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When is a Leica not a Leica?

Discussion in 'Leica Camera Chat' started by SXH, Jul 15, 2021.

  1. SXH

    SXH Well-Known Member

    Or is it?

    You may remember that, for reasons we needn’t go into here, I collect 10MP cameras. I have examples of the major makes, and a couple of the more obscure ones such as the Sigma jobby with the Foveon sensor, but I didn’t have a Leica. Well, the obvious one is the M8. Unfortunately, it’s around a couple of grand, plus lens, plus infrared-cut filter on account of the sensor is a bit too sensitive to infrared, which is outside my budget.

    So when I saw one of these for sale, at a reasonable price, I couldn't resist it:


    OK, so it’s a re-skinned Lumix FZ50 - the body appears to be identical with the FZ50 except it has ‘Leica’ instead of ‘Lumix’ in various places, has the red dot, and doesn’t have all the large text about Mega-OIS and the lens zoom- range down the sides of the lens casing. Even the FZ50 lens hood fits. However, it does have modified firmware which affects colour handling and JPEG compression, and better quality control, which apparently means the lens works better. And, of course, the lens is a Leica design.

    So, is it a Leica? Does the fact that they had input into the design and are willing to put their name (and the red dot) on it make it so?
  2. Andrew Flannigan

    Andrew Flannigan Well-Known Member

    What is a Leica? To me, if it says Leica on the camera then that's what it is.

    Whoever owns the brand these days, there's a long history of the Leica logo being glued onto other maker's kit. The Leica CL series and the R-series SLRs were largely rebadged Minoltas, as were the Mini and the Mini Zoom. The first digital Leicas were made by Fuji. Panasonic has been the manufacturer of most of the "low cost" Leicas ever since. If you think a red dot makes a camera better, fair enough.
    RogerMac likes this.
  3. Terrywoodenpic

    Terrywoodenpic Well-Known Member

    Who actually makes the current Leica lenses and cameras...? how much of it is designed by Leica? and how much bought in? who creates the firmware?
    Des Leica actually exist outside the Marketing and Hype.? is it all smoke and mirrors?
  4. Brian

    Brian Venerable Elder

    Off we go again.
    zx9r likes this.
  5. RogerMac

    RogerMac Well-Known Member

    Leica acknowledge it as genuine then that's what it is
  6. Andrew Flannigan

    Andrew Flannigan Well-Known Member

    Indeed. All these horrible people who insist on challenging myth with fact... :p
  7. Terrywoodenpic

    Terrywoodenpic Well-Known Member

    Actually Leica do make and assemble stuff.
    But they are a very small company and rely on buying in many components. Even entire cameras, they have done this for years.
    However what the put their name on is thoroughly checked often rebuilt to higher standards. Castings are mostly bought in as their small production needs could never support such a facility. The same is true of the electronics. which is not their "Thing"

    They are far more hands on and labor intensive than the large manufacturers like Canon and Nikon.
    They can spend far more time on hand calibration and testing. which results in very high reliability, but not necessarily greater precision.

    Much like watch factories, which have found fully automated robotic production has increased the precision of assembly far beyond what is possible by hand. but would be impossibly expensive to set up and use on short runs.

    Mass produced digital watches can, like my cheap Seconda, keep time to better than 1.5 seconds a month. This is far better than my lovely Omega Seamaster Quarts, which has stopped working and needs a repair and service estimated at £500. Which I am disinclined to bother with. as it was never able to even achieve +- 5 seconds a week. A fully regulated mechanical Omega is unlikely to do better than+- 5 seconds a day.
    Functionally, Hand made, High precision top quality mechanical products are rarely anything like as accurate as their automated mass produced electronic alternatives. However they can be made in small numbers of exclusive and individual designs.

    If you go for the mass market item You usually have to put up with as many unwanted features as those that you do want, as they are built to satisfy as wide a market as possible. But in terms of cameras, that results in remarkably good value products, but rarely achieve the best that they could be. This is especially true of lenses and even more so of zooms. which of necessity have surprisingly wide tolerances in their construction.
    Leica are prepared to test dismantle and reassemble and adjust lenses individually to meet exceptionally high standards, that would be quite impossible at the volumes needed to supply the mass market.

    At this level you get what you pay for.

    As a matter of interest, the relative sizes of some of the leading camera making companies can be judged by their total number of employees.
    All of them buy in components and services.

    Canon 198K
    Sony 111K
    Fuji 73k
    Olympus 39k
    Nikon 24k
    Leica 1.4 k
    Hasseblad 210

    By that scale Leica is a very small enterprise, and Hasselblad is minute
    SXH likes this.
  8. Andrew Flannigan

    Andrew Flannigan Well-Known Member

    My own experience with digital cameras is that you get much more than you might expect, for what you pay.
  9. Terrywoodenpic

    Terrywoodenpic Well-Known Member

    A good quality camera like a Rollieflex Automat with 75mm Tessar that would have cost you around £70 in the early 50's would be the equivalent of spending £1800 today.
    For that price today you would get a very good Fuji camera and lens. Technically a million miles in advance of that Rollei. As far as I can tell prices are about where they should be, and good value. That pretty much matches my expectation.
    zx9r likes this.
  10. Andrew Flannigan

    Andrew Flannigan Well-Known Member

    In my opinion, much better than we could ever have expected.

    During 1968, a Nikkormat with 28, 50 and 200mm lenses would have cost £393, which is equivalent to £6,970 in today's money. Yet you can buy a Nikon D5600 with a 18~140mm lens for £750, nearly one tenth of the price. If you really want to push the boat out, a full frame D760 with the 24~120mm lense is £1,600 at the moment; still less than one third of the Nikkormat.

    What's more, there are no extra charges for film, chemistry or printing - so virtually no running costs!
  11. PeteRob

    PeteRob Well-Known Member

    Printing still costs, especially if you don’t do enough of your own to keep the inks flowing.
  12. Andrew Flannigan

    Andrew Flannigan Well-Known Member

    It doesn't cost me anything because I very seldom print pictures; I've printed one since 2015 and that was on my laser printer as a sample for a discussion on laser printing. This one as a matter of fact...

    Print of Austrian Hang glider pilot PA310001.JPG
  13. SXH

    SXH Well-Known Member

    As far as I can see only Sony and Canon still produce their own sensors, so everyone else is basing their cameras on their technology. With the possible exception of Sigma/Foveon. And Fuji do specify a different filter on the ones they use. And Leica sometimes specify none, effectively.

    And looking at many of the cameras and lenses I own, quite a few are made in China or the Phillipines, presumably in factories not actually owned by the major camera firms. Again, specified by the camera companies, but not actually made by them?

    As for Hasselblad, according to this article, the X1D which is marked HANDMADE IN SWEDEN should really be marked HAND ASSEMBLED IN SWEDEN.
    RogerMac likes this.
  14. Brian

    Brian Venerable Elder

    The Leica Q2 Mono sensor amongst others is made by CMOSIS . A semiconductor supplier from locations in Belgium, Germany, Portugal, and the U.S. and has less than 110 employees.
  15. Andrew Flannigan

    Andrew Flannigan Well-Known Member

    CMOSIS is part of AMS, which had revenues of 2 billion dollars in 2019 and employs 8,500 people. (FABs use as few employees as possible, one reason being that the fewer humans, the less contamination. )

    AMS are heavily into ambient light sensors and I'll guess that camera sensors are a small offshoot of that work, which concentrates on the wearable market.
  16. Terrywoodenpic

    Terrywoodenpic Well-Known Member

    By far the most sensors are manufactured for industrial and scientific use and for mobile phone, by specialist producers.
    It is true that Sony make most of the wafers and sensors used by the larger camera manufacturers.
    Canon design and manufacture most of their own sensors, Nikon sold off their capacity to do so.
    Nikon and their associated companies are in fairly steep decline. And are attempting to diversify.

    Fuji specify and design the sensors for their cameras. However they also design their own microlens and filter arrays to go with them. Probably even more important is the firmware and processors that control their operation and define their output. This distinguishes their output from that of other camera makers.
  17. Petrochemist

    Petrochemist Well-Known Member

    When I print for club exhibitions it's well under £1 a print for A4 done commercially. Poster sizes are a bit more but the 1m x 0.7m print was still under £10 IIRC
    Unlike film days I'm only printing the shots that are really worth it, & many photographers never print at all.

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