Home L-Mount Alliance The L-Mount Alliance is two years old. It is a win-win combination...

The L-Mount Alliance is two years old. It is a win-win combination for all three companies

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My journal tells me that it is only two years since the remarkable L-Mount Alliance was formed by Leica, Panasonic and Sigma. So much has happened in those two years that it hardly seems possible.

It took a few months from the announcement of the L-Mount Alliance before Panasonic was ready to enter the fray. The S1 and its really rather good kit lens, the 24-105mm 1.4, was the first indication that the Alliance would be a winner (Panasonic photo)

Yet, apart from the launch of the SL2, most of the running so far has been made by the “junior” partners. Panasonic introduced three full-frame cameras, the S1, S1R and S1H, and is now embarking on a range of smaller models, of which the S5 is the first. Sigma, too, took up the camera challenge with the rather oddball but ingenious video-centric fp.

Sigma’s oddball fp was a surprise arrival, as was the matching 45mm f/2.8 prime which heralded a new range of smaller full-frame lenses for the system. Panasonic has recently announced three interesting smaller primes and is already selling the compact 20-60mm zoom which perfectly complements the new S5 (Sigma photo)
Smaller, lighter, more efficient. Sigma’s new Art lenses have been specifically designed for mirrorless cameras (L and E). Earlier Art lenses were adaptations of larger DSLR designs. Above is the new 85mm f/1.4 and it will soon be joined by the 105mm f/2.8. Sigma’s lenses are well built and dramatically cheaper than Leica’s range or, even, Panasonic’s offerings. While they may not have the same ultimate performance as Leica’s finest (according to some reviewers), they offer great image quality and astonishing value for money (Sigma photo)

Sigma, however, has gone full-throttle on the lens front. Most of the early introductions, with the exception of the 45mm f/2.8 (which was designed for the fp) are adaptations of familiar lenses which had their beginnings in the DSLR world. Sigma runs a mount-swapping service, so introducing L versions was relatively easy.

Car chat: Taken with the Panasonic S1 and the 24-105mm Lumix (Mike Evans photo)

Compact, light

Now, however, Sigma is developing lenses specifically for mirrorless cameras, including the recently introduced 85mm f/1.4 DG DN Art and the forthcoming 105mm f/2.8 Macro. These lenses are more compact and lighter than their predecessors and will take full advantage of the capabilities of modern mirrorless cameras, both in L-Mount and E-Mount guise.

All this is highly encouraging. Before the announcement of the LMA, Leica’s L-Mount system was very much in danger of being pushed into a niche. The full-frame SL system is expensive and could hardly be called mainstream.

Click here to check out the new Macfilos L-Mount lens database for details and prices of all lenses

The L-Mount Alliance has been good for Leica too. The SL2 is the current L-Mount flagship and, as Leica owners will claim, it works much better with M lenses than do other mirrorless cameras (Leica AG photo)

The LMA has changed all that and, while I don’t have any substantive evidence, it must have put new life into Leica’s system. This works in both directions for Leica.

Win-win

On the one hand, owners of SL and SL2 cameras now have the benefit of a vast range of lower-priced lenses, from both Sigma and Panasonic, which helps lock them into the system. They also get the chance to buy a second body, such as the Panasonic S5, to go with some of the new, lighter lenses.

On the other hand, wider market customers who have been attracted to the Panasonic S system will be encouraged to try a Leica, perhaps a used SL, to go with their lenses. It’s a win-win situation for all concerned in the LMA and not, as some feared, the thin end of the wedge for Leica.

So much has happened in the L-Mount world in the past two years that it is difficult to grasp. The announcement came as a surprise in September 2018 but developments have been coming thick and fast.

I now believe that the L system has sufficient traction to ensure a bright future. It is unique in that its lenses are not unique to just one manufacturer. It gives buyers options and the confidence to invest in the system.

More reading

L-Mount Alliance

Leica SL System

Panasonic S system

Sigma lenses and camera

3 COMMENTS

  1. I think another positive sign of the life for the L mount lies in the number of third party manufacturers now producing manual lenses that work he system.

    Yes, it is a relatively inexpensive thing for them to do (given they produce lenses for other systems and are simply switching the mount) but if there wasn’t a market they wouldn’t bother. I’m guessing there is indeed a market in people wanting lighter, smaller, and manual, lenses for their L mount bodies.

    Talking of which, M mount on L mount… Peter Karbe gave two fascinating talks to Leica Academy Australia this month and was asked that question. His answer was if you have to mount an M on a non-M body then an L is the next best.

    It makes sense in that the challenge for the M system is the small mount size and therefore the lower amount of light reaching the sensor. The L is one of the larger mounts around.

    He also said that the worst performance came when mounted to cameras made by “the big S company”. Again it makes sense given their mount is one of the smallest having been originally designed for ASP-C.

    • All very true, Steve. And by L, Peter means SL or CL rather than any old L-Mount camera. Only Leica tunes its cameras to work as well as possible with M lenses. And, of course, recognition, profiling and exif data are further benefits. This isn’t to say that the Panasonic is a bad performer, it just doesn’t squeeze as much out of M lenses (particularly wider angle lenses) as does the SL/2

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