Leica’s S2 and the death of the R

October 19th, 2009 § 0 |

So Leica is coming late to the medium format camera and killing the R.

What are they thinking of?

Leica has a reflex camera: the R. R glass is brilliant and holds up just find to even the best full frame sensors. I shoot an Leica R 90mm on my Canon 5D and it’s my favorite lens.

With all that great legacy R glass out there, all they needed to do to make a killing is make a new R. The new R could be bare bones. Only one issue is important, the size of viewfinder and the ground glass in it. You should be able to really use Leica’s new R as a manual focus camera.

This camera is too big in an era where people want to scale down. The lenses are too expensive.

The next issue with the new Leica cameras is image quality. There is just not much all that exciting about the images I’ve seen floating around from either camera. The pictures themselves would look better if you put top R glass onto a Canon body (it works).

What Leica should have done here is build a high quality manual focus camera to use R glass.

The viewfinder should be like the Olympus OM-1, with a brilliant prism and very clear focus markings. I’d recommend a a simple a diagonal or horizontal prism. The approach of Canon in the 5D enhanced focus screen is not too bad either: everything goes sharply in and out of focus. In combination these two could be very strong, allowing one to focus away from center when necessary. Size and brilliance are the issue.

If I had the resources, I’d make that body myself.

I’d partner up with Samsung or Sony for the sensor (if Samsung could do the full frame, otherwise Sony’s full frame sensor that is in their A850, A900 and Nikon’s D3X). For electronics, it would be nice to partner with Nikon but if they won’t play along, Pentax has some good technology.

For the body and viewfinder and assembling I would go to Ukraine’s Kiev, as they have quite a bit of experience with Leica lens mounts and high quality glass viewfinders.

I’d go further and make the mount swappable so that one could use manual Leica R, Pentax screw, Pentax K, Nikon and Canon FD lenses. Each mount adapter would cost a few hundred euros but would allow normal stop down focusing and have high quality parts making it as easy to swap lenses as on the original camera.

Unfortunately, the camera business is extremely capital intensive so this is not a project that can be undertaken by a small business. The danger in the project is the disparate parts. If the Ukrainians made a mistake somewhere in machining or assembling the cameras, they would only be liable for the broken parts. The investor would then be responsible for Pentax and or Sony or Samsung’s order.

On the other hand, Leica could have built such a camera quickly and easily. That they didn’t indicates that Leica is not a company to be trusted. They preferred to obsolete their R glass than build an updated camera.

Why not?

With an updated R, there is a sea of great legacy glass out there. So there is no great win for them. Would I trust Leica with the money that a P5 costs?

Never.

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