What happened to the Leica mirrorless system camera?

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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