Friday, August 12, 2016


The Wall Street Journal published an article by Ellen Emmerentze Jervelle about Leica titled “Leica Survives the Digital Shift.”  While there were no new revelations about the cameras and the company, it was still quite interesting to read what was being said in some of the paragraphs.

The opening line was quite interesting, where the author states “Booming smartphone sales are eating into the digital camera market, but the inventor of the 35mm film camera isn't blinking.”  This is a significant statement, because it encompasses the entire camera market in one brief sentence.

It is a fact that the camera market as a whole is suffering from the ever increasing sales volume of cell phones with picture taking capability.  The noticeable exception of this trend is Leica, the only major camera manufacturer that is actually experiencing sales increases.  Last year’s turnover was in excess of 337 million euros, an increase of 35 percent over the previous year, and the last fiscal year, which ended at the end of March, showed another increase of 12 percent to a total of 365 million euros.

According to the author, “Leica … found a lucrative niche. It continues making small, boxy cameras resembling its old M models—the cameras behind iconic images including the sailor kissing a woman in Times Square at the end of World War II.”

The original prototype Ur-Leica from 1913

Leica M3, the first of the M-line of Leica cameras

Leica M (Typ 240), the current top of the line Leica M camera

I find this misleading because I don't see how the Leica M line of cameras, including the current digital models, could possibly be referred to as boxy.  In comparison to professional cameras from other manufacturers the current Leica M series cameras are substantially smaller.  As a matter of fact, elsewhere the article points to the fact that other camera makers, including Sony, Fuji and Olympus, have introduced cameras that follow the basic layout of the Leica M line of cameras.  With other words, these companies obviously recognized the advantages of the Leica’s design, including rangefinder focusing in several of their models.  

I also don't agree with the statement in the article that Leica is making "digital retro cameras." There is nothing retro about the Leica S. the Leica Q, the Leica T and the Leica SL. Since Leica has maintained the basic layout of the Leica M cameras, the current M line of Leica cameras could possibly be thought of as retro cameras, but with the exception of having maintained the basic Leica M rangefinder camera look, the current Leica M models are without exception thoroughly modern pieces of equipment, unequalled by any other manufacturer.

Nowhere in the Wall Street article is there any mention of the Leica lenses, yet they are one of the major reasons for the renewed success of Leica.  No other manufacturer is able to point to a line of lenses with the overall performance of these Leica lenses.  As a matter of fact, some other manufacturers have even gone so far to offer their cameras with the Leica M mount to allow the easy use of Leica lenses on their cameras.

This is not a coincidence. Leica photographer Constantine Manos, a professional photographer at photo agency Magnum, was quoted in the article saying, “Leicas are still relevant. Leica’s cameras retain links to their past while keeping pace with the latest technology.”  Another explanation of Leica’s recent success is at the end of the article, which closes with a quote from Bradly Treadaway, digital media coordinator at the International Center of Photography in New York. He said “Leica has diversified its options and offerings, ventured into multiple formats of digital photography and continues to support the M series.”

Huawei P9 with Leica camera and optics

Sinar p3-df

That is further underlined by the fact that Leica is the only major camera manufacturer who is currently also involved in a joint venture with Huawei of China in the manufacture of cell phone cameras.  Not only that, but since buying out Sinar of Switzerland, Leica is the only camera manufacturer which covers the entire range of photographic equipment from cell phones to large format cameras and digital backs.

Read the entire Wall Street Journal article here


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  1. Didn't take long for the Leica haters to come out of the woodwork. One of them writes: "Leica could not handle the digital tecnologie and had to do a joint venture with Panasonic to make its digital camera. Traditionally, Germans make EXCELLENT lenses but miserable cameras. The lenses in the Space Shuttle, Hubble Telescope and any other Air Force or military advances lenses are either Carl Zeiss or Leica. Most advanced medical instruments that bear lenses are also German made." Seems to me that this guy needs to check his "facts". Am I right?

    1. Of course you are right. Maybe the other major camera manufacturers should switch to making miserable cameras because only Leica has been able to point to sales increases. The rest of the industry is in a significant downturn. I wonder what lenses in the space shuttle this guy is pointing to? As far as I know, there aren't any. There were, but currently no Leica equipment is used on space flights. Nikon cameras are regularly used, they don't have Leica lenses. In the film days, Hasselblad was the camera of choice, They used Zeiss lenses. A few flights were equipped with Rollei medium format cameras. They used Zeiss and Schneider lenses. Nikon also supplied a camera with a specially designed UV lens. This guy's statement is totally false. Hubble? The main mirror was made by Corning. As far as the rest of the optics is concerned, I have no idea who made them. The US Air Force, I assume that is what he is referring to, used a Leica based 35mm system as well as a Leica developed under water system, but they are no longer in use. Facts don't matter, I guess.