Two imaging icons came together to proclaim May 6, 2008 as Leica Day—the Rochester Institute of Technology—a center of imaging tech, research and photographic education— and Leica Camera, acclaimed for its cameras and outstanding optics. The daylong event, hosted by RIT included a visit by Andreas Kaufmann, the CEO of Leica Camera in Solms, Germany. He was there to donate 20 classic Leica M4-2 and M4-P cameras, each fitted with a brand new Leica Summarit-M lens, to RIT’s School of Photographic Arts and Sciences “to assure that analog photography continues to be a key element of photographic education at the highest levels.”
Kaufmann spoke about the history of Leica, including its ongoing transition to digital imaging that is exemplified by the 10 Leica M8 cameras now in use at RIT. I was able to interview Kaufmann afterwards about Leica’s future products and trends.
S: There’s been a persistent rumor on the Internet that there will be a future Leica M rangefinder camera with a full-frame (24× 36mm) sensor. Indeed, some Leica fans have speculated that it will be a CMOS sensor rather than the CCD sensor, as in the M8. Can you comment on either of these conjectures?
K: The Kodak CCD sensor presently used in the Leica M8 is of exceptionally high quality and using a CMOS sensor would be problematic for us because the firmware and software to support it would have to be completely redesigned. From an engineering point of view it doesn’t make sense for us, and neither does using a full-frame CCD sensor. The reason we settled on a slightly smaller sensor with a 1.33 conversion factor is due to the short back- focus of Leica M lenses. By using micro lenses and a very thin sensor cover glass we get excellent off-axis performance with this system without resorting to extensive software.