Leica Sees Success in Diversity

October 28, 2016

The $1.8 million Leica M designed by Apple's Jonny Ive.

Leica had a rather subdued Photokina but they did make waves by jumping into the instant camera market. We sat down for a brief conversation with VP of marketing and corporate retail, Roland Wolff and the product manager for the SL system, Steffen Skopp at PhotoPlus Expo to get a sense of where things stand with the iconic German camera company.

What follows is an edited transcript.

On Leica’s somewhat unexpected introduction of an instant camera, the Sofort:

Instant photography is “a popular, growing market and speaks to a different audience than we traditionally have,” Wolff says. “It also creates something tangible, which we love.”

Photography is changing, Wolff adds, and the Sofort is an example of how Leica will change with it. He points to Leica’s partnership with Chinese electronics maker Huawei as an example of how the German company plans to change with it. (The two established the Max Berek Innovation Lab in Wetzlar, Germany, where they will conduct mobile imaging research, as well as virtual and augmented reality.)

On concerns about the photo industry’s contraction:

“The death of photography has been proclaimed many times, but there are still opportunities for growth. We’re optimistic,” Wolff says. Leica has also proved to be something of a counter-cyclical company, Wolff notes. “During the last downturn we had a great year with the M9. And now, the Q is selling phenomenally. We’ve covered our bases.”

The company has built a product line that is broad but not deep, Skopp says. There aren’t multiple versions of a camera (the multitude of special edition Ms excluded) but one anchor model that is intended to stay on the market for a while, Skopp adds.

Beyond hardware, there’s still a growing demand for images, says Skopp. The company is expanding its filmmaking presence with lenses and adapters for the SL full frame mirrorless camera.

On Leica’s penchant for special editions:

“We typically sell out all of our editions,” Wolff says. The marquee model may just have been the Jony Ive-designed Leica M–only one was made and fetched $1.8 million in a charity auction. The recent Lenny Kravitz edition of the Leica M also sold briskly.