Is Leica in big financial trouble? Is this the end?

Discussion in 'Leica and Rangefinders' started by samir, Feb 17, 2005.

  1. The following information was sent today and is available on Leica
    web site. An audit has been launched and Leica's new strategy is to
    be announced in May! Even though I do not care about digital, I
    believe they should get their digital products out as soon as
    possible.

    Dear Leica friends,

    Leica Camera AG, Solms, expects the existence of a loss
    in the amount of half of its registered share capital in March
    2005. The Company?s Board of Management will make a
    corresponding announcement according to section 92 (1) of
    the German Stock Corporation Law (AktG) at a General
    Meeting to be held on May 31, 2005. Concurrently, the
    Board of Management prepares a turnaround strategy.
     
  2. I wonder if Zeiss and that Epson digital body will send them over the edge? Seems
    like Leica were relatively protected in their niche. Products like the macro M lens seem a
    bit misdirected?
     
  3. Old companies never die ... they just get taken over.

    Seriously, I am wondering what the bankruptcy laws are like in Germany. Anyone with a credit background in the forum? Some legal regimes are very friendly to debtor companies, others are less so. There are companies in the US and Canada that have gone into bankruptcy and emerged like a revolving door. All it means is they seek legal protection from creditors until they can get their house in order. Which they never seem to do.

    I would really hate to see a digital M with a Leica-DigiAcme logo. That wouldn't be the end of parts and service, but it may as well be the end of the mystique.

    Here's a question for you ... if they never made another Leica, would the existing Leicas we know and love be worth two cents or a million dollars? Personally, I'll keep my M6 and buy some real beaters just to canibalize for the parts. There must be enough beaters out there to keep the proud and few working long after I'm dead and gone. (Okay, film will die first, but you get the picture) :)
     
  4. this is a legally required public notice. leica's corporate health has been poor for many years. exchange rates are really killing it at the moment (north america is its biggest market, and japan is a big market), possibly more so than the "digital revolution."
     
  5. "I believe they should get their digital products out as soon as possible."

    I dunno... maybe they're thinking of going the other way. They're already WAY behind in the digital market... and do they really want to compete (or can they compete) with companies that can produce new digital models every fifteen minutes. Maybe the reality is setting in that Leica should try to remain in the "old school" film market. Their strongest suit is that their brand carries a certain mystique that other brands don't have; and they already seem to be devoting more and more effort to the retro market such as by introducing the MP, which is basically a throwback camera with a meter added on.

    What I would like to see is for Leica to go full blast in the film camera market and compete with Voigtlander by offering, in addition to the current M bodies, stripped down Leica M bodies... sort of like the Bessa R series but with cloth shutters and no meters. If they can do this without extensive (expensive) re-tooling and use the M body as the basis then they might be able to pull it off.

    All I know is that they can't continue to lose money and expect to stay in business in their current mode.
     
  6. That company is misdirected since 25 years or so. But this sounds really bad now..
     
  7. even scarier to me was the recent announcement that leica will form a japanese "subsidiary" effective march 1, 2005 to be called "leica camera japan co."

    while it is billed as a distribution company (like leica usa), it certainly could morph into something else entirely. i think you know what i mean!!

    that really would be the end!!
     
  8. Their strongest suit is that their brand carries a certain mystique that other brands don't have...
    Apparently their creditors prefer cash rather than mystique as payment.
     
  9. Leica makes most of their products/parts in Portugal, so Japan doesn't seem like a bad
    idea. Besides, their quality would go up. :D
     
  10. Dennis, - respectufully, I don't see your logic. Why sacrifice the meter? What you are suggesting is just a cheapo M4. Wasn't it called the M4-2? I personally think an M4-2"N" would get crucified by the Bessas. I don't know what the answer is for Leica, but I lean towards 1) Maintain the metered manual mystique and try to make the MP even better (it's outselling the M7 isn't it?) and 2) Develop the Digital M with a full frame sensor and build it to use the full range of Leica M lenses. Price it high; people will buy. I can barely believe people pay what they do for RD-1's. 3) Come up with a new marketing strategy.

    My only thought about mergers or joint ventures is that any other name next to "Leica" makes it a non-Leica. So if they do partner, they have to really carefully manage the brand, because when that goes they are dead.
     
  11. The only hope is to stick a metal focal plane shutter that's fully electronic, dump the manual winding and rewinding for a motor, ala Hexar RF, then sell it for $500. Keep the old M7/MP around for the users that have the $$$. At the same time you will need Cosina to make a bunch of lenses in M mount for cheap so somebody can setup a 28/50/90 with the Hexar RF look alike for under $1500.

    Else they are doomed, you can't lose 1/2 the value of the company and keep going.
     
  12. i think you know what i mean!!
    Does it mean Mr. Kobayashi will be peddling cubic zirconia "Leicas" and calling them diamonds?
     
  13. I think it doesn't matter. According to FIATs financial statement for 2003, Ferrari lost 13 million euros that year. Your think FIAT cares? They sell a ton of cars, farm tractors and god knows what just because M. Schumacher stands on the podium every two weeks. Yeah, Leica MAY be in trouble, but if Hermes feels they sell a ton of expensive handbags and scarves because of brand identification...to them it may be an acceptable loss. You're better to check out Hermes financial statement than Leicas.
     
  14. A: Leica has been "badly" run (if you choose to think of it that way) for decades now.

    B: Companies make statements like this all the time when things aren't going to be rosy. Leica's future may be up in the air, but this is just an accounting/disclosure type thing.
     
  15. Will you buy Fiat stock?
     
  16. Prices in those markets are increasing at the same time demand for all film cameras including Leicas is decreasing. That usually sets the stage for rebates, to reduce inventory and transfuse cash. But they and 10%-off Leica Days seem to have faded into Leica history. I'm curious to see what direction the new CEO heads, if he's really got any say or Hermes dictates everything. If I were running things I'd do away with the middleman distributors and sell wholesale direct from Solms to the dealers. The only thing I might leave standing might be the repair service departments. I might even subcontract that out to people like DAG and Sherry if they were interested. At some point I might even abolish the dealerships and go to selling direct from Solms via an e-commerce website with a virtual showroom. From what I've been told by dealers, the bulk of new Leica products are sold pre-oredered and sight-unseen anyway. There are very few if any full-stocking brick-and-mortar Leica dealers anyway, and located mostly in NYC with a couple on the west coast.
     
  17. The economy of their home market in Germany is hardly booming and the $-euro exchange rate must be making the US market a nightmare (they are stuck with it being as they are in the Eurozone which limits their room for action).It is also hardly the time to go into Japan and very late anyway.

    There have been many famous companies who have lived in a comfort zone founded on their (supposed) mystique and woke up to the realities too late. Often the management has been stuck in this time-warp and have,despite their protests to the contrary,become resistant to change and then rush off at tangents.

    I do not know the Leica situation in detail but it has all the hallmarks.Sadly the prognosis is rarely good !
     
  18. i, of course, have long argued in favor of dennis's approach. succeed or fail doing what you do best. frankly i think there will be a strong market for many years for ultra-high end film cameras. digital will actually encourage this market the same way digital audio actually encouraged the ultra-high end phono market for many years (even to this day).

    leica does not have the wealth or manufacturing scale to compete in the fast-evolving world of home electronics -- i.e. digital photo.

    i also think that leica should look to the zeiss model. slap leica lenses on everything. this will be profitable and will NOT hurt their film camera business.

    leica should be happy that epson is willing to make their M mounts. the real money is in lenses anyway.

    if leica fails it will be because they tried to compete with sony, kyocera, panasonic et al in the digital world. digital was a great opportunity for them to scale down, go super high end with their film cameras, sell a ton of lenses for other people's digital cameras, and make a mittful. they have played this all exactly wrong.
     
  19. maybe it's time to rush for a summilux 50 asph. before it's too late ... are they any in stock somewhere?
     
  20. They could just shrink into becoming even more of a boutique manufacturer, and offer
    repairs and parts for the million plus bodies and lenses still in use. It may not be a big
    business, but if they do it right, it could be a excellent and profitable small business (as in
    only a handful of employees.)

    Simply licensing their designs and brand to Panasonic or some other Asian imaging
    company has to be worth a lot. And so what if they do? The transparency of internet
    forums like this one makes it easy to determine whether a lens is made in GhuaongZou or
    Solms.

    I've given up waiting for a true digital Leica. Even if they could produce a good one, they
    wouldn't be able to keep up with the fast product cycles and the next cycle would quickly
    make their model obsolete. Nikon is finding that out as we speak - Canon is running
    circles around them - the new Rebel 350XT just killed the D70 competition, with the pro
    bodies already as much as conceeded to Canon.
     
  21. Frederick:

    I wonder how much Leica has spent on research and development with respect to digitalizing the M and R series cameras? I don't know the answer. Other camera makers are presently selling and making money on their high end digital lines. Leica is not. My point was that I don't think Leica can compete in the high end digital market right now (unless it had a huge cushion of money... which apparently it doesn't).

    Why not stick to what it does best? Film cameras. But cover the entire market by making less expensive Leicas as well as the current M series.

    As far as a less expensive, meterless Leica body... I'd buy one in a heatbeat over a Bessa.

    Anyway... isn't it great that sometimes we can discuss these things (with differing opinions) and still be nice. ;>)
     
  22. Yeah do what Apple have done. Customise your M on the website. order
    direct.
     
  23. There are companies in the US and Canada that have gone into bankruptcy and emerged like a revolving door."

    Oh great, a venture capitalist buying out the company for brand equity, Leica jeans, Leica outer-wear.

    Leica's assets are primarily a skilled work force, its ability to manufacture very high end film cameras and its brand name. If they are failing there doesn't seem much recourse. In the eyes of some Leica might as well be a buggy whip company, although I personally believe the digital dust needs to settle before film and digital take their respective places in the global toolkit of creative media (They still manufacture artists paint after all). Maybe Hermes will buy out the rest of the company at a discount and float it until there's more long term visibility. Probably better for them to cut back on R&D and focus on what they know and do best, maybe even look into producing an economy line of M bodies and lenses.
     
  24. jtk

    jtk

    A) Leica's depended on Asia for at least forty years for all sorts of technical/medical devices. I doubt our cute cameras have ever been the heart of their business.

    B) German banks are all in deep trouble because they've remained national socialist/feudal... modern Europe will force them to become real capitalist institutions. To the extent that Leica depends on
    historic relationships with German banking it's inevitably in trouble.

    C) A Japanese institution will buy Leica and keep making it, just they have Browning (expensive shotguns and rifles). Who loves Leica and fancy shotguns more than the Japanese? Who owns more vintage Leica equipment?
     
  25. As Josh and other said, Leica hit a "trip-wire"(section 92(1)) that requires them legally to publish a notice. Better that than trying to pull an "Enron". I panicked over Ilford's receivership, which has turned out to be less horrible than imagined (for photographers - Ilford employees still got it in the neck). So I'll wait and see.

    The next paragraph says something about "new capitalization plan" to be presented also in the May meeting - which could mean selling Hermes more of the company, or selling part to Shriro(sp?), the folks who bought Hasselblad and Imacon. Or any number of things. Heck, Kobayashi-san might buy "ein stuck". Or even "ein tausend tausend stuck".
     
  26. jtk

    jtk

    ...and there's Sony's new M1
    Zeiss Vario Tessar 5.1MP 2.5" screen better pivoting screen design than Canon or Nikon.
    They should have called it IIIG-5.1 because we all know IIIG was the ultimate until this. Link here.
     
  27. If they continue alienating much of their professional and prosumer base, while playing into the hands of rich and dumb collectors with "First Sexual Encounter of Prince Harry" and other retarded "commemorative editions," then good riddance.
     
  28. awahlster

    awahlster Moderator

    " 2003, Ferrari lost 13 million euros"

    That's about 26-30 cars right WOW big deal.
     
  29. As an inside look regarding an M digital body I've been told by an internal source at Leica in Germany that it will be announced in 2006 - do not know if that means early or late.

    This whole story or thread reminds me of Rolls/Bentley with regards to having to sell out in order to remain in business to BMW/Volkswagon. The original craftmanship required to make special cars or cameras is not the most financially lucrative business but rather a niche market that requires a special parent company to maximize the benefits of doing so.

    Ford buys into Volvo & furtunately Volvo had the S40, S60, SUV etc. series under development & they are having good sales. GM into Saab - different story & now we have crossover Saabarus rolling out. BMW & Volkswagon I feel decided to go for the top of the line for their versions of Toyota's Lexus/Honda's Acura/Nissan's Infiniti upscale brands & made the right move.

    Same with boats - the carefully crafted boatmakers have experienced a similar fate - hence the Bayliner Wal-mart approach to maximizing profits.

    With regards to cameras - if it's someone like Cosina buying the mark then it's a Toyota/Lexus deal. Would be nice if it was more like Hasselblad/Leica or Linhof/Leica to maintain only high end equipment output but we all know that Canon probably makes more profit with their digital Rebel than Leica makes across the board.

    Reminds me of Nikon not long ago - okay say 10-15 years ago "lowering" themselves to make the EM to compete with Olympus/Pentax/Minolta & Canon as they realized that they were not making money like their competitors. Now they make a whole line of cheap consumer cameras & appear to have tripled profits last quarter mainly because of the D70. In the meantime they still find it in themselves to bring out the F6 which sounds like a kiss of death but with strong revenues they can afford the risk + it may be the last high-end film based only camera they ever release. The next generation could be an F7 - film/digital hybrid - who knows. Nikon simply went into Wal-mart mode & survived. This also has been during a major fallout with pros switching to Canon as well & yet they are fine & doing well. They realized they could not sit back on their laurels & wait for buyers to line up. Yet they still offer high end equipment at the same time.

    If I were Cosina I would be looking at all that expensive glass that could be used with their digital body that exists out there - I feel they read the market well & although there are problems that have surfaced it seems it's not insurmountable & they will have a major foothold on this market regardless of when Leica brings an M digital body out. By the way it appears that their outlay for R&D far outstrips their recoup costs for sales & that it's an investment towrads the future. What a novel concept - must be nice to have the funds to wait it out.

    I truly hope that Leica can survive even if bought by another company - their trademarks alone are worth a considerable amount & if all hell breaks loose then I'm sure a company will be willing to buy their equipment & molds/forms etc. & continue with the tradition.
     
  30. Could they sell their lens section to Panasonic and their camera section to Konica
    Minolta? I don't think they'll have anything to do with Cosina, that's too embarrassing.
     
  31. Well is it any surprise? They must have wasted millions (presumably) making the digital back for the R9, a product which absolutely no-one wants, and which will probably cost about 3000GBP!!!

    John
     
  32. The news is not surprising.

    You have a company selling low tech and increasingingly higher priced products into a market whose consumers are demanding -- and getting -- higher tech and decreasing prices.

    Collectors who buy the new semi-custom high profit models can help, but there just aren't enough of them (meaning the collectors, not the custom options!) to make a big difference.
     
  33. "the digital dust needs to settle before film and digital take their respective places in the global toolkit of creative media"

    True... and once the word starts getting out that digital cameras cause cancer I'm sure the digital market will shrink. (Something to do with the sensors which emit deadly radiation, I'm told.) I've been telling everyone about this... particularly young parents. (I feel I have an obligation to do so.) ;>)
     
  34. "North America is its biggest market, and Japan is a big market."

    Actually, no it isn't. Europe (including Germany) makes up 54% of Leica's overall sales. All of North America makes up the next biggest share at 22%. All of Asia (including Japan) and Austrailia comprises 21%. The remaining markets total only 3%.
     
  35. BTW, I estimate Leica has approximately 24 months of life in it before the fire sale begins. It's an acquisition waiting to happen.
     
  36. jtk

    jtk

    Check the Sony M1. $699. Just introduced.

    Zeiss Vario Tessar, big rotating viewing screen, superb ergonomics. 5.1MP ...but it's only the M1, so an 8MP M2 can't be far behind. And it's a Sony, which is another way of saying "trouble free."

    Given relationship with Zeiss, it's surprising that Sony called it an "M1" rather than "Super D." (as in Ikonta) Especially interesting because Pansonic makes the best of the mediocre digital "Leicas" now.

    Maybe this means Sony is merging with Pansonic and leaving the fake Zeiss camera concept to Cosina.
     
  37. The cure: Leica buys the rights, etc. to re-run the Konica Hexar AF with Hexanon 35mm f/2 lens and sell it directly online for US $500 each. They'd probably sell a zillion to Leica PNers alone and be in the black in about 2 weeks. Then they'd bring out a Hexar (now Leica Hexar) AF with superb 90mm f2.8 lens for US $600 or so and be king of the heap!
     
  38. What's surprising -- and regrettable -- is that it didn't read "The Company's *new* Board of Management will..."
     
  39. Digital M who needs it? Film cameras are their forte. Gimme a Hexar AF type/size pocketable range finder with a fixed dual focal length lens 35/50 f2, manual focus/aperture and motorized shutter and film wind. The everyman rangefinder. This along with the prerequisite "First Sexual Encounter of Prince Harry" and other retarded "commemorative editions to balance things out ;-)
     
  40. Anyone who believes Leica is the same outfit that started back in the 19th century just hasn't kept up with history. First LEITZ went GMBH when the family couldn't support it any more. Then somewhere along the line it was acquired by the Schmidtheiny interests (Wild, etc) and then via a couple more permutations it became Leica AG (quite frankly I haven't kept up with all the manoeuvering) which I think it still is with Hermes calling the shots. So don't be surprised if they pull of another transmorgification. Remember Zeiss got out of the German camera business forty years ago while Leitz/Leicam managed to hold onto their drawers. It's all where the money is. If an angel comes along and eats them up it won't be something that hasn't happened before.
     
  41. My response to the troubles at Leica AG is that their overhaul should be mainly internal.
    Cut costs where necessary and eliminate poor product lines. If they could rework the
    "guts" of the company so that they increase profit, even if their revenue stays stagnant,
    that should buy them enough time to redevelop themselves. Leica optics are icons of 20th
    century photography; the epitome of fine engineering. There are very few companies
    worldwide (granted there are others) that have such a cultish following as Leica. In terms
    of name recognition, anyone who knows anything about photography has most likely
    heard of Leica. I think one scenerio is that if Leica can't get back on track themselves, they
    could be bought out by a larger company. (Similar to the Hermes deal), which could be a
    good or bad thing...
     
  42. I also agree with Doug on the Digital M issue. Who needs it? I think IF they are going to
    pursue a high quality digital, then they should focus on a DSLR system. Instead of having
    the hybrid film/digital module r for the r8/r9, they are better off putting a digital body
    that can compete with Nikons D2x and similar camera's. In my opinion that would make
    more sense than a digital m.
     
  43. Leica will never make it as a digital. They have no experience in producing a new camera model every 6 months that makes the previous model out-of-date. That's what the photoconsumers want--the constant upgrade...the newest technology...the new "what's hot".

    Amateurs are what drives the camera market. Pros don't buy enough cameras to keep any photo manufacturer going. But a couple of thousand pros using an EOS 1Dn(mk XXXI) will sell a few million EOS DigiRebels.

    I'm with Dennis on this. Leica's future is tied to film. It will survive, succeed or die with film. To survive or succeed, it should produce a lower priced line of cameras.

    (Of course, I could be wrong.)
     
  44. Maybe customers like me are the downfall of Leica. I would never be interested in the R line as it is right now or in digital SLR for that matter. That is already covered adequately by others. I would not even buy M7. Besides that the M is the perfect camera for me doing just enough and not too much. The only thing on digital front that would do for me is a full frame MP or even M3 type of camera. No lcd needed no functions or anything like that. To make things sweeter the chip would be replacable/upgradable and that is all I want. Just how much research does something like that need? I am baffled at that.
     
  45. this is a disclosure issue due to germany's auditing procedures. it is just full disclosure as required.
     
  46. Someone rightly brought up the point the new digital camera models come out every few months or so. If Leica was successful in designing a new digital body that took M lenses (but not necessarily based on the M) and also had a removable digital back that could be updated every few years without having to buy a whole new camera, they might be able to succeed. I think Leica users will always want to use those lenses that they spend so much money on.
     
  47. Losing half the share capital is not losing half the value of the company. It could be more, it could be less, depending on the company's accumulated reserves.

    But the key question is what this "turnaround" strategy will be. And what's worse is that generally, turnaround strategies require $$ to execute, for which the company would have to sell its soul, probably to greedy VC's or other investors.

    I would agree that Leica cannot compete in the digital market-- not with a German-based labour force, not with the type of slow development culture. On the other hand, Leica users like us do not expect a new model every 6 months. What we value in Leica are stability and old-world elegance.

    I hope the turnaround strategy will focus less on collectors and more on quality, precision engineering and elegance, with perhaps a line of starter-Leicas to bring in new customers.

    Wai Leong
     
  48. We must all do our part. Buy new Leica stuff. ;)
     
  49. People should spend more time shooting with the cams they have rather than worrying
    about the company. They're just tools to use, rather than objects to covet, and will
    probably be supported for a long time. For people that actually shoot, I can't see this
    making any difference one way or another.
     
  50. "Leica will never make it as a digital. They have no experience in producing a new camera model every 6 months that makes the previous model out-of-date. That's what the photoconsumers want--the constant upgrade...the newest technology...the new "what's hot"."

    If that were the case with Leica's "photoconsumers" Leica would've died out long ago. "the newest technology...the new "what's hot"?? Are you kidding? The Leica M7 has 1980 technology, the M6 had 1954 technology and the MP is a step or two back from the M6. The constant upgrades can't last that much longer. The 11MP full-frame EOS 1Ds, now discontinued, already had enough pixels to enlarge as much as the best 35mm slide or neg. The MK-2 is aimed at grabbing a piece of the pro marketshare of former MF users. If Leica users have been satisfied with the enlargement constraints of 35mm film, why would Leica need to go beyond that with a digital? Why wouldn't Leica users be satisfied with a digital M body that is a mechanical-shutter, rangefinder-focusing, no fancy modes, just an LCD for review, basically an MP or M7 that writes to a card instead of film, with enough megapixels to make an 11x14 as sharp as from the finest-grained film around? Why would Leica need to come up with a new model every 6 months or even 6 years? I just don't understand why people happy to use a film camera with decades-outdated technology would suddenly shift their attitude and Leica would be forced to upgrade a Digital M as often as Canon upgrades their Rebels?
     
  51. Precisely. To me Leica is for people who have matured beyond the gimics of marketing, for those who know that to take a picture starts with setting two numbers and pushing the button where the magic happens afterwards with stellar optics in a small package. Leica is there with hand tools as opposed to Makitas and Hitachis, fly fishing as opposed to Bassmasters, , and yes...fiber prints as opposed to inkjets spitting out copies. It is about enjoying the process as well as the outcome of photography.
     
  52. In regards to what Rene said, I completely agree...but would you agree that very few
    companies still produce camera's that can be used as workhorse "tools" with the same
    attention to detail and engineering? I think anyone who uses Leica and appreciates it as a
    tool for photography should indeed care about the future of the company that makes
    these products.
     
  53. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    To me Leica is for people who have matured beyond the gimics of marketing
    Iguana skin finishes and special editions for every Japanese holiday aren't marketing gimicks? Jeez, I didn't realize those were critical to hand-production of amazing artistic endeavors.
     
  54. What Jeff said.

    Leica should definitely get more into digicams with Panasonic. Frequent upgrades are
    unavoidable in rapidly advancing technologies. They could make a leap in electronic
    viewfinders and kill off dSLRs, haha!
     
  55. 1. The general perception that film is dying is perhaps doing more harm to Leica than the fact that they have no digital bodies. When the future of film is uncertain, people hold back on spending money on film gear even if they have no plans of going digital. The trade reports I've recently read all suggest that (a) consumer digicam market is saturating; (b) developoment of digital will slow down dramatically in the near future; (c) there will remain a sizable market for film down the road (only about 5-10% pros are using digital exclusively). All of these boast well (relatively) for Leica. However, the perception that digital will completely replace film is still strong (especially among amateurs). Leica tried to address this concern by announcing the DMR early, but I don't think it was an effective effort.

    2. I don't think it would have been wiser for Leica to release a digital body earlier. We have only just reached the point where digital is comparable to film qualitywise. Had Leica introduced digital bodies earlier, they would never sell enough in time to recoup costs before the next generation would be due. However, the landscape is now different. The technology is more mature, and product lifecycles will be longer. If there ever was a time for Leica to introduce digital feasibly, it is now.

    3. No doubt that Leica will need an entry level line. But if you look at the price of the CM (which is supposedly entry level), you know that there is no way for them to manufacture anything new inexpensively. The volume is simply too low to procure parts/subassemblies economically.

    What may boast well for Leica, however, is if they begin an entry level line with used stuff (i.e. CLA'ed, refurbished, warrantied and with manuals at a reasonable price). Among other things, the comparatively cheap used market and Leica's large inventory of replacements parts are precisely what's killing the company. So might as well take advantage of them.
     
  56. Can anyone explain why they feel it necessary to diss Cosina?

    Their whole line is an homage to Leica, and they make fine products. They're already tooled for some of it. Mr. Kobayashi would probably be ecstatic to manage and direct Leica, and would be likely to follow his soul as well as his bottom line in his production choices. I would think Cosina would be a logical investor.
     
  57. "Iguana skin finishes and special editions for every Japanese holiday aren't marketing gimicks? Jeez, I didn't realize those were critical to hand-production of amazing artistic endeavors."

    Jeff, those special editions don't appeal to me either, but in truth Leica only makes a few of each, they cost them little more than stock bodies to make, and they make a huge profit from the small number of folks who buy them. What concerns me more are things like the 90mm Macro (that's not a macro) with its $800 set of google eyes, or the 75mm Summicron, which IMO is a lens that would never have been made if Leica hadn't been limited to 75mm in making an f/1.4 lens that wouldn't block the whole finder. Those lenses cost plenty to develop, the 90 by all dealers' estimates is a huge sales flop, and how many 75 Crons are they going to sell when one can get a great 50 Cron for half its proposed cost or a 50 Lux-ASPH for a few bucks more? That money could've been channeled into the Digital M project and perhaps it would be ready for PMA.
     
  58. "Is this the end?"

    If it's not the end then it's almost certainly the final chapter. It's hard to shed any tears for
    a
    company that's ended up so distanced from its original ethos as a great innovator - if
    Barnack was around today he'd more likely be working for Canon.

    Even if they do go under there are plenty of cameras around to satisfy everyone for as long
    as film is available. As there obviously is a market for a good digital rangefinder (and the
    Epson isn't that camera) then somebody will almost certainly make it. Leicas prospects are
    about as bright as that of the panda, it's reached an evolutionary dead end.
     
  59. While it is certainly NOT the end, Leica is in difficulty. It is not the end for many reasons including: some profitable divisions; its brand value; a listed entity with alternative capital solutions; ......

    But, it needs marketing leadership and less "engineering/legacy" focus that it has been starved of for too long. It needs vision and the capability to address current and coming threats and build a sustainable competitive position.

    This situation might rattle the cage enough to get that marketing and leadership capability at the top.
     
  60. When Shriro bought Imacon, I smelled big trouble. Shriro owns Hasselblad. Imacon is making the R digital back for Leica. Then came the announcement that the R digital back is being delayed for 5 months. When I heard that, my worst fear was confirmed and I was bracing for something like this.

    Next move, Shriro will persuade Hermes to sell Leica to them. This was the whole reason for Shriro to buy Imacon. Shriro has now got Hermes by the throat.

    If I were Hermes, I would have bid for Imacon and if I had lost, I would have sold Leica to them right there and then. I would have gotten a far better price. And if I were Panasonic, I would now compete with Shriro for Leica. In fact if I were Panasonic I would buy Shriro and Leica. That ought to place Panasonic in a much better position from Sony.

    If Shriro succeeds in buying Leica, they will hold Panasonic to ransom and squeeze Panasonic. By that time the worst thing that can happen is that Panasonic buys Leica from Shriro at an exorbitant price. Either way Shriro wins big.

    Agressive, this buy running Shriro. Probably a new guy.
     
  61. It's naive to imagine that Shriro bought Imacon as a stepping stone to acquiring Leica.
    Imacon is an innovative and viable company, positioned perfectly to take advantage of the
    digital revolution. That's why it was worth buying, unlike Leica.....
     
  62. I am sure Imacon was worth buying by itself. That way even if Shriro couldn't go any further, they would have a nice company on their hands. This guy at Shriro is careful and ruthless at the same time.

    By buying Imacon they cut off the last fighting chance for Leica to survive independently, which is the digital back. And then they move in for the kill. The moment Shriro got Leica, they will immediately roll out the digital back. And they will push forward the introduction of the digital M. They will introduce an R10D. They've already got all sorts of plans to fully exploit the Leica marque, especially when combined with the Hasselblad marque.

    One of the things I think they'll do is to squeeze Panasonic. But that is a complex area which a message like this cannot address.

    If Shriro doesn't get Leica, very likely the digital back will be delayed again. Already it is hardly talked about these days. In fact let me stick my neck out and say that if Imacon remains in Shriro's hands, and if Shriro doesn't get Leica, the digital back will be delayed so much that by the time it comes out it'll be obsolete.
     
  63. Hasselblad is the distributor of the Zeiss Ikon...does that mean anything when we talk
    about digital backs and stuff?
     
  64. Isn't Leica now owned by Hermes ?
     
  65. I guess you guys don't really understand the German business culture. I have never seen a German company that helps the government in WWII really struggle. There are so many kinds of subsidies that we don't know. I personally know of a manufacturer loosing routinely hundres of millions of DM a year for the past umpteen years. But they were never threatened nor care about thir finacial status. Why? you say, The Deutch Bank, government own, main goal is to turn any factory that helped nazis in WWII to survive. You get the picture.
    there is always more in the business underworld side to meet the eye. A good bet woul be teaming with Shiro China who bought Hasselblad. No bankrupcy, no fear, gentlement.
     
  66. Jeff, that's a good point but also a cheap blow ;-) The hermes nonsense is so weird and limited that I haven't even thought of that. I have it completely blocked out of my mind.
     
  67. Leica is trading right now at 2.77 EUR down 1.04 EUR day on day. The recent average is 4.25 EUR. Und tschuss!
     
  68. Rene, you're right that the Hermes nonesense is weird, but it actually isn't as weird as the
    madness of the MP. Take one M6 body, functionally cripple it by replacing the rewind
    crank with a knurled knob, replace the number 6 with the letter P, replace a durable finish
    with paint you can scrape off with your fingernail, double the price, et voila the MP. And
    then, just in case that wasn't sufficient to alienate photographers (as opposed to
    collectors), they gave you the option via the a la carte scheme to configure your MP just as
    functionally as an M6 - only this time for three times the price........

    Treat your customers with contempt and you deserve to go under.
     
  69. Actually Boris, I'm never likely to buy a new Leica, but from what I've heard the
    MP enjoyed better sales than its immediate predecessors. I suspect Leica's
    market is almost solely an existing customer base, obsessed with traditional
    cameras, and who see the camera as a badge of wealth and discernment.
    The MP also a distinctive camera that stresses its differences. However,
    compared to other luxury goods, I suspect the MP simply wasn't expensive
    enough. A Hermes Birkin (and yes, I'm making up these figures) probably
    represents a 1000 per cent plus mark-up. The markup on the MP will be a
    fraction of that. <p>Of course you're right, in that retro-cameras like the MP
    have to be accompanied in the product line either by exciting, technologically
    innovative new products, or by good value for money, well-engineered items,
    made offshore, at affordable prices, which appeal to serious photographic
    students, which are a bit 'cool' - like the Lomo - and which revel in their
    practicality. So many digital cameras are over-complicated - having to press a
    button five times to turn off the flash on my stupid Minolta Dimage, which takes
    three quarters of an hour to switch on - but a nice chunky, funky bombproof
    digital, made in Japan, could build on Leica's virtues. <p>
     
  70. @Peter:
    Deutsche Bank AG is not owned by the goverment and has an Swiss CEO (Mr. Ackermann) who doesn?t care much about Germany and - I am quite sure - even less about old Nazis. A few years ago he wanted to move the DEUTSCHE BANK to London, maybe there are more Nazis to be found overthere? Just kidding! No further comment necessary, because everything else You said is also complete BS. Sorry, but I had to say this.
     
  71. Just to add to Joachims reply to Peter.

    We don't have DM in Germany anymore, we now use the Euro.

    The "Bank" funding new and sometimes saving old businesses is the "Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau" which is chaneling out credits and securties from the Marshal Plan installed by the US government to rebuild western Germany after the second Worldwar.

    And to Leica, what we call Leica here is not the company it was a couple of years ago. They just share the name with Leica Microsystems and Leica Geosystems. This is different to Carl Zeiss which is much more diversified.

    If we apply the watchmaker model to Leica Camera AG, they probably can survive as a camera manufacturer producing nothing else as the M series. The a la carte program and the comemorative models may be an indicator for a plan to do just that.
    Abandon the "mass"production and switch to 100% hand made speciality items in a price range from some 10,000 Euro up
     
  72. "alienate photographers"?????

    You're not seriously suggesting that the Leica MP is an insult to photographers?

    The Leica MP (http://www.leica-camera.com/produkte/msystem/mp/tecdat/index_e.html) appears to me to be a return to Leica quality and craftsmanship that had been reduced during the M6 tenure. The MP top and bottom plates, for example, are made of brass (like the older Leicas were), not zinc alloy as the M6 is. The MP is offered in a durable chrome finish or a black lacquer finish. If black is not your thing, then get chrome.

    As for the rewind knob, some people regard the MP set up more desirable than the M6 type rewind knob. Personally, after using both types, I prefer the old style that is contained on the MP.

    The MP must be giving some photographers what they want because I understand they are selling well. Certainly you do not suggest that it is only Leica fondlers who are purchasing the MP? I dunno... maybe it's the five year warranty that makes the MP attractive.

    I use my camera to take pictures... not to fondle. There is nothing wrong with my M6 so I'm not in the market to trade it in, but I would consider the MP a step up from my M6.

    Dennis
     
  73. The above comments were directed to Boris' comments of 7:37 AM... sorry if I didn't make that clear.

    Once again... the Leica market is so peculiar that it makes it difficult to predict what will keep it afloat. However, the fact that the MP (which is, as I said earlier, basically a "throw back" Leica with a meter added on) did satisfy Leica buyers, that demonstrates to me that Leicas strength still lies in its film caneras. I admit it is unusual that a camera (MP) which reverted back to older designs and materials would be considered an improvement over its predecessor... but that's how it is.

    Dennis
     
  74. Doesn't the MP have a flare resistant viewfinder that is better than M6? I dunno. I can't buy these things new anyways so I don't really follow the prices that much. The a'la carte thing is pretty funky too. But I understand that if it works for Leica then why not. I would much prefer to have them around for higher prices (although not for me) than going under. 5 years warranty is pretty good too, I would say. The almighty Canon only gives you 1 year.


    I know one thing though. I just got a user M3 about a week ago and I like that darn thing better than my M6ttl. It is quieter,
     
  75. Joachim, Volker, I don't think it worth dignifying that particular theory with a
    response. Next we'll be hearing how the Knight Templar are behind all of this.
    Oh, the glories of the Internet.
     
  76. "Next we'll be hearing how the Knight Templar are behind all of this."

    Well... I did hear that Leica was considering a Mary Magdeline Commemorative Leica MP model. ;>)
     
  77. Unfortunately, the cost of one new MP or M7 and one lens far surpasses the worth of my entire collection of 28 classic cameras and various lenses, accessories, etc. My one solitary Leica is now 59 years old. Much as I admire the current products, unless I win the lottery, there is virtually NO chance of my ever buying a new outfit of an MP or M7 and 2-3 lenses. None whatsoever. It is simply financially out of reach, despite my decent middle class income. A new Bessa outfit, OTOH, is quite realistic. Multiply my experience by many times, or consider all the folks who have bought new Voightlander/Cosina -- how would Leica be faring if those sales had been Leica's instead? I don't know the answer, but the illness is clear. There's a potential market of lots of folks still interested in film photography, who aren't going to pay $7,200 (B&H price) for a new M body and 28/50/90 lenses. The VC rough equivalents can be had for about $1,500 (Cameraquest prices, minus accessories). There's a heck of a better chance my squeezing $1,500 out of the discretionary budget than $7,200. Leica makes great machines & glass, but they're not going to make my pictures 4-5 times better!

    I'm the guy to whom Leica should be selling, but they've got nothing I want that I can afford. Cosina does.
     
  78. "The cure: Leica buys the rights, etc. to re-run the Konica Hexar AF..."

    And what do you propose Leica uses to "buy" these rights with? I am sure Leica is now in its lender's "work-out" (some call it "special assets") group and very short on cash!

    Since Leica doesn't carry a low priced alternative to the M7/P the only way some can afford a Leica is to buy used or new grey. I find it interesting at a time when Leica is in deep financial trouble they could be boosting new camera sales by encouraging grey market trading. But instead, they are clamping down on the practice and making it nearly impossible for dealers to carry grey market equipment.

    BTW: These lively discussion threads (rare these days) are the reason I joined PN in the first place.
     
  79. jtk

    jtk

    Germany is still pretending to be a full player within EU but its quaint banking system is on life support...it's even more antiquated and feudal/socialist than the French and Dutch, which would like to be clones of Citicorp.

    German "work ethic" boils down to Turkish, American, and Asian labor. Germany's primary contributions to world civilization come from abject lessons of its history and several beers that may rival Tsing Tao.

    Leica, the consumer camera company, will probably spin off as a limited partnership that decorates the marketing of Pansonic or Sony.
     
  80. John, can you back up your bold words? Either with facts or with a sabre?

    Just one hint, feudalism is opposite to socialism
     
  81. Hermes owns only 30% of Leica shares, but it is the largest single shareholder and has a representative on the board of directors. Leica's 2nd quarter financial report from September 2004 shows a 50% decrease in revenues coming from "system cameras", meaning the R and M line, from the same quarter in 2003. On the bright side (or not), revenues from customer services and repairs were up 35%. Not surprising at all with all the quality complaints one reads on PN. I suppose Leica would be well served to stop producing cameras and binoculars and just be a repair shop. Before that, it can start a smear campaign against independent Leica repair people by sowing news of botched repairs, etc.
     
  82. Volker, don't encourage anyone to indulge in their deluded xenophobia. It's
    just not worth it. It's like wrestling a pig. You might win, but you won't keep
    your dignity.
     
  83. "Is Leica in big financial trouble? Is this the end?"

    They're building cameras which would have been considered technologically unsophisticated decades ago, and charging huge amounts of money for them. They may stay alive as a niche seller (this is already their role) but not as anything more than that.
     
  84. They're clinging to the value of brand "mystique." Of people buying them thinking it's an
    automatic path to producing work like HCB and GW. Similar to people buying Vettes and
    Porsches around here - the owners don't know how to drive them. When I was into cars
    way back, we'd routinely smoke em with econobox lowered Datsun 510s. That was a lot of
    fun...
     
  85. i bought my IIIf because it is "pretty." "sweet." and small. never would consider trying to be HCB or GW. yes, and i hear the chorous going "well there's not a chance so its a good thing." (~_-)
     
  86. Brad, tht reminds me :)

    When I started to show interest in photography my father gave me an Agfa 126 with fixed focus and three apertures. He showed when to use those rotating flash cubes, how to develope the film and then let me alone with it. After the first three or four rolls he let me shoot a Contessa and over the years I "grew" up to his Master Technika but used the Rolleiflex most.

    Same happend with cars, he gave me a Karman Ghia when I got my driving licence and much later he had me take driving lessons on the Nuremburg Ring befor I was alowed to drive his 911, this saved my live at least once!
     
  87. "Of people buying them thinking it's an automatic path to producing work like HCB and GW."

    This seems quite true of many Leica users, since posted photos often betray meager understanding of principles, such as exposure, development, and printing, that some of us learned on Pentax K1000s and such. I'm not sure if Leica will keep making those sales as digital makes it easier and easier to produce technically fine prints.
     
  88. jtk

    jtk

    Volker, feudalism and socialism cohabit in mouldering old German banks, its for the same reasons socialist countries can't function without feudal arrangements. Same reason Hitler needed Stalin, and vice versa.

    Don't get me wrong...I love Leicas. Just got a new/old 35 3.5 Summaron and BEAUTIFUL finder: I'm not saying that nothing good ever came from Germany. As you pointed out, Germany once made good cars. One of these days I'm sure it'll even produce listenable music!
     
  89. Yeah, that Beethoven, Bach, and the rest, they sure ain't no Britney. But
    whaddya expect from a feudal country?
     
  90. <And what do you propose Leica uses to "buy" these rights [Hexar AF's] with?>


    Well, they could do like W and borrow a ton of money...
     
  91. Here we go again.

    Still, John Kelly; perhaps you could do us the service of explaining the terms you are bandying about rather than simply labelling. Which policies exactly are socialist/feudal, and how are they counterproductive compared to an American or Japanese model.

    The EU created very strict (capitalist) standards for entry to its members. Germany, Switzerland and Holland qualified easily. Italy and Britain had to do some contortions. They all have excellent social safety nets but they don't believe in excessive debt.

    They also have a different reporting system from our quarterly one, which rewards quick profits over controlled growth, and some say is better than ours. An LPF member produced a lucid explanation of it a while back.
     
  92. jtk

    jtk

    Bach and Beethoven were Catholics, subjects of Rome, writing praises to a Roman deity. Even with his tin ear, Beethoven wouldn't have stomached Wagnerian absurdities. Bach would have hung around with Bauhaus hipsters, digging American jazz...in 2005 they'd both be down with Turkish symphonies or Rai, like other musically literate Europeans.
     
  93. "Bach would have hung around with Bauhaus hipsters"

    ... and he would have had a really cool, beat up, old retro Leica M2 loaded with Tri-X. (And he would have wiped off the haze from his old 35mm Summicron with the sleave of his shirt.) ;>)

    Honestly... aside from a few predictable snipes, this has been a very interesting and informative thread. We must do this again some time... :>)

    Dennis
     
  94. I meant "SLEEVE"...
     
  95. jtk

    jtk

    Mr. LoPinto, to say German banks "don't believe in excessive debt" is both sad and hilarious (feudal and socialist?).

    ....as it happens, the terminally-indebted HBV Group, Germany's second largest bank, may soon be owned and guided by a TEXAS investor group, though an alternative is that Italians will be better suited...HBV's investors may soon decide between salvation by Ciampi or salvation by Bush.

    Leica won't be borrowing money. The company has no value beyond brand and some formulae, both readily portable and undoubtedly relatively cheap (formulae are easily reverse-engineered). Nobody would want to keep the management in place, would they? And the manufacturing has mostly left Germany already. I'd guess it'll become a unit of Pansonic if not (at least temporarily) a limited partnership.
     
  96. "Germany's second largest bank, may soon be owned and guided by a TEXAS investor group..."


    Ahaaa!! I knew Bush was behind this... ;>)
     
  97. Dennis: "You're not seriously suggesting that the leica MP is an insult to photographers?"

    Not in itself, but as a rebadged M6 for twice the price, yes. If you could still buy a new M6
    without the huge mark up then no, the MP wouldn't be an insult.

    "a return to Leica quality and craftsmanship that had been reduced during the M6 tenure"

    What was wrong with the quality of the M6? Sure there were quality control problems, but
    it's apparent from this forum that those problems remain with the MP.

    "brass.....not zinc"

    But what's wrong with zinc?

    "a durable chrome finish or a black lacquer finish"

    Why not the option of a durable black finish (outside of a la carte)?

    "some people regard the MP set up more desirable than the M6 type rewind"

    I'm sure they do, we all have our quirks. Having said that, I don't recall (pre-MP) many
    voices demanding the end of the angled crank and a return to the old style knob.
     
  98. John Kelly. Please reread my post. I was referring to the country, not banks. Your propensity to laughter and to tears, if it troubles you, could be helped by paying closer attention to what you read.

    Germany, the country, does not believe in excessive debt.
    German banks do; all banks love debt-[as long as it is to them].
    Germans as a people are big lifetime savers, despite a generous pension system.

    You still have not fleshed out your feudal/socialism theory, -in sentences. By the way, I am convinceable; though I am not sure you are willing do it.
     
  99. "Bach and Beethoven were Catholics, subjects of Rome, writing praises to a
    Roman deity..."<p>
    And your point is? You're saying they aren't German? So your statements
    merely refer to German protestants? My point is that it's straightforward
    xenophobia that's laughable, xenophobia demonstrated by statements like:
    "Germany's primary contributions to world civilization come from abject
    lessons of its history and several beers that may rival Tsing Tao."<p>These
    words betray such ignorance that it's pointless arguing, but then that would
    encourage the new wave of xenophobia that sadly seems to be on the rise.
    German contributions to literature, printing, philosophy, music, architecture,
    design, science, engineering equal or exceed those of any other nation. Altho
    I do agree Rammstein leave a lot to be desired.
     
  100. Kobayashi would probably be ecstatic to manage and direct Leica, and would be likely to follow his soul as well as his bottom line in his production choices. I would think Cosina would be a logical investor.​

    I doubt that he would see much business logic in buying the Leica franchise. Leica has mismanaged itself over decades into market irrelevance through engineering atrophy and a dependence on cash infusions from gimmicks like commemorative bodies. Cosina found the sweet spot of price and quality level that the existing niche market of film- based Leica-mount consumers (a market already small, and likely decreasing), and is profitable in that segment.
    Unless Cosina were able to considerable sums after purchase reinvigorating Leica's engineering department, and spending untold millions trying to successfully sell a film rangefinder in today's marketplace (!) in order to pay for the revamping/acquisition, they couldn't hope to be successful.
    Also, if Leica fails, Cosina has the means to go after the existing body market with a higher-end product whose only competition will be used Leicas (one of Leica's main competitors as it stands now). I imagine that this lower-cost alternative is more appetizing to Cosina than taking over a long-hemorrhaging competitor oriented more and more towards fondlers.
     
  101. I'm under the impression that we talk about the coutry I live in, but I'm not sure.

    HBV? Who's that? I know Deutsche Bank, HypoVereins Bank, Dresdner Bank, Comerzbank. Then we have Sparkassen and Volks- und Raifeisenbanken which spun from comunity efforts.

    the HypoVereinsbank is in deep trouble due to serious mismanagement in the early 90's, the merger of the Hypo and the Vereinsbank wasn't a good idea in the first place. They tried to play with the big boys and failed. Now they are an easy target for a takeover what they wanted to avoid by the merger.

    In the 70's we had a private bank, Herstadt, which went bust. This lead to very strict laws to protect savings accounts and an intervention fund every bank has to be part of.

    One of the troubles in germany is financial help to high profile investments by local governments. The Chipfoundry in Frankfort/Oder which went bust befor they made their first IC, Cargolifter which build a big hangar for Airships which never got farther than a sketch on a drawinboard, Philip Holzmann which was "saved" by our chancelor to go bust a few month later (after his reelection of cause). The german gouvernment sinks billions into worthless ventures but the current socialdemcratic (not socialist) government is not much worse than the cristiandemocratic (somewhat conservative) government we had befor.

    On the other hand, taxes are very high and businesses move to Lithuania, Ireland and the Netherlands. Production stays in Germany but the earnings are where taxes are lower so it leaves me with some 38% income tax :-(

    And yes Ramstein isn't to my liking, and I don't like Xavier Naidoo as well. Sarah Conner is nice, I know her personally, and I like some but not all of her songs.

    Two friends of mine produce world music programs for Deutschland Funk, Funkhaus Europa and Radio Bremen. I like south american music best and japanese least :)

    So back to Leica!
     
  102. First let me say I'm a "Leica on the side" user ...(kinda like ordering eggs and toast with bacon on the side) ... I usually use Nikons or old MF Minoltas (yes minoltas) also have a Konica Hexar RF.

    Which brings me to how I got into Leicas ... the "Minolta connection" namely the CL, that little camera outsold Leica Ms of it's day 2 to 1. I also have a couple of Minolta XD11s, which was the basis of the R4 ect: Leica reached out to form partnerships that have helped it in the past, maybe it's time again.

    But! ... Times have changed so much ... yes the Leica glass is first rate ... but zooms are the future (atleast in the bulk of glass sold and used today). I have a friend who is a highly rated pro photographer used Hasselblads for years ... we were compairing notes on cameras the other day, his Canon 10D system and my Nikon D70 system. to my surprise he uses mostly zooms now (and loves the results) ...

    Consider that the consumer market is squarely with the digital camera with built in zooms ... and even the pros are moving to digital quickly ... and Photoshop that's a whole new thread right there.

    My crystal ball is out for repairs right now, so I really can't see the future ... but my 1st camera was a Contax IIa and the Contax "name" is still around today in the form of the G2... I think (and hope) the Leica name will be around for a long time too ...

    Kenny ...
     
  103. The biggest threat to Leica's future is cheapskates like me who love the camera but never buy new. The downside of making a product that lasts and can be serviced indefinitely is that you're competing with the used market.
     
  104. "Well, they could do like W and borrow a ton of money..."

    But no bank worth its pencils would lend anything to them.
     

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