What happened to the Leica mirrorless system camera?

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In a recent interview with Leica executives l-camera-forum asked about the previously rumored Leica mirrorless system camera:

Question: An EVIL system camera has been announced some time ago. Can we still expect one?

Stefan Daniel: We do not speculate. We’re not happy about the interview which started that rumour. We feel that it rather misrepresented what was said. However, we know that there is a gap between the X2 and the M, both in terms of pricing and features. We do not comment on possible future products.

Alfred Schopf: What was asked was whether Leica was going to make cameras with Live View. We’ve given the answer with the LEICA X2 and the LEICA M

To refresh your memory, here is a rundown on how the Leica mirrorless system camera rumor started:

June 22, 2012: in an interview with BJP and AP, Leica's CEO Alfred Schopf confirmed that Leica will be announcing a new compact mirrorless system camera (EVIL) at Photokina 2012:

Speaking to BJP and other representatives of the UK press at a Paris-event, Leica's chairman Dr. Andreas Kaufmann and CEO Alfred Schopf have confirmed that the German company is developing a new compact camera system. [BJP]

But, Leica says that the camera will differ from what other manufacturers, such as Panasonic, Olympus, Samsung and Sony, are doing in the EVIL market.[BJP]

Both executives declined to provide more details about the new system, but hinted that the electronic viewfinder used will depend on the sensor selected. [BJP]

"It's more than an idea, you will see something at the next Photokina. The new system will use an "APS-C sized sensor at least".  [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, Olympus, Sony and Samsung. [AP]

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. [AP]

We are looking into that... it's more than an idea... You will see something at the next Photokina.  [Alfred Schopf]

July 1st, 2011: in an interview with the French site lense.fr Stefan Daniel said (Google translation):

"You have pointed the thing: When I spoke to a full, well ... it is not complete in fact. Because between the M9 and the X1 there is a hole. So one can imagine an X1 with M bayonet, one can imagine a lot of things... There's a hole, we are aware and we'll fill in the medium term with something below the M and above the X1.And I think the concept of hybrids. We have also one, with M. All it lacks is the LiveView and possibly autofocus."

August 8th, 2011: in interview with Richard Swan from Leica UK TechRadar published this:

A Leica representative has told TechRadar that the upcoming compact system camera will sit "somewhere between the X1 and M9" in terms of pricing.

Last month, Leica confirmed that the camera will be revealed at Photokina 2012 after rumours had been circulating for some time.

He said it was "just not right" for Leica cameras and would use at least an APS-C sized sensor.

September 16th, 2011: in a interview with Asiaone, Leica Camera CEO Alfred Schopf mentioned again their future plans for a new system camera:

We are at the borderline of compact-system cameras already, with the Leica X1 and Leica M-System, and it's pretty obvious that, at one point, we are going to offer something in between. But we have to look very carefully into what sensor parts we are using and what features we are offering.

May 12, 2012: In an interview with BJP, Dr. Andreas Kaufmann hinted that Leica may not be ready with their new mirrorless interchangeable lens camera system for Photokina 2012:

"We can't produce enough of what we already have. There's a project in place, but no timeframe. But you should come to our event on 17 September to see what we have."

On the same topic, the CEO of Leica Alfred Schopf said:

"We already have the best compact camera system here, with the M9. Now, we have to look at the size of the lenses. Do we like having a Coca-Cola can in front of a small camera body. The combination between the camera body and the lens has to fit."

Of course one can make the point that the new Leica M-E is the mirrorless solution Leica was talking about, but the M-E is just a slightly modified M9 digital rangefinder and it is hard for me to believe that it took so much publicity and time to design it. I think Leica is/was really developing a new mirrorless camera and for some reason either canceled or postponed the project.

Some other interesting points from l-camera-forum interview:

  • Leica will continue to produce M7 and MP film rangefinders.
  • Leica wants to keep the M-Monochrom series in the future.
  • There will not be M9 or M9-P to M-Monochrom upgrade options.
  • Leica M9 and M9-P are no longer in production.
  • The Leica M-E will be available only in anthracite-grey color.
  • There won't be any more M9 firmware updates with the exceptions of support for new lenses.
  • Alfred Schopf on the new Leica M sensor: "The design of the chip is the property of Leica Camera AG. It can be produced wherever we choose. It was important to have a sensor along with the MAESTRO processor which is optimally tuned to our lenses and to which Leica holds all intellectual property rights."
  • And another quote from Alfred Schopf: "Two years ago Leica has made 800 lenses each month, now we make 3200. By the end of this year there should be 4000 lenses made and the target for 2014 is 5000 lenses. After the relocation to the new facilites in late 2013 or early 2014 the capacity ought to grow even more.

Image: Leica mirrorless camera concept

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  • Joe

    “We’re not happy about the interview which started that rumour.”

    Looks to me like there were dozens of different interviews where they alluded to it. Clearly the M-E is not it let alone the new M.

    • http://leicarumors.com LR admin

      Clearly there were more than one interview/comment that started this rumor.

  • gabriel

    Leica M-series does not have mirrors right?

    • R!

      +1
      Personally I’m waiting on a “with mirror”affordable Leica camera, well an R 10!?
      S system is just not democratic!

      • pooh

        Well it’ll certainly cost $7,995. “Affordable” or not, it’s more democratic than the S right?

    • Nick

      Pretty sure rangefinder systems include mirrors.

      • R!

        Yeah on the side !!!! can’t compare that with a reflex view!!!!!
        I’m talking about a 21st century Leicaflex here. Rangefinders have been obsolete since the 50′s they came back to the masses because of the quality of the Leica’s M lenses,bring back the Leicaflex,please!!!!

  • TThor

    A great article; investigative as well as technically sound as far as product development scenarios goes. Liked it a lot. And no doubt – there is a space for Leica in the X2 – M void.

    • http://leicarumors.com LR admin

      I think this is exactly what they are/were after – X2 with interchangeable lenses.

      • Sturmi

        And this is exact the problem:

        Leica is not able to ship enough of their current lines of lenses (M, S, C). So what would the effect be of a new low-cost Leica with APS-C sensor, if there are no lenses available for this new format, or if these lenses cost as much as the M, S and C lenses…

  • http://www.gordonmoat.com Gordon Moat

    Seems more likely that the Fujifilm X-E1 surprised them. Back to the drawing board.

    • spam

      The X-E1 is the obvious and expected cheaper version of the X-Pro1, I can’t imagine that it surprised anyone. And X-Pro1 was know well in advance of these interviews.

      • http://www.gordonmoat.com Gordon Moat

        How much of a price premium could Leica charge for an electronic viewfinder camera that uses M lenses? I think if they get it too far above the Fuji X-E1, then that red dot might not be enough to sell them. The X-E1 was not in itself that big a surprise, but the price point and Fuji having a variety of lenses, including M mount, was something I doubt Leica expected.

    • pooh

      When did anything actually surprised Leica?

      For Leica, R&D has always been the last thing that came to thought.

  • Camaman

    WOW, they sure don’t give round and round answers like Japaneese do.
    They just say it straight: We know there is a gap. We don’t comment on future products.
    We gave our answer with ME and M

    They sure don’t want to cheapen the brand or to anger their user base. That is OK with me.

    Although a cool little m43 sensor Leica with upcoming Epson XGA EVF and M mount for $3000 would be a cool toy, for sure!
    -And we would still need to buy their lenses.

    • http://shashinkaichiban1.wordpress.com shashinka

      That’s casue Germans don’t care about losing face.

  • Randolph

    I would like to see a Leica/Lumix GF5 with machined alloy controls, an exotically shaped hardwood grip with leather options, etc. They could cover the whole thing in luxury materials, and install the legendary Leica firmware which would increase the DxoMark score by 10 points at least. Nobody would even know it was a GF5 inside.

    • Nick

      They could call it the Solar, in honour of hasselbl… sorry, cough, in honour of the sun.

      • j Shin

        :-)

  • Craig

    Randolph, funny. Nice slap at “H”.

  • Leontin

    Too pricey against other competition (Fuji, Canon, Olympus). I think that Leica have no solution regarding price/quality for to compete with Japanese companies (even a better quality, the price will be too high and…no clients!).
    This is a big dilemma for Leica. How to make a very good camera with 35 mm/1.8 lens at a price less than 3000 USD? Big problem for Leica!
    Fuji is winner!!!

  • Denis

    I decided to buy M Type 240, but would rather get their full frame mirrorless system. I don’t like rangefinders.

    • patrick

      if you don’t like rangefinders. why on earth are you dropping the money for a M240?

      • fjfjjj

        Because it’s a day’s salary.

  • R!

    I would take the prototype pictures camera for sure with the tilted screen and video capacity as the M(10)!!!!

  • Huggs

    IMHO, a $3k-$3.5k X2 with larger sensor, IL and EVF would be a good move, because Sony is encroaching in that territory with the RX1 and Fuji’s X-E1.

    • J Shin

      And, at the risk of being a broken record, the NEX-VG900.

  • Bryan Campbell

    Would be interesting especially if the camera looked like the ones in the image you posted. I’m not sure it would be wise finacially at this point in time though, Leica needs to concetrate their efforts on producing enough Leica M and M Monochroms and worry about new cameras a year from now or more.

  • http://www.chimacoff.com Artichoke

    THIS IS A BORE–and it has been going on for more than two years. There was a big whoop just before Photokina 2010…, YES, 2010, about an imminent stunning announcement of a compact, large sensor, ILC or fixed lens zoom…, and millions of us were waiting, credit card in hand, ready to pony up…,

    So it’s been 2 years and SONY has eaten everyone’s lunch in this category…,

    And Leica sits there, smug, unimaginative and BORING.

    • http://www.agniusdigital.com Agnius

      Leica is not Boring, Leica is a premium brand.

      If Leica got into a price war with Sony, that would be the end of them. Fortunately, there are still smart people at Solms who know when to pull the plug on the project that will lead to demise of the brand, and they did. So much for APC sized ILC or R10. But we still have S2 and M, and that’s that. Would I like to have a FF AF Leica ILC? Yes, but that will not be this year.

      Meanwhile I’ll keep on shooting Leica glass on Canon FF bodies just because I can. And when I need AF, Canon glass is there for that.

  • kmhb

    super leica-like design kamera. schade, warum bringt leica eine solche kamera nicht als weiterentwickelte D-Lux rechtzeitig auf den markt? leicaobjektiv aus dem hause, sensor zugekauft, gehäuse im auftrag fertigen lassen und endmontage/qualitätskontrolle bei leica, das müsste doch möglich sein.

  • Nobody Special

    Oh geese, not more misunderstood, or strange semi-promises.

    After the now famous and somewhat partially delivered (intended or otherwise) R solution with the M, which I actually don’t mind, there is still yet another PR contradiction of terms.

    Perhaps whatever is intended to be said should be said/read from a real press release that Leica produces, surely that would keep them from having to answer any more questions that result in misunderstandings or poorly communicated or pronounced or translated comments.

  • EnPassant

    Considering the time it took Leica to finally make the R-solution, the new M with live-view, add-on EVF and R-adapter, we will not see the Leica “D” (D as in Digitalsucher) until next Photokina, or the next after that one…

  • Alaa

    Ahhh, the question of the Leica mirror-less system! We’ve had this discussion for years now, and the merits for the need for such a system from both ends: company and consumers.
    Over the years, the mirror-less solution was an answer to a couple of questions: the apparent hole between the 2K$ Leica X and the ~6K$ Leica M, and secondly what to do with all the vintage Leica-R glass out there.
    The new Leica M seems to address the latter question, although in fairness many manufacturers had addressed that question with low cost adapters for a variety of camera formats over the years, but the M is the official response from Leica.
    Next, the M-E has slightly borrowed the price difference between the X and the M, so one would expect any new system to fall in the price range of ~3-3.5K$. Suddenly, the par has been raised by Sony with their new FF fixed lens camera approaching that range. Hypothetically, lets assume Leica was to come up with the X3 with similar specs at that price range, and the grey margin between the X and M lines become narrower. At the 2010 Photokina “town-hall” meeting with Leicas top brass someone suggested an X with a Tri-Elmer type of lens, to which the answer was a typical conservative answer along the lines : “there will always be another Photokina”.
    I assume those who are waiting for a mirrorless system want something more than a vessel for M and R lenses, otherwise I can direct you to a good M43 box, which along with an adapter will offer you a perfect APS-sized solution for just a few hundred dollars. Otherwise, a system that includes its own line of AF lenses with the option of M/R adapters. The sensor will be APS – FF is doubtful. Cost? Lets say 3.xK$, again competing with systems from M43 consortium, Sony, Nikon, Canon, … etc that sell for a fraction of this amount. OK, so perhaps Leica will pull a “Lunar” and repackage a Panasonic Lumix and charge $$$$ for it, then why not simply build M43 lenses?
    OK, so it will be an in house design then aimed at those who crave the red logo. The consumers would like to have ample supply of lenses for such a system. Look at it from Leicas perspective: Should they breakup their M and S supply chains to feed the demand for such a system?
    At the end, who is the mirrorless camera really for? The newly rich, perhaps who lack the knowhow for real photography? If Leica chooses to head down that road then they’ll risk tthe debacle Hasselblad brought upon itself with the Lunar. Asmit syands now, the perfect solution seems to be that the 3.xK$ hole is best plugged with an uber-X camera with a faster multi-Focal length lens, and perhaps with Leica branded lenses for M43.

  • Carlos

    girls and boys,
    grown-up companies like LEICA do not react in panic to blog-posts and manufacturers with names of mountains.
    The have their own idea, what a camera should look like and reference to the needs raised by professional “friends” of their brand.
    R is dead, long live R on M.
    EVIL, Leica is not EVIL.
    They will massproduce soon, but we’ll have to wait – until Wetzlar’s new plant is ready.
    Then they’ll introduce their new strategy.
    In the meantime go out and shoot.

    thx.
    C++

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/kevin_g_purcell Kevin Purcell

    Leica said: “The design of the chip is the property of Leica Camera AG. It can be produced wherever we choose.”

    What he really means is: The M sensor was done as an OEM design by CMOSIS for Leica. We bought the design from them. Neither CMOSIS or Leica have a fab so we can have it made for us at any fab. As pretty much every fabless design house does today … only the big vertically integrated companies do design and own fabs.

    But if you say it more concisely then it adds to the Leica cachet.

  • ras

    yeah, it looks like fuji made leica reconsider their plans.

    i would be ok if leica abandoned aps-c milc, but only if they put the new cmosis sensor in the m-e and offered them in the usual colors with no red dot: black paint, silver chrome, and black chrome. screw this anthracite crap.

    either that, or upgrade the x2 to compete with the sony rx1: full frame sensor, fixed 35/2 lens, and a built-in EVF, rangefinder style.

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