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Leica On The Coming Of A ‘True Leica Phone’ & The Second Digital Revolution

By Justin Heyes on August 2nd 2017

One of the more prestigious camera brands, Leica, has been pioneering camera development since 1913. When Oskar Barnack developed the system he couldn’t have known that later incarnations would have been the tool of choice for many legendary photographers; photographers like Bresson, Robert Capa, and Alfred Eisenstaedt.

By 1996, Leica had already produced their first digital cameras; holding off production for sensor technology to meet their standards. This was the first digital revolution, says Leica Chairman Andreas Kaufmann. Kaufmann believes that smartphones are the second.

In a recent interview with CNBC Kaufmann shares his story of how he, along with his two brothers, revived Leica in 2004 with the development of the digital M, and shares a glimpse of the future of the company.



Last year, Leica co-engineered a dual-lens camera system with Chinese company Huawei. The spoils of their partnership can be found on the back of the Huawei P9 smartphone. The CNBC interview ‘Managing Asia’, hints at Leica’s potential future plans with Huawei, with Kaufmann saying,

“It gets a bit confidential, but you could think of this: are two camera systems enough for a smartphone? And that could give you a hint into the future.”

Not revealing any specific details Kaufmann remarks on the modern cell phone and how we use it today.

“The phone nowadays is not fit really for photography … It’s used as a camera, it’s used as a video camera, but it’s not built that way and I think there’s a long way to go still.”

Taking this into consideration, the next big step for Leica could be in the mobile market.

“I am not sure whether the company can do (this) … (But) one dream would be my personal dream: a true Leica phone,” Kaufmann said.

While other classic brands, like Hasselblad, have ventured into this market before with their “True Zoom Camera” and have not gained much traction; will Leica secure a foothold against everyone’s beloved fruit-inspired product? If the Leica TL2 is any indication on what the “Red Dot” is capable of, a ‘true Leica phone’ could be the best camera to have with you.



Via: DPReview / CNBC

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Justin Heyes wants to live in a world where we have near misses and absolute hits; great love and small disasters. Starting his career as a gaffer, he has done work for QVC and The Rachel Ray Show, but quickly fell in love with photography. When he’s not building arcade machines, you can find him at local flea markets or attending car shows.

Explore his photographic endeavors here.

Website: Justin Heyes
Instagram: @jheyesphoto

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Josh Leavitt

    If Leica could somehow shave off half an inch of overall thickness to the TL2, add a fixed lens leaf shutter pancake 35mm F1.7 Summilux paired with a curved APS-C sensor, and then throw in a cellular antenna with an Android OS build, then they’d be off to a good start. That’s a phone I’d take with me everywhere.

    But it sounds like Huawei/Leica are going to follow the Light L16 method. Hopefully they can maintain the monochrome/color Bayer CFA approach that they’re doing with the P10 – it’s a great camera phone from what I hear. Maybe they can do an 8-sensor phone; monochrome + color sensor fusion images for 14mm, 28mm, 50mm, and 85mm focal lengths. 

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    • Kishore Sawh

      That’s an interesting concept. Our review of the HuaWei Mate 9 will be out next week and the Monochrome sensor on this is a thing of beauty. The colour rendition and performance isn’t like that of an iPhone, but that BW is good enough you may not care. 

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    • Thomas Starlit

      I have the Huawei P10 Plus and like Kishore says the BW sensor is incredible for this size of device. Everything just looks … better … on the BW sensor somehow. Go try one out. The BW mode is in the menu :)

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    • Josh Leavitt

      Yeah the monochrome sensor gets all the love on the P10, and
      I’m very close to buying one, but at the same time I have my eyes set on the
      somewhat outdated (but very good) Panasonic CM1; it’s hard to beat a smartphone
      with a 1” sensor.

      I think Huawei could dramatically improve their color
      rendition if they licensed Foveon chips from Sigma. That way the monochrome
      sensor could sample pure luminance at every pixel, while the Foveon samples all
      colors at every pixel. It would solve the issue of the poor ISO and dynamic
      range that have plagued the Foveon’s insofar.

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    • Kishore Sawh

      Josh Leavitt – Yeah I’m not sure why so many Android phones suffer from this weird colour issue. Reviewing the OnePlus5 right now, and while it’s an incredibly fast phone, and controls of the camera are better than the iPhone somewhat, the colours again are not good. It’s too artificial, too vivid, and just doesn’t look like the scene you’re looking at. I’m not saying the iPhone is the best but I get much more natural looking results and I am sure it could be just some algorithmic issue that could be fixed. 

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