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The Leica/Panasonic/Sigma Alliance L-Mount Alliance

See my Sigma mirrorless wish list and Leica SL wish list.

Sigma and Leica and Panasonic have announced a 3-way alliance in which the Leica SL lens mount is to become a new shared mount known as “L-mount”.

For the first time in the history of digital photography, a cross-format lens mount standard has been established that allows lenses made by different manufacturers to be used on each other’s system cameras.

The L-Mount marks the start of a new era of lens compatibility without compromise. Leica Camera, Panasonic and Sigma are set to offer a user-friendly solution that will allow photographers to ‘mix and match’ any of the three manufacturers’ APS-C and full-frame cameras with any lens from each other’s product portfolios. Regardless of which combination you might choose: virtually all functional and qualitative characteristics of each respective system will be fully retained. The L-Mount thereby opens up an almost limitless spectrum of new creative possibilities.

See also the L-Mount Alliance official web site and reader comments that follow.

Camera choice

The announcement is very good news for competition in general, and the best news Leica SL users have ever heard.

Sigma has stated that a full-frame Foveon camera with L-mount is in the works, presumably an improved Sigma Quattro sensor.

SIGMA starts development of a full-frame mirrorless camera as part of its switch to the L-mount system.

For the development of a new and long-requested full-frame mirrorless camera, the adoption of an optimal, new lens mount system became a necessary step in order to achieve new standards in usability and performance. While we did consider developing a new mount system in the beginning, the results of technical surveys and investigations led us to the conclusion that Leica Camera AG’s L-mount offers an ideal solution in terms of our short flange back distance and optical design requirements. With our partnership with Leica Camera AG and Panasonic Corporation, we hope to offer a camera system with much greater scalability than possible as a independent manufacturer. All future interchangeable-lens camera systems developed by SIGMA will feature the L-mount. SIGMA does not plan to develop new cameras equipped with an SA-mount.

Panasonic has a full-frame camera in L-mount for 2019.

L-mount flange focal distance

With a flange focal distance of 20mm and a lens mount diameter of 51.6mm, the L-mount is close to Nikon mirrorless and Canon mirrorless lens mounts in flange distance, but the mount diameter is much smaller: 51.6mm versus 55mm for Nikon and 54mm for Canon. That places constraints on optical designs for ultra high speed or ultra high performance lenses but otherwise is not too important.

   Nikon Z: 16mm <== greatest working room, 55mm diameter
   Canon R: 20mm <== 54mm diameter
Fujifilm X: 17.7mm
    Sony E: 18mm
   L-Mount: 19mm <== Leica SL, L-mount Alliance, 51.6mm diameter
     M 4/3: 19.25mm
Hasselblad XCD: 20mm
   Leica M: 27.8mm
  Canon EF: 44.0mms
   Nikon F: 46.5mm

L-mount announcement

The L-Mount Alliance: a strategic cooperation between Leica Camera, Panasonic and SIGMA

Cologne, 25 September 2018. At the company’s press conference prior to the opening of Photokina 2018, Leica Camera AG announced together with Panasonic and SIGMA a strategic partnership. The ‘L-Mount Alliance’ is a previously unparalleled form of collaboration that will particularly benefit the customers of all three partners. The collaboration enables Panasonic and SIGMA to make use of the L-Mount standard developed by Leica for their own developments and to offer both cameras and lenses utilizing this lens mount. As a joint effort of all three partners, this alliance will increase the importance of the L-Mount technology to world of photography even further.

Due to their numerous interchangeable components, system cameras are extremely versatile and can be individually configured for a wide range of photographic needs. Here, the bayonet is the most important interface, because the lens makes a decisive contribution to imaging performance and, in turn, to the quality of the final results. Thanks to the strategic partnership between Leica, Panasonic and SIGMA, customers will be able to choose from a much wider selection of cameras and lenses without having to limit themselves to a particular brand, as all three brands will share the same proprietary bayonet mount.

Dr. Andreas Kaufmann, Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Leica Camera AG and majority shareholder: “For photographers, the ability to choose from a wide range of lenses for their system of preference is extremely important. Especially in the strongly growing market for mirrorless system cameras, users seek increasingly greater product diversity to fulfil a wide range of different photographic needs. We have therefore decided to work together with prominent partners in the photographic segment as an immediate response to these needs. Our long-established partnership with Panasonic is a collaboration based on mutual trust, and the company’s expertise in the area of electronics is unquestioned. SIGMA is also a highly respected company that has become firmly established especially in the areas of optical design and lens manufacturing and is able to perfectly complement our existing portfolio of L-Mount products. We are convinced that we and our partners can realize mutual and sustainable growth for all our products.”

Tetsuro Homma, Senior Executive Officer and President of Appliances Company, Panasonic Corporation: “Panasonic has always focused on revolutionizing the camera sector to make the lives of photo enthusiasts easier, more sophisticated and more enjoyable. Our longstanding partnership with Leica has brought many high-performance and high-quality digital cameras to the market; fusing Leica’s superior optical technology with Panasonic’s digital technologies. Our partnership has enabled us to accelerate the development of excellent digital camera products, and the L-Mount alliance with Leica and SIGMA is a great example of such acceleration. This is an alliance of strong players, which will make a fundamental difference to the future of the imaging industry. We have always been a challenger, bringing innovation to the industry under the slogan of “Changing Photography” to meet the high expectations of professionals. Our partnership with Leica and SIGMA will create additional business opportunities for our businesses, but more importantly will advance our customers’ joy of photography.”

Kazuto Yamaki, CEO, SIGMA: “As cameras evolved into digital and mirrorless, requirements from users and systems introduced by each brands diversified. Currently, there are overwhelming choices for users, but in terms of extensibility and possibility, the system truly meets user’s needs is not yet available. SIGMA is joining this alliance to develop mirrorless cameras benefiting from a short flange back. As SIGMA strives to develop high performance, high quality and innovative products, this alliance will strengthen the level of completion and the extensibility of our camera system and provide greater user benefits. Leica is a magnificent company that has been contributing to photographic cultures for more than 100 years, and Panasonic is leading the industry by developing reliable technologies across various fields. Together with SIGMA’s unique, high performance and high quality products, the L-Mount will evolve as an extremely attractive system for users.”

About the L-Mount

The L-Mount was developed by Leica Camera under the proviso of providing customers with a future-proof, flexible, robust and precise bayonet mount that would fulfil even the most demanding photographic needs. Since its initial appearance in 2014 within the Leica T, development of the L-Mount was continued by Leica as well as by its partners, which led to significant improvements.

To ensure maximum product diversity, the diameter of 51.6 millimetres was chosen to make the L-Mount suitable for use not only with full-frame cameras, but also on cameras with APS-C sensors. The short register of only 20 millimetres enables a short distance between the lens and the sensor, which in turn enables considerably more compact construction – which is particularly helpful for developments in the wide-angle lens segment. To ensure resistance to even the most extreme stresses, and to guarantee customers maximum reliability in many years in intensive use, the camera bayonets are manufactured from wear-resistant stainless steel and with four flange segments that prevent canting and ensure particularly secure and precisely positioned lens attachment. The standardised L-Mount contact strip ensures trouble-free communication between the electronic components of the lens and the camera – including the possibility of installing future firmware updates for lenses to react to technological advances and exploit the full performance potentials of the lens.

The lens mount is currently used in the Leica SL full-frame camera system and the Leica CL, TL2 and TL APS-C camera models. All lenses made for the various different systems can be used on all cameras without adapters and without any functional limitations – this illustrates only one of the numerous benefits the common bayonet brings for customers. In the near future, not only Leica Camera AG, but also Panasonic and SIGMA will be announcing further products that use the common standard.

Q&A from the L-mount Alliance official web site

WILL THE L-MOUNT SPECIFICATION BE MADE PUBLIC?

The L-Mount specifications are confidential and are made available only to the members of the L-Mount Alliance.

WHO WILL BE RESPONSIBLE FOR SERVICE AND SUPPORT FOR L-MOUNT PRODUCTS?

Each individual alliance partner will be responsible for organising repair and user support services for the products they offer on the market.

WHO PROVIDES HELP IF PROBLEMS ARISE WHEN USING L-MOUNT PRODUCTS FROM DIFFERENT MEMBERS OF THE ALLIANCE TOGETHER?

The first port of call is always the dealer from whom the product was purchased. The dealer will advise the customer on the next steps to be taken if the source of the problem cannot be definitively identified.

WILL THE FUTURE SEE LEICA STORES SELLING PANASONIC AND SIGMA PRODUCTS?

There are no plans to sell Panasonic or Sigma products in Leica Stores.

WILL PHOTOGRAPHIC DEALERS OFFER PRODUCTS FROM ALL THREE BRANDS?

All independent dealers can pick and choose the brands and products they offer.

WHERE CAN L-MOUNT PRODUCTS BE BOUGHT?

Information on sales outlets for the corresponding products can be found in the dealer lists published on the websites of the respective manufacturers.

Reader comments

Roy P writes:

Clearest proof that Leica is clueless about what it’s doing with the Leica SL. This lens roadmap does not map well to most users, least of all, pro photographers, either wedding/events or sports/action.

Interestingly, if Panasonic puts out an L-mount camera for $3-3.5K, and Sigma offers a family meat-and-potatoes lenses like 24-70/2.8, 70-200/2.8, 85/1.4, 50/1.4, 105/2.8 macro, 100-400 or 200-500 f/4-5.6, etc., maybe Panasonic + Sigma will have some success, as defined as maybe a 5% market share in 5 years?

Even that would require a $100M+ annual marketing budget, not to mention substantial upfront investments into manufacturing and support operations. But if Panasonic + Sigma are willing to do all that, exactly what does Leica get from that success? Not only I don’t see what Leica gets (other than maybe a few royalty dollars for the mount), Panasonic + Sigma would at best limit Leica’s SL lens sales to the red dot fan club, and at worst, obliterate sales of SL lenses.

This L-mount partnership brings back memories of Leica’s big deal alliance with Phase One some 15 years ago. I don’t know this first hand, but according to some people who were familiar with this, as part of this alliance, Phase One was supposed to continue to make detachable back cameras while Leica was going to use the same mount to build an integrated camera. Leica would make lenses for the common mount, and both companies would sell the lenses using their own sales channels. Leica was also supposed to make Capture One its software for tethering, raw conversion, post-processing, and eventually, the software running inside the camera, as the new Phase One IQ4 back does.

That alliance was also announced with a lot of fanfare, but the whole thing fell apart less than a year later, and apparently ended very acrimoniously. I was told that is the reason Phase One went with Schneider for all its lenses, Leica built its own S lenses, and went with the Adobe DNG format and Lightroom for software.
It will be really fascinating to see how this L-Alliance will turn out!

DIGLLOYD: at the least it means more competition and more options. Photographers win no matter what, but particularly Leica SL user, on the presumption that they get a new high-res full-frame camera platform to choose from (from both Panasonic and Sigma?), rather than being locked into the Leica SL.

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