Gathered own sources, industry chatter and added common sense. Leica isn’t in an enviable position. The competition gathers pace. Leica’s grand strength continues to be its brand recognition and, above all, the optics. The famed Leica advantage however diminishes as the quality of cameras becomes more similar. For instance, I know from personal talks with industry insiders Leica’s not happy with Fujifilm…
There’s hardly a way out of Leica if you’re heavily invested in its superb glass. But strictly photographically speaking: we all know Leica cameras are beautiful tools, in today’s rapidly changing market environment though they’re mainly a heritage thing. To be honest, I wouldn’t buy Leica shares even if I could. Even tried to buy Leica shares?
Here’s Leica’s future in a nutshell, based on industry sources and insider talks:
- Leica is working on the successor to the M Typ 240. There isn’t much leeway in terms of advancements as the camera’s manual rangefinder determines its identity. I learned that Leica no longer rejects the idea of autofocus and image stabilization which will require a new generation of lenses. Priority is reportedly given to autofocus, expect image stabilization further down the road. Over the long term, Leica will move away from the rangefinder M.
- Before we see the next M the medium format S series will shift to CMOS sensor. Expect the next S announcement in 2014. BTW, net production cost of an M is roughly about €2,200 ($3,000).
- As reported, Leica’s mirrorless system camera will be a variation of the Leica X Vario. The Leica system camera with APS-C CMOS sensor will in essence be a Panasonic with primary Leica elements. Announcement shortly before Photokina in September 2014.
- Leica, clearly irked by the ascent of Fujifilm (and increasingly Sony I assume), in November 2013 acquired Swiss medium format camera maker Sinar. The details of the transaction have not been disclosed and the strategic goals of the acquisition aren’t any more apparent. In this context increasing tensions between Leica and its strategic investor Blackstone are noteworthy. The investment fund reportedly expressed dismay with some senior Leica management decisions.
- The acquisition of CMOSIS, producer of the Leica M imaging sensors, by a private equity firm might weaken Leica’s supply chain. Hiccups were already reported in the production of the LCD display for the X Vario system, manufactured by Epson which was pushing for a 4k or 8k resolution. Leica went for 920k pixels. The good news: Leica seems to understand they’ll only sell the X Vario system camera paired with fast glass, such as F1.4.