Home Cameras/Lenses Leica An open letter to Dr. Andreas Kaufmann, Chairman of Leica Camera AG

An open letter to Dr. Andreas Kaufmann, Chairman of Leica Camera AG

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  Porsche is a company that strenuously protects its brand values and has a rigid approach to limited editions
Porsche is a company that strenuously protects its brand values and has a rigid approach to limited editions

Dear Dr Kaufmann, 

I am a long-time Leica enthusiast.

I purchased my first Leica whilst I was at university in 1968 and over the intervening years I have owned more Leicas than I can remember. I know Leica cameras to be outstanding photographic tools and I have the utmost respect for the way which you and your team have moved the brand forward in the last five years. You are doing so many things right. The cameras and lenses are outstanding and they faithfully reflect the brand values. The packaging and communications such as the handbooks are consistent to the brand as are the Leica boutiques.

  The Brooks Bros bowtie and cufflinks edition. Whatever next, Dr. Kaufmann?
The Brooks Bros bowtie and cufflinks edition. Whatever next, Dr. Kaufmann?

It has been an outstanding exercise in brand building except for one glaring weak spot which, in my opinion, is doing damage to the Leica brand in the market.

I am referring to the stream of overpriced and in many cases laughable limited editions. I appreciate that Leica limited editions have a long history but most in the past have had a direct relevance to the brand and its history. Many of the recent limited editions are a joke —  none more so than the recent Brooks Brothers edition on sale in China, Taiwan and Kong Kong. When I first read about this limited edition I thought that it was an April Fool’s Day joke. Frankly, it is that laughable.

In today’s world of open communications and social media it is very easy for the Leica “haters and baiters” to ridicule Leicas as overpriced trinkets for rich people. Bringing out really silly limited editions makes the Leica haters and baiters seem more plausible and gives them ammunition.

I suspect that the Brooks Brothers limited edition is the product of some young naïve creative mind in the local Asian importer. If that is the case then Wetzlar needs to rein in all such freelance activity and lay down strict rules that only factory limited editions are authorised. At the same time Leica Camera has to ensure that its own limited editions add value to the brand and do not detract from the image.

  The Brooks Brothers edition looks better out of that box and away from the gentleman
The Brooks Brothers edition looks better out of that box and away from the gentleman’s accessories, but no amount of dressing up will undo the damage done by careless limited editions

Porsche is an excellent example of a company which strenuously protects its brand values. Porsche produces many factory limited editions although it does not label/badge them as such. What it does not do, however, is allow Porsche Australia to rebadge a 911 model as the “Flying Kangaroo” limited edition or Porsche USA to do a local stars and stripes LE. No, all Porsche limited editions are totally true to the brand and come only from the factory. Leica needs to adopt similar rigid principles for limited editions. Failure to do so will surely result in damage to the Leica brand values.

I look forward to many years of Leica ownership and also to not seeing any further silly limited editions

Yours sincerely

John Shingleton, Terrigal, NSW, Australia

6 COMMENTS

  1. All these special editions require diversion of scarce company resources (in the broadest sense) for their production … resources which could be focused to produce important core products for hungry Leica enthusiasts who wait and wait so patiently for the SL/TL road map promises to be fulfilled. Furthermore, note that no other company producing ICL cameras has a 280mm limit for their telephoto lenses. There’s a whole bunch of sports and wildlife photographers who would be potential SL buyers if there was a hint of e.g. a 560mm lens with matched extenders in the road map. Such an omission is a gross oversight and ensures that professional Nikon and Canon users stay loyal to their chosen brands.

  2. Having worked with Leica on the last three LHSA Special Edition camera/lens sets, I would say that not all of these specials are created equal. Our Black Paint camera was the basis for reviving the highly desirable black paint finish at Leica after an almost thirty year absence. It was literally a lost art, and Leica went to great pains to get it right and it is a standard finish again at Leica. The Hammertone was another long forgotten finish which many Leica enthusiasts still talk of with appreciation almost fifteen years after we did this camera. The retro 50 Summilux ASPH is still in production at Leica over ten years after we specced its design for the MP3, most recently with the Jim Marshall camera and the Black Chrome retro 50 Lux. We have worked with Leica to bring something different, interesting and desirable for both the collector and user.
    Stay tuned for our next project with Leica celebrating our 50th Anniversary!

    • Dear Bill,

      I don’t think anything John wrote was aimed at genuinely interesting and desirable special editions with a firm photographic foundation. The frivolous end of the SE market is serving to tarnish the reputation of all special editions and I think John’s comments are very appropriate.

  3. I have no interest in Leica special editions. Of the large number of Leicas that I own, only one is a special edition and I did not buy it for that reason. I agree with John that special editions give Leica a bad name in many quarters. Indeed where I come from mentioning that you have a Leica at a camera club can often just lead to derogatory comments rather than admiration.

    I don’t buy Leicas out of brand loyalty, but only because they are interesting to use or own. As for lenses of 280 mm or more, if I needed such lenses I would probably look at other brands.

    I like Leica cameras but have no interest in them as male jewellry. I am happy just to own and use them. I don’t regard them as conveying anything special, other than functioning as photographic tools or interesting historical items. Special editions don’t bother me. I just have no interest in them.

    William

  4. Who cares if people tease the brand? Although I respect your opinion that the special editions are lame, I am using my Leica gear to makes memories. I don’t care what some dude in a forum says about the company.

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