Archived posting to the Leica Users Group, 1996/07/20

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Subject: Japan vs. Germany
From: "Charles E. Love, Jr." <>
Date: Sat, 20 Jul 1996 12:25:22 -0400 (EDT)

At 04:59 PM 7/19/96 -0400, you wrote:
>Well, Mr Love makes quite a few interesting points, but I dissent, strongly.
>I have owned a Honda;  I do drive a Volkswagen -- and I've owned five others
>before this.  I've also owned a slew of British cars and still own one of
>them.  I do prefer quality to, well, average mediocrity. 

BRITISH cars?  If by "quality" you mean "has interesting character," then I
guess so.  But anyone who ever had a British sports car knows that the true
Prince of Darkness is Lucas!   One could go on for days about Jaguar and
Rover's disasters here in the US market--and they were deserved on the basis
of quality.

>The Japanese have proven themselves experts in figuring market dynamics --
>they analyze the market, figure what is needed for maximum sales, and go for
>it.  This is the heart of free enterprise, and more power to them.  (Their
>corporate structuring, hidden tarriffs, and labour practices are another
>matter, entirely.)  But, by aiming at the average, they avoid the extremes
>of quality -- and I'm enough of a snob to want the greatest amount of
>quality I can afford.

I'ts certainly true that they are marketing masters.  They certainly do sell
a lot of middle of the road cars.   But--avoid the extremes of quality?
They avoid low quality pretty well.  As for the highest (read: top of field,
technically exciting, full of character)--have you ever heard of the Nissan
300 ZX?  The Mazda RX-7?  The Honda (Acura in US) NX (declared in many
sports car magazines as the best in the world regardless of price, most
emphatically including Ferraris, Porsches, etc.)?  The Mazda Millenia?  The
Lexus (Toyota) LS 400, which when it came out was rated the equal of
Mercedes products costing twice as much?  At a lower price level, how about
the Honda (Acura) Integra GS-R?  And the only true British sports car now
available in the US is made in Japan--the Mazda Miata.  The only problem
with that car is that it's so boring, because the lights don't go out
suddenly, parts don't  fall off, etc.  (Leicaphiles may remember "Popular
Photography's" comparison of the M6 to a classic sports car--sad to say, at
the time Germany didn't make one!)

>Japanese cameras are okay -- but they aim for the middle, and I want that
>extreme of quality.  I have a Swiss mechanical watch, American, German, and
>Russian telescopes, I smoke British pipe tobacco in an Irish pipe, I drink
>Scots whiskey and British beer.  I shoot pictures with Leica, Rollei, Zeiss
>Ikon, and Hassie cameras.  I confess I own a Canon EOS 10s, with a bunch of
>nifty auto-focus prime lenses -- and I may use it for five rolls of film a
>year.  Mediocrity, after a while, gets boring, though its low price may make
>it attractive to some.

It strikes me as odd that you would choose a mid-priced Canon instead of the
best, since you want to own the "extreme" in quality.  I bet those lenses
are not the pro-oriented "L" series either.  Whatever else you might say,
the Canon EOS-1 is not "mediocre," nor are its best lenses.  Your real beef
here seems to be that Canon and Nikon choose to make mass-market products,
while Leica does not, and so must be better.  But Canon and Nikon are also
in fierce competition for the high-quality market, and leapfrog each other
in innovation all the time.  Maybe you'd be happier if Canon called their
cheaper stuff by another name!  And what does Volkswagen make, anyway?

>There's an old saw about the regret of poor quality surviving the thrill of
>a great price -- and THAT is one of my several objections to buying
>Japanese.  I simply want the best, and Japan rarely produces the best.

I'm sorry, but I just think this is a stereotype.  Japan produces many
outstanding products--the post World War II picture of Japan as uncreative
copiers who make cheap products is long gone, to any objective observer.
This has nothing whatever to do with liking their trade practices, or their

>for that matter, when Japan DOES produce a truly competitive product, as
>they do with telescope optics, they will not sell these in this country, as
>they cost about 20% more than comparable European and domestic products.
Your nation and the EEC both  protect many industries by levying unequal
tarrifs--I'm no expert on telescope optics, but I'll bet that's the
difference; that's how you keep Japanese car sales down in GB.

>Marc James Small  FAX:  +540/343-7315
>Thalla, a Bhallagair!

I apologize to those of you tired of car arguments, and will stop (unless
grossly provoked).  I also hope that the readers realize that the comments
above come from someone who owns NO Canon or Nikon products, and whose 35
mm. equipment is Leica M and R.  This all started out of worry for Leica's
future, among other things.
Charles E. Love, Jr.
517 Warren Place
Ithaca, New York