The Leica Camera Group of Solms, Germany, plans to use the proceeds of the sale of convertible bonds to create the financial basis for its innovation and distribution strategy. The emphasis of the development work that is already in progress is on hybrid concepts that combine digital technology with proven analog products. According to Ralf Coenen, states chief of technology, "Well over one million high-grade Leica lenses for the Leica R- and Leica M systems await a solution for being used optimally in conjunction with digital technology. Our approach to digital cameras for existing lenses conforms to our philosophy of decades-long system compatibility and to our belief that the optics are the decisive elements for outstanding photographs, not the analog or digital path to those photographs. The following information is unofficial and is not confirmed. However the development of a digital solution for the Leica rangefinder system is confirmed by the Leica Company. Beside the confirmation of the development we got some information about a new digital camera in development; M7d. Specifications are strictly unofficial, but it is said that the number of Megapixels should be 6 provided by a 35mm CCD (23.8x35.9mm).
For a long time, physical constraints were the obstacles to digital solutions for rangefinder cameras: Because of the absence of a mirror box as it exists in single lens reflex cameras, the rear element of a lens is often located very near the image plane. As a result, light rays strike that plane at an oblique angle, and this causes quality problems with today's sensor technology. "Based on a preliminary development project, we are now certain that a new generation of sensors with improved micro-lenses will lead to an image quality of the level that is expected of Leica", informs Mr. Coenen. In the Leica R single-lens-reflex line, work on the digital back for Leica R8 and Leica R9 cameras, the Leica DIGITAL-MODUL-R, is making good progress in cooperation with Danish firm Imacon A/S and the Kodak ISS sensor division. "The interim successes in the development confirm our belief that we are on the right path to a successful solution", according to Mr. Coenen.
"With the new financial means, we are now in a favourable position for developing a solution that will enable our customers to enjoy the superb quality of our lenses to their full extent in digital applications as well" continued Mr. Coenen. According to the strict Leica standards, an image resolution of at least 10 million pixels is required for this purpose. "In the digital world, the true Leica M feeling also requires high precision mechanisms and the renowned Leica range-viewfinder. According to Mr. Coenen, "The corresponding solution is now in preparation. "The Leica DIGITAL-MODUL-R has priority, because it will be introduced at Photokina in September 2004, but the two projects are partially intertwined, thus gaining precious time for the digital Leica M camera.