Open Letter — Dear Leica:

Negativity has become the new favorite pastime of many photographers. Instead of going out and enjoying our cameras, we’re glued to the computer screen and comment on stuff that has nothing to do with our lives. We neither contribute anything positive to society nor are we able to look at ourselves in the mirror and say the unavoidable. Well I’m often negative myself. Leica’s recent X Vario marketing campaign by suggesting apples for oranges is a debacle. But in fact the way we respond to that marketing campaign might say more about ourselves than the product.

Some positive thinking is long overdue. Here’s an open letter to Leica by reader and photographer David Bryan Lackey — well in fact the letter is more to all of us who care about photography:


As a long-time member on Leica forums, I reject negativity when and where possible. Life is too short and having been in the corporate world for all my life, I understand the difficulties faced by Leica and all other camera companies. I appreciate all of the good people at these corporations and the efforts to satisfy the ever-changing markets with the inevitable distribution curve always showing that you will find negative people no matter what.

With my last few years as a full-time caregiver and a documentary photographer, I have a different perspective than most. Yes, the anticipated Leica “Mini M” is an unfortunate marketing name. But it is what it is. In the past few weeks I have taken time out to read a few posts among the literally thousands of posts across the photography forums regarding the new camera, the X Vario. Most are highly critical of the marketing and the product as well. Vitriol. Not just constructive opinions.

In my life, with the many difficulties my wife and I have faced as we get older, I have learned to seek the positive things in life through photography, and I attempt to reject negativity. As a photographer, life is beautiful, and I have found a bond with Leica products over time. It is not just the wonderful images from these products, but also the experience of using the products. The feel, the materials, the ergonomics, the simplicity and the form all work for me and make the experience of photography much better as the cameras “disappear” in my hands so I don’t think about the gear. The cameras I use are an extension of my own being and for that, I appreciate those products that I use.

Roast me for daring to call the negativity on the forums out for what it is. My greatest hope, however, is that photographers, both professional and amateur, will examine themselves and the world around them looking for light and beauty. In doing so, maybe the arrogance of spreading vitriol will be tamed. In fact, I hope that photographers will become a positive force for good in this world rather than being just a gearhead, or worse, merely a consumer with no intentions of being a positive influence for anyone.

In case you have not noticed, many photography forums are full of vitriol about anything related to Leica. I do not understand these people… While I don’t understand some Leica products, like the Panasonic clones, it is not of interest to me and I fully trust that Leica knows what Leica does and needs to do in the future. I wonder, though, if the critical gear geeks on these forums should be Leica’s marketing guys. It seems that they know so much better.

Below is a photograph that is memorable for me because I used a much vilified camera at the time, the X1, to capture a moment before my wife’s stroke, and the ensuing eight months since when we have had to face, literally, the “Gates of Hell” through months of hospitalization, in-resident rehab, multiple surgeries (one botched) and daily survival.

David's open letter to Leica is really to all of us.
David’s open letter to Leica is really to all of us.

I am the happy owner and professional, yes, professional user of an X1 which I bought used. I am quite happy with my M3, my IIIF, my R4 and every lens. So, I am not in the market for a new camera. I, for one, am quite happy with Leica products and will buy only the ones that fit my needs and desires. The new X Vario is not one of them, but I trust it will be for many buyers worldwide.

However, after reading the marketing of a Micro M (quite silly, but…) I was initially interested, even though I can only afford a used X1 and am not likely to afford any new Leica product in this lifetime due to my wife’s health issues with the stroke and multiple surgeries. I look forward to the day that I may be able to buy a used M9 for my documentary work.

This photo reminds me of happier times that we are working hard to recapture not just in an image, but to live it. And to think of the vitriol that was posted on forums since the X1 was introduced to the disappointment of some forum posters… I could not be happier with my X1.

Congratulations, Leica AG, on the introduction of yet another wonderful product.

Best regards,

David Bryan Lackey

(For more by David visit his LinkedIn.)

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  • Ray

    “Instead of going out and enjoying our cameras, we’re glued to the computer screen and comment on stuff that has nothing to do with our lives.”

    I don’t know about you, but before I go out and enjoy my camera, I have to have a camera. While it sounds like having a red dot and fitting within your budget are your purchase criteria, some of us are a bit more demanding on how we spend our money.

  • Well I must agree Ray that the phrasing is slightly exaggerated (to make the point).

    That doesn’t ignore, however, that the “Leica tax” on the X Vario is neither much lower nor much higher than on other Leica products.

    In terms of hardware only we might be looking at a X Vario price tag of maybe $1k to $1.5k?

    My guess is an M 240 “tax” uses about the same multiplier. Half for the hardware, half for the red dot.

    But this post is not about such technicalities. It’s about the overstating of technicalities at the cost of missing out on the real life experience. And for this gear can do that’s not the latest and greatest.

  • I have been fortunate to have met David Lackey and his beautiful bride. It was only for a brief time as a few of us Rangefinder Forum members had a chance to gather near where I live in Asheville, NC. I only had a couple hours to spend with the group and only very briefly did I have a chance to speak to David. But from our subsequent discussions on the forum if there was one who could have an excuse to be bitter about life I think David would qualify.

    Thank you for posting David’s response to what he has to offer to Leica that could have been written to really any company, especially those dealing with rapidly advancing technology and us the consumer that’s been demanding instant gratification, whether in a reply to our text messages or to instant likes on Facebook.

    My only beef with how Leica marketed this new product was the name they gave it and the connotations that invokes in ones expectations. But then why do I need to be upset? I am fortunate to afford a camera with the Red dot and a couple lenses to use on it. Maybe its no different than when our favorite sporting team does something that we think is not the best for the team.

    Again thank you David for reminding those of us who may take for granted for what we have today that may not be here tomorrow.

  • Thank you Duane:

    Again thank you David for reminding those of us who may take for granted for what we have today that may not be here tomorrow.

  • Igor

    “Mount the Ricoh A16 module on the GXR body, and you have a
    combination that’s 0.75 inches (19.1mm) narrower, 0.1 inches (1.7mm)
    taller, 0.1 inches (3.5mm) deeper, and at least 2.8 ounces (78g)
    lighter than the X Vario, according to the folks over at Photography Blog.

    The GXR + A16 combo offers a 3.5x zoom range covering everything from
    24-85mm equivalent (15.7-55.5mm actual), yielding significantly more
    reach at both ends of the range compared to Leica’s 28-70mm equivalent
    (18-46mm actual) optic. The Ricoh A16 lens is also noticeably brighter
    at telephoto despite its extra reach, although neither optic is terribly
    bright, an acknowledgement of the compromise inherent in making a
    reasonably compact wide zoom for an APS-C image circle.”

  • Good review, thanks for the link Igor. But with an ISO maximum of 3,200 — as compared to the Leica’s 12,500 — the brighter lens may not be of much real-world benefit.

  • Igor

    I suspect the sensors are identical or almost identical (Sony).