Huawei the Lads: Leica polishes up its Smartilux
Leica’s hook up with Huawei to fettle smartphone photography came as a surprise. Initial assumptions were that Leica was preparing to produce its own smartphone. I hope this is not the case, for that would be a sure road to disaster. But as a collaborative arrangement with a major smartphone supplier, Leica’s decision does make some sort of sense.
Smartphone photography (not to mention tablet photography) has taken off in a big way. Everyone has assumed that the convenience and rapidly improving quality of phone cameras would spell doom for the manufacturers of one-trick-pony snappers, particularly those at the lower end of the spectrum. But it seems that this is not entirely the case.
On the contrary, there is every pointer to smartphone photography quickening interest in “proper” picture taking. The reason is that the smartphone, particularly the iPhone of which I have personal experience, seeks to flatter. With seemingly little effort, the iPhone can produce outstanding pictures for the tiny screen, persuading even the least talented among us that we have the makings of a good photography.
It is but a small step from this minor victory to taking a deeper interest in photography. Then comes the slippery slope—perhaps a Sony RX100 or a micro-four-thirds shooter, followed by the irresistible pull of APS-C or, even, full frame or large format. It could well be that the humble smartphone will prove to be the catalyst for a resurgence in serious photography.
But where does this leave Leica and Huawei? I could have preferred to find Leica doing a deal with Apple, particularly since Leica’s Andreas Kaufmann is known to be a seasoned Cupertino fan. That would have been good but, almost certainly, a non starter. Apple is too big and too independent minded; Apple doesn’t need Leica to help it sell phones. Leica, however, could very well have done handsomely from a link with Apple.
If the Leica association exposes Huawei owners to the brand, perhaps leading to an interest in buying a Leica camera, all well and good. Expensive Leica cameras are already surprisingly popular in China—I see more Ms in the Forbidden City than I do on the streets of London—and the Huawei relationship cannot will help in raising awareness. But much will depend on how effectively Leica can improve the quality of smartphone photography. If the association is to be more than a gimmick, there need to be real advances. If there aren't, Leica’s image could suffer.
Will this encourage Leica owners to flog their Apple devices and espouse China’s finest? No, of course not. it will take more than an Android with red dot to persuade me to ditch Apple and its incomparable eco-system. This will be an interesting one to watch.