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Leica Enters the Four Thirds
In the August issue of LFI (Leica Fotografie
International), Holger Sparr writes [in
an article titled, The Four Thirds Beat]
about Leica's entry into the Four Thirds
Standard with the introduction of the Vario-Elmarit
14-50 mm f/2.8-3.5 Asph (together with the
Panasonic Lumic DMC-L1 DSLR) and how this
digital standard fits into Leica's product
There is an interesting discussion of why
the 4/3 Standard imposes a relatively large
distance between lens-seating surface and
image plane [to ensure minimal vignetting
in the wide-angle area]; the rather broad
bayonet opening forcing a retro-focus design
[to ensure a near tele-centric light path,
with light rays impacting on the sensor
as perpendicularly as possible]; and whether,
in retrospect, Olympus should not have urged
sensor manufacturers to produce sensors
that tolerate a few degrees more diagonal
There is an acknowledgement that the smaller
exposure format did not produce the hoped-for
significant size and weight advantages over
compact 35mm digital SLRs, and that may
be a big reason why other DSLR manufacturers
have been reticent to jump onto the 4/3
Why then did Leica commit to the 4/3 Standard?
Leica's participation into the 4/3 Systems
is to provide a solution for beginners.
Where the R and M sytems target an exclusive
and demanding audience who will not tolerate
quality tradeoffs for lower price [implying
that the Digital M will be produced using
the highest standards and indeed be able
to proudly bear the legendary M badge],
the 4/3 Systems provides Leica an opportunity
to make its products available to a more
wide audience at reasonable prices, "especially
considering that the cost-intensive hand
manufacturing in Germany is bypassed. Even
so, the quality will correspond to what
customers expect from Leica."
The Digital M will most probably have a
crop factor of 1.33.
For the Digital M, Leica does not intend
to introduce lenses tailored to its smaller
sensor format -- thus making us wonder if
this leaves open a distinct possibility
to move the Digital M to a full size 35
mm image sensor in the future.
The Digital M will have manual -- not auto
The advantages the 4/3 Systems has brought
to Leica lenses -- with its image stabilizer,
autofocus, and larger depth of field --
could make it "a practical alternative
within the Leica programme for reportage
and action photography."
"Whether, when and in which form Leica
will deliver their own Four Thirds camera
has not yet been voiced concretely."
Now Leica lenses can be directly compared
with competitors'. And Leica is banking
on the fact that the high quality of its
lenses will attract more photographers to
the 4/3 Standard -- and to their 4/3 lenses.
Tune in to Photokina to know which lenses
are in the pipeline.
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