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Author Topic: Erwin Puts' Leica essay  (Read 5772 times)
Dale_Cotton
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« on: January 02, 2006, 01:38:46 PM »
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I found the essay to be rich, eccentric, and enjoyable but almost relentlessly critical of the Leica M and clones as compared to SLRs, including digital. Quite the surprise from someone whose name has been so closely coupled to the Leica M line for so long.

The only rangefinders I've ever used - if they can even be called that - have been digital point & shoots. Nevertheless, over the years I've read quite a bit about 35mm rangefinders. Edwin is almost merciless in enumerating their weaknesses but seems to entirely miss a few strengths: handholding at slow shutter speeds due to lack of mirror slap and zero blackout interval between frames.

Modern SLRs have very well-damped mirror movement and APS-sized dSLRs have a smaller mirror to begin with, but surely the rangefinder still trumps the SLR for handholding at slow shutters?
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BernardLanguillier
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« Reply #1 on: January 02, 2006, 05:22:52 PM »
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Nevertheless, over the years I've read quite a bit about 35mm rangefinders. Edwin is almost merciless in enumerating their weaknesses but seems to entirely miss a few strengths: handholding at slow shutter speeds due to lack of mirror slap and zero blackout interval between frames.

Modern SLRs have very well-damped mirror movement and APS-sized dSLRs have a smaller mirror to begin with, but surely the rangefinder still trumps the SLR for handholding at slow shutters?
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I am like you, and it also struck me that this theoretical advantage of the RF was not mentioned, at least the lack or mirror slap (blackout time is IMHO irrelevant unless you shoot sports).

On the other hand, is there an actual gap? Besides, it is easy to argue that DSLR enable you to use IS/VR lenses that clearly trump the best hand held technique...

Another advantage of the RF that I don't remember reading, and which might be even more important, is the very limited noise of the shutter, isn't it? It might be there, I didn't bother reading the article a second time to check

My personnal biggest interrogation about the digital M is the lack of AF. I have a very hard time focussing my d2x manually as accurately as the AF does, and when resolution gets above 10 MP, very accurate focus becomes key to tap into the resolution potential. From this point of view, wouldn't a very low noise 5/6 MP sensor have been a better option for the digital M?...

Regards,
Bernard
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Dale_Cotton
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« Reply #2 on: January 03, 2006, 07:23:27 AM »
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Thanks, Bernard: I suspect that image stabilization is what I was looking for to explain the absence of a mention of slow shutter handholding in the essay.

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Another advantage of the RF that I don't remember reading, and which might be even more important, is the very limited noise of the shutter, isn't it?
I believe it's mentioned once in passing. From what I've read the Leica M has a quiet shutter, but not necessarily all rangefinder cameras do - for example, the Contax G2.

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My personnal biggest interrogation about the digital M is the lack of AF. I have a very hard time focussing my d2x manually as accurately as the AF does, and when resolution gets above 10 MP, very accurate focus becomes key to tap into the resolution potential. From this point of view, wouldn't a very low noise 5/6 MP sensor have been a better option for the digital M?...
You seem to have some info about the digital M. All I know is the 10 mp number. Do we have some reason to believe it will not be full frame? Presumably there is still the split-screen focus mechanism; and there could also be a focus indicator light in the finder.
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ctribble
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« Reply #3 on: January 03, 2006, 08:06:43 AM »
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The other issue which Puts fails to mention is the portability and discretion that you get with a RF system.  I used a couple of M6 bodies + 6 lenses (21 through to 135) for years, and could carry it all in a Domke reporters bag.  For street work I used an M7 and 35 f2.  People didn't know you were there.

OK, I bought a Canon SLR setup so I could use zooms and work quickly in spaces where I'd already negotiated the access and the big cameras didn't intimidate subjects, but I always took at least a Leica body and a couple of lenses for settings (like theatres / recording studios) where I needed something quiet and unobtrusive, or for reportage / street work

I went digital (20D / 1D mk2) because of the workflow, speed of delivery to client, and the control you get if you work in RAW - no regrets.  But now my unobtrusive street kit is a 20D + 28 1.4 - this is OK, but you still can't slip it in your pocket, and it still sticks out like a sore thumb.  And I couldn't have used a DSLR to get shots like those from an ECM CD cover for Tord Gustavsen (http://www.ctribble.co.uk/_gallery/Tord%20Gustavsen%20Trio/index.html) where I was working during a live performance.

I WANT a digital range finder because it will give me back a way of working that I love.  I don't want to have to scan slides and spend hours in PS fixing the white balance.  I want an M Digital so I can travel light, work in the way that suits me and have the best of BOTH worlds.  I don't want to get rid of my DSLRs - they do a job.  But likewise, I don't want to get rid of my rangefinders.  They do a job too.

Interested if other's have similar thoughts.

Chris
www.ctribble.co.uk
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BernardLanguillier
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« Reply #4 on: January 03, 2006, 08:37:41 AM »
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You seem to have some info about the digital M. All I know is the 10 mp number. Do we have some reason to believe it will not be full frame? Presumably there is still the split-screen focus mechanism; and there could also be a focus indicator light in the finder.
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Dale,

No, I don't have any particular information beyond the web rumours. I read somewhere that it would be the same sensor as the DMR, which is 1.2 or 1.3 if I am correct? It could be a different sensor, but it seems reasonnable to think that Leica would not take the risk of working on something new when the DMR sensor is seemingly very well received. Pure sperulation on my part though.

I believe also that the digital M will provide the same kind of focus aid already found in the film Ms, but I wonder whether it will be enough to really deliver the kind of accurary needed to fully use the resolution of the sensor. DMR users could perhaps comment on this?

Regards,
Bernard
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DiaAzul
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« Reply #5 on: January 03, 2006, 09:09:33 AM »
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I think the key thing I took from the essay was that Leica have become too wedded to the same camera design and trapped by their existing customer base into a paradigm which does not provide sufficient market size to remain profitable.

I am quite looking forward to the idea of a Digital M, however, I do hope they radically rethink the packaging of the camera. Most importantly, they have a great opportunity to redesign the system so that it can use a non 35mm sensor of say, 10 Mpix, but at 1.3x smaller. Launching a couple of new lenses matched to the sensor size in the range 24-135mm would give a high quality pocketable camera which would arouse a great deal of interest (if not sales). If they could also 'fix' the viewfinder with new technology (perhaps EVF) so that it matched the attached lens, then they would take one step beyond the film cameras and have a winner on their hands.

Unlikely to happen, but still interesting to watch out for.
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Ben Rubinstein
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« Reply #6 on: January 03, 2006, 06:00:30 PM »
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I don't think the essay ignored the benefits of the leica, they are clearly there for someone who needs it, I think he was strongly pointing out that there is no market anymore for those advantages for whatever reason in todays world and Leica has to change or will die.

Being a niche is all very well but it doesn't make money. For decades the Leica RF was what SLR is today but it isn't anymore and there is very little hope that it ever will be again. The amount of research that a digital M will require, especially due to its idosynchracies, may not be justified by the amount of money it will bring in.

If Leica really wanted to get back into the market they would realise that their strength in the modern world is their lenses, especially now when hi res DSLRs are so extremely demanding and brutal of the lenses put on them. If they were to join together with a 3rd market company and build AF lenses for Canon and Nikon then they could get back off the ground.

The digital world, and amazingly so since it is still in its infancy, has been merciless and brutal to camera manufacturers, you either change or die and even when they changed some have gone under. Leica cannot stay afloat on a niche in todays digital market.
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Paulo Bizarro
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« Reply #7 on: January 04, 2006, 12:06:41 AM »
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I am very curious about what the price of a digital M will look like. Given that for the other camera makers, we see a 3-4 times in price increase from the film to digital equivalent SLRs, I expect Leica to follow suit.

Which means that it will be really expensive, as their film-based M cameras are, already.

Who would pay 8-9000 USD for a digital M? Or if they cut it, who would pay 3000 USD for a digital M? I mean, I hope they make it and all, but let's be realistic, it will be a small niche indeed.

Perhaps if people buy lots of Panasonic digicams, that would be more helpful to keep Leica alive? But then, compare the price of the Lumix LX1 with the equivalent Leica, who are they trying to fool? Same camera, same lens, and almost double the price?
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BJL
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« Reply #8 on: January 05, 2006, 12:23:25 PM »
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I read somewhere that it [the Leica Digital M7] would be the same sensor as the DMR, which is 1.2 or 1.3 if I am correct?
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The Kodak KAF-10010 sensor in the DMR has an active pixel area of 17.6x26.4mm, which is 1.37x. Since these are very low selling items, and Kodak has already put innovations in to the DMR sensor that are of particular value to rangefinder lenses, it seems very likely that Leica will reuse basically the same sensor.

However, Kodak could well update it a bit (as Sony has done several times with its 6MP DSLR sensor without changing the product name); they have better microlens designs and more dynamic range in the new 31MP KAF-31600 sensor than in the older DMR sensor, despite both having the same 6.8 micron pixel spacing, so changes like that might well be applied, while keeping the same size and pixel count. Upgrading the microlenses would be particularly easy, as no change in the actual silicon chip fabrication would be required: microlenses are "glued on" later.


References

[a href=\"http://www.kodak.com/global/en/digital/ccd/products/fullframe/KAF-10010/specifications.jhtml?id=0.1.4.8.4.7.4&lc=en]http://www.kodak.com/global/en/digital/ccd...4.8.4.7.4&lc=en[/url]
http://www.kodak.com/global/en/digital/ccd....8.4.13.4&lc=en
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Dale_Cotton
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« Reply #9 on: January 05, 2006, 12:44:01 PM »
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DMR = ?
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BernardLanguillier
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« Reply #10 on: January 05, 2006, 01:59:58 PM »
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DMR = ?
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=55291\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

Isn't it "Digital Module for R series?". Just guessing the meaning of the letters, but the DMR is definitely the 10 MP digital back that can be fit on the Leica R7/R8 SLR film cameras by replacing the standard film back.

Regards,
Bernard
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Brian Gilkes
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« Reply #11 on: January 05, 2006, 02:10:54 PM »
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My M6 was a beautiful thing. It felt and looked perfect. I could see the picture enclosed by the world.It had huge advantages in dingy bars and quiet theatres. Like a Derringer with a silencer. I flogged it. It was too slow cf autofocus Canons, and I am a photographer, not a rich dentist.  I needed long lenses, macro lenses, tilt-shift lenses.. I just could not afford the luxury. That was long ago in the 20th century.
 Now finally the Digital M?
It could have a future. The cost must be cut. This might mean manufacturing in Asia. I see no real problem with quality control. I would like to see a B&W version. No Bayer array or anti aliasing filters. That would make 10 MP OK. Digi-Leitz lenses .Keep it small, silent, sleek,black.. Have a fast autofocus too. Anti shake. I want to leave the tropods home. All this, and sometimes , I could go back to the streets,  where it all started.
Cheers
Brian Gilkes
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BryanHansel
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« Reply #12 on: January 05, 2006, 02:18:07 PM »
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I know I'm dreaming here, but I think that if Leica introduced a M in the sub $1700 range that they'd actually build on their customer base.  And if that RF had a live view on the LCD like P&S, they might actually gain some market share from some advanced P&S users who were looking to upgrade into something better.  If they could come in at $2000 with a lens, then I think that the system might end up being pretty attractive.  I doubt this would happen, but an interesting thought.

Just a thought,
Bryan
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Brian Gilkes
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« Reply #13 on: January 06, 2006, 04:43:07 AM »
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Dream on Bryan,
-But perhaps around the price of a Canon 5D . That should be achievable.
The other RF advantage that I  didn't mention is wide lenses. The best WA lenses fit RF cameras . not SLRs. These columns have witnessed heaps of dissatisfaction  with current wides for SLRs. This brings me to (probably) my last point. To make the most of the RF advantage we need a full frame digital Leica .Canon can make  the 5D for sale at 5G AUD , and the Leica I envisage is a lot simpler.
If Leitz can't get it right this time, they can still have a lens division but it could well be the end of their legendary PJ cameras.
Brian
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Tony Sx
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« Reply #14 on: January 08, 2006, 07:22:02 AM »
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I am very curious about what the price of a digital M will look like. Given that for the other camera makers, we see a 3-4 times in price increase from the film to digital equivalent SLRs, I expect Leica to follow suit.

Which means that it will be really expensive, as their film-based M cameras are, already.

Who would pay 8-9000 USD for a digital M? Or if they cut it, who would pay 3000 USD for a digital M? I mean, I hope they make it and all, but let's be realistic, it will be a small niche indeed.

Perhaps if people buy lots of Panasonic digicams, that would be more helpful to keep Leica alive? But then, compare the price of the Lumix LX1 with the equivalent Leica, who are they trying to fool? Same camera, same lens, and almost double the price?
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=55153\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]
I have found this to be a knowledgable forum and so am mystified that as yet no one has mentioned the Epson R-D1. It's not a Digital M but it's about $3000 and accepts all that lovely Leica glass with a 1.5 crop and its focusing seems to be real rangefinder type focusing.....
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rvaubel
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« Reply #15 on: January 09, 2006, 11:13:51 PM »
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For the digital "M" to be successful for Leica, the rangefinders natural advantages must be exploited. Small size, ease of use,quality of output and leica's legendary quality and optics, must all come together in one package. The rumored "M" meets most of these criteria with an adaquate 10meg file size, and even the 1.3 crop sensor is close enough to a full frame to use the existing lenses (with the addition of a wide, wide angle-21mm equivalant).
 However, the only way that the expected 3K + cost for the body only would be justified for me is if the mechanical "camera" part was a upgradable by purchasing new backs as the digital component becomes obsolete. I know this is what the intent was for the digital back for the SLR, but the interface was, by necessity, way too complex.
 Imagine a digital M body module that you could buy without worrying about obsolescense or incompatibility issues within a matter of months. Design the body to interface with any technological digital or electronic advances thru a simple pin contact system like SLR lenses do now.  Your body would be future proofed!
 In this senerio, paying 3k or more for a quality body that could become a legacy object for the photographer/collector would not seem so strange. And for the true user, new backs with extended dynamic range, lower noise and greater resolution would always be available (or at least possible!)
 Only the simplisity of the rangefinder makes this practical. A current "M" body with added communication contacts for the back would do the trick. Forget auto focus or any other nice features for now..... maybe for a later body  but some would keep their MF anyway. The idea is a simple body that does what a rangefinder is supposed to do, that is beautiful, that is desirable, that is lusted after, and will produce the best digital images that the current technology can produce.
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dbell
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« Reply #16 on: January 10, 2006, 09:00:22 AM »
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The only way that the expected 3K + cost for the body only would be justified for me is if the mechanical "camera" part was a upgradable by purchasing new backs as the digital component becomes obsolete.
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=55585\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

I think this gets to the heart of Leica's problem. Working professionals can justify purchasing high-end equipment for top dollar and upgrading it on a regular basis either because it pays for itself quicky or because it's simply the barrier to entry in their particular field.

In recent times, a major part of Leica's market has been amateur fine art photographers. They have bought leicas because of the quality of the optics, the experience of using them and the M camera's great appeal as a tool for certain types of photography. They have justified the high initial cost by pointing to the fact that the incredible engineering and build quality of Leica equipment is such that a camera purchased in good condition is likely to remain viable for a very long time. The quality of the optics makes it very unlikely that anything quantitatively better will come along any time soon.

All of this changes if the (non-upgradeable) sensor in the camera is going to be obsolete in 3 years. At that point, the typical Leica pricetag becomes a major disincentive for most amateurs. If Leica could build a digital M with an interchangeable sensor package for a price point similar to what a film M costs, they might have a big winner on their hands. I'd love to see it, but I'm afraid it's seriously wishful thinking.
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John Camp
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« Reply #17 on: January 10, 2006, 01:13:41 PM »
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One of the concepts that Leica seems to be stuck on is precisely the idea of "rangefinder," which may no longer be necessary. Small point-and-shoots have demonstrated that it's possible to put a decent rangefinding system in a small camera. I would buy a Leica with all the lenses if it were the size and had the handling characteristics of an M3, but with electronic ranging. In this system, the optical viewfinder would be more like a "window" that you would simply use to frame the shot, while the rangefinding was done electronically. If you could get rid of the SLR's big mirror, and all the mechanisms that go with it, to produce an extremely high resolution rangefinder-like camera of small size, you'd really have something. The main problem with the RD1, IMHO, was the sensor -- it wasn't good enough for the money, compared to what you could get with a DSLR. 10mp - 12mp is probably good enough, judging from the D200 and the D2x.

I shoot inside quite a bit -- places like shopping centers with poor light and a lot of movement, and where you want to avoid notice. I've been using a Canon Powershot Pro1, which is getting close to an ideal camera for this use --- but a Leica, with Leica optics and interchangeable lenses, would be better. Imagine a sensor with good capabilities up to ISO 1600/3200 coupled with a 50mm Leica Noctilux f1.0 in a package that would fit in your hand. There is a market for such a thing; it might not be shooting models in a studio, but there *are* other forms of photography.

JC
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Bobtrips
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« Reply #18 on: January 10, 2006, 04:16:53 PM »
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For the digital "M" to be successful for Leica, the rangefinders natural advantages must be exploited. Small size, ease of use,quality of output and leica's legendary quality and optics, must all come together in one package. The rumored "M" meets most of these criteria with an adaquate 10meg file size, and even the 1.3 crop sensor is close enough to a full frame to use the existing lenses (with the addition of a wide, wide angle-21mm equivalant).
 However, the only way that the expected 3K + cost for the body only would be justified for me is if the mechanical "camera" part was a upgradable by purchasing new backs as the digital component becomes obsolete. I know this is what the intent was for the digital back for the SLR, but the interface was, by necessity, way too complex.
 Imagine a digital M body module that you could buy without worrying about obsolescense or incompatibility issues within a matter of months. Design the body to interface with any technological digital or electronic advances thru a simple pin contact system like SLR lenses do now.  Your body would be future proofed!
 In this senerio, paying 3k or more for a quality body that could become a legacy object for the photographer/collector would not seem so strange. And for the true user, new backs with extended dynamic range, lower noise and greater resolution would always be available (or at least possible!)
 Only the simplisity of the rangefinder makes this practical. A current "M" body with added communication contacts for the back would do the trick. Forget auto focus or any other nice features for now..... maybe for a later body  but some would keep their MF anyway. The idea is a simple body that does what a rangefinder is supposed to do, that is beautiful, that is desirable, that is lusted after, and will produce the best digital images that the current technology can produce.
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=55585\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]


Pull the sensor and processor out of the body and what do you have left that's of value?  Not a lot - lens mount, LCD screen, ....

And if you go take that approach to upgrading what happens if someone has a better idea that would mean adding an additional dial or switch?  

And think about the cost of returning the body to have the upgrading done by an approved Leica tech....
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rvaubel
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« Reply #19 on: January 11, 2006, 02:44:50 AM »
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Pull the sensor and processor out of the body and what do you have left that's of value?  Not a lot - lens mount, LCD screen, ....

And if you go take that approach to upgrading what happens if someone has a better idea that would mean adding an additional dial or switch? 

And think about the cost of returning the body to have the upgrading done by an approved Leica tech....
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=55655\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]
Actually the body would consist of most everything that defines the camera, except the detachable back which would contain the sensor, processor and probable the LCD screen. The body would include the shutter, aperture controls, lensmount (with communication contacts for new lenses, old lenses would still work manually), viewfinder w/rangfinder, and all the other relatively timeless mechanical and electro-mechanical features that are included in the body currently. The back would be the only upgradable part of the camera. Think about it, you could have two or more backs, a full frame for general and wide angle use and perhaps a more specialized back (say a 1.6 crop factor sensor for telephoto).   You could have one back upgraded to the newest sensor/processor package with the 10 F stop dynamic range, very low noise@3200 ISO and 20G of resolution, while you were content to use your lowly "backup" back until leica returned your new toy.  Makes me cream.
 The key here is to "future proof" the heart and soul of what makes a leica a Leica, without comprosing performance in any way. Preserving that legendary shutter sound, the silky smooth focusing and controls,  and that feel... that feel, is essential to justifying the high cost required to produce such a camera.
 Leica buyers,  though willing to pay a high price for their tools, can not be expected have anything but the very best. Granted, a rangfinder camera does not have the flexibility of an SLR, put for the nitch it serves, it serves very well.
 Of course later bodies could have autofocus and other goodies not offered in the initial body, but this would in no way obsolete the first body. In fact, many would prefer an all manual body even if a more automated body was available.
  Of course their isnt much chance of this happening.
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