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Tuesday, 09 March 2010

Comments

These days, it's too expensive.

I got my M3, used, in I believe 1973; $250 for a double-stroke body and collapsible 50mm summicron lens. As I remember it, the serial number said it was made right about the same time I was. I'd paid $280 for my Miranda Sensorex with 50/1.4 in 1969 (new); so it didn't feel like that bad a premium. I bought the 90/2 new for $360 by mail-order and the 35/2 new for $240 from a local camera store over the next couple of years. It was great for what I did -- f/2 was fast for a 90, the camera and I focused accurately in the dark, and I could hand-hold at slow shutter speeds due to lack of mirror slap. And it was relatively unobtrusive, quiet. Even for new lenses, the premium wasn't insane, and sometimes getting specs that were hard to match elsewhere.

I never did replace it after it was stolen. In only around a decade, it seemed to me that the premium had become insane.

Of all the things you left me to think of, the first that comes to mind is: "2,000 for the X1? That's not totally unreasonable."

I mean, yes, it's expensive, but not outrageously so. I'm still never sure how to calculate the fact that an equivalent film camera of the past would last 20 or 30 years versus the 5-7 of a digital one. On the one hand, not having to pay for film is excellent, on the other, something much better will appear before 5 years have passed. I guess the market is people who want a good camera right now, darn it, and if it costs that much, so be it.

Hey Mike, what a great perspective.

It makes me want to have enough money to buy Leicas just to help ensure the company thrives like they deserve to!

It's inspiring to learn about people who do things in the real economic world from other-than-economic motivations.

As for a future Leica, well I gather from putting rumors together that Nikon might bring to market a compact digital RANGEFINDER camera in the next year or so.

That could be the future Leica for the rest of us, and would help sustain popular interest in the rangefinder camera genre.

Wouldn't that be the ultimate decisive moment digital (DMD) you've been wanting -- unless, that is... you're willing to spring for an M9.

But as you've said elsewhere, Leicas are not priced as Veblen goods -- they just cost that much to make!

Personally, I'm not buying a Lumix now, because I'm waiting for that Nikon rangefinder. Not that I'm going without a camera in the meanwhile. I already have a digital SLR I like very much (D300).

Once again, Mike, a great post. This is the kind of perspective we keep coming back here for.

Oh, and you should check out Roger Ebert's journal for his new model of subscription solicitation. I believe he's asking $5 a year.

The psychology there is, how many readers would have the gall to suggest such a low price, and yet by setting the bar to financial participation so low, people who like and read you regularly would (imaginarily) be embarrassed not to participate!

I think I have never used the old sentence of "You nailed it!" in a more meaningful way than now, Mike.

There's nothing else to add: for those with a need, or a wish (and a budget) to use Leica cameras, it's the perfect time to purchase one of their models and enjoy using it.

For the rest of us, it's time to shut up complaining and/or madly speculating.

Great article. I makes me wanna jump and buy an M9.... naaaahhhhh, let's talk about the GF1 ;-)

I concur with your comments. I like the M9 just fine the way it is.

One of the things I noted about the bright ideas the cited authors came up with to "improve" the digital M would,if followed to their logical conclusions, result in...well, would result in a DSLR, actually....

Perhaps we should have asked Arthur C. Clarke.

I tend to agree with you, too. For once, Leica has products that I'd like to own.

One word.
Pentax 645D.
[they are actually two].

If ever comes to live to the western world, that is quite a serios thing to start with.

If it delivers as promised, there is quite some thinking to do.

Such as: why there is a pedestrian system that delivers 40mpx, has some spectacular lenses up there,[as opposed to the m4/3 platform] and, if rumors were true, sells for the price of a sports Dslr.

?????
Red.dot.com?

All of these people who claim that "if Leica would simply make an entry-level digi rangefinder, they would dramatically increase their market share" are simply missing the point---that's not what Leica are about, and they never have been. Take a look at this piece from the NYT a week ago:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/27/business/global/27gcon.html?scp=1&sq=germany%20museum%20case&st=cse


If you swap that company's name for Leica, and swap "museum cabinets" for "cameras," you'll get some idea of the mindset of Mittelstand companies.

Price of Leica M2 w/35mm 2.8 Leica lens, ca. 1960 (in 2010 dollars): $2325.

Price of Leica X1 w/35mm (equivalent) 2.8 Leica lens (2010): $1995.

Yes, there are lots of good cameras for less, but that was the case 50 years ago too. In other words, Leicas have always been more expensive than many other "good cameras." That seems to bother some people a lot and others not at all.

I think the new digital Leicas demonstrate the state-of-the-art of what humankind can achieve. Like the pyramids or Greek temples, these are the objects we should hope that future archeologists will find!

If Nikon makes a digital rangefinder in the next year or two, I'll eat my hat. Actually I don't own a hat at the moment, but I'll go buy one and then eat it.

Of course, they may well make something along the lines of Olympus's E-Pen cameras or Panasonic's GF1 or the wooden blocks that Sony announced that they'll make. I fully expect that they will, and Canon too eventually. Whatever they make may even have rangefinder-ish styling, but it won't be a rangefinder.

I agree, Mike. The "future" of Leica really is NOW. Leica has indeed made enormous corrections and adjustments to itself, not the least was to dump a wrong-minded senior leader and put itself back on an aggressive, but appropriate and manageable, evolutionary track.

Yes, Leica remains very costly. But the M9, for example, delivers nearly everything that I wanted from a digital rangefinder camera. It's a terrific product that I'm delighted to own. (Yes, I admit it may be the last Leica camera I buy.)

I've no real interest in the S2 -- my own medium-format choice has been to remain flexible with a Mamiya-anchored film/digital back strategy. But early reports are that it's a fine product and a very promising new lens line. I can't say I'm confident in the S2's success. Leica's track record with larger cameras is terrible. But...

I expect Leica to devote more attention to the "X1" type of niche in the future. Perhaps that will mean a smaller sensor on an M-mount body? Who knows.

But for the foreseeable future what Leica is offering is about as good as it's likely to get. If you've a hankerin' sell a car and dive right in! The M9 waters are fine!

Mike - you forgot 2012. The universe ends then. So maybe I should bite the bullet and plunk down the green for that S2 I covet so much with a serious helping of M9 on the side. Only have a bit less than two years to enjoy them .... just being facetious.

Seriously though, I think the ultimate issue is can the product/company pay for itself let alone make money? Even a rabid deep pocketed enthusiast such as Herr Kauffman will not continue to lose money indefinitely. Yes!!!!! I'd buy an S2 and an M( to keep it company IF I had the green. But even with a full order book, are there enough people out there that NEED the product and WANT the product to make it at least pay for itself?
As long as they continue to lose money their future will always be uncertain.

I think for many people they look at Leica's current pricing and say one word:

"Inconceivable!"

:)

Mike,
Well said!

Well, I cannot afford a M(8,9), but I did buy a Leica D-Lux 3, and not the equivalent Panasonic whatever, because it has the "brand design", and because I wanted to do something for the brand. If Leica had tip jar, I'd tip.

You are absolutely on the money with this, Mike. Not only did the take on Leica not occur to me at all but I haven't read it else, either. Great insight—seems to make the world a slightly better place for photographers, too.

I think so too. I'm going with the digital CLE (an almost unused M8 at a third of the launch price), and it's arriving tomorrow.
After 2 years with M3 plus working scanner and one year of borrowing other people's scanners, I'm really looking forward to this adventure!

Kjetil

A thought-provoking and astute assessment, Mike. Some of the best writing on Leica I've read in a year or so of M8/M9/S2 commentary.

Mike, you make a very good point. For those of us who want to take pictures now, just buy it! (Whatever camera it is!) Those who are always looking for the next greatest thing to come out, will always be pining away for the next greatest thing to come out (while the rest of us are out taking pictures). The Leica M8 & M9 are a niche product - not intended for the majority of people who want autofocus and telephoto zoom lenses, or for those relying on software-assisted operation. My M8 gets used for travel/portrait/nature photography and my Canon 5DMkII for wedding/portrait/equestrian photos. Both deliver great quality, whichever I happen to have in my hands depends upon the intended use. I hope Leica survives, but your article suggests that it is living on borrowed time. Better buy a new one now before it is too late?

RIght on, Mike. The M9 looks so wonderful that I've come very close to selling all of my DSLR equipment for an M9 and a 50mm. I've held off the temptation several times. If I could afford the camera a bit more comfortably, it would be mine, but I can't, so I'm waiting for a cheaper variation like the Nikon mentioned above.

Either way, this is a good time for Leica.

I could write every word you have written and put my name below - I'm so agree with you, Mike.

I agree. Great article.

I would love an M9, but with a couple of lenses it's more than I can comfortably afford at the moment.

So for now I split my shooting between my Zeiss Ikon and my Canon 5D2. I still love the ZI it's a wonderful camera, though I don't love film particularly - not a quality thing 35mm is fine, just that digital is so much easier and more convenient.

love your way of seing things, Mike :) As an old Nikon lover my feelings for Leica are in control: lots and lots of respect for them, but Leica is mainly for rich collectors, and now even the company itself is for rich collectors. Beautiful! Reminds me of an old English football club being bought by a Russian oil billionaire even though it is bad for business ... Funny, very funny indeed :)

I'm inclined to disagree, but perhaps only because I don't know what I'm talking about...this is all speculation.

I still believe the S2 will go in the dumper. There are rumors that the new Pentax, which is due out tomorrow or the next day, I believe, will deliver about the same resolution as the Leica for ~$7000. Eventually, the MF price curve will crack -- there are already signs of this -- and I don't think Leica will be able to follow the price curve down. There will be a surge of S2 sales at first, to enthusiasts, and then I don't know who will buy. The price is too high, and the abilities too limited.

The M line may do okay for a while, but it's dying. It's a slow death now, with enthusiasts hanging on, but they just aren't enough to keep it going.

To get growth, the M will have to be modernized -- and I think that means either an M, or a new body that uses M lenses, with an EVIL, like the m4/3 cameras. And if Leica modernizes, they may lose their enthusiasts. In other words, there's no easy path forward.

A $2000 fix-lens camera is not going to make anyone rich.

I think a key incorrect assumption on your part is that the owner will *continue* to take the losses, indefinitely. This is not how rich families get rich. Leica is functionally bankrupt, as a company -- it's only because of its owner's other financial abilities that it can keep going at all.

JC

I'm pretty sure that the Zeiss foundation would be all over Leica if they sold an "iconic product".

Speaking of Zeiss and Studebaker, I wish Leica would licence some of their designs to other manufacturers the way Zeiss does. Some of the late R lenses like the 90mm for instance in other mounts would be pretty wonderful. Porsche's first factory was paid for by engineering work that Porsche did for Studebaker, unfortunately it was too late in the Studebaker-Packard fiasco to save Studebaker, but Porsche for years was as much a contract engineering firm as a carmaker.

The M9 is scarily good. I used to hike around with Mamiya 7II and three lens. On prints that I am making now, the M9 cedes nothing (of course a darkroom print would look different etc.).

On looking at various forum, it does appear that most current M9 owners are shooters. There will be a share of "oh-dosh-it, rangefinders are really not for me" type of fire sale later, but the M9 is what a digital M should be.

Frankly, I don't think MR or TH get it. Sure, the M9 can take some improvements, but it's a world class machine for what it does.

Given that production of the X1, M9, and S2 can't currently keep up with demand, you might want to reconsider your analysis, as it is based upon trailing financials, not current or even future ones. If the X1, M9, and S2 releases didn't "fix" Leica's basic problem of cash and profit negativity, then it was a bad investment by Kaufmann. But I'm doubting it was a bad investment short term. Leica should be profitable, at least until the thirst for the current new cameras slakes.

The real issue for ALL camera companies right now is not trailing results, but future results. With compact cameras and DSLRs both now at or beyond peak sales, the question is where you get future growth. Ironically, Leica is one company currently in a growth stage. But even so, what's critical for them is what they do next, not what they've done. That's why I contributed on Michael's site to the question of what to do with their primary camera: once the Leica enthusiasts have all purchased, how do you pull in new ones?

Once again, you make an extremely well-writen, intelligent, informed, and very interesting post about a subject that is interesting to your readers.

Not all blogs understand that formula. You do, hence why I visit a few time a day.

Thanks!

"I'm pretty sure that the Zeiss foundation would be all over Leica if they sold an 'iconic product'."

Heh. But wouldn't that be "Ikonic"?

Mike

Nicely done Mike. Enjoy the M7.
BTW all this talk of Veblen goods reminds me that you should have a pay only password protected site that cost $1,000/ year to view, in addition to this site. Call it The Very Exclusive Photographer or VEP. Limit it to just thirty subscribers. Then you can buy an S2 with the profit.
JackM

Mike, three comments on recent posts:
Leica demonstrated that it is a complicated endeavor to convert a film M camera into a digital M rangefinder. If it were easily done, Zeiss Ikon (with Cosina's assistance) would have it on the market. On the other hand, why isn't it available?
Why would Nikon, with the low market share that Leica enjoys, endure the high costs of introducing a new digital rangefinder camera into the current economy?
Finally, an M9 is similarly priced to the top of the line Nikon and Canon cameras. In addition, Leica lenses are in the same price
stratosphere as Nikon or Canon professional glass.
You get what you pay for.

Well, I bought an M9 and it's been a horror story. After picking it up in a large European city on October 14, I took a dozen pictures before leaving the following day for Bangkok, where I live. While recovering from jet lag I didn't have time to look at the first pictures taken until a week later when I noticed two parallel line in one of the corners of every frame, from the very first one on.

After a few days, I figured that these lines must stem from the sensor and, upon examining the sensor with a loupe, found two parallel cracks in one of the corners of the sensor cover glass. Leica Service in Solms asked me to send the camera back and they replaced either the sensor or the sensor cover glass — I'm not sure which — and turned the camera around in five business days: a good performance in acting quickly, although the whole process took one month because of getting the camera in and out of Customs both in Germany and in Thailand. Incidentally, from postings on the Leica Users Forum (LUF) I found that there was a small batch of M9s that had also been delivered with cracks in the sensor cover glass.

It was now early December and I was able to use the camera for three weeks before seeing that the M9 was intermittently producing a spurious lighter-colored rectangle within the frame for some 6-10 frames. After writing an e-mail to Leica Service I received a response on December 28 stating that this was a "processor fault" and asking me to send the camera back again through the Thai importer for replacement by a new camera, as soon as they received my M9.

I dropped the camera off at the Thai importer on December 29. But, by early February I had heard nothing. After a series of telephone calls and e-mails to Solms, I then learned that Leica Service had not been able to reproduce the spurious rectangle problem and the technicians had concluded that the problem was produced by Lightroom and wanted to return the camera to me as is. But I explained I wasn't using Lightroom but was using Aperture and Raw Developer, and insisted that the problem could not have been caused by the raw developer because, then, it wouldn't have been intermittent.

I kept of refusing to have the camera sent back to me because I had encountered the problem several times and knew it was there. Around February 18, Leica finally was able to reproduce the problem, and informed me that they would send me a new camera on which they would replace the top and bottom plates with my old ones because they had a few smalls scratches on them: it seems that Leica reuses for the production of new cameras these parts from cameras its service department replaces.

I wasn't happy about that because I wanted a completely new camera untouched by Leica Service, because when the camera went back to Solms for the sensor crack problem Leica Service exchanged the defective part rather than replacing the camera; and, for all I knew, the processor problem may have been caused by that repair. But nothing doing about sending a new camera straight from production: they had to put my old top and bottom plates on the new camera.

Last week a couple of days after the M9 came back, I sold it for what I had paid for it, the buyer accepting that it was a new camera. While I did not feel that I necessarily would have still more problems with the M9, the two-month bagatelle during which I had to fight not to have Leica send back the old camera to me without having found the spurious rectangle problem did not leave a good taste. Basically, I sold the M9 for the following reasons, some of which may not seem valid to other people, and hope I won't be taken to task for that:

1. As I had reported to Leica Service, the LEDs in the viewfinder were not visible in the bright light extant in Thailand, and were less bright than those in my M6 by what seems to be a factor of ten times and also less bright than those on an M8.2 that I had used previoulsy. Leica Service did not recognize this as an issue because no one else reported this problem and, hence

2. The shape of the exposure area of the light meter were different from those in the M6 and M8 to a degree that, for me, made exposing with wide-angle lenses somewhat unpredictable.

3. The quality of the 230,000 pixel LCD was not good enough to judge exposure, which compounded, for me, reason 2 above. Unlike some people, who don't even want a digital-M to have an LCD, I tend to feel that a digital camera should have the facilities that are inherent to digital cameras.

4. The general finickiness of the camera, much of which, but (crucially) perhaps not all, will be fixed through the forthcoming firmware update.

5. Just after New Year, I bought on impulse the Ricoh GXR/A12 when I unexpectedly found that a dealer in Bangkok already had for sale. This is a camera that I like a lot.

6. This year I expect to have to travel extensively between, and in, Asia, Europe and North America, which is more easily done with carry-on luggage only — an absolutely requirement for my frequent travel — with a Ricoh GRD3 or a GXR/A12 than with an M9 and several lenses.

So, now I'm left with eight Leica-M lenses, some of them of superb quality, and an M6 that I'm unlikely to use again, but which I cannot get myself to sell in the light of the low prices this camera is currently fetching. I think it's better for me to wait this dance out and perhaps get the successor camera to the M9.

This should be the end of the story, but unfortunately it continues. The buyer of my M9 was a visitor to Thailand and has gone back home. As all of my original papers for the camera are in Europe, to where I won't get until at least mid-April, all I was able to provide the buyer was a scanned copy of the guarantee. When I contacted Leica Customer Support through their website asking how I could transfer the ownership and the guarantee to the new owner I got the following response:

"It is necessary to hand out all paperwork, waranty card, your sales slip and so on to the new owner because of the warranty !
It will be transfered to the new owner also !"

"As long as you didn´t hand out all paperwork to the new owner, the transfer isn´t finished.
He needs to have your sales slip or the warranty card, stamped by your dealer and he needs..
…if he would have a repair. It wouldn´t be free of charge."

I responded to Leica Customer Service stating that this response was too rigid and unfair to the new owner, but did not receive the courtesy of a response. This position makes no sense to me at all: the camera is under guarantee and Leica guarantees are transferable when the camera is sold — there is a form on one of the cards included with the camera for transferring ownership. Just because I do not have access to the original documents should not mean that the new owner should not benefit from the guarantee, as I can easily e-mail of fax a signed letter stating that I have sold this camera to this particular person. Leica gains nothing for taking this rigid position except for bad will from a long-standing customer.

It seems to me that both this rigidity on the change of ownership and the unwillingness to replace my M9 when the technicians could not reproduce the problem — after all I had sent picture files showing the spurious lighter-colored rectangles — exhibits an attitude of "the customer must be wrong", which is the opposite of what the company should be doing. Both Leica Service and Customer need fixing badly.

One thing I continue to be unable to understand: Why am I the only one to see that the digital M's are far larger and more cumbersome to hold than the original film M's? I used to have an M3, and now an M6 Classic, and those fall to my hand quite easily. The M8 and M9 are huge digital bricks and not at all the "replica" that you describe; my 5D falls to hand more readily. The one thing I hope Leica can do is make a digital M in the original, handy form of the classic film M's, which I love. Add a rangefinder to the top of an extended X1 and you might have something.

Interesting that everyone will bitch and moan about the expense of the M9 but not the cost of the lenses.

I have two M8.2s and the M9. I chose Leica for the glass. No more. No less.

The M8.2 is in some ways better than the M9 and others not. Too bad the M8 got such a bad rap. I never shot with an IR filter and never had "issues." In the eye of the bolder I guess.

If I wanted to save a large chunk of change I would put said glass on a Zeiss Ikon film body. But digital is where I am (mostly) at and probably blew thru at least $7K on digicams and the like during a period of "transition." That I regret. Spending the same amount on a camera that offers all the pleasures of using film....none at all.

And for the record....mirrorless m4/3rds boxes are no different than the Minolta A-1 digicam I still have rotting in a closet. They are not however, digital rangerfinders. Only the M8, M8.2, and M9 deserve that moniker. I state this an owner of 4/3 and m4/3 Panasonic cameras (with Leica spec glass of course).

I also use a Nikon D3 with Nikkor and Zeiss glass... go figure! You shoot with the camera / glass combination that makes you happy or pays the bills. No more. No less.

Not that I could ever afford one of Leica's current products (I'm currently negotiating a price on my soul for the wide-Rolleiflex TLR), but my suspicion is that the majority of those who are forever hanging on for the perfect camera think it's going to be the one that allows them to take good photographs. I'd suggest rather that the Practice 101 is the ideal model for that sort of customer, and it costs very little indeed.


The best digital Leica is a M6 with a Nikon 5000 scanner.

Speaking of which, Leica should just have bought the 5000 manufacturing line from Nikon. Would'a saved Herr Dr. Kaufmann a bundle of loot, and made for happy faces all the way around.

Hey, just say'in.

The Panasonic Lumix G1 is the first of its kind. It's a harbinger of things to come.

There'll always be room for lovers of
Leica,Rolleis,Linhofs,et al as long as its profitable to manufacture film.

Right now the CMOS sensors and Bayer config
are the state of the art. There's nothing to
prevent new advances in sensor technology
that will blow away full and medium size
digital and bring forth truly 'miniature'
cameras which was Leica's original intent.

Mike, you're sentiments reflect my exact feelings. Leica has come into its own as a digital photography company, after so many years of excelling as a producer of some of the finest 35 mm film equipment. Sure, the M9 is not perfect, nor is the X1 or S2. IT doesn't really matter. These cameras are imminently useable, highly functional, and bring unique, and in some cases, novel experiences to their owners. They are satisfying as digital photo taking and digital photo making machines, and for all of those curious about the rangefinder way, this is the time to find out more. M8's are cheap and very good, M9's are expensive and the top of the game, and there are options for M glass (Leica, Zeiss, Voigtlander, and don't forget all of the heritage lenses) that make the possibilities for customization and style nearly limitless.

Thanks for the summation! I was particularly dismayed by MR's comments on Luminous Landscape. The whole discussion seemed wrong. THe time is now, and if MR's posts on his front page are any reflection, he and the M9 seem to be getting along just fine in the here and now.

I always wanted a Leica M and the M9 got me really excited......until I read the following article on this blog: http://theonlinephotographer.typepad.com/the_online_photographer/2009/09/a-leica-wont-improve-your-photography.html

Couple what John Camp says about shooting rangefinders with the ungodly price of a Leica M9 body.....well....that kills it for me.

I would like to try a Leica before I die.....but.....owning one seems frivolous beyond belief.

Mike, I'm confused by the people who reply
to you in their comments. Are they ones who love to collect cameras or are they ones
who love to take photos?

“I'm still never sure how to calculate the fact that an equivalent film camera of the past would last 20 or 30 years versus the 5-7 of a digital one.”
I’m not sure that this assertion about the longevity of current cameras can be substantiated. I suspect that some of the better digital cameras will last 20 or 30 years but the desires of the consumer will over-ride their potential longevity. By 1990 not many photographers were satisfied with, say, a Nikon F. They wanted the then current F4, regardless of the fact that many Fs were still serviceable (and still are). If you are satisfied with the image quality of a current digital camera, as many of us are, there is no law that says you must change it.

Must say, I find Mitch's story both rather unreasonable on his part and a positive indicator of Leica's service. Not only did they honour his warranty without proof of ownership and attempt to fix a fairly specific image problem they were also happy to transfer warranty to a second owner (with appropriate papers, natch).
I don't know of any other company off-hand who would be so accommodating.
Bitching about it on public fora doesn't help one's case.

Martin, you've completely misunderstood what I wrote: my camera is registered with Leica and there was no issue with that. There were two issues:

1. The second time the camera went back to Solms, Leica Service, after first informing me that they would send me a new camera because of the " intermittent spurious rectangle" problem that I demonstrated with files I sent was a "processor fault". However, once Solms received my camera they said they couldn't reproduce the fault and wanted to send it back to me as is. It was only because I refused for over two weeks to have the camera back that they tested it some more and finally agreed to send a new one. In this process I had to repeatedly telephone and e-mail Solms.

2. When I finally received the replacement camera over two months later and decided to sell it — indeed, I have sold it — Leica Customer Service refused to transfer ownership despite the fact that (a) I sent them a scan of the warranty and informed them that I had no access to the original papers that were in Europe while I live in Bangkok and (b) Leica has had the camera back for warranty service twice and has full records that I am the owner and has my signature, which means that there is no reason not to accept a signed letter from me by fax asking for ownership and warranty to be transferred.

The reason I posted all this is because I feel that there is a strong need for Leica management to change the attitude in their Service and Customer Support departments from one of "The Customer is Always Wrong" to, at least, "The Customer Could be Right".

A digital M is like reinvented Kodachrome. Nice to have but already completely dispensable.

I personally don't feel this is the place to air personal grievances about individual cases - there will always be someone who's dissatisfied, or feel themselves misunderstood or short-changed.

I'm actually having the best photographic experience of my life with the M8 - possibly the optimum choice in terms of price/performance.

The money 'saved' by not switching to the M9 is being earnestly spent on lenses - each of which has such a unique character, and such incredibly beautiful build-quality, that exploring their idiosyncrasies and drawing-style is immeasurably fascinating.

Beats my Nikon DSLR in every conceivable way.

@Thom: I think Thom point against the Mike point is that in the foreseeable future even digital SLR vendor could be in trouble.

Leica has to find a niche in the foreseeable future. It is not now because as Thom said and everyone can observe that there is a very strong demand for M9 -- e.g. here in Hong Kong you have to pay an extra US$2k to get to a new M9. The issue here is whether the niche Thom has mentioned over the other site is the niche Leica can live with as a small and hopefully viable firm even if it is small.

Discussion aside, I think some of the Leica customer sometimes are not that reasonable. Leica is a small firm. In fact, we need small firm (like Cosina) for diversity and one really has to take small firm as small firm.

@Mitch, Leica needed time to reproduce your problem and given its production scale is only in thousands not millions, they have limited number of staff. They have tried hard to help and give them a break. Also, it is really not the job of the original vendor to take care of second hand transaction IMHO.

@Rick in CO: There is still an Epson RF being made by Cosina and if it is not that expensive, that actually is a better ergonomic than Leica. It use the V body and not hard to imagine to fit in the Ikon body. The case is that a cheaper and not as good one can be easily made. Is it good enough? If it is $2k cf $9k as a M9 go, it might be a case.

How come somebody always mention Kodachrome when we are talking Leica. Ofcourse Kodachrome is a classic. But it goes well with old, mechanical Nikons as well :) And Nikon will survive us all :) God bless ...

The M9 looks nice but what I really want is a minty double stroke M3.

Mike,
This article makes a lot of sense to me and I like it a lot. Thanks very much.

The future of Leica is Panasonic built Leica-branded cameras.
Maybe someday they'll build a digital M that I could buy for a
mid-level Canon SLR price.

"what I really want is a minty double stroke M3"

David,
Your wish is Ebay's command.

Mike

The wealthy enthusiast buying Leica and losing lots of money reminds me of a joke a professor told me in business school:

How do you make a small fortune?

You take a large fortune and go into venture capital.

i went ahead and got an m9 basically backed up by the reasons mike stated very well. it is the camera i've been wanting for quite a while. those who talk about possible competing cameras miss the point (i expect), because the issue isn't whether the next similar-size camera will have less noise at high iso or cost less; the issue is how it works. the m9 works in a way that lets me take the pictures i want to take, and i doubt any other camera company is going to deliver that (though i would absolutely love to be wrong).

pile on top of the way it takes photos the qualities of the files, and it is just gravy. they are very good, even in low light; in some ways (detail and color) better than my 5d2 files up to around 3200 equivalent, and the noise problem is very overstated. (that said, there seems to be a lowlight floor below which the m9 abruptly gives up; still, i am loathe to carry around a d3s everywhere.)

but there are some flaws to the camera, and some frustrations dealing with a 'small' company. i have been waiting for 3 months to buy a simple 50mm lens, and still have no prospects. i was prepared to wait in line for the new camera; i didn't expect to be unable to buy a lens on the market for years.

so sure, all you potential leica market people out there: please form an orderly line to support the company so it will be there when i need it. just stay out of the way of my summilux.

Leica has now informed me if there is a need for the new buyer to have warranty service before I am able to send him the original papers all he has to do is to send them together with the camera the scanned copy of the warranty card that I gave him, which is stamped by the dealer.

"The M9 looks nice but what I really want is a minty double stroke M3."

I have both. I've found that the M9 gives instant feedback so I know if I've got the shot. The M3 film has to be developed in my Jobo with increasing scarce chemicals that harm my environment. Then it has to be scanned because all photographs end up as digital files to be printed or displayed on the web. Once it has been scanned, I cannot tell the difference between M3 film scanned or M9 digital files put through Alien Skin's film filters. I actually have to read the EXIF to determine which are film and which are digital. Film is so much more expensive in so many ways. Try the M9 and you might agree.

Tina

I can't consider the X1 as an entry to the digital Leica system because it doesn't offer interchangeable lenses nor rangefinder focusing. I am sure it makes nice images but it's not really an entry to the Leica system.

I think the M9 is missing one very important feature, weather sealing. The top Nikon and Canon cameras have it and the prices are comparable, why not the M9? More than one person has been bitten by poor weather sealing on the M8 so I expect to hear the same stories on the M9.

The S2 is an impressive effort by Leica and I do hope a commercial success.

I am an amateur and still shoot film with an M3, with an M2 as a backup body.

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