Home Cameras/Lenses Leica Leica and Panasonic’s new joint-venture mirrorless camera

Leica and Panasonic’s new joint-venture mirrorless camera

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Panasonic and Leica are said to be developing a new mirrorless camera that will be shared by the two brands. It is likely to be the first manifestation of the renewed L² Technology cooperation between the two companies.

It comes as Panasonic withdraws from the development of cheaper cameras. Kento Hiroshima, writing for Nikkei on August 6, said that the company had halted the development of any low-end cameras that could be replaced by a smartphone.

Since 2019, Panasonic has not released any new sub-$400 models, but it is not clear where the current Leica cooperative cameras, the C Lux, D Lux and V Lux lie in this decision. Technically, they are all well above this price threshold, but there must at least be some doubt about the continued production of these models as the smartphone continues its advance.

Panasonic is no longer developing replacements for sub-$400 compacts because the smartphone is gradually taking over this market. But where do the LX100 and other more expensive compacts stand with this new policy?
Panasonic is no longer developing replacements for sub-$400 compacts because the smartphone is gradually taking over this market. But where do the LX100 and other more expensive compacts stand with this new policy?

D Lux success

The D Lux 7, probably the most successful cooperative venture between the two companies, is due for an update. Cynics might suggest that the flurry of special D Lux editions is sufficient evidence of a pending change.

But whether or not we get a new four-thirds D Lux in the next twelve months, I think there is more at stake here. According to the Panasonic statement — another of those rather vaporous announcements — the forthcoming joint mirrorless camera “will appeal to photography enthusiasts and professionals”. That doesn’t sound to me like an LX100/D Lux replacement.

Full-frame ILC

It is more than likely that the new model will be an interchangeable-lens full-frame camera, which will be smaller than Panasonic’s S and Leica’s SL models. Of course, Panasonic already has the small S5, but this has to be something new and, ideally, styled more to Leica’s taste than the DSLR-style S5.

Following the demise of the CL, there is a clear gap in Leica’s lineup. Other than the Lux compacts, which really don’t count, there is nothing capable of whetting the appetite of former APS-C fans. And Leica has made it clear that the APS-C is over for them. One reason for this decision could be because of future emphasis on L² Technology cooperation with Panasonic, which has no intention of adopting APS-C. So APS-C is something of a dead end for Leica.

The S5 is a smaller alternative to the Leica SL2-S and Panasonic's S range. Could the two companies be developing an even smaller cooperative-venture body?
The S5 is a smaller alternative to the Leica SL2-S and Panasonic’s S range. Could the two companies be developing an even smaller joint-venture body?

While a smaller and lighter L-mount camera would be welcomed by enthusiasts who cannot manage the weight of the SL2/S, it could also provide a solution for CL orphans. It won’t be as small and compact, of course, but it would offer a halfway home for TL lenses.

Risks

But looking from Leica’s point of view, there are some risks attached to marketing a smaller L-mount camera, even though it is known to be put together by Panasonic. It would almost certainly cannibalise SL2/S sales to some extent, and it would encourage the adoption of non-Leica lenses. Sigma (primarily) and Panasonic have the market for lighter L-mount lenses covered. Leica’s offerings, although technically superb, are built for the bigger SL cameras and not for a smaller full-frame camera. Owners of a smaller Leica camera, buying to save weight, would be forced to look elsewhere.

Returning to the D Lux, for a moment, it is just possible that a replacement could house a full-frame sensor. But this would represent direct competition for the Leica Q2. And if it had a zoom lens, it would no longer be light or compact. I think we can rule that out.

A compact camera with a full range of Leica-branded lenses: The Panasonic GX80
A compact camera with a full range of Leica-branded lenses: The Panasonic GX80

There remains one outside possibility of cooperation with Panasonic on micro four-thirds. While I don’t think it is likely, it would certainly allow the company to offer a smaller camera. And, of course, there is an existing range of Leica-branded lenses for the MFT system. But it does remain very unlikely.

Your thoughts

What do you think? Will the next joint product from the L2 partnership be a full-frame L-mount body? Or, perhaps, a full-frame fixed lens camera on the lines of the D Lux 7? Or what about a Leica MFT body with interchangeable lenses?

All images courtesy of the Panasonic press office

Read what Leica Rumors has to say on the new joint camera development


42 COMMENTS

  1. My guess would be a full frame L-mount camera. Rumors say that the Q3 will arrive in April of 2023 and after that (probably 2024) there would be an SL3 (and I assume an S2R as well). A smaller L-mount body would be even further in the future.

    • A smaller L mount body does not have to be delayed if Panasonic is doing most of the development.

      • I agree, but internal Leica leaks said such a body was at least 3-4 years away. I personally would also be a bit surprised if we would see an SL3 first because I would think an S2H and an S5 II would be more important to Panasonic than an S2R…

  2. I was excited when I read the announcement. Leica is sloth like in developing a breadth of options due to their limited resources – probably one of the reasons they constantly come out with high priced limited editions which are really cosmetic variations of mostly longer in the tooth cameras. Actually a brilliant idea to milk more money. With Panasonics significant resources and abilities in shrinking electronics and technology development, combined with Leica’s valuable abilities, it can only be better for us discerning L mount buyers. (There was a wee bit of humour in my word discerning, I cannot help myself, but I better clarify before the less discerning get their flame throwers out).
    I also expect things to be vapour in detail as no wise corporation would let the cat out of the bag to inform their competitors before product is ready.

    By the way, Mike, I would like to suggest your erudite coverage of the recent Sigma 20/1.4 and Sigma 24/1.4 release. I have preordered the 20/1.4 and canceled my “preorder” of the years ago announced Leica SL APO 21/2 lens that was in my dreams until reality sobered me up. I am constantly grateful that the L mount partners are making the Leica SL system useful to me. And smaller equipment options are steadily coming from non Leica options. I am a truly happy camper in the L mount family. Well, I must go and put a kidney on ebay to hopefully be ready for the breathtaking M11 Monochrom. The good part I probably will not have to get up as often during the night. Win-win!

    • I ha e already started the draft on the Sigma lenses and I have the full press kit. Just coming with the backlog at the moment.

  3. The mobile phones are closing the gap with micro 4/3 I believe. So it does not make sense to invest in that looking at the future.
    To be honest an M sized body with L mount, with EVFand M micro lenses woul make most sense from consumer point of view.
    We could use small L lenses of M lenses as we please… Wouldn’t that be the most ideal camera….

    • Hi Mahesh, I used micro 4/3 for two years starting about 4 years ago. Have you had the pleasure to use M43 versus a mobile phone? I used the Panasonic G9 and a wide variety of lenses. The Panasonic Leica 200mm /2 lens was breathtaking. It was better than any telephoto that I have had the pleasure to use. A lens that was equivalent to 400mm at a fraction of the size and and price of full frame or APS-C glass. I had the matched 1.4x and 2x teleconverters and experienced no visible deterioration in image quantity- the only time I have had this experience. I was able to sell my shotgun for birding. I also had the amazing Olympus 40-150 pro lens which had rare creamy smooth bokeh for a zoom and was sharp throughout the focal range and a fraction of the size of larger sensor glass and a brilliant collapsing hood. I have also owned the magnificent Olympus 75/1.8, 17/1.2 Pro, and 17/1.2 pro and used them to take pictures of international models. One of the international model’s asked for prints of two of the images. A general purpose zoom that I loved was the Pana Leica 12-60 2.8-4 zoom. It had a lovely 3D rendering and smooth bokeh. Many talented photographers use the system. Oh, B&H has a new release Panasonic Leica Summilux 9mm f1.7 lenses-hardly the sign of a dead system.
      I would buy M43 system long before I would buy a larger sensor system if compact glass was my priority. Some people will criticize that the G9 approaches full frame cameras in size but my experience is that I do not want a camera much smaller than that for haptics and using zooms and telephoto lenses. However, there are smaller camera models for using with smaller glass.
      Finally, there is no similarity between M43 and smartphones. Smartphones do not have anywhere near the shooting envelope of M43. As an simple example, try doing birding with a smartphone unless you bring a shotgun.

      Try M43, you may be pleasantly surprised that it would be more than adequate for most people. I chose it easily over APS-C when I had to downsize from my SL system after a car accident.

      I would not count M43 out any time soon- people have been predicting its demise for years due to their possible preoccupation with sensor size and sensor density.

      • I have always thought that a range with MFT and full frame is more sensible than APS-C and full frame. Panasonic made the right choice to decide against APS-C when they have good MFT and L systems.

        • There sure is an extensive system of quality product. There are all price points of equipment to satisfy everyone. Certainly, there are a lot of nature people that appreciate the much smaller super telephotos and super telephoto zooms. I even see impressive professional wedding images. M43 is also used a lot for video which is a Panasonic strength as well.

  4. Has anyone yet come across the video from Thorsten on YouTube.. he talks about M with EVF… with Exactly my thought when I saw the dimensions of that new visoflex.

    • I haven’t seen Torsten’s video, but there have been constant rumours about an M with EVF and I think it is very likely we will see this camera. However, it’s outside the scope of the L2 Technology agreement, despite the fact that Panasonic would probably be involved in the electronics. But yes, a very good possibility.

      • Always people talked here about an M mount digital with electronic viewfinder I thought of placing an evf instead of a rangefinder. But, a camera with two viewfinders? Extremely odd. Who wants that!

        • I don’t think that’s the intention. It will be an M-style body with EVF and no rangefinder. That’s what a lot of people want to use with their M glass. But it will complement the M rather than compete with it.

          • Agree. That’s what I understood too. Torsten idea seems different though (you need to watch 15 min for the 15 sec. he explains that- and another 15 min after it)

          • I believe that Leica’s engineers looked at the possibility of a hybrid finder, which was the original intention, as an M successor. But it was impractical both on cost and technical grounds. So the idea of a sister M with EVF was born. Maybe there will be some more credible rumours soon.

          • That is what I want. An M body with no rangefinder. I love my rangefinder with my 35mm and 50mm. I want an evf M camera that I can use with my 24mm, and 28/1.4 and 90/2. I also do not like using my 28mm lens with the rangefinder as I wear glasses and cannot see the whole frame. Furthermore, the evf M camera with be a nice second camera while my rangefinder M goes to Leica for a 6 month wait for rangefinder adjustment. I am not a celebrity like Thorsten so Leica puts my camera in the
            fridge. I have had the 6 month wait happen to me both times I sent a camera in. So do I want an evf M? Yes!

      • I found myself skipping through the sections of blah blah blah in Thorsten’s video, he does like the sound of his own voice and I’m not a fan of his self marketing, but I do like his photographic work so, to that end have watched many of his videos. I shoot a lot of NSRA stuff (Hotrods and bikes) and almost exclusively use 50mm M lenses (summilux or Noctilux) which are perfect for the job. Whilst I’m happy to use either my M in rangefinder mode or my SL body, the SL2-S really hits the sweet spot making maximum use of the 24MP every time with beautiful render. To me it’s like a bulky M with a brilliant viewfinder. The VF02 on the M11 is good but it’s not a patch on the SL2. Put one of those VF’s in an M and I’ll truly have the best of both worlds. Or even a Q3 with L mount for a small AF Summilux f1.7 but the added ability to use M lenses. Hmmmm 🙂 I’m not convinced an EVF camera has a place without a means to use AF despite wishing to use MF primes most of the time. I don’t use AF much, but it has it’s uses especially when travelling.

        • Hi, I agree that I find his high pressure sales a wee bit repetitive at times but I own most of his training information and am a better photographer for it. He is a talented and successful professional with Leica M camera – no Ai features used. He inspires me to be a better photographer- that is valuable to me. On my bucket list is to do a workshop with Thorsten. Ansel Adams and Karsh were on my bucket list but I missed then due to stupid delay. I am a caregiver right now but I need to sort this out and do a workshop with him and be a better person and photographer.
          It is tough to be a successful photographer in today’s environment, and only those that pursue self promotion will more than survive. So please give him a wee break. If you do not want to listen to bla, bla, blah, do not click on the information or disconnect- you are not in a communist country-hopefully. I listen to his material multiple times and always pick up on something valuable.

  5. I am sure I have commented elsewhere on here, but Leica needs a small, L mount something to fill that yawning CL void – adequately boxed off by Fuji or Panasonic with the S5.

    So strategically how would you soak up the CL void – perhaps, just perhaps – Leica have convinced Panasonic to further shrink both the S5, and perhaps its underlying price/cost to build, possibly even to a Leica design, with a few new innovations tossed in.

    If they have the right price point, the lenses are already there – so maybe our prayers are being answered with an affordable, full frame camera that can manage L lens and maybe M lens to.

    • CL void… interesting
      Wouldn’t be an evf M trying to fill it?
      And, wouldn’t that be the dreamed toy, rejected once owned?
      Rangefinder lenses for that?, where’s the clue? Trying to fill the gap of M lens market with a new device?

      • I did say maybe M lenses – it would not be my personal route – an M lens, should really be on an M.

    • I agree Dave, a small version of the SL2-S in the M-form factor would be really useful. Why not throw in the M11 60MP multi-res BSI sensor too?

      Use a small L-mount prime and turn it into a flexible Q style camera and then switch to stunning M glass when you want to.

      • And thats what I would like to see, but suspect a lower MP sensor maybe needed to dissipate heat inside the camera, as it would need to be small. I like the flexible Q style camera – but suspect Leica will not want to cannibalise Q sales.

  6. How come I keep getting emails trade inyour Leica gear get bonus toward Sl line? Seems as if I have gotten more stuff on Sl than anything else! Is this line in trouble, and is that why Leicapush is filling my inbox? Or is the supply chain so screwed up this is all Leica has in inventory!

    • I also wonder about this. It’s almost as though there is a struggle to more SL2s. There is no big marketing campaign for the Q2 because everyone knows it sells well.

      • These promotions are usually only run when the manufacturer has too much stock in the system and is still producing new product. I suspect that the SL2/S is a tough sell. It’s big, heavy, expensive and the lenses are big, heavy and expensive. Compared to what else you could buy from Canon, Nikon and Sony, what’s the real benefit?

        • The real benefit is that it’s probably the most versatile camera in Leica’s line up if you are only going to buy one. I notice you used the words big and heavy twice. I find it fits easily in my backpack ( not particularly big compared to any SLR or D-SLR of the past especially if you’ve used pro versions of cameras. Heavy? Yes, somewhat, but a Leica M and two or three lenses is not light either.and that’s without weather sealing, AF mechanism and IBIS.

          • I commented in a previous article about the weight of an SL2-S and Mike reminded me that the body itself is not particularly heavy. I went around the stores to compare it with the Fuji gfx50s, Canon R5 and Nikon Z7. I have very large hands – I can easily grip a rugby ball with one hand. The Fuji was good to hold but the rear screen and evf were not to my liking. The Canon felt like a pudding, all round and ‘feminine’ and the Nikon was too small to fit my sausage fingers between the grip and the lens. The only body to fit my hands was the SL2-S. And the evf in manual focus mode was stunning.

          • My preference is the Lotus approach: just add lightness. The original M was light, wieldy and very portable. The SL certainly feels as if Leica forgot that learning.

  7. The real benefit is I much prefer it over Canon, Sony, and Nikon. The market is slower right now. However, everyone has different preferences.

    Eek, I need to turn off my phone and get working on another article to cheer up Mike. 😀

  8. To be honest I’m happy with Leica’s current range and don’t really see a need to keep bringing out new ones every year or so. When I think about my photographic needs, the cameras we already have can more than cover them, unless I’m shooting UFOs and transparent aliens.

  9. You got it! Changing cameras on a regular basis is a bad idea. Also few photographers now push the limits of what a modern camera can do.When I buy a new camera I fully expect to use it for at least ten years and even longer if I can. It’s not an iPhone.

  10. As they say, Mike, (at least in Danish) “it is difficult to prophesy the future” – as most comments here show! so any Panny-Leica venture is likely to be good for somebody. At the moment I am enjoying – far beyond what i would have dreamed possible – a Penny-Leica from the past which is about as close to a substitute for a mobile phone as is likely to appear – and far more versatile: the Panasonic tz70 with a 24-720 (equivalent) Leica lens, a 1/2.3 inch and 12MP sensor. I am stunned by the IQ in A4 size prints. So the past can be as interesting as the future – and much more tangible!

  11. I have been using the SL2 for a little over a year mostly for adapting M and other lenses. Though, I have added two L-mount zoom lenses to my collection. With the L-mount zooms the camera is heavy and requires more attention to handle. With F and EF lenses it is much more manageable, and M lenses are quite easy, but the body is still a bit blocky for shooting in portrait orientation. Despite all the things I might want changed, I still think the SL bodies are the closest thing we have to a universal digital back for any lens you might want to use.

    Concerning what the new Pana-Leica (L2) partnership might bring, I think it will be something aimed for professional Cine-TV use rather than consumer or stills use. The current still camera based offerings from Leica and Panasonic are good for small budget or personal video/Cine work, but large budget projects need more capability. So, I would not be surprised to see the L2 team bring out a camera that will compete with the Canon, Fuji, Sony Cine, and another one to compete with Red, Black Magic, and Arri Cine cameras.

    PaulB

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