Archived posting to the Leica Users Group, 2004/09/26

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Subject: [Leica] Leica donation to students/NOW is LEICA too expensive?
From: leicagalpal at (Kit McChesney)
Date: Sun Sep 26 11:03:23 2004


See my comments.  

1) The Leica quality seems to have a price. Even if prices have risen these
last years, it was always an expensive camera. BTW: in rising prices Leica
is not alone: since the euro was introduced, lots of goods have almost
doubled in price, believe it or not. Expensive stuff is always bought by

[Expensive stuff is bought by people who can afford it; there is a
difference between creating a product at any cost, regardless, and having a
product become expensive because of costs that can't be controlled. I merely
suggest that it is not Leica's goal to price themselves out of the market.
This has almost happened lately, but indavertently, due to economic
pressures of all kinds. But there has to be a realistic assessment of what
the market can reasonably bear. We are reaching that threshold now. 

As for quality having a price, yes, quality does have a price. But how much
more quality are you getting at higher and higher prices? Have the cameras
improved 10% in quality in the last year, to match the 10% rise in price? At
some point, quality has to be quantified! The manufacturing process has not
changed so radically in the last year that the price rise reflects a
commensurate jump in quality. Prices have gone up because costs have gone up
and the economy is in the toilet; prices have not gone up because quality
has been substantially improved. The M7 of today is the same M7 of last
year. The price is radically higher, though.]

2) So if Leica continues to produce such cameras, it is bound to only target
a small niche of customers. They could make less expensive cameras, but I'm
not sure if they would be able to combine that with the quality they provide
now. Can't have best of both worlds, I'm afraid. Also, small is relative,
ofcourse. Lots of people around that can buy such a camera, I think. Whether
they will is another question.

[Digital cameras and commoditization have radically changed the camera
equipment market; can Leica compete against a market dominated by
manufacturers who can create quality products at a lower cost? It remains to
be seen if that will happen. 

Lots of people around who will buy such a camera? Hey, if you know who these
people are, send me their names. I'd love to contact them directly. And
that's part of the idea of making M and R cameras available to students; to
hook them in and so they'll become loyal. Not only that, but to put these
cameras in the hands of people who will go out into the world and use them
professionally. The professional market for Leica has dropped, too, as
prices have risen. ]

Finally, is Leica too expensive? I have no clue. But I do think part of
their prices is just "added brand value". But you can't blaim them for that,
can you? After all, they too live in a capitalist world.

[Ask anyone on this list if Leica is too expensive; since the members of
this group constitute a representative cross-section of the demographic of
the Leica market, I'd bet their opinions are right on the mark. Is Leica too
expensive? I think that is a question that can be answered by another
question: Who is Leica trying to sell to? If their target market is
50-something males with 6-digit incomes driving brand-new 7-series BMW and
600-series Mercedes cars, then maybe their cameras aren't too expensive. But
for most folks, and most serious photographers, I'd say that yes, they are
too expensive. That is clearly exemplified by the drop in sales to folks who
make their living making photographs, and to artists, and to the core market
that Leica served only a couple of years ago, and a concentration of sales
in the upper echelon of that same market. The middle and bottom have been
sliced off, and the only part that remains is the 'upper crust' of that
demographic. Fine work if you can get it.]


> From: "Kit McChesney" <>
> Reply-To: Leica Users Group <>
> Date: Sun, 26 Sep 2004 11:24:34 -0600
> To: "'Leica Users Group'" <>
> Subject: RE: [Leica] Leica donation to students
> And as much as the Leica-as-elite-camera-myth may be attractive-sounding,
> there is no one at Leica who is sitting around saying, 'Oh, how can we
> our camera so expensive that only a few people will be able to buy it?'
> sure the discussions are more on the lines of 'how the heck can we cut
> so that we can make our cameras more affordable so that more people are
> to purchase them?'
> No one wants to be so exclusive that few customers can afford to buy their
> products. Anyone who does should not be in business. Unless, of course,
> are selling Aston-Martin autos. But we know now that Aston-Martin will
> a profit for the first time in its history MAYBE next year. And how many
> those do you see on the road?
> Kit
> -----Original Message-----
> From:
> [] On Behalf
> Philippe Orlent
> Sent: Sunday, September 26, 2004 9:54 AM
> To: Leica Users Group
> Subject: Re: [Leica] Leica donation to students
> Don't forget that even if we run out of 50-ishers, the now 25 and
> will come in when they reach 35 or so.
> So it's not that Leica customers are a vanishing species.
> In my experience, if someone becomes interested in photography at any age
> below the ones you state, he'll know about Leica, sometimes he'll read
> Leica, and maybe he'll dream about Leica. And at a certain time, he'll
> have the money to acquire his dream.
> When he has this money, it becomes a choice between SLR (less Leica) and
> (thus Leica), and these days about analog or digital. Lots of other "good"
> and cheaper cameras around. After all, how many people notice the
> between a 90% OK camera and lens, and a 100% OK camera and lens?
> And above all, how many people make pictures where these 10% become
> important?
> Now, about the succes of Leica. Has it ever been succesfull, compared to
> mogols like Nikon and Canon? Or has it rather been a niche player since
> WWII? I think the latter. And there's nothing wrong with that.
> For me, Leica is a myth. And myths only survive if they stay mythical. So
> don't give these cameras away, don't sell them at lower prices. Make
> dream about them, and if you market anything, market a few fantastic
> photographers that make outstanding photos (which in all honesty could
> been made with other cameras, too, since what makes a photo outstanding,
> the man behind the camera, not the camera itself). These "chosen ones"
> become the examples for many others, that will buy Leica.
> It's sad, but you can't have a Rolls Royce for the price of a Lada.
> And if you want a Rolls, you have to pay for it.
> Those that can, will always be a minority.
> ---
>> From: "Kit McChesney" <>
>> Reply-To: Leica Users Group <>
>> Date: Sun, 26 Sep 2004 10:21:06 -0600
>> To: "'Leica Users Group'" <>
>> Subject: RE: [Leica] Leica donation to students
>> Well, what would be really interesting is to examine Leica's consumer
> survey
>> results that we hope people send back when they purchase cameras and
> lenses.
>> Who IS buying? Are there youngish folks buying? My experience with my
> sales
>> is that the majority of buyers of M and R gear, and the Digilux 2, are
>> between about 35 and 65, are male, and have relatively substantial
>> (doctors, lawyers, engineers, etc., a demographic not unlike that of the
>> LUG-list). Yes, there are a few women in the bunch, a few
> photojournalists,
>> a few younger-than-30 men, but not many. If I were Leica, I'd be looking
>> hard at those statistics and trying to find a way to reach the younger
> set.
>> At some point, you're going to run out of 50-ish men to sell to!
>> Kit  
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From:
>> [] On Behalf
> Of
>> B. D. Colen
>> Sent: Sunday, September 26, 2004 9:03 AM
>> To: 'Leica Users Group'
>> Subject: RE: [Leica] Leica donation to students
>> Well you are definitely a downer - BUT - you may also be the realist at
>> this party. For all my cynicism about Leica the company, the future of
>> film, etc., etc....I am a romantic at heart, and, when all is said and
>> done, am as attached to the mythology as the rest of you lug(ers). Were
>> that not the case, I would have sold my M gear at least a year ago. But
>> thus far I just can't bring myself to do it.
>> But your students and mine, and everyone else's for that matter, lack
>> the romantic ties to Leitz, Leica, Ms, or, for that matter, to film!
>> I am still convinced, however, that selling the Digi back as a loss
>> leader WOULD revive the R line and could well be the move that could
>> keep Leica alive long enough to develop a digital SLR from the ground up
>> that would take the R manual lenses, and a new line of Leica R autofocus
>> lenses
>> :-)
>> B. D.
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From:
>> [] On Behalf Of
>> Karen Nakamura
>> Sent: Sunday, September 26, 2004 11:33 AM
>> To: Leica Users Group
>> Subject: RE: [Leica] Leica donation to students
>>> I don't know about your students, but I have students who would sell
>>> their boyfriend/girlfriend to be able to own a Leica. In fact my most
>>> "successful" student thus far - he is now signed up with one of the
>>> agencies, shoots major league baseball, and on and on and on - scrimped
>>> and saved and bought himself a used M 6 and a couple Cosina lenses. And
>>> he's not some pie-in-the-sky nutty art student; his main cameras are
>>> Canon EOS digitals.
>> My students are pretty cheap -- they steal TacoBell   "salsa" packets
>> to put on their 99cent Walmart-brand spaghetti noodles and call it
>> spaghetii marinara.  But I think they're typical of 90% of the the
>> general undergraduate population.  The *truly* dedicated will get a
>> Leica, but that population was already sold. How do you reach the
>> not-so-dedicated?
>> I don't think that price is the main problem. After all, they can
>> always get an M3 for $900 or an M6 TTL for $1500.  The used Leica
>> market is effectively the equivalent of what people are talking about
>> here.  I don't think that Leica can sell an M7 for $1500 and survive.
>> The same with the lenses.  I have to admit I haven't bought any Leica
>> lenses new. Why buy them for $3000 when you can get them near-mint
>> on the LUG for $1000?  Or an equivalent Cosina for $400?  The
>> economics are truly gloomy for Leica but discounting won't help them.
>> We're assuming that students don't have access to ebay, where Leica
>> prices have plummeted in the past year. This might have flown 5 years
>> ago, but I don't see it flying right now.
>> The example of your student only proves the point. He bought a used
>> Leica and bought Cosina lenses. Net profit for Leica: $0.  If he had
>> bought a for-cost Leica and for-cost Leica lens, net profit for
>> Leica: -$1000 (or so, whatever we decide overhead is).  If your
>> student  goes out and buys an M7 and Summilux 50mm and 35mm  within
>> the next year, maybe.
>> But that's just one anecdote (along with Ted's donation of a camera)
>> involving the apocryphal super-dedicated student. These are pretty
>> rare occasions.  Even if I told my students that they could get a
>> Leica + lens for $1500 each, I doubt more than one would sign up.
>> Most would shrug. The rather-dedicated would rather get a EOS Digital
>> Rebel with lens for $1000. The non-dedicated would get a used Canon
>> FD for $100 and spend $900 on an iPod and other toys. That's the
>> reality of this generation.
>> Sorry to be a downer.
>> Karen
>> -- 
>> Karen Nakamura
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In reply to: Message from philippe.orlent at (Philippe Orlent) ([Leica] Leica donation to students)