Mechanische camera's

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The Huawei connection

The joint announcement by Leica and Huawei about the new smart phone (P9) with a dual camera/lens may mark the end of the Leica company as a dedicated camera and optics firm to a company that is being profiled as a photographic equipment maker. There is a clear trend in the photographic market. Traditional still photography is being attacked from two different trends: (1) the trend to cinematography, inspired by countless youtube movies, but also by a changing trend in artistic and commercial photography. Camera makers like Canon and Nikon adapt to this fashion by incorporating video features in all their camera ranges. (2) the trend that most image makers adopt the smart phone as their preferred tool for making and distributing images.
Camera makers see the writing on the wall and adopt one or more of the following strategies: (1) dig in the niche they are occupying (Phase One); (2) expand into new market areas (Canon into surveillance, Fujifilm into cosmetics) or (3) reduce dependency on photographic products (Nikon with lithography, Sony with sensors, Canon with office equipment). Every one of these strategies may make sense, depending on the market profile and specific expertise of the company. Leica however does seem to follow every possible strategy: niche products (M line), expand into other markets (smart phone supply) and reduce dependency (cine lenses).
For now the most interesting is the Huawei connection. As usual there is a broad array of descriptions what is going on: from Huawei using Leica cameras and lenses to Huawei using Leica certified optics.
The truth is difficult to find. A few things are easy to discuss: Leica has no production facilities to produce millions of tiny optical systems required for the smart phone. This leaves two options: Leica can design an optical system for the phone and sell/licence this to Huawei. Leica gets a design from Huawei and improves this with their optical expertise and/or certifies the Huawei product as conforming to Leica standards (this is what happened with the Panasonic-designed lenses).