KMZ-Leica partnership: actual news and how a rumour takes shape and grows

The beginning: two factory visits and meetings

Once upon a time there were two visits, the first one of senior executives of KMZ at Leica, the second one of Leica executives at KMZ in April 2017. Both were reported in KMZ's internal journal, Патриот (“Patriot”), and the two corresponding articles, dated of April 12 and May 5, 2017, were summarized in two reports (sometimes quite blunt as to the inconsistency of the comments made in said articles) on the independent site www.zenitcamera.com, dedicated to KMZ, their history and accomplishments.

First report on the first visit:

https://www.zenitcamera.com/rec/news-2017-04-17-01.html (in Russian)

https://translate.google.com/translate?sl=ru&tl=en&u=https://www.zenitcamera.com/rec/news-2017-04-17-01.html  (automatic translation in English).

The goal of KMZ seems to be to sell in limited quantities a rangefinder camera based on Leica M9, the Zenit D1, sold 30% cheaper than its counterpart, as well as another digital camera, the Zenit D11, positioned lower in range and manufactured in large quantities.

The meeting concluded that a working group on the design of Zenit D1 should be set up, which should prepare an indicative budget (development and investment costs). The Zenit D1 would be accompanied by the Zenitar-3, Zenitar-12, Zenitar-MP2 and Zenitar-1/35 lenses in Leica M mount, manufactured by KMZ. A working meeting was planned for 5 and 6 April 2017 at KMZ.

Second report on the second visit:

https://www.zenitcamera.com/rec/news-2017-05-15-01.html (in Russian)

https://translate.google.com/translate?sl=ru&tl=en&u=https://www.zenitcamera.com/rec /news-2017-05-15-01.html  (automatic translation in English).

During the meeting, they talked about the key pricing factors of Zenit D1 and Zenit D11. A Leica designer presented some sketches of what the D1 might look like in a Zenit style. Another design office, Smirnov Design, also present at the meeting, was given the responsibility for presenting an alternative design proposal before the end of April and then supporting the Leica design team regarding design issues and feasibility studies.

It was also stated that the D11 would be sold under the Zorki brand. The objectives concerning it were revised: targeted retail price was decreased and targeted sales volumes were increased.

This is what is revealed by these reports about Leica's involvement in KMZ's projects: a consulting / engineering role to assist KMZ in the design and manufacturing of two digital cameras establishing the renaissance of Zenit (and Zorki) plus, possibly, a role in the manufacturing of the Zenit D1, a limited edition camera.

An official statement

In August 2017, Igor Sergeyev, presented either as the head of Shvabe's department for the development of civilian equipment (Shvabe being the Rostec sub-holding company that owns KMZ) or as the deputy managing director of KMZ in charge of civilian production and consumer goods, was interviewed by a radio station in the Moscow region named Radio 1. His interview was reported on 18 August on Radio 1’s website:

http://radio1.news/news/v-2018-godu-na-mirovykh-rynkakh-poyavitsya-legendarnyy-fotoapparat-zenit/ (in Russian)

https://translate.google.com/translate?sl=ru&tl=en&u=http://radio1.news/news/v-2018-godu-na-mirovykh-rynkakh-poyavitsya-legendarnyy-fotoapparat-zenit/ (automatic translation in English).

The same interview was reported the same day by Rambler News Service (RNS), a news agency:

https://rns.online/it-and-media/V-Rossii-vozobnovyat-proizvodstvo-fotoapparatov-Zenit---2017-08-18/ (in Russian)

https://translate.google.com/translate?sl=ru&tl=en&u=https://rns.online/it-and-media/V-Rossii-vozobnovyat-proizvodstvo-fotoapparatov-Zenit---2017-08-18/ (automatic translation in English).

Sergeyev announced the following: Zenit will make a comeback on the Russian and international markets in 2018 with a 24x36 mirrorless camera. The camera will preserve the distinctive features of the Zenit brand (ergonomics, stylistic features) while modernizing them. It will be available in two colours (one dark, one light) and will be sheathed in high quality leather for a flattering perception. The camera will cost more than a good smartphone, more than an iPhone.

Sergeyev indicated that a project was being developed in close collaboration with one of the leading photographic equipment companies. Within this joint project, “KMZ will be involved in the production of infrastructure for the production of lenses” and the electronic components will be manufactured abroad.

The RNS report was relayed by PhotoRumors on August 18:

The Russian company Zenit to release a new full-frame mirrorless digital camera in 2018

USSRPhoto and Zoom enter the game

The USSRPhoto.com website brings together collectors of Soviet cameras and lenses, mostly Western people. A thread of the USSRPhoto forum had relayed as of August 21 the article of PhotoRumors and that of Rambler News Service.

http://ussrphoto.com/Forum/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=3219

A participant in this thread, nicknamed Zoom, provided on 10 September a rough translation of a paragraph of the article by Radio 1 together with comments of his own (in brackets and in bold in the quotation below):

Next year, the legendary Zenit camera will appear on Russian and foreign markets. This was told by Radio 1 head of the department for the development of civilian instrument making JSC Shvabe Igor Sergeyev.

We ("Shvabe") plan to revive the direction of production of digital photographic equipment. We ("Shvabe") have a working out project of close industrial cooperation with one of the leading photographic equipment companies (is meant Leica Camera AG -- it's not a secret), in order to create a joint product, where KMZ is involved in the production of infrastructure for the production of optics for these cameras (I do not know how to explain this). And electronics (camera body) will be made abroad. Our ("Shvabe") roadmap provides for the withdrawal of this product in the next year," -- said Sergey.

The comments in brackets aside, Zoom’s translation is identical to the automatic translation provided by Google: it is a safe bet that the guy does not even read Russian ...

Until then, Zoom’s comments corresponded to what was known from other sources. However, on September 11 he could not help but go beyond that:

You can buy the original right now:
http://fr.leica-camera.com/Photography/Leica-SL/Leica-SL

[Note that the version of the Leica website used by Zoom incites to think that the guy is French.]

…and again on September 15:

According Igor Sergeyev (JSC "Shvabe"): "KMZ is involved in the production of infrastructure for the production of optics for these cameras".As I said, I do not know how to explain this sentence, sorry. Maybe simple: KMZ produce lenses...
A camera body presumably (but there are no other variants) based on Leica SL, with another design and named as "Zenit", will be made by Leica. I do not think that the price will be very much lower relative to the original. Miracles do not happen.

Zoom is therefore the first person to have mentioned the Leica SL as the basis for the future Zenit (while Patriot's articles were about the M9 and M-mount lenses).

PetaPixel enters the game and the rumour takes shape and grows

On September 16, PetaPixel, which has the permanent permission of the founder of USSRPhoto.com to use the information published on the website, released an article on the subject:

Zenit’s Full Frame Mirrorless Camera to Be a Rebranded Leica SL, Rumor Says

The iconic Russian camera brand Zenit caused a flurry of excitement back in February 2016 after it announced that it’s relaunching in 2018 with a full frame mirrorless camera that rivals Leica in luxury. But the camera may do more than rival Leica… It may actually be a Leica at its core — a rebranded Leica SL.

USSRPhoto is hearing from a Zenit source working inside the company’s KMZ factory that the innards of the upcoming Zenit camera is presumably the German-made Leica SL, which is a medium format mirrorless camera.

There may be outward modifications to the camera’s style by Zenit, and special lenses for the new camera will be made by KMZ in Russia.

The rumour sites that relayed PetaPixel’s article took USSRPhoto for a Russian site, therefore well informed, and… let’s go!

Rumors: Zenit to work together with Leica on their upcoming full-frame mirrorless digital camera (did Leica purchased Zenit?)

Written by Mistral75

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