I posted this on the Leica Forum:
The moderators moved it and then combined it with the German thread but I wonder what this means for the upgrade program, R10, M9 etc.
I posted this on the Leica Forum:
The moderators moved it and then combined it with the German thread but I wonder what this means for the upgrade program, R10, M9 etc.
Interesting news. We will have to see what becomes of this.
Somebody had to pay for the freaking website decision :-)
"Perfection is not attainable. But if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence."
I'm sending in my resume. LOL
Too many unknowns for me to have THAT much of an opinion at this point. However, the backstory is something we may never learn. Having spent too much time as an executive level management consultant behind those closed doors, trying to help clients wend their way through internal squabbles, I can say that it is never easy, nor clean.
I do not know either of these gentlemen (Lee and Kaufmann), but things have been set into motion (M8 upgrade program, Web site, etc.) with more than complicit knowledge and planning on the part of all. Mr. Lee may have had the final say, and maybe even the suggested direction, provided support, etc., but that is what he was chosen for in the first place, so all the other board members had a pretty good idea what they were getting when they installed him as CEO.
The "rebellion" and uprising by dealers and employees, as reported by a few folks in the LUF (do not know the validity of those comments), suggests his direction and management style were at odds with "established" ways. Surprise? It seems as though Leica had made a deliberate attempt to shake things up and change its future by selecting Mr. Lee from the start. He helped achieve that, but obviously it came with some other costs and possible repercussions.
How this will impact customers remains to be seen. Leica has benefited enormously from the recent resurgence due to the M8, and has regained a bit more "profile" than it had only a few short years ago. The stresses on a company making such dramatic changes, especially shackled with older ways is commendable, and I would doubt they are wanting to sustain, or abandon that at this point. They need their dealer network and loyal employees. They also need a more aggressive market focus and an ability to support the increasing volumes they are now selling (mostly lenses). They have some serious problems there, as many of us have experienced with delays, poor communication, less than stellar repair and service work/turnaround, etc.
The comments about how much damage all of the high level turnover recently will create is a concern, but only if Leica fails to execute approved plans and directions. If they have an M9 or R10 in the pipeline, that will continue, hopefully not getting delayed, as they are already a bit behind the curve there. My personal opinion is that because Leica is dependent upon relationships with other suppliers for sensors, shutters, electronics, etc., they are always going to be in a bit of a precarious position.
Sorry for the ramble. It just seems that until more is known about why Mr. Lee was dismissed/fired/sacked/booted (or whatever politically correct/incorrect term one cares to use), it is a speculation game at best, and most of us will be very wrong. The Web site is an attempt to reach out to a newer generation of users, but it still had to play to an older, more conservative audience that may not have "gotten it" when first viewed. That hurts both ways....failing to reach the new target, while also upsetting the existing customers. Tough call, but again, I think a lot more folks were behind this than just Mr. Lee, but he has to be the guy that takes the blame....that is what he got paid the big bucks for ;-)
Personally, I think things will work out. I just hope Leica does not lose what little momentum and market presence they have right now. The M8 upgrade program sounds great, but right now does not really appear to offer all that much for the cost, both internally and externally. All of the other efforts still seem "behind" with respect to getting things out the door and working as flawlessly as Leica has had a reputation for. It could be that Leica, as it is designed and running as a company today, really cannot keep pace with the customer demand. If that is the case, they need to retool, and the CEO is only one slot.
Actually the less speculation the better.
Sometimes it has nothing to do with anything but personality and a test of wills.
But just from the M8 point of view, I can think of issues from
- the IR filter surprise,
- the early camera re-call,
- frameline issues
- rangefinder calibration issues
- shutter noise
- shutter feel
- immature firmware
- customer and product service "worst in the business"
Neither the product nor the organization was ready at the time of M8 introduction and has yet to catch up, and what could have been a very profitable experience has turned into an embarrassment capped with a web site marketing image that really is awful for a camera company.
I remember when Montblanc made really good pens. That has changed along with a marketing image pretty close to what is intimated by the new and sucky Leica web site.
In a few years if direction is not corrected, all Leicas will be poorly constructed except for exterior finish and most of the revenue will come from the Leica line of jewelry sold at airport kiosks. The lenses will be (quietly quietly) CV glass in Leica mounts.
Not disagreeing with your list of issues related to the M8, as they are very real and ongoing things.
I guess the point I was trying to make is that Mr. Lee may or may not have been totally responsible for ALL of the ills. (Not defending him here, but offering up a perspective.) The design and build of the M8 was in the works before Mr. Lee came aboard, correct? He had ultimate responsibility for things released and how they were handled from that point on, for the most part. (I wonder if any of the engineers that designed and built the M8 replete with so many problems came under any fire for their mistakes?) If he did not instill some urgency in product release, would we even have the M8 at this point, and would Leica even be on the map any longer? The associated glitches, issues and other things have been one poorly attempted recovery after another.
Those are some of the unknown internal things that may play into Leica's future, with or without Mr. Lee. Personally, I think Mr. Lee inherited a company that was seriously derailed and about to collapse. He had a job to turn things around, and for the most part, he did, though not without many ancillary issues, as you mention. How each of those were dealt with and executed has not been stellar for sure. Leica is not out of the woods by sacking Lee, and they could actually have undercut themselves more if they do not quickly and assuredly address many of the issues you mention.
I agree that they could revert to being a nostalgic brand peddled as jewelry and other stuff, as you mention, if they do not correct direction. I just am not sure how serious they are about what it will take to do that. Mr. Lee started them down a path of acceleration that they sorely needed, but the rest of the company may not have been able or willing to make the changes needed to keep it going, as well as to maintain quality. Is that solely Mr. Lee's fault? Probably not, but he was the one responsible for things.
The more I think about this, the less comfortable I feel about Leica's future success, to be honest. If they cannot turn things around internally also, which seems to be needed with respect to QC, trained techs, customer service focus, excellent product release to start, etc., nobody at the helm will be able to make that much difference. Time is not on Leica's side at this point. They still have some incredible tools, but if they are hard to get, cost too much, do not work as advertised, and take forever to fix, why will anybody really bother with them except as collector trinkets, and the market for that will dwindle quickly, as they have seen. The new Web site is a testament to advertising a "lifestyle" more than anything about quality and capability. That is the realm of "fad", and will not last for long, especially if folks who get sucked in feel like they overpaid for junk.
A new Les Paul is still an overpriced crap shoot of a guitar (it might be great, it might be awful, it might be OK but not great), but Gibson is making money hands over fist with them, selling them to dentists who want to go to Rock Camp.
All I can say is:
Standards Are Down All Over™.
edit: Full disclosure- I play Fender, Hamer, Rickenbacker and Danelectro guitars.
So are you suggesting we keep our Canons and Nikons and others cameras for the really serious photography, but embrace the Leicas to display that we are hip and part of that lifestyle? ;-)
Interestingly, that is a bit how I am feeling at this point, but with Canon's recent stumbles on the MkIII series cameras, I do not feel all that comfortable there either :-(
At some point, a decision has to be made by the customer/buyer.....do they embrace expensive, but iffy stuff for a label, or do they go to either more mainstream, realiable but boring gear, or really high end specialty gear?
I used to shoot M4s as a PJ. They always worked for me. I love my M8, but do not feel comfortable with it as anything more than my "creative" camera at this point. If I must get the shot, I grab one of my Canons. Looking forward, I personally think Leica needs to change a whole lot more than the CEO and Web site to survive and keep customers coming back.
P.S. Not being into the guitar scene, but recognizing all the brands you mention.....just how many serious players embrace Gibsons now? The analogy being that having a Leica is more for looking status quo than for serious use. All of the other stuff you mention surrounding Gibson trinkets for sale makes them a successful brand for a while, but is that sustainable if nobody really plays their guitars?
If Leica could pull the trick that Gibson did, which is put an M8 or R10 into the hands of almost every working pro in the national media (which Gibson has done with guitars), then even the punters down at the chip shop would aspire to owning one.
Now, the thing with Gibson is they've got their Epiphone brand to sell to the punters (and the average working musician), and there's a raft of Gibson branded straps and bags and hats and shirts and keychains, making them more like Canon, I reckon.
If I were to pick a direct analogy to Leica in the guitar world, I'd say they're more like Paul Reed Smith guitars- PRS makes very expensive, hand-crafted instruments in the USA along with a smaller set of Asian-built "SE" instruments aimed at the prosumer and entry level markets. The quality of the USA instruments is impeccable (though their sound and feel isn't for everyone) and their import instruments are well regarded in their categories. Sort of like Leica.
O.K., I think I get what you are talking about here.
Problem I see is that there is little chance for Leica to pull that off. If the camera itself really did perform without all the caveats, filters, downtime, repair issues, etc., etc., then maybe, just maybe they could convince more serious pros to step up and use it. That is what I was referring to about Leica needing to change more than just the CEO.
As it stands now, Leica does not yet have an R10, and the M8 is still a somewhat crippled edition of things. It works, but not without a lot of extra effort on the part of the owner. Not what you can call mainstream, and also not what a pro can truly rely on to get the job done all the time. So if they were even hoping to fly like Gibson, they still have a long way to go to get things to market. I dare say, a guitar is not quite as complicated as a digital rangefinder or SLR camera, but I appreciate the nuances of its sound as compared to the "look" produced by lens/sensor/software.
Not sure I would agree with the PRS thing.....to me Leica no longer has that handcrafting and care of build it once had. They are still done up nicely, but they seemed to go "cheap" in all the wrong places....lousy shutter release button assembly, improperly configured rangefinder lines, etc. Sort of like putting really cheap strings on that PRS that stretch with every stroke or something. If the main input/contact points are not that good, it becomes less of a great instrument, no? (Sorry for getting way out of league with your guitar analogy, but I do see similarities with what Leica may be trying to do, but not executing it very well at all.)
I dunno, my M8 is a pretty damn fine piece of crafting. YMMV.
Believe me, it is just as complicated, just in a different way. (And when you get to things like digital modeling amps and guitars, it's not so different.)I dare say, a guitar is not quite as complicated as a digital rangefinder or SLR camera
I bought my son a Fender
Sorry....the crafting is fine. My issue is that it is not a completely finished package with all the fine crafting, and its operation is at times still a bit erratic. I got my M8 in Nov '06, when they first came out. Since that time, I have had to spend a lot of extra for filters, coding, downtime trips for repair, brand new lenses that do not focus accurately, firmware missteps, etc. Those things inhibit full-time, reliable successful use, regardless of how nicely crafted the body is, how wonderfully built the optics are, etc.
The design and build of the M8 is pretty incredible in its attempts to continue the M film camera line/ergonomics. The overall reliability and consistency for image capture is only now fully coming into line. That has been a major frustration for me and others. I love the feel of the M8, but I hate the shutter button release, am put off by how slow its electronics are, how noisy the shutter is compared to the older Ms, and things like that that are functional to image capture. The images I do get, I love, and that keeps me in the game. However, there are just enough issues right out of the gate that keep it from being a solid go to all the time camera for heavy professional use, in my humble experience. I will not part with it, as I love using it, but I strongly advise colleagues that are interested to go into it with a lot of thought, hands-on efforts and patience, as it is not something that one casually picks up and uses like a P&S or any other DSLR for that matter, let alone the demands for all the extras. That is much more than just a lifestyle choice for purchase and use.
You are correct about individual mileage and variation....for me, Leica has a ways to go to turn out a workhorse professional level use camera that can take the use and abuse and always get the frame as it did in the past, and as most of its DSLR competitors do today. If it wants to sell that lifestyle image/use for profitability, fine....but I think that is going to be harder to achieve if it cannot produce the gear to back up the demand and meet serious professional service needs.
Back to your analogy with the guitars.....Leica's other digicams (PanaLeica) and 4/3 models may be more akin to the Gibson lifestyle approach, but they are not really keeping up there either...on high prices maybe, but not on offering anything more compelling. I am really not trashing Leica here, though it sounds that way. This started as a thread about Lee getting booted. Leica needs to shake up a lot of things within its operation, and not just its Web site and CEO, IMHO.
I've got a pair of Strats, LJ.
Here's my gold one, with my Jazzmaster:
And here's my old sunburst, which I've had since 1983 (pardon the ancient photo):
As for the M8, mine has been rock solid, so it seems, at least to me, that Leica got its act together in the time between the time yours was made and when mine was made. Let's hope.
SWEET!!!! Thanks for sharing. Guess you can look at the new Fender "Lenny" version they have out, but I love your collection ;-)
As for the M8.....Glad yours is working to your needs. Mine does now, but I had greater expectations than it delivered when I first got it. I still have those expectations, and am waiting to see what Leica is going to do next.
I keep my fingers crossed that Leica is aware of the importance of sufficient information in such a situation.
Agreed. I really do not care about all the details. I simply want to be somewhat assured that there are concrete, actionable plans, and that they are righting the ship more, at least with respect to forthcoming products, programs, and most importantly, service.
LJ Sounds like we had similar work experience. I was a partner in a consulting firm and I saw plenty of palace revolts. If my sponsorship came from the departing executive ..well things would not have been good for me. Mr Lee was clearly brought in because the ownership thought change was required and that the CEO had to have a strategy background. Things obviously have not been going well(in the opinion of Dr Kaufmann and maybe Mr Lee). So a change was required. Lots of reasons for these things but generally not a good sign. Leica has probably never had a more important year. Everyone certainly hopes for the best and that Dr Kaufmann finds a great replacement quickly. Roger
a few thoughts:
so if Lee got on the board in Aug. '06 and the M8 was in reviewer's hands in summer, '07, how much influence/contrtibution could he have had on the wonky stuff? Certainly he was in the chair for the spin that followed, of course.
leica has several other models...do we know how much of Lee's oversight spread to other models besides the M8?
what portion of gross sales is due to the M8? maybe his problems had to do with the other product line shortcomings/sales
Carsten - Website
Lee had little or nothing to do with the M8. He was brought on in August '06 and the M8 was released in early November '06, not Summer '07.
Your points about other things being in the mix are well taken. As I mentioned earlier on, we will probably never know the entire backstory with respect to his precipitous departure, unless he decides to do a tell-all interview (barring any gag order that may be placed on whatever severance package he may be taking out).
All of this does not bode well for Leica at this point. They really need to get their act together quickly and solidly. They have great product and brand, but their service and forward planning seems horrific at best. Trying to milk the M8 for as much cash as possible with various programs and options might work, had the M8 been a stellar performer out of the gate. It was not, and the programs to "fix" things have been slow and costly, not helping Leica, nor boosting much confidence for customers, who have been nearly blindly loyal to a fault at times.
I keep thinking that there must have been some seriously egregious activities of some sort that would have generated such an abrupt departure, and dealer whining or complaints do not seem enough, as there are not that many dealers to even rep the brand anymore, and most have had no stock, losing out to large retailers instead. Customer complaints may have been high, but again, Lee inherited the problems in all lines. His inability to get things right given the culture, etc., were known challenges going in on both sides, so something else had to happen to send such a major shock into the company.
man, i missed by a year!
so when M Reichman was asked to not report on his perceived magenta problems, Lee was not around.
the camera was released to the public just a few months after Lee joined (only one month later to photokina)...sounds like that ship was already set to sail before he had any influence
then the apology letter, filter offer, 30% discount were his doing
finally, the upgrade announcement precedes his departure by only a few weeks. Maybe the negative/confused/emotional public response to that was his final straw?
Stephen Lee Did not join Leica until Oct. 2006. The M8 first show at Photokina 2006 in Sept. He was made CEO in Nov. 2006
Mr. Lee's first position on the Leica board was not as CEO but as corporate strategy and marketing.
He had nothing to do with the development of the M8 and it's problems.
I followed the link to the L -Forum and was surprised to see that the first cab off the rank regarding the change in management was a moderator of teh forum saying that that spells the end of the R10.
One thing that has always amused me is how critical Leica users are of Leica. It is a small niche player always playing aginst much bigger companies with biger marketing budgets and resources, struggling to survive.
The DMR brought the company into the digital age -it wasnt Leica's fault that Imacon stopped making digital backs for Leica. It was Leica's fault that they listened to silly Leica users and made a hybrid camera compromising on full frame which could have been delivered and blown the opposition away at that time as a full frame camera - in order to satisfy silly notions of preserving the R8/9 bodies for film and digital use.
The M8 was a technical tour de force regarding digital quality from a rangefinder whilst maintaining the look and feel of the traditional M. Again a full frame version will be much better - eliminating the compromise inherent in using wide angle lenses with a cropped chip.
So the future direction for Leica is pretty clear and already mapped out - deliver the R10 and then move on to a full frame M. Charge a premium and deliver on quality - which means service as well as cute packaging.
I didnt have the negative reaction to the idea of marketing Leica in a user context - I did have a problem with the sloppy execution of the 'idea' and the unfortunate choice in characters and poses adopted - not to mention the storyline. Given a different story board and more respect paid to real photographers - the marketing idea coudl have been and will probably be quite an innovation.
Anyway it seems that the company has growth problems not being able to cope with demand for its products and stumbling on quality control as a consequence - this is a major issue for them.
Nicely said Peter!
I don't envy the new CEO. Leica still has a really difficult fundamental problem going forward. How do you recover development costs in the digital age on a niche product that sells maybe 10 - 25,000 units without charging absurd prices. Now if that is not already a daunting enough task add the proviso that the company is committed to their German employees in high cost Euroland with the Euro making new highs against every other currency.
Who ever the new guy is. I wish him luck. He' going to need it.
My experience with these kinds of conflicts would suggest that Mr lee and Mr Kauffman had a very different opinion on the direction of Leica into the future. Mr Kauffman is a Leica traditionalist and Mr Lee is not above using other channels e.g. Panasonic in even greater extent to assure they have profits to fund the tradition. We will see how this all plays out vis a vis products, branding etc but I suspect they had a knock down drag out fight over direction and Kauffman showed Lee the door
It may be know more that personality conflicts, that simple. I see it a lot on boards... egos.
website under construction
being a CEO is a tough responsibility. there's a lot on your head and and shoulders all hours. make a miscalculated move and you could take down a company - employees, suppliers, shareholders, etc. it's a serious decision for the board to make, and i hope they're making the right move. but i'd like to believe that they are making the right move.
when the noise settles down - that is, the gossips and rumors are done and over with - i hope that the company will continue with both it's flim and digital products. as for me, i hope they'll continue the commitment to the M8 and up.
there are photographers who'd refuse to use or despise digital, but they'd probably appreciate digital if they're allergic to film chemicals. i Enjoy using range finder cameras because i find using them very engaging. when Leica produced the M8, i took it as a blessing. it's a unique camera. if mr kauffman steers Leica away from digital, then it'd be an unfortunate move. i think the M8 (even with some of it's quirks) is an ideal digital range finder camera. an indispensable tool for the artist.
i hope all the noise will soon settle down, and we'll soon hear nothing but encouraging news.
Last edited by Daniel; 23rd February 2008 at 07:36.
Here folks . I knew this was a big mistake when Jack and I were at PMA and brought this up to Leica personal. Looks like it backfired on Mr. Lee
Thanks Steve for the link. Pretty interesting
With all that is being written and said my only hope is that Leica comes out with a communication that makes it clear what is going on with the M8, M8-2, M9 and even R. That would be the best service they could do to their customers. Leaving uncertainty in everyone's mind will hurt current sales, the upgrade process, and further annoy the installed base.
I agree with your assessment also. Seems to me that the earlier statements about a FF sensor not being possible (back in 2006) may not have taken into account any new tech developments, so there still could be a way to do it.....it just was not known at that time. That either makes Mr. Lee's comments contradictory to earlier statements made when he was not even at Leica (plausible), or he was "sort of" making a promise about a tech development that may or may not have been achieved yet, while still asking his staff not to talk about such things. Seems like there are lots of moving parts in all of this, but the bottom line is still that Lee was dismissed. Leica may have a harder time finding a replacement for him, given the situation of his departure....who would risk stepping into a "family owned" business with mainly downside options?
Be that as it may, I am with you in hoping that Leica does get things sorted quickly, and does communicate things to folks and the market quickly and clearly. If that means retracting some "promises" or changing/delaying a program like the perpetual upgrade thing, so be it. Seems they could still offer the shutter options and stuff, but just not say the M8 will forever be upgradable in every way. Far as I know, you cannot put an M7 rangefinder on an M3....so what is the big deal if the M8 cannot get a FF sensor, but there is an M9 that has one? Maybe a 15MP 1.33x crop sensor with true 16-bit higher speed processing would be fine for the M8 at some point. I could live with something like that quite nicely. (That part is pure speculation, folks, and only offered as an example, so please do not start "running" with that as anything other than conjecture.)
I too would like to see more info about an R10, and whether Leica is going to seriously play in that realm again or not. As for the M8, if there is an M8.2, fine, or an M9 at some point, fine. None of that seems to be a real problem, and does reflect the reality that digital is not the same as film. Changes to hardware and electronics are much more frequent, and must accommodate the tech development cycle differently than the mechanical cycle Leica has been built upon. I really think most customers understand that part quite well already, as almost everything tech they own becomes "obsolete" with respect to new tech at some point. We may not like that, and the idea of forever being able to change out the guts seems nice, but has been shown to be impractical or prohibitively expensive, and thus better to buy the newer model/version. Leica may desire to be unique in this respect, and that is admirable, but it will be extremely costly for customers as well as Leica with respect to constant redesign and repair/replacement. Just does not seem sustainable at anything other than way above market costs on both sides. Just my opinions there.
But I think now where it is not clear if the upgrade program is dead or alive, if new M8s might include the upgrades, if full frame is coming or not and all the uncertainties that both Lee's disclosure and subsequent dismissal have brought on will indeed impact sales until there is some clarity.
I'm not sure we will see any real changes since these programs are already in process and such. Hopefully something will come from Leica on the upgrade program to see if it is still valid though. The R10 i doubt very highly anything will change that. It will be interesting to see what comes next.
Ah, to hell with it. I just got an M3 and a Nikon Coolscan 5000 coming next week. I think, it's time to order some D76 and Rodinal and look for an M4.
My new Full Frame Digital M Leica systems......
P.S. I do want a quieter shutter for my M8...
I wonder if any of it has to do with PMA? There was a bit of hype about something new and exciting at PMA and all we got was a press release with old lenses and the M8 upgrade program.
Was there something supposed to be at PMA that didn't make it?
Was the conflict in the board over where and when Leica should be announcing the new secret products in the works? Perhaps Mr Lee wanted to say more at PMA, but the board preferred to wait until Photokina.
Either way, PMA must have cost Leica a lot of money just to display old wares, not new and cutting edge like everybody else there.
Robert PMA is not a consumer show . It really is a dealer show so it really is not a big announcement show for Leica per say. Canon and Nikon usually make there big announcements here since it is the biggest US show. Leica is a Photokinia announcement show for them since it is in Germany and consumer related. The 28 cron and 75 cron press releases where just to reintroduce them back to the press. The Summarits press release was just to keep that on top of the news. What got out that was not supposed too was any FF support coming in the upgrade program. That is were Mr. Lee leaked it to the press when no leica employee was supposed to even mention it until it's official announcement 8 months from now. When Jack and i walked in we mentioned Lee's comments in the article and obviously it did not go over very well to Leica management that he said something. I don't want to speculate on there feelings when we mentioned this but they were not good. We thought they already heard about it and most forums were already yapping about it. I think they were
I never expected much at PMA from Leica. Photokina is the place for them to show their new equipment. Nor can I ever figure out why everyone assumed we would have a FF M this year. The important thing would be a full frame R10. Everyone talks about the M8 not having full frame and it's cost. It has the same size senor as Canon's 1D line (1.3) and they will only take Full frame EOS lenses. It price was right at the M8's until the dollar went into the dumper and it's 10meg. So I don't see a full frame M that critical now.
You want to talk about what was expected and was strangely missing at PMA ask Canon about the 5D replacement.
I just want to see Leica continue. They don't have to have "Oh WOW" products every year. Just a steady conservative product evolution with proven and tested technology.
Yes i think a lot of Canon folks were really depressed nothing was announced to replace the 5d. I was a bit surprised also. I think Nikon finally showed them up a little.