Today at The Digital Show 2013 in Melbourne, Australia, I was fortunate to meet with Leica Camera CEO, Alfred Schopf and Leica Camera Managing Director of Asia Pacific, Sunil Kaul. They were kind enough to not only exhibit 6 of my pictures taken with the Leica M (typ 240) but spare some time for a few questions.
Kristian: The M (type 240) is a fantastic camera, with many new great enhancements. Out of those, which stands out as being the most valued from user feedback so far?
Alfred: That’s a good question. The High ISO capability has been grabbing them, along with the general handling of the M, which is still very similar to the previous M cameras like the M9. Also the Live View capability with focus assist has been very well accepted, coupled with the extended battery life as well.
Kristian: How will Leica continue to be a traditional-styled niche camera in a market lead by trends towards automated cameras?
Alfred: Well we will stick to our values:
- Optical precision
- Using sensors that are optimized for the small body and optical design
- Keeping the cameras simple, even when adding new features.
- Adding features, but subtracting effort to use those features. The Minimalistic design is our approach and ensuring that even with many different programs or features, the user can access them with ease.
Kristian: Can you tell me about the current situation regarding flare issues found by owners of the Apo-Summicron 50/2 lens
Alfred: Well after some problem solving we found 4 minor issues, and manufacturing was stopped for 3 weeks and will recommence next week. For current owners experiencing any issues, they should send their lens to Germany for a complete refurbish.
Kristian: Tell me about the new Leica C camera.
Alfred: It’s a very compact camera with a very large sensor with some beautiful accessories. It comes in light gold and dark red and we’re betting right now on which color might be more successful. Particularly, there is a special case that allows space for not only the camera, but an iPhone or Samsung etc.
Sunil: This camera is also Leica’s first wifi-enabled camera so you can shoot and have the images move directly to your mobile device for sharing quality Leica pictures. It also features a very fast lens f/2 at 28mm and f/5.9 at 200mm. Along with it’s minimalistic design, pocket size and easy operation, it has a dial around the lens allowing features and functions to be changed with ease. The camera will be available around the middle of October.
Kristian: So we've heard about the new factory…..
Alfred: Yes, we are keen on getting the factory finished as soon as possible. We want to move our customer service in by the end of the year and step by step, move in the other facilities by 21-25 May, 2014 when we will celebrate it’s official opening. It’s important to move step by step between January to May to ensure that there is minimal effect on production, similar to what we did in Portugal.
Sunil: Whilst this will be a new factory, it doesn’t mean production will be doubled. There will definitely be in increase in efficiency because our current factory is about 30 years old and the line that we have isn’t extremely efficient to deliver a certain yield. With the new factory, the yield will definitely improve.
Alfred: What we have experienced in the past is the more we ramp up the manufacturing, the more demand we create. When I came to the company back in 2010, we made 40 Noctilux lenses a month. Now we make 180 a month and sell out…..
Sunil: ….well that is also because of guys like these (pointing to Kristian) who are doing workshops and educating people online about our Leica products…..and when they show the results, people see how the products perform and are more motivated to buy.
Alfred: We are also very excited by the production of our X-Vario, a design by Peter Karbe, possibly the greatest optical lens designer in the world. The lens resolves amazing details, throughout it’s entire zoom range. So even though the lens slows down towards 70mm, I still motivate people to push the ISO all the way up to 6400 and enjoy amazing detail it records. We could have put the speed to f/2 but the lens size would be more than double. So there is always a compromise that needs to be made, especially with zoom lenses. This is a 28-70mm lens that has quality throughout it’s entire range, and it’s more than amazing.
> Alfred then proceeded to remove his laptop from this bag and show me a picture taken by Peter Karbe. First he showed me the full image, then zoomed into 100% and I was amazed at the detail - simply amazing, comparable to a Leica M with an Apo lens.
Kristian: Can you tell us about any new lenses or hot products coming in the new year?
Sunil: Next year we are celebrating 100 years of Leica, 60 years of the M-System and our entry into our new factory…..so along with these celebrations we will have many other product celebrations as well….plus there is Photokina so I’m sure you’ll be looking forward to many beautiful things from Leica.
Kristian: Well I guess that is all I’m getting, so thank you for your time Alfred and Sunil. It has been a pleasure to talk to you both and all the best to Leica in the new exciting year ahead.