Leica to launch 'compact system camera' at Photokina 2012 (update)
Leica CEO Alfred Schopf
Leica bosses have revealed plans to announce a compact system camera at Photokina 2012 in a bid to compete with the likes of Panasonic, Sony, Samsung and Olympus.
Details are scant, but the camera will feature an imaging sensor at least as large as an APS-size, said Leica CEO Alfred Schopf who sees a market for a Leica camera aimed at the consumer market.
'We are looking into that... it's more than an idea... You will see something at the next Photokina,' Schopf told Amateur Photographer in an interview in Paris this morning.
Schopf indicated that Leica is currently investigating the sensor technology that will form the basis of the new camera.
'Our philosophy is that the best lenses will lead to better images... they are expensive but they are leading edge,' he said.
Leica chairman Dr Andreas Kaufmann added: 'Sensors will soon become a commodity, like film was. It's happening now. APS is a format you can buy rather cheaply, informally.'
Asked whether Leica would include an EVF [electronic viewfinder], Schopf said it would largely depend on the sensor used, hinting that the company would prefer a built-in EVF option.
Kaufmann confirmed that Leica has now ditched plans to launch a digital version of its R-system of SLRs, saying that it would not have made sense commercially in light of the S-system launch in 2009.
'That was my dream. To have developed two DSLR systems would even have killed Canon. It was not do-able,' said Kaufmann.
In a wide-ranging interview, Kaufmann said that Leica's four-year restructuring programme, from 2005-2009, put the firm in a strong position.
'Nowadays Leica is in a position to do what it wants. Sometimes it takes a little longer because we want to do it our own way, which is superior quality... simplified and German design.'
Kaufmann said Leica has rejected plans to outsource production of products to China - to boost output and save costs - even though it has been approached many times, despite a backlog of lens orders.
Schopf said Leica has 'ramped up [lens] production significantly,' but said overseas lens production would require a high level of specialist staff training.
Leica was tight-lipped on when we may see a new version of its M-system camera.
On the future of the iconic format Kaufmann said: 'The M-system is our Porsche 911.'
He explained that Porsche had wanted to discontinue the 911 in 1981 but abandoned the idea.
'Around the M5 nearly the same happened and since then the M has marched on.
'You can always see this [the M] is a Leica.'
Asked whether Leica would be able to boost battery life, and equivalent ISO sensitivity on the M9, Schopf said: 'You would have to change the sensor.'
Schopf added that Leica would also have to look at the camera's firmware but he declined to speculate on any plans in this area.
Kaufmann is also working on a personal project that will help photographers and 'non-photographer' Leica users to showcase their work, involving a type of photo book.
The venture will form part of an independent company (Leica Fotografie International), soon to be owned by Kaufmann, that will serve as an intermediary between Leica and its customers.
It will be rolled out this autumn.