PHOTOOG Photography writings by Olivier Giroux


Leica DMD Addendum

I've given more thought to the economics of the Leica CL-D concept.

First, what sensor should Leica use? I believe the obvious choices are:

  1. a high-volume 1.5x APS-C sensor from either Sony or Kodak
  2. a fresh spin of the Kodak 1.3x APS-H sensor from the M8

I think it could go either way. Using a 1.5x crop sensor would neatly differentiate it from the M8, implying that this is a lower-specced product, and these are being mass-produced at low cost these days (consider that $400 DSLRs come with these). Conversely using the same sensor as the M8 would allow Leica to cut costs by leveraging common parts across more bodies, which in turn improves pricing leverage (with supplier Kodak) and reduces internal engineering effort.

Presumably a 135-format ("full-frame" or FX) version of the M8 is due in the next 2~3 years. Using the M8 sensor in a CL-D isn't as much of an internal competition issue if the M8 has the option of being upgraded to this new sensor eventually.

Second, how should the value of the CL-D be pitched to the target users? A surprisingly large fraction of the advanced amateur community is able to put down ~$5K if there is a sense of high value for money, i.e. that this money goes a long way. Currently I don't think anyone could argue that the M8 is a good value at $5500 (body-only), which puts it against cameras like the D3 that vastly outclass it in core imaging capabilities (ignore gizmotronics for now).

In my mind $5K is a magical threshold for which a competent system (not just a camera) must be available in order to appeal to the amateur community. Consider these two combinations that I would have no issue recommending to advanced amateurs (very different amateurs... ;^):

Nikon do-it-all VR zoom kit:

$1700 Nikon D300
$ 650 Nikon 16-85 VR
$ 750 Nikon 105 Micro VR
$1600 Nikon 70-200 VR

Nikon meticulous photographer kit:

$1700 Nikon D300
$ 900 Nikon 12-24
$ 800 Zeiss 2/35 Distagon ZF
$1600 Zeiss 2/100 Makro-Planar ZF

Like it or not, this is what Leica is up against. Leica doesn't need to match every feature or spec 1:1, but they need to offer something well-rounded for amateurs to consider. Very different people will go for the D300 than would go for the CL-D, hence cutting Leica some slack to offer something originally Leica, but that doesn't mean the CL-D audience is all made of dentists and lawyers.

In my mind an APS-H Leica CL-D kit looks something like this:

$3000 Leica CL-D (10MP 1.3x)
incl. Leica 2.5/90 Summarit-M (120mm)
$1100 Zeiss 2.8/21 Biogon ZM (28mm)
$ 900 Zeiss 2/35 Biogon ZM (47mm)

I believe this dictates the pricing window for the CL-D fairly exactly. i.e. I don't believe that if it cost less than this it could still deliver on the promise of a Leica. But if it cost more then it gets discarded out of hand by most of the advanced amateur community as an unreasonable expense (too low value for money).

Finally, an APS-C Leica CL-D kit might look like this, shortening two components:

$3000 Leica CL-D (10MP 1.5x)
incl. Leica 2.5/75 Summarit-M (113mm)
$1100 Zeiss 4/18 Distagon ZM (27mm)
$ 900 Zeiss 2/35 Biogon ZM (53mm)

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