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Leica is going Chapter 11

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I'm sure Leica could surive if they downsize. I'm sure there would be a market for a few, hand produced, cameras even at double the current price. If you go far enough upscale you can ususally find a market. Stop making normal cameras and go only for the limited edition, gold-plated stuff and you'll probably find enough rich dudes to keep a few people in business.


Let's face it, nobody is going to get rich making film cameras for the masses anymore. Even if those masses can afford $2000 bodies and $2000 lenses. That applies double when you can get Japanese copies for 1/4 the price.


Quality may count, but only so far. In a world of rangefinders Leica may be champs, but in a world of digital cameras, they're not even in the game. Recent news from Canada showed a 59% drop in film camera sales last year and a 25% drop in film sales. Predictions are for a further 40% drop in film camera sales in 2005.

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"Musicians play instruments. But phonographs don't make music."


Possibly the single most important musical innovation over the last 30 years (not technological, musical) involved the recasting of vinyl & turntable from storage medium & reproducer into a radically expressive new musical instrument. Technological innovations like samplers and ProTools simply built on this new musical paradigm (rather than create artistic transformations of their own), and popular music today owes as much to vinyl & turntable as it does to the electric guitar.

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Beau, I did mention the exception of scratchers but it doesn't look like you bothered to read what I said. But that's not what Roger was talking about. He's talking about the certifiably looney idea that because music comes out of the speakers of a hifi system, the hifi system created music. I suggest taking a blank piece of vinyl and demonstrating this.


Otherwise, the analogy is, as I said, insane. Also as I said, there is a reasonable analogy between a slide projector and a hifi system.

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Roger, you still haven't addressed part of my question. If Leica had not invested in digital, what should they have done with their money then? Should they try to add more features and functions to their cameras? Will it help them if the Leica M becomes more like the Contax G? As for lenses, so many of their lenses are already at the top of the game, but yet it still doesn't help them in turning a profit. It's obvious that their current strategy is not working well, and sticking to it is not going to help one bit.


You may not bother to buy Leica digicams, have you not considered that if doing so would keep them alive, they might still be able to come up with new and improved lenses or bodies? Or at least be around to keep their parts for the M available for repairs?


There are also references about linking luxury items to Leica, which is rather apt seeing its relationship with Hermes. However, one of the problems is that it's pretty hard to make a camera some sort of Luxury item for the average rich person. Can you see a film star strutting down a red carpet carrying a Leica? If I'm a millionaire who wants to show off my camera, I'll probably carry a 1DsMkII or a Hasselblad H1D and keep spouting 16 or 22 megapixels. The people who'd really value a Leica as a luxury item are the collectors and the fondlers that this forum has a habit of dissing. This means that maybe Leica should really try to make more of the limited edition cameras, and maybe even things like diamond encrusted and platinum cameras.

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Marketing strategies for radically different products don't compare well.


Since the comparison to digital photography is digital recording equipment, that makes a good analogy. There has been no uproar, no massive resistance, no arguments around using digital recording tools. There are some studios with large investments (comparable to camera owners and maybe some photographers) that use analog recording equipment because it's what they own. There are a few that use analog recording equipment because, for one reason or another, both good and bad, they prefer it. But there isn't anyone jumping up and down screaming about it. It happened, the bulk of the studios are digital.

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jeff -- let's just end this now. your insistence on seeing -- to your

eyes -- an exact parallel between the function of the devices in

these marketing analogies just makes no sense. the kinds of

people who buy digital recording gear could not be more

different than leica customers. the buying motivations could not

be more different. there is tremendous overlap between the high

end audio and leica customer base.


i think you've standing too close to al's exhaust vent!!


anyway, you're right, i'm wrong. leica's marketers should look to

the example of pro digital audio gear. yup.

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First of all, I can't verify what Matthew claimed anywhere. So should we just call it "spectculations"?


Sencond, if you are familiar with how the German do their business, then you'll see that Leica will not fall. If you want an analogy, check out the history of Porsche (another German company) and their 911 series.


I know of a machines factory that helped make guns during WWII, after the war, their were never profitable. Who feed them? The Deutch Bank, Government controlled.


Try to understand the German history and culture.

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Leica's fate is uncertain but it is not doomed. Remember, the

sugar daddy is Hermes, a hugely profitable French company that

may if anything ncrease its stake. Why, you ask? Because it

sees Leica as an upscale luxury market leader in analogue and

hopefully digital photography once the R and M backs are

perfected. Leica has been chugging along but has been hit by

the combined blows of increased R&D for the digital backs and

the strength of the euro. Longterm, they should do well if they

focus on the core products.

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But Gabriel, cars still run on gasoline and bullets are still fired by gunpowder. Photography isn't fuelled by film anymore. Who's going to spend $5000 on a camera and a single lens for a medium that you will have to soon mail away like Kodachrome in order to use it?
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Well, lets hope they can pull their butts out of the fire or someone does it for them. If they

survive this, let hope they have the brains to align themselves with someone who has

digital expertise and concentrate all of their efforts on making a digital version of the M,

be it in Germany or Asia. Like it or not the era of traditional photography is coming to an

end andn they need a digital solution in their lineup to survive. I think there is a plenty big

market for a professional level digital rangefinder.



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"Since the comparison to digital photography is digital recording equipment, that makes a good analogy. There has been no uproar, no massive resistance, no arguments around using digital recording tools."


Actually, in music there was a similar reaction to what's happened in photography - a lot of people did panic. Others were "anti-digital" just like now -- Lenny Kravitz recorded everything on 2" 16-track and insisted on not even using any solid state gear, let alone digital.


I was a professional in the music business at the time, and though I adopted some digital technology early, I also had a bunch of vintage Neumann mics, Neve preamps, tube compressors, etc., and that gear skyrocketed in value once people realized what they were missing when they went over to ADATs and ProTools. In digital music, the pendulum swung too far before coming back to equilibrium, which is I think the point people are trying to make with the vinyl analogy.


However, I agree that film is best compared to magnetic tape. It's still great for what it does, and unparalleled for certain uses, but the advantages to digital keep closing the utility gap. Watch what happens -- when digital is near-ubiquitous as a capture medium, there will be a lot more interest in old, character-inducing lenses and stuff.

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Volcker said: "For the average photographer a new Leica is something to dream about"


Volcker, if this were only still true, we might not be making this thread. Part of the trouble

is that as digital offers a new medium, and larger formats offer distinct advantages as well

as increasing automation, digital adaptability and increasing compactness, fewer people

will think it important enough to buy new 35mm rangefinder equipment. Pros aren't much

of a force in the rangefinder market, and even well-heeled amateurs that once might have

aspired to own a Leica RF are drawn to other systems and media for obvious reasons.


I think this was inevitable and forseeable. Few retailers in even large cities want to stock

Leica because it just doesn't move, so there is lost the most important venue for everyday

exposure of this increasingly rare brand. Except for those interested enough to be

attracted by the rangefinder lore born of the first half of the last century (and that can't be

counted on for long either) who is all that interested in a brand whose products seem at

once so unreasonably expensive and so attached to a waning technology? I think the

answer is staring us in the face.

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"The volume of whining about the change was miniscule, especially compared to this forum."


Well, volume is all about how close you're standing to the speaker. "Whining" is kind of a subjective term, both then and now, but as someone who was spending 15 hours a day in recording studios back then, I can say there was a great deal of discussion and debate about the advent of digital.


"I still don't know if you deliberately ignored what I said about scratchers or just don't bother to read since it's easier to attack."


You alluded to "scratchers" as if to anticipate and deflect an exception to your generalization that record players aren't instruments. You said, "no musician plays a phonograph." I was addressing that point directly, not ignoring it. I have no intention to "attack," however, I disagree with the point and suggest it contradicts the putative purpose for making it. Some of the most important musicians of our generation play phonographs, and those musicians are the main reasons turntables still sell well.

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