This article should have a lead. I should write up the most interesting observation right here. But I won't. Instead I tell you that this interview I had yesterday with Roland Wolff, vice president of marketing for Leica USA, covers the current questions floating about in the world - ever-wide and never-quiet - web concerning Leica. You take your pick. Choose your own lead. Go ahead: Leica's take on the new Sony A7/A7r as an alternative body for Leica Lenses
"People have been trying to use our lenses on different camera systems before. There are adapters out there. We have never had a negative effect from it. In fact, we always have a positive effect. It broadened the market for us. People maybe are not ready to buy the Leica, so it's not direct competition, but it might actually get them into the system because they might pick up a used lens or maybe even a new lens and a cheaper body. So, whenever bodies came out in the past that accepted Leica lenses, it has always helped us."
"It's an interesting trend, when you look at the industry and you look at what other manufacturers do. I think Leica is being noticed at the moment, because we have been very successful with the products we have created recently. It's interesting that even major players in the photo industry are specifically mentioning that you can do this."
Do you agree with the notion that you can put a Leica lens on another body?
"I honestly can't comment on that. I have honestly no information about it. And the camera just came out, so it's not been tested. I'm sure it will be tested very soon and we will know."
"But a system that's designed specifically to accept Leica lenses can get the full quality out of them. That's based on past experience."
Any plans to develop a lower-cost Leica M to fill the wide price gap between other cameras and the M?
"What fills the gap is usually a used Leica, quite frankly, that's how it has been. The M is made to a certain quality standard. There isn't much that we can strip off an M so that all of a sudden it's a lot cheaper to make. The core elements are obviously the rangefinder and the shutter system and it's really a system that you can't strip much off. It's so basic in a sense but then the pieces it does have, they have to be made this way. It can't really be sacrificed without sacrificing the quality."
"The M system benefits from the second-hand market of the M8, M8-2 and the M9. Of course, we continue to have a slightly lower-priced market, there is still a gap, between the X Vario and the M-E, but we have continued to offer the M-E at a slightly lower price."
Any truth to the rumors that Leica is talking with Panasonic about entering the Micro-Four Third's field?
"Absolutely total rumors. I don't have any comment"
Q: Is it a rumor without any basis?
Q: So, it might be a correct rumor?
"I can't comment on it. It's a rumor."
Q: Would it be logical? Would it make sense?
"I can't say."
Any plans to make third-party lenses, like Zeiss does?
"Sometimes you look into that and then you realize that you can't even make enough lenses for your own cameras. Then you have the answer. We're still a very small factory in Germany that makes every product by hand."
Is Leica so expensive that it is only a dentist's camera, because only they can afford one?
"No, I absolutely do not see that. I see that as completely outdated."
"We sell more cameras than ever. We sell more M cameras than ever. We have shorter product life cycles than ever. And we cannot make enough cameras. So, the notion that people cannot afford our cameras anymore is not true."
Is Fuji the new Leica, as Zack Arias tells us?
Laughing: 'Tell him to go to the Fuji factory and he will see the Leicas in the lobby of Fuji in Japan. Well, they're not Leica. Obviously, those cameras are made to a price point. They're obviously following a model that we have developed or that we are known for. But this statement, what does he really mean by that? Cause Fuji isn't Leica and they cannot be Leica. We are still around and Fuji is not making cameras that compete with our M. They make cameras that compete with our X range."
The future of Leica models
In the panel discussion the other day, the experts concluded that major changes in the industry will be driven by 4K video and connectivity. All other things will just improve.
Q: Where do you see Leica fit in, in that future? Basically, you make very expensive simple cameras, in the sense that you stick to the basics more than other camera makers. How do you see Leica evolve when it's going to be less about the picture itself, but more about things like connectivity and video?
"Now you just said something I would like to spin a little bit, because you said it's not so much about the picture itself. That's actually the direct opposite of what we are saying. We are saying that Leica isn't so much about the product, but about taking the best picture. So, I think we will probably be more and more the company for the discerning photographer for whom it's still about the still image and not about doing a video and hoping he can lift a still frame out of it."
"We are celebrating photography. That's also why we are implementing more and more of the Leica stores around the world."
"The technical features you bring up. Connectivity is a matter of practicability these days. If people want to establish a workflow, you have to go with the times. That's definitely something we take seriously. In certain product groups, like the S system, it's a must."
Q: Are you going to take the video button off the M240?
'We have the CMOS sensor in there now, so we could add video. It's still primarily a still camera, but a lot of people are intrigued that they can now shoot video with the M lenses."
"Over time, the M will probably also improve as a video camera, but today the M clearly is still primarily a still photo camera. I'm not saying we're turning the M into a video camera. I think we can get better in terms of HDTV video capture, so I think we will get better."
By John van Rosendaal