When it comes to cameras, Leica is ever as present as the red dot that is its logo. The latest product from Leica's M range is the M10-D. Following the launch of the M10-P, this sister model boasts a digital experience while retaining the allure of analogue cameras. Like the absence of a monitor and the use of a mechanical dial for exposure compensation. It's scary not being able to see the picture immediately after you take it but it helps in making one a better photographer like the old masters.
There's also the Leica FOTOS app that provides many features afforded by a modern, high-performance digital camera. You can stay connected through the app, which delivers features that lets photographers capture unforgettable moments remotely, transfer, edit and share images easily, and on-the-go.
Leica's Global Director of Product Division is Stefan Daniel, who is instrumental in guiding Leica to stay relevant to purists as well as enticing to newcomers. This is the man who is also behind the Leica M-System. We talk to Daniel about the M cameras and the future of photography.
ESQ: What do photographers want these days and how is Leica meeting those needs?
STEFAN DANIEL: First of all, the profession to be a photographer is changing a lot and because with the democratisation of photography, with a smartphone, almost everybody is able to take a correct photo. More and more non-professional photographers use cameras for their profession, which is a major trend. Even all kinds of creative people use cameras for their daily work. Leica is focused on those people who need to create a good image with minimal effort in a short time.
Especially with the Leica M system, we are committed to delivering a photographic tool that is absolutely focused on the essentials. It's also for people who know about photography and want a camera as the extension of their eye. That’s what the M system stands for.
ESQ: Do you remember the first photo you’ve taken?
That’s a very good question. It must have been during a holiday with my parents, somewhere in Austria. I might have been 8 or 9 years old. I started to properly shoot at 13, when I had my first camera, a Pentax loaned by my cousin, which made me become a photography lover.
ESQ: In an age of digitisation, what were the compromises you’ve to adopt for newer Leica cameras?
We try not to compromise. We want to keep the camera as a photographic tool, by adding the possibilities of a connected world. To further ensure that the classic digital camera stays relevant in a digitised world, we created the Leica FOTOS app. This app gives the customer the opportunity to use Leica, and also free the picture from the “prison” of the SD card. The app lets you instantly share the pictures you’ve taken with Leica, and have them where they should be.
ESQ: What are future challenges you expect to encounter?
We expect smartphones to become even better than today. Especially with more photographic possibilities. In the long run that will make the life of compact cameras quite difficult. Regarding the system cameras (cameras with interchangeable lens), we've seen a transformation from DSLR to full-frame mirrorless cameras by all major companies. Leica has already embraced that shift. We don’t expect a huge technology breakthrough in this, but more of a refinement of the technology, which is already in place.
For smartphone technology, we believe that in the future that more than one lens will be able to take a picture and having two or three lenses will take a photo which will compute the final image.
It is something we are looking into very seriously. The challenge we see isn't on the technology side, but more on sales, marketing and distribution.
ESQ: You had to balance reducing the weight of the camera and yet still retain that "old Leica feel" when you hold it, what were some of the key steps you took in creating the M series?
The weight of an M series camera is just a little bit heavier than the weight of a classic M film. We have done a painted magnesium top cover, but it would lack the touch and feel of an M camera. That’s why we rely on more classic materials like brass, with a black chrome or silver finish. That makes Leica so unique. We do not compromise on the materials used.
All that makes the camera slightly heavier than the M film, but we think it is still the right weight. Too light and it will not feel right, and will affect the image quality because it is prone to shaking. By having a slightly heavier camera, it will be much steadier when holding the camera.
Leica's M10-D is available at all Leica outlets and Leica customers can register for a free version of the Leica FOTOS app for iOS and Android devices.