In my last post of 2018, I forecasted that, due to the continuing contraction of the market for cameras, and thus for lenses, there would be mergers between competitors and/or companies exiting the market.
Frankly, my suppositions were that, for example, Panasonic and Olympus could/would merge their camera divisions as they shared the Micro 4/3 format. Or that weaker players (by market share) might exit the industry, perhaps Ricoh/Pentax.
But the bombshell has exploded, and, while the forecast was correct, the companies involved are a total surprise. Zeiss and Leica are to merge their camera divisions! Obviously one might refer to the “German meets German” component, but it was/is thought that there is more rivalry than camaraderie between the two firms.
Still, with the benefit of what is now 20/20 hindsight, it makes total sense. Zeiss own Schott, a premier manufacturer of exotic grades of glass, of which Leica is an eager customer. The merger will give Leica an inside into Schott.
Also, it was thought that the Zeiss connection with Sony would run opposite to Leica’s with Panasonic. Yet Sony are a major shareholder in Olympus, who in turn are major partners with Panasonic. So, Japan-side, it is all “in the family”.
Then the much-anticipated Zeiss ZX1 appears to be delayed. This conveniently leaves a window of opportunity for the launch of the Leica Q2, targeted at the same customers. It might even be that the delay of the ZX1 would be to take time to commonalize parts of the two designs.
Lastly, people wondered who is the manufacturer of the Zeiss ZX1. The sleek, stark black look of the camera evokes Sigma more than anyone else. Yet Sigma are partners with Leica in the L-mount alliance, which would have, without this merger, made it quite uncomfortable for them to work for both German rivals. But now no more!
Where is this going? The announcement is still fresh, so not much detail is available. The name remains to be announced, whether it is Leiss or Zeica. Leica’s expertise in designing compact lenses of high speed and performance opens the door to new f:1.4 Loxias, to be called Loxilux, whereas the existing ones will become Loxiar, a contraction of Loxia and Elmar. Similarly, the mooted range of Zeiss mini-Otus (f:2.0) will now be Otucron, and will be available also with an L-mount.
Conversely, because Zeiss already have expertise in adapting its lenses on third-party mounts (Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Sony), this will open new commercial avenues for Leica, and there are rumours (as yet unconfirmed) that the ZX1 concept will now be applied to MF on a Leica S-system foundation.
As you can see, once one gets past the initial shock of such an unlikely combination, it makes total sense, as this merger offers far, far more than just the standard cost savings. That said, there are many cultural issues with mergers, and both management teams need to be proactive to avoid this cause of many downfalls.
I, for one, have already informed my friends at Zeiss that I want the first Loxilux 50 f:1.4, and possibly a MF ZX1 as well, with their 35mm f:2.0 acting like a 28mm f:1.4
Yummeee. Who is with me on that?
On another, unrelated, topic, I’ll be posting the results of the Visual Haiku challenge very soon. If you haven’t submitted yours, please do so today or tomorrow. Thanks!
Also, the X1D rolling review has been updated with issues with the silent shutter, auto-ISO setting and Phocus adjustment layers.
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