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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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