8 Questions with Leica’s Global Director of Product Division, Stefan Daniel

Stefan Daniel

CONTENT: Henry Boen

Stefan has been with Leica for over 30 years, and has amassed keen insights and a profound understanding of Leica’s unique identity. His affinity with Leica began when he was 12 – he was instantly drawn to the precision, feel and mechanics of Leica from the very first time he held one in his hands. He earned his present position by rising through the ranks, starting out as a raw apprentice in precision mechanics before becoming a trusted mentor in the repair department, and finally into a key role he describes as “a corporate entrepreneur, the best job in the company”.

1. As the industry continues to evolve rapidly, what can we look forward to in the later-stage of Leica?

Let’s say, in five years? Before looking at the future, I like to look a couple of years back, when Leica only had the M and S series. Times since then have changed a lot, and we have introduced Leica Q, the SL system and others to build our portfolio. Nowadays there is hardly any photographic challenge that you cannot conquer with a Leica, and that’s the stage we have reached and we are proud of, and for the next few years our task is to maintain this portfolio and take it into the future, and improve on those systems. Especially with the L-Mount Alliance, we have entered a new stage, where we opened our Leica L Mount to Panasonic and Sigma. This will be first and foremost for the benefit of the customer, because they will be able to choose from a very broad portfolio of lenses from the three makers.

2. Leica’s partnership with Huawei has been going on for a few years now. In your opinion, what was the most significant breakthrough in the industry during the collaboration?

I would say it’s the evolution that Huawei has made, from a local Chinese brand to worldwide number 2. As you can read in every test report, the latest models of Huawei are amongst the very best you can choose in the smartphone industry when it comes to photography.

3. Aside from Huawei, can we expect any more up-and-coming collaboration with the integration of Leica Lenses compatibility to camera bodies/phones?

The relationship we have with Huawei for the smartphone business is exclusive, and it is very unlikely that we will provide other smartphone makers with our camera technology. But as we expand our business, there might be other verticals in which Leica lenses and Leica technology will be used.

4. Which model would you suggest for a beginner to start with?

For a beginner to start with, you would be well set with the Leica Q, CL, and with any of our compact cameras like C-Lux, D-Lux or V-Lux. For the more experienced users I would suggest to use an SL. The M and S cameras are more for advanced photographers.

Leica V-Lux_Explorer_Kit_2018

5. I’ve been dying to ask this, what prices Leica cameras at such a steep cost?

A Leica is crafted only from the very best materials available, and these materials are crafted in the best way we can accomplish. The assembly of the product is done mainly by hand. There is a super high amount of detail and accuracy in every Leica Camera, and you can feel the love which has gone into crafting this product. And this can be felt when you hold a Leica camera in your hand. For example, we do not use a magnesium part and just paint it with a thick layer of paint to hide all the blemishes. The top cover of a Leica M is brass which is grinded and polished by hand, and we have a silver or black chrome finish on it, which makes the touch and feel of it completely different from any other camera. That is why a Leica camera is a bit more expensive than the rest of the cameras.

But this is only half of the story. Today when you purchase a Leica camera or lens, ten years after if you want to sell that camera you will still get a high amount, and in some cases, you might even get the full purchase price back. So, if you look at it long term, a Leica is not expensive.

6. Comparing to the vast amount of lenses and cameras available, what makes Leica unique?

The way you operate a Leica is different from many other cameras, because we focus on the act of photography, and we try to make the photographer concentrate on the subject, and not on the camera. The camera should support the user and not distract him with too many menus or other things. The image quality is also another main topic. Images taken with a Leica have a unique look, if the camera is used in the right way. The images you create with a Leica differ from other brands. This is something hard to describe, as nowadays all cameras take well exposed, sharp and colour-balanced pictures. Due to the Leica workflow with a great Leica lens, and very subtle image treatment, the images look very natural. That’s why many people choose a Leica.

7. In terms of improvisation for Leica’s camera technology, what obstacles/challenges are you facing at the current moment?

We’ve noticed a trend that the overall numbers in our industry came down, due to the success of smartphones. Additionally, the cost of parts has risen, because the numbers being sold are not as high as they used to be. Pushing the technology one step further is a huge effort in research and development, but other than that we do not have any major obstacles.

8. Have you always seen a future with compact cameras?

The high-end market of compact cameras is fairly stable, not only at Leica but in the whole industry. They offer a significantly higher image quality on one side, and especially when it comes to a zoom range, they complement a smart phone. For example, if you go on a safari, it would be better to have a camera with a long-lens to shoot the lion, and not a smart phone. And that’s why the high-end market of compact cameras is complementary to smart phones. And I think it will stay like this for the foreseeable future.

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