Exactly, who is Leica’s target customer for the new Leica SL? Obviously, it’s not Leica’s core M customer, and it’s not Leica’s top-tier professional S customer, and it’s not Leica’s remaining aspirational customer of leftover alphabets. In reading and rereading the announcement, I am really puzzled? Leica claims that the SL is targeted to working professionals, currently shooting the Canon 1Dx series or the Nikon D4 series. From a business perspective, I suppose it makes sense, in that Leica is going after a completely different photographer. After all, the SL will not cannibalize their core M or assorted consumer level systems, and at most overlap some S system customer. But from my perspective, the Leica SL does not make sense at all.
As an M loyalist for many years, as well as a Canon 1Dx and Nikon D4 user, I don’t see myself dropping everything, and running to the Leica SL. Why would I, and why would any working professional photographer? The selling point is the new 4.4 megapixel EVF and fast AF system. But that alone wouldn’t convince a working photojournalist or sports photographer to switch over to a new and untested system. I mean, would a working photographer, with one chance to get the money shot, risk using a new system that’s twice as expensive, just for the chance of capturing that Leica Look? I think not. Getting the shot is more important than how the shot looks. I don’t even think that a wedding photographer would risk switching over to the Leica SL for the sake of that Leica look. And it’s pretty clear why this is the case. The gear that a working photographer wants is a reliable work horse, with access to a large catalog of native professional lenses. So, which working photographer is Leica actually targeting then - studio photographers using DSLRs that might be seduced by that Leica look? Again, I don’t believe that makes sense either, given the price of the Leica SL system, and given that it would make more sense to just shoot with the Leica M system in studio, given that the need for autofocus isn’t absolutely necessary in a controlled environment.
What also makes no sense is why Leica would choose a mirrorless platform to go head to head with professional level DSLRs? And what makes even less sense is why this Leica mirrorless system is as large as most DSLRs. The point of mirrorless systems is to do away with the pentaprism in order to make the camera system compact. In truth, there are many Leica M loyalists eagerly hoping that Leica would create a natively M compatible compact mirrorless AF system. They were hopeful, given the positive summer release of the Leica Q, in the way that the full frame Sony RX1 preceded the well received interchangeable Sony A7 series system. The Leica SL was supposed to be Leica’s answer to the Sony A7. Instead, what the Leica SL turned out to be was a bloated and undeservedly overpriced mirrorless system.
It truly is a shame that Leica lacked the courage to make what their core M consumer wanted. If they had done the right thing, and not look for a new customer base, Leica’s core M customer would not abandon the M system, as Leica would fear. If anything, it would make M customers even more loyal, by finally giving them the reason to ditch their investment in a DSLR or M43 system for their autofocus and telephoto need. Only when M loyalists adopt a new Leica system would a new customer base take a serious look in switching over. It is for this reason that something as courageous and as outlandishly crazy as the M Monochrome is a success and thus aspired by many Leica M loyalist and non Leica customer alike.
However, I digress. I do believe that there is one segment of Leica M loyalists who should be interested in making the switch over to the Leica SL system - namely the wealthy Leica hobbyist - which is a far cry from the working professional photographer. If that is the case, I find it highly improbable that any professional photographers would make the switch over to the Leica SL.