Leica opens a new store in Shanghai

Leica Store Opening Shanghai

from left to right: Sunil Kaul (Leica Camera Pacific), Alfred Schopf (CEO - Leica Camera AG), Andreas Kaufmann (Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Leica Camera AG), Mrs Judy Hua (Fashion Designer)

Yesterday Leica opened a new store in east China's Shanghai municipality. See the slideshow courtesy of Leica Camera AG:

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  • Nobody Special

    How nice for Leica to send the big-wiggs to arguably it’s biggest profit market to open a new shiney ‘store’. I wonder how many people really are buying cameras from their fancy-smancey shops? Outside of China, or elsewhere?

    • In China, probably a lot of people. According to The Economist, the luxury goods market in China is booming. The New Rich don’t know what to spend their money on and are buying up Bentley and, Rolls Royce cars by the fistfull, as well as decades old wine and champagne, exotic watches, pens, etc. Oh, and Leicas, because they’re the only luxury camera brand around.

      • Nobody Special

        Yep, that’s pretty much what I’ve been hearing too. Yes, after years of using them as a ‘image tool’, I now see them more than anything else as a luxury brand that fewer and fewer pro’s use.

        They can always turn the tables on everyone and return to image tools and I’d be the first to welcome that – but until they do – and other than my film Leicas, it’s sionara (sp) Leica.

        • Nah, they’re never coming back to the warm bosom of widespread photography. When someone like Sebastião Salgado prefers a Canon digital Full-Frame over the Leica M9 you have to wonder…

          • Nobody Special

            Indeed. As an SLR image tool – whenever I use my ‘tank camera’ – the SL2mot and motor, it seems so foreign to anything in an SLR they made after that. It’s really a near perfect design for serious work. Oh well, so goes China so goes Leica?

    • Lets keep in mind that new store openings are also a part of a branding strategy. I am not sure whether any of us here can really say that Leica M9 is not as good fo an image tool as a Canon SLR (quite frankly I don’t know whether any of can say we are better than the M9 + Leica lenses in that if the system were better we can take better photos), and I am not sure as to the significance of someone like Sebastião Salgado using a Canon SLR as opposed to a Leica M9, or a Nikon SLR, or a Hasselblad digital, or Mamiya 7II, etc. What I do know that is’t great all these choices are out there, and you have the freedom to choose. If you don’t like one brand, you are certainly entitled to voice your opinion and vote with your money for another brand. That said, I am slightly puzzled as to why Leica should be blamed for exercising its right to choose to respond to explosive consumer demands for certain of their products (and in China, in a huge way, as I travel there 3-4 times a year I can attest to the inflationary growth of the luxury market at the moment). Who knows how long it will last, but China is a part of the global market and to ignore it would be a mistake.

      I have a feeling if Leica went with everything NS recommended, they would be in a much worse off situation fincially today, and the “loyalty payback” from the long-time photographers is, quite frankly, illusive and finite in duration (as the older generation die off (literally) and the newwer generation like myself demand a newer generation of products). Like anything else, you vote with your money you get heard. you stop voting, you don’t get heard as much. I vote with my money as do many Chinese people, and Leica is listening to those who spend. It’s capitalism. History is instructive, to be sure, but the future is today. Just my two cents.

      • What I do know that is’t great all these choices are out there, and you have the freedom to choose. If you don’t like one brand, you are certainly entitled to voice your opinion and vote with your money for another brand.

        Well…yes, and no. The vast majority of photographers don’t have the freedom to choose a Leica M9 or any of the Leica lenses. We (as I am among them) have the freedom to choose a camera below US$2,000, and maybe one or two lenses slightly above US$1,000. This group of financially-challenged photographers notably includes photojournalists, who Leica owes its legend to, and who can no longer afford to shoot the brand (photojournalists are woefully underpaid and their numbers dwindling as we speak). Two M9s + 3 lenses (a minimum kit) could easily add up to over half their salary.

        I suspect that a large majority of M9 shooters (I’m not saying Leica shooters, just M9 shooters) are not advanced photographers who get the most out of the camera. I don’t know how we could prove/disprove this, and I would love to be wrong, but strong sales figures for something like the Titanium M9 suggest I am correct.

        That said, I am slightly puzzled as to why Leica should be blamed for exercising its right to choose to respond to explosive consumer demands for certain of their products

        David, I don’t think anyone is blaming them for trying to keep their business alive, and they should certainly try to be seen prominently in an area where they are likely to generate sales; in this case, in a rich shopping area of a country where many citizens are finding themselves with cash overflowing from their bank accounts that they don’t know what to do with.

        In other times, Leica might have opened a store close to an important photo agency or Journalism school in a city known for its opportunities for street photography, but those people aren’t its customers anymore.

        • M9 is certainly an expensive camera. As is the Nikon Dx3 fro Nikon, or the Hasselblad H4D 40, or the Mamiya RZ system, etc. There is certainly no shortage of expensive cameras out there. The M9 is the top of the Leica line of products, as would be some of their top-of-the-line ASPH lenses. However, you don’t have to buy the latest and the best, from any of these brands. Like some of these other brands, Leica also makes cheaper (though admittedly not cheap) cameras and lenses (like the Summarit line of lenses) that, although most likely not as perfect at their ASPH lenses, will still give the other brands’ lenses a run for their money.

          In 1954, if you went out and bought yourself top of the line two M3 bodies with three lenses, say the 50mm f/2.0, 35m f/3.5, and a 90mm f/4.0 (collapsible), you would have spent about $945 (http://basepath.com/Photography/LeicaM3.php), which is a little less than $7,000 in today’s inflation adjusted price (http://www.inflationdata.com/inflation/Inflation_Calculators/Inflation_Rate_Calculator.asp#calcresults). So even back then, such a system would cost an average wager earner in the U.S. a little less than a third of their salary before taxes (http://www.ssa.gov/oact/cola/AWI.html). Today, if you went out and bought yourself two M9s, and today’s version of 50mm f/2.0, a 35mm f/2.5, and a 90mm f/4.0 (I try to pick the most equivalent lens) then you would need to spend about $21K, which is about 1/2 of the average U.S. salary as of 2009. If you decided to shoot film, then with an equivalent system using the M7, you would spend about $17,400, which is about 40% of the average 2009 U.S. salary. Of course, we won’t get into the factors such as the post-war 1954 booming economy and the recession of 2009.

          When you look at the data, I am not super convinced that Leica prices in the last 65 years have ran away exponentially. Yes, they have certainly become more expensive relative to earning powers over the decades, but if you do the same comparison with a Nikon or a Canon system, you will see that Nikon and Canon have raised their prices over time much more aggressively compared to Leica (perhaps because they started much cheaper in the beginning as what were considered cheap Japanese imports). So whatever arguments that can be made against Leica as far as raising prices over time, I think the same would also apply to many of the other brands. The difference here is, of course, that Leica was expensive to begin with; at 1/3 a wage earner salary in 1954 for a system you considered necessary for a photojournalist, they were already a luxury brand. Fast forward to today, demand for Leica products are high, Germany is dealing with a shortage of qualified labor (they’ve tried making the lenses outside of Germany and the demand just wasn’t there), so who is to blame them for pricing the goods in accordance with demand?

          I think it is one thing if their products are inferior (in all respects), but I think for the most part they have really delivered a product line that warrants a demand.

          All that said, I don’t disagree and would not be opposed to Leica reinvesting some of the profits with programs that encourage young and inspiring photographers (as I once was when I was young). On that front, I am not aware that they are ignoring that mission.

          • David, the difference is that you could buy an M3 back in 1954 being quite certain that in 2004 you would still be using it. Plus, your IQ would improve with time as film emulsions became better and better. Your per-year outlay would be quite small ($18.9/year in today’s dollars). I doubt an M9 is going to last 50 years, and its IQ isn’t going to improve over time.

            Furthermore, if you are a professional, it’s very possible that you won’t be able to use your M9 beyond, say, 3 years. There are professional photographers today that have had to purchase a 20MP+ FF camera simply because artistic directors won’t hire them otherwise. In 2-3 years these same photographers will have to buy the next generation of cameras with 30MP+ sensors. This doesn’t affect the hobbyist, but unless Leica offers a lifetime replacement warranty, an M9 is not going to last 50 years.

            This doesn’t make the M9 a bad camera, but it is not an investment like an M3 was in the 50’s, or even an M7 might have been in the 00’s.

          • The digital rot is definitely reality, and you are correct in that M9 three years from now would most likely be replaced (though the lenses will last much longer as we all know). However, that argument is not unique to Leica. Furthermore, film cameras didn’t exactly stand still since 1954. You can certainly still make beautiful images with a M3 camera today (or better yet, a Minolta CLE that fits Leica lenses), using lens from 1954. But if you were held hostage to always buying the latest and greatest, you could have chosen to upgrade over time to the later M cameras (Leica stopped making the M3s after 1966, I believe) that offered other features like electrical shutter, AE, or TTL (just like how the Nikon F cameras have evolved as well).

            In the DSLR arena, since the Nikon D80 (2006), in the DX world Nikon has introduced the D300 , followed by the D90, and the D300S in Jul 2009 before the D7000 was introduced last year. You would have spent $5,600 between 2006 to 2009 just on camera bodies before needing to upgrade, again, to the D7000 today. That is twice as many new models then were introduced by Leica in the same period. Meanwhile, Nikon and Canon lenses were upgraded much more often than the Leica lenses (VR, then VRII). At the end of the comparable period, yes you will still spend more money on Leica than you would have on Nikon or Canon, but probably not as much as you would think (again, only if you were indeed someone who went out there to but the latest and greatest camera body and lens every time something new is introduced).

            That Leica has had a marital history with notable photojournalists does not disturb the reality that demand for Leica products, at today’s pricing point, remains high. So to make an argument that they should lower their price so that aspiring photojournalists can afford to shoot Leica, as a way to pay homage to the legendary photojournalists who once shot Leica, isn’t super convincing to me as a formula for future financial success. For photojournalists (which, to my understanding, isn’t held hostage to art directors as much as say fashion or advertising photogs), the industry is at an inflection point. The proliferation of professional-grade image/video capturing devices, along with the Internet infrastructure and online social networks that allows pretty much anyone with a decent digital camera to be a stock or editorial contributor, has fundamentally and irreversibly changed the nature of the profession and how photojournalists are compensated. I don’t know whether that is for the better or for the worse, quite frankly, but it is happening just as Amazon is replacing the Border bookstores out there. The Leica M system is no longer a photojournalist choice of tool (and that has been or quite some time), and I am not clear whether, if they had maintained a lower pricing point, that history would have played out differently for them on the M system.

            All that said, I am disappointed to learn that they have discontinued their education sales program.

          • For whatever it’s worth, I haven’t upgraded my DSLR since 2007–I am one of those users who values long-term quality and don’t go for the latest fad. I’m also mainly a street shooter who loves primes. Despite all this, a Leica just doesn’t make sense for me. And that’s OK! 🙂

            So to make an argument that they should lower their price so that aspiring photojournalists can afford to shoot Leica, as a way to pay homage to the legendary photojournalists who once shot Leica, isn’t super convincing to me as a formula for future financial success.

            David, I have not, and will not, suggest any financial strategy for Leica. I am not, and never will be, a Leica user; I have no vested interest in their future other than the joy I derive from seeing images taken by the great photographers of the past who shot Leica (HCB, Capa, etc).

            Leica have already figured out what their strategy is, and it doesn’t involve selling to the masses. That said, I have often wondered how successful a subsidiary business model would fair. In the guitar world, it has worked very well indeed, where Epiphone and Squire (subsidiaries of Gibson and Fender Guitars, respectively) are the highest selling brands. Gibson and Fender guitars are built (mostly) in the US and cost $1-5,000, while the equivalent Epiphone and Squire models built in Japan or Korea go for $400-800 (rough numbers). Leica could license their M9 to a Japanese manufacturer, who might even have to source its own sensors and firmware, and they would sell a camera that looks like an M9, but without the red dot or Leica name, and probably without such a polished finish, but most importantly, selling for a much>/i> lower price. Those wanting the name could buy a German made Leica; those simply wanting the functionality of a FF digital rangefinder could buy the affordable Japanese version.

            I’m just here trying to stir up some discussion, David; so far you’re the only one who’s caring 🙂

          • If you yourself haven’t upgraded since 2007 (I still have my D300 and D700 for studio work) then that’s consistent with my point and sort of answers your own point about the art director wanting you to buy the latest and greatest.

            Leica has tried the JP manufacture strategy (not sure whether it was a subsidiary model), which resulted in the Minolta CLE. That was a great camera, but for whatever reason it didn’t really work out for Leica (perhaps it ate into their M camera margins?).

            Discussions are definitely healthy, and I suppose as I Leica user (as well as a Nikon and Mamiya user), I do care where Leica goes because I enjoy using their products whcih I think are fantastic for certain purposes. As to whether I am the only one who cares, perhaps, but not sure why the kick of contempt from you as to that being a bad thing.

        • BTW for full-time students Leica offers a student/educator discount. Although I am not a full-time student, I was curious as to whether this was a real deal. So I contacted Leica who responded to me a week later, confirming the program exist, and provided me with a pricing list. The discount ranges between 15% to 25% off of their MSRP prices (including the M9). I’ve searched around the web looking for similar programs from Nikon and Canon. I was unable to find such a program from Nikon, and was never able to verify Canon’s program (at least no one responded to me from Canon).

      • Nobody Special

        Geese David, your love of Leica is admirable. But to think my ideas would lead to Leica ruin is a joke. You simply don’t get the underlying history of the brand and it’s ‘marketing’ concept and how it had affected it’s financial health over the years.

        They are now further pingeon-holing themselves into a more luxury brand driven market and furthey away from it’s original core of users – the age concept not-withstanding. I guess simplicity of thought is a hard concept for some to grab on to. You obviously have the money or position to travel to the region many times a year – good for you. But how does making a 20K S2 or 6 to 7K M9 bring new, young customers to the brand? (the X1 and panaleicas don’t bridge the $$$)

        Kaufmann has made his decision to go further upmarket, not mid-market or lower where the biggest numbers are globally. The point here is that when you do so, you limit the numbers of sales to those who traditionally are further away from your base. Nothing personal here, but it’s not that complicated to understand. Oh, Salgado was part of a Leica PR campaign of sorts, but that too, has dwindled away. Branding for a new Leica that has gone further upmarket – good for them – but going back their roots will be next to impossible if that concept fails.

  • ngari

    What is the address in Shanghai? Cannot seem to find it on the Leica site, or any of the press reports. Expect it is on Huaihai Lu. Maybe I will just go for a walk this afternoon.

  • johnny

    Couldn’t agreed more with David

  • Nobody Special

    Oh David, I believe the Leica S2 is the premier end of the Leica catalog.

    • You are right NS, I stand corrected, the M9 is not the most expensive camera Leica offers. Though, if that’s all you have to say then I guess that’s that . . .

      • Nobody Special

        Sometimes fewer words say more.

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