The Panasonic Lumix S5 and S5II models are attracting buyers in their 20s and 30s, providing an injection of younger talent into the L-Mount system. This will eventually benefit all participants in the L-Mount Alliance, including Leica. Because of its pricing, Leica occupies an older demographic. As such, it would especially benefit from an infusion of younger users. The appeal of the L-Mount system to Generation Z means that Leica stands to benefit most as the pre-eminent aspirational brand in the system.
Panasonic has disclosed that younger customers are increasingly choosing one specific series in the Lumix range. The relatively lightweight, 24MP S5II and S5IIx cameras are proving a hit with technically aware Generation Z buyers. These are individuals born between the late nineties and early 2000s. Toshiyuki Tsumara, vice-president of Panasonic’s Imaging and Business Unit, has said that the S5II twin-lens kit is the big seller. So much so, in fact, that it is temporarily out of stock. He disclosed details of the changing market scene in an interview published by Phileweb on December 5. It was also shared by Digicame-info and PetaPixel.
Two-lens kit wins
Mr Tsumara points out that the younger generation finds it natural to shoot with a smartphone. As a result, they are enjoying opportunities for self-expression, including increasingly in the form of vlogging. But many are now looking to mirrorless cameras to enhance that experience. And consumers are coming to believe that the better the quality, the better the response from viewers.
At a “Touch and Try” event in Osaka before the release of the new G9II micro-four-thirds camera had attracted many young people. Mr Tsumaru was surprised to find junior high-school students bringing their S5II cameras with them. Many, he said, were also considering the G9II as a “sub-device” for their photographic arsenal.
During the Covid-19 disaster, he said, there had been a marked increase in demand for live-streaming. This continues to be an important factor in the industry. New ways of using streaming are also spreading. The demand for cameras has completely recovered following Covid, which is a very encouraging development. And, despite fears that the mirrorless market would become centred on expensive full-size cameras, the demand for products in the lower price range has increased more than expected.
L-Mount starter kit
Panasonic’s view of the 55II is very much in line with my opinion of the range. It offers high-quality and excellent results at a very attractive starting price. The mount-system system needs such a “starter offer” if the L-Mount is to achieve consistent growth and a higher market share. I am sure this possibility was a major motivating factor behind the alliance.
While Leica could fear cannibalisation of its market by the cheaper (but good quality) Panasonic (or Sigma) offerings, it decided that the long-term benefits outweighed any temporary setbacks. The more customers invested in the system, the more likely is there to be a market for Leica’s premium range in the future. Without the L-Mount Alliance, I do not think the SL system would have had a strong future. Now, however, that future seems assured.
The Panasonic Lumix S5II in kit form, with the Panasonic Lumix S 50mm F/1.8 prime and Panasonic Lumix S 20-60 mm F/3.5-5.6 zoom, is the ideal starter pack for anyone wishing to enter the L-Mount world. In any world, not just the Leica-Panasonic-Sigma system, because it is an outstanding camera.
The two kit lenses are both excellent — with the 50mm f/1.8 being a lighter-built version of the well-regarded Leica 50mm f/2 and (whisper…) capable of very similar performance. The little 20-60 mm zoom makes a congenial carry-around lens on any L-Mount camera, whether Panasonic, Sigma or Leica and has been vastly underrated simply because it is slow (shades of the Leica X Vario). But once you get used to having the ultra-wide 20 mm field of view at your fingertips, it’s difficult to go back to zoom lenses starting at 24 or 28mm; you tend to feel a little hemmed in, especially in an urban environment.
Panasonic Lumix S5II or Leica SL2S
When it comes to cameras, the Panasonic Lumix S5 is similar in specification and capability to Leica’s SL2-S. The control ethos is vastly different, of course. The Panny is all buttons a go-go, while the Leica is minimalist with a minimum of physical controls. It’s all a matter of preference, but don’t overlook the S5 cameras for that reason alone.
The real clincher, though, is the price. At £2,100, the S5II kit provides these two first-class lenses and gives you all you need to start your L-Mount ride.
Choose the Leica alternative kit, the Leica SL2-S with the 24-70 mm Vario-Elmarit-SL 24-70 f/2.8 ASPH and you will pay £5,850. Or, alternatively, the kit with Leica Summicron-SL 50 f/2 ASPH is £5,300. You are still one lens short of the Panasonic offering, however. More to the point, these prices are way beyond the typical Generation Z buyer unless they have a rich dad. Without Panasonic to feed off at the lower end, the Leica system is restricted to the well-heeled Leica aficionado.
The L-Mount Alliance Matures
We should not overlook the fact that the L-Mount system is now mature. It is six years since the founding of the grouping between Leica, Sigma and Panasonic. It offers an unrivalled roadmap of lenses, from budget to top-end. And it is a system with more potential than any other, possibly being a candidate for the first universal mount.
When selecting a system, the mount is the anchor point and, in most cases, is firmly attached to one manufacturer. With the L-System, however, there is currently a choice of three camera manufacturers and, I expect, this will grow over time. From a buyers’ perspective, then, entering the L-Mount world is the ticket to a lifetime of photography. It’s a versatile, highly competent and, above all, aspirational system.
I am not in any way suggesting that the Panasonic rig is likely to be better than Leica’s offering. Except in price, that is. Leica boasts sturdier construction (at the cost of weight), simpler and more intuitive operation, optical excellence and, of course, a higher resale value in percentage terms. But, the two “budget” lenses discussed, the 24-70 mm and the 50 mm are more similar to products from Sigma (in the case of the zoom) and Panasonic (with the prime) than immediately meets the eye. I have no doubt that the SL2-S the superior camera if you have the money.
You pays your money…
Nevertheless, the Panasonic S5II alternative, at under a third of the price, is definitely with considering. And from Panasonic’s own marketing assessment, this appears to be the case. The L-Mount is not just a system for the rich, it is attracting an increasing market among younger customers. Yet, I believe everyone already invested Leica’s interchangeable-lens mirrorless cameras should at least consider an S5 or SII as a second body. With the 20-60 attached, it is a worthy successor to the Leica X Vario and, with a Panasonic wide-angle prime on the front, it is a worthy competitor to the Leica Q in terms of light weight and suitability for travel.
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