Towards the end of Photokina, I sat down with Stephan Schulz, the global director of Leica’s new Business Unit Professional. We talked about what this new professional business unit would mean for customers, product development, the future of the S-System, and more.

Basically, the new business unit is now responsible for  S and SL systems, CW Sonderoptic / Leica cine lenses, as well as Sinar digital backs and tech cameras. My impression is that this organizational change is a significant one, not just a name change. The professional division will enjoy some level of autonomy from the rest of the company.

I received quite a few requests while I was in Germany to find out if Leica would be abandoning the S-System, with all the recent focus on the SL. The answer from Schulz was a resounding “no.” Leica is fully committed to supporting and developing both the S and SL systems for the foreseeable future. Of course, when you look at the numbers, the answer seems a bit obvious. The S (Typ 007) was launched just 15 months ago, not a long time for a flagship model. In that time, Leica has issued three major firmware updates for the S007, along with continued firmware revisions for the older S2 and S (Typ 006). The system has ten lenses, none of which require updating, as they are all stellar performers – some of the best medium format lenses available. The S007 has over 15 stops of dynamic range – the most of any still camera, shoots 3.5 fps – the fastest of any MFD camera, is fully weather and dust sealed, and features Wi-Fi, GPS, 4K video, and the best ergonomics available.

The only shortcoming for some users is the resolution of the S. Compared to 50, 60, 80 and 100 MP models from other manufacturers, some find the S007’s 37.5 MP somewhat lackluster. Of course, there are reasons that Leica decided to stay at this resolution (check out my article for a full explanation), but they acknowledge that users are demanding a resolution bump. Based on Schulz’s comments, I feel that Leica has heard its customers’ request and will eventually release an updated body with more resolution. It is far too soon to guess at specs for the next generation S, or to speculate on a release date. Clearly, an update is still a ways off.

Another issue that I addressed was the future of service for professional products. Schulz seemed to indicate that this is also a top priority and is actively working to reduce turnaround times and build up a loaner pool for pro customers. Given the recent delays with repairs, this comes as welcome news.

All-in-all, I get the feeling that S and SL shooters have a lot to look forward to. Check out the video for the full interview,

 

5 Responses

  1. Bernard

    Question for both of you: are we going to see a stronger Sinar retail presence in North America?

    Reply
  2. Al

    David, should have asked Stephan about the widespread AF mechanism failures on S lenses, and Leica’s lackluster acknowledgment of it thus far. I own 5 S lenses, of which 3 have already failed. Leica fixed them “for free,” except I had to pay outbound postage (and risk theft) and wait 4-12 weeks each time.

    Reply
  3. John Downing

    Thank you for the excellent interview with Stephan Schulz. I’m pleased to see that Leica will continue to develop the S system. Based on this interview I’m adding another S lens. I’m especially happy to hear that Leica is truly listening to it’s customer base and has created a professional services group. I’m sure many of us are now eager to hear the details – especially for markets outside of Germany.

    Reply
  4. Dan

    Leica’s lack of solution to fix the faulty part in S lenses is monumentally diabolical. It’s a very, very, very bad reflection on the company and it is clear they are not interested in their customers, or the future of their company. RIP Leica.

    Reply
    • Profile photo of David Farkas
      David Farkas

      I agree that the focus system failures on S lenses are troubling. Leica is actively working on a permanent fix for the issue. Keep in mind, though, that when a solution is implemented, Leica wants to be sure that the new part(s) will last in the long run. This is why high repetition QC testing is required to verify greater longevity and long-term reliability. And this kind of testing takes time. Clearly, Leica does care about its products and the customers who use them, which is why they are being so fastidious about testing before announcing the permanent solution.

      Reply

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