R Series Future directions?
(N.B. See also the separate directions 2000 item below!)
In November 1999 a Photo Expo was held in New York USA. A few Leica mailing list members met for informal discussions with the following Leica representatives: R. Horn (President, Leica U.S.A.), N. Strauch (V.P. Marketing & Sales, Solms) and R. Hagenauer (Communications & P.R., Solms)
When the discussion turned to the future of the R series Leica SLRs, "Akhil Lal" <alal @ bcc.cuny.edu> noted the following:
[Leica …] do not, at this time, wish to commit funds to develop an AF SLR system that would have to compete against the Nikon and Canon AF SLR's. With regard to AF SLR's there are also patent issues that add to the development costs and lead time.
[It also …] pains me to report that the R-system is not doing well in the marketplace. The biggest shock was the news that the R-6.2 is outselling the R-8 ! Note that Leica do not promote the R 6.2 very hard in their advertising. It is clear that the buying public has voted with its money and does not see any merit in the bulky R-8. I asked if the R-7 would be revived and was told that this was not planned. I was told that the R-8 chassis was to have been the basis of the next generation AF SLR system. As I've mentioned [above], the AF system will not now be developed. A Contax RX style electronic focus confirmation feature was not under consideration either. No new major lenses are planned. Without explicitly being told so, I got the impression the R system is in for a period of benign neglect. I was assured that there are no plans whatsoever to discontinue the R-system.
Some Luggers had wondered about Leica R lenses being made in Canon, Nikon or other mounts. I was told that this was not possible as Leica lenses were in some ways production limited. If lenses were made in a non Leica mounts the position would be even worse. There were also issues related to lens mount patents that would need to be resolved.
Certain lenses were selling slowly. As an example, fewer than 500 of the 180 mm Summicron R have been sold since its introduction.