miércoles, 26 de septiembre de 2018


José Manuel Serrano Esparza

                                                                                                                           © Leica Camera A.G   

Today September 25, 2018, during the first day of Photokina in Cologne (Germany) Leica, Panasonic and Sigma have announced in press conference a new joint venture having the L-Mount as a common core.

This strategic alliance between the three firms makes up an unprecedented milestone in the history of photography and utterly verifies that the significance of optomechanical quality in photographic lenses is in digital era even greater than it was in the times of analogue photography, since 24 x 36 mm digital sensors feature far superior exacting levels to synergyze with lenses than black and white and colour films.

                                                                                                                               Leica Camera A.G

To all intents and purposes, the press conference, presided by Dr. Andreas Kaufmann (Chairman of the Board of Leica Camera A.G and main shareholder), Junichiro Kitigawa (Executive Officer of Consumer Business for Europe, Panasonic Corporation ) and Kazuto Yamaki (Sigma CEO) means a strengthening of synergies between Leica (world benchmark in the manufacture of reference-class and highly luminous photographic lenses), Panasonic (currently along with Sony the firm boasting the greatest know-how and experience in the sphere of breakthrough electronic innovation, in addition to being a leader in 4K UHD at 60 fps videography and its introduction in digital mirrorless EVF cameras, as it has proved with real flagships regarding this side, like the extraordinary Micro Four Thirds format Panasonic G9 ) and Sigma (a firm traditionally devoted to the design and manufacture of photographic objectives sporting a very good quality / price ratio and having gone beyond itself since June 2014 when it launched into market the excellent Sigma Art 50 mm f/1.4 DG HSM, implementing a highly commendable quantum leap in the optomechanical standard of its lenses for 24 x 36 mm format, as well as offering a superb quality / price ratio with that line of Art series lenses.

Though many unknowns remain, 

                                                                                                                         © Leica Camera A.G

the location of  Dr. Andreas Kaufmann in the middle of the speakers´ rostrum hasn´t been by chance.

As a matter of fact, Japanese firms have always been unswerving admirers of Leica´s legendary optical prowess in the manufacture of topflight photographic lenses since twenties of XX Century.

And that optical expertise reached in October of 2015 heights truly unthinkable only five years before, thanks to the Leica SL lenses designed by Dietmar Stuible (a young and exceedingly talented German optical designer with great future) and Sigrun Kammans (one of the best lens engineers in the history of Leica) under the global supervision of Peter Karbe (Head of Optics Development at Leica Camera A.G and the best optical designer in the world), in full symbiosis with the Leica SL camera industrial design made by Simon Jennemann, the electronic development by Heiko Schnaubelt and the insight of Steffan Skopp  (Product Manager of Leica SL System).

Right off the bat, all of them had the discernment to wholly trust on the huge future possibilities of the new large size bayonet mount of the APS-C format Leica T Typ 701 compact mirrorless camera (whose product manager was Maike Harberts), a model oozing remarkable beauty of lines and elegance, impressive build quality and winner of the most important international design awards, but whose most significant aim was to serve with its king size mount diameter and its very short flange distance of 20 mm as a technological platform previous to the presentation a year later, in October 2015, of the Leica SL mirrorless EVF 24 x 36 mm format camera, whose lenses started a new era in the History of Photography, endorsed in late September of 2018 by Nikon with its Nikon Z7 mirrorless EVF full frame and by Canon with its Canon EOS R mirrorless EVF full frame.

Panasonic and Sigma have recognized the outstanding relevance of the Leica SL System and particularly its highly versatile and efficient very big mount and exceedingly short flange distance of only 20 mm.

Panasonic joins the standard 24 x 36 mm digital format and announces that it will launch into market a mirrorles full frame EVF camera.

On its turn, the fact that Sigma also adheres to this alliance is something truly meaningful and pivotal, because highly probably it is going to do a strenuous effort to design and manufacture lenses beating in image quality even the cream of the crop of its Art line, offering excellent results at a very interesting price, something that will substantially boost the 24 x 36 mm L-Mount System.

Additionally, it seems clear that Panasonic will also try to design and manufacture lenses for the 24 x 36 mm format L-System delivering great image quality and featuring a not very hefty price tag.

                                                                                                                          © Leica Camera A.G

As a matter of fact, from now on, the expansion of L bayonet as a core of different photographic cameras and lenses is deemed to be highly promising, because in addition to the 24 x 36 mm format Leica SL mirrorless EVF camera and its yardstick AF lenses based on contrast detection, two further cameras will be added : a new 24 x 36 mm format mirrorless EVF Panasonic camera featuring identical type of mount and probably another camera created by Sigma for this L bayonet, whose versatility and future possibilities are conspicuous, particularly if — as everything suggests — both Panasonic and Sigma manage to create lenses for L-Mount and 24 x 36 mm format boasting competitive prices, while simultaneously preserving a top-notch image quality.

And there would always be the chance of coupling superlative lenses belonging to two different Leica systemas to those new 24 x 36 mm format mirrorless EVF Panasonic and Sigma cameras:

a) The almost telecentric Leica SL primes and zooms sporting large back elements, currently the optical state-of-the-art, albeit featuring an inevitably very high price tag, since they yield stratopsheric results of contrast at 40 lines / mm in center, borders and corners at every focal length, distance and diaphragm from the nearest distances to infinity, and besides, their mechanical construction and abundant exotic optical glasses included inside their optical elements make their production cost to be exorbitant.

b) The Leica M aspherical lenses also featuring a superlative optomechanical quality (though not reaching the level of the best Leica SL objectives) and whose benchmark compactness and low weight makes them optimal for shooting handheld, without any trepidation, even at the lowest ISOS, under dim light conditions.

Their very small dimensions and lightness turn them into the ideal choice for those professional photographers or connoisseurs craving for owning the most comfortable and light gear and the greatest feasible balance between the size and weight of lenses and the reduced dimensions and low weight of the 24 x 36 mm format mirrorless full frame EVF camera bodies.

On the other hand, if Panasonic Corporation is able to manufacture 24 x 36 mm format digital sensors for the new mirrorless EVF full frame cameras with L-Mount, there would undoubtedly be a major revitalization of the segment in that field, because the Kadoma (Prefecture of Osaka) based multinational firm would join Sony and Canon in the leadership of this technological sphere.

Furthermore, such as has been set forth by Yasuhiro Ohsone (Manager of Product Planning at Sigma Corporation), the fact that both cameras and lenses of the three brands are utterly compatible will mean a great advantage for users and hugely foster the alliance, a criterion that has widely been corroborated by Tsutomu Mori (General Manager Imaging Network Business Division Appliances Company of Panasonic Corporation), on stating that Panasonic has been and will go on being a key brand in the implementation of breakthrough technological innovation in the mirrorless EVF digital cameras of XXI Century, of which models like the Panasonic GH5 and Panasonic G9 have been two important  front runners, so the merging of forces between Panasonic with its impressive electronic background and two firms like Leica and Sigma sporting an awesome optical know-how can be pretty fruitful for the photographic industry.

On his turn, Heiko Schnaubelt (Head of Electronic Development at Leica Camera A.G) has elaborated on the four basic mainstays turning the L-Mount into something very useful and efficient for the development of different photographic cameras and lenses :

a) Its very large diameter enabling to couple both highly luminous lenses for 24 x 36 mm format (even f/0.95 and f/1.2) and objectives for APS-C one.

b) The exceedingly sturdy build, with four flange segments guaranteeing an excellent stability and coupling tightness between camera and lenses.

c) The very short flange distance of 20 mm, which makes possible to use through adapter a myriad of lenses with different mounts and from various epochs, both AF and manual focusing ones.

d) The electronic contacts inside the L-Mount enabling an easy and fast communication between camera and lenses, as well as making possible a very quick autofocus and being prepared for future new functions, updatings and improvements.

Needless to say that this strategic cooperation between three so highly experienced firms within the photographic market like Leica, Panasonic and Sigma will highly probably speed up innovation, specially in the electronic, optical and videography realms, setting the consortium at the technological spearhead of the photographic industry.

And of course, the fact that Panasonic can use its reference-class top quality video abilities (highly consolidated with cameras like the Micro Four Thirds Format G9) in 24 x 36 mm format mirrorless EVF models, with the apparent improvements with regard to dynamic range and image quality at high ISOS it would mean, is a very good piece of news for professional and advanced amateurs shooting movies with photographic digital cameras.

It will be very interesting to see the reaction by Olympus (along with Panasonic, by far the most innovative firm in the digital photographic industry from a technological standpoint), which will predictably strive upon bettering its Micro Four Thirds sensors against the clock, in the same way as the qualitative level of its lenses and video capabilities, and if Panasonic and Sigma will be able to design, manufacture and put on sale not hefty priced photographic objectives for their new 24 x 36 mm format mirrorless EVF cameras that can compete in terms of image quality on the same level as the first-class and highly luminous lenses Nikon and Canon have in their roadmap for their Nikon Z7 and Canon EOS R cameras, something which won´t be easy at all.