What we failed to see about Leica and the SL

Leicaphile Sneetches had bellies with red dots.

Today, I saw images of the new Leica SL and read the posted specs for the first time. I have actually known of this for a while since I have a friend who is very close with Leica and gives me a few teaser now and then in the hopes of bringing me back to Leica. Unfortunately, he has been failing to do so.

  1. Leica has not yet offered anything compelling to make me want to ditch the Sony’s, Fuji’s, Nikon’s etc … 
  2. Leica is just not on the same playing field as the others when it comes to affordability.

Needless to say, after seeing the images of the SL and reading the full specs, a phone call was warranted.

Our discussion about the SL started today with my opening line. This has to be a joke. Really? $7500.00 for a body and $5000.00 for the lens? On the surface, this looks like a Sony A7 series camera down to the prism. Then you start reading the details and realize it is lacking much of what the A7 has to offer such as the in body image stabilization, articulating rear display,  large assortment of native lenses, 42MP backlit sensor, 399 focus points, the ability to use third party adapters which allow auto focus with third party lenses and mainly, the ability to deliver to the masses. I flat out told him Sony has nothing to worry about. No competition! I went on to say that if any company should be concerned, it should be Nikon and Canon which are still generations behind on delivering a camera based on technology which is obviously the future of photography.

Then it dawned on me. My friend said something that caught me by surprise. Totally unexpected and never saw it coming.  He said to me, Leica does not need to compete. Leica is for it’s own niche market. It’s for those who want to wear the label. He went on to say some would never like to be seen with a Sony. They are embarrassed to have one around their neck and would put tape all over it to mask the word Sony.

What Leica does well is to produce cameras which meets the necessary requirements to be considered modern while giving the Leicaphile a way to wear the red badge of honor. A better camera means nothing to the Leicaphile. It’s all about looks and showing off the badge. To my friends credit he is an excellent photographer who has tried many cameras and is always looking for the best shooting experience so I don’t put him 100% in with the rest of the Leicaphile Sneetches that have bellys with red dots. As are many other professionals who use Leica as a working tool.  Although I must say, I was surprised to hear his comments.

To those photographers, reviewers and consumers with no red dot upon thar,  there is no Sylvester McMonkey Mcbean and no red dot off machine. We have to come to the realization that bringing up Leica to a Leicaphile and comparing them to Sony, Fuji, Nikon, Canon or any other brand is a futile effort.  For the Leicaphile and not the regular Leica photographer,  there really is no sense in trying to compare one to the other. One is a photographers tool while the other is simply a garment to wear with a built in camera. Analogous to a smart phone. You buy the phone and get a good camera.

No true Leicaphile will take the walk of shame and be seen with no red dot upon their belly. I can’t think of a valid reason why someone would pay the ridiculous inflated price of a Leica other than to say they are the best kind of photographer on the streets. Waving their cameras in hand, they would snap and shoot and have nothing to do with the plain photographer sort!

So when you read comments from the likes of myself, Lloyd Chambers, Ken Rockwell, Matt Grainger, Steve Huff and other who in the past have wondered what Leica is thinking, it is now clear. Leica is genius! They are only interested in catering to those who can afford to pay four times the normal price of a Panasonic and keep the company profitable. It’s not about producing the best camera but it’s all about producing a sleek looking camera with the Leica badge on it regardless of it’s capabilities.

UPDATE. The wife chimes in!

My wife believes this post to be insulting to some. As any good husband knows, they listen to their wife and therefore some clarification is required on my part

This topic addresses the need for Leica to target the Leicaphile who can see no other viable option and will justify even the most ridiculous purchases. Not all Leica shooters nor the majority fall in this category including myself which use to own a large assortment of Leica gear.

For example. Buying a $500.00 EVF for their M240 when you can buy the 250.00 version made by Olympus knowing it is the same viewfinder but with a Leica logo instead. Buying a $200.00 HDMI cable for the SL when you can get one for 19.00 or buying a $255.00 lens hood that is no different than a 20.00 lens hood from another brand.

If you opt for any of the above  without considering your options you would fall under the Leicaphile category. If you would consider an alternative and still shoot Leica, then this post does not apply.

I think we can self identify if we are a Leicaphile or not and if you are so be it. But, you are the typical target Leica is going after to sustain them and that is what this article is about. It’s not about Leica being competitive. It’s about Leica marketing and their base.

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11 Comments on What we failed to see about Leica and the SL

  1. Red Badges? I have three red badged Leicas. When I go to a place where there may be serious photographers I carry one of them round my neck like a Bishop’s Cross, so that people will know I am a as serious as them. I do all my shooting with a SONY and my hand covers the SONY badge, and the lens always is a Leica, Only a true Leicaphile would recognize what is going on – the rest would be fooled.
    The red badge makes a statement. It says you are wealthier than the average bear. Of course, you need to arrive in a “badged” Alfa Romeo at least, to carry it off.
    ha-ha!

  2. My biggest gripe with the SL is that I fail to see what it brings to the party that a Q with interchangeable lens would not. The ILQ would be smaller, lighter, cheaper, have stabilisation, could easily sport the same VF, offer the same IQ since it incorporates the same sensor and processor. Also, it would have spared Leica R&D time and expense, and Supply Line complexities. In line with the VFM offered by the Q (some 35% above the corresponding Sony RX-1), a ILQ priced at the same 35% above the corresponding Sony A7R II would have been of interest to many, including me.
    It seems to me, from the outside, that Leica’s range, with the X, the T, the M, the Q, the SL, the S, is the opposoite of the simplicity (das wesentliche) they advocate in taking pictures.

  3. May I share my thoughts? I still shoot with my M8 as my only digital camera apart from the Fuji S5 Pro that I use for work (web sized images don’t need much resolution, the look is more important than megapretzels). Before that I was using my faithful Olympus E1 until one day, it died. If I add a new camera it will likely be the M9. I love the CCD look, what can I say. But these days I am quite fond of the output from the Q I see online.

    I have never been tempted by the Sony A7 series — ugly looking franken-things, not very comfortable to grip, and all those buttons and menus! I A friend has two and I have tried them extensively. Even the balance in the hand is all wrong. A camera designed by people who hate photography, I think. Give me the Fuji XT1 or Olympus OMD anytime.

    Now, everyone wants a Q with M mount. Not going to happen. Leica learned from the CL. Good for them.

    Perhaps a Q with the T mount then? That will still tempt people away from the money-making M, since all you need is an adapter and there you have a bargain basement full frame Leica camera in a rangefinder-like body that will shoot M lenses in a sensor optimised for them.

    So I am fine with the Q and T lines remaining fixed lens. Maybe a portrait version of the Q would be nice as a next step. 50mm lens with crop mode to 75mm and 90mm. Two Q’s in the bag would be great for travel, covering 28mm to 90mm, with two bodies the way it used to be.

    What does have me excited, however, is the thought of Leica eventually sticking the SL sensor into a T body.

    Make that the 21st Century Leica for people who want bells, whistles, autofocus and video. Then, make the M-60 mainstream: a pure photography M, no video, no LCD, just the aperture and ISO dials, in a body as thin as the old film ones.

    I think that’s the route Leica should go.

  4. I guess I’m the opposite of your friend. I put tape all over my Leica so people don’t think I’m one of the Leica caricatures that you’re trying to paint.

    • Mainly focused on the Leicaphile. Like I said not all. But there is the issue. It’s like politics or religion. People are passionate and will do anything to justify their belief. Like buy $500.00 EVF for their M240 when they can buy the 250.00 250.00 version made by Olympus without the red dot. Go figure. I have seen it happen and it’s a reality.

  5. Dear Jorge,
    the pricing of the new Leica SL remids me of the today’s listing of Ferrari at the US Stock Exchange. Ferrari is priced three times BMW and in line with Hermes. To spend 7000 euro on a Leica must convey the same feeling than spending 14000 euro on a handbag or 400000 on a sport car.
    Said that, I am a owner of a M9 and what I really like of it is its SEMOPLICITY!
    Thanks a lot for your passionate work. Ciao

    • I have owned M9’s and M8 along with plenty of film M cameras. Those days were different. It all started changing when Leica thought they could just put another M9 out with a different color skin, ask a premium and call it new. The ala carte is a perfect example of what I talk about.

      • Jorge,
        Thought you would appreciate a laugh………
        Posted on eBay today saw listings for BLACK DOTS to cover Leica RED DOTS.

        How long do you think he’ll be in business?!!!

        Regards, Lilia

  6. My father was a Leicaphile and very proud of it. To him no camera could possibly be more photograph-worthy than his Leica. Still not sure of which model he owned and, as my sister gave it away to a friend (!) I will never know (and she passed away some time ago.) It was from the 40’s or maybe early 50’s. I remember fondly wanting to touch it – not use, just touch – but that would never happen. I always dreamed of having a red dot myself – until I was in the Air Force and purchased a Canon A-1. Wow! I could actually SEE what a was shooting! And that DOF button! Forget about dots..geez.

    And now I have the Sony A7rM2. Who would have thought..

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