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Leica M10, an interview with Oliver Kaltner (CEO, Leica Camera AG)

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Interview with Oliver Kaltner (CEO, Leica Camera AG)


Oliver Kaltner (CEO, Leica Camera AG) launches the Leica M10

Extracts from the group interview, including, CJ (ClubSNAP), Zung Heng (M Photographer), Chatchawarn Janthachotibutr (Leica Ambassador), Daryl Lee (Robb Report), Gerardo Enrique Lopez (Daily Enquirer), Ong Wee Jin (Straits Times), Tay Kay Chin (M Photographer), and Enche Tjin (Leica SL Ambassador)

Q: Can you provide us with an overview of the how the various ranges within the Leica portfolio have been doing?
Oliver
: We have enriched our portfolio over the last three years with the introduction of the Leica Q, the introduction of the SL, and the S. What I can say now is that we can divide / categorize our business into three dimensions.
- One dimension is the ďProfessionalĒ segment, where you have very much the Leica S and the Leica SL, and sometimes also the Leica M.
- Then we have the ďPhotoĒ segment, that means the consumer segment with the Leica M, the Leica Q, the Leica TL, the Leica X, the Leica D-Lux, V-Lux, C, and obviously the Leica Sofort.
- Then we have the ďSports OpticsĒ category, where weíre talking about rifle scopes, other products for birding and hunting.
So, I would say for the first time we have a very rich portfolio. All the products that we have, specifically on the camera side always cross band with the Leica M, because the Leica M is the backbone there. Can it mean that there can be a more performing camera than the Leica M? Yes, it can. Because we know from a pure performance perspective when it comes to professional aspects, the Leica SL is a fantastic product. But we always try to really figure out how does the Leica SL relate to the M? How does the Leica Q relate to the M. So thatís a little bit of the strategic thinking behind the portfolio.

Q: With the larger portfolio, compared to 5-10 years ago, is there a fear that Leica may be spreading too thin?
Oliver
: The customer structure is kind of spreading out now in the world. So if you want to have a nice business coverage across the different customer segments with 3 or 4 product lines only, you wouldnít succeed. Because you need to have different lines that are addressing the very specific and unique customersí needs that you have in that specific area. And if weíre looking into the next 3 to 5 years, what we see in the market is that entry models are fading out. We see that the compact system are fading out, it means that we see a tremendous change in the industry.
As a small premium niche manufacturer, like Leica, you have to have a clear answer a clear vision right now, because when weíre going to work on our product, we have to make sure that it has to have an impact for the next 5 years. So when we see the overall market opportunities for Leica, itís pretty simple, we know that we are premium, we know that the system camera market is still increasing, we know that the other segments are declining. That means that we are going into the core centre of our portfolio of system cameras.
Then there is the Leica Sofort, which is a fantastic product. Is it the most serious camera in the world? No, not at all, and itís not supposed to. But itís the first analog camera in the hands of young consumers that were raised up on smartphones, and itís a fantastic smartphone generation product, because what you see in the hands of young consumers when they take the Leica Sofort, immediately they take a smartphone to shoot a photo of their Sofort picture so that it can be shared on social media.
And with the collaboration that we have with Huawei smartphones, itís also a kind of answer for us to really go into that customer segment. The customer segment is so attractive, because for the first time of human beings, people raised up on photography, not being trained in photography. Itís intuitive access to photography via smartphones. Although, smartphones may be limited when it comes to photography.
I would say that our key strategy, both in terms of our product strategy and the distribution strategy, are really paying off here. But youíre right, we always have to consider that whatever Leica is doing is different from any of the other big parties, because they are doing volume business, while weíre doing very specific niche business. And there you have to be in some ways more reluctant when it comes to broadening the portfolio.

Q: Can you elaborate on the relationship between Huawei and Leica?
Oliver
: I can tell you that the technical collaboration is really paying off for both parties. As a matter of fact only after six months, we decided to invest into an innovation lab. This is amazing, and I can tell you, we didnít have so much time to really come up with the fantastic camera module in the P9, and you see the reaction on the P9 worldwide. Now you see the reaction on the Mate 9, this is suppose to be best product in the CES (Consumer Electronics Show) this year. Itís amazing what weíre going to achieve there.
Do you know why that is? For two reasons, number one, we both share the philosophy of photography; and number two, since we do that, from there we take it to a product. And what I like about Huawei as a partner is there engineering capability is really high, but they are not thinking from hardware, they think from usability and network capabilities, and then they turn it into a hardware solution. This is exactly where I am coming from as well, because the hardware is at the end of the day your instrument. Leica cameras, with all respects is an instrument, itís your access to photography. So you should have a very strong point of view on photography first, before you start engineering.

Q: How do you see the M and the SL segments shaping up?
Oliver
: Did you know that there is no video function in the Leica M (M10)? Well, we pulled it out. Isnít that funny? We put it in once, then we figured out that the community wasnít really interested in the video function in the Leica M. We did a mistake because we didnít ask our community what do you really expect and require. Now we listened to them, because we asked, and then we said that we obviously donít need to have a video function in the Leica M. But we need to have it in the Leica SL, and we need to have it 4K, and in the future 6K, and 8K. It depends on each single product line, coming back to the very specific customer and client structure that we have on each product line. And this is where we have a certain kind of variety right now.
Some might claim to say that you still need to have video function in Leica M, we believe, ďno we donítĒ. But in Leica SL, itís required. In Leica S, itís required. People said that video will kill still, and itís not true. Consumers and users are not interested in single solutions. They are not interested in single experiences. They would like to have the freedom and the variety of any type of experience. That means still and video.
And itís fantastic what we see from our young photographers in the Oskar Barnark award, how they mix video and still. So I would say that it is our job from a pure technology perspective, to deliver products that give you, as photographers, the full freedom to decide how youíre going to combine still, video, and audio. You have to decide that, we only have to give you the right instrument for that.

Q: Within Leicaís large camera portfolio, which product line might you be focused on over the next 5 to 10 years?
Oliver
: All the product lines that we have now are important. Thatís why we have them. We had some years in the past where Leica M business stood for 60% of total business of the company. This was very unhealthy. The Leica M business should stand for about 35%. How can you increase the total size of the business by decreasing the dependency on the one (M) product line? By coming up with other relevant product lines (to the M), and thatís exactly what we achieved. Are we too broad? No. I would even talk about a certain kind of cascade that we have in our portfolio, starting with the S, SL, the M, the Q, and so on. And if I were to put a person bet on the most important future line that we currently have in our portfolio, itís the Leica TL. Itís the upcoming shining star, because we are developing further and further into that camera that will be turned into a mobile device.
The Leica Q, what an outstanding success story. The Leica M, we touched base on that one earlier. The Leica SL has still more potential, camera and camera system outstanding, but we need to better in terms of customer service, and we need to become better in terms of financial services. And the Leica S will remain our flagship in the pro segment.

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I would like to thank Leica AP (especially Sunil Kaul and Gracia Yap) for the invitation to the Leica M10 launch event and the Celebration of Photography at the Leitz Park in Wetzlar.

You may also be interested to read Interview with the Leica product team that designed the new Leica M10, 19 January 2017

| Press Release and Technical Specs | First Impressions |

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Updated 26th January 2017 at 04:38 PM by Cactus jACK

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