You’ve seen Leica’s branding on Panasonic gear making them a cheap alternative. But what is the Leica Panasonic relationship? Is one just a puppet company? Is someone pulling a fast one on you? Let’s find out and more in this article ironing out the details of the Leica Panasonic Partnership.
Before getting into the Leica Panasonic discussion, one thing must be said: Everything is speculation besides what was explicitly said by the companies and their PR release. We weren’t there when the contracts were signed nor do we have access to it. Keep that in mind!
The ins and outs of the relationship
Is Leica just Panasonic?
There is a common market strategy that has once company make another company so that they can sell at higher or lower prices. Case and point, Poland Spring is a Nestle water brand, and so are quite a few! One might start wondering then is Leica just Panasonic? Is one or the other a puppet brand designed to sell cameras?
In this case, absolutely NOT. Yes there are plenty of Panasonic made Leicas but they are two distinct companies.
Leica is one of the first camera manufacturers and is from Germany while the other is a Japanese brand started in the 20s to sell electric sockets. They might both have a nice partnership for Panasonic to make certain Leica camera models, but they are different than another.
What is the relationship between Leica and Panasonic?
The relationship between Leica and Panasonic is multi faceted. One one hand Panasonic makes their own cameras and they also have to produce a Leica version. This creates two similar cameras (See these Leica Panasonic equivalents) with certain mostly cosmetic differences but also menu, app and processing engine differences.
These cameras have Leica lenses built in. Speaking of the other part of the relationship is that Panasonic is allowed to produce lenses with the Leica name and nomenclature (Like Summicron) that is designed by Leica under their supervision.
One of the latest aspects of the partnership is the L-mount alliance between Leica Panasonic and Sigma. They developed this so that there is support in terms of cameras and lenses between the 3 companies. Both Sigma and Panasonic have strongly supported the 4/3 format so with Olympus closing the camera business, this format if on its way out.
Does Leica make Lumix lenses? Who makes them?
Leica does not make Lumix lenses because they do not have mass production factories. Panasonic has a partnership agreement with Leica to make Lumix lenses on specifications and quality control. So Panasonic makes them on Leica designs and approval but they are manufactured by Panasonic.
It is a bit like ordering a pizza from a chef that you like. You could have him make the pizza and it would be handmade by him, or you can order from an assembly line kitchen that was told exactly what to do and under the supervision of the original chef.
Is Leica Panasonic really Leica?
This begs the question. Is Panasonic Leica REALLY Leica? The answer is it depends on how you want to look at it. If what you care about is Leica actually creating the lenses then, no. Leicas are made in Germany, Lumix is made elsewhere. But if what you care about is what Leica stands for, like great lens design and high quality, then yes.
Early in the partnership this created some wedges between the companies:
“We didn’t get approval for the first lens that we submitted. In fact, right from the very start we had a sense that the collaboration itself was in danger. The problem wasn’t in the lens itself, it was the fact that our appreciation of ‘photorealism’ had not yet reached the level that Leica Camera AG wanted.”
Leica is a really small company compared to the Japanese behemoths. If they wanted to mass produce lenses you would probably get what you have with Leica Panasonic lenses. They won’t take the risk of buying factories to create those lenses so this is as good as it gets
Are Leica Panasonic lenses any good?
When you get a Leica lens you know you are getting a good quality lens, but are Leica Panasonic lenses any good? The answer is yes, they are. This is the closest you will ever get to a mass produced Leica lens and their lens-making expertise and supervision really shines with the lenses.
Where are Leica Panasonic lenses made?
It depends, they are either made in Japan or in China. Here’s a video of their factory:
If hope you enjoyed this article about the Leica Panasonic partnership. It is likely beneficial to both as we’ve had quite a few cameras and lenses sporting the Leica Panasonic brand and it allows people to have a taste of Leica lenses without the price tag.