I am sure that by now you have heard about the most recent Leica product releases. To sum it up, the company is again re-hashing camera parts and selling them for exorbitant prices. This time round, instead of its typical parts dealer, Leica approached Panasonic’s partner in the Micro 4/3rds consortium, Olympus, for it’s electronic viewfinder (EVF), which is again jacked up three times in price despite having identical capabilities. This is the same scam it pulls with the Panasonic Lumix cameras. As if that weren’t enough, they basically re-skinned an Leica M9-P and sells it as a limited edition. Doesn’t this remind you of something I talked about before? But the real icing on the cake, which above all else signals their deliberate intention to price out real users (like myself), is the $7200 price tag on the new Summicron. Sure, it may be a great lens. But 7200 big ones is just too much for a small format camera.
It seems that over the last few years, the company has found that the users were willing to always fork out more money (even if it means taking out a second mortgage on the house), with demand outstripping supply by a long way. Instead of making more of these lenses, they have decided that they can sell less of them, but simply jack up the price and find the sweet spot for optimizing their profits. The upward revision of prices has been very steady in the last few years, suggesting that the suits may have finally taken over the company completely. This is true not just of newer, supposedly better lenses, but also the older designs. This in turn drives up the used prices, and it is a shame that many of the young photographers will never be able to experience the Leica magic. The company, it seems, has decided that if there are enough ostentatious consumers, it can keen churning out Veblen goods. There are lots of wannabe photographers who are rich – take, for example, the celebrities who want to pretend to be more cultured than they really are. You know, the untalented ones who need that extra edge to prove that they are in fact creative? Yepp. Those guys.
So Leica, as much as I love your cameras and lenses (I really do), and wished I could cheer you guys on, it seems that the Blackstone acquisition of Leica led not to the expansion that I had hoped (more sales, driving prices down), but a betrayal of what I feel the company ought to stand for – a dedication to working photographers who are able to get top quality results from the best tools in the world. I wonder what photojournalists everywhere who use Leica think about this. Or perhaps no one uses them anymore? I don’t know. But I guess it is time to stop buying Leica. After all, I’ve never been one to frequent boutiques.