Archived posting to the Leica Users Group, 1999/10/10

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Subject: Re: [Leica] How to manage a camera company?
From: Aaron Ruby <>
Date: Sun, 10 Oct 1999 13:46:56 -0400

At the risk of being seen as insolent toward one of the more revered members of
the list, I'd like to take exception to Erwin's criticism of the recent discussion
surrounding new products and Leica management. First, nearly every member of this
list has a vested interest in the success of Leica. Thus the speculation over the
last few days is hardly ill-motivated. Second, while it is true that much of the
speculation has been riddled with truisms and business-speak platitudes, the
general concern seems appropriate--namely, that Leica seems to have failed to
appreciate the value of offering a lower-cost entry-level M-camera. Far from blind
second-guessing by managerial wannabees, this inference seems reasonable based on
two plausible premises and Leica's own actions. The first premise is that the
market is ready and waiting for entry-level 35mm rangefinders with manual focus.
The second premise is that far from representing a risk to long-term sales of the
high-priced M6, an entry-level 'M7' would actually stoke the long-term sales of
the M6 by bringing new users into the Leica fold. The idea is that once these
users were exposed to the satisfaction and rewards of photographing with leica
rangefinders in general, they would want to acquire the epitome of that line,
namely the vaunted M6. Both of these premises are supported by recent market
developments. First, the release and apparent runaway success of the
Cosina/Voigtlander cameras and lenses suggests that there is indeed quite a market
for entry-level 35mm rangefinders. The fact that in response Leica is producing
LTM versions of their lenses (albeit of initially limited quantity)--something
they haven't done in umpteen years--suggests that even Leica management believes
in an analog of the second premise. Still, Leica has failed to move decisively and
come out with an entry-level M camera. In fact, the discontinuation of the
'classic' upon the introduction of the higher-priced TTL suggests the opposite. It
now appears that Konica is on the verge of beating Leica to market with such a

Thus the unfortunate inference that many have made over the last few days, rather
than being an example of idle sniping is actually quite reasonable. In a market
ripe for the taking, one that offers the opportunity to stoke future M6 sales
while expanding its line and profitability, Leica has not yet acted. The inference
that Leica management is either shortsighted or incapable of taking quick,
decisive action to exploit important markets is fully warranted. For an already
embattled corporation that happens to produce the equipment that we all value
dearly, this is indeed a disturbing scenario. As members of the Leica Users Group,
a group of people who have invested (often heavily) in Leica equipment, the
performance of the company and its leaders (including MR. Cohn--I'm still not sure
why an English-language list insists on using 'Herr'; it's actually a bit creepy)
is a completely legitimate topic of discussion. Granted the discussion would be
more fruitful if we all abstained from tossing out trivial truths and vacuous
douplespeak just get ourselves heard, but this phenomenon is, as the last few
weeks have amply demonstrated, certainly not confined to this topic alone.