PHOTOOG Photography writings by Olivier Giroux


Current rumors

Looks like I just tempted fate, because we’ve got lots of rumors of digital rangefinders this month.

My 2 cents is that the Zeiss rumor is quite believable. The key technical aspects look to me like they’ve been solved. They have been partners with Sony for a very long time. Sony has an excellent full-frame sensor that will get the backlit-silicon treatment (Exmoor-R) soon. Sony also has nothing to lose from adding a rangefinder to the line-up, and much street-cred to gain.

There’s two basic ways this can play out:
1) Zeiss develops an Ikon Digital camera with Cosina’s body, and a sensor from Sony.
2) Sony develops a Hexar D-RF camera with its own sensor, and body parts from Zeiss/Cosina.

It all depends who you see as the driving force. A company like Sony has a marked advantage with the overall implementation of an electronics-rich product like this, but do they have the will to do it? I think Zeiss has the will right now, it’s time, but do they have the electronics know-how and the support network? It can be a partnership but someone’s got to be on top and I’m not sure who it is.

My bet is that we’ll see this Zeiss/Sony rangefinder camera at Photokina 2010. We might get a sneak peek before that if Solms makes noise about its own plans.

The Leica rumor – that 9/9/9 story – doesn’t sound right to me. It’s not impossible we’ll get an announcement about the M9’s development, but I don’t expect a tangible M9 camera. Ditto for a “Digital CL” or whatever an entry-level M-camera might be called.

The only way I see an M9 showing up on 9/9/9 is if they aborted a sensor upgrade plan for the M8.2 and re-branded that into an M9. This is something that might have gotten shelved to work on the S2, now being rolled-out to make extra money this coming Christmas season. There was some hint of that upgrade idea long ago if you recall Mr. Lee’s comments.

That could take the shape of an integrated IR filter (a technology which they admit they have now) and/or a boost to a slightly higher resolution and lower noise sensor still with the same 1.33X crop factor. The problem with a resolution change is that it would almost guarantee you’d need to swap every other piece of electronics to match data rates, which pushes further in time for me.

Maybe I’m underestimating Leica’s engineering freedom and manpower. I don’t know. I’m being pessimistic maybe.

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  1. I don’t think that you’re being pessimistic about the ‘M9’, even if they have something far enough down the development track I wouldn’t expect them to want to release all their eggs at once (together with the S2). Regardless of when an M9 does make an appearance I think it is going to remain out of the reach of most of us anyway, even if you could afford it, could you justify it?

    However, the idea of a Zeiss digital RF is extremely appealing, and that may be understating my enthusiasm somewhat…

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