professional photograper would want to own. Take a long hard look at the Nikon and Canon DSLRs, and figure out how to compete.

You know, INNOVATE, the way Leica did with the original Leica, the Leica III and the M.


About lidlesseye

Mouthing off about photography, and occasionally important things too.

Posted on March 10, 2008, in leica, Photography and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Thank you for copying my advice for a future Leica development strategy as your text echoes exactly what I have been describing for months if not years.

  2. Why, thank you, Mr Puts.
    Leica treads a fine line in terms of being known primarily as a ‘traditional’ marque in a market less and less interested in tradition. Acquisition by companies concerned more with luxury and status, such as Hermès, doesn’t exactly foster the kind of innovative thinking that is required to survive in the rapidly-changing world of photography today. Personally I think Leica has the best chances if they become a technology company again.

  3. I use a Leica IIIa. When it was first released in the 1930s it was known as a miniature camera and was designed as a more convenient alternative to the box cameras then in use, but with almost as good quality. That’s what Leica need to do now – create a durable, robust high quality miniature camera that makes photography easier and more pleasurable than the cumbersome dSLR experience. The M8 is a start, but way too expensive. I use a Ricoh GR100.

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