Kodak gone. Leica next?

Started Jan 6, 2012 | Discussions thread
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Kodak gone. Leica next?
Jan 6, 2012

Kodak's recent filing for bankruptcy is very sad.

But I fear Leica may soon succumb to the same fate. Leica simply can not compete in terms of digital development and their strategy of charging higher and higher prices for niche products can only work when a) there still is a niche, b) there is no significant competition in that niche, and c) while there are sufficient customers willing to pay the high Leica prices.

Leica may have posted increased profits recently but consider this. The S2 is never likely to be really profitable, if it even survives. Professional photographers are not stupid and most will not invest in such a high priced system unless it provides some real financial return. For amateurs, even if they can afford the S2 system, the size and weight is the killer.

The M9 is lovely and has an undeniable appeal to a few. But if products like the NEX Series, Fuji X100 and X1 Pro start to erode seriously into the M8/M9's tiny market then where does Leica go from there? If they can't develop the M Series into something people will continue to buy they are doomed. Leica simply doesn't have the development cash to compete with giant companies like Sony and Panasonic or even Canon, Nikon or Fujifilm.

Ah, but what about the wonderful Leica lenses I hear many howl? Yes they are wonderful but is the market big enough, at the high prices Leica probably do have to charge for them, to enable their continued production? The wealthy in the new emerging markets like China and India look at these expensive manual focus lenses with bewilderment and ask why bother? Especially when you can not even buy most of them off the shelf, even if you have the cash. Most rich people will simply not wait!

Leica have a parallel in Rolls Royce and Bentley as they used to be before they were taken over by BMW and Volkswagen. Beautiful, almost bespoke products only affordable by the very few and falling further and further behind mainstream brands in terms of technology, so of lesser and lesser interest to most. They have only survived and started to prosper again by being sheltered under the wing of much larger and much more resourced companies.

So who might want to buy Leica? Canon and Nikon would have no interest as they would have nothing at all to gain. Let's face it both could easily make lenses of 'Leica' quality if they really wanted to but they know they couldn't make profit doing so. And actually there is nothing in Leica's lens design that C & N don't already know so clearly there's no gain in intellectual property to be had there either.

Panasonic? Well they use the Leica name on their products already and I'm not sure it really helps their sales much. If they continue with that arrangement there's nothing further to be gained by Panasonic actually owning Leica.

Sony? They've tried the same halo approach with the Zeiss name so no gain for them either.

Fujifilm? Ricoh? Could just work perhaps.

The shame is that if they do go under, in a few years there will probably be hardly anyone who remembers Leica at all.

And that is really sad.

Fujifilm FinePix X100 Leica X1 Panasonic Lumix DMC-S2
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