Archived posting to the Leica Users Group, 2000/10/02

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Subject: RE: [Leica] Photokina LUG report (1a)
From: Jem Kime <>
Date: Mon, 2 Oct 2000 16:38:38 +0100

An electronic shuttered M camera, like the prototype M6E, or the CLE.

- -----Original Message-----
From:	Bill Satterfield []
Sent:	02 October 2000 14:41
Subject:	Re: [Leica] Photokina LUG report (1a)

What would be an electronic M?

Jem Kime wrote:

> 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.