Leica and Micro Four-Thirds: Could this be the G-Lux?
In his crystal ball gazing opinion piece on Macfilos last week, Wayne Gerlach wondered whether Leica might be tempted to enter the micro four-thirds world following the success of the D Lux. There’s a lot of logic in the suggestion. Leica has a strong and long-standing cooperative agreement with Panasonic and the shared cameras have been an important component in broadening Leica's offering.
Two mainstream Lumix models, the FZ1000 and LX100 are sold under the Leica brand — the V-Lux and the D-Lux — with different cosmetic packaging and modified software. Leica claims that they are improved over their Panasonic brethren.
Leica also lends its name to the very impressive range of DG micro four-thirds lenses, including the superb 12-60mm zoom which is one of my all-time favourites.
So there is some basis for Wayne ’s crystal ball suggestions. A Leica-branded version of, say, the Lumix GX8 would be very popular among Leica fans. I agree with him. I also think a red dot would look good on the Lumix G9 would I believe it wuldsell in large numbers to the Leica faithful.
These variants are invariably more expensive than their complementary Panasonics and it is very easy to write them off as overpriced: “Why not just buy the Panasonic and save yourself a hundred or two?”, is a common refrain from people who have little understanding of marketing.
The fact is that it isn't a clear-cut matter. The more expensive camera with the Leica badge will retain more value than the Panasonic when it comes time to sell. The model will also be in demand for many more years, as evidenced by robust sales of earlier D-Luxes and V-Luxes, not to mention classics such as the 14-year-old Leica Digilux which still commands some 40% of its original price. Indeed, that “Leica tax” is turned into a tax credit when you come to sell. The overall cost of owning the Leica version, even taking into account the premium purchase price, is often lower than if you'd taken the upfront saving and bought the Panasonic.
It seems to be a no-brainer for Leica to jump on the successful micro four-thirds bandwagon. All the ducks are in a row, it just needs an agreement, a boxful of red dots and a pot of glue. The word LEICA would fit perfectly in place of LUMIX on the front of the camera (if only I had had the right font, see the mock-up at the top of the page).
So why has this not happened? Leica has made it clear in the past that it is not interested in fielding another interchangeable-lens system. Stefan Daniel told me three years ago at Photokina that there would never be a micro four-thirds Leica. It was at the launch of the new D Lux and he made it very clear that it should not be referred to as a m4/3 camera, merely a 4/3. Micro four-thirds is reserved for the system, not simply a description of the sensor size, that much is clear. But is there more to it than that?
It seems to me there are two possible reasons for the absence of m4/3 cameras in Leica's lineup. One is that Leica may be prevented from joining the m4/3 crowd for legal reasons, perhaps something to do with the co-operative agreement with Panasonic. However, this doesn't stop Leica donating its name to Panasonic's premium lens range. But perhaps Olympus, the only other manufacture of m4/3 cameras, doesn’t like the idea of widening the playing field.
The second reason could be that Leica simply doesn’t want to get involved in another system, despite its involvement in the design of m4/3 lenses.
Nevertheless, it’s a fascinating prospect. I firmly believe that Leica would be banging on an open door if it rebadged the GX8 or G9. As it is, many Leica users have bought such bodies as the basis of a lightweight travel system — an autofocus alternative to the traditional M camera. Many of them, me included, have also bought into the Leica DG lens system. And the little D-Lux (aka Panasonic LX100) has been an undoubted success for Leica.
Wayne makes a very good point and he reflects the views of many Leica users.
Read also our reviews of the Leica V-Lux and D-Lux
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