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The Third Leica System
In an interview article in the April issue
of LFI (Leica Fotografie International)
titled, "The Third Leica System,"
Marius Eschweiler, product manager for compact
cameras at Leica, talks about Leica's recent
announcement at PMA 2006 that it has joined
the Four Thirds standard consortium -- "and
with that a third Leica system is in the
process of being born."
The Four Thirds (4/3) System was initiated
in 2002 by Olympus with the goal of standardizing
the lens mount used on digital SLRs. It
held the promise of smaller "made for
digital" lenses and hence more compact
camera bodies, and also the ability for
photographers to mix and match lenses and
camera bodies under the Four Thirds System.
After a somewhat slow start, Olympus presented
the EVOLT dSLRs. The 4/3 System has generated
renewed interest with Panasonic -- and now,
Leica -- actively joining the standard with
the Panasonic L1 dSLR (due later this year)
and Leica D Vario-Elmarit 14-50 mm f/2.8-3.5
Panasonic and Leica do not just join the
standard, but bring their respective technologies
in the form of Panasonic's Mega OIS (Optical
Image Stabilizer) technology and Leica's
famed lens technology.
The 4/3 System image sensor has diagonal
measurement of 22.5 mm. The focal length
of the new lens comes with a 2x crop factor
so it corresponds to a 28-100 mm [and the
diagonal measurement of the image sensor
to 43.3 mm, 35mm equivalent].
In the interview, Eschweiler indicates
that new 4/3 System Leica lenses will be
developed and manufactured together with
Panasonic and offered as part of the Panasonic
L1. Later, the lenses will be sold separately.
Eschweiler also reveals that Leica and
Panasonic are working together to create
a Leica camera dSLR, with technical
details and release dates to be disclosed
"in the near future."
Asked how Leica intends to compete with
other 4/3 System lens manufacturers, Eschweiler
asks photographers to "keep an eye
out for first product tests and field reports,"
because Leica's goal is to clearly produce
the "best lenses available to the Four
Thirds market... [at] an appropriate price."
If you have wondered where these new Leica
lenses are being developed, Eschweiler says
that "the optical development takes
place... in Solms, while the manufacturing
takes place [not in its own manufacturing
plant in Solms but] in Japan."
Asked how the 4/3 format fit into the Leica
product strategy, Eschweiler simply says
that this "launch of our new digital
system" will be independent from the
current Leica systems M and R. As an example
of this "new digital system,"
he makes reference to "the digital
M, for instance [that] will be presented
this autumn." We leave it up to readers
to draw their own conclusions.
Eschweiler also reveals that Leica will
continue to evolve the Digilux series using
current "open standards" [probably
meaning using the same image sensors and
technology widely available in other digital
In another development, Mr. Yoshiyuki Inoue,
who was in charge of the mechanical design
of the Panasonic L1, had this to say when
asked what role Leica played in the development
of the L1:
"For the development of the L1, Leica
was involved mainly in the basic design,
product testing, quality control at the
factory, and assessment and certification
in each development stage." [Link]
Why would Leica be so interested in the
product quality of the L1 [announced as
basically a Panasonic-Olympus cooperative
effort] unless it intends to use the L1
in some way in the development of their
own digital cameras?
Only time will tell....
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