Leica’s latest offering – what it means for us

Posted on by Bellamy


Rumors flew, but one was right, the big one
So, unless you have been hiding under a rock or are in sensory deprivation detention you will not have failed to notice that there was quite a significant announcement from Solms yesterday. But what does it mean for photographers?

Yes, that is right, the rumours were true…The Leica M Monochrom was released yesterday. That was the big news, and it was a masterstroke in viral marketing from Leica. A few months back someone let it ‘slip’ that there may be a b&w sensor Leica coming out, and the internet went mental. Talk about market research, the heads of marketing must have been rubbing their hands with glee.
But what does it mean for us? It means a lot, mainly in the we are going to have to save a lot of money of be prepared to part with vital organs. But, it also marks a milestone in black and white photography. To have an exclusively black and white digital rangefinder is something that we could not have even dreamed of a few years ago, but now it is here. From what I understand the sensor is very well balanced and I am hearing great things about the iso range. This signifies a coming of age for digital photography, that a company would be prepared to release a completely monochrome camera tells us that they absolutely have the photographer in mind.
It was very important for Leica to get this right first time and not have any issues, not just because they are now a prestige brand, but also because of a historical significance. Leica first started making cameras when there was only black and white photography, and in some ways this camera is a nod to those roots. This camera is going to change the way the digital shooters look at their pictures for sure.

But, this camera does have one significant drawback in my opinion…the price. In the recent years anything Leica has become more expensive. And Leica has always been something of a desirable brand, but $8000 is going to put this out of reach of all but the most dedicated or loaded of shooters. This is a very capable camera and it certainly looks the part too, but I am not sure that the price is within the realms of reality. As they say the proof is in the pudding, so we shall have to see when I get my hands on one of these.
And get my hands on one of these I will. I shall be attending the Japan Leica function this week and I will be able to have a go on the camera and test it out. I will come back with more information about my thoughts so watch this space.
If you want to get all speccy about this camera and read the official bumph then you can go over to the lovely people at LeicaRumors and they have it all there.

For me the big news that came out of Berlin was the release of the new APO Summicron 50mm ASPH lens. This is a lens that I never thought they would release, as Leica often stated that they simply could not improve on the summicron. In my opinion the last version of the 50mm is one of the finest lenses ever crafted so I am very excited to see what the results of this one will be. Leica said in the past they would not release an ASPH 50mm Summicron, because there was simply no point, as you “could not improve on perfection”. Well, I guess that they have either managed to find a way to jam one in there, or they have actually managed to improve on the lens. Time will tell and we will see the results of this lens being shot very soon, as I am sure they have already given a few out to influential phoblographers (sadly, not me :( )

Again though I am a little bit shocked by the price. $7000 is a whole load of money for a lens, a really large amount and there is obviously going to be a massive wait for this lens too. I know that Leica is a brand, and it does make some really exceptional products, but prices like this are going to make even the most steadfast of Leica fans wince.

There was a lot more news in Berlin, with the release of a whole swathe of products. But this was not the big announcement that everyone thought it would be, no M10. You are going to have to wait for Photokina for that one folks, Leica have booked a whole hall, so you know they are going to be doing something very big.

There is going to be a whole lot of chatter about these products online over the next few days, and I have no doubt that there will be a lot of mud slinging too. I would like to hear your views on this announcement. Be frank, or George, but be honest. Tell me what you really think about the news and what it means for photographers. I am excited by the releases, but I don’t think I will be buying them any time soon, they are just too rich for my blood. Had the Monochrom been the same release price as an M9 I would have put an order in today. What are your thoughts on Leica’s new releases? Will you be buying anything? Comment and get yourself some CameraKarma.

Thanks
JCH

Want to read more about this camera? Then you can click on the following links:
Steve Huff: http://www.stevehuffphoto.com/tag/leica-monochrome/
Leica Rumors: http://leicarumors.com/
Sample images at DP review: http://www.dpreview.com/galleries/reviewsamples/albums/leica-m-monochrom-preview-samples

25 Responses to Leica’s latest offering – what it means for us

John Berner May 11, 2012 at 8:06 am

Each of these announcements rubbed me the wrong way. I’ve been wary of stepping into Leica ownership for a while because of the price on simple things like repairs and accessories. This though cemented the feeling that its a company out of touch with reality. The lens sounds great, but it sounds like a scientific instrument rather than an artist’s tool. They’ve engineered all the character out of it, and have put it in a price range beyond overpriced. The M9-M is an interesting idea, but lets be honest, its a gimped M9. Theres maybe a handful of people in the world who would truly benefit from having this camera over and M9, so to charge such a ridiculous amount of money seems to just emphasize their marketing of rare high end goods. Not photographer friendly. Overall I think this move is the tipping point, keeping me from investing in an M6. As Leica propels itself upwards as a luxury goods company their used equipment, accessories, service will all rise to levels that honestly aren’t worth the cost. At least thats my take on it.

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Peter Neale May 11, 2012 at 9:06 am

To me it’s in the same category as a Porsche – beautifully designed and engineered, eminently desirable to those who know what they are looking at, but so outrageously expensive that I can never ever aspire to owning one. The best we mere mortals can hope is that it will inspire some spin-offs from other manufacturers who are willing and able to price their products at a level that we can afford.

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Y. May 11, 2012 at 9:28 am

Wait : with $8000 I can buy a bunch of tri-X and take my M7 for a trip around the world and come back with real chemical monochrome images can’t I?

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    Dalek May 11, 2012 at 10:23 pm

    Exactly! Let’s do some very simple inflated math here:

    M6: 2K give or take. Less if you look around.
    50 summicron (used): $1.5K give or take. Again, less if you look around
    tri x roll: $3.5 if bought in bulk.
    developing and scan: $18, but you can do it MUCH cheaper.

    With these numbers, you’d need to take almost 8,000 pictures before the numbers even out for just the M9M body! MANy more frames if you develop it yourself (and you should) and scan it yourself. Oh, and once you hit the 8,000th frame, the M6 will probably be worth more than what you paid for it, at the rate that Leica prices are rising. The M9M will be old news, since the M10M, M11M, or m10011110 might be out by that point.

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Colin Corneau May 11, 2012 at 9:50 am

This latest release is a “jump the shark” moment, in my view.
One can’t doubt that Leica’s quality will be in these two products, but one also can’t doubt that this is now a company that puts marketing and niche brand positioning above all other considerations.

A premium price for a premium product is only logical. But, this is well beyond premium pricing — this now takes it out of the realm of the majority of documentary, fine art and photojournalistic practitioners…it’ll be the best camera your dentist or tax lawyer can buy.

This move is all the more bizarre and, ultimately, unsustainable when you consider that any digital camera is destined to be technically obsolete within (at most) 3 years.

And I defy anyone to show me the difference between a file from this camera and a file from a regular sensor that’s been put through any number of post-production processes out there today.
Is the dynamic range far and above anything else out there on the market today? Or the highlight or shadow detail? Or file size? Doubtful.

I’m a dedicated B&W shooter, but this whole affair leaves me flat.

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theindustrialist May 11, 2012 at 10:42 am

I’ve often considered purchasing an interchangeable lens rangefinder such as a CLE or a Voigtlander, but lens & accessory prices like this are the reason I’ve stuck with 35mm SLRs and fixed lens rangefinders for the time being.

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Patrik May 11, 2012 at 10:43 am

It makes no sense on paper, but probably a lot of sense once in your hand. Kind of summarizes Leica’s promise to its customers.

I might just get one. I can’t rationalize that right now – it’s an insane amount of money – but I’m sure I’ll figure that out too.

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Bellamy May 11, 2012 at 11:02 am

Lots of interesting comments. Thanks guys. It seems that the general consensus of opinion is that the camera is overpriced, and I would agree. Had they made at the same or less than an M9 then I would be considering one.

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    Dalek May 11, 2012 at 10:25 pm

    I’d be much more interested in a monochrome Ricoh GR-D M Mount sensor. That would make sense — carry two sensors around, the monochrome and the normal M Mount.

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Robert T Wilson May 11, 2012 at 11:16 am

Unfortunately I think this Monochrom camera is a brilliant idea with a flawed execution .

8 grand for a camera that only takes B+W is silliness IMO , my elderly M8 does B+W very well , albeit not at ISO 10,000! and as other has stated on here and on other forums, that would buy you a lot of B+W film if you wanted to grab a M7 or a M6 to shoot it with.

I love my Leica, and I love their lenses too, but 15000 for the M9M + ASPH Cron 50mm is insanity , oops forgot the taxes, 16500.

One think that intrigues me is that each M9M comes with a copy of Silver efex pro 2 , shich you can also use to convert Colour shots to exellent B+Ws , I think instead of dropping the cash on the new body Ill spend 129 on the software and spend the rest on travelling.

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Kosta May 11, 2012 at 2:19 pm

Sadly a release for the tax lawyers and dentists as someone earlier noted.

M9-M is innovative but a little silly. It should be priced under the M9 given the amount of work Leica states goes into “getting the most faithful colour reproduction from the sensor”.

I’ll stick with my M2 and 35 cron and save my money for some film, a rainy day, or even better: a holiday.

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zoolkareem May 11, 2012 at 2:52 pm

@theindustrialist: voigtlander cameras don’t cost a bomb, seriously. I got mine a Bessa R4M + CV 35mm f2.5 for $600. 2nd hand of course but works like charm! point is, if u know where to find them, u r gonna get yourself a pretty good deal :)

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Darcy May 11, 2012 at 8:43 pm

Every time something is announced with a higher than expected price, everyone does the same thing (whinge), but in the end, the product still sells.

Look at the Canon 5D Mark III – people whine that it’s more expensive than the Nikon D800, yet the Nikon is higher spec’d in many areas. Yet the camera store I work at has sold hundreds and hundreds of 5D Mark III’s in just about a month and a half. And this is a small-ish city…of 300,000 people.

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    John Berner May 12, 2012 at 2:03 am

    I don’t think the problem is that the product won’t sell, its that at this price range like people said earlier, it will only sell to dentists and lawyers as a talking point at dinners. Its a luxury item rather than a photographic tool now.

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Matthew May 11, 2012 at 11:41 pm

AM i being really daft or is it not possible for the RGB (or whatever) pixels in a colour sensor to just be all tone sensors and thereby making a colour sensor grey at high quality?

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theindustrialist May 12, 2012 at 12:46 am

@ zoolkareem: Agreed. I was looking into Bessa Rs right after I made that comment. Still quite a jump in price from most of my current 35mm cameras, but definitely doable.

I guess the main point is having a camera you love shooting with and that feels good to YOU (in the hand as well as results-wise), price-tag aside. That camera could cost what some would consider a lot of money, or it could cost very little.

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Dacnard May 12, 2012 at 1:49 am

All of these announces just confirm that i will keep my M6 and shoot black and white film for as long as possible.
The summicron is an instant piece of history but sadly out of my reach.
The best news for me is the X2, hopefully it will drop further the X1 prices and will be able to get one.

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gidion May 12, 2012 at 10:53 am

Leica has morphed into a new company

Pre digital age – they created Tools for photagraphers and the tools needed to be used and abused during a world trip or during shooting in an urban inviroment.

The current situation – Creating luxery items designed for indeed lawyers and dentist we go on a trip to a resort

These prices are more prove that Leica lost their roots.

I was always drawn to Leica because it was a tool to drag around the world and create great pictures. They absoluty lost me. Create prictures sure dragging 15 K in equipment hmmm.

Bring on the compatition of zeiss ZM. (wish full thinking)

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Jim Clinefelter May 12, 2012 at 1:13 pm

I think I’ll stick with my black Leica III with its matching Summar 50mm 2.0 (bought for $100 at my job a few months ago). It’ll outlast any digital camera, regardless of who makes it. $15,000+ for a new body and a 50 2.0? Get real. I’ve been selling cameras for 30 years, and have seen plenty of fancy gear come and go. Don’t fall for hype. Remember that the image starts with the photographer who has ability and ideas. If you know what you’re doing, you can make a perfectly fine image with a simple Kodak Brownie.

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Christian Friedländer May 12, 2012 at 4:35 pm

I would never trade my Black Crome Leica M5 for a Leica M9M (the M5 wannabe ;-)), but it is great news for the future of 35mm B/W FILM! The only affordable and reasonable way for most people who wants to jump the B/W wagon because of the LEICA M9M, is to buy a true 35mm film camera.

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cidereye May 13, 2012 at 2:18 am

I’m starting to question Leica’s logic of late with the direction they seem intent on, especially their ludicrous pricing. Mental pricing!

For existing Leica users like myself and many who have posted here the launch & price of the new Summicron ASPH for me is the biggest disaster of the latest Leica launch day (Yes, even more so than the pathetic X2!). Sure it is one mighty fine lens but this will only yet again push market prices up for used Leica glass. Look how much a used 35mm Summicron costs now compared to a few years ago before the Summicron ASPH lens was released. Even old 35mm’s go for daft money!

What this will equate to in real life terms is more and more Leica users giving their money to Voigtlander & Zeiss when it comes to them purchasing a new lens. Ah well.

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