Leica admits development of "M Digital"

Discussion in '35mm Cameras' started by TP, Feb 12, 2004.

  1. TP

    TP Guest

    From Leica Camera, Solms, Germany:

    "The Leica Camera Group of Solms, Germany, plans to use the proceeds
    of the sale of convertible bonds to create the financial basis for its
    innovation and distribution strategy. The emphasis of the development
    work that is already in progress is on hybrid concepts that combine
    digital technology with proven analog products.
    “Well over one million high-grade Leica lenses for the Leica R- and
    Leica M systems await a solution for being used optimally in
    conjunction with digital technology.
    Our approach to digital cameras for existing lenses conforms to our
    philosophy of decades-long system compatibility and to our belief that
    the optics are the decisive elements for outstanding photographs – not
    the analog or digital path to those photographs”, states chief of
    technology Ralf Coenen.

    In the Leica R single-lens-reflex line, work on the digital back for
    LEICA R8 and LEICA R9 cameras - the LEICA DIGITAL-MODUL-R – is making
    good progress in cooperation with Danish firm Imacon A/S and the Kodak
    ISS sensor division. “The interim successes in the development confirm
    our belief that we are on the right path to a successful solution”,
    according to Mr. Coenen.

    Another step in this direction is the development of a digital
    solution for the Leica rangefinder system, which has already been in
    the works for some time. The Leica company now confirms the
    speculations published in the Dow Jones Newswire of 6 February 2004.

    For a long time, physical constraints were the obstacles to digital
    solutions for rangefinder cameras: Because of the absence of a mirror
    box as it exists in single lens reflex cameras, the rear element of a
    lens is often located very near the image plane. As a result, light
    rays strike that plane at an oblique angle, and this causes quality
    problems with today’s sensor technology. “Based on a preliminary
    development project, we are now certain that a new generation of
    sensors with improved micro-lenses will lead to an image quality of
    the level that is expected of Leica”, informs Mr. Coenen.

    “With the new financial means, we are now in a favorable position for
    developing a solution that will enable our customers to enjoy the
    superb quality of our lenses to their full extent in digital
    applications as well’, continued Mr. Coenen. According to the strict
    Leica standards, an image resolution of at least 10 million pixels is
    required for this purpose. “In the digital world, the true Leica M
    feeling also requires high precision mechanisms and the renowned Leica
    range-viewfinder. According to Mr. Coenen, “The corresponding solution
    is now in preparation.” The LEICA DIGITAL-MODUL-R has priority,
    because it will be introduced at photokina in September 2004, but the
    two projects are partially intertwined, thus gaining precious time for
    the digital Leica M camera. "
    TP, Feb 12, 2004
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  2. Time to start saving my pennies, again.

    Here are my hopes for an M-series digital:

    - minimal extraneous automation (no AF, fancy metering or built-in flash)
    - extended battery life (beyond current digital cameras)
    - full-frame sensor (to preserve wide angle capabilities)
    - priced under $4000 USD

    street shooter, Feb 12, 2004
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  3. TP

    Hugo Drax Guest

    Pricing will probably be around 7000, an M7 body costs almost 3k.
    Hugo Drax, Feb 12, 2004
  4. I doub't the cost will be that high, but I wouldn't be surprised to
    see a $5000 USD price tag. They've got to sell the cameras in order
    for them to be profitable. If all of the R&D and production goes
    smoothly, the digital M-series will be out no sooner than Photokina
    2005. By that time, a 10MP SLR camera is likely to be going for
    around $3500 to $4000 USD (i.e. the current D1X, 1D class). Digital
    cameras - even the SLRs - are already inherently quieter than their
    film counterparts. So the quiet aspect of a Leica M is diminished,
    though not completely obliviated, as a selling point. Their primary
    selling points are likely to be the Leica tradition of fine optics, a
    full frame sensor and the compact nature of a rangefinder camera. An
    M-series film body costs about the same as a Nikon F5 or an EOS 1V.
    This will have to remain true in order for Leica to compete in the
    professional, digital camera market. A price premium of any more than
    $1000 above other professional grade digital cameras will make the
    Digital M just a very nice toy for the idle rich and for gearheads.
    But who knows...these are interesting times.

    For those who can't see how much digital is changing the nature of
    photography, consider this. Leica did not even have an automated
    exposure M-series camera until 2002; now, they are financing a project
    to launch a digital M. Even the last great bastion of puritanical
    photographic tradition can read the writing on the wall, and the need
    to supplement their legendary line of film rangefinders.

    I like film and I like vinyl records. But the majority of my images
    are now captured digitally and the majority of my music collection is
    on compact disc. Times and technologies change, and so we must adapt
    even as we preserve the "old school" methodologies.

    All that said, I still believe film will - and should - be around for
    a long time to come.

    street shooter, Feb 13, 2004
  5. TP

    Gordon Moat Guest

    However, being able to mount M lenses could allow them to charge a
    premium over what other manufacturers offer. Considering the
    depreciation of all digital bodies, if it is too much when it first
    sells, just wait a year or two for the price on the used market to
    become more in line.

    Somehow I really doubt the full frame sensor, just due to space
    limitations. A full frame sensor has more cooling needs, and power
    considerations. Also, this is being done with microlens, anti-aliasing
    filter, and likely a protective cover over the chip, much as the R8/R9
    digital back. That one will be a 1.37 multiplier.

    If Kodak and Imacon really do a good job on the R8/R9 back, then perhaps
    some interest may go towards a digital M, or M back system. I would
    still wait at least a year after release for the depreciation to drop
    the price.
    I agree about the need for both film and direct digital. There are
    advantages to both systems, and needs to have both accessible. We shall see.


    Gordon Moat
    Alliance Graphique Studio
    Gordon Moat, Feb 14, 2004
  6. Leica doesn't just sell cameras (although they do so to the have money
    to burn market, cultists, and perfectionsits). Fairly recently, a
    friend saw a Leica photography mag in a shopping bag, and asked what it
    was. He works in surveying with Leica equipment, and had no idea that
    they were a camera company as well. While I do not believe that it will
    happen, it is /possible/ that Leica can axe their camera division and
    The loudest aspect of SLRs in my experience, is the mirror, which is
    found in film and digital SLRS. I'll even argue that a Canon Elan is
    almost as quiet as the M6 (having used both cameras).
    Lens compatability may drive the sales of a M digital more than anything
    else. There isn't a digital camera on the market which will use the
    same lenses as my KX, insofar as I know, and the KX is my only SLR.
    When Leica announced the upcoming digital back for the R8/R9, I was
    seriously thinking of saving up to "convert" to the R system for my SLR
    needs. While I have not invested much into 35mm SLRs since I aquired my
    Pentax, I'd have to buy into a whole new system. However, I also have a
    M6, and a few lenses to support it. If I could purchase a digital body,
    I'd do it in a heartbeat, regardless of whether or not I could pay for
    it in cash, or kill my credit... Only because I wouldn't have to replace
    the lenses I already own, nor, buy into a new system.
    It makes sense to support existing users. I own a M6, with a few
    lenses, and would rather buy a lens for my baby (with all the
    accompanying self-starvation in order to buy new toys), than begin
    investing in a Canon/Nikon DSLR, and accompanying lenses. I don't need
    auto ANYTHING. I would like a 10MP+ digital body to give me more
    versitility than my current shoot > develop > drumscan for digital
    workflow. Apeture and/or shutter priority would be icing on the cake
    (of course, I could find both in a decent digital system, and would be
    reason in, and of itself, to buy it).

    While I don't want to sound like a Leica culitst, IMHO, have the right
    decision to only offer digital backs/bodies, after the format and
    technology matured. Two years ago, I laughed at digicams. Last year, I
    knew that film still many times better. Now, I look at both as media
    for my art, and as much as I love darkroom work, Photoshop is a
    damned-useful tool.

    James Donovan, Feb 14, 2004
  7. TP

    lalil Guest

    They sell lenses, binoculars and accessories too.
    He's right. Leica Geosystems have nothing to do with Leica Camera,
    both being different companies, except for their common ancestor E
    You mean HERMES can survive even if they axe Leica Camera.

    lalil, Feb 14, 2004
  8. TP

    Lourens Smak Guest

    No Leica, but you'll probably find this interesting:
    (Note the film transport lever?!?)

    Lourens Smak, Feb 14, 2004
  9. TP

    Timo Labrenz Guest

    Pentax *istD
    ...it has only 6.1MP.

    Timo Labrenz, Feb 14, 2004
  10. TP

    George Guest

    I ***KNOW*** I am going to attract flames here, but IMHO that is already
    Leica's market demographics and for my "proof" of that I offer:

    1) more collector series cameras (cameras intentionally produced solely for
    collectors, like the "Ein Stuck", "Columbus", etc) than all other brands
    2) more used, "mint" cameras available than other brands ("used" only in the
    sense they were pre-owned shelf-sitters)
    3) if you compared Leica cameras with other brands' models of similar
    capabilities (rather than top-of-the-line cameras from competing companies),
    you'd find the price disparity to be more like 4x-8x rather than $1000,
    i.e., your $4k Leica has about the capabilities of a $500-800 camera from
    another manufacturer

    Now, that I've gotten to state my opinion (and undoubtedly offended some
    Leica lovers -- don't get me wrong, I DO admire the workmanship of the
    camera) let the flames fly and say whatever makes you feel better about
    grossly overspending...

    George, Feb 16, 2004
  11. TP

    George Guest

    Leitz makes terrific saw blades, too! But they cannot charge a premium
    there as virtually all really good circular saw blades these days are laser
    George, Feb 16, 2004
  12. TP

    George Guest

    Interesting item and probably good news for people already owning Leica
    M-series lenses (it should tend to keep prices up on the used market, as if
    Leica needs that).
    George, Feb 16, 2004
  13. Thanks for the info. I must admit, I'm pretty much ignorant about the
    digital capture market, aside from Canon and Nikon's offerings. Of
    course, I should think/research before I type.
    Damn... I got the R and M mixed up. Still, 6.1 might make it a
    worthwile buy as a companion to the film body, especially 'cos I never
    plan giving up on film.
    James Donovan, Feb 17, 2004
  14. TP

    Gordon Moat Guest

    If that one is digital only, then I think the only way a future Leica M
    digital could complete would be something like the R module. They really
    would need to offer film and digital in the same body. Outside of that,
    I cannot think of anything that would tempt someone to buy a true Leica
    Digial M over the Voitländer Bessa-D.


    Gordon Moat
    Alliance Graphique Studio
    Gordon Moat, Feb 17, 2004
  15. TP

    TP Guest

    I can think of something - the brand name? ;-)

    Seriously, Leica are going to have to achieve something truly amazing
    with the Digital M. It's probably the most important camera Leica
    will ever make.
    TP, Feb 17, 2004
  16. TP

    Gordon Moat Guest

    Absolutly. Even for those who may never buy one, but own older Leica
    gear. Just the knowledge that there would be an available digital body
    could keep some people invested in Leica M gear.


    Gordon Moat
    Alliance Graphique Studio
    Gordon Moat, Feb 17, 2004
  17. TP

    Alan Browne Guest

    ....much like the Maxxum 7D has been a relif to us with extensive Minolta
    Alan Browne, Feb 17, 2004
  18. No they can't. But I also don't know now one would market sawblades on
    brand exclusivity, whether real or perceived. I'd guess that a decent
    percentage of Leica buyers are buying for the brand identity as much as
    the camera, and a fashion accessory, as much as a camera.
    If quality was the sole measure of most products was quality, my beat-up
    Docs would probably cost more than Prada.
    Without the brand, Leica lenses probably would cost far less, probably
    near what Zeiss sells them for.

    James Donovan, Feb 18, 2004
  19. Of course.
    And as you mentioned, and I alluded to, the same corperate overlord, as
    well as the trademark/logo.
    Yes, if one /has/ to go into semantics *grin*
    James Donovan, Feb 18, 2004
  20. TP

    Gordon Moat Guest

    Oh sure, the marketing mentality is very similar to the computer market
    a few years ago. Promise the ability to upgrade, even if few users
    actually do upgrade. It sort of gives an impression of value added; buy
    the M7 this year, and a lens or two, and if you really had no choice
    other than direct digital, be glad that option is available. The reality
    is that someone buying an M7 this year might never buy a Digital M body,
    but as long as that option is possible, then there is some security in
    the purchase.

    Most enthusiasts know that film will not disappear in their lifetime,
    nor will scanners cease to improve. However, there might be that small
    chance that film photography becomes more difficult, and a way out of
    trouble could be direct digital capture. Just a side note, but Kodak has
    increased their stake in Lucky Film of China . . . wonder how long it
    will be before the little yellow box states "Made In China" on the
    outside . . . . . .


    Gordon Moat
    Alliance Graphique Studio
    Gordon Moat, Feb 18, 2004
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