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Friday, 22 February 2008

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This is great.. by far the best news I have heard all year!

great site and good topic

Funny how the opening sentence/paragraph of the article, mostly through poor sentence structure, imparts the impression that it was the interview that got Lee sacked. Freudian slip?

Julia Are you kidding? Its rare that dismissing the CEO is good news for any company or those that depend or rely on their products. 2008 is a very important year for Leica with high expectations for photokina . The M8 was essentially done when Mr Lee joined the company in Nov 2006. If his removal is based on job performance..it means that Leica has serious problems . At a minimum we know the board was disappointed enough to terminate the CEO .

I'm with Roger. This is not good news for Leica.

If anyone had checked their investor relations page and looked at their latest results release, they'd have seen this line: ** Leica Camera Group’s forecast for fiscal year 2007/2008 remains unchanged: the Company
expects to achieve a slightly positive operating result. **

I don't know any company whose investors will ever be happy with a slightly positive operating (the part of the business that involves the making and selling of products) result.

In addition, if you look at their report for 2nd half of 07, it's pretty obvious that the photo segment is sucking hind teat. It climbed out of the red in 07, but just barely. It wouldn't take much to cause sales to drop, like saturation of a small M-body market, inflationary pressures on manufacturing, or a sharp rise in component costs.

A revolving door in the CEO's office isn't going to correct any of those problems.

There's a famous case from the early 1980s when Adam Osborne preannounced the Osborne 2 computer, thereby killing sales of the Osborne 1, which was doing pretty well at the time. They never recovered.

--Marc

Suspect CEO Lee spoke out of turn.
Loose lips sink ships, or in this case
a proposed new system.

My feeling is the board dumped Lee because
he gave classified information to a public source.

Most companies would do the same IMO.

Bryce Lee
Burlington, Ontario

Roger,

You may be right, but I can't help wondering if the world wouldn't be a better place if companies had sacked quite a few of their CEO's in the past decade.

Mr. Lee single handedly skunked M8 sales for the next 8 months.

Bryce Lee's comment is right on the money.

Morry Katz
Lethbridge, Alberta

Not good news, from my perspective. I use an M8, and have experienced many of the problems that have afflicted Leica owners in the past two years -- poor quality control, poor service, outlandish prices for necessary accessories. It has seemed like a company in turmoil -- and getting rid of a CEO can't help, though it might have been necessary (I don't know whether it was or not.) If nothing else, it signals another period of confusion.

JC

Leica's problem is that its client base is not as patient and happy as that of Cosina Voigtlander.

Personally if Leica stopped making rangefinder cameras
of any type tomorrow, I for one would not lose any sleep over it. As with film it's a system that's time has come, close the shop already. Yes I shot with Leicas and I was so happy to get rid of them 35 years ago. They were always about 10 years behind the curve. I still have a hockey stick model A.
Now if they would make a full frame camera that size with autofocus them maybe they would have something.

Maybe the sacking has more to do with the poor choices of the company when it comes to digital photography. Devoting so much effort and ressources to bring a digital M to the market, when M is a niche market and not a money maker anymore, while missing the boat with the digital Leica SLR may be a reason. A Leica R with a DMR costs as much (+-) as a Canon Ds MkII. And it will take lenses that are not really designed to be used with a digital camera. So to put it bluntly, the sacking may have more to do with poor choices and financial performance than anything else. Leica Camera is only one of the three leica companies, and certainly in the 21st century under the same pressure from share holders that any other company. Investors, people looking at the bottom line, with no special interest in photography. And to put back things in perspective, Leica Camera makes certainly more money with rebranded/tweaked Panasonic cameras than with the M8. As for suggesting that the chairman of the board has been sacked for alluding to a full frame Leica M during an interview is, in my opinion, a little far fetched. It may have more to do with the lack of vision and understanding of the photographic market. As for rangefinders go, I would like to see the numbers regarding the sales of Zeiss, bodies and lenses, compared to Leica. And to finish this long ranting, I do not think that Zeiss engineers are sitting on their hands. If their is a market for a 'pro' digital rangefinder, they must be working on it. If it happens, I'll have a very sad day when I'll be selling my 2 Leicas M and five lenses to buy Zeiss...

When introduced the Leica camera was innovative, but for a long while now Leica has coasted on it's reputation and cult status. Leica's strength has always been high quality optics. They didn't make film; why are they trying to make electronics? They should stick to what they know and excel at, and make lenses for other manufacturer's cameras.

As I understood it it was the dealer network that formed the basis of getting Mr. Lee sacked. Anyway something "bigger" must of been going on since the man dismissed from one minute to the other, I guess it'll be one of these things we won't ever find out completely.
Anyway whatever it was, the damage is done and sacking the CEO is not going to improve things short term. I still wish Leica all the best though and sincerely hope things get better for them.

John's remarks reflect my general feelings, too. Like the rest of the general public I don't know why Lee was sacked. I suspect that, as Morry and Bryce speculated, Lee's recent disclosure that Leica has tenuous plans for a "full frame M" probably launched the boot that met Lee's buttocks. It certainly did not boost enthusiasm for the M8.

But I suspect that that was mainly the last straw of the board's patience. The M8's inaugural year has eroded Leica's image due to initial quality control gaffes, pre-release buzz that was clearly mis-managed, widespread service problem reports, and now this "upgrade" program that has even many Leica loyalists saying, "Huh?". The new Leica Web site design, launched this month, also suggests that Leica makes costly jewelry rather than highly-crafted optical and photographic tools.

Leica has been lurching between calamitous episodes since film photography began disappearing. Personally, as an M8 and M7 owner, I hope they manage to get themselves together under imaginative, but far more thoughtful, new leadership. They really do have some fine alternative photographic products that would not probably be replaced in the event of Leica's demise.

"Leica Camera is only one of the three leica companies, and certainly in the 21st century under the same pressure from share holders that any other company. Investors, people looking at the bottom line, with n o special interest in photography."

Luc,
I don't think this is strictly true. From what I've heard, some of the investors are people who specifically love Leica and invested in the company to try to help it survive. I'm sure they're no more eager to lose their money than any other kind of investor, but in some cases sentimentality or altruism may have played some part in their involvement.

Mike J.

"From what I've heard, some of the investors are people who specifically love Leica"

Mike,
I do not discount that.
But the reality is that Leica is under the control since 2007 of Socrates and ACM Projektentwicklung. These private investment companies, which have holdings in the optical industry, are privately owned by Michael and Andreas Kaufmann, of Austria. The same Dr. Andreas Kaufmann who just took over the board of directors, as a majority share holder. Whatever we see is obviously only the tip of the iceberg, but this people are not managing a photo club, they are investors out there to make money. Which is what investors do. For the ones with an interest in financial aspect of Leica, an interesting piece from April 2007, in retrospect, after the takeover by Andreas Kaufmann, is at:
http://cnbceb.com/2007/04/01/leica-it-or-not%E2%80%A6/

And considering the industrial interests of the Kaufmanns, it begs the question: are they taking over Leica with their sight on the optics division?

Hey guys I like my Epson RD-1......... but I had to eat my words and buy a DSLR again

Dear folks,

I have some idle thoughts about the Leica situation that I'm not sure have been brought up before. I would argue that the rules of the market for Leica have changed in a very important way that they may or may not be equipped to deal with. What Leicaphiles seem to want from a Leica digital camera is different from what they demanded in a film camera.

Many Leica fans deluded themselves into believing that their cameras made superior photos, but there's nothing that supports that objectively. Other high-end cameras made photographs that were just as good technically, by every measure, and every major manufacturer could claim superior optics for some modest subset of their line. Leica quality was simply not evident in the photographs, not that justified the the exceptional premium folks paid for it.

What that money bought was craftsmanship. The handling, the feel, the quality of the build, this is what those hard-earned bucks won. I'm not pooh-poohing that; handling characteristics and build quality are very important things. But you weren't buying (nor demanding) better photographs.

From what I'm reading, that's changed in the digital world. Leica fans want to know why they're not getting superior image quality, when they're paying considerably more than for other physically-comparable digital cameras. That is a new demand!

I'm not saying it's unreasonable demand. But it's a very important change; it's no longer sufficient that a Leica be of superior manufacture, the fans are now demanding that it produce objectively superior image quality.

You guys have changed the rules on Leica , and I'm not saying you're not justified, but it's no longer the same game with the same goals. How Leica will cope with this will be interesting to see.


pax / Ctein
[[ Please excuse any word-salad. ViaVoice in training! ]]
=========================================
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com
=========================================

I think that for some decades now Leica have failed to understand why their cameras continued to be a success.

They got more and more out-of-date in manufacturing terms and clung to the idea that the admittedly sensuous engineering and cachet was what was important, instead of realising that it was the configuration that mattered.

A 35mm interchangeable-lens coupled-rangefinder.

I keep looking at the Bessas, they look great, but I'll never go back to film + no image stab.

Now everybody wants a full-frame digital interchangeable-lens coupled-rangefinder. The sensors are out there. The camera body might end up a bit bigger than everybody would like, but Leica are just dragging their feet. They need the camera now and at a reasonable price, not perfect (although their record hasn't been great recently) but some time in the future and exorbitantly expensive. If they didn't cost the earth we could forgive a few quirks given the rapidly changing technological environment.

If say, Bessa could get a full-frame body out to pair up with their existing lens range, particularly given their somewhat more sensible (non-archival) engineering and marketing approach, I for one wouldn't be unhappy to see Leica eat some dust, and I'd have the Bessa tomorrow if the sensor were any good at all. You could buy the lenses and know that a better body would probably come along in the future. In fact I might buy that Bessa after all.

I've now read pages of speculation here and on Leica oriented forums on Mr. Lee's sudden departure. I've not read much that I can take seriously given my understanding of how the higher echelons of business operate. Despite the comments, the reasons for Mr Lee's sudden departure may have had nothing to do with new R v M cameras, quality control, the move to digital, the new web site, recent financial results or Mr Lee's recent magazine interview or maybe each along with a myriad of other corporate issues were involved.

In my experience a sudden firing of a key management person is the result of a long series of disagreements, tensions or poor job performance results leading to a gradual loss of trust over time between the parties involved. There may well have been a last straw which broke this camels back but the posted comments that I've read tell me more about the commentators than the camel.

Eric

Marc: That is not quite what happened to Osborne. The main problem was they didn't have a product as good as the competition did and the Osborne 2 was simply too little, too late. Add some bad management and you have a busted company.

More at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Osborne_Effect

This is not a such a "recent disclosure" .. I heard this after the Leica Historical Society of America in Rochester last year ...

I am not sure what that puts into the mix

But a full-framed M series camera & some sort of dSLR was mentioned at that time & assumption was Photokina ..

If this has been a secret it has been an open secret for pushing six months ...

Leica has had real serious issues for decades this is just the latest symptom in a long line of symptoms ...

Statement from Leica Camera AG - 26/02/08


'Already, in the working hours since the departure of Steven Lee, the Leica product development team has begun to review the M system strategy. It is too early to say what changes will be made. However, it is likely that the path may differ from the one set by Steven Lee. In any case, the M8 will continue to be our flagship camera into 2009. We can confirm that comments made during PMA regarding the possibility of an M8 upgrade to full frame were premature and we apologise if one of them gave a too optimistic outlook.

It is true that it is the desire of Leica to consider full frame within the M system. However, the final decision regarding the appropriate camera body configuration has yet to be made.'

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