Leica and their M lenses are the stuff of legend (and well endowed bank accounts!) but with the Leica T (Typ 701) and the lenses they design for Panasonic, including for the CM1 smartphone, they have proved themselves adaptable to making what's required for different kinds of modern cameras. It's therefore becoming apparent that this well respected company, that would seem to embody all the traditional values, is not content to remain just rooted in it's past, but is intent on providing optical excellence for a range of devices.
The relationship between Panasonic and Leica and the lenses the German company provide / design / approve or whatever they do have produced some of the highest rated for that brand and they have been designing some of the lenses for the smaller sensor compacts as well as m4/3. And this is certainly more far reaching than Sony's relationship with Zeiss. And to my eyes a lot more successful. Would Leica have given their name to a lens like the Sony FE 24-70mm f/4 zoom? I think not. I have just bought a D-LUX (Typ 109) the Leica branded version of the Panasonic LX100 and while I haven't had much time to appraise it yet (coming soon) it's clear that the small zoom, which is on the Lumix version as well, is a small marvel.
And whether or not the Leica T (Typ 701) system takes off or even survives, the lenses for that camera are some of the best I've used. These and their Panasonic collaborations are showing a willingness to get involved in all aspects of modern camera making and indicates that the company is concerned as much as being part of the modern camera marketplace as they are with their past reputation. And while none of the lenses I've mentioned above are made by Leica in Germany, that doesn't mean that rigorous quality control isn't in place, in fact the opposite. Again, more than I can say about (some) Zeiss and Sony.
So, smartphones to medium-format (With the S2) and primes to zooms of all shapes and sizes. It's a pretty wide product base and good to see, because the more we see Leica values in lens making then (hopefully) the more other companies will seek to evolve. Though I have to say, I'm not that optimistic about Sony taking that much notice, since they seem to tolerate some pretty mediocre lens offerings and always have done. Fuji have got the point and so have Samsung, that top class lenses are a great help to the reputation of a system, even though Sony seem to shift a lot of product with their lens shortfalls and shortcomings.
I like Leica, that's pretty obvious by now and while there have been times when I've been less than enthusiastic about some (admittedly very few) of their products, it still provides me with some guilty (usually concerning how much I've spent) pleasure when I pick up one of their products, or a product their lens engineering skills have enhanced and go out to take some pictures with. And it does seem, that in the UK at least, they are trying to promote their brand to more photographers. I mentioned the D-LUX (Typ 109) I bought yesterday and UK readers may be surprised to learn that I bought it from Jessops in Birmingham city centre, who since late last year have become Leica dealers, with a prominent glass case full of the latest products, including the M series.
I chatted with several staff members who were very enthusiastic about the brand and were keen to talk about the products. So hopefully the elitist, luxury item tag and all the vitriol on the photographic internet that seems to generate can be offset by a more general appeal to serious photographers. And with an ever decreasing demand for non-smartphone cameras, that's probably something they need to do. Certainly when you factor in the 1 yr. Passport unlimited warranty, the 3 year extended warranty standard on all Leicas, the provision of Adobe Lightroom as the bundled software included in the price and the higher resale value when I sell it on, the extra I paid for the D-LUX (Typ 109) has it's benefits over and above the fact that it looks just great.
So, as ever, I'm an unapologetic Leica fanboy and likely to remain so. I'm indifferent to the charms of designer brands in most things, even with the guitars and bicycles I seem to share the same approach to as my cameras (i.e. why buy one when you can have five!!), but that red dot does have an appeal to me that often transcends rational decision making. But I guess we all have our passions. And while I wish mine was a bit less financially taxing, I'm not inclined to give it up. And that Leica C (Typ 112) in the Champagne gold finish sure did look very nice in the Leica case at Jessops. But that's another story!!