Leakage. The Primary Marketing Strategy of the Camera Industry.


I'm not currently a Leica digital "M" user. But within the smallish niche of Leica M photographers the fora are lighting up like fireworks on the 4th of July. Details started leaking out this week about the upcoming launch of the Leica M11. And I'm sure it's a wonderful camera for anyone who is ready to drop about $9.000 USD on the most current iteration of the venerable M series of cameras. 

According to the (well documented) leaks the new camera will be the first one of the series to do away with the removable bottom plate. The designers are following the example of the Leica Q2 with the battery flush with the bottom of the camera. The battery is also gasket to ward off moisture damage and dust. The battery release mechanism works the same as the one on the SL2; you push a lever adjacent to the battery which releases the battery partially, then you push lightly on the bottom of the battery to effect the full release. It's a nice system and you don't have a situation in which a battery springs out from its enclosure and slams onto a concrete floor. 

The most dedicated Leica zealots will no doubt cry and wail about the disappearance of a removable bottom plate mostly because it will be one more vestigial piece of M-ness of which they will be forever deprived. Along the same lines the body will no longer have brass components because Leica has decided that special aluminum alloys are... better. This will cause rent fabric, the burning of owners manuals and many other displays of sadness and disappointment. (and how many of you chipped teeth by holding the metal bottom plate of an M3 between them while fumbling to load one of those fussy cameras?).

Most of the leaks seem to confirm that the new M11 will feature some variation of the Sony 60 megapixel sensor and much hoopla will be made about the Leica M series "Apo" lenses being designed to resolve all the way out to 100 megapixels with the implication that lenses from leading rivals are so tawdry and unsharp by comparison that the potential of the 60 megapixels in other system will be wasted as the optical systems available for them won't resolve anywhere near that level of detail. 

I predict though that some in the Leica camp will clamor for a lower resolution version of the M11. Something like an M11 - Lite. There are any number of photographers who don't need or want the giant resolution, and the even more enormous resulting raw files. We saw this play out last year when Leica launched the 24 megapixel SL2-S as a lower resolution sibling (and a lower price-tagged) companion or substitute for the SL2. In the interim between the introduction of the SL2 and the arrival of the SL2-S many professional users voiced their concerns about too many pixels with their credit cards and bought up most of the premium condition, used SL cameras on the market. Sending a message that, perhaps, 24 megapixels really is the sweet spot for most photographers, regardless of the resolving power of the lenses. 

If you are in the market for the new M11 you'll be happy to know that there's a new, outboard, EVF finder (fits in the accessory shoe of the camera) available with a higher resolution than the previous one; and a lower profile. You might also be happy to hear that replacement batteries for the camera are "only" $180 instead of the $285 price tag of the SL, SL2 and SL2-S batteries. Oh happy days! Yes, the add-on thumb rest will be available for this camera at the very "reasonable" price point of $265. So, you'll be able to customize your camera to your heart's content. 

The rest of the camera specs reflect the growing electrification of the M series and now the current camera can deliver electronic shutter speeds all the way to 1/16,000th of second. All while keeping the traditional optical rangefinder.

The most humorous forum exchange I have seen so far was between a person who claimed to be a recipient of a pre-announcement M11 for test and review and a fellow antagonist who seemed to make it his mission to pillory the first poster for "breaking" his NDA and leaking some information. It could have been innocuous information such as, "The M11 will continue the tradition of using Leica M series lenses." Or, "The new M11 will require a battery in order to function." The haranguing went on for at least an internet page of comments. 

So, how do I feel about the latest M camera? Am I in the market for one? Not likely. I thoroughly enjoyed shooting M film cameras but each time I've tried one of the digital versions I've come up a bit cold. I like the size of them and I like the concept but I've become so wedded to the versatility of the SLR/DSLR/Mirrorless replication LR that I won't willingly go backwards when it come to my serious cameras. I am a complete Leica enthusiast and think that the CL camera should have been fleshed out into a worthy, discreet, sneaky, silent street shooting tool. It fulfills that function for me. And the SL cameras are the perfect workhorses for my style of commercial work.

But the M system seems locked into a style and period of photography that most folks won't tolerate anymore. There are so many new photographers who've cut their teeth on the holy trinity of zoom lenses and I can't imagine many of them giving up their 70-200mm f2.8 zooms, etc. in order to use a camera that was basically designed to work well with single focal length optics that range from about 28mm to 90mm. 

So the Ms will continue to be the camera of choice for a select group that remembers how cool their fathers or grandfathers thought the original M cameras were. And there really are people for whom the M11 and a 35mm Summilux will actually be a perfect fit for their personal shooting style. I guess the underlying hope of a lot of people who really want the M experience but can't afford to buy it new is that recently-made-flush-by-the-stock-market people will buy the M11 and a few lenses just because "it's the best in the world" and will then succumb to buyer's remorse when they realize that Leica Ms are  extremely specialized tools and not a great "Swiss Army Knife" of cameras. Then the hope is that the M11s will flood into the used market and make photographers of a certain bent and budget quite happy. This may be the case but as in so many other areas the value of used Leicas doesn't decline like it used to. 

A very humorous part of the loudly heralded announcement is the fact that Leica Store dealers around the country have invited their customers to either travel to the stores or join them by Zoom to be, in some way, present for this "historical" unveiling that will take place on the 12th of January. I foresee trays of passed, hot hors de oeuvres, Champagne fountains, middle-aged men wearing Leicas and fishing vests and long gone Magnum photographers turning over in their graves at the spectacle of what camera marketing has become. But maybe not. Maybe it's always been this way but no one ever invited me to the party...

After all the hoopla dies down I hope the Leica engineers will get back to work on the CL2. And I hope the design they finally bless us with keeps the same battery as the CL. The only cost effective battery ever adopted by Leica! We can always dream...

On a health related note: Continuing onward with my newfound love of vaccination I have, just this morning, gotten a pneumonia vaccine. I figure that if, in spite of my overweening caution, I do manage to catch Omicron Covid I want to make sure I don't get a side of pnuemonia along with the entrée.

If you happen to be one of the very few readers here who is over 65 I suggest you liaison with your medical staff and "get the jab" to prevent pnuemonia. Seems to be a prudent step and it's free to Medicare recipients. Just sayin. 

And yes, good swim this morning... but I won't bore you with the details. The Leica launch is currently sapping all my writing energy.