Readers of DearSusan know it, not one of our gang is actually fond of Leica. Well that’s not true. We’re all rather fond of Leica actually, but not of Leica cameras. All of us love Leica glass, but the cameras, well… We’d all love for Leica to do well and force us to lust for and covet its latest brainchild so bad we’d eat our words and join the Red Dot bandwagon. Is it happening? Nah! Or not?
The reasons for our preferring other brands hinge on 3 issues. One is performance. Cameras today are electronic gizmos. Meaning crunching data. For that, you need Power. Resolution. Speed. And, in that respect, Leica are behind the power curve. The S, Leica’s medium format flagship, clocking in at 37,5 Mp, when competitors (Hasselblad, Pentax, Fuji) offer 50Mp. The M and SL, stuck at some 24Mp, which for FF is so yesterday. It was the resolution of the groundbreaking Canon 5DII, and is actually the same as the Sony A7, the most affordable FF camera today.
But the worst offender had to be the Leica T. A luxo offering in the APS-C space. Milled from one single metal block, eminently covetable. But equipped with a 16Mp Sony sensor that everyone else had by then ditched for better, more recent designs. With more resolution, but also better DR, less noise, etc…
The second issue with Leica is the pride/vanity of the brand. Yes, luxury is built is built on exclusivity. But does that mean that the rest of the world must be made to feel like crap? That, if you don’t eat, drink, breathe Leica, you just don’t “get” it, because you are too daft, ill-educated, blind? In a word, unworthy? Now that can fly if your products are truly a breed apart. But when you release the Leica T, the world can be forgiven for hitting back.
And the third issue, of course is price. Leica don’t consider themselves camera makers, but a luxury brand involved in photography. A high price is part of its identity, part of what keeps the brand exclusive, part of perceived value. But when the Leica T appears at €1800 and has innards similar to the 450€ Sony NEX from a previous generation…. A 4x premium? Really? No, really?
Well, that could be about to change. The first time I sat back and thought about it was comparing the prices of the Leica Q and the Sony RX-1R and later RII. Now they aren’t specced quite the same, with 28mm Vs. 35mm, and Sony has higher resolution, and Leica has a touch-screen and f:1.7 Vs the Sony’s f:2.0, etc… But the premium against the original RX1 was only 20%, and now, against the newer, high-resolution RX1 RII, it is…O. There are rumors that the Leica Q is actually a Panasonic camera (Leica’s partner in compact cameras), which could explain the “agressive” positioning, but that doesn’t change the fact that both cameras are sold at the same price.
When the important-to-Leica SL was launched, again the price differential to Sony was reviewed and came out at 2x (now, with the price of the Sony slipping, it is more). 2x the price with less power, that is steep, my friends. Basically, you can get a Hassy X1-D medium-format, also a storied, professional-and-luxo-brand for the same price as a FF Leica mirrorless.
Now, the reason I am writing this is not Leica-bashing. On the contrary. Enter the Leica TL2. Successor to the TL, itself successor to the T camera I lambasted earlier. Price in France? 1950€. In the meanwhile, Sony, the leader in the mirrorless space, has been raising prices and specs for its products, wth its flagship APS-C Alpha 6500 clocking in at 1590€ (it can be had cheaper, but not at the same stores as the Leica). Again, a premium of 20%, like the release of the Q. And it keeps its goodies, like the single-block-of-metal construction, the made-in-Germany, etc…
What about the specs? 24Mp, like the Sony. A powerful processor, borrowed from its very recent M10 camera. 4K video. Touch-screen. Wi-fi. Meaning, fully competitive! For a 20% premium? Well, that sounds interesting, because, let’s be fair, it is better built and offers a better shooting experience than the Sony, not the most refined of toys.
There is a caveat. The Sony offers in-body-stabilisation, which the Leica does not. So the closest Sony competitor is the Alpha 6300, the predecessor to the 6500. Everything is the same except for that, and the price which, against the Leica shows a differential of 50%. Still something to be considered seriously. Ever thought of comparing the price of a Mercedes CLK with a Mazda Miata or Fiat 124? Of a Porsche Cayman Vs. the latest hot hatchbacks from VW, Seat, Renault or Peugeot that charge just as fast down the Nurbürgring? We all know a Porsche will keep its value far better than a hot hatch, and the same is true for a Leica. If you sell it, that is, because it is more a built-for-a-long-time part of your toy-box than a Sony, which incorporates obsolescence and shorter life as parts of its design.
Now, I’ve not tried out the TL2. Leica for sure won’t lend one for trials to DearSusan. That is the last remaining objection. The price is right, for a premium product. The specs are right. I have no doubt it is a delightful imagemaker. If only Leica would stop talking down to the rest of the world and get off their high horse….
PS. No doubt there will be objections, because the prices I use for reference are not true in every market. Fair enough. Others will say that Sony are now an also-ran in APS-C Vs. Fuji. So be it, but Fuji prices tell pretty much the same story, the X-Pro II being more expensive than the Sony, and still no Leica fine-art-object. So, please, give me a break. You can argue the details and percentages. But, fact is, the TL2 is a contender, a desirable, likeable, welcome contender. That is more than I could say for multiple Leica launches, and it makes me happy to write this. We would all like Leica to offer Sony, Fuji and others some premium competition.
PPS: This post only contains bicycle pictures, so asking “why bicycles?” comes across as a sane, logical question. The answer is: “cause they have two wheels, that’s why!”
More seriously, bikes are utilitarian products, like cameras, with style, and a distinctive user experience, like cameras. Some of them have gone tremendously upmarket, as a statement of sorts, while others are made en masse in China… Now if only I could find my digital bike with IA…
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