Archived posting to the Leica Users Group, 2000/10/02[Author Prev] [Author Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Author Index] [Topic Index] [Home] [Search]
Report on the LUG meeting with Leica, Photokina 2000-09-30 kindly organised by Erwin Puts. Present for Leica were: Rolf Kreuger - Production Manager Stefan Daniel - M System Product Manager Roland Wolff - Internet / Web design Horst Schroeder - Optical Design Steffan Gold - Public Relations LUG members and other invited guests totalled around 30 including the new Canadian distributor, Sal di Marco (photographer), Brian Bower (author), Bill Roseaur (president, LHSA), Tom Abrahamsson (Rapidwinder manufacturer) and Jem Kime (reporting editor, LPP). After an introduction from Erwin the meeting unfolded as a Q &A session. Sal di Marco - What about an electronic M? Leica - We're working on that camera, we are aware that there is a market waiting for this but we're a small company that has to be very careful over its finance, ensuring turnover. If we were to announce this before its ready then we could not sell off old stock. Nathan Wajsman - What about R-system development? Leica - We've concentrated on the M system recently and there have also been new binoculars and compact cameras, we can assure you the R system isn't dead.. There will be new products next year. Two years ago we announced the 35-70/2.8 but that lens still isn't in production. In future w will finish the design and release when ready. The R system is very important to Leica's turnover but if we have too many projects on the go at one time it becomes like a motorway creating a traffic jam. Raimo - With these new products will that mean increased production capacity? Leica - No, we will not increase overall. We have announced the 28 Summicron-M and it will be available in February 2000, the samples are good and it will go into production. There's no capacity problem but we have a delivery delay on some current products. The market that Cosina and Konica have created has actually helped our sales, we have a huge 35/2 backlog. Terence Dixon - What was the marketing idea behind the Null series camera? Leica - Let me explain the history, we had a request from Japan to reproduce the Ur Leica but to us that is almost a 'holy' camera and this created a big discussion which concluded in us deciding if they could see a market then we should make the camera ourselves. After taking the camera out of the safe and examining it we discovered we would have to change to much to make it usable, something we were intent upon. For instance Oskar barnack always had to load film into the camera in a darkroom, it did not accept cassettes, it became apparent it was impractical. We then decided to recreate the Leica 1 but realised there were still so many on the market, so we eventually came to the O series. We took the camera from the museum, looked up the drawings and changed only a few design points to create a usable camera, making pictures with this is so much fun! It will appeal not only to collectors but users too. Herr Cohn (CEO Leica) remarks that it approximates golf, in that to use it you need to concentrate totally on the task in hand. E Lowi - Will there be autofocus for the R-system? Leica - Hardly. If you are aware of our history you'll know that we were at the start of autofocus back in the 1970s and two years ago we looked really hard again at the possibility of installing it into the R camera. Now if we insist on compatibility with the lens mount, and we feel this is a really important thing for ourselves and our customers, then it would be really, really expensive. If we changed the bayonet mount then it would be cheaper but how many present owners would be happy with that? Few. We know people have invested extensively in our system and we feel sure that we would have to find a new, much smaller market. So we come back to the finance question, can we make money out of this? It's not really possible. Look at the Contax system (perhaps our closest rivals) they will sell maybe 3000 units a month with only 4 lenses and 2 more announced, and that's not really a system. Compared with other manufacturers we have about 20 years to catch up and we need to do that in 2-3 years, comparison is never possible. Also we have examined focus confirmation or assistance recognition but the difficulty is in installing contrast measurement circuitry, it has to be built into the body and that is not possible with the current design. The motors to drive the lens are not difficult, that's the easy part, but the difficult part is contrast measuring which is required for either focus confirmation or autofocus, that is 90% of the task. Tom Abrahamsson - the size of the camera has got larger, can you envisage a smaller R body? Also, perhaps you could produce lenses for other camera systems? Leica - We have learnt our lesson with the size and weight of the R8, but until the camera has paid for itself we cannot start to create a different design, there will be developments of this body shape to come. Yes, we have considered selling our lenses for other cameras, mounted for Nikon, Canon etc. but other manufacturers have categorically said 'No'. Sal di Marco - I use an R8, its big and bulky but it's the most ergonomic R camera I've ever used. You can't change the size but there are positive aspects to that, a large part of the public like that too. Lucien - Will you be creating an Apo extender to work with the old lenses? Leica - As a question for the optical designer the answer is technically feasible but from a production manager's perspective it is a difficult item to sell, volume will never be high. Most people want a 2x converter if they are buying one at all, they perceive it as better value for money, they don't realise that there are many advantages to a 1.4x extender but in our opinion it would not create enough sales to justify the selling price. Sal di Marco - I want a 1.4x extender and a 180mm (lens) with eyes for the M system, I've played with these items already (produced in prototype form) courtesy of Rolf Fricke. Leica - We have just finished creating a new lens and feel there are not many things to do with the M system. Sal di Marco - Look at extreme wide angles, what Cosina's brought to the market, there's still stuff to do. Jem Kime - there's never been a fish-eye lens created for the rangefinder system yet. Nathan Wajsman - I've a marketing question, after I've finished buying what I need, compared to other companies, Leica seem to do very little to tempt me to part with more money. Leica - In recent years we have had to concentrate on sorting out our immediate financial concerns, now the company is more stable we can expand our range of fripperies. The Leica boutique, the Leica School, perhaps taught in English, etc. -Perhaps you could make and sell glasses, like Zeiss? Leica - There would be a marketing problem to solve and advertising to cost, which is expensive. It's not an emotional product and we believe its more important to concentrate on developing digital.