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The reason why Leica didn’t join MicroFourThirds (+ Leica lens test on the E-P2)


Popsci tested the Leica Elmar-M 24mm f/3.8 lens ($2,400) on the Olympus E-P2 ($850 body-only) using the Novoflex’s Leica M-Mount Micro Four Thirds adapter ring ($270). They also shot with the Olympus 17mm f/2.8 lens ($275) for comparison.

Christian Erhardt, Leica’s VP of Marketing tells why that combination doesn’t work very well:

Our lenses our designed to work best with full format, the light can hit different pixels of the sensor at a very extreme angle–once you have that, the image may be slightly out of focus, or not as bright around the edges.”.

But he also explained why Leica choosed to not join the MicroFourThirds alliance: “One reason why we’ve decided not to move into Micro Four Thirds is that we have looked at the sensor size and realized that it cannot produce the image quality that we need. Therefore we decided to stick with the full format in addition to APS-C. It’s all about the ratios“.

Do you really think the Leica X1with fixed lens(!) that sells for $1,995.00 is a better solution?
By the way, Popsci came to the conclusion that the price difference doesn’t justify the use of the Elmarit instead of the Olympus 17mm lens :)

Source: Popsci
Found via: Noisycamera

  • spanky

    “Our lenses our designed to work best with full format, the light can hit different pixels of the sensor at a very extreme angle–once you have that, the image may be slightly out of focus, or not as bright around the edges.”.

    This guy is clueless about the physics of optics, and shouldn’t be making any technical statements. What he said makes an argument AGAINST using Leica lenses on FF sensors (thus making the case against the M9!) because the incident angles for that same lens on a smaller sensor are, by definition, much less than they would be on a FF sensor. That’s a big reason why many at Leica didn’t want to go with the FF sensor on the M9, sticking with the smaller sensor of the M8.2 instead. They had to implement a higher degree of offset microlenses on their FF sensor to take care of the issues he described.

    He should have stuck to the marketing statement. The real decision is because Leica doesn’t want to cheapen its brand name by being associated with consumer-grade, low-end cameras like the Panasonic and Olympus. While it’s perfectly OK for Panasonic to use the Leica name of its lenses, Leica doesn’t want to have the association go the other way. He can’t say that publicly because they have an ongoing partnership with Panasonic, and that would be a slap in the face for Panasonic.

  • Jeffrey D

    If you believe the raison d’etre of m43 is portable high quality – the Leica X1 is both more portable and takes higher quality images, so the Leica X1 is a better camera than the m43rds. m43rds is a “portable” camera that you still need a camera bag for. What’s the point?

    As with many other products by Leica, including the lens, it’s better but much more expensive. Whether it’s “worth it” is up to the individual, not 43rumors or Popsci.

    This website lapses over into fanboy statements and even delusions…an FT5 article about a pocket-sized m4rds camera with an f2.0 zoom lens is one example. Suggesting that Olympus is better than Leica is another.

    • admin

      Hi Jeffrey! Never been a fanboy :)
      I like the X1 image quality but it is way to expensiv for a fixed lens camera. Where did I suggest that Olympus is better than Leica???

  • omolympus

    Wait for the mirrorless Leica designed with an SL footprint – Full frame and over 20mp, plus will take all R lenses, plus new ones designed for new system.

    Medium format quality in a camera the size of an OM4.

    Two months till the show in Koln

  • Raist3d

    There are reasons why Leicas are expensive and one of them is they do have superb best in class lenses. I may not be able to afford the, but that doesn’t make me go into “oh they aren’t good value therefore whoever buys them is a fool.”

    You sure can make compelling photographs with any camera so on that end, you can go for the lower price and do it, but I wouldn’t berate someone going for the top class glass.

    We can make this argument in so many ways. Is the Olympus micro four thirds 9-18 too expensive? No? Compared to what? The $149 USD kit lens it is. Who cares about better build of the lens, silent, faster, and all that right? Poor value no?

    What about the super high grade glass of Olympus four thirds? $2 grand? Not worth it right?

    The truth is you put one of those SHG lenses even to a “low end” e-510 and it shoots like a completely different camera. I have seen it myself. Many people forget that a lot of the image quality comes from the lens, not the camera body.

  • spanky

    omolympus says: “Medium format quality in a camera the size of an OM4.”

    Sure, but also with a medium format digital back price I bet.

  • Sorry Jeffrey but I think you are wrong. I have both cameras, the Leica X1 and the Olympus E-PL1, and the Olympus has better image quality. Not to much but clearly seen. You can even see the difference in the test images of both cameras by dpreview. The Olympus jpegs are clearly better. The raw images are very close, but I still like more the E-PL1 raws. Yes, buildwise the Leica is a better camera, but I don’t care because today you don’t have a camera for more than three or four years. Technology changes to rapidly. I must add that I very seldom shoot over 400 ISO, so probably the leica image is better at higher ISO numbers than the E-PL1 image, but again, I don’t care because of my type of photography.

    I’m an avid fan of Leica cameras, I have an M4 and an M6 body with 5 last generation M lenses, but unfortunately today they sit as collector items. Why, because I’m not going to spend $7K in a leica M9 which will be obsolete in two years, and what I get from my E-PL1 and my E30 when used with the top Oly lenses allow me to do 15×20″ prints as good as those you get with any full frame camera. You start seeing differences in much larger prints that I don’t do.


  • Jochen

    I agree 100% with Leica here. The EVIL advantage (lighter+smaller) is biggest with fullframe cameras.

    Remember the original Olympus mju / Stylus? 200 grams, and fullframe, baby.

    Going back there should be the road for all these cam makers.

  • WW

    I totally agree with Leica. The micro 4/3 system is really only a stepping stone towards buying a better more capable camera later. It is not even that compact when users start adding zoom lenses. What is even more idiotic is buying adapters to equip Canon and Nikon lenses on a puny crop sensor.

    Also, it is so irritating when someone can only afford a cheaper camera, then they make a feeble attempt defending their image quality when they have no real comparison to make.

    5 years from now we’ll look back and micro 4/3 and think, why the hell did consumers fall for that crap?

    • MAFAv8r

      @WW Took less than 2 yrs

  • Neonart

    His comment on image quality is just marketing spin. Think about it; they have no problem slapping a red dot on a Panasonic point & shoot (with point & shoot image quality) and charging 2X the price of the Panny, but can’t deal with the “image quality” of m4/3s?

    THE REAL REASON: The image quality of m4/3s is so good, and so close to an M9, that if a Leica branded 4/3 camera would exist it would cannibalize sales of their flagship model.

    Even Steve Huff, who’s a huge Leica fanatic uses m4/3’s and agrees that while the M9 is superior, m4/3 is outstanding for the price. Please note I’m not implying m4/3 cameras are better than an M9. Just that image quality is close considering the INSANE price gap.

    Take this example: One of Leica’s customers looks to buy an M9 and one lens. They’ll be making a $9,000 purchase on a low average! But if this customer can buy a camera & lens that looks like a Leica (GF1 based for example), has a red dot on it, and takes REALLY GREAT photos (albeit not a fabulous as the M9) for $7000 less, they could lose lot’s of money!

    It’s all marketing and economics!

  • Neonart

    Adding to the above statement…

    The X1 is different and does not cannibalize M9 sales because it’s not a interchangeable lens camera like the M9, so it’s in a separate class. It falls in the same class as the re-badged Panasonics, just A LOT more expensive and with much better image quality than those P&S.

    It’s a middle of the road Leica, that would also lose sales if a 4/3 body where sold under the same brand.

  • Hm.. I anyone of you had worked with advanced analogue and digital imageprocessing like I have for the last 13 years, you would know that the image quality of the m43 cameras is nowhere near that of the M9, and the M9 sensor is actually really crappy compared to top end Nikon, Sony or Canon, and Im NOT talking megapixels here.

    I love the m43 concept and Im sure that I will get one someday, but stop beeing like blind fanboys who just care about the brand stops seeing the downsides. m43 will never be better or even close to a fullframe sensor. The technology of course follows upp to the full frame sensors to. The image quality difference between small and large sensors will always be constant.

  • Brod1er

    That’s strange because I have found that the image quality from a full frame sensor can be adversely affected when it is part of a large unwieldy camera which has got left behind in favour of a MFT……. This is the great thing about the Leica as it is small and full frame. However MFT is lighter still and costs 10x less and provides enough quality for most people who want to get outside and take photos rather than pixel peeping.

  • I have been around the X1 long enough to know that if you go on a trip and take 100 photos with the Leica and 100 with the E-PL1+ Pana 20mm 1.7 and return home approx 180 will be indistinguishable from one another on prints up to 8X10. The advantage goes to the X1 on posed portraits. The Oly with Pany 1.7 lens mentioned above is actually superior to the Leica in lowlight shooting.

  • Neonart


    Take a look at Steve Huffs site when he tests M43 photos and M9 photos. Yes, the M9 is better. IT BETTER BE! ITS $8,000+ more for a kit!!!!! But the difference is not earth shattering. Not worth $8K to most people.

    No one here claims 4/3s is better than the M9. But if Leica is willing to sell point and shoot cameras and accept their image quality, saying 4/3 is not good enough is marketing spin. Again, the issue is that if they sold a m4/3 branded camera it would have to be less expensive than the M9 by thousands and it would cannibalize M9 sales. Once they bless a product with a red dot, their customers will buy. If a $9000 M9 kit and a $2000 m4/3 Leica kit sit side by side, they’d be leaving ALOT of money on the table.

    The X1 won’t do that because it’s not a interchangeable lens system. It’s a very expensive P&S with APS-C image quality.

  • This is too funny, so now the 4/3 sensor is too small but rebadging Pansonic cameras with even smaller sensors and charging twice the price is so much better?

    Leica is clueless and only wants to protect their interests, by offering a m4/3 camera their M series and especially the X1 would be in danger. They have done this before when abandoning the CL series so it does not hurt sales of their M series.

  • Troilus910

    I believe the Leica rep is referring to interchangeable lens cameras, not fixed-lens point-and-shoots. Leica has a fairly long tradition of attaching their lens to bodies made by Japanese camera manufacturers, and selling them as high-end compacts. They have never seen this as a threat to their flagship products (lens and M-mount bodies).

    Leica experimented with having Minolta develop an M-mount body (the CL) back in the 70s, but killed the project after it began to cannibalize sales from their flagship M5 line.

    The rep’s statement re: MFT is consistent with Leica’s approach re: interchangeable lens cameras. Leica lens are among the best in the world. That’s not marketing spin, it’s fact (I shoot with Leica lens, along with Zeiss, Nikon, Olympus, Voigtlander, and others). What’s interesting is that when Leica lens are attached to a MFT body, they offer few if any advantages over the MFT lens produced by Olympus, Panasonic, etc. This has much to do with the optimization of the lens for the sensor (Leica lens are designed for 35mm film, shot on a rangefinder body). Why would Leica want to jump on the MFT bandwagon when it could erode the point of difference of their expensive, premium glass?

    Leica is pushing the full-frame M9 because they believe it’s the best showcase for their lens. And at present it is. To my eye, there is no comparison between MFT images and those produced by the M9 (although fair comparisons can be made between the M9 and D3x, etc). Whether it’s worth the $8000 difference is up to you. Leica has never been about “value for money”: rather, it’s “the best money can buy.”

  • Do

    I once saw a documentary about Chanel, a brand that is famous for it’s exlusive and very expensive wear. They said in this documentary that most of their business volume comes from diverse acessories, that are branded with chanel, overpriced but affordable. They are bought because they share the logo with products most peoople can’t afford. It wouldn’t work that way if they would sell high grade clothes that are dramatically cheaper than their regular stuff.

  • Hoverbacon

    Interesting, and sadly predictable- the usual crazy insecurity and yelling that you get due to the anonymity of the Vasty Interwebs.

    Yes, the X1 is a better camera, the image quality is superb- especially for the more methodical thoughtful photographer, who values detail, sharpness and not cutting corners. Of course it’s not as good value- but you never buy a Leica for bang for buck- just for pure bang. If you’re on a buget, you’d be a lot better advised to buy a Panny Micro 4/3, of course- brilliant cameras for the money, without a doubt, and very flexible.

    However, to deny that the X1 is an excellent camera for people who can afford to spend that much on a compact is simply self-delusion born of insecurity. It’s a lovely camera, and the sort of photographer with the skill and attention span to make it produce its best images will be in hog heaven, once they get used to it. Within its market segment, it’s pretty much the only game in town, barring the curious Ricoh GXR with the prime module (which is also excellent, and far from cheap).

    Don’t expect to compare an unusual, luxury camera with a competitive mass market camera. You can get a full-frame DSLR for the price of the X1 if you shop around, but that too is not the point.

  • Mark

    I don’t blame Leica. Their optics need to resolve even more on the smaller m4/3 sensors to be equally good as on the full frame M9.

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