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Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Leica at Deep Discount

When I say "Leica at Deep Discount", just to get this out up front, I'm not talking about a camera - I'm talking about the whole bloomin' company.

I'm posting this wirelessly during a lull in my temp job. (Temp jobs are what happens when you, the freelance photographer, up and move to the big city, as I did recently.) So I'll keep it brief.

Who is going to buy Leica Camera AG? Will it be their partner in Japan, Matsushita (Panasonic)? Or another Japanese firm, perhaps? Leicas are more popular in Japan, and more appreciated, than anywhere else in the world, with the possible exception of Germany. If Matsushita doesn't do it, how about Sony? The Leica name would look better on Sony lenses - some Sony lenses, anyway - than even Sony's own name does. Hell, at the price it could be gotten for right now, even Kobayashi-san of Cosina fame could buy Leica. And probably he should.

Other Japanese photo firms, such as Nikon, or even Konica-Minolta, come to mind, as well. They might find a new Leica division to be a real boon to their own dwindling prestige.

Or will mobile device manufacturers finally wake up and smell the photo chemistry? Nokia, as I've been suggesting? Or Sony Ericsson. Samsung already owns Schneider-Kreuznach. It's only a matter of time before they put that name on the lenses of their 2, 3, 4, and five megapixel camera phones. The Leica brand is worth far more today than the company that makes the cameras.

There's a real disconnect between the camera world and that of advanced mobile device users. But not for long. Face it, if you have a camera phone and use it for taking pictures regularly, you're a photographer. Eventually you realize this. Or else you stop shooting with it.

I mention all this for two reasons. Number one, today is the start of PMA2005 - the international photo gear show put on annually by the Photo Marketing Association. And, number two, because Leica recently announced that its credit lines had been halved by its banks. The company is in hot soup, financially; and yet it still has the preeminent name in the photo world, along with a loyal, well off customer base. All it really needs is some new direction - new leadership - and an infusion of cash. At the very least, the name could be bought cheap.

I'm convinced that some company, somewhere, is going to grab up Leica and grab it soon. I hope it happens, because I would hate seeing this brand, and all it's stood for, fade away. That would amount to needless waste, of all kinds.

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