Home Cameras/Lenses Fujifilm What are the prospects for a lighter L-Mount full-frame camera?

What are the prospects for a lighter L-Mount full-frame camera?

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When Panasonic launched the S1 and S1R a year ago, brief mention was made of a future “more affordable” body. But one thing was clear when we first set hands on the S1/R: These cameras were as hefty and solid as Leica’s pioneering L-Mount offering, the SL. A svelte full-frame alternative seemed a long way off.

With the exception of the Sigma fp, which is something of an outlier, we currently have just four full-frame L-Mount bodies, the three Panasonics, S1, S1R, S1H, and the Leica SL2. All are substantial and hefty.

With the custom-made 45mm f/2.8 onboard, the Sigma fp has all the right dimensions and perfect carrying credentials. But the lack of a viewfinder and those rather odd controls have hobbled it in the marketplace, at least as far as L-Mount stills photographers are concerned. Paradoxically, the matching 45mm has been something of a hit with Leica SL owners in particular

Now, in an interview with the French website, Phototrend, Panasonic’s Yasuke Yamane has again raised hopes that we will soon see a full-frame body combining “optimal size with high quality and performance”. This, in my book, means smaller, lighter but without sacrificing image quality. I am quite convinced that such a camera body would sell well.

Pansonic S1 with Lumix S 24-105mm f/4 Macro OIS
Pansonic S1 with Lumix S 24-105mm f/4 Macro OIS

Discouraged

There was great initial interest in Sigma’s fp, largely because of its size and weight, and there have been positive accolades from owners about image quality and build quality. But, crucially, it is the absence of an electronic viewfinder and the overt cine pretensions of the body (including the modular accessory programme) that appear to have discouraged many potential buyers.

Who needs a viewfinder? Not all of us are as agile as this, though. (Panasonic S1 and Lumix S 24-105mm f/4 Macro OIS)
Who needs a viewfinder? Not all of us are as agile as this, though. (Panasonic S1 and Lumix S 24-105mm f/4 Macro OIS)

The weight and proportions are undoubtedly right; it’s just that lack of viewfinder and the cine-centric control layout that discourages. A similar compact effort from Panasonic, but with all the features we expect from a modern mirrorless camera, would be a game changer.

L-Mount Alliance synergy: Leica SL2 with the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG Art lens
L-Mount Alliance synergy: Taken with the Leica SL2 and Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG Art lens

Where APS-C?

In the interview, Mr. Yamane went on to reiterate Panasonic’s commitment to the micro four-thirds standard and its decision to avoid APS-C. In this, I think the company has made the right call. The MFT cameras from Olympus and Panasonic, together with the vast range of lenses, offer a compelling alternative to full-frame in terms of size and weight. APS-C is now piggy in the middle, despite strong sales by Fujifilm and Sony.

What's the future for L-Mount APS-C format? Here, the CL borrows a full-frame lens, the Sigma 14-24mm f/2.8 DG HSM zoom
What’s the future for L-Mount APS-C format? Here, the CL borrows a full-frame lens, the Sigma 14-24mm f/2.8 DG HSM zoom.But will we see new APS-C cameras and lenses from the Alliance members?

However, this does beg the question of the future of APS-C in the L-Mount system. With Panasonic sitting this one out, the only player in the market is Leica. Unfortunately, the CL/TL systems are too expensive for the wider market that would be necessary to light the touch-paper.

It would need Panasonic or Sigma to weigh in with a camera and a range of lenses for L-Mount to compete seriously with Fuji. I don’t see this happening (certainly not at Panasonic) and we still have no hint of a new Leica CL or updated lenses from Leica. Perhaps the Alliance is losing a trick by not tackling the APS-C market seriously. What do you think?

I do hope that Panasonic is working seriously on a smaller full-frame camera. If it can combine smaller size and weight with no-compromise image quality, it will succeed. Most enthusiasts would say that “affordability” isn’t the main criterion; rather, it is “luggability” that is in the forefront of their minds.


15 COMMENTS

  1. I love my Sigma fp. The add on viewfinder is breathtaking and nothing else is close in experience. It can be a great compact shoot from hip camera without the viewfinder and using the gorgeous Leica 28/5.6 or amazing Voightlander 50/3.5 – similar in use to popular Ricoh GR.
    I think there is no value in pursuing APS-c as Fuji and Sony already own those markets.

  2. I do think you underestimate how good many if not most of the latest APS-C cameras are in terms of image quality including the output from Leica’s own digital CL whose image quality I find virtually indistinguishable printed to A3 size and larger to that from my full frame cameras like the Leica Q and the MP240.
    Likewise my APS-C Canon 800D more or less equals the image quality of my full frame Canon 5D Mk3 and in fact often betters it due I think to the 800D’s later internal electronics. Certainly I would argue the APS-C sensor size will eventually prove to be THE size, and as such surely the lighter version of the SL2 or whatever is in fact already hear.

    • I didn’t intend to cast doubt on the performance of APS-C. And, indeed, even MFT provides results they keep many professionals happy. It’s more about APS-C in the LMA world, where Leica is currently the only contender. I would be happy to see Leica put more effort into the CL range but without a mass-market component such as could be supplied by Panasonic or Sigma.

      The big problem is Panasonic’s position. I can see why they don’t want to dabble in APS-C because of the commitment to MFT, but this is going to become a problem for the wider L-mount Alliance. Let’s hope something encouraging happens.

  3. The L mount does need a lighter alternative for the full frame end, there will be a decent market for one.

    Leica should find a way to drop the price on either the CL, or the TL2, or create a new version and drop it in just marginally above the Fuji price range – it would probably soar like the Q did. sat there hovering above the Fuji’s.

    Alternatively another X with the CL’s viewfinder and priced a little more than the fuji X100 series would probably do a Q too, and fly off the shelves. And let’s be honest, in R&D terms, butchering the CL to create a new X is probably not a huge task, or cost. I wouldn’t be surprised if Leica made one and ditched it, or decided to run the CL instead. I would love to use a camera with the X typ 113 form factor, dials etc, with the CL viewfinder attached to it.

  4. Don’t even consider Leica CL anymore, they can’t or won’t listen customers to fix focus point so why bother. Don’t know about other countries and corona recovery stimulus, but I can see a lot of people using as photo mad money here in US.

  5. Like Brian I also love my Sigma fp, with its native 45/2.8 or the Voigrtlander 21/3.5. The lack of a viewfinder – the attachment still has not arrived/available in the us – is not a real problem. For larger or cropped work I use the S1R, often with the light and excellent TL lenses – especially the 55-135, or the Sigma 45, which lightens the load a bit!.

    • The optional viewfinder also fits the Sigma optional large grip. It does not mention it anywhere and I did not want to get large grip if the viewfinder did not fit it. My camera store checked into it and it did so I got one. I have a larger hand and love the large grip with the Fp with or without viewfinder. I love that button up top that eliminates all video menu items when it is in still mode – how brilliant! I use it with my m glass, Leica SL 35/2 and Panasonic 50/1.4 and find it more comfortable to use than my Panasonic S1R was. I regret selling my Panasonic 24-105/4 as I miss the compact light aspect of it and the images were very nice.
      I personally would be happy if Sigma sold the Fp at a cheaper price and dumped the video features which I will never use. I think it would sell a lot more if people would stop saying it is incorrect things like “cine-centric control layout that discourages” as I own one and I find mine is “stills-centric” when in stills mode. The real dial does exposure compensation right from the factory. The front dial adjusts shutter in shutter priority mode. The front dial adjusts aperture in aperture mode. I use M mode because it makes me look like what I am doing. There is a button that is used to pick the A, S, M…modes. I love the interface except that I am still adapting to the “focus” button on the real dial being a little sensitive for my tastes. I also love the image files as much as I loved the Panasonic S1 files and the colours are amazingly natural. My purchase of a Leica SL2 camera is now in question as I love my “stills centric” Sigma Fp.

      • Thanks for this defence of the fp which I am sure readers will find useful. I haven’t yet had the opportunity to borrow one so I can see for myself — and I suppose I will now have to wait until the world returns to normal.

        I agreed with your comment on the Panasonic 24-105 “kit” lens. Although it has a constant f/4 aperture and, presumably, lower build quality than the S Pro range, it is a very versatile little zoom which covers a much more useful range of focal lengths while remaining smaller and lighter than the Pro 24-70s or Leica’s 24-90. It’s definitely worth holding on to. While reviews indicate it isn’t as capable as, say, the 24-90 or either Panasonic’s or Sigma’s 24-70s, it’s a very tidy and competent choice. I have been very impressed with the results.

  6. I seem to be a lone voice here, but I love my CL warts and all. It is the perfect street camera for me, particularly when teamed with a small manual lens like the CV 35/1.4 and usually accompanies me on any jaunt.
    That being said I feel the same every time I’m out with the SL although it doesn’t get as many outings as the CL because of its bulk, not that that worries me particularly.
    I would welcome further development of the APS-C format and hope that Leica perseveres with it. On the other hand a lightweight full frame alternative would be very tempting at the right price.

  7. I’m hoping like heck that Panasonic build a smaller L mount camera, the ideal (for me) would be a rangefinder style body along the lines of their MFT GX8. Probably wishful thinking though.

    I really like the output of the Sigma FP, but the absence of built in viewfinder and mechanical shutter bother me. The first is at a practical level, the second I’m probably just old fashioned.

  8. I have both the SL2 and the FP, they complement each other. SL2 is very good at lower ISO, but the files are almost too large/slow to process. FP is great as a still camera. Good colour, low noise at high ISO, fast for manual focus lens and love the sigma loupe as viewfinder. It is a little large and firm. I also use an alternative UN loupe that is cheap and in flexible rubber.
    http://www.un-ltd.co.jp/en/index03.html#loupe
    You can buy timber grip by smallrig or jjc grip to enhance the ergonomics. The FP is highly recommended for those who like to adapt rangefinder lenses, and I am waiting for Sigma to expand to smaller contemporary lens range.

    • Would you or someone else like to do a review of the fp for Macfilos? We’d need about 1,000 words covering the usual stuff — ergonomics, controls, build quality, accessories and, of course, results with examples. I will edit if I get the ideas and facts.

  9. I’m another CL owner who sees APSC as the Goldilocks answer between too big and heavy to be worth taking out without a wheelbarrow, and images that don’t blow up or crop particularly successfully. A CL2 will no doubt add better sensor performance, it will still take any lens made for the M-mount, so lots of choice, and possibly will have IBIS as well.

    The wandering focus point is a significant irritation. I’m really not sure why Leica cannot make the default “fixed” with the option to allow it to move if you make that your conscious choice. Can it really be that hard?

    • The fixed focus point issue, I have decided, is willful obstinacy on Leica’s part. Someone has decided that centre focus and recompose is out-dated and must be discouraged. Those of us who prefer to use a camera in this way are considered to be lacking in common sense.

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