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You are hereHome > Articles > The Third Leica System

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 Asph lens.

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 cameras].


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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