Today’s announcement of the L-Mount Alliance is a crucial milestone for Leica. It will be welcomed by existing Leica users and, without doubt, it will result in increasing Leica’s market share of the serious photography market.
Whether it is the most important announcement of the past 100 years of Leica is a moot point, but it is certainly of great significance for the photography industry. By adopting the L-Mount, Panasonic and Sigma have recognised the technical excellence of the L system. Up to now the mount was tied to mother’s apron strings and is currently servicing just two niche products, the SL and the CL/TL. Now, the world is Leica’s oyster.
The L-Mount Alliance is perhaps as significant as was the Micro Four Thirds Consortium of ten years ago. The cooperation between Panasonic and Olympus, plus various supporting lens manufacturers, has been highly successful. Panasonic has been a strong proponent of m4/3 and, indeed, the latest cameras such as the GH5 and G9 are a strong presence in the market.
Full frame cameras
Now we have the possibility of Panasonic and Leica full-frame cameras offering an alternative to the current big player, Sony, and the two newcomers, Nikon and Canon. With Sigma on board, we can look forward to a range of high-quality lenses that will work with the SL and CL as well as with any camera manufactured by Panasonic. As we know, Panasonic has long marketing Leica-branded lenses for the m4/3 system and optics such as the 42.5mm Nokticron, the 12mm Summilux and the 12-60mm Vario-Elmarit are rightly regarded as some of the best in their class.
The alliance also raises the possibility of a Panasonic APS-C camera which would mean the company having a foot in all three major sensor formats. As I queried yesterday, I wonder where this leaves Olympus and micro four-thirds in general. There will be some squeezing going on during the next two years.
What it means for you
What does this mean for existing Leica users? Instantly, those wishing to use their M lenses on a smaller mirrorless camera will be inclined to hold off for the forthcoming Leica/Panasonic direct competitor for Sony, Nikon and Canon. We realise that any camera using the L mount is going to be designed with M lenses in mind. No longer will we have reservations about compatibility and image quality (such as problems arising from the thick sensor cover of the a7) and we will expect any new L-Mount Alliance camera to work just as well with manual lenses as do the SL and CL/TL.
I know that many serious Leica photographers are using the Sony a7 in its various guises as a platform for their M glass; and anecdotal evidence shows that there is up to now great interest in the attractive Nikon Z6 and Z7. Now, I suspect, that interest will be redirected to the L-Mount Alliance cameras. I will not be alone in holding off decisions until we see what Panasonic and Leica produces in 2019. I will certainly not be inclined to continue dalliance with Sony and I am no longer looking at the Nikon Z6 in particular. I can already see my name on the Leica version of any new full-frame camera.
The news of the creation of the alliance will immediately put new life into existing Leica products based on the L mount. The prospect of new, perhaps smaller and lighter, high-performance optics from Leica/Panasonic and Sigma will give buyers confidence that there will be a strong future for the lens system. Potential CL customers, perhaps hitherto worried about the future of the the mount, will have renewed confidence in investing in the system.
In conclusion, I think Leica has played a blinder here. At one stroke, the future of the L-mount has been assured and this is the best possible news for Leica fans.