Rumors: the new Zenit D1 mirrorless full-frame digital camera could be a limited edition based on the Leica M9, new Zenitar lenses for Leica M-mount

Another very interesting report from (see also previous related posts) - the new Zenit D1 mirrorless full-frame digital camera could be a limited edition version based on the Leica M9. The Zenit D1 could launch with several new Zenitar lenses for Leica M-mount.

My understanding is that another Zenit D11 model will also be released, but the details are not clear.

The price of the new Zenit digital cameras are expected to be 30% lower than the corresponding Leica products.

It makes sense for Zenit to launch a new M-mount digital camera and lenses - after all, they have been producing fake Leica rangefinders for decades (Zorki and FED cameras were also produced in the Krasnogorsk Mechanical Factory KMZ, which also produced the Zenit single lens reflex camera):

Fake Russian Leica M camera

Fake Russian Leica M camera

Here is the full Google translation of the article:

Another "Renaissance of the Legend"

In the April issue of the Patriot factory newspaper, the article "Revival of the Legend" * published a very confused (or specially confused) report about the visit of the Leica Camera AG company to the delegation of the managing company of the majority shareholder of PJSC KMZ led by S. Popov, Deputy General Director of the management company. "For carrying out negotiations on the digital camera ZENIT D1 project" . In connection with the fact that the text is full of strange statements, we did not dare to publish even individual extracts for a long time, in order not to confuse the situation even more ...

To begin with, the report mentions projects of different names: the one already mentioned above, and also: "Development and creation of serial production of digital cameras in PAO KMZ" and "ZENIT - the revival of the legend" . As these projects relate to each other - it is unclear. Although, most likely, it is still about one project, which, in fact, has no title yet.

The article says that during the visit technical and organizational issues related to the creation and organization of the production of the camera "limited series based on the Leica M9 - ZENIT D1 model and the new (popular) ZENIT D11 camera, taking into account the concept of Leica Camera AG" were discussed during the visit . The mention of the Leica M9 rangefinder camera in the context of what was referred to as the " mirrorless camera segment " is somewhat incomprehensible and most likely erroneous, since in combination of a frame size of 24 × 36 mm with interchangeable optics, it can only be a model Leica SL ** . About the "new people's" camera D11 was mentioned only in the proposed proposal of the Russian side"On the possibility of the annual withdrawal of the ZENIT D1 Limited Edition camera in the volume of 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021 pieces, respectively, which will help to support the sale of ZENIT D11 cameras. " What was discussed here - we are powerless to decipher ...

When mentioning the price, it was stressed that the Russian side expects that "The ZENIT product should have a price for the end consumer 30% lower compared to the original product from Leica Camera AG. " The reaction of the German side to such expectations in the article is not described. In general, the whole article, which is natural, describes the view of only one side.

From the German side, the designer of Leica Camera AG, Christophe Gredler, was mentioned who told "about the importance of creating an original interface in the development, which distinguishes the camera from the analogues on the market, and that three new postulates will be based on the design of the new camera: , clarity, originality . " Why Christophe Gredler told all this, what he had in mind - the article is not explained.

In addition to the designer, Manfred Born, the head of the department for production planning and technological support, also participated in the meeting, who "demonstrated the camera on the basis of the" M "platform - it consists of 591 parts. For the assembly and production of the camera series "M", 129 units of equipment are used. The final assembling operations on the basis of production in Wetzlar on the camera of the "M" series are 6 hours (without taking into account the standard hours for the manufacture of parts in production in Portugal). For example, the time of manufacturing the "top cover" is 19 minutes. " - For some reason, the article emphasizes.

Based on the results of the negotiations, it was decided "to prepare a technical task for the development of an original design project for the camera" , and financially and economically "to present the initial data on the investment budget of the project in Leica Camera AG" (in fact, if you do not ask questions about which camera and the project is just talking - everything seems to be clear). For its part, Leica, says the article, "will consider the possibility of completing the ZENIT D1 camera with interchangeable lenses Zenitar-3, Zenitar-12, Zenitar-MP2, Zenitar-1/35 produced by KMZ for fixing M-mount. " Those. production of cameras is not planned at least somehow to be transferred to Krasnogorsk, but at the same time the manager of the QMS service Sergey Vochmin noted that:"To position the product, it is important to note that ZENIT photographic equipment will be manufactured under the control of Leica Camera AG with strict compliance with all QMS requirements . " Here, the QMS is a quality management system - ISO 9000 is the mandatory catechism inherent in modern Russian management, which, judging by what has been said, believes that product positioning is somehow connected with this series of international standards containing terms and definitions, basic principles and requirements to the QMS system, which are not the quality standards of the product itself and do not directly guarantee the high quality of the products.

In addition to photographic cases, issues related to the observation technology and film lenses Optar - at the meeting, the article notes, was attended by the director of the company CW Sonderoptic (partner Leica Camera AG in the direction of film technology) Gerhard Bayer.

After the negotiations, the parties agreed on the organization of a working meeting on the development of a design project on the basis of PAO KMZ on April 5-6, 2017. (see the next news of May 15, 2017 )

Based on the materials of the factory newspaper Patriot (April 12).

*) - On the previous article with almost the same title - "The Return of the Legend" - see the news of October 10, 2013 . It should be noted that the term "legend" is used here not in direct dictionary meaning: a poetic legend about a historical event , and not even a figurative meaning of fiction, something incredible , and in a third, dictionaries not fixed, but we hope that not in the sense of a fictitious biography, history or other narrative intended to hide the truth .

On the visit of the German side to KMZ see the news of October 31, 2016 .

**) - Or the author of the published material relates the range-measuring camera Leica M9 to the mentioned "segment of mirror-free cameras". To this type of camera it is possible to include the words quoted above by Christophe Gredler "about the importance of creating an original interface ..." , but, alas, not to long-range cameras whose interface - i.e. the way of interaction between a person and a camera is traditional and does not need any changes for the sake of difference from others. But as we warned in the beginning: the text is full of strange statements. It is possible that this happened by itself, and perhaps - it is confused specially.

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  • ZMWT

    So this all about a strategy to help people get what they always wanted —
    cheaper M-mount Leica cameras. And at the same time, this helps KMZ too be busy and deliver in optical excellence of their own.
    The complex rangefinder assembly can be replaced by a simpler EVF solution, already in place in fixed-lens Leica Q. So instead of Leica doing themselves an M camera with an EVF only, and devaluing their traditionally acclaimed M series (pinnacle of mechanical design) and not having enough of capacity to serve so many orders of a cheaper model, KMZ will do all that for Leica. And brand the new camera with a different name, and sell with own lenses too.
    And people will get what they always wanted — a cheaper Leica M with an EVF in place of a much more complex rangefinder. Cost reduced by 30%, quality of the rest is same.

    • Yes, I think this is the bottom line – to offer a “cheaper” Leica experience.

      • Robert Falconer

        So lemmie see if I understand this correctly: You’ll pay 70% the price of a Leica to have a camera with the Zenit name on it…in an overall shrinking marketplace? Who is the perceived buyer for such a product, one that doesn’t really offer either functional value OR brand prestige?

        All I can say is good luck to them.

        • soundimageplus

          ‘You’ll pay 70% the price of a Leica to have a camera with the Zenit name on it.’ I agree with you. As you say a “Zenit Leica” at 70% of Leica is hardly a bargain unless a genuine Leica link can be established and seen to be in place. A ‘cheaper Leica experience?’ Hardly.

          This story is actually getting stranger the more ‘information’ emerges. None of it makes sense to me, either financially or in terms of what possible advantage this could be to Leica. I find it difficult to imagine anybody paying £3000 or thereabouts for a Leica M9 copy with Zenit stuck on the front. Make the price £1000-1500 and then it might be feasible.

          Overall the words News and Fake spring to mind.

          • Robert Falconer

            “I find it difficult to imagine anybody paying £3000 or thereabouts for a Leica M9 copy with Zenit stuck on the front.”

            Sort of like spending $150,000 for a Rolls Royce copy with the name Lada stuck on the front.

            Makes zero sense to me, either.

          • Ok, keep in mind that they will make lenses as well, maybe the lenses will make more sense.

          • This is definitely not fake news. Some of the interpretations or translations could be wrong or incomplete and the reports mentioned that already. To me all this makes perfect sense. The Russians want to bring back their camera production to life, Leica is looking for other ways to expand their business. As I already said, the same factory has been making fake Leica cameras for decades. I agree on the price, it doesn’t make any sense to me.

          • soundimageplus

            ‘Leica is looking for other ways to expand their business.’ That may (Or may not) be the case, but what value would a prestige brand like Leica gain from an association with a brand that has hardly the same reputation? In fact quite the opposite. With his Rolls Royce – Lada comparison Robert Falconer makes a good point. The gap between Leica and Zenit IS that great, at least in terms of perception.

            How would an association with, lets be honest, a company for whom the most used adjective was ‘cheap’ benefit Leica? That’s a serious question. OK it’s possible that it could be a Volkswagen – Skoda situation, where a much reviled name has seriously benefited from being taken over by a valued name. But Zenit is hardly a brand name that resonates with the current camera buying market.

            For many the point of buying a Leica is…… because it’s a Leica. If we who buy into the brand wanted a cheaper version of what we have, wouldn’t we buy Fuji or m4/3? I shudder to think of the ‘Leica Zenit’ credibility gap. ‘They are partnered with Leica…no really….it’s not the same as that Russian c**p that came out years ago… really…’s not………’

          • My point is that meetings between both parties happened, so this is not fake news. What the outcome of those meetings will be, we can only guess and speculate. The VW and Skoda analogy is a very good one – you can still sell Leica cameras after/if they partner with Zenit. And from what I read, the new Skoda cars are a pretty good value. Many people want a Leica rangefinder camera, the only reason they are not getting one is the high price.

          • lobotomisedjournalist

            Yes, this association seems absurd. I had a Zenith E in the 70s and it was a crap camera. Big heavy, and bits fell off, even though it seemed to be made from old tractor parts welded together. Refined, it was not. Small, it was not. Reliable, it was not. But it was the cheapest, most basic SLR on the market, and it was all I could afford. The very opposite of the Leica cameras I later acquired.

          • CCD FTW

            Many people who aren’t you, don’t buy Leica because of the Leica badge. In fact this talk of Rolls and premium brands etc, my M9 and MM are quite frankly, pretty crap digital cameras. In the world of digital cameras they are actually pretty pitiful. Not one thing about the digital components of these things feel ‘premium’.

            Anyway getting back to this brand thing: I have no association with Leica, I don’t care for the Leica brand or its faux-luxury status.

            I guarantee, most people who will buy these (if they ever come out) will not be buying them wishing they were buying a Leica.

          • soundimageplus

            Two points – Firstly please don’t comment on things I didn’t write. Leica is more than the badge and as a photographer who earns a living from my cameras I buy cameras because they do a job for me, nothing more or less. Plus I would mention that when I bought my M9, I used it for two years and then sold it. When my tax allowances were taken into consideration I actually made a profit on the camera after using it for that time. For me a very compelling reason to buy Leica.

            Secondly I disagree about the M9, but what really puzzles me is why you bought it and the MM and seemingly still have them if you dislike the brand so much.

        • ZMWT

          Actually not all digital camera markets are shrinking. Some are expanding, and Leica M camera is in that market.

        • 70% from the price of Leica is not cheap enough in my opinion, they have to go lower. But keep in mind that they described the upcoming Zenit camera as a “This is a very high demand product, we want to make it a luxury device, by analogy with the Leica”

    • Tim Rule

      On eBay, a M9 with new sensor sells for under 3,000 €. New Leica is 6,000+ €. If I wanted a cheaper Leica … then there it is!

      A Zenit camera, sure, could be nice. However, would not get too excited, this is likely a Zenith camera with a Leica Sensor … not a cheaper M.

  • eric

    Unless it was way cheaper than an M it wouldn’t be worth it in my opinion. if something goes wrong with your M at least Leica could repair it. Will Leica repair zenit’s too? A lot of unknowns still.

    • I just don’t know if 30% cheaper than Leica will be good enough.

      • ZMWT

        They are definitely not interested to sell millions of those. Sony may be interested in millions, but not small manufacurers. They just want to sell enough of them, to maintain required quality and not cheapen the overall perception of an M product. If in that price they include a lens too — which happens in some Leica M deals from time to time — then they will find their audience.

      • eric

        agree. That’s still a lot. At that price you can almost get the m (typ 262)

        • they have to aim at least at 50% off Leica prices for all this to make sense

          • ZMWT

            It is easier to say “30% off” and appear very generous and insightful by lowering to 40-45% in some time, than stating “50% off” right away, and people believing it must be some junk to start with. 😉

  • Gerald Lee

    This makes sense. Zenit will then be able to distribute their products through Leica supply chain and is what would helps make it successful.

    Leica may be able to clear old parts through Zenit too. There’s a lot of possibilities in this partnership.

    Since rangefinder is a possibility now, I am excited. 🙂

    • Yes, it does make sense, think also about the huge Russian market.

      • Tim Rule

        Blackstone also want to sell their minority share … so you can imagine that this, and other things, are being driven from the more financially minded minority stake holder … including the rumour feedstock 😉

  • John-F

    Regarding the Leica M9 mentioned in the article as the basis for this new Zenit D1 camera, the 18MP KAF-18500 CCD sensor used in the M9 was designed and made by Kodak ISS, which was later sold to TrueSense, which itself has now been integrated into ON Semi (see:

    I just had a look at their list of image sensors (see and the old KAF-18500 is not in the list … However, thanks to Google, I did find this (legacy?) document:

    Is this Kodak designed CCD sensor still available or not? Will the Zenit D1 instead use a more modern CMOS sensor sourced from another supplier? (which would be needed if the Zenit D1 is to include an EVF…)

    Peter, do you know anything about this? Thanks.

    • Tim Rule

      M9 sensor replacement program? Someone is making them.

    • No, I don’t know anything about the sensor they will use. I am not even sure if both parties agreed on anything, all I know is that multiple meeting on the highest level happened.

  • nemo295

    Why the heck would anyone want to buy a rebranded M9, when they could buy a used Leica M9 in great condition for cheap? In any case, the only potentially interesting part of this is the news there will be a new series of Zenitar lenses for M-mount. Those might actually be decent values.

  • Bo Dez

    I don’t feel this would be good for Leica.

  • Assuming the M mount is licensed, Leica would benefit from licensing revenue, plus an expanded demand for M lenses, as well as a gateway product for people who want to dip their toe in the rangefinder waters without paying a lot or shooting film.

    I agree that it’ll probably need to come in cheaper than a 2nd hand M9.

    How old do you have to be to remember the Zenit brand and it’s negative connotations? Seems like it’d be a relatively easy turn-around – especially compared to repositioning Leica from the professional’s choice to the essencial photographic experience.

    • Mistral75

      The M mount is in the public domain.

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